Thursday, May 24, 2018

Ocean Blue Design


I'm enjoying my new markers and this design uses shades from the blue collection. This design is more free-form than the other design plans I use (geometrikon, colorform, mathematical forms) and is friendly to the scanner because it is a rectangular shape. It is inspired by printed textile designs which a friend of mine is working with. The textiles are made for quilters and they are like a painter's palette made with cloth. I have designed quilts in the past and wouldn't mind designing more but I don't have the sewing skills to actually make one. 

Markers on sketchbook page with some lines in Photoshop, 6 1/2" x 2", May 24, 2018.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Jo Clayton character


Jo Clayton (1939-1998) was a fantasy author who shared many fans with Marion Zimmer Bradley. Clayton had been a school teacher and also for a short time, a Roman Catholic nun in the Carmelite Order. She wrote at least 35 fantasy novels and I read many of them. She specialized in "strong women" i.e. women who could do action as well as romance. The figure above is "Serroi," a hybrid human/alien who endured abuse from her magical mentor and went on to have many adventures and conflicts. The books starring this character were published in the early to mid-1980s. I never got to illustrate Clayton's work professionally but I did a number of sketches such as this one. 

Red ink on sketchbook page, about 4" x 6", 1990s.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Howling Wolves


There is a fad, or rather a continuing theme, in fantasy and science fiction fandom, starring wolves and wolf packs in their fiction. Wolves have changed since they were the villains of fairy tales or folk music or "Peter and the Wolf." In fandom, they are nobler than humans, living in their snowy family wilderness and howling into the echoing mountains. Or they are the thought-sharing permanent companion of a great warrior. As an illustrator I have never been tasked to depict wolves but decided many years ago that I would draw some for my image reference collection. Fortunately I had many good sources to copy from, especially the dioramas in the Smithsonian Museum and many books which I still have. I never got to see a live wolf though. I rarely draw animals but this set is a fair attempt.

Pencil and black ink on sketchbook page, 7 1/2" x 9", mid-1990s.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Cloudscape May 2018


The Big Clouds are back! I also know them as the "Floating Cats of Virginia," who bring rain to the farms and vineyards. No rain fell here this time, and I stood outside looking carefully at the skyscape so I could reproduce it later. The sight of the big cumuli makes me glad at the approach of summer, the only season I like. 

Markers and colored pencil on sketchbook page, 5" x 4 1/2", May 20, 2018.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Colorforms 6: The Lighthouse of Alexandria


Here's more experimentation with digital Colorforms, this time using grey ovals as the fourth shape. Don't look too closely at the back-to-front layering, it doesn't make too much sense. Working with Photoshop as a geometric design generator is more difficult than you might think as it is hard to create shapes in the "right" size and the controls are tiny even on a big screen, and I often forget what layer I am working on. I suppose I could do it the old fashioned Mid-Century Abstract style and do these with watercolor or acrylic but that would be quite a job. At least there are no wine barrels in this one. 

Photoshop, 5" x 5", May 20, 2018.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Perspective Fantasy


This is more "sketchy" than I usually make them but the subject matter is huge and I couldn't fit all the details in. This is a study of the interior of my greatest fantasy building, the Great Library of Eridu. Situated in an other-dimensional Mesopotamia, the Library preserves all the remaining knowledge of the human and Noantri peoples who colonized New Earth. It's a major attraction to visitors and a center of political power as well. 

Tech pen on sketchbook page, 4" x 10", late 1990s.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Lady Charis


This character portrait from my Byzantine tale depicts Charis, a noblewoman who collaborates on intrigue with Heliodorus the eunuch. I did a lot of research to design and draw the garb of my illustrated characters. The Later Roman era is hard to depict as most illustrators and recreators don't do their research and dress their people in generic robes or even worse, fashions that had not been worn for hundreds of years. But if you look enough, you'll find jewelry and garments like these on a lot of ancient sculptures or book illuminations, including hair styles as well. That's why I studied so much art history at Brandeis. I really enjoyed doing research on this era. Lady Charis was lightly based on a friend of mine at Brandeis, whose name was Karen, as close to the Greek name Charis as I could get.

Ink and watercolor on sketchbook page, 5 1/2" x 6", 1974. Click for larger view.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

642: flattop


The prompt page of "642" called for a "flattop" which could be anything or anyone, or a hairdo, or something imaginary and silly. Here are the Flattops doing their inter-ethnic dance routine, including the Polypus flat top low stool at the left.

Tech pen on 642 sketchbook page, some Photoshop added on the central head, 7" x 3", May 17, 2018.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Philosopher at Sea


Here's another character portrait of one of my figures from the Byzantine novel. He's the Philosopher, who held out for his Pagan beliefs in a Christian Empire. You have also seen him on this blog here. At one point in the story some of the main characters make a Mediterranean sea voyage and Macrobius demonstrates his rhetorical abilities in a rant extolling the old religion and the gods. His writings are on the scroll he holds. Timotheus was based on one of my Latin professors at Brandeis, who alas is with the gods now.

Ink and watercolor on sketchbook page, 5" x 5", 1974.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Colorful Geometrika Strip


All the markers and colored pencils I ordered are now here and I am having plenty of fun with them. This little strip is based on the idea of an "abstract comic strip" in which the colors, lines, and shapes interact with each other but there are no words. In this one you can see bits of well-known graphics like a Pac-Man, an exclamation point, and a sunflower. There's plenty more to do in this style and markers in their colorful abundance with which to create them. Once you scan the art, you don't have to worry about it fading.

Markers on sketchbook page with a Photoshop line black border, 6 1/2" x 1 1/2", May 14, 2018.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Purple Storm Clouds

It was a dark and stormy evening. Purple storm clouds rolled in over the sunset and the spring green trees. Majestic Nature brought vivid color, wind, and thunder and lightning. I love the sky in all of its moods. This is the transitional weather between spring and summer. We've had the flower, now the power. 

Colored pencil and markers on sketchbook page, 4" x 4", May 13, 2018.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Cambridge Porch 1980


I must have had a lot of time that summer day in 1980, to draw the porch of my residence in such detail. I had the tiny pen then, the Rapidograph with the needle point, which could draw the most meticulous of line. It used a reddish brown ink and needed cleaning constantly. This porch is on Hammond Street in Cambridge, Mass. in back of Harvard Divinity School. The streets of my neighborhood were adorned with old wooden houses with beautiful porches and wood trim. 

My standard pen now is the sepia brown Pitt tech pen, disposable so that I don't have to scrub it out after a few drawings. But I don't have any old houses to draw, at least near me.

Don't worry readers, I will be working on more sky and cloud pictures. It was a dark and stormy (not the porn player) night.

Tech pen with reddish-brown ink ("Pelikan Special Brown"), 4" x 7 1/2", July 21,1980. Click for a larger view.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Colorforms 5: Quetzal


Once you start the Colorforms game you never know where you will go, at least artistically. I started with the big green leaf forms and added the primary colors in the traditional shapes, the composition looked like a bright green bird with trailing feathers, that is the Quetzal which lives in the tropical forests of Central America. The ancient Native peoples' royalty wore these feathers as crowns and status items. But if I connect my theme only with the bird, then I cannot be accused of cultural appropriation, if there was any reason to accuse me. The extra item in this playing of the game are the lighter green streamers, which depict quetzal feathers.

Photoshop, 5" x 5", May 12, 2018.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Brandeis Leaves


It just amazes me (and annoys me, too) that the art I did 43 years ago as a college student is as good or even better than what I put out nowadays. I didn't take any of Brandeis' studio art courses, I just painted on my own. These were small pieces in my sketchbook journal like the one you see here. This is the same tree in front of the famous Castle that I depicted without leaves. Now, just like in 1975, the leaves are here and obscure the building. At my place the leaves are obscuring the epic construction going on next door, in which a shabby old house is being transformed into a woodland palace.

Ink and watercolor on sketchbook page, 5" x 5 1/2", May 1975.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

May Bunny

This is another of my marker tests, this time depicting an animal. The colors you need for doing animal or people portraits are earth tones, lots of different shades of brown and grey with light orange or pale yellow and light umber. The manufacturers of these markers have finally figured this out and offer a whole panorama of these colors, out of which emerged this drawing of a rabbit, with its brown swirl patterned coat. I used both photo and life reference as this bunny appears in my back yard every day. The greens this month are at their brightest and the bunny can be seen munching the grass of its choice.

Markers and some ink on sketchbook page, 4" x 3 1/2", May 10, 2018.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Bishop Theophilus preaches


My imaginary Byzantine tale was based somewhat on real history. In 403 AD, a political-religious controversy broke out between Christian factions in the Middle East and the followers of Bishop John Chrysostom in imperial Constantinople. The leader of the Egyptian and Syrian faction was an unpleasant character named Theophilus. He was titled "Pope" as in the ancient  Christian world the leader of the orthodox in Egypt had that title as well as the Roman one. The incident I refer to in the book is called the "Synod of the Oak," since it met near a suburb of Constantinople named "The Oak." Pope Theophilus had a gang of monks (see previous posting) who would cause trouble at his command. Theophilus' ambition was to call an imperial-backed synod (meeting of religious leaders) to depose Bishop John, and take power at the capital himself. He managed to do this briefly but after much violence, street riots, and general factional strife, his bid for power was overturned. Yes, religion is politics, no matter what era it's in. 

I was doing this picture during the time I was waiting for acceptance or rejection of applications to graduate school. I had done really well as an undergraduate in the field of Greek and Latin Classics and all the schools I applied to accepted me, including Harvard which was the most prestigious and full of family legacy. Some of my professors counseled against going there since the academic politics, culture and atmosphere there were, uh, Byzantine. I went there anyways and true enough my Harvard years were some of the most miserable I ever had.

Ink and watercolor on sketchbook page, 4" x 7", March 22, 1975. Click for a larger view.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Azaleas, Old Wood, Greens


The By-Product is late today but still falls within the "daily" format. Here are some more marker and colored pencil tests and practice. The Japanese brush-watercolor markers are excellent for creating textures and overlays. This is the only time of year when I can depict brilliant azaleas and use my pink colored pencils. The new markers ("CleanColor Real Brush") also have a realistic sky blue which is the most difficult to find in any marker. The wood object is a pallet, a shipping tool which I see a lot of at the construction site next to my house.

More marker action coming, I haven't unwrapped them all yet.

Markers and colored pencil, some ink, 4" x 7", May 7, 2018.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Marker Practice


 The order of markers that I paid for arrived last week and I have been practicing with them since then. These are all Japanese made with brush tip points, for making all sorts of textures and blends. If you are Japanese or inspired by Japan, you could also make anime comics, Zen painting, or calligraphy with them. I like using these for landscaping, cloudscaping, and geometric abstractions. The colors are delightfully bright and clear and they are supposed to be fade proof. You can overlay them on the page for more color. I am pairing my markers with colored pencils which adds more contrast and texture. This is one of my practice pages. I haven't opened all the markers yet. When they are unwrapped I hope to take them outdoors for good weather sketching.

Markers, colored pencils, and ink on sketchbook page, 8" x 10 1/4", May 7, 2018.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

It May Rain


In spring, it may rain. May it rain? In May, it will rain. And the flowers, trees, and I will like it. Remember the theme this year is "Skies," and sky it will, especially the dark purple gray of rain clouds. May I portray this sky from memory? Yes, I may.

Photoshop, 6" x 4", May 6, 2018.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Two more Byzantine characters


When I was writing fiction, I experienced what most writers do when they are making a tale. The characters took on a life of their own and acted as if they were in their own reality, like an ongoing movie inside my head. But this movie and its characters depended on my research, which had to be pursued to as much detail as possible. These two figures are the result of my research questions in re-creating the Later Roman Empire about 410 A.D. They are both named "Serapion," because in Egypt that was a popular male name. The one above is a deacon and belongs to the court of a powerful archbishop. The one below is a slave, but a skilled one who keeps the books of his owner, a shipping magnate. The slave is dressed better than the deacon because the deacon believes he should not wear expensive or attractive clothes in the service of Christ. The accountant slave looks like he is using an iPad, and he is, kind of, as literate people in the ancient world used wooden plaques covered with wax to scratch out notes and messages. These things and numerous other details make the ancient world, or any fictional world, into a real place for the reader.

Ink and watercolor on sketchbook page, 6" x 9", 1974. Click for larger view.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Colorforms 4: Tulips and Daffodils


Here are the rules of the Colorforms art doodle game. You have four shapes, circle square equilateral  triangle and leaf. These stay the same primary color or leaf green in any playing of the game. Circle: Yellow, Square: Blue, Triangle: Red, Leaf: Green. You can add or replace basic shapes but you only get four at a time. For each composition you get four of each to place, at a different size, angle, front or back overlap, etc. In the "classic" Colorform, the background is black. The last rule of the game is that you can break any one rule in your composition. In this case the rule is a black background, which I've replaced with a pretty greenish gradient. This is yet another spring inspired play with the basic shapes and colors representing flowers and skies. The idea is to keep the game as simple as possible unless you take the Kandinsky option and ignore any game rules, making Abstract Art with the fancy stuff rather than doodles.

Is anyone still reading this? I know there is someone out there. I like to think that I'm communicating with someone.

Photoshop, about 6" x 6", May 4, 2018.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Green Bice


I've worked with colored pencils all of my artistic life, of many brands and varieties. In the sets made by Prismacolor and Derwent, a color called "Green Bice" appeared. It was an intense yellowish green, the color of spring leaves just unfolding. It is all over this little tree study as well as on the two color test strips below. But what does "Bice" mean? It is certainly not something to eat. It is in fact a rather toxic pigment as the linked article points out. The Green Bice of the colored pencils is a simulation. But it sure looks nice, the exact equal of new leaves, at least for a few days.

Markers and colored pencils, 4" x 5 1/2", May 2, 2018.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Art Model, Colorful Background


My mother and I belonged to an artists' club where we would hire a model to pose for us and we would draw her (occasionally him) with our own preferred medium. For my mother, it was pastel on dark-tinted paper, which left me thirty years' worth of dusty pastel model sketches when it was time to handle her legacy. I used a much more compact and less messy method of watercolor and ink. Our lady models used colorful fabrics and occasional props such as fruit or clothing as points of interest. The drawing sessions took place in an elegant venue at a church, which we rented for the afternoon. The pious Massachusetts Episcopalians had no objection to tasteful nudity in their upper room.

Watercolor and ink on sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 4 1/2", early 1975.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Spring Theory, Re-blog


It seems like ancient times, 13 years ago, when I painted this one. It's called "Spring Theory" because of its inspiration from modern physics and the time of year I painted it. This posting is a re-blog of this piece which is one of my favorites. You can read about it on my original posting, dated May 11, 2010. Why am I bringing this one back for a second look? Because as I said, it's one of my favorites, and it's well-painted with no images of dumpsters or wine barrels in it, and because, uh, I'm too damn lazy to draw up some fresh daily art. So enjoy what you get, and I'll be back with more pseudo-profundity soon.

Acrylic on canvas, 30" x 15", May 2005.