Sunday, March 18, 2018

Winding Road Meadow

It looks like winter, feels cold like winter, and there seems to be no sign of Spring even though earlier this year there was a bit of unusually warm weather. At Winding Road Cellars you get both wine and weather. I sat drawing from inside and sipping their delicious Cabernet Franc. These gnarly trees and golden meadow are the view from the wine lodge. I did this on my iPad which I don't use very much these days. It works, sort of, but it is definitely obsolete after more than 4 years of service and I'm wondering, should I shell out the bucks and get a new one when all I do with it is draw. The drawings are OK and I like the portability so perhaps I should have a conversation with one of the perky young things at the Apple Store.

"ArtStudio" on iPad, about 6" x 7", March 17th, 2018.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Sea of Space

I have done countless space and astronomical pictures, usually in "editions" and series which I took to conventions and sold at low prices. I was inspired by the space art of those days, which was itself inspired by ground-based telescopes yielding blurry, poorly detailed images. This was, most importantly, pre-Hubble. 

Looking back at my thirty years of space art, sprayed on with an airbrush, I can see that it, like other space art of its day, is out of date. Once the space telescopes went up, and once the "adaptive optics" of ground-based telescopes were deployed, as well as digital photography, you got the most amazing fields of details never before seen. With all those almost biomorphic clouds of dust and gas, illuminated by bright young stars, who needed my old airbrush? 

Interestingly, my more abstract, "graphic"-looking space pieces survived better artistically. This one, a simplified dwarf planet or moon above a nebula, resembles some of the images of Saturn and its moons produced by the Cassini space probe. Artists are still producing space pictures, making realities out of digital information rather than acrylic paint.

"Sea of Space," acrylic on black illustration board, 7" x 10", October 1986.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Nineteenth Century Fan Concept Art

Here's another of my Darkover fan story title pages. This time I tried setting the story not in the faux-Renaissance of the Red Sun but in an equally faux late 19th century. It gave me the chance to render an 1880s-style big dress, and I also had fun with caricature faces such as the two gentlemen at right. I forget what this story was about but from my records this piece was done when I was about to quit doing fan art for pennies and try to make myself a "real" career, which had, looking back, mixed outcomes at best.

Original art is ink on illustration board, 8 1/2" x 11", April 1987.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Gray Outlook

I ordered new colored pencils and they arrived on March 14. The ones that I most anticipated were a collected set of grayscale values as well as different tints of gray, such as bluish "steel gray" or brownish warm gray. You could build a city with these colors, or you could tour through a forest which is still wintry twigs. I will make a color chart for these but this sketch above tries out all of the new colors in an urban-inspired patchwork pattern. The bright yellowish green at the center signifies the coming of spring which despite the snowy heaps and cold windy blasts is on its way.

Colored pencils on sketchbook page, 3 1/2" x 5 1/2", March 14, 2018.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Science Fantasy Bookstore Graphic

As I've mentioned many times in this Blog and elsewhere, my career as a fantasy and science fiction artist started here at the "Science Fantasy Bookstore" in Cambridge, Mass. My first real art patron was Bruce Robert "Spike" MacPhee, the owner and operator of the bookstore. As long as I lived in Cambridge, I knew I'd have friends - and patronage - at this place. I composed many graphics for Spike's store, designs for T-shirts, plastic book bags, and other branded material. This one, which has problems due to the small unreadable writing at the bottom right, features "our place in the Galaxy." Because of the type problem, this design was never used. Spike MacPhee is still alive and active especially in the virtual world of "Second Life," as "Paradox Olbers."

Original drawing in ink with photostat type glued in, about 8" x 10", July 1986.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Architectural Art Portfolio: Gable

In  my frenzy to survey my archival holdings, I found these portfolio samples from when I was working at "The Architectural Art." That was a commercial art company that produced renderings and house portraits for the real estate market. They employed "perspectivists", including me, to create these, using the blueprints as guide. Most of these drawings and paintings were for the upscale and luxury sector, as it was the era of "McMansions." The decorative gable that you see here was done in colored pencil which was not our usual medium. Also, the art here is not all mine. We worked as a team on the illustrations so someone did the windows, someone else did the roof and brick veneer, and another someone did the landscaping, which isn't seen here. I think I did the gable and the roof.

I worked with this group for two years, 1988-1990. I should have stayed but I was unhappy toiling on the same thing over and over again with the pressure to produce work quickly. I did freelance work for them after 1990. Nowadays all architectural illustration is done on a computer but I have never learned that super-realistic technique. Every so often I do a house or landscape portrait (as well as vineyard and wine lodge art) so I am still an old-fashioned perspectivist.

Colored pencils, about 3 1/2" x 4 1/2", 1990.

Monday, March 12, 2018

642 the moon

"642's" prompt was really basic: "The moon." As if no one had ever done a picture of our Moon before. "That's one small artwork for man, one 20-minute doodle for mankind." But I thought not of moon landings but a moon dog, a stubby-legged pooch of some sort whose job is to waddle around the house and garden and keep you company. Also, there was a famous eccentric composer who lived as a street person in New York, and he was "Moondog" as  well.  I'm a cat lover myself but I can make a few exceptions for dogmoons.

Black marker and tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 3 1/2" x 4 1/2", March 11, 2018.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Composer's Birthday

My father, composer Harold Shapero, celebrated his 87th birthday in 2007. It's already been a while, but he passed away in 2013. His birthday honors at 87 included a concert at which he performed some of his own music. This is a sketch from that concert. You can see my annotations on the sketch: where, when, and who. The bald guy at the keyboard is my father. I still have the sheet music of what he played that afternoon.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 8" x 5", April 29, 2007.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Pretty Castle

When I was still doing the convention circuit I would make an "edition" of small originals to sell there. They were no bigger than 7" x 10" and would be mostly watercolor and ink. Since I like to depict architecture, I would usually do an architectural theme although costumed people or horses and knights were another favorite. These little pix took only a small amount of time to do and always sold to collectors. I tried to make them as pretty as possible, especially castles, and I left the monsters and the fantasy pin-up babes to other artists. This, titled "Dawn Ramparts," is one that I did for a show called "Magic Carpet Con" in north Georgia (USA) where Marion Zimmer Bradley was the guest of honor. So I did "Darkover-ish" art and did well with the collectors down south. The convention faded away after the passing of Marion, but the images remain.

Watercolor on illustration board, 7" x 10", April 1995.

Friday, March 9, 2018

The Tube in the Room

I acquired this vacuum cleaner around year 2002 and it is still working fine. This is probably because I am so lazy I don't use it very much. Today I used it on the cobwebs but they were stronger than the tube and wouldn't relent, don't know why. What you see here is a drawing of the device as it is sitting in my cobwebbed room. I'll try again later. It's good on dust and particles. I'm supposed to work hard on house cleaning but all I really want to do is hire someone else to do it for me. The tube is not sucking up a hapless towel, it is just covered by it. Gotta find the plug, if you don't plug it in, it won't go. My housekeeping sucks worse than this machine.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, about 5 1/2" x 3 1/2", March 9, 2018.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Alaric Morgan Deryni portrait

Here's another portrait from the Deryni Portfolio of 1981. This blond stalwart is Alaric Morgan, author Katherine Kurtz's heroic knight and protector of the royal family. He swashbuckles his way through many a book, and in "Childe Morgan," the most recent Deryni tale published, shows his valor (and magical powers) even as a boy of fourteen. He appears in so many Deryni adventures that I sometimes think that he is the real hero of the books and not the young king he protects.

Original art is black ink on illustration board, just now colored in Photoshop, about 2" x 3", fall 1981.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

I want Colorforms

The set I wanted the most in my childhood life was the one my parents did not buy me: a set of Colorforms. Most of us at least in the USA remember these plastic film stickers which you could move around on a black background to make instant mid-century modern designs. Colorforms, as the site shows, expanded into countless ways of having fun with stickers but I still remember the original one, with its limited but pure repertoire of color and shape. With Photoshop you can re-design a digital version of the original and make it as simple or complex as you want. Maybe my folks didn't want to spend the money on the original Colorforms as it was kind of pricey for its time. But now I can use an expensive computer to do the same thing!
This design is done according to the concept of 3 colors plus black, 3 color-coded shapes, and 5 virtual sizes of each one. There were no lines available for Colorforms as I remember. This piece will be complexified with more graphic elements and added to the "K" series of Photoshop geometric abstractions.

Photoshop, about 5 1/2" x 5 1/2", March 7, 2018.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

I Was A Pre-Raphaelite Pollen Fan

This was created for the cover of a Darkover fan magazine in Australia. Yes, there are (or were) Darkover fans Down Under. "Kierestelli" is a Darkovan lady's name which means "Crystal." The title of this damsel's picture is "Waiting for the Ghost Wind." The "Ghost Wind," on Darkover, is the springtime event of the pollination of psychedelic "kireseth" flowers, where the air is filled with intoxicating and aphrodisiac plant material which also enhances your psychic abilities. A few whiffs of this and your Darkovans, even the chaste maidens like this one, are ready to engage in springtime orgies! Remember that Marion Zimmer Bradley dreamed up a lot of this stuff in Berkeley, California in the 1960s and 1970s, when times were high. I used the "Pre-Raphaelite" 19th century art style for many of my Darkover pieces, but this one's description in my catalogue says it was adapted from a silent film player, Marie Doro, in a movie from 1918.

The pollen may not be psychedelic here on Earth, but it's coming right along from those bright red maple blossoms now on the trees. I must endure Pre-Raphaelite sneezes patiently.

Original art is black ink on illustration board, 8 1/2" x 11", May 1985.

For everything Darkover and more than you would ever want, try this site which I recently encountered.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Suggestive Candle

Yes, that's what it looks like, uh huh. But it's only a candle. When the power goes out, we're all returned to the 19th century, running on candles, oil lamps, or anbaric-powered biocrystalline upper-echelon lanterns. Wait, what was that last bit of Steampunk? When the power goes out, you light a candle, which transforms from a bit of retro dinner table charm in a ceramic dish to a necessity in a darkened household. One of my candles looks more suggestive and dildo-ic than the others so I'll light that first so as to cause a meltdown for modesty. I don't think anyone wants a flaming dildo let alone a flaming male organ. But in fact I know that such items are sold behind the counter in botanicas (Latino magic and herb shops). I used to frequent a botanica which was next to my hair salon. One day (with no prompting from me!) they showed me their offerings of wax genitalia, formed into candles. The idea is that if you burned the pink penis candle or the red vagina candle, you'd have luck and success in your quest for, uh, satisfaction. The candle depicted here started out as a simple fragrant cylinder. If I burn it for enough time, its magic will droop and dissolve back into a wax puddle and I won't worry about "alternate lighting options" until the next power outage.

Marker inks on sketchbook page, colored in Photoshop, 3 1/2" x 4", March 4, 2018.

Sunday, March 4, 2018


I missed a By-Product due to a power failure on March 3. "Winter Storm Riley" sure made a lot of noise and wrecked a lot of trees, including one big one on a street near my dwelling. I watched it go down and it took a utility pole with it including a transformer which emitted a flash of light as it crashed. The repairmen were there all Saturday clearing the road and restoring power. I am so grateful that I live in a relatively well-cared-for place as I see online the degradation and disintegration of other areas. Lots of places in Puerto Rico wrecked by a hurricane still don't have power after months. But hey, this is an art blog and I am not going to get socially conscious here.

The image here depicts a flock of Altocumulus clouds drifting into a late winter sky. Spring, the shepherdess of clouds, is on her way.

Colored pencils and marker ink on sketchbook page, 5" x 3", March 4, 2018.

Friday, March 2, 2018

At the Hair Salon

When I get my hair done at my usual salon, I draw while I'm sitting there waiting for the  hair dye to work its spell and re-charge my magical energies. I also draw pictures in my sketchbook, which some people think is kind of magical as well. You see a scene of kindly ministration as hairdresser works on client. The hair-washing bowl is to the right. At lower left, one lady draped her bright pink jacket over the chair as an invitation for Spring to appear. And at lower right, a young damsel has fallen asleep as the transparent spherical hair dryer does its job.

Sepia brown tech pen on sketchbook page, 6" x 10", March 1, 2018.

Thursday, March 1, 2018


The baby has entered the vegetable world where nutritious colors surround her. The baby hated eating vegetables just like the grown-up me does. Little Me sits on the blanket in 1954. What is she thinking? Those thoughts are lost to history. I try to save as much information as possible, as long as it doesn't involve peas and carrots.

Photoshop and vintage photographic image, about 5" x 5", February 28, 2018.