Saturday, November 16, 2019

A Californian at Harvard 1977

In 1977 I was in Harvard Graduate School studying Greek and Latin classics. I lived in a luxurious dormitory and had a close circle of studious friends. I continued to do a lot of art work, something which eventually ended my career as a classicist. The girl (woman?) you see in this little ink portrait was Mary from Whittier, California, who was not a classical scholar but a modern language student specializing in German and Germanic languages. I drew her with an imaginary beach behind her. She was very "Californian," naturally blonde hair and all. After a few months at Harvard among the snows and ice, she was miserable. The California culture just didn't do well so far removed from the sun. In late summer I visited Southern California with Mary and the reverse was true - I didn't have a good time there either. Within a year all my Harvard friends had scattered, leaving graduate school for other challenges. Mary decided to go to law school instead, and that was the last I ever saw of her.

Brown ink with tech pen on sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 2 1/2", 1977.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Lost One Technocrat: RIP Spike MacPhee

The By-Product is saddened to hear of the passing of Spike MacPhee, space pioneer, virtual reality master, and patron of science fiction artists for many years in the Boston area. Spike was one of my first customers and he placed my art in a virtual gallery in the online world of "Second Life." 

Here is the entry I placed on this Blog honoring Spike and his community.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

November Night

The moon is as big as a basketball, at least it seems so. It's not a basketball, though. The November Moon is called the "Beaver Moon" as the critters are preparing for winter these days. You might not be able to see the colorful leaves by night unless you used some artificial, not lunar illumination. This image would take a long time to do if I were using conventional paint but with Photoshop I can splatter color all over the canvas or board without spilling a drop. 

Photoshop, 7" x 8", November 14, 2019.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Moorcock Sepiriz the Giant 1977

This character, "Sepiriz" the giant, appears for a scene or two in Michael Moorcock's 1965 book "Stormbringer." He is at least 8 to 10 feet high, an immortal warrior who joins with Elric in the ultimate battle of Order vs. Chaos. In this phase of his existence he is clad in skimpy furs and drives a huge golden chariot. Moorcock is still alive and active in writing. It would be fun to re-visit his books now and see whether they have aged well. There is a common thread between English fantasists Bulwer-Lytton, Corelli and Moorcock: a dying Empire, a lost super-race, and a Tolkien-inspired diversity of races and creatures.

I brought the Stormbringer book home from Europe and while in my first year at graduate school, I drew many a Moorcock illustration, just for the fun of it. As a scholar of antiquity this type of fantasy set in an ancient world was a rich source for me. Many illustrators have worked on Elric both in word and picture. These range from the psychedelic to the gruesome and grotesque, and if I did any more illustrations I'd probably leave the gore and guts to someone else. 

Black ink on sketchbook page, 3" x 5", 1977.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Moorcock Horrific Sacrifice Scene 1976

You are warned that something horrific is about to take place in this illustration page. It isn't from Corelli, though she wrote this kind of operatic/horror scene into Ardath at least once. The author here is probably Michael Moorcock, who specialized in a mix of fantasy and horror. Many British writers (and French, too!) enjoyed creating massive scenes of "savage ritual" and human sacrifice, inspired by colonialism and historical discoveries. After all, many ancient civilizations practiced human sacrifice, some on a grand scale. Here on this page I'm following the author's detailed verbal description, which I can't find right now but may be in "Stormbringer" by Moorcock. Or it may be another author. There is too much dust on the shelves to find it right now. 

In this blood-drenched scene, some helpless soul is about to be dispatched by the huge, muscular black slave (standard race and procedure of antique fantasy) while the dazzling but veiled Evil Priestess-Queen prepares to signal with her scepter. Courtiers in richly colored robes kneel as the ritual proceeds. I don't think you could pay me enough to depict this again. But it was 43 years ago and that might as well be 1876 rather than 1976.

Brown ink colored with watercolor on sketchbook page, 5" x 7 1/2", 1976.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Geometrikon Fish Eye

Arteza's marker pens have a lot of really pretty colors, especially in the blue section. My fade test shows that these colors will fade in window light though not a lot. Good enough for illustration and concept art as well as doodles and experiments. Here's a Geometrikon using a few of these colors. Some areas here are colored pencils. This is a tiny picture so scanning and enlarging are necessary. One of my friends who works with cloth and fiber for decorative quilts suggested that designs like these might make nice small quilts. I'm tempted to start collecting fabric but really not now, one or two media are enough.

Markers and colored pencil on sketchbook page, about 2" x 1", November 11, 2019.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Moorcock Birdman

This one is rather hard to see but it's good enough to blog in my 1976 series. This flying birdman was a fighting character in Michael Moorcock's "Stormbringer," an apocalyptic tale of Elric the albino sorcerer-king. The bird-man is sort of like "Hawkman," the DC comics heroic winged character, but we readers don't have much time to spend with him, as he only appears for a page or two never to return.

Brown ink in technical pen on sketchbook page, a bit of Photoshop restoration, 5" x 4 1/2", 1976.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Grumpy Model 1972

The going price for an hour of art model time in 1972 was between $15 and $20. That was a lot of money in those days. The model kept a watch by her side so she knew how much time she was spending and in what pose. The timekeeping is still current modeling practice. The poses were up to her unless some artist in the group asked for a specific one. In most big cities with artist communities there was a number of people who actually made a living doing art modeling. Most of these had a dance or drama background and were interesting people even when not modeling. During one year the model and the artists got to know each other and they kept the same model from one session to another. It paid more than fast food work even if you had to be naked. This model seems to be having a rough day, but I will never know what put her in such a grumpy mood.

Pencil on sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 8", 1972.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Kitchen Stacks

Remember that the theme for 2019's sketches was "Coffee and Kitchen: Domestic Still Life." Here's a new one. Items are stacked around the microwave oven. You can see covered bowls, mini wood carving boards, towels, my steel thermos bottle, and a wine glass. All of these things are clean as I had just removed them from the sink where I washed them. There is no coffee in this particular picture. 

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 6" x 4 1/2", November 8, 2019.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Turning Virginia Blue

I don't know how the political color system in America changed, but it is fairly recent. Back in the '50s Red was Communist  - the ultimate perversion of leftist belief and action. If you had socialist leanings you were a "pinko" and some of our elderly folk will remember Senator Joseph McCarthy and the "Red Menace." Not to mention the all-red Soviet flag and Red Square. So how did "Reds" become hard conservatives? My state, Massachusetts, is often loaded with "Blue" leftist votes. In Virginia where I now live, the politics are "swing state," a teetering balance of blue and red, held down by a few highly educated and rich blue liberals in Fairfax County. That would be me, and I want the balanced part to stay, so I voted as many times as I could (once) and drew this graphic after the blue Democrats won the state. I incorporated my "voted" sticker as part of a political statement.

Mixed media: Markers, colored pencil, Photoshop, and sticker, 4 1/2" x 4 1/2", November 2019.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Jagreen the Red Horseman from Moorcock 1976

Another fantasy series I loved was the long history by British author Michael Moorcock telling the tales of his doomed wandering albino king, Elric. This fabulous but dreadful character was always fun to illustrate. There were many other characters and monsters offering a wide universe of opportunities for art. This one here is "Jagreen Lern, the Red Horseman of Death and Theocrat of Pan Tang." During the last quarter of 1976 I was a graduate student at Harvard and my advanced classical and ancient history studies gave me many thrilling ideas to illustrate while I ignored my papers and presentations. Warrior kings, mad prophets at oracles, women turned into giant worms, Dead Gods, Wild-men in chariots, this was Imagination at its best. Eventually the fantasy worlds won out and I extricated myself from Harvard in 1978.

Brown ink and tech pen with colored pencils on illustration board, 8" x 7", 1976.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Autumn Color Blocks

After more than 11 years producing this Blog, I still owe my couple of faithful viewers a different image every day. It's always good to have fresh new art and a place to experiment with Photoshop and other media. The vintage art and sketchbook drawings are mostly for me, a look back into more than 40 years of doing art and what was happening with me at the time that was drawn. So here's a fresh new one respecting the season. Photoshop makes it easy to work geometrically and use repeating patterns and color gradations. I hope the viewer continues to, uh, enjoy my old sketchy stuff despite everything. 

Photoshop, 7" x 10", November 5, 2019.

Two Tanglewood stories from 1972:

One evening on the Music Meadow I found a crumpled up 5 dollar bill on the ground. I wondered for days what I would spend it on. I finally ended up buying a cup of vegetable soup at a local restaurant.

In the arts neighborhood in Lenox in 1972 was still astonishingly safe for young people (even girls) to get around by hitch hiking with passing motorists. Even I did it with no bad effects. In time I was hitching somewhere and a motorist picked me up. To my amazement, the driver was Seiji Ozawa, the conductor of the Boston Symphony, on his way to a rehearsal session. I said some stupid fannish things to him and departed safely. I should have told him my dad was a composer and could he and the BSO perform some of his music. But I didn't. My father's "Symphony for Classical Orchestra" didn't get played (in its entirety) at Boston until 1991, with the late Andre Previn conducting.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Music Shed at Tanglewood 1972 with Religious Rant

Last in my series I drew the interior of the "Music Shed" at Tanglewood, the summer concert home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. This handsome design of floating triangles reflected sound out into the grassy areas in front where the audience sat. The round things in front are audience heads.

Despite my placid drawings of concertgoers and fellow students, this summer at Tanglewood was very difficult for me. It was at the height of my Christian religious quest but I was very naive about religious exploitation and fundamentalist craziness. During that summer a virulent form of evangelical Bible-spouting fundamentalism burned its way through our little community, causing outbreaks of Bible quoting and "speaking in tongues." Even the venerable  Roman Catholic Church experimented with this, calling it "charismatic." I thought this was "true" Christianity because you could read it in the Bible. I thought it would put me in touch with the real Jesus who would save from what? Misery and uncertainty, perhaps. "All you have to do," they said to me, "is kneel down and beg Jesus to COME INTO MY HEART and you will be SAVED! Then you will prove it when you speak in tongues." I tried this once and it didn't feel right. This was the emotional, "heart-centered" spirituality which is still dominant now. Every sermon says "Open your heart." Every one. But my heart belonged to music, not to a brain-shredding fundamentalism. It took me months to undo the effects of this virus, helped by some more rationalist and good-thinking friends.

Pencils on sketchbook page, 8" x 5", summer 1972.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Hairdo's of Tanglewood 1972

From the same outdoor concert crowd as before comes these drawings of people around me. The hairdo's are of note. The young guy at left looks like he's got some punk rock style going on, while the lady at right is a marvel of hairspray sculpture. Since punk style wasn't really that known in 1972, he may have been an off-duty military man. The lady gave her name, "Myra Balber," and said she was from Miami, Florida and was just visiting Massachusetts. I also added the date of the drawing. I love character drawing but in our more paranoid society it may not be a good idea.

Pencil on sketchbook page, 8" x 11", August 15, 1972. 

My Google Search reveals that August 15, 1972 was the date of the Boston Symphony Orchestra's summer gala, where the orchestra played a lot of exciting pieces and finished it off with Tschaikowsky's "1812 Overture" with REAL CANNONS AND FIREWORKS which is why so many people were there.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Hippies at Tanglewood Concert 1972

This couple were at the same concert that Father Cyr attended. Note the fringey striped poncho she is wearing, and his "man beads" necklace. Their attire is a mild version of the hippie-inspired fashions that were popular in the early 1970s. They are at a classical music concert, not a rock show, which may or may not reflect their musical taste. 

Pencil on sketchbook page, 5" x 5", summer 1972.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Father Cyr at Tanglewood concert 1972

During my art school stay in the arts center at Tanglewood in western Massachusetts, I got to enjoy many outdoor concerts. The audience sits on the Music Meadow in their lawn chairs or on picnic blankets and the musicians are under the "Music Shed." With all these listeners around in various poses, it's a perfect opportunity to sketch them. This Catholic priest in full uniform didn't have a lawn chair but sat directly on the ground. He's holding a rolled-up concert program. As a religious quester I asked him who he was and he wrote down his name and address on my drawing. He was Father William Cyr, presiding over St. Peter's church  in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, a place not far from Tanglewood.

Believe it or not, at least up to 2016, Father Cyr is still alive and active, as this article shows him to be. He is elderly but he seems to be well-preserved. Unfortunately his churches have been plagued by the same scandals and awfulness of the Catholic Church in the late 20th century (without him being guilty of it, I hope) and his congregations are dwindling and his churches are falling apart. I wonder if he would remember this random sketch, forty-seven years ago.

Pencil on sketchbook page, 5" x 6", summer 1972.