Thursday, October 31, 2019
It's Lysia from Ardath! yessss, on Halloween Night, too! I have not published this picture even in the eleven years (!) I've been publishing this Blog. Some of it is the nudity - I'm hoping that the Blogger censors will let it pass 'cause I identified her as an "art model." Well, she was my model, true, and I think she had done some art modeling, and she was a friend of a friend. She was named Stephanie and was of course a fan and a live action role play gamer and she had the theatrical look.
This Lysia was a commission from a collector who liked my other Corelli illustrations. He wanted his own Lysia but not as I conceived of her. My idea of the Snake Priestess was that of a hugely privileged but crazy girl next door, whose life was full of play-acting and personal drama. A deceptively sweet giggly girl bedecked with jewels and having fun with her (presumably) tame animal friends including the black dragon-snake you see here. She was you might say, training for badness.
My collector wanted not a pretty teen priestess but a grown woman who had achieved a form of authentic evil, who took joy in poisoning an ill-fated suitor in a party entertainment ritual and who manipulated her lover the King. Mr. Client, you see, had just been through a messy divorce, and wanted something to remind him of the wickedness of his recent ex. Having never met the ex in question, I had to make up the face and body who was not Stephanie but still recognizably Lysia. Did Mr. Client really want a picture of an evil being? A beautiful evil Pagan priestess-witch that would truly scare you? Have at it!
You'll see some familiar architecture here, the Temple of the Snake God from 1982. But I was in another city and needed a reference for that temple. I found its match at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception at Catholic University in Washington, DC. This lavishly decorated shrine with its Byzantine archways and domes was perfect for the Snake Priestess and her demented followers. The client loved it. I don't know where this masterpiece is but I am glad I never had to see it again.
Acrylic on hardboard, 20" x 30", winter 1994. Click for closer view.
Wednesday, October 30, 2019
As you have seen over the months of my work on "Virginia Under Vine," I sometimes have to do some major revisions on pieces. This one, for whatever reason, came out too small and had to be re-done around the edges to integrate newer material for the larger size. The forest and vineyard colors and the misty hills remain the same. So also does the molded concrete statue of Jesus who was blessing the vineyard the day I drew this picture. But the next time I went to draw at Rappahannock, Jesus wasn't there.
Photoshop composite, 8 1/2" x 11", fall 2019.
Tuesday, October 29, 2019
My fantasy illustrations in 1976 weren't all from Corelli. I enjoyed and depicted the works of many other fantasists especially Michael Moorcock and Jack Vance. These characters are from THE DRAGON MASTERS by Jack Vance. In this book, set far in a desolate future of perpetual war, intelligent dinosaurs genetically engineer men into super-soldiers, while humans perpetrate the same genetic twists on the reptilian adversary. Each one of these has been created for a single purpose, from fighting to tracking to demolition.
Brown ink and watercolor on sketchbook page, 5" x 5", fall 1976.
Monday, October 28, 2019
The "Wine Team" visited the unusual "Maggie Malick's Wine Caves" winery, to find a big new building on the site. Behind the earth-sheltered Wine Tunnel was a brand new event hall, suitable for parties and weddings and other grape-fueled revelry. There were wine barrels and stainless steel vats. Since the barrels were now mostly out of the tunnel, we could take our tasting and sips inside it. The autumn leaves and brilliant blue sky were spectacular.
Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 6" x 5", October 27, 2019.
Sunday, October 27, 2019
I interrupt this Blog to pay tribute to my friend Sharon Henderson of the Order of Saint Michael (OSM), who passed away this Saturday, October 26. I have known Sharon for forty years, after meeting her in the fantasy fan convention world of the Boston area. She wrote many works of fantasy and fan fiction and was active among the literary circle of author Katherine Kurtz. Sharon was a historian of many eras and wrote non fiction as well.
She was a friend in my religious life and a patron in my artistic life. She owns many of my art works, some of which she commissioned. She was multi-talented, able to do fiber crafts, design, medieval re-enactment, sewing and singing. She loved animals and always had cats with her, and she also had a horse companion, "Jasper."
She became a priest in the Celtic Catholic Church and often ministered to her fellow Michaelines as well as other people in need. She was the devoted wife of Jim and the equally devoted mother of Brian.
There's so much more I could say about her but I'll leave it to other Michaelines to provide it. The photo above was taken in 2005 at one of our group retreats.
Goodbye, fellow Michaeline.
Saturday, October 26, 2019
Coffeehouse drawing - it's not always modern folk hunched over their computers and mobile phones. This tumbled mass of fabric is actually a utility shoulder bag casually placed there by a coffee-drinking friend. The big cup in the front is my drink, a "turmeric ginger cappuccino," something that the Capuchin monks of old would hardly conceive of. I don't know whether Capuchin monks still exist, but if they do we owe them thanks for their gift of milky coffee.
The Capuchin religious order still exists. They are friars, not monks, leading lives of prayer and service.
Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 5 1/2" x 6 1/2", October 25, 2019.
Friday, October 25, 2019
You've seen this one before, it is part of "Under Vine." But the printer notified me that I would have to re-work this and a few other pages to a standard 8 1/2" x 11" size as my page was not that size. I went to work and with Photoshop I managed to re-create it using new material (bottom third of page) evoking a mist-and-sun winter landscape. This image will be in the final edition.
Photoshop composite, 8 1/2" x 11", summer 2019.
Thursday, October 24, 2019
The famous Modernist artist Mark Rothko would never paint this - he'd consider the autumn leaves as trite and obvious. Even now snooty art critics would reject something with autumn leaves as not abstract enough, maybe. But with Photoshop at hand I can autumn leaf all I want, experimenting with colors as pure as Modernity. And it only takes an hour or so! I wonder what Rothko would have said about the use of computer and software as a tool. This is only a sketch and I'm just filling in the spaces.
Photoshop, 7" x 10", October 24, 2019.
Wednesday, October 23, 2019
This picture was commissioned by a client especially to fit into
an ornate Victorian frame for which he had no adequate picture.
The frame was in the shape of a Gothic window with an arched
top. The panel's corners were trimmed to fit into this arch.
The theme of the panel was an architectural fantasy from
Marie Corelli's ARDATH, the interior of the temple where
Lysia the snake priestess manifested her power. A huge silver,
brass and enamel snake encircled the upper dome of the
tenple which was embellished with Babylonian gods. The
architecture was derived from St. Mark's in Venice and
Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. The prevailing colors are
gold, orange, and yellow with a white baldachin-temple in
the center and an archway of green laser-fire over the
central altar (as described in Corelli). Hundreds of
small figures in costumes inhabit the picture; worshippers,
priests, noblemen, and Lysia in the center. In the balconies
are friends of the artist, the artist, York, and Corelli.
Some of the balcony openings are duplicates of the frame itself.
At the bottom of the picture is a loosely painted balcony
railing with electric lanterns, made to simulate a view out
frcm one of these balcony openings. From the ceiling of the
dome two silk ribbons, one blue and one red, hang in arcs.
The mists of incense fill the scene.
In Corelli's book, this scene and temple only last for a
few more minutes after the moment of the painting, for
the temple and its pagan wickedness is blown away by a
This painting took six weeks to complete. It was shown
at Boskone 1982. The client, a collector in Maine named
Don York, is long gone, along with this painting.
Acrylic on hardboard, 36" x 22" with frame, winter 1982. Click for
Tuesday, October 22, 2019
The pumpkins are everywhere and it is "OrangeTober," my favorite color if not my favorite month. Leaf mold is also everywhere with its annoying allergic effects. After a visit to the pumpkin display I created this little abstraction using the wide array of orange available with my Arteza markers. I just wish I had more room in my studio to create these. I almost fell off my office chair trying to move around. Too many markers! I am trying to provide you readers with at least one or two Fresh New Arts per week rather than moldy old sketches from the 1970s although some of those are better than I thought they were back then.
Markers on sketchbook page, 3 1/2" x 3", October 21, 2019.
Monday, October 21, 2019
Here's a little break from lurid Corelli. The girl with the yellow headband is probably my roommate at summer art school. She had authentic naturally blonde hair (maybe a touch of highlights) and I wanted to draw her along with the other students. This portrait was done while we were sitting outdoors at a concert. The hills beneath the portrait are the Berkshires, low mountains in western Massachusetts where the music and art town of Lenox attracts upscale attendees. I always brought my colored pencils and sketchbook with me so I could depict daily life in color. I don't do that any more because it's hard to tote around hundreds of them. I intend to re-solve that problem with a modern IPad and color drawing apps.
Colored pencils on sketchbook page, 8" x 10 1/2", summer 1972.
Sunday, October 20, 2019
Marie Corelli's fame flourished at the height of European colonialism and "Orientalism," when motifs, images, stories, and outright thievery brought Europeans into lands few Westerners had ever seen. Artists rejoiced in this new source of cool stuff to paint and compose and write about. In the 1870s epic operas like Verdi's "Aida" and Saint-Saens' "Samson and Delilah" thrilled the opera world with lavish re-creations of ancient times. In literature authors like Bulwer-Lytton wrote the immensely influential "Last Days of Pompeii," published in 1834, and the French author Flaubert penned "Salammbo," (1861) a lurid tale of decadence and savagery set in ancient Carthage before the Roman imperial conquest. Corelli absorbed every one of these productions and added plenty of hot erotic and violent scenes for her wide-eyed readers.
This light-footed dancer, a male paired with a female dancer, are some of the entertainment at the Snake-Priestess' party, where Corelli rather anachronistically has them dance a waltz.
Ink and watercolor on sketchbook page (rather hard to see), 4 1/2" x 6 1/2", 1976.
Saturday, October 19, 2019
I finally fought my way through the clutter in my studio to find my copy of ARDATH. This is the edition I spent a whopping 25 cents for back in 1969. I opened it and tried to read it, but was overwhelmed by a foul, mold-ridden stench that went up my nose and would not leave. Whew! I had expected decay, but not an odoriferous decay. Not only that, but the yellowing of the paper and the tiny original type convinced me, if I needed convincing, that I would not be working with the original book.
This is my rendering of Lysia's play-dome, the Pantheon of Pleasure. I remember creating this in an improvised art studio at my parents' house. Despite the abundance of detail, the original painting is only about 14" x 11". It's based on drawings I did when I was in Rome, some of which you have seen here. I've given this image a relatively higher resolution so you can peruse all the characters and details of the party palace.
Ink and watercolor on Canson sketch paper, about 14" x 11", November 1976. Please click on the image to visit Ardath's phantasie.
Friday, October 18, 2019
I'm not fond of brilliant colors in an art piece but now and then I'll play with some. All those kid-friendly markers in my Arteza set inspire me. If you have lots of apple red and frosting pink you might as well use it. I started with all red lines and designs and added in the rest of the colors in Photoshop. I've left the original marker drawing uncolored for now but I will probably "re-mix" it with colored pencils later. The original original drawing is scanned and in storage in the "Geometrika" section. The original original, original drawing is in my sketchbook. I would like a new printer.
Markers and Photoshop, 3 1/2" x 2 1/2", October 18, 2019.
Thursday, October 17, 2019
Here's one of my attempts at making an assembled comics panel from a spot in the Ardath narrative. I'm also working on lettering. There weren't any small computers to do graphics in 1976 and all comics lettering was done (as incredible it seems to us now) by hand. Here I am using the "tall capitals" typeface used by the famous Winsor McKay in his "Little Nemo" comic fantasy epic. But I didn't put the word balloon in. Interestingly that "tall handwritten" typeface made a comeback a couple of years ago as a computer typeface and it showed up everywhere from newspaper ads to billboards.
In this panel Khosrul the Prophet harangues the King on his throne. (Not a great idea, but Khosrul got away with it for a while.) The black legs and the stylized lion are sculptures and the stairs are strewn with red rose petals.
Ink and watercolor on sketchbook page, 5" x 8", 1976. Click for closer view.
Wednesday, October 16, 2019
One of my friends brought me to the picturesque waterfront of Alexandria, Virginia for an autumn outing. I brought my new sketchbook and found this Obelisk to draw. The suggestive structure is a miniature version of the Washington Monument which you can see in the distance from this site. We had a great time watching airplanes fly low overhead on their way to and from National Airport. Crew teams rowed the calm river, and there were lots of land people too, walking their dogs and enjoying the afternoon sunlight. I drew the Obelisk and this is the first sketch in my new sketchbook.
Black tech pen on sketchbook page, with Photoshop work and white-out, 5" x 8", October 15, 2019.
Tuesday, October 15, 2019
You've seen "Niphrata" before in another posting. She's a young and innocent harem girl who is fanatically devoted to the Poet Sah-Luma, though he ignores her. My original concept of her was more sensuous and buxom but I think the character is best served as a moody underage captive. Later on in the book Niphrata comes to an unfortunate end, written with Corelli's usual gushing prose.
Want to read this book? Try it here at Google Gutenberg, in a very nice scan.
Brown ink and watercolor colored pencil, 4" x 6 1/2", 1976.
Monday, October 14, 2019
Here's another digital sketch of the inside of Lysia's pleasure dome. Plated with malachite and gold, it features a sphere of artificial flame above the Snake Priestess' black crystal throne. Y'see, back in the world of Ardath (about 3000 BCE) they had electricity as well as light beam projectors for lots of special effects. Marie Corelli was a theatrical performer and musician so she was well aware of what even the old technologies of the late 19th century could provide.
The writing on the dome's curve says "Live in the Now, and question not the afterlife!" After all, it was a pleasure dome, a place of sin, moral stupor, and mental oblivion.
Photoshop, 9" x 9", 2007.
Sunday, October 13, 2019
I have struggled with vegetables all my life. They're supposed to make me healthy, or keep me healthy. But as anyone knows who tries to feed me, I won't eat them. Why? Because most vegetables whether cooked or raw taste bitter to me. Well I can eat 'em if they're roasted I guess. I make myself eat them anyway, by using color as an enticement. Do I like red? How about a nice ripe tomato? Or an even redder bell pepper? Nice! Like a scarlet tanager! Red like an apple! Here are my fruity colors made into a marker doodle. Get those tasty markers ready for eating.
Markers on sketchbook page, 3 1/2" x 3 1/2", October 13, 2019. (My markers say "non-toxic" on the handle but it's not a good idea.)
Saturday, October 12, 2019
Sah-Luma the poet really works hard in his Ardath palace, while he's drinking wine and lying about on his couch which is draped with animal pelts. The poetry is all in his head, you know, like my art is all in my head before I do any drawing. "The King's Court needs a Praise-Poem for the latest appearance of King Zephoranim. There is a deadline." No problem, courtiers, Sah-Luma is on it. He's got girls and boys to bring him what he needs, and a scribe to take his verses to papyrus. The interior design is inspiring. I used "Opulent Victorian Interiors" as my source material.
Markers on Bristol illustration board, 6" x 8", 1987.
Friday, October 11, 2019
It's just another Photoshop Doodle of the mid-20th-century variety, but I like these colors together. I think about these designs a lot more than I spend working on them. This one would be nice with shining blue LED's placed where the bright points are on this. But electrifying a painted panel might be a bit of an engineering job. I still love those blue LED lights.
Photoshop, 4" x 6", October 11, 2019.
Thursday, October 10, 2019
During a moment of intrigue in the royal palace of Ardath, a stately and well-wrapped individual is introduced to the room. He holds up his winged wand and traces a circle in the air, to bless the room and its inhabitants. This is the priest Zel, who you saw in the last posting. He's got some business to do but I don't remember just what it was. This is concept art for a possible Corelli graphic novel and done in layout markers. One problem with all these markers except for the most expensive ones is that the dye colors they use fade in bright light. This piece and my other marker work has been hidden in portfolio books for (gets out calculator) at least 30 years.
Markers on Bristol illustration board, 8" x 12", 1988.
Wine Art Lovers rejoice: I have finished "Virginia Under Vine" and now it is time to convert it to PDF files and deliver it (digitally) to the printer.
Wednesday, October 9, 2019
In the ancient year of 1987 art suppliers were just beginning to create big sets of markers for sketches and layouts. Naturally I bought as many as I could (My Motto More Markers) and created a number of sketchy concept pieces until the markers dried out (an early problem with these). I did many fantasy characters and scenes including this one from the perennial "Ardath," depicting an ancient priest from a pagan setting. Corelli correctly identified Ardath society as multi-religious, with traditions ranging from the orgiastic animal-centered religion of Lysia to the royal ceremonies of the King and Court, to the strict pre-Christian Prophetic Mentality of Khosrul. There were also more ritualistic forms such as the one "Zel" believes and practices. He wears the silver cloak and moon-crescent mitre of his near-monotheistic Sky God as well as the Wand of Wings, which he holds here.
Now that I have more markers than the entire priestly graphic design studio of Ardath, I might wave the wand for more concept art.
Markers on Bristol illustration board, 4" x 7", 1987.
Tuesday, October 8, 2019
Marie Corelli's name was really Mary Mackay, and she spent her childhood and teen years in a convent boarding school. For someone raised among Catholic Sisters she naturally had a lurid imagination. That imagination brought out a wealth of lurid scenes once she had started her fantasy writing career. In this scene, Lysia the Snake Priestess is in her pleasure dome, surrounded by admirers, who hopelessly await access to her charms.
Most of the males survive the orgy and ordeal, but every so often someone makes a mistake; he heedlessly insults Lysia, or perhaps gets a bit too drunk and tries to touch Her, or perhaps just becomes boring. When the admirer loses, it's not just his reputation, it's his life. Lysia has a special poison set aside for failures and with the "help" of the giant muscleman servant, is forced to drink the potion. The author describes in thrilling horror how grotesquely he dies, while the drunken partygoers giggle and laugh. I depicted the evil brew with a ghostly gaseous snake which will eliminate any challenge to Lysia's power, because she is EEEeevil.
Acrylic on Strathmore illustration board, 18" x 24", summer 1988. This picture was sent to NoLaCon, the New Orleans Worldcon. It was bought there and I never have to see the original again. Click on image for a larger view.
Monday, October 7, 2019
I do one or two of these cloud and tree scapes every so often to serve as a visual diary. This is what the view looked like at exactly one time, one day this October, captured by my visual memory. The sketch was drawn from that memory, in the studio. I also get a chance to use my newer markers which are rich in color variety. There are some yellow leaves out but the full blaze of fall is still a few weeks away. Color or not, I hate autumn. I'm allergic to leaf mold which is thick in the air. Not worth all that for a few pretty views.
Markers on sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 4", October 6, 2019.
Sunday, October 6, 2019
In a previous posting I described my explorations of Catholicism at college. I also showed images of some of the people who came there to give talks. This guy, Friar Charles, was one of the guests. He was an honest-to-God Franciscan, and brought his habit or brown uniform robe with him. I just had to draw his portrait so here it is. A Franciscan is supposed to follow the example of Saint Francis and live a life of intentional poverty, simplicity, and service. Posing in uniform for a college artist counts.
Two days ago was Saint Francis' Day, so I'm a little late in posting but I guess that's OK, I honor him anyway. For more about Saint Francis and his ideals, read some of the saint's stories in "The Little Flowers of Saint Francis."
Pencil on sketchbook page, about 5 1/2" x 7 1/2", March 12, 1972.
Saturday, October 5, 2019
I announce a major moment in my artistic life. A volcano has erupted in Fairfax County, just at the pinnacle of Tysons Corner, Virginia. Here is the view from Peet's Coffee Shop, a place I frequent. What, no volcano? What eruption? Actually, the Moment I am babbling about is the completion of my sketchbook full of drawings, 2013-2019. This isn't the only sketchbook I drew in, but this is the one I schlep around with me to make on-site drawings. Some of them will be in my wine book.
So what's with the volcano? The sketchbook was created from a de-commissioned high school book about volcanic geology. Blank sketch pages were wired together with leftover text and illustrations. The illustrations were done in a very nice pen and ink style, though their chapter about human sacrifice was rather embarrassing. The title of the sketchbook is "Volcanoes in Action."
We (the editorial "We") now proceed to open another sketchbook. This new one will have black ink, and its cover will feature an ornate elevation of the facade of the Renwick Gallery in nearby Washington, DC.
Sepia brown tech pen on sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 7", October 4, 2019.
Friday, October 4, 2019
Back in fabulous CorelliWorld we enter Lysia's Pleasure Dome again to marvel at the emerald columns with their golden capitals. The emerald columns aren't really emerald, of course. They are stone which is veneered with strips of green mirror glass so it looks like a transparent material. The capitals are gilded stone. The Pleasure Dome is filled with garish colors which are described in the text. Let's see if my copy of "Ardath" is in readable condition. There are scans of the book online but I don't know if they can be excerpted.
This digital Photoshop study was done in 2007, when I was just starting to learn digital "painting." I would like to try to depict some of the Corelli material to see how it looks with my current skills.
Photoshop, 5 1/2" x 9", 2007.
Thursday, October 3, 2019
I tried another architectural approach for my Corelli illustrations. How would the Hall of Two Thousand Columns look if the vaulting and pillars were Gothic slightly pointed arches rather than the straight perpendicular Roman style? These views of the Gothic Pillar Forest are as far as I went. I decided that the Imperial Roman was better. You can also see here a diagram looking up at the convergence of the arches, and four noblemen in court garb.
Red-brown Pelikan ink on European sketchbook page, about 8" x 6 1/2", 1976. Click for larger view.
Wednesday, October 2, 2019
You come for the coffee, and you stay for the cyber-connection. Most of the guests at Peet's Coffee were staring intently into their laptop screens, having no face to face conversation. I finally found a couple of young talkers who were more interested in each other than the computers on their table. Not that the computer isn't necessary - I would guess that they needed their machines for work or study. This drawing, like my many other coffeehouse drawings is done by hand with a real ink pen on real paper.
Sepia brown tech pen on sketchbook page, 5 1/2" x 5", October 1, 2019.
Tuesday, October 1, 2019
There's always something new you can do with the Colorforms concept. Especially when it's adapted to Photoshop. The basic story is still there: black square background. 4 each color, each shape different, some new things added in like the dark purple circle. How to translate the alien language? All these variables including color form the "written" text. In our languages and alphabets, the color of the writing is irrelevant, no matter what it is. In this script, the meaning is inseparable from the color. The alien folk, who look rather like anthropomorphic parrots, can recognize far more shades than we can, no matter how sensitive our vision is.
Photoshop, 5" x 5", October 1, 2019.