Monday, August 31, 2015

Trivial Stuff Only Artists Worry About

I keep an illustrated journal and have for the past 47 years. I am not making that up. I started it in 1968 when I was in high school and have kept it ever since. Most of my journals have illustrations, doodles, and scribbles in them. Once I became a professional artist though, these journals got "organized" and I put sketches in them that might be preliminary drawings for larger work. Or they were "reality" drawings depicting things in my world like glassware, stacks of books, flowers, buildings, or coffee machines. The "reality" drawings had to correspond to the journal entry near it on the page. Lots of famous artists like Van Gogh or Turner used to do this, so if it was good enough for them it was certainly good enough for me.

But what happens when there's too much reality and not enough journal? Or the other way, too much journal and not enough reality? I've had that problem lately with my 2015 journal. I write in it and put my daily entry in (usually only a couple of paragraphs), and then I either forget or run out of stuff to draw in it. I had a "theme" for my journal in 2015 that it should have my industrial patterns and other complex small drawings done in brown technical pen. The winery and architectural and on-site stuff was done elsewhere. So I reserved space for the mini drawings in my journal notebook. And I didn't draw'em. There are holes in my closely written pages where these drawings are supposed to go. Grumble! I'd better do more journal drawings! But they don't correspond to any reality I was writing about. What to do? I must RE-Date these drawings so I will know when I drew them. Thus this little piece, drawn on August 31, appears over the written entry for July 18. That's reality for you, temporal and artistic dislocation in the service of an artist's vanity. 

Steel mill structure looks like a castle! "Industrial Patterns 11" is brown tech pen ink on sketchbook page, about 3.5" x 3.5", August 31, 2015.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Draw Model 1975

I thought I didn't have much formal art training but after looking back in dozens of old sketchbooks I guess I have. I did lots and lots of life drawing from models. Many of these are in pencil and the paper has faded and yellowed so this image is as good as I can get from the archives. It was a perspective challenge too since the model is sticking her hand out toward me and I see her head first. I think this is a nice drawing for student work and I wonder if I could do so well nowadays. 

Pencil on sketchbook page, about 5" x 6", 1975. 

This 1975 sketchbook also contains a copy of a letter dated April 29, 1975, by Marver Bernstein, then-president of Brandeis University, requesting that students stop occupying Pearlman Hall in a protest about, uh, something about a "transitional year program" for "minorities." As I remember, every year in springtime students would get all outraged about something, and they would do political action which involved taking over an administration building and partying a lot. Pearlman Hall was the sociology department and they would always support the student cause.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Barren Ridge

I can't resist these Blue Ridge vistas. Look at the brilliant blue of those distant hills. I could sit on this deck for hours watching clouds go by. And look at that big meadow. Not a gas station or McDonalds to be seen! Have a sip of Barren Ridge wine. Of course the place is anything but barren, there are plenty of grapevines and they are loaded with grapes right now. Harvest begins in a week or two. I enjoyed their "Red Barren" blend. This spot here is one of the finest views I've seen from any winery in Virginia. 

Brown ink and colored pencil on sketchbook page, with some wicked Photoshop enhancements, 8" x 11", August 21, 2015. Click for a larger version of this jaw-dropping view. You'll never believe what wine can do for....

Friday, August 28, 2015

August Green Hills

Early summer was very wet but after June the weather got much drier and so the trees and grass in Virginia have taken up their August colors which are mostly yellow greens. I always enjoy depicting the layers of hills in the landscape which fade into bluer and bluer shades. Atmospheric perspective is the key here; as an area gets more and more distant, there's more air between the viewer and the subject. And as with blue skies, light gets scattered among the air molecules and looks more blue rather than the actual August green of the trees. 

This is another memory drawing from Central Virginia taking atmosphere into account.

ArtStudio app on the iPad, some Photoshop re-working, August 16, 2015.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Keswick Barrels

When you taste wine at Keswick Vineyards, you get to see some of their winemaking equipment through a big window right behind the bar. I put my sketchbook down on the bar and they let me draw while standing up at the counter. Through the window I see barrels, tasting vessels (which are chemists' beakers) and big steel tanks where white wines are fermented. I could have drawn more but I ran out of time. I don't think I'll add color to this one. This means that I will need a color sketch to finish off the winery page that this goes on. I wouldn't mind going back to Keswick again, even in the winter. But it is not close enough to make it a day trip from where I am and I'd have to stay over somewhere. Wine logistics are a constant concern.

Brown tech pen on sketchbook page, 7 1/2" x 7 1/2", August 18, 2015.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Road in Central Virginia

Route 15, depicted here in north central Virginia, goes more or less north-south all the way into North Carolina. In central Virginia the terrain is not too hilly though you can see the Blue Ridge in the distance. This is a memory sketch of Route 15 on the way to Orange, where my innkeeping friends live on Poplar Hill. This part of Virginia still has open country, with no developments or strip malls except in small bunches near towns. There's so many nice things to draw or paint there, I would fill my studio with pictures of idealized rural places and buildings if I could. And then someone would have to buy them and take them off my hands. Better to do these sketches on an iPad and thus fill only hard drives with spaceless data.

"ArtStudio" app on iPad, August 16, 2015.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Land of Honah Lee

Is it "Puff the magic Flagon?" The land of Honah Lee (in Orange, Virginia) has up to now been only a vineyard, not a winery. But now the people of Honah Lee, Jackie Paper and his fami-lee, including new baby Erika, are a wine clan. The older generations are making their own wine. I visited this country idyll on the first day of my vacation week. I did these drawings outside despite brilliant sun and burning heat. Plein air art must go on in all weather conditions! Although I admit that I finished the drawings in the shelter of the tasting cabin. The medieval-ish event tent in the woods was recently put up in anticipation of parties and weddings. The phallic folded cloth shape on the pole is an umbrella which is used for outdoor wine-sipping and produce sales. Honah Lee also sells delicious locally grown fruit, and baked goods made by the grandma of the family. I got a commission to do a portrait sketch of baby Erika (from a family photograph), paid for with two bottles of Honah Lee wine, one white and one red.

Brown ink on sketchbook page with colored pencil and a bit of Photoshop, about 11" x 7", August 17, 2015.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Back from the Blue Ridge

I've returned from my vacation week in Central Virginia. I enjoyed hospitable friends, pretty vistas, delicious food, and plenty of wine. I did a number of winery drawings which I will present here. Honestly I wish I could have spent another week doing more of the same but there is art work to do. 

The image you see here was not created during my vacation days (although one winery drawing resembles it). I did this from memory, as I viewed the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains from the Shenandoah Valley. I tried to match the gold-green colors of August as best as I could. I've done dozens of these landscapes and never get tired of them.

This is done in Photoshop, and I did my best to work with digital blenders so that the art would look more like a painting done on site. Memory painting is a compromise between the  properly arty on-site "plein air" and the dodgy illustrator-like painting from a photograph. Don't look too closely,'s still digital.

Photoshop, 10" x  6", August 23, 2015.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Cat of August

You've seen many of my sketches of Popcorn the cat, over the years. Popcorn was my cousins' cat, and when their family went on summer vacation (usually a rented house on Cape Cod) they left their beast with me. Popcorn and I were not on the best of terms but he tolerated me and let me touch him now and then. He sat in the window and listened to the baseball game with me. The year I drew this, 1986, was the year that we really thought the Red Sox would win it all. It was also the year that I went to the World Science Fiction Convention in Atlanta, once the cat had been returned to his owners. Anyone who knows anything about the Red Sox knows that 1986 didn't turn out well, really not well at all, and we would have to wait until 2004, in the unthinkable new millennium, for the first baseman to finally catch that ball.

I'll be off on my August vacation for this week, no cats but probably plenty of food and wine. If I am up for serious gadgetizing I may post an entry here from my iPad but maybe I won't, depending on the level of wine and vacation vacancy.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, about 5 1/2" x 8 1/2", August 25, 1986.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Rabbit Hole Circuit

This is one of my first built electronic circuits. I built it according to the instructions in a very cute and helpful book of projects called "Circuit Sticker Sketchbook" by an MIT engineer named Jie Qi. The book came bundled with the supplies you need to build the projects, in a kit called "Chibitronics." You get copper tape, sticky LED units, round coin-like batteries, and sensor foil, and a couple of ordinary metal clips to hold the batteries and paper together. 

This kit was designed for kids and for other learners including myself. As many of you know, I've always wanted to become an electronic tinkerer and builder, ever since I helped my father work on tape recorders back in my high school days. I never learned enough, never did much, and over the years I lost track of my technological ambitions. Besides in my day girls didn't do that stuff, or I never saw girls doing technology, even when I was busy turning knobs on electronic music synthesizers which are still masterpieces of tech.

My technological friends have often given me kits and books and opportunities to start learning electronics, but I have been too timid to use them. I am always afraid I am going to break or lose something expensive. "Chibitronics" bypasses that fear because nothing in the book is intrinsically valuable or fragile. And the author Jie Qi joined the paper circuit projects together with sketchbook space and drawing prompts, something made for a tech-fearing artist like me. So after I built the circuit I put in the drawing, the electro-rabbits living in their hole illuminated by a white LED that goes on when you put the battery into the circuit and fold down the paper corner, making the connection. I intend to do all the Chibitronics projects and fill the book with sketches of animals and creatures. Engineering, starting one page at a time.

"Chibitronics," pen and copper circuit tape, 5" x 6", August 14, 2015.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Marvel Comics Characters

I very rarely do pictures of well-known media or comics characters. I usually depict original characters or personages from books. But here dredged from the distant past are some renderings of Marvel Comics characters from the "Avengers" with other Marvel guest stars. I was asked to do this as a fan magazine ("fanzine") cover by the legendary Pat Floss, whose narcissism I served on many an artistic occasion. She asked to be depicted as the "Black Widow," seated in the center with some sort of weapon, dressed in the shiny black catsuit she wore in the comics. The portrait, so to say, is flattering. The shiny fabric is known as "nylon cire'   " or waxed nylon and it was stretchy and reflective and very popular in fashion back in the late 60s, when Diana Rigg wore a similar jumpsuit on the British TV "Avengers."

By her sides are Marvel characters she had relationships with, on the left "Daredevil" and above him a non-superpowered gentleman whose name I've forgotten but who was her spy protector for a while. On the right is "Hawkeye" the super-archer who carried on with her at many occasions. The arrows through the heart is not my idea, it was Pat's, who was tickled that she had Marvel men fawning over her.

The "Wurf" dog character belongs to another Marvel title, "The Inhumans," who Ms. Pat was also fond of. The dog was a giant bulldog, the size of a small car, who could teleport people and things across space and different dimensions.

Pat disappeared from my life in the late '80s, before I made my move to the DC area, and I have not found any relevant information about her, nor have I tried to.

"Wurf" fanzine cover is ink on illustration board, 8" x 10", January 1983.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Inn on Poplar Hill illustrated map

I go to the Inn on Poplar Hill every August for vacation days. It is one of the sweetest places I've ever stayed at anywhere. The people are friendlier than family and the breakfast foods even entice me to come downstairs in the morning. It is also a great place as a base for winery expeditions.

The Inn has a lot of acreage consisting mostly of wide green lawns and forest trails. Along the way on these trails are little places you can stop and swing on a hammock or watch birds and frogs or even have a picnic by a fire pit. 

The owners have enjoyed my art for many years and some time ago they asked whether I could create an illustrated site plan for them, which they would print up as part of their brochures. This is to guide people who are wandering around in the woods but it would also be a souvenir of the Inn. I have finally finished this map and you see it above. 

They gave me a hand-drawn map to use as an example, pen lines over a printout from Google Maps. I can't guarantee a high degree of accuracy for this trail map, since the trails were not visible on the printout. I hope it will act at least as a suggestion on where to go on the estate. I have walked most of these trails and gotten lost many times.

The Inn itself is a farmhouse from the 1890s and the rooms are all decorated in sort-of-Victorian comfort. I drew a little picture of the house inside the circle to the left of center. 
Here is a close-up of it:

Last year they said they would grow some hops plants, brew their own beer, and serve it to guests in a newly built Beer Garden. I don't know whether they actually did this, but I put it in anyway. I'll be at the Inn next week and will find out.

Poplar Hill site plan is watercolor and gouache and ink on illustration board, 18" x 14 1/2", August 2015.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

National Gallery Rotunda

Long before I moved to the DC area, I would travel down on the train to Washington to visit friends. While they were at work I wandered around the public areas of the city, seeing famous things. The National Gallery was an important destination and I took my sketchbook in there so I could draw its majestic architecture and even sketch a couple of paintings. This is a drawing of the Rotunda at the National Gallery, with its noble Ionic scroll column heads and its fountain with a bronze statue of the god Mercury. I sat for quite a while drawing this and no one bothered me.

Nowadays I live only a few miles from this museum and I hardly ever go there. Why, I wonder. Well, there are reasons. 32 years ago, when I did this drawing, the DC area was not as crowded as it is now, it was easier to either drive in or take the Metro which was rather new at that time. And there was not all this paranoia about terrorism which would probably prevent me from sitting at length in a public place doing a drawing. Nowadays I would have to pay a large garage fee (or dash about putting quarters in the meter) to drive in and park, or I'd have to walk a fairly long distance to a Metro station. There must be a way to revisit the Museum, with or without sketchbook. Maybe I can persuade some artsy friends to make it an expedition.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page (what else?), 6 " x 8 1/2", 1983.

In 1983 there was no public Internet, no cell phones, no consumer-available digital photography, and the World Trade Center towers in New York City were still standing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Industrial Pattern 10: Chicken

My meeting with chickens at a winery has inspired me to see a fowl-ish creature emerging from the nest of iron straw at a steel mill. It lays eggs of glowing metal. I imagine it makes quite a noise as well! Fresh from the farm, the metallic chicken emerges from the industrial pattern.

Brown tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 4" x 3", August 10, 2015.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Cloud-Based Systems

I love the summer skies. I could sit and watch the clouds drift by all day. If you take a photograph of clouds, you have fixed a moment in time in which you see only one image of an ever-changing Cloud System, whereas the real clouds have moved on. Visual memory is not quite the same as photography since the image produced by memory isn't exactly what the artist was looking at. These cloud studies in Photoshop were done from memory.

Photoshop, about 7" x 7 1/2", August 9, 2015.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Crushed Cellars

It was a splendid, sun-filled August "Wine Saturday" and our destination was "Crushed Cellars," in Purcellville, VA. Crushed (I love the name) is a small winery which I visited a few years ago when it was just starting. The vines in front of their quirky designer building were tiny when I last saw them but they are now quite robust. The wine was excellent, including a Cabernet Sauvignon which was full of color and flavor. I did my art while sitting with the Wine Team outside under the winery's porch. Crushed Cellars hosts a mob of brown chickens whose eggs are sold to the customers. The chickens come up onto the porch and accept bits of food from the wine-sippers.

I drew this scene and the chickens in pen but didn't have time to color it in on-site, due to chickens and wine drinking. My memory of the colors is accurate though so this drawing was completed in the studio.

"Crushed Cellars" is brown tech pen ink on sketchbook page, about 8" x 11", colored in Photoshop. I'll be enhancing the original drawing with my colored pencils later on, so you can see which coloring medium you like the best. August 8, 2015.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Darkover Swordsman

I moved to the Metro DC area in 1988. DarkoverCon, in its eleventh year, also moved, to the location north of Baltimore that it still inhabits even under its current name, "ChessieCon." I was still doing the program covers and this is the one for 1988. It shows a left-handed swordsman waiting for his enemy to come out of hiding. I vaguely remember that the author MZ Bradley made her Darkovan humans left-hand dominant rather than Earth's right-hand majority. The architecture is taken from a photograph of an Italian mountain village. 

After I finished with DarkoverCon 1988 I took the original drawing and dropped the type panel and painted it in with color. Nowadays I'd just do it in Photoshop and leave the black and white drawing as an original.

Black ink on illustration board, colored in acrylic, 7" x 10", July 1988. If you've seen this before here on the By-Product, you're more devoted to this Blog than I am.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Industrial Patterns 9 Honda Garage

While waiting for my car to undergo long-needed upgrades, I drew this picture of the Honda dealership's garage. It definitely qualifies as an "Industrial Pattern" with its interlocking bars and planes of machinery and doors. As I drew, cars were brought in and out of this space and you can see parts of two of them in the open doorway. In the center a worker sits in an office chair, his legs up on a tire, taking a little break. 

Black tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 5" x 5", August 6, 2015.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Rocky Shore of Gloucester

In New England a lot of the seashore is rocky and rugged, though there are plenty of sandy beaches for those who want them. Some of my favorite places to go are Rockport and Gloucester, (pronounced "Glosta") in northern Massachusetts. These rocks are in Gloucester and I fondly remember sitting on the rocky heights with my big boxes of "Stabilayout" markers doing this study of ocean and granite. There was a brief moment in my sketching history where I used these markers and other water-based markers to do my on-site sketches. Now as you know I use colored pencil which may not be as strong a color but is easy to tote around and maintain. Markers fade in normal light which is why this drawing and the others I did remain packed away in my stacks of notebooks. I haven't been to the seashore in ages, I'd like to go but the logistics are difficult.

Markers on sketchbook page, 10 1/2" x 7 1/2", August 7, 1987.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Markham Station

One of my favorite places in Northern Virginia is not a vineyard but an old railway crossing. I  documented the tiny post office there in this post from 2011. It is in the town of Markham and there are historic buildings there. This used to be a stop for the trains coming in from Southern regions but now the train just goes right through. I sit there and wait for the Norfolk Southern freight train, one of my favorite sights. It uses three locomotives to haul its long line of unmarked (but graffiti-adorned) containers and tank cars towards the north, where it stops in Manassas. This drawing depicts Railstop Road, which leads to Chateau O'Brien winery and vineyard. I sometimes wish I could rent one of the 19th century townhouses near the tracks but do I really want the Norfolk Southern coming through my living room every hour or so.

Black tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 5" x 4", August 1, 2015. Some corrections in Photoshop.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

July Twilight Cambridge

Weather conditions in July and August sometimes give us unusually colored skies at dawn and twilight. At twilight the sky can turn brilliant yellow or orange, often after a storm. I tried to capture this look with this color sketch, done while sitting on my front porch in Cambridge, Mass. The house you see there is where I photographed many of my artworks, balancing them on the porch railing. It belonged to a schoolteacher named Aileen McCarthy, who at one time lived there with her elderly mother. After her mother's passing Aileen kept the place and I never told her I wished I could buy it from her, not that I could have. The interior was like a time capsule from the 1930s or 1940s, just like my own parents' house looks like an installation from the 1960s. 

As you know, I love July and August as the only part of the year warm enough for me. I'd love to move somewhere where it is always summer but you then get the unpleasantness of the tropics such as large bugs, poisonous reptiles, hostile inhabitants, and disasters and floods. And no vineyards.

Markers on sketchbook page, 10" x  8", July 13, 1987.

Monday, August 3, 2015

No One Remembers This

I used to be the "artist in residence" at DarkoverCon. I would do the program book cover and the little logo which was used in the convention badge. Each cover illustration had a Darkovan theme. This one was done after my trip to England in the fall of 1987 where I viewed Stonehenge. This image is Stonehenge on Darkover, hence the giant sun and the four moons rising through the upright stones. Author Marion Zimmer Bradley included lost pre-human races of beings on Darkover, so they probably put up these stones. DarkoverCon and to a large extent Darkover itself has faded out of existence. What happens when an imaginary world is no longer imagined?

Ink on illustration board, 8" x 10", fall 1987.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

New Vines at Winding Road

The cumulus clouds were billowing over the green and gold fields as I visited my "home" winery, "Winding Road Cellars." I delivered to them a framed painting of mine for their wall, and more of my "Earthly Paradise" wine books which had sold out! While I was there, a wine aficionado bought two of them and claimed she had visited every winery in the book. Well I was highly pleased by this and took my wine and went out onto their peaceful quiet wooden deck and did this work of iPaddery for the next wine art book collection. This depicts the back area of Winding Road and their pond. To the right is a section of their newest vineyard planted with young vines and protected from voracious deer by a high fence. Everyone is so nice at Winding Road, I keep going back there, and of course I continue to appreciate their spicy red Chambourcin.

"ArtStudio" app on iPad, with more work on Photoshop in the studio. I love the leaf and grass textures on ArtStudio. August 1, 2015.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Pennsylvania Lightning

On July 9 of this year I journeyed to the Philadelphia area to meet my friend and art client and deliver her Angelic Portrait to her. During the trip I had to pass through a violent thunderstorm with lightning and deluge. The storm passed over me and I drove through wet streets with large puddles, while the twilight scene was illuminated by vivid, flickering lightning. These were some of the worst conditions I've ever traveled in, but I managed to get to my destination.

This tiny drawing is a simulation, or an illustration. It is not the result of an on-site study. I used a generic Pennsylvania townhouse as a reference and the rest is from memory.

Brown tech pen ink and markers on sketchbook page, 3 1/2" x 2 1/4", August 1, 2015.