Saturday, October 24, 2015

Goodbye Esther Geller

My mother, artist Esther Geller, passed away on October 22, 4 days before her 94th birthday. It was not unexpected, as she had broken her hip in a fall two weeks ago, and had undergone an operation to repair it despite her serious health problems and aged frailty. She was in constant pain after the operation. She was transferred to a rehab home but shortly after arriving there, she suffered a massive stroke, brought on by the stresses of the operation and transfer, and died almost immediately.

In a way, it was a relief as my mother's last year was marked by increasing deterioration both  physical and mental. I arranged for home care but that was difficult for her to accept. I visited as many times as I could, and was there for her last days. It was hard to watch her suffer and I am glad that she no longer has to endure pain and confusion.

Esther Geller was one of the pioneering modern artists in Boston's art history. She was a graduate of the Boston Museum School, where she studied with Karl Zerbe and learned the art of encaustic painting. She was a daring woman artist in the male-dominated world of "fine arts." Her 70-year career took her to Europe and back to the Boston area where she showed art at the long-gone Boris Mirski Gallery on Boston's artsy Newbury Street. She painted with no intent to market or sell, and didn't work to commission. She occupied a studio in an old office building in the historic center of Natick, Massachusetts for about 20 years.

The picture you see here was taken in July of this year, at a show of my mother's works at the Center for Arts in Natick. She was able to attend the opening and gave interviews. She also sold some paintings to art-lovers. 

After the show the paintings were returned to the family home, where most of my mother's output is currently stored. I am hoping to find good homes for all these paintings, whether in a museum or private collection. This is my mother's legacy and I want it to survive. Here is a selection of my mother's paintings as I featured them on Flickr. My mother taught me to do art, and that is her legacy too. 

Esther Geller,  October 26, 1921 - October 22, 2015.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Brilliant Autumn

It's been almost a week since I came up to Massachusetts to attend my 94-year-old mother, who fell and broke her hip a week ago. She is still in the hospital after undergoing an operation to repair the broken bone. She is in a lot of pain and can't move well. Also she has moderate dementia so she can't remember information and sometimes can't think well. The only helpful things I can really do are visit her in the hospital and keep the house safe and maintained. She is getting lots of good care, and friends and relatives visit. I visit mother every day. She will be in the hospital at least a few days more and then will go to rehab, probably in the same facility she was in this March, when she fell and broke her knee. The prospects for further ongoing care need to be worked out. I will have to stay for some weeks longer.

Meanwhile I am doing my art work digitally on my laptop. I've been able to put together a digital art workstation on the dining room table so I can continue progress on my current assignments. I also snap lots of photographs with my iPhone which has an excellent picture-taking function. This house with its glorious tree is what Natick, Massachusetts looks like right now. I love this house and would love to live there even though it is located on a main road. 

I will try to put more blog entries up if I can. I have my other art stuff with me as well including colored pencils, sketchbook, and my iPad. The modern artist is well-equipped.

Photograph taken on iPhone, October 16, 2015. Some Photoshoppery has been applied but the colors are not enhanced, this is exactly what it looks like.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

InkTober 10 Gazebo

"Wine Saturday" brought me to one of the nicest Virginia wineries I've visited for a while: Cana Vineyards and Winery. On a glorious October day people were sitting outside enjoying life with wine and food. As might be suspected from the vineyard's name, there was a wedding in progress, but I saw no signs of Messianic figures changing water into wine. This InkTober drawing was done on-site at Cana's impressive woodcrafted wine lodge. 

I regret that I will have to suspend my InkTober program because of a family emergency. My 94-year-old mother broke her hip in a fall at home and I must go up to the Boston area to take care of things. No blogging for a while, until I get a bit of time to communicate.

Pitt sepia tech pen on sketchbook page, 5" x 5", October 10, 2015.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

InkTober 9 Working Guys

Is art work? As you might say, "Sometimes." Here are images of some real workers. This is from the Gempler's industrial supply catalog, which is a fascinating compilation of things most of us never think about, let alone need or buy. The catalog offers many different varieties of coveralls and protective clothing, whose designs are directed not by fashion but by pure function. Their catalog models, almost all male, look like "real people" and not slick, thin, leisurely L.L. Bean or Lands End people. These guys work.

Can I say that I work? The definition of "work" for an artist is varied. There is the standard of "hours spent in studio with pen, brush, or stylus" which is easy to figure out. Then there are research hours. And then there are the less work-y things, like a trip to a winery in order to sip wine AND make a drawing. But can you call creative brainstorming work? As in, how do I put together the best illustration ideas before Mr. Client ever sees a sketch? Am I doing as much work as your proverbial tech guy working 80 to 100 hours a week? Is he doing a drawing every day? Is a drawing worth less money if I spent only an hour doing it? Unlike my previous job, with art work you don't usually punch a time clock coming and going.

Meanwhile, these little drawings were done for the "InkTober" challenge but they are also work-related, as they are studies done from an image on the computer screen. I will be drawing an illustration of a guy in a coverall for one of my assignments. And I don't have to wear a heavy coverall to work hard.

Pitt tech pen black ink on sketchbook page, 4" x 4 1/2", InkTober 9, October 10, 2015.

Friday, October 9, 2015

60s Pin-up InkTober 8

The 1960s was a great time for Pretty Girls. Many of the models in "laddie" girly pin-up magazines were amateurs, modeling for small change or no payment at all. All they needed was some make-up, some simple lingerie, and a willing photographer. Most of them were "natural," no plastic surgery, no boob jobs, no liposuction, and only a bit of photo-retouching. I have a book of British would-be glamor girl photos from that era, and some of them even look like they are having fun. I haven't drawn a pin-up girl figure for quite a while and here's one of those Brit birds. Just a bit 'o' nostalgia for those of us of a "certain age."

Pitt brush pen, originally sepia switched to greyscale, some white-out. 3 1/2" x 6 1/2" on sketchbook page, October 8, 2015.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

InkTober 7: Doctors Building

At first glance this building looks like yet another boxy boring office building. But take a closer look and you'll find it's a remarkable piece of architecture, sitting unnoticed (and mostly empty) in a heavy traffic area in urban Falls Church. It's at a notorious intersection called "Seven Corners." Built in 1965, it has that bleak and slightly futuristic look that characterizes Mid-Century Modern buildings. Note that the horizontal division of the windows on the sides is uneven, not just four blocks of glass. The large flat facade, in pale grey concrete, has a textured pattern of diagonals against horizontal strips. The lettering is a rather chilly squarish sans-serif, the descendant of that noble blocky Frank Lloyd Wright typeface.

On the right side which I haven't drawn in detail is another entrance which is angled out to form a triangle portico over the doorway. The building is actually quite long but you can't see it at this angle. At one point this building was said to be the tallest building in Falls Church but nowadays it is well-overshadowed by the new residential/commercial buildings going up quickly in the old historic center of the not-so-little-any-more "Little City." 

Pitt black tech pen on sketchbook page, about 5" x 5", InkTober 7, October 8, 2015.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Winding Road InkTober 6

Virginia's Appalachian and Piedmont areas are sometimes called the "Napa Valley of the East," or perhaps we wish that it was the Napa Valley of the East. There is certainly a burgeoning wine industry here in Virginia that attracts busloads of tourists and many happy revelers. As you know I often visit wineries and do drawings there. This is the bottle and glass of my "home base" winery, "Winding Road Cellars." Last year at this time I did a portrait of their woodsy wine lodge in autumn with colorful leaves. You can see it on their website. Here's a study for a black and white illustration for their ads. Winding Road now has a real wine cellar downstairs and party area so come on by with your friends no matter what the weather. 

InkTober inks: Pitt black brush pen, tech pen, and shocking use of Photoshop to touch it up a bit, sketchbook page drawing 4" x 6", October 7, 2015.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

InkTober 5: Industrial Pattern 12

It wouldn't be Ink Drawing Month if I didn't throw in at least one Industrial Pattern. This is yet another rusty abandoned blast furnace. In the original photograph it is covered with graffiti. I think it would be great to re-furbish the place as an avant-garde house. You could have greens and flowers growing in containers on all those balconies. You could add in water purifying systems and rain catchers and your own electric generator. I'm not sure of the feasibility, though, as ruins like this probably contain a lot of toxic residue. 

Sepia Pitt tech pen and marker on sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 4", October 5, 2015.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Kitchen Table Stuff InkTober 4

InkTober 4 is a jaw-dropping, iconic, sleek panorama of stuff on my kitchen table. From left to right: Vitamin C tablets, a clock, 2 handmade glass vessels (they are bright orange). One apple. One milky way bar. Hershey's chocolate bars. Box of "table water" crackers. Thick ceramic tile with the Japanese sign for "happiness" on it, also orange with black design. I omitted the messy parts and the crumbs.

Sepia tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 8" x 3", October 4, 2015.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sir Bopfinger InkTober 3

Continuing with my Medieval-era projects, here is an InkTober rendering of the funeral effigy of a German knight, Sir Walter Bopfinger, whose monument is dated 1359. I'm amazed at the variety and craftsmanship of the suits of armor I've been looking at. I'm also amazed that they were able to move, let alone fight in these metal spacesuits. The heraldic adornment is also fascinating and I guess they really did display the heraldry both in battle and in peacetime, so you wouldn't end up spearing your own guys.

Brown Pitt tech pen ink on sketchbook page, about 3.5" x 3.5", October 3, 2015.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Hair Salon abstraction InkTober 2

Fresh hair for me at the salon I have frequented for decades. There are such longstanding relationships in my life. I've written a daily journal for forty-seven years. Yes, since 1968. I've known some of my friends since the 1970s. I've been drawing with technical pens since the mid-1970s. Now it's time for "InkTober" a challenge among blogging artists to draw and post an ink drawing each day of the month. (InkTober 1 for me was the sea worm of the October 1 posting.)

InkTober is natural for me because I use ink for almost all of my sketching. This drawing was done while waiting for my hair dye to take effect. You can see the abstract patterns of the cleaning equipment and the folds on the customer's plastic protection robe. No iPhone or iPad was used in this image and the grey areas are artifacts of the scanning process, but I think they look kind of interesting so I'll keep them even if they are not ink.

Pitt black technical pen on sketchbook page, about 5 1/2" x 8", October 2, 2015.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Sea Worm (InkTober 1)

Here's a little sea creature drifting through the waves. I remember these fearsome-looking but small sea worms from my childhood when they were sold as bait. You cut them up and baited your hooks with them for shoreline salt water fishing, where you could catch a bluefish or even a striped bass if you were lucky. Sea worms could bite but I never saw that happen to anyone in our fishing expeditions. When I was a kid I never worried about whether worms or minnows or other live bait suffered or felt pain when they were cut up. Now I do think about it although I am told by references (online, fishing line) that these creatures don't have enough of a nervous system to feel pain. That goes for shrimp and lobsters too but when I see the doomed lobsters in the tank at the supermarket I feel sorry for them anyway. And that doesn't stop me from eating seafood. My sea worm above is not a biologically correct rendering and its head is fantasy. It's been a long time since I did any ocean or lake fishing, and now I would hesitate to do it in case it hurts fish. Nevertheless there are cans of tuna in my cupboard.

Original drawing with digitally inked additions, about 6" x 3 1/2", October 2, 2015.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Alaric, the Magical Youth

The young hero of this story is Alaric Morgan, Katherine's main character in many of her Deryni books. "The King's Deryni" features Morgan in almost every scene, as he grows up from a page to a squire, learning how to fight with swords and bows and lances, riding and jousting and doing all those medieval knight things. And he does everything well, he outdoes all the other boys in training. There's hardly anything he doesn't do well! Not to mention that he is tall and strong and flaxen-haired, with the brilliant grey eyes that are a characteristic of the magical Deryni. I am waiting to see what happens to him in the rest of the book.

In the sequence I illustrated for the graphic novel, Morgan is 14, and already expert as a youthful wizard. My portrayal of him might look a little young, now that I'm reading his story again. I am thinking of ways I could make more graphic sequences based on Katherine's work, perhaps taking a chunk out of one of the books and making a short graphic out of it. First let me finish the "King's Deryni" to see how the author changed the story I had to stop illustrating.

India ink and metal pen on illustration board, about 3" x 6", sometime in 2002.