Monday, September 25, 2017

Game Art: Sinister Tower


Your rag-tag group, bearing scavenged weapons and armor, nervously approaches the sinister brick tower. The stolen map says that the treasure is hidden somewhere in the building, but it says nothing about how to retrieve it. You notice that despite the isolation of the site, there are lights in the windows and a flock of birds attracted to something in the tower. How can you plan a raid when you have so few people and resources? You will have to give in and call on Fred the Quiet Dragon to help you, even though you will lose all your energy points getting him there and active. But the Boss needs that treasure, and you were volunteered, so pull out that green egg from your knapsack and start the spell.

Original art black ink on illustration board, 5 1/2" x 7", spring 2003.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The view from Delphi, 1975


This is one of the most famous scenic views in the world. It is the view from the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, where the Prophetess uttered the Apollonian truth about what was to come. I was on a bus tour of Greek antiquities and I had enough time after the informative lecture to sketch the scene in watercolor pencil. Later that night I was able to complete the picture in watercolor from my field set. At least that is what I vaguely remember doing; it was a long time ago. The colors of the real scene are more vivid than what I painted then, especially the purple and blue mountains glowing in the sunset. The little green bushes all over the red hillside are "Euphorbia," a drought-tolerant Mediterranean plant. 

This painting is specifically dated "August 25, 1975" and if you look closely, in the lower right corner is the embossed logo of Fabriano Paper Company of Italy.

Watercolor on Fabriano paper, 12" x 9", August 25, 1975.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Adventure Coffee


Caffe Amouri in Vienna, Virginia, is one of the few independent coffee shops in the Tysons Corner - Vienna area. Inside it has the look (deliberately so) of a cafe in the 1960s or some college town, with famous old rock or blues playing and walls covered with famous old record jackets. The coffee is excellent, especially the creamy mixes with foam ("Cafe Cortado"). But just getting there driving through the urban labyrinth is a minor nightmare, and the Amouri parking lot is equally awful, a tiny little place shared with a pizzeria, a dance studio, an interior design shop, and some other operations which prohibit more than an hour's parking time. Inside you can see the usual computer users and damsels chattering and families gathering and friends sipping. I drew this Urban Sketch including the sign for rare beans as "Adventure Coffee." It's an adventure all right but you know I hate adventures.

Black tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 6", September 22, 2017.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Geometrikon Yellow and Blue Experiment


Fresh new art! You want it, I need it. My newest order of colored pencils arrived and the blue in this piece is from new Derwent brand as well as my now-familiar Prismacolors and Asian "Irojiten" pencils. The yellow areas and small pink rectangle are marker colors, as are the darker blue outlines. The fact that colored pencils exist gives me hope for the world and human civilization. They don't have to exist, they just do, to make life more beautiful.

Markers and colored pencils on sketchbook page, 5" x 3 1/2", September 22, 2017.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Thieves' Guild in Action


During the mid-1980s as you know by now, I did a lot of illustration work for a game company called "Gamelords." The company is long gone but I still see at least one of the people who worked there, at conventions and even on Facebook. Gamelords' scenarios were set in medieval or Renaissance societies where you played the part of a nasty character such as a gangster, organized thief, assassin, conspirator, smuggler, or spy. Here are two such characters: a Human thief picking a lock, while a Dwarf with a club stands ready to knock out inadvertent viewers or passers-by.

Original art is black ink on illustration board, about 8" x 4", spring 1984.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Nauplia, Greece, 1975



In the summer of 1975 I traveled through the Eastern Mediterranean visiting antiquities and famous sites. I had my art materials with me: a set of watercolor pencils, and a watercolor field set. (I still have the pencil set!) I was able to visit my destinations by taking an antiquities - oriented tour. Nauplia, an ancient port town in central Greece, was one of the stops. There was enough free time on the tour so I could make some drawings and paintings on site. I drew them in light pencil, then added color with the watercolor pencils, and finished with paint and highlights. This scene is the rocky mountain above Nauplia, with a medieval fortress on top. Some of the town's houses appear in the foreground, with one clay-tile-roofed church dome.

Original art is pencil and watercolor, 10 1/2" x 8 1/2", summer 1975. Click on image for larger view.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Wizards Versus Technocrats


This picture, illustrating Arthur C. Clarke's famous motto "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," was done as a commission for a community of Boston-area science fiction fans that I belonged to. The idea was that a group of wizards would battle an opposing group of technocrats and come out as equal. Each character, well most of them, were recognizable portraits of Boston fans at that time, including the young man who came up with the idea for the picture. My notes for the picture say that I was paid in barter, with some comic book collectables.

This is a tiny picture so the portraits were even smaller than convention nametag IDs, but I managed to get some character for each one. The Wizards are on the left, the Technocrats on the right. The Wizards are using colorful magic, while the Technos use elaborate weapons systems including the spherical "Death Star" from the then-brand-new "Star Wars." In the background are patterns of color and shape which I now produce as "Geometrika," showing that even then I worked in that style.

The characters, from left to right, are: Wizards: The artist then known as "Hannah M.G. Shapero," in a black cape holding a seven pointed star wand; Aaron Joyner, a young African-American who suggested the theme; a scary Hooded Skeleton of Fate; Andrew Adams Whyte, a local collector and patron in dark red robes, and Kris Benders, in a long black dress. 

Across the divide where the energies collide are: Technocrats: Susan Champeny, wearing headphones, David Allen in a khaki uniform from "Star Wars," Robert Cocrane wearing visored helmet, and Spike MacPhee, proprietor of the "Science Fantasy Bookstore" in Cambridge, Mass. Kris had been Spike's girlfriend but at the time of painting, Sue was in that role.

Some of these people are still active in fandom in the Boston area. Spike is a participant in the online world of "Second Life." Sue and Spike are long parted, and Andrew Adams Whyte passed away more than thirty years ago. As for the picture, Spike MacPhee bought it in 1982 and has it displayed in his virtual art gallery in "Second Life." It's a time capsule of what Boston fandom was like in the late 1970s. I was a wretched graduate student at Harvard at that time, but Harvard and I are long parted as well.

Ink and watercolor on Fabriano watercolor paper, 10" x 4", summer 1977. Click for larger view.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Grumpy Physicist


This peeved-looking person is a major character in my imaginary world of Noantri. He is both a physicist and a high-powered techno-magic user. He is famous for having re-discovered the relationship between magic and conventional energies. Currently he is Director of Research at the Institute of Applied Magic in Surakosai city. You may recall my depiction of Surakosai city ages ago. His name is Tanheu, and he is from a foreign country called Khemi. In my portrait he was 60 years old. He just turned 67 this year, on September 7.

So having attained high status in his field, why does this great scientist look so grumpy? And why is he sitting in a corner without his boots on? And what is he thinking? Well, the writing is a combination of mathematical symbols and arcane scientific terminology. It is in his native language, Khemi, rather than the Common Noantri language. He isn't wearing his boots for the simple reason that he is indoors, and you don't wear your shoes indoors.

And why is the physicist grumpy? Because some problems are so difficult that not even a master techno-mage can solve them. The theorist says, "The math is ugly so it can't be right." The experimentalist says, "Just build us the Superconducting Mage-ionic Particle Accelerator" and we'll discover the Great Unity of Seven Forces." None of this has yielded any results and the Accelerator doesn't exist yet. So he considers what form of approach he could use to solve the Problem of Humanoid Interface, let alone the Direction of Time. What is the approach? That is why he is sitting on the floor. He is waiting for his cats to come to him and give him insights. After all, cats are beyond the laws of physics so they may have information that mere Noantri lack.

Sketch is ink on sketchbook page, about 3" x 3", sometime in 2002.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Fall Festival at Falls Church


The Fall Festival and "Taste of Falls Church" is held in mid-September and is always fun to go to. You buy tickets and then exchange them for tasting-size small platters of food cooked by local restaurants. I especially enjoyed the "Panang Curry" Thai chicken dish served over rice. After my tasting I set up Prince Charles' foldable throne and drew these scenes of the fair. There was a big crowd this year and an excellent Latin band playing. The fair also featured jewelry, crafts, trinkets, toys, and civic causes and worthy organizations. This is the second time I've taken my folding art chair on site and it continues to do well although holding it as I wander through a milling crowd of people is sometimes awkward. And sometimes I ended up poking people with it even if they didn't know it was me so I had to apologize for something not quite conscious. The best way to carry the chair is to hold it vertically by the handles sort of like a walking stick, or horizontally by one of the aluminum structural tubes like a photographer's tripod. Some outdoors chairs have a carrying strap you can wear like a backpack sling, perhaps I could contrive that. Anyway when the chair was on the ground it was pleasingly stable and artworthy. I drew this eater in front of the "Original Corn Roast" machine but he was eating frozen yogurt, not roast corn. I didn't try the corn either. 

There was no By-Product yesterday I'm sorry to say due to a failure at the "Blogger" site. It's all fixed now.

Black technical pen ink on sketchbook page, foliage and corrections in Photoshop. 4 1/2" x 8", September 16-17, 2017.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Geometrikon Caerulean


Artist's got the blues in mid September. Look up, northern hemisphere, the equinox nears. I brought out my most precious markers to do this Geometrikon. This color is very hard to reproduce and it fades quickly when exposed to light. My Geometrika made with markers are preserved in sketchbooks, unless I decide to go permanent and use paint or colored pencil (or digital). I have never tested my colored pencils for lightfastness though I have a whole set which is guaranteed fade proof by the manufacturers. Those are for portraits and work which the client will frame and show. Meanwhile the skies drift into bright blue melancholy, as that awful red is already burning on many trees near me. The lavender spheres in the larger circle are tropical storms.

Colored pencil and markers on sketchbook page, 5" x 3 1/2", September 14, 2017.

You might notice something different on the screen for "Art By-Products." After more than 9 years, I've switched the orange to sky, or caerulean, blue. Do you like it? Comments are welcome about this new sky blue world. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

My New Blue Blankie


My new blanket arrived today, from the "Company Store." They have consistently sold to me any type of warm and luxurious and colorful home fabrics I could want. This blankie is a light cerulean blue in lambswool, advertised as washable in the home washer. I know that winter is just around the corner and I will need the warmth real soon. You see a drawing of it still folded and placed on a stack of Company Store smaller fabrics in different colors. Wooden camp stool by L.L. Bean. Look for a lot of Cerulean Blue and Sky Blue from me as it is my Theme Color for the upcoming year.

Black tech pen ink on sketchbook page, colored in Photoshop, 4" x 6", September 13, 2017.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Cometary Nucleus


This picture dates back to the early 2000s (early!) when I was still using my airbrush to create astronomical-inspired art. I also used acrylic markers which at that time were a new invention and used for commercial work. The astronomical part is the glowing circle which signifies the icy shine that was thought to be a comet's texture. Surrounding it is an aura of gas which floats off it as it is exposed to sunlight. It would take many more years to actually land a probe on a comet, showing us to our amazement that a comet, at least that one, was a grubby, black, rough chunk of space debris. 

Acrylic on illustration board, 11" x 9", May 2004.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Archimede Restaurant Rome 1976



This sketch from 1976 was done in a restaurant, while waiting for my meal to arrive. "Archimede"  is a famous restaurant in Rome which has been in existence for countless years. Some time during its tenure it was run by a gentleman named "Archimede." I am amazed that restaurants can continue to provide over decades, even centuries if you believe Roman legends. My drawing is in Rapidograph technical pen using a reddish-brown ink. At that time the European Rapidograph was the state of the art in tech pens. I acquired a Rapidograph shortly before returning to the USA but my best drawings were made in Rome. The pin-like tiny points of the Rapidograph were hard to draw with, but I was patient. I still have the old pen but it is just too difficult to work with, since it leaks and dries up quickly. The sepia brown Pitt pen from Germany is now my mainstay.

The food at Archimede was excellent. I never saw anyone remove the wine bottles from the shelf over the door. Wine at Italian restaurants is poured directly from the keg into a glass carafe. I have never tasted truly authentic Italian cuisine in the USA, either, unless it is made by an authentic Italian.

Original drawing is Rapidograph tech pen brown ink, about 7" x 9", Rome spring 1976. Drawing is difficult to see; click on image to see closer detail.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Eclipse Blue


Remember the total eclipse? Huh? It was only a few weeks ago, but Nature had other plans to divert our interest and harass us. We got Hurricane Week instead. You don't need special shade glasses to see a hurricane. This little design sketch fits into a journal place left open for more art on the page, retroactively themed to current events. This is about all the eclipse I ever saw. I tried here to capture the eerie shade of blue in partial shadow. The highest amount of sun coverage in my area was 85 percent. An eclipse doesn't wreck your town though. 

Colored pencils and white markers on sketchbook page, 2 1/4" x 5", September 10, 2017. Click for closer view, no shades needed.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Malakki the dwarf jeweler


The game world of "Haven" is what we would currently call "diverse," with people of different races and habits living all together. The usual array of Tolkien-ish types are there such as elves, hobbits, humans, animal-human hybrids, and dwarves. This dwarf is in the jewelry and gem business, as you can see from his desk display and his little scale. He knows the provenance of items brought to him, and he makes the choice as to deal in, or refuse what is obviously stolen material. His image is adapted from an old Dutch painting.

Original image is black ink on illustration board, 4" x 5", spring 1984.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

More Sky Study


I couldn't help myself, I had to draw more clouds. They were so beautiful today and had nothing to do with hurricanes. September is a good month for clouds here in Virginia. I also have an excellent collection of sky blue colors in my colored pencil collection. I have "Light Cerulean Blue," and "Caribbean Sea," and "Ardoise Slate Blue," and "Forget-me-not Blue," and "Horizon Blue," and so many others. Also in this little sketch are the cloud purple-greys such as "Lupine," "Campanula," "Hydrangea," and "Hyacinth," from the luxurious "Irojiten" collection. The darker grey is "Payne's Grey," a classic watercolor shade adapted for colored pencil use. There's more where this came from. Stay tuned for "Autumn Skies."

Colored pencils on sketchbook page, 8" x 3", September 8, 2017.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Starbucks Damsels


I haven't drawn any Starbucks people for a long, long time so here are two. They are young ladies from the high school next door. I am always amazed at these good-looking, clean, and healthy youths and maidens from the nearby school. I call the girls "damsels," as they look nothing like the scruffy girls I went to school with. And I went to a fancy prep school. I was never a damsel; I was a toad. It's a rich school in an affluent neighborhood, so I guess they look so good because they can. And I went to school during the hippie era, when looking fresh and slick was discouraged. The girl at the top was dressed in a sports uniform which was not a cheerleader's garb. A closer look at her companion (not shown here), also in the uniform, showed the logo of the field hockey team. Their colors were red and white.

Black tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 4" x 8", September 7, 2017.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Othmar the Astrologer


In the Gamelords game "Thieves' Guild," Othmar has an astrology practice in the city of Haven. He is an "NPC" that is, non-player character. If a player wants his or her chart done or wants information from the stars as to success or failure, they can go to Othmar. As described in the game manual, he is shabby, ragged, seedy, and ill-smelling, but can deliver useful and maybe even truthful readings and predictions. The incense burners on the table are an attempt to mask his odor. If Othmar is a successful consultant, why doesn't he wash and dress better? It might be a personal choice, or it could be just laziness, which could lead to mistakes. All of which the player has to weigh in, should he decide to test the planets with Othmar.

From "Gamelords" game, ink on illustration board, original drawing 5" x 6", April 1984.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Academy Lamp


Some time ago this year I posted a colored pencil rendering of a glass bottle table lamp at the American Academy in Rome. Well here's another glass bottle table lamp in the same room at the Academy. Behind the lamp is an orange leather sofa and the black hearth of the fireplace in the large parlor. I liked the way I could line up the trapezoid shapes of the hearth and the lampshade at different degrees of rotation. I did this in all colored pencil. The reason I could get such photo-like precision in this drawing is that it's done on a type of very smooth thick paper from the Italian Fabriano makers, that is not available in this country (USA). I keep trying to find an equivalent but haven't succeeded yet, and it has been 42 years. Maybe I can get it by international ordering online.

Portrait of lamp is colored pencil on Fabriano paper, 4" x 6", 1975.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Number 3000


And here we are! This is Post number 3,000 on "Art By-Products." This doesn't necessarily mean 3,000 continuous day-after-day posts, since the By-Product has had to go on hiatus many times during the nine years of its existence. But it does mean 3,000 individual works of art, however small or poor, that I have shown on this Blog. I amaze myself, my friends. I am not the only blogger to keep going for this long; there are others in any number of fields that are offered up by someone who doesn't stop. But I think I deserve at least a place as candidate for the Cal Ripken award for continuous blogging. (This award does not exist. Cal Ripken of the Baltimore Orioles holds the record in baseball for the longest continuous game participation.)

I don't know what the creature is, who holds up the shaggy banner or perhaps a poncho. It looks like a combination of a cat and a dog. A catdog, maybe. Or a lemur? or a dogcat? Or some magical creature from a Harry Potter book. Well, the By-Product is not going to stop, as long as I'm able to do art. The way I see it, as soon as I say that I won't publish every day, then I'll forget to do it altogether real soon. I see it as a worthy exercise in self-discipline, as well as a way to connect with friends and potential art buyers. So here I go, on to the next thousand.

Marker ink on sketchbook page, 6" x 4", September 5, 2017.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Inside the wine cave


A while ago I showed you my color drawing of "Maggie Malick's Wine Cave," an unusual earth-sheltered barrel and tasting room. Here is what it looks like inside. There are steel fermenting vats, boxes and cases ready for delivery, and the tasting bar with attendees. This drawing was also done from a photograph because it was impossible to sit down in the packed space to do a drawing. If I didn't say anything, could you tell the difference between on-site or from a photograph? Possibly, especially if I drew it.

Sepia brown tech pen on sketchbook page, 7" x 5", original image May 2014, ink sketch September 4, 2017.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Shenandoah Memory


This is what the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia looks like in late August. The greenery is still lush but there are touches of yellow. In the distance, looking very blue, are the famous Blue Ridge mountains. I did this sketch from memory. I didn't use a photograph. I suspect most landscape art is enhanced by the artist's memory. I think this area is one of the most beautiful places in the whole world.

Colored pencils on sketchbook page, 7 1/4" x 8 3/4", August 25, 2017.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Sit down and do art


This is my first drawing done while seated in my new outdoor folding chair. The building is the wine castle and tasting room of Horton Vineyards, in central Virginia. Horton is one of the largest and oldest wineries in Virginia and they make enough vino to sell it in big stores like Costco and Trader Joe's. 

Does the chair work for outdoor art? So far so good. In fact if you notice, my lines are really even and they look like I might have used a ruler, but I didn't. Prince Charles' art throne is so stable that I can place art on my lap and I don't have to balance the panel on something to get good lines. I ran out of page space at the left, just as I got to the elaborate doorway, and I am debating whether to go to digital inking and complete it (from a reference photograph) on the Cintiq, which is wondering why it is not being used more. I probably will make a color-tinted version of this. Horton has a wide selection and I ended up getting a bottle of the astronomically appropriate "Eclipse" sweet red.

Black tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 10" x 6 1/2", August 28, 2017.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Cat dozer


My hosts in Staunton have a splendid antique house with pillared porches on both front and back. They also have five cats who are mostly indoor cats but in nice weather they venture outside to lie in the porch areas dozing. I did this pen study of one of the cats, "Nicholas," dozing at the base of one of the majestic back porch columns. He is a cat dozer, the smaller version of a bulldozer. And what do you call a cat dozer by a column? A "caterpillar," of course!

Black tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 5" x 8", August 25, 2017. Click on image for larger view.