Monday, June 30, 2014

I Have a New Fan

In response to the warm temperatures of Summer, I bought myself a little air blower to replace the older and heavier model in my computer studio, which will be re-purposed to another room or owner. It's about 6 inches in diameter. As with most of the things in my world, once installed it came to life. It sat on its haunches, or walked around with its stubby little legs. It delivered air as requested, by shaking or spinning its set of vanes. And it was much easier to move it about so I could reach equipment in the studio. It doesn't have the most exciting personality, but it does make a quiet hum when operating, and bears on its nose the reassuring logo and words "Comfort Zone." It does give me comfort to know that no matter how few people or entities read this Blog, at least I have one loyal fan.

Ink on sketchbook page, about 4" x 4", with photoshop post-drawing work, June 30, 2014.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

C.J. Cherryh's "Downbelow Station"

Science fiction author C.J. Cherryh commissioned me to illustrate a scene from her book DOWNBELOW STATION with her main character Signy Mallory in a prominent place.
I chose a scene at the beginning of the book where Mallory must keep order as a ship full of dying refugees docks at the station. The faces of Mallory and the accompanying
stationmaster were taken from a still from the film STROMBOLI starring Ingrid Bergman. Bergman's face was modified slightly to look like Cherryh.

This painting was exhibited at Boskone 1982 and there won the "Guest of Honor's Choice" award, one of the few professional awards I have ever gotten. The Guest of Honor was
Donald Wollheim, C.J. Cherryh's publisher.

"Downbelow" is acrylic on Masonite board, 15" x 10", February 1982. Click for larger view.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


He flies through the night, snapping up fruit from trees. Then he sits for a while and lectures on the mythic nature of being a bird. This "Birdmythic" surrounded by (cleared) text frames is based on the South American "oilbird," a night-flying fruit eater who resembles the North American nightjar. I've added a lot more feathery display to it, for the sake of myth. Looks a bit Vader-ish in its full face view, but it's harmless. I wouldn't want to myth out on anything.

"Birdmyth" is ink on sketchbook page with some photoshoppery, about 6" x 4", June 28, 2014.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Amazing Clones

I did this one for "Amazing Stories" magazine as an interior illustration. It was my second assignment for them. It was a pulp-style image with room for the title at top. The story involved a clone detective who had 4 identical bodies but one mind between them. He had to solve a murder committed in a theatrical company in which the actors were also clones. You can see a fight scene from "Hamlet" in the lower right area. It turned out that the "dame" you see in the blue garb to the left was also a clone though with switched genders, and she had committed the murder of her own clone. Or something like that.

Watercolor on illustration board, 11" x 14", March 1991.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Dream Chilean Vineyard

I've been doing a long series of wine signs for Trader Joe's and this is my latest. The series is called "Dream Vineyards" and depicts, as advertised, dreamlike ideal landscapes featuring vineyards. This one is in Chile and is based on the epic South American landscapes of American painter and world traveller Frederick Edwin Church. Chile has a lot of white-capped smoking volcanoes and one hopes that the ash from the volcano blows the other way and not onto the grapevines. This scene is only a background and for the final sign I will letter "South America" in red over the center of the image.

Acrylic on hardboard ("Masonite"), 18" x 9", June 2014.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Interdimensional Penpals

The picture illustrates a story by Nina Kiriki Hoffman that appeared in AMAZING STORIES magazine in 1992. The story is about a man who finds his private journal mystically linked to the private journal of a young girl trapped with her abusive mother. As I remember, I never quite got the point of the story and nothing much happened in it, except the weirdness with the journals. The text in its magazine is stacked on a shelf somewhere in a closet in my apartment. 

Watercolor on Arches illustration board, 11" x 14", March 1992.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Memory figure sketches

These little sketches are an experiment to see whether I can draw figures without having a live model or photograph in front of me as a reference. They are meant to resemble the short 30-second or one minute poses at the beginning of a live model drawing session. I wanted to challenge myself to see whether I really could draw half-decent human figures. So every one of these little sketches is done from memory and imagination. They're not bad at all. Even more, they are drawn directly to digital on my Wacom tablet with Photoshop, rather than with pen or pencil. The digital drawing gives me the option of erasing my mistakes or extra marks, which I have done judiciously. I will continue drawing them to get more practice and I hope I can work some of them up into fantasy pin-ups.

Digital "area" is Photoshop, 7" x 10", June 24, 2014.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Flowers of June

Every two weeks I design and implement a series of at-register advertising signs for Trader Joe's. These goods, located as "impulse buys" as the customer waits for her/his turn at the register, are usually snacky, crunchy things because they won't deteriorate on the shelf. This week, for instance, will feature sunflower seeds, mango gummy candies, five-seed almond bars, and the indulgent milk chocolate-covered potato chips, among others. My sign borders correspond with the season or some current holiday. This one has the "Flowers of June," orange daylily and blue hydrangea, in my favorite colors. I leave the center empty because that's where the writing goes. The blue hydrangeas are also sold in the flower and plant display in the store. I am not ashamed to call myself a commercial artist.

Markers and colored pencil on white card stock, 7" x 5", June 22, 2014.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Sime Guy

I made a lot of fan art for the "Sime-Gen" community in the '80s and '90s. Then the Internet happened and I did not make any more art for them. It wasn't a matter of money, because there wasn't any. I was quite active in my day though. The bizarre world building of that universe fascinated me. Some sort of genetic engineering (or alien crossbreeding?) broke humanity into two separate sectors, the Simes endowed with tentacles on their forearms and subsisting on bioplasmic energy, and the Gens, the non-tentacled partner race who supplied that energy. I love world building and sci-fi engineering, so how did it happen? Under any circumstances such a development in the human race would lead to titanic disruptions and the deaths of millions, maybe billions! The authors decided never to explain or describe how the whole mutation thing happened, but naturally that's what I wanted to know about the most.

The Sime Guy here is twiddling his tentacles and playing with the bioplasmic energy that fuels his life. He is one of the "Endowed," a special Sime who can do psychic powers with that energy. He probably knows how it all happened but he isn't talking.

"Sime Guy" is mixed media on rough-textured grey paper, 10" x 7", November 1998.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Frodo and the Black Elves

A friend of one of my clients wished to commission a piece because she had seen my art in her collection and admired it. She wanted a Tolkien piece, and I offered a twist; the Elves were to be Black. There is no rule against multi-racial elves. The painting was done of two very tall and elegant Black elves, a man and a woman, dressed in grey and light green, watching in refined horror as Frodo, the small, stocky Hobbit, shows them the fateful Ring. The background is the Yellow Forest of Tolkien's elves; it was painted just as leaves were sprouting on the spring trees, and is that special green-gold color. Iridescent paints were used for the green border and the purple sheen around the Ring. The male elf was based on the appearance of famous basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Nowadays the "black" elves are represented by the "drow" or "Dark Elves" who have blue-black skin and pure white hair, not much like human coloring at all.

"Frodo and the Black Elves" is acrylic on illustration board, 11" x 14" June 1986. Click for larger view.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Jo Clayton's Aleytys and the universal horse

Have you ever wondered why horses appear on fantasy worlds throughout the galaxy? I mean real horsey equines, not alien analogues or robots or hornless unicorns. Here we have  Jo Clayton's "Aleytys," riding through the desert on a horse with no name, trying to escape from her captors. The double star, red giant and white dwarf, burns down on her. She's pregnant, unaccompanied, and nearly naked, but hey, that's no problem. The super-powers given to her by the magic Diadem on her head will save her. I suppose if humanoid folks who look just like us can appear everywhere there's a suitable planet, then so can horses. I worked this one up from a smaller drawing in a sketchbook. Aleytys went through many misadventures before her author died. Maybe without an author to put her through trials and travails, Aleytys could retire from the adventurous life and open a bed-and-breakfast with a horse barn and riding center.

Aleytys is acrylic on illustration board, 6" x 11", July 1981.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

More Artisan Bread

"Artisan Bread" is trendy stuff which has been baked and eaten for millennia. Trader Joe's sells it and most of the time all the artisan bread which has been brought from the bakery is bought up by the end of the day. This is not a fantasy; there really is a bakery in Maryland which bakes and ships their goodies to TJ's every day. I love this bread but it goes stale quickly given that it has no preservatives. So a lot of the time I freeze it for later consumption.

This sign is the successor to earlier artisan bread signs I've done for Trader Joe's. I decided on the generic "Bread" rather than "Breads." My handmade graphics have some flaws, for instance the long-stemmed "T" in "Artisan," in which I was inspired by the long-stemmed "T" in the old Beatles logo on Ringo's bass drum, should go between the B and R of "Bread." And "Baked Fresh Daily" varies in letter and word sizing. However this sign will be mounted above eye level and bread buyers will not notice, unless they are graphic designers.

You can view earlier iterations of this bread sign on this blog entry from 2009.

Sign is spray paint and acrylic markers on Masonite board, about 30" x 20", June 2014.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Space Indian

I did concept art for writer Shariann Lewitt when she was writing her book "Angel at Apogee," which was eventually published in 1987. "Nyapehatin" was from a tribe of what was basically "Space Indians." He was also one of the love interests of the daring female fighter pilot protagonist. He lives in a traditional tribal culture but he also knows that he is part of an interplanetary empire. You can see the fighter planes swooping about in the background of the picture. 

I did more concept art with Shariann for books she never published. These were as interesting, or even more so, than the ones she did publish. "Through the Desert of Stars" is set among Space Muslims who live on a spacefaring intergenerational city-ship. They manage to survive in interplanetary society until the time comes for them to make the pilgrimage to Mecca. Up until now they had simulated their hajj, but now a brave group want to find the real Mecca, which they believe is on a remote, almost lost planet named "Earth." The book was fine, but the politics weren't, and publishers were too nervous after the rise of international Islamic terrorism to publish a tale sympathetic to Muslims. Another concept of Shariann's was more along the "occult fantasy" line and involved a rock band who used their concerts as occult rituals which gathered energy from the crowd and directed it into cosmic conflicts of good vs. evil. Again, the concept was a bit too scary for publishers who didn't want anything to do with rock occultism which was so often confused with "Satanism" (sometimes promoted as a gimmick by the real bands themselves). My concept art for Shariann Lewitt's hidden books is buried somewhere in my heaps of sketchbooks. 

"Nyapehatin" is ink and watercolor on illustration board, 5" x 7", spring 1982.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sacred Space: The Great Tree

During the late '80s and '90s and into the early 2000s, I was associated with many Neo-Pagans in the Metro DC area. They held a convention in the summertime called "Sacred Space," which had evolved from earlier conventions and meetings. The gathering would have workshops in various esoteric and crafting subjects, a small art show, a dealers' room, and lots of rituals. Each year for about 10 years I designed the convention T-shirt. The design would also be used for the program book. In those days, the convention had a big advertising budget, probably due to a couple of relatively rich patrons. We could print our T-shirts in opaque multi-colors on an interestingly colored shirt. 

The theme for 2001 was "Discovering the Great Tree," a Neo-Pagan symbol which was popular at the time. I designed a hollow tree that was also a temple, with ascending steps and a halo of leaves around it. I hid images of forest animals in the drawing. All the leaves come from real trees: oak, birch, tulip poplar, and maple.

There are still plenty of neo-pagans, and sometimes they manage to put together another convention meeting; there's one scheduled for 2015 which merges a couple of the communities. But for various reasons, mostly my day job and my need to make more art, I don't do any Pagan activities any more.

Ink and computer-printed lettering on illustration board, 11" x 14", January 2001.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Fantasy Boy Lovers

Red hair? Check. Violet eyes? Check. Wolf companions? Check. Celtic torc? Check. Werewolves? Check. Boys who love each other? Check. Poignant death scene? Check. This 1983 tale by Nancy Springer, "The Golden Swan," had all those things and more. I think it even had a rising from the dead, as the violet-eyed dark haired guy got resurrected. It's been a long time and I don't quite remember. My art database says that these two are named "Frain" and "Dair."

This book and countless others like it, written by straight women for a mostly straight female audience, maintained a trend of boy love and Gay relationships in female fan worlds. The loving couples were continued in endless oceans of fan fiction such as the notorious "Kirk/Spock" mythos. I read plenty of it but did not write any. I made bad or mediocre illustrations for such efforts. I continue to wonder why stories about man-to-man love in fantasy adventures appealed so much to the female readers, even when "authentic" gay men read them and pronounced them unrealistic and absurd. 

I think some of the appeal was that these were stories with two socially equal characters, not a subservient one (traditionally female) and a dominant male. Two strong guys could be tender to each other which made the reader feel tenderness too. Another thing was that the (straight) women could imagine themselves as one of the characters in this equal relationship, rather than in the unequal straight-couple relationship they might be stuck in (the divorce rate among fantasy authors is way high, even now). I haven't read enough Lesbian fiction to know whether this type of co-equal relationship occurs among the fantasy women.

I painted this, and many more like it, just because I had recently read the book and wanted to try some character and romance/fantasy illustration. I wouldn't do this again unless I wanted to re-read the book and re-conceive the characters, which isn't gonna happen any time soon.

"Frain and Dair" are gouache (opaque watercolor) on illustration board, 8" x 10", November 1983.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Dragon Sphinx

She's part dragon, part woman. I had some space in my sketchbook journal and I thought I'd give it a go. Her hands are showing under her chin, in case someone wonders just what those shapes are. Maybe I should have drawn the whole figure, but I ran out of space. Model from the excellent "Art Models 5" edition. Drawing finished in Photoshop.

Ink and Photoshop on sketchbook page, about 7" x 2 1/2", June 15, 2014.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Pluckerland Blues Band

The Pluckerland Blues Band returned to Falls Church for the opening day of the "Tinner Hill Blues Festival." They played in front of Stifel and Capra's gift shop under a tent canopy which kept the rain off. I did some drawings while enjoying the music. The upper drawing is a composite of individual sketches, rather than an actual band playing scene. The lower drawing has sketches of each member of the band. Pluckerland features a wide selection of music from rock to funk to jazz to classic blues. They also have a blues fiddler, who is depicted in the lower drawing bowing up a storm. Fortunately the storm despite looking threatening sent no thunder and lightning or deluge, just some polite little raindrops.

Pitt technical pen black ink on sketchbook pages.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Workmen on roof

It's a busy June at my apartment complex as the maintenance prepares to open the pool. The swimming pool usually opens on Memorial Day Weekend but due to snow days at school the kids are not ready to swim yet. Many are still in classes. Meanwhile after the destruction of the Little Red Tree and the replacement of the utility building roof, the workmen are rebuilding a fence and cleaning off all the plastic pool furniture. Then the pool workers will come in and clean out the gunk in the pool left over from last year. This all makes a lot of noise. I don't swim or go in the pool but I love to see the brilliant aqua color of clear water in sunlight.

I did these sketches of the roofers pulling off the old rotten wood and shingles and adding new plywood boards.

Pitt pen on sketchbook page, 5" x 8", June 9, 2014.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Tiernon the Mage of Avriaten

Shariann Lewitt's first published work was a humorous fantasy short story about playing cards with the Devil, and her first full-length published work was a fantasy novel, "First and Final Rites," dated 1984. "Rites" was a tale of magic and palace intrigue, taking place in the fantasy land of Avriaten. There was a strong romantic element in the story, too, involving a young Adept priestess of royal lineage and a courtier, Tiernon, who was also a mage, though he hid that under an assumed identity as a luxurious fop. I painted Tiernon's portrait for Shariann, back when we were good friends. Shariann didn't like fantasy, preferring to write about modern or futuristic worlds with non-magical technology. From the Wikipedia article about her, it seems she hasn't published anything new in almost fifteen years, though I've seen recent reprints of her older books at a convention dealership.

"Tiernon of Avriaten" is acrylic on Masonite, 9" x 22", December 1983.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Tentacle Encounter

One of the oddest fan groups I was involved with was the "Sime-Gen" crew, which flourished in the 1980s and 1990s, with some membership persisting into the next decades. "Sime-Gen," short for "Sime-biotes" and "Gen-erators," was an imaginary Earth future in which the human race had diverged into two forms. One was the Simes, whose forearms sprouted small tentacles which could grip and manipulate as well as transmit an esoteric energy called "selyn." The "Gens" were outwardly indistinguishable from the original human form, without tentacles, but they could generate "selyn" energy. The Simes, rather like vampires, could only exist with regular feeding on selyn from Gens. And sometimes, especially in the earlier stories, the feeding resulted in death for the Gen. After a while the Simes and Gens found a way to live with each other without killing their hosts. Simes had special abilities that Gens didn't have, such as brief bursts of super-strength or super-speed, and some special ones had psychic powers as well.

I did a lot of fan illustrations for Sime-Gen publications including this one, in which an impoverished Gen runaway is caught stealing ears of corn to eat, by the farmer's daughter, who is a Sime. Naturally they fall in love, but how can they have a life together when she might have to feed on his energy and kill him in the process? They work something out because the story ends with the grown-up Gen telling the story to his and her son.

Ink on illustration board, 7" x 8", December 2000.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

In Memoriam Little Red Tree

I was jolted awake (or perhaps more awake, as I had trouble sleeping) by the sound of a chainsaw right near my dwelling. I looked out to see a workman demolishing the little red tree next to the swimming pool utility building, a tree I had lived with for more than twenty years. This small landscaping tree, probably some sort of Japanese maple, had bright red leaves and hosted many birds and some nests as well. I had observed it for all those years, watching it slowly grow larger over that time. Now it was being dismantled, branch by branch, until nothing was left but the trunk, and then that too was cut away by the relentless chainsaw until the stump was level with the ground.

Why were they destroying my tree, which I considered, in a pseudo-Druidical way, a long-term friend of mine? They were cutting it down because it had grown too large and was overshadowing the building. The water and plant material from the tree, over the years, had accumulated on the roof which was rotting out. And the owners wanted to renovate the roof of the dreary pool house structure. I admit I knew the tree was doomed when I saw the damage to the roof, which had been aggravated by a recent storm. But I didn't want to witness its death.

Within a few hours a team of Spanish-speaking roofers had pulled apart the rotted old roof and replaced it with fresh wood and asphalt shingles. The results of their labors now stands unshadowed and new, ready for the summer season. As always, I watch out my window for more landscaping to be installed.

This drawing of the Little Red Tree was done in my 1998 illustrated sketchbook journal. That was 16 years ago. At the time of its demise the tree was much larger than this and obscured the whole building behind it. Markers, ink, and colored pencil, April 21,1998.

Monday, June 9, 2014

S.N. Lewitt's "White Wing"

Long ago by science-fiction and fantasy standards, I was good friends with author Shariann Lewitt. She lived in Washington, DC and when I went down there from Boston to visit my friends, we would always catch up and then sit for hours creating and comparing fantasy scenarios and world-building. In those days (mid-80s) Shariann was publishing a lot of adventure and intrigue-filled short novels, often starring daring pilots, warriors, spies, and technologists. I was also publishing book covers, but not as many titles as Shariann. It was so much fun to sit up late into the night making up plots and scenarios. I ended up making lots of concept sketches, many of which I gave to her for inspiration. Through the 80s and into the 90s she published tales set among fighter pilots, professional athletes in futuristic sports, modern Roma (gypsies) living in space colonies, and the characters in this piece above.

The seven characters here (plus the girl in the portrait picture) are a squad of space warriors in a future in which Earth has been obliterated by galactic warfare. They are known as the "White Wing." Other "Wings" had already taken their identifying color, and only "White" was left. They are not all fighter pilots, but include an intelligence expert, an engineer, and other support roles. The red-haired girl in the picture was one of their group who lost her life in battle. The interesting thing about this group, which is only revealed later in the book, is that they are a "group family" or polyamorous multi-spouse collective. They are all married to each other - which no doubt leads to complicated situations not covered in the book. "White Wing" was a collaboration between Shariann Lewitt and fantasy writer Susan Shwartz, published under a pseudonym.

Shariann went through many re-inventions of her personal style. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, she adopted a glamorous space-Goth look complete with black garb and tattoos. She made quite a stir at science fiction conventions. I admit that I was jealous of her for her daring fashion choices and eye-catching outfits - even though they were things which I would never ever wear or do. During that time our friendship ended, as our choices of looks and career diverged. A few years later Shariann moved to the Boston area where she still resides, teaching creative writing to students at M.I.T. 

"White Wing" character concept art is ink and watercolor on illustration board, 8" x 10", 
August 1985. Diligently restored in Photoshop. Click on the image for larger view.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Flowers on the Wine Porch

I'm back at "Winding Road Cellars" with my iPad on the wine porch and a glass of Chardonnay. I'm currently using the "ArtRage" app and it turns out a "painterly" look as I have done with these geranium flowers. They are placed in an old grape press, where you can see the iron crank at the right. I prefer a much more precise and architectural style but I don't know whether "ArtRage" is the right app for the job. I still like "ArtStudio" better. 

Meanwhile many copies of my winery art book "The Earthly Paradise" have sold at Winding Road and I delivered some more of them for their display. I also placed some at the "Philip Carter Winery" which is next to Winding Road in the beautiful green countryside. My neighborhood in Tysons Corner is getting more and more built-up and I would love to migrate out to wine country and find a place to live. The main problem is finding a job there.

"ArtRage" app on iPad, about 8" x 10", June 7, 2014.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Friday iPaddery

It's back to "First Fridays" in Falls Church, where on the first Friday of each month there is an outdoor event in the parking lot of "Art and Frame of Falls Church" gallery and frame shop. A band plays, collectors bring in beautifully restored old cars, and artists and vendors set up shop. I am one of the artists and was doing sketches on the spot using my iPad on its clever new stand-up table easel. This is one of the drawings I did. The sketchy guitarist of the band is on the left, and a vintage car with the hood up is in the center. I didn't draw the people attending because they were blocking my view of the cars. This is simulated pencil on "ArtRage," an app which mimics "traditional" media.

ArtRage app on iPad, about 8" x 6", June 6, 2014.

Friday, June 6, 2014

June Green Trees

This time of year is my favorite, starting in June and ending in late August. I especially love June because it is the month of the summer solstice and the fresh green leaves have not yet gotten brownish and faded from hot summer days. I did this tree study in my sketchbook journal, looking out the window of my studio, which is where the living room would be in a normal city apartment. This year the graphics concept for my sketchbook is comic-book-like panels set against full-color ink and marker drawings. I used the wonderful Copic markers for this, as well as a few Prismacolors. Only these two lines of markers have enough color variety to achieve an accurate look to landscapes and buildings. I have hundreds of these. You might call me marker-obsessed. More markers!

Markers on sketchbook page, about 4 1/2" x 9", June 5, 2014. Text has been removed from panels with Photoshop.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Savage Empire Blonde

Fantasy author Jean Lorrah's work is mostly forgotten these days, except by her fans. In the 1980s she was a regular guest at DarkoverCon (now re-named "Chessiecon") where she joined with Jacqueline Lichtenberg in creating and sustaining the bizarre "Sime-Gen" fantasy world. Lorrah on her own and later with collaborators wrote a series, "Savage Empire," set in a swashbuckling medieval-style world enhanced with psychic powers and romantic intrigue. The queen of this Savage Empire was "Aradia," a dazzling blonde with violet eyes who communed with sentient wolves. 

There are a lot of flaxen-haired blonde lovelies with violet eyes in fantasy fiction, (including the currently famous "Daenerys Targaryen" from George R.R. Martin's "Game of Thrones,") though not as much as the standard flaming red hair. As an illustrator I give every character natural hair color. No one needs to use hair dye in Fantasyland, unless it's to disguise the blonde or red locks during a stealthy adventure or secret escape. 

"Aradia of the Savage Empire" is acrylic on illustration board, 8" x 9", November 1984.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Spring Evening

I make one of these little landscapes every so often to remind myself how precious green leaves are. I still remember the long bitter winter that lasted from October of last year to April of this year. We thought that spring would never come but it finally did. I try to capture the authentic colors of clouds and trees at a very specific moment just before sundown. This study is from memory.

Photoshop, 7" x 3", June 3, 2014.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Jo Clayton's "Serroi"

In the forgotten time-sink of the late 1980s I was fond of the fantasy fiction of the late Jo Clayton. She, like many of the female fantasy writers of her time, wrote tales of warrior women, no matter how unrealistic the details were. They made good material for character portraits such as this one. The character here is "Serroi," a part-alien humanoid with pale olive-green skin and reddish hair. She also has an extrasensory "eye-spot" on her forehead. Serroi, like most of the women characters in this era, endures years of brutal abuse before coming into her own as an independent person. This small character study shows Serroi as a warrior archer complete with her miniature bow. The glow from her boot top is a magical talisman that she finds during one of her ordeals.

"Serroi" is acrylic on illustration board, 6" x 10", June 1987.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Native American fantasy

This is one of the very few illustrative paintings I've ever done with a Native American theme. I know next to nothing about Indians and doing justice to an authentic story would involve much more research than I could handle. However, if someone commissioned me, I would attempt to rise to the occasion and at least turn out something decent to look at.

This piece, "The Raising of Skhau," was a commission. In 1985 I attended "Fantasy Worlds West," a fantasy convention in Oakland, California under the auspices of Marion Zimmer ("Darkover") Bradley and her extended family. While there I made the acquaintance of one of their writer friends named Terry Tafoya. Tafoya, an American Indian of Warm Springs Apache/Taos Pueblo heritage (or so he claimed), was a fantasy writer who had written a science fantasy story based on the Apache and Navaho myths of Changing Woman. He commissioned a scene from his story, where Changing Woman resurrects her brother briefly from bones in his grave. 

I did as much research as time allowed but I ended up making many major cultural mistakes in the final painting, which any Indian or Indian expert would fault me for. For instance, the staff with the feathers held in the woman's hand should not have the feathers only on the top, but tied on intervals along the staff. And she is not wearing aboriginal garb, but 20th century pseudo-Navajo attire. 

Nevertheless, I finished the picture, delivered it, and was paid, and Terry Tafoya disappeared from my world. Many years later his claims to Native heritage as well as his academic credentials were challenged, but that is none of my business, I'm only an illustrator. I like the rainbow border, which had something to do with the story, which I have almost completely forgotten. Now I stay away from any image or theme from Native American Indian cultures, lest I grab material I have no right to use.

"The Raising of Skhau" is acrylic on illustration board, 11" x 14", March 1986. Click for larger view. Restored in Photoshop.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Maggie Malick's Wine Cave

"Wine Saturday" brought me and my friends to a new winery near Purcellville, Virginia: "Maggie Malick's Wine Caves." This unusual establishment features an artificial cave dug into a hillside and built with reinforced concrete, with a grass-covered "roof." Inside the cave you sip Maggie's wine right beside the oak barrels. Outside the cave structure is this wine pavilion with plenty of room to sit and enjoy the band playing. The landscape is pure Virginia  hilly goodness. This is definitely a place I want to go back to. See more of Maggie's cave at "Rae's Poetry Ramblings."

Sepia Pitt technical pen on sketchbook page, 8" x 6", May 31, 2014.