Monday, December 31, 2018
My parents and I spent the summer of 1969 in Europe, including a month in Rome. We were privileged to stay that month in a large apartment in a hilly suburb. The flat belonged to a concert pianist, Joseph Rollino, and while he was absent teaching, touring, and performing, he lent us the use of his otherwise empty dwelling. In the hot, dry summer of central Italy, most Italians of any means left their homes for cooler vacation places. I remember our weeks there in the (non-airconditioned) borrowed home. We had nothing much to do; the attractions and antiquities were filled with tourists baking in the sun. I remember spending time reading and listening to the radio. In the evening we would go out to eat at a local restaurant, "Bruno's," and feast on beefsteak, risotto, and pizza. I had some art materials with me, and I painted a few pictures while I was there. This is a portrait of Joe R's terrace. You can see that even back then I depicted a lot of leisurely terrace furniture (No wineglass though.). Note the TV antennas above the privacy fence.
Watercolor on watercolor paper, 6 3/4" x 9", summer 1969.
Sunday, December 30, 2018
Rummaging through my European art saved in the great reclamation of 2016, I found this portrait of my character Heliodorus. As one or two of you might remember, he was an intriguing, mysterious Byzantine court eunuch who had left the imperial court and became a ship-owner managing a privately run fleet. I did many pictures of him and this one is one of the best, though he looks a bit grumpy. I did a lot of research into early Byzantine garb and he is wearing a typical man's outfit of about 400 AD. He wears a decorated tunic, a red cloak, little flat slippers (emphasizing his non-military status) and he is holding a notebook which is their version of a laptop. This was a pair of wood slabs hinged together and one of them is coated with wax which you scratched words into. Heliodorus nearly stole the story from the female protagonist Aurelia, but I don't know what happened to him at the end.
Watercolor and ink on Canson watercolor paper, 6 1/2" x 11", 1975.
Saturday, December 29, 2018
At the end of 1998 I was on my way to visit family and friends up in Massachusetts. As usual I stopped off at a motel somewhere in New Jersey. This was a dreary place but it did have one moment of charm, namely this gazebo in the back of the building. (When I was young I used to pronounce it "gayze-bo.") There was a chain link fence around it and some straggly cedar trees. There was still some snow remaining on what would be a landscaped area. The green spot and gazebo were there to add a touch of class to wedding portraits, where the couple stood under the gazebo. I can't imagine why anyone would want to get married for real in this motel, but maybe it was all they could afford. I drew this sketch through the bathroom window.
Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 8" x 6", December 26, 1998.
Friday, December 28, 2018
This drawing isn't from 20 years ago, it's from yesterday. Peet's Coffee hosts any small number of computer users or at least smartphone gawkers which includes me unless I have a friend to sip and talk with. There's nothing new about it; people have been doing information or creative work in coffee houses since at least the 18th century. This Peetnik was probably checking her Twitter feed. I have resolutely refused to sign up for Twitter, and this world is better for it.
Sepia brown tech pen on sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 5", December 27, 2018.
Thursday, December 27, 2018
On Christmas Eve 1998 I visited the home of Kit whose portrait I had recently drawn. Kit, her husband Steve, and their cat "Grasshopper" lived in a house that was old enough to have a real wood-burning fireplace rather than a gas flame fireplace. Naturally the cat loved the warmth though she was smart enough not to get too close. I did my daily drawing in my hosts' living room and the cat - the "Kit Kat" - made it into my sketch.
Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 8" x 6", December 24, 1998.
Wednesday, December 26, 2018
I was a guest at one of my friends' Christmas festivities. It was a traditional dinner with tree, presents, and all the typical stuff. After dinner and gift giving in the afternoon, the family and I sat around in the living room with our reading material as the kids screamed and played with their new toys in the adjacent room. I will not show names but from left to right it is my friend who invited me, her husband, and her husband's sister who was (and is still) a Catholic Sister.
My friend gave me a wonderful gift. Both of us enjoy Catholic paraphernalia and religious objects; at one point she had a room full of her collection. I opened the gift box and found two small plastic statuettes of Jesus and Mary, which glowed in the dark. I love stuff which glows in the dark. The Sister, recognizing them and seeing my delight, leaned over and said with a smile, "These are most popular with the very young, and the very old." Twenty years later they are still with me at my bedside.
Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 8" x 6", December 25, 1998.
Tuesday, December 25, 2018
Thunder in December is unusual and rare here, but last Friday I encountered the sound of summer as winter splashed its way in. This is a study from memory of the stormy sky as the turbulence passed overhead. So many of my cloudscapes are done from memory. It's hard to find a vantage point, indoor or especially outdoor, as the rain comes down. Now it's winter and soon we'll have more on our hands than deluge and thunder, unless the rare "thunder-snow" happens.
Weather notwithstanding, weather or not, I wish all of my blog readers, whoever they are, a very happy Solstice/Yule, and a merry misty Christmas.
Markers on sketchbook page, 3" x 3", December 25, 2018.
Monday, December 24, 2018
Most cities have small remaining patches of land where an earlier rural look still shows up. McLean, Virginia, one of the richest cities in the country, still has spots like that and 20 years ago there were more of them. The cabin in this picture was a "country in the city" type of place. It was not a residence but a craft shop where you could buy "wooly" (should be "woolly" but it's still soft and warm) handmade knitted things. I may have visited it once or twice but never bought anything there. It was inevitable that "Wooly Knits" would succumb to urban development and a few years later, it did. The old trees and cabin were razed and they built a super-expensive apartment block there.
Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 8" x 6", December 18, 1998. Click for woolly view.
Sunday, December 23, 2018
"Wine Saturday" returns on a good weather day featuring splendid early winter clouds. This is the view from the hillside lodge and vineyards of "Chateau O'Brien." It has been years since I visited this place and the wine and hospitality are just as good as ever. This view was created on my old iPad, and I'm surprised that it still works, obsolete as it is. The view will never be obsolete.
"ArtStudio" app on iPad, December 22, 2018.
"ArtStudio" app on iPad, December 22, 2018.
Saturday, December 22, 2018
I just finished decorating the miniature tree you see in this drawing. This is my art studio in late 1998, as the dateline to upper right shows. Most of the things you see in this 1998 sketch are still here, although seasonal. I bought the tree in Cambridge, Mass. in the late 80s and have displayed it ever since for most of the Holiday Seasons I've been here. That's thirty years of mini tree and I admit it is a bit ragged after all these years. I store it in a box with its ornaments 11 months out of the year. Other things on this studio view are four of my Zoroastrian paintings on the wall, sketchbooks, and a colored pencil caddy. There are some very old Christmas lights which I have since retired because I am afraid the wire will disintegrate and cause a fire. There is also an old radio/cassette player which I have since given away. The box on the right is an illuminator installed in the hope that its light will make me more efficient and cheerful in the dark winter months. That isn't in my collection any more; I gave it away and bought a smaller but still bright light which right now remains unused in its box because I have no room to put it. I have no room to put anything except the tree for a few weeks. In 20 years my dwelling has become mind-numbingly claustrophobia-inducing.
Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 8" x 6", December 20, 1998.
Friday, December 21, 2018
Most Virginia vineyards are open all year round. Some of them take a month off for maintenance and winemaking. Three Fox built this all-weather, all year tent structure for winter wining (Wining, not "winning" or "whining.") Three Fox has a dramatic hilly landscape and its colors are soft and muted during the winter. Today is the winter solstice, when things begin to turn around. I hear foxes in my own backyard calling romantically to each other, and maybe having a glass or two of Three Fox before they get down to business making little foxes.
Photoshop composite, December 2018.
Thursday, December 20, 2018
This is one of the best sketches I ever drew in a mall, and I've done a lot of mall-drawing in my artistic life. I can't believe that I haven't blogged this before. Or maybe I did and forgot about it. Tysons Corner Mall is right around the traffic-choked corner from me. You can see my dateline in the drawing: it's in January. It was relatively empty then, after the holidays were over, unlike now when it is wall-to-wall people frantically consuming. Some of the elements in this scene are changed or gone; no palm trees, no fountain. More restaurants appeared in later years including a sushi bar where sushi is delivered to you on a conveyer belt. I'll go back to the mall for drawing at some future opportunity.
Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 7" x 6", January 11, 2003.
Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Yes, it's that time of year again and my 20-year-old written journal entry was identical to the one I would have written now. Except I am not going into the post office. Or the mall. I don't want to endure milling chaos and will drop cards into the mail box. The post office holiday line you see here was in a tiny post near where I would later work (Trader Joe's) and I was sorry that like so many other postal services it was discontinued, leaving only a mail box. I still have many cards to write and send off.
Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 8" x 6", December 15, 1998.
Tuesday, December 18, 2018
One advantage of clutter is that you can draw bits and excerpts of it and make little abstractions. This tiny view is from one of my closets that I have filled with books. This area contains books, art, research notes, and other objects from my Zoroastrian project in the 1990s. I would like to donate most of it to a Zoroastrian community but so far I haven't been able to do it. One set of things hidden away here is a series of 7 paintings I did of Zoroastrian allegorical holy beings which dates from 1996-2000. If you look closely you can see a little cup with artificial (paper and foil) fire and standing before it is a statuette of one of the Three Magi, who were not kings, but Persian sages.
Tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 2 1/4" x 3", December 18, 2018.
Monday, December 17, 2018
I acquired this plant stand in 1984 and it has been in operation ever since, going through many plastic plant trays and countless plants. My most successful plants have been African violets and weedy hardy vines and ivy. At one point the structure was overrun with what is known as "Devil's Ivy," also known as "Pothos," a fast-growing ivy that tolerates dryness and neglect.
Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 8" x 6 1/2", December 9, 1998
Sunday, December 16, 2018
I fished this illustration from my 2003 sketchbook journal. It's not a "year-anniversary" but from the looks of it I was busy in 2003. Since the upcoming 2019 sketch theme is "domestic still life with coffee" you will probably see a lot of these next year, if all goes well. This was a Starbucks but there are plenty of other coffeehouses to draw in. Note the coffee scoop in front of the barista at lower right.
Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 6" x 4", January 7, 2003.
Saturday, December 15, 2018
I don't usually do portraits in ink, but I did this one in a long-defunct Borders Bookstore twenty years ago. Kit (last name edited) was a good friend of mine for a while, and then we just sorta drifted apart, even though she and I were in the same religious group. I had the time to do a good portrait then, and she sat still. You can see the coffee urns from the bookstore cafe behind at left. Just a few weeks ago I saw Kit at Chessiecon, where we went to re-visit old friends, and we had a memory-filled conversation. Twenty years later Kit and her world are basically the same, and mine isn't so different either.
Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 8" x 6", December 10, 1998.
Friday, December 14, 2018
Here's what I created with the handful of colored pencils that I bought just a few days ago. I concentrated on grays and greens, depicting evergreens. I saw a stormy sky like this just yesterday, with the purplish blue of cloudy dawn. Now the rain is coming. I keep imagining warm cabins and tiny hideaways in the forest or the prairie.
Colored pencils, touched up with a little Photoshop, 5" x 3", December 13, 2018.
Thursday, December 13, 2018
It's December, and Solstice time. The trees are empty and dusk-light shines through them. There is hardly any birdsong, except for the hardy crows and winter-overing robins. It isn't snowy yet, but that will come. With my owl-like schedule, I spend most of my time in the dark. Every so often I hear hoots and calls from my night-flying comrades.
Original drawing, black tech pen on sketchbook page, 8" x 6", December 6, 1998. Colored in Photoshop, December 2018.
Wednesday, December 12, 2018
I went to the art materials store yesterday to get my seasonal colors. Today I bought enough colored pencils to create a fine winter scene. This Geometrikon is a tryout for new colored pencils that match the purplish blue of winter skies, and one snowflake. That's all we got while other people were buried in snow. I also enriched my landscape collection with a selection of evergreen greens: spruce, juniper, sap, cedar, more. And then some light grey for winter clouds. Winter here in MidAtlantica is often bright and sunny, with moderate chill. I've never figured that out.
Colored pencil, marker drawing, 2 1/2" x 2", December 12, 2018.
Tuesday, December 11, 2018
"Foggy Earth" would actually be "Terra Nebulosa" in proper Latin, but I'll give the Terra Nebulo people a pass on that. If they were in space, they would be "Nebula," which would make interesting wine. A "shady character" is foggy or shady, hence "nebulo." The vineyard's logo is a black domino mask, which I can't copy here or add to the page, because of copyright rules. Did bandits or burglars ever really wear black domino masks? In the comic books both the bad guys and the good guys wear some type of mask. I just use Photoshop masks.
Photoshop composite, December 2018.
Monday, December 10, 2018
DarkoverCon 1998 is over and I'm back at home. Here is a drawing I made of my room after the con. You see bookcases, plush toys, boots and shoes, a plant, bead strings hanging on the wall, and a large pile of laundry. The unusual thing about this is that this room looks exactly the same right now. The only thing that is different is that I now have a bookcase in the empty wall at center, and my racks of collectible orange sneakers. I still have the felt indoor boots you see in front of the left bookcase. The plant is still in the room but doing poorly; maybe I can re-pot it. The mass of laundry is ever-renewing. The more I wash, the more I pile on the floor, dirty or clean. Twenty years, the same thing.
Black tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 8" x 6", November 30, 1998.
Sunday, December 9, 2018
Another little pattern piece fits into my small sketch journal page. This is a piece of "reverse engineering" where I use colored pencil and ink to imitate the layering technique of Photoshop. These are proper Autumn colors of leaves which have now scattered to the winds and it's twiggy time now until the end of March.
Colored pencil and ink on sketchbook page, 5" x 2", December 7, 2018.
Saturday, December 8, 2018
There he sits, like a prince, awaiting his coffee. This is the throne room of King Coffee, and that's what Starbucks is all about. There is always so much to be sketched in a coffee house, from people to equipment to drinks. It must have been a rather warm day in November because the people are not bundled up. This Starbucks was established in 1995 and I have been frequenting it ever since.
Black tech pen and marker on sketchbook page, 8" x 6", November 12, 1998. In those days I thought the Millennium would never come.
Friday, December 7, 2018
Some of you remember a fantasy character of mine, a Roman Catholic cardinal named Acquaviva. The name means "Living Water" though anyone who sees that name thinks it has to do with "Aqua Velva," a men's aftershave cologne. I interacted with this character during my explorations of Catholic Christianity and I continued to maintain "contact" with him up to and including my formal conversion and baptism as a Catholic in 1979. Next year, 2019, will be the 40th anniversary of this event. Naturally the Cardinal was pleased to see me join the fold.
I did this little portrait of His Eminence in August 1978. At that point a new Pope had not yet been elected and Cardinal A. was waiting to go into Conclave to meet with his fellow prelates to vote.
I parted ways with the Cardinal some years after my conversion. Sometimes I still "visit" him in his corner of the Imaginal World to see how he is doing.
Black ink on sketchbook page, 4" x 5 1/2", August 1978.
Thursday, December 6, 2018
Here's a place where if you get naked in the winter, you won't get cold. Naked Mountain winery is one of my top spots for wining. Their wine is super and in the winter you can sit by the fire with your clothes on and sip. They also serve a splendid lasagna plate in January and February. I'm hungry just thinking of it.
Drawing is sepia brown tech pen, and the wood-grain background is by me on Photoshop.
Composite digital and hand done, December 2018.
Wednesday, December 5, 2018
I go by this building every time I pass through Tysons Corner, the "edge city" where I live. It was just a grassy slope when I first moved here. Since then I've seen a whole district of high-rises and glass-faced office and residence buildings pop up. Now that the Metro stops here the rate of building is increasing. The idea is that you live in one of the expensive apartments in a 30-story hive and you take the Metro in to work as a consultant or lawyer in DC. Or you just walk from your hi-rise to your office in this building. If anyone thinks this will take more cars off the road in this area, they are mistaken. Soon after this one was done, they built another similar edifice behind it. I am just part of the Capitalist Progress that is transforming an old country crossroads into a Big City.
Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 8" x 4 1/2", November 18, 1998.
Tuesday, December 4, 2018
Continuing my retrospective for November-December 1998 here is my action portrait of men putting up a tree sales display. It is one of my favorite drawings as the humans are drawn in natural poses and the wood beams make a nice pattern. My journal text says that that day was unusually warm so the men could work without heavy clothing. The darker rectangle is the opening to a little shed that holds supplies and provides shelter to the person selling the Christmas trees. The people managing this are members of the Lions Club of Vienna, Virginia. I wondered what the Lions Club was and I find they are a worldwide community service association started in Chicago in 1915. The tree sales raise funds for Lions service projects.
Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 8" x 6", December 3, 1998.
Monday, December 3, 2018
Happy Holidays one hoped, at least back in the early 80s at a Greek restaurant on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The "Taverna Kephalonia" is long gone but we can still see its Holiday decorations on this light fixture. Tinsel twines the brass candle holders and a folding paper "bell" hangs underneath. This drawing was done while waiting for dinner to arrive. I drew it on a trip I took to visit friends in DC, well before I decided to move to the Metro DC area seven years later.
Black tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 5 1/2" x 6", January 2, 1982.
Sunday, December 2, 2018
This parking lot and shopping center is more or less the same now as it was when I sketched it in December 1998. You don't see many of these huge utility vans such as the one at right, though. The ambulance is parked and its people are on break, maybe drinking coffee at Starbucks. I always liked the seasonal banners attached to the light posts. These Holiday decorations had gold stars on a green background. There were banners for the other seasons too but after a while they were no longer used. I did this sketch from the driver's seat of my car, parked in the lot.
Black tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 8" x 6", December 1,1998.
Saturday, December 1, 2018
I wanted to do a page which was the essence of summer in Virginia wine country. Rogers Ford, like many Virginia wineries, has historic 19th-century buildings on its estate and if I had had more time I would have drawn more of them. Their tasting room is an old farmhouse with a very nice porch for old-fashioned sitting.
Photoshop composite, 8 1/2" x 11", December 2018.