Monday, June 29, 2015

Renovation studio chaos

This is what has kept me from making a decent post on the By-product in the last couple of weeks. With the kaput-ness of my computer, I have had to remove it and everything that was plugged into it too. All these devices and a spaghetti mess of cables were covered with dust. The windows were grungy. So I got to work and have been cleaning off and vacuuming and dusting and attempting to clean the windows. Today I toiled over it with mixed results. There are still annoying streaks on the windows but it is much better than before. This may not look too bad to you but to me it's maddening. You can see the white IKEA desk (child sized!) and my improvised stacks of plastic crates loaded with printed resources. The vacuum cleaner is in the center and on the desk are cleaning stuff, almighty Windex and a red kneeling pad. I have lots of oriental rugs and they need vacuuming. The printer is at upper left. This room is really nice (if crowded) when in good order and operation. I have a view out the window into urban trees, and also Greek icons (the religious type) and a hanging brass lantern from Egypt. Sooner or later all this will be resolved and I can get back to doing productive work and showing you By-products.

Canon S90 photograph. Click for larger view. OK, "Architectural Digest" it isn't.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Archangel Raphael progress

I'll show you a part of what I'm working on. This is the late-medieval-style extravaganza with angels and the Virgin Mary and My Little Pony (OK JUST KIDDING about that last one). The yellow guy is Archangel Raphael. Among other jobs, he is the angel of Healing and Medicine so I have him holding a bowl of chicken soup. OK then it's a mortar and pestle with magic herbs in it that glow pink. 

I'm done painting this image of Raphael and have moved on to the Virgin Mary. I can bring this to you and blogify because I am using a photograph here not a scanner. I am dismantling my iMac studio and am living here in Laptop and Acrylic Land, until my friend brings me the replacement computer.

Acrylic on hardboard, June 2015.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Another Wine Paradise: 868 Estate

Well, it looks like the iMac is pretty much kaput, unless it's something I'm doing wrong or the keyboard wasn't charged correctly or whatever. Usually when a gadget goes wrong, it's my fault and I'd be just delighted if an expert came in and restored it to working order, but I don't think that's gonna happen any time soon. You see my drawing here thanks to my laptop and my digital camera. Since the scanner won't work with the inactive computer and I have no space to drag it into my art studio, I took a picture of my winery art for June 20 with my Canon point and shoot camera and then processed it in Photoshop. Came out pretty good for now.

I was solo wining this "Wine Saturday," because for family reasons my Wine Buddies could not attend. I visited the new winery (established 2013) "868 Estate," near Purcellville, Virginia. This place is so new that I didn't have it in my "Earthly Paradise" wine book because it hadn't opened yet when I published. The Estate is filled with fun and interesting buildings and attractions and even has a gourmet restaurant. I could draw for days here. The wine was excellent, specializing in white varieties. The drawing above is of an 1850s farmhouse, and the color sketch shows rows and rows of baby vines in the distance. They are just getting started but I definitely want to follow this one. 

On the way home from Wine Paradise, a violent thunderstorm exploded over the hills and I was fortunate enough to find a refuge from the storm at "Darya Kabob," a Persian restaurant in Sterling, Virginia, where the kabobs were very good but there was, of course, no wine.

Tech pen ink and colored pencil on sketchbook page, about 7" x 10", June 20, 2015. Clicquez for larger view.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

More Mall IPaddery

As I may have said in my previous post, I'm not getting to post here every day due to computer problems. My iMac presented me with the white screen of nothing. It will sort of work if I coax it into "safe mode" but it isn't so hot on Photoshop. So I have moved to my other gadgets, my iPad and this laptop which is nicknamed "WineMac" for vineyard reasons. Instead of a vineyard drawing though, this is from Tysons Corner Mall, just a mile down the road from me, where you can buy anything but toilet paper. Come on, Tysons, I need toilet paper, not glitzy rhinestone cropped T-shirts or neon yellow and purple sneakers.So I sat at one of their rare tables and did this interior study of 50 shades of beige, without the milling crowd of mall walking consumers. The "Nespress" comes from a "Nespresso" coffee machine shop which tempted me with espresso ecstasy drawn from a tiny, non-ecological cup. Should I get one for my daily coffee jolt? It's kind of nice to go to Starbucks and actually be outside the workplace though. 

One of my best friends has offered to pass along her 3-year-old, functioning iMac to me while she gets a brand new one. This is a wonderful gesture but I have to wait a while for her to come home from California with this machine in tow. This will be at the end of this month so for now I will blogify with my iPad which is easy to connect with the laptop though the iTunes interface would confound a physicist, let alone me. You connect with a little rectangular icon, and somewhere it says "Apps," and then you look for the one you were using, but you need to first go to your app and export your work to iTunes as a JPEG, and then you look for it and hope it hasn't disappeared. Then I turn on my air fan because it's warm and sticky and I am getting the vapors and my laptop is too.

"ArtStudio" app on iPad, June 15, 2015. Is anyone besides Tristan reading this.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Turkish Domes

I haven't been in Turkey, at least not since 1975. This study is copied from a picture book I have of Ottoman architecture. The scene here is a back alley in Istanbul. This national style with its domes and archways and interlocking forms has been greatly influential on other nations such as France and the USA. It's part of the cultural movement called "Orientalism" where designers and artists evoke the "exotic" world of the nations that were being colonized by "Westerners" at that time in the 19th century. I remember when I did visit Istanbul I was fascinated by the old apartment houses and palaces in the city, because I thought it looked so much like my native Boston, Massachusetts. What was Boston doing on the Bosporus? Or rather, what was Istanbul doing on Newbury Street? It was all about cultural inspiration. Fantasy architecture is also indebted to the Exotic Turkish Domes, above which dragons or magic-users fly.

Originally brown tech pen ink on sketchbook page, grayscaled in Photoshop, about 3" x 5". June 12, 2015.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Tinner Hill Blues Festival

I missed a post yesterday (June 13) because my main computer, the iMac on which I do my blogging and digital art, failed. It reverted to a blank white screen and wouldn't go any further. With some panicked referrals to my Mac-expert friends I was able to get the machine going again but only in what is called "safe mode" which decreases the computer's ability to get stuff done. It goes slowly, cannot download anything to my external storages like memory sticks, has no sound, and my Wacom art tablet doesn't work well. With this failure I decided to go to a live event and forget about the screen for a while. 

The Tinner Hill Blues Festival has been going on for more than 20 years in downtown Falls Church. Tinner Hill was the African-American district of Falls Church and its inhabitants and founding families have a history of civil rights achievements. The festival is in a park where many events and summer concerts take place. I sat on a borrowed chair under an awning and drew the music barn and the tents above the audience and the sound crew. Fortunately, there was no rain. There was delicious "soul food" from vendors, and beer from a local brewpub. 

Here are some drawings of some of the attendees. I always draw at concerts if I get the chance. Meanwhile I have to get my computer fixed. I'll have to drag it to the "Genius Bar" at the Apple Store in the nearby mall, or rather, find or hire someone to drag it because it's too heavy for me to lift. 

Black tech pen ink on sketchbook page, both drawings about 5" x 7" each.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Fan Fetish

Dyan Ardais was a villain in the Darkover stories who became one of those "so bad he's good" characters. He tortured the young male hero in Marion Zimmer Bradley's THE HERITAGE OF HASTUR and attempted both physical and mental rape. Dyan, despite (or perhaps because of) his faults, became a fan favorite and the subject of many S&M fan fictions. There was always an undercurrent of sadomasochism in Darkover and other fan worlds. I brought it into the open with this bit of fan art. Dyan Ardais appears with a "cat 'o nine tails" whip and a chain fastened to a wooden post. Dyan was slightly non-human, the result of human/alien crossbreeding on the Darkover world. He had six fingers on each hand and lots of psychic powers, which he used like the dominator/master that he was. I don't miss this part of Darkover fandom. 

Ink on illustration board, 5" x 9", fall 1980.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Return to Greenberry's

I've been there many times since 2002, but since I published my 2002 drawing of the place I decided to go to Greenberry's Coffee in McLean, Virginia, to see if anything had changed there. The damsels were still there, intently looking into their laptops rather than a book, but the biggest change was at the shop itself. They now serve wine and beer as well as coffee! A group of well-dressed grandparents were sipping wine together and making noise where the sip used to be cappuccino accompanied by the Washington Post. Not that the coffee wasn't still there, I had their plentiful and powerful espresso and their rare and rich "blonde brownie" while drawing this sketch.

When I was last up in the family home in Massachusetts I rescued from the clutter a big book on the 19th-20th century artist Edouard Vuillard. I had only heard a little about his work and seen even less but I am much intrigued by this formerly unknown to me artist. He depicted a world of interiors and theaters and coffee shops and bars, populated either by his relatives and friends or strangers living their own stories. Many of his panels were tall and narrow, influenced by Japanese prints. He kept sketch journals throughout his life, as I do. So this little drawing of an unknown drinker is a homage to Monsieur Vuillard.

Black tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 4" x 7", June 10, 2015.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

She never knew she was a model

It was an unusually warm day in April 2002. I apologize if I've posted this before. The warmth brought me out of the studio and into the coffeeshop, Greenberry's in McLean, Virginia. I sipped indoors but the outdoor terrace was full of people including this graceful damsel in summer attire, reading while shading her eyes from the early warm sun, while listening to something on her headphones. With that level of unawareness of the world around her she never saw that someone was drawing her picture. She kept that pose for quite a long time, enough so that I was able to draw her in accurate detail. I wonder where she is now, 13 years later. And where am I now, 13 years later? Having done 11 years worth of work for Trader Joe's and innumerable small paintings and drawings. Is there more?

Brown tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 5 1/2" x 5", April 15, 2002.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Textured Wall Cambridge

Cambridge is an old city so there are layers of construction wherever you go. This wall was (is?) especially interesting because of the variety of surfaces that it displays. It has brick, cinderblock, concrete, and textured molded concrete, all on the same low wall near an apartment house. It's so varied that perhaps it was deliberately created that way by an architect or builder having fun. But no, such intention is just too intelligent a reason for the wall in a place like Cambridge. Most likely it happened spontaneously over the many years it stood and crumbled.

Black technical pen ink on sketchbook page, about 9" x 8", July 1982.

Monday, June 8, 2015


Plankton are tiny animals and living cells which drift in the waters of Earth's oceans in countless numbers. They come in all sorts of shapes, some of them looking like shrimp or crustaceans, others like tiny flowers or bugs or globules. They are the main diet of much bigger sea creatures such as whales. Inspired by a short article with a photograph in "New Scientist" magazine, I created a little ocean of plankton. Did you know that a single plankton is called a "plankter?" But it has nothing to do with "planking." Plank down your seafood for a whale of a time.

Brown tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 8" x about 3", June 8, 2015.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

How to Draw Cats

I have a book which has been very helpful over the years. It is called, "How to Draw Cats." The first sentence of the book should be (but isn't), "Find a cat." In the summer of 1982 the cat found me as my cousins boarded their "Popcorn" with me while they took a road trip vacation. Popcorn occupied my house and provided many opportunities for cat drawing. He had his favorite chair which I hardly ever sat in, but he would be there for hours so I could draw whatever part of him, or all of him, I wanted. Seems like if you spend time with cats, they all take the same positions more or less so one thing about "How to Draw Cats" is, if you want to capture the cat image in any position, just wait and he will show it to you. Even a full face drawing though it's somewhat harder to get him to look at you for more than a few seconds. 

Black technical pen ink on sketchbook page, 9" x 7", July 1982.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Banjo Man

I attended an open-air concert in downtown Falls Church, where a line-up of local musicians played some bluegrass and some bouncy folk tunes. They played in front of a gift shop where I often browse. The gentleman with the banjo is Bobby Joe Small, who I depicted in 2013 as a concert-goer rather than a concert-giver. This was a farewell performance for him, since Bobby Joe and his wife are retiring and moving to Richmond, Virginia. Banjo man Bobby promised that he would be back to visit and play a gig or two. 

Also in my drawing, along with other members of the band, are identical twin sisters Emma and Miranda. In their white blouses and elegant long black skirts, I thought they might be servers at a fancy restaurant but they were actually dressed for an orchestra performance where both played clarinets.

Black technical pen ink on sketchbook page, 5" x 8", June 5, 2015.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Domes and Banner

I've used this domed church image before. I love the grand cornices and the interlocking domes and arches. This is from Saint Genevieve's, a neoclassical church in Paris built in the later years of the eighteenth century. The architecture is based on Later Roman models, a church of Empire rather than pasture. I added the red banner to give it a bright accent. There is a church like it in the Washington, DC area, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. This is also an Imperial church, finished in the 1960s just before the old empire crumbled. I have been in there drawing but that was a long time ago, and that part of DC is very hard for me to get to given traffic and parking conditions. Maybe I can hitch a ride with a chariot someday.

Brown technical pen ink on sketchbook page, red color in Photoshop, 3" x 5", June 4, 2015.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Somerville Porch

There is nothing more artistically satisfying to me than drawing buildings. Most of my art friends like drawing people more than buildings and at least two of them that I know go out of their way not to draw architecture. But I love sitting with my tech pen and sketchbook and drawing a porch or a handsome window or a complex roof line. At one point I briefly considered becoming an architect but I was told that the architectural profession is disappearing and that they make no money. I still love to read about architects who live in fabulous houses they designed themselves and who travel the world building things and who are richly paid by celebrity clients. And who can wear astonishing outfits like the leather-clad Peter Marino, known mostly for his commercial architecture for high-end fashion stores. I am like OMG CHECK OUT THE BLACK LEATHER. But when it comes to drawing buildings for me, I get to draw mostly weathered, old, paint-peeling, grayish, unglamorous edifices without charm or trendiness. This porch is in Somerville, Mass. near where I used to live in Cambridge, Mass. Where is my glamorous personal brand? Where are my celebrity clients? Shall I draw something sleek?

Drawing is black tech pen ink on sketchbook page, about 5 1/2" x 7 1/2", July 1982.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Angel Gabriel in progress

I sometimes post works in progress or excerpts from them. Since I've been working so hard with this one, I might as well. This is from what I call my "Angelic Portrait," in which the portrait subject who commissioned it appears kneeling in front of a gathering of archangels and holy beings. It is supposed to be made in a medieval style and is based on a famous late Medieval painting, the "Wilton Diptych" commissioned by the British King Richard the Second. My commissioner asked for the four traditional Archangels in the painting, that is, Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael. I painted Michael a while back and have just finished Gabriel. This rendering of angels is more traditional than my unusual "Angels of Modern Science" set. I also left out the esoteric symbols of these Archangels, relying instead on the traditional identifying items. In Gabriel's symbolism he bears the sacred trumpet conveying announcements of heaven and apocalypse.

Acrylic on board, about 6" x 4", May-June 2015. I hope to have this whole piece done by the end of June. Click for larger view.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Summer in the City

Prentiss Street is a quiet little curving street on the border of Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts. If you didn't know it was in a densely built-up area, you'd think it was a country lane. These wonderful old houses are on Prentiss Street and I wish I owned one, though it probably has all sorts of old-house problems. There's a porch with plastic chairs on it, and some scrubby foliage as well as the old tree. OK, this isn't the best of neighborhoods but you can be sure that even these old wood-frame houses would be worth a million dollars each if not more. From this location you can walk to anywhere in the Harvard area including most of Harvard, and across the street are numerous stores and restaurants.

I did this drawing on location, on one of those silent serene hot days of summer, hoping to catch the "country-in-the-city" feel of that moment. I added the watercoloring in the studio when I got home. 31 years later, a little bit of blue-tinted Photoshop in the sky. Klik for closer view.

Prentiss Street houses are ink and watercolor on sketchbook page, 8" x 10", August 15, 1984.

Monday, June 1, 2015

More Starbucks People: Hair or Not

My local Starbucks is filled with fascinating-looking people. I'm sure they do fascinating things too. The African lady at left was wearing a fabulous hairdo of bunched braids, not sure whether they were real or not. She was wearing a little black dress and glitter sandals and was typing into a computer. Meanwhile next to her was a bald dude with a scrubby beard in a faded T-shirt on which were printed frogs and other pond life. I tried to guess their occupations. Was she a financial advisor? Lawyer? Lobbyist? And was he a biological scientist of some kind, or science teacher or writer? I hope they didn't know I was drawing them and if they did, won't find a way to see the drawings and this text. 

Black technical pen ink on sketchbook page, additions in Photoshop, 5" x 6 1/2", May 31, 2015.