Friday, October 31, 2008

Unreal Twilight

This image started out as a digital photograph. I took it using a pre-set "filter" in my camera called "Sundown" which enhances the colors of sunsets. Then after I downloaded the image into my computer I altered the foreground in Photoshop, eliminating a car, a telephone pole, and reflections and dust smears in the windshield through which I took the photo. Thus I present to you an "authentic" image of an October twilight which is not very real at all. There was a sunset, and there were trees, but their reality has faded before the artificial, which is what you see and remember. 

I am almost through with my week of elder care and friend visiting and hope to be back in my studio soon.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dark Clouds of Fall

The dark clouds rolled in with splashes of chilly rain. All part of New England Fall, where the frost is already on the pumpkin. I snatched a few hours away from parent care, stale bread, and the blaring television to create this image in my quiet hotel room. I also got to see a longtime friend who moved far away to New Hampshire, where I crossed the border into a clutter of political signs. I am trying to be charming.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

New England Classic Autumn

Greetings from New England, where I have spent some time out of a perfect fall day doing an on-site drawing on the village green. Natick, Massachusetts is an old town 20 miles west of Boston, full of history and bright autumn colors. The drawing you see here is of a Civil War monument and behind the trees, the Congregational church. The pen drawing was done on site with color indications, and was then colored in markers later on, indoors. Then I took a digital photo of the artwork and added in the blue sky with Photoshop. Ain't technology grand, though it isn't the classic "plein air" oil painting that an old-school artist would do completely in one session at the site. 

Natick is where I grew up. I am attending my elderly parents for a week. I came for my mother's 87th birthday which was on October 26. She is doing pretty well for someone of those years. My father is not doing so well, he is 88 years old. Sometimes in Natick it is like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life, but not always. 

I think we have seen the last of the beautiful warm weather, it is supposed to become rainy and even snowy tomorrow, so no more sitting outside and drawing. 

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Iconic Sandwiches and Salads

More commercial work advertising food, this time Natalia's Elegant Creations. The graphics come from late 19th-early 20th luxury gourmet and perfume ads. The sandwich and salad image on the sign depicts actual fare served at Natalia's. Each sandwich comes with a handful of colorful small fruits and vegetables, such as grapes and mini peppers. 

I will be in the Boston area this weekend and all next week, visiting my relatives and seeing friends. There might not be any By-Products posted until I return, unless I do something that I can photograph and have the time to work on it. Or I might just write text with no image.  

Friday, October 24, 2008

Autumn Lunch Special

I'm doing a lot of commercial shop signage these days. I work for two other places besides Trader Joe's: Mena's snack shop "Bagels, Deli, and Donuts," and Natalia's pastry shop. Mena's sign features traditional glowing autumn colors and a roast beef sandwich. Acrylic markers on black-painted masonite board, 20" x 30".

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Squirrel Advert

A woodsy autumnal squirrel advertises almonds for Trader Joe's. I'm a firm believer in cute animals as advertising characters. I'm sure squirrels would eat almonds if they were available to them. Trader Joe's isn't selling acorns, anyway. Acrylic markers on black-painted masonite, about 16" x 7".

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Finished Figures

After more than seven months of figure drawing, I have finally finished filling all the pages of my sketchbook. Some of them are bad, some of them good, and many of them are copies of excellent drawings. Now it's time to move on to other things. I have proved to myself that I can at least draw somewhat decent human figures. 

Here on the last page of the book, the action hero finds happiness with the pin-up girl and they walk away into the white horizon.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Brilliant Autumn

I lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts for 12 years. For most of those years I lived a very bohemian life in an old house just one street away from Harvard Divinity School. I worked on art commissions and book covers, sold art at science fiction conventions, and did a lot of sketching. I often drew the houses and trees of my picturesque urban neighborhood. In the autumn the sugar maples in New England are intense and brilliant, even in the city. I would sit outside on the warmer October days and draw my subject, indicating colors with watercolor pencils. Then I would bring it back into the studio and paint in the full color scheme with watercolor. Photoshop didn't exist yet. This picture is one of a series that I did on October 16, 1984. My life was much slower then. I rarely have the time to make elaborate outdoor sketches any more. 

Monday, October 20, 2008

2009 Colors

Each year I choose a color, or a combination of colors, to feature in my graphics experiments. I like to see what I can do within these limits. 2008, which is almost over, was a cyan-blue year. 2009 will have a combination of colors: black, intense purple, and bright yellow. Here's an Adobe + Photoshop sketch of what you can expect from this exploration in the coming year. I may or may not do something like this in "traditional" paint media. 

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Penultimate Pin-up

She's on the second-to-last page of my figure notebook. I need a little glamor in my life. But I don't know about the spike heels. What is it with the way-high heels? I see them everywhere. What happened to the sensible shoes of feminism? I'm so out of it. If I ever had to "dress up" I would be at a total loss. 

Saturday, October 18, 2008

More Action Girls

Back in April and May I began my quest to learn how to draw human figures well. Now, in October, I'm nearly finished with this phase of my project. I had resolved to use up every page of a sketchbook that had about a hundred pages in it, and now I am at the end of it. More than one of my drawing textbooks suggests drawing lots of sketchy little figures. I didn't have the confidence to do them before, but here are a few fresh ones, drawn from memory with no photograph or model. I know there are some mistakes in them, but I think I'm a better figure draw-er than before I started the project. Once the notebook is done, I will continue with fantasy figures. Note that the "pirate girl" though fighting with a sword still wears a skimpy outfit with a low neckline for "cleavage." Is there any way around this for illustrators? Must every female be depicted as busty, sexy, and scantily clad, no matter what she is doing? I suppose if I want to have (straight) male readers, I'll have to do that. It's human nature, formed by evolutionary biology; you can't go against it. 

Friday, October 17, 2008

Monastery Arcade

This is a drawing of an arcade corridor in the Greek monastery of Logovarda on the island of Paros. I drew it some time ago from a photograph. Even if I visited Paros I would not be able to visit this place and draw pictures there, because the monastery, like Mount Athos, is off-limits to women. 
Rapidograph pen drawing, about 5 inches square.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Levitation Bubble

It's a nice way to travel, if you've got the power to do it. Liran the nouergist (psionic adept) drifts over the landscape. He used to be nicknamed the "Cyan Dragonfly," before he got serious, left the entertainment industry, and moved away from the Land of Dreams to Surakosai on the sea. Composed in Photoshop, about an hour's work.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pinned Up

Learning figure drawing means learning to draw pin-up babes as well. These are pictures of ideal, enhanced women, to which "real" women can only aspire, no matter how much surgery and artificial helps they have. This image started out as a photograph of some "real" model somewhere, but by the time it was published (on an Internet "fitness model" site I believe) it had been heavily worked over in Photoshop.

Imagine wearing the "body jewelry" get-up seen here. Your "salient points" are accented with little bits of shiny plastic, which are held on not only by glue but by thin chains which bind them to your body. Not only that, it looks like this jewelry "harness" is anchored in her navel piercing, thus making her a pinned-up pin-up. Imagine doing anything else but posing in these plastic bits and chains. She would also be wearing high heels, if I had drawn the rest of her. Downtown in the city of dreams, she's available for you. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Comic Co-Worker

I am currently photographing my co-workers at Trader Joe's for "crew member endorsements," where people select their favorite product to promote. Their picture goes on a sign which I design and write. I could not get a decent photo of this co-worker, so I decided to take one of my lousy pictures and do a comic book rendering of him instead. This was done in Photoshop, in a method that is often used in graphics and comic books. Photoshop allows you to "trace" over a photograph on a transparent "layer," as if it were electronic tracing paper (the real tracing paper, we used to do the same thing back in the old days). Then you can add in colors on another "layer" which allows you to color in the drawing without changing the drawing itself. Ain't technology grand, at least when it works. 

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Cranberry Raspberry

Autumn at Trader Joe's, and we're advertising berry fruit juice. I have to somehow blend the "Hawaii Pacific" design elements with appropriate seasonal and local images. I don't think they have either cranberries or raspberries in Hawaii, let alone autumn, but let's pretend they do. Acrylic markers on black-painted Masonite, about 40 inches by 30 inches.

Action Girls

The Action Girls are leaping around in their underwear. Are they reaching out for a volleyball or to put a spell on you? Foreshortening is difficult. I'm working from photographs and images can't give you enough information. But live models couldn't stay in these poses for more than a few seconds. There are no excuses in figure drawing, though. The head and foreshortened arms of Action Girl Left are too big. And I need to make my faces prettier. These Action Girls are rather grumpy-looking. If you're a girl, you need to look pretty even when you're in a fight.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Hair Dryers are not speaking to each other

I always bring my sketchbook when I go to the hairdresser. While waiting for my hair dye to kick in, I do some drawing. This unfriendly twosome were my neighbors in the salon. You don't need people to be cranky. 
I added the shading later in Photoshop.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Autumn at Starbucks

I used to decorate the coffee board on a number of Starbuckses in my area, but the Corporation cracked down on it and forbade me to do it. Their policy, as the managers told me, was that only people who actually worked at that Starbucks were allowed to do the designs, and that the images had to be exactly copied from the example in the promotion book. Never mind that my designs attracted a lot of customers and probably sold plenty of coffee; Starbucks wanted the boards to reflect the "team spirit" of the employees. But one brave manager (I will not name him nor say which Starbucks he works at) continued to keep my decorated boards and invited me to do more. So this is the only Starbucks I embellish with my original designs. Since the corporate rules don't allow me to be paid in money, I receive coffee and merchandise for my efforts.

I did this board on Thursday evening October 9 (the empty center now contains the ad for the current promotion). In keeping with the theme from last night's post, this is a mixture of Deco and Native American design. I have filled in the center as the flash light reflected too brightly off the black board. Medium is acrylic markers on a laminated board, adapted with some Photoshop. 

This will stay up on the board about a month, and then I'll re-do it with a "winter holiday" theme in November.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Deco Southwest

I did this design a few years ago for some people who did custom weaving. Their loom produced narrow strips of fabric which were used as borders, decorative stoles, or hangings. Since I love Art Deco, I did a Deco design for them which also had a bit of American "Southwestern" influence. I submitted the design and never heard back from the weavers, so this design is up for grabs for any craftsperson who would like to use it. My original is digital only, composed in Adobe (must be that "southwestern" thing) Illustrator.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Plain and Super

Two drawings from the same model, one of them "realistic," and the other as fantasy character or superhero. To transform a woman into a fantasy, you need big hair, huge breasts, exaggerated curves and perfect round butt, while still keeping her thin and graceful. You also need high heels and an unreal skimpy costume. 

I haven't quite got the babe-u-lous appearance yet, I will be practicing drawing more of them. 

All women in comic books (of course with some exceptions) are young and relentlessly sexy. All female comic book costumes or even ordinary dress (with very rare exceptions) have bare midriffs. Imagine what it would be like if all of us women were required to wear streetwear with bare midriffs, even in the winter. We would have to exercise more and restrict our eating, lest we be pulled from view for outright ugliness. Even female political candidates would have to debate on television wearing an outfit with a bare midriff. Lately, public life seems to be some sort of bizarre comic book anyway.  

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Office Building Fountain Court

I think this is one of the best architectural studies I have ever done. I did it exactly five years ago, on site in the courtyard of an office building where I was waiting for regular maintenance on my car to be done. It's done in ink and markers, and was finished in the studio later that evening. Size is about 6 inches square. The blue-ish thing in the center right is a waterfall fountain. The place is a surprisingly peaceful corner in the tumult of Tysons Corner.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Muscle Woman

There really are women bodybuilders. They are in a number of categories, from "hardcore" to "figure" to "fitness," which features gymnastic dancers. They have contests just like the men. In the "hardcore" sector women train just like the men and also dose themselves with steroids, to get big muscle physiques. The "figure" contestants are less bloated but are still tricked out with big boob implants and absurd costumes, just like this one. I assure you that this is drawn from a real model, though I've made a couple of changes in the costume and given her a headdress. There are lots of ways to do body modification. Maybe you're horrified by this but I'm not.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Unseen Architecture

I did this drawing about 9 years ago. Falls Church is filled with little bits of interesting architecture, ignored or unseen by the people who walk by it or through it every day. This is an enclosed stairway behind a small office building. It is made of brick and shows the inventiveness of some forgottten architect. Check out the rectangular openings in the brick walls around the staircase. Someone spent time making that design up.  

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Crumpled Crumbs

I had a multigrain bagel from Panera today, and this is the wrapper. The idea was to draw something crumpled up,  in close detail. Here it is in ink colored with Photoshop. That wraps up my current series of "Dodson Doodles," the exercises in creativity which I have been following from the book "Drawing with Imagination," by Bert Dodson. I looked ahead in the book, and found that subsequent art exercises were complex and time-consuming, that is, they were getting to be too much like work. Work!? Forget that! I have enough work. I would like to do at least some art which is more like "fun" than work. And also closer to my intentions as a fantasy and comic book artist. So Dodson is back on the shelf, at a safe distance from Burne Hogarth's smelly feet. 

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Four Jocks

This forceful foursome marks the end of my Burne Hogarth drawing phase. These are copies, but now I will be doing "original" drawings again from photo models. The longsuffering Burne Guys can now go back to whatever gym or bath house they came from. My next set of drawings will please my (straight) male readers. I'll be doing a series of action babes and pinup girls.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


The ads for specialty wines in my Trader Joe's store featured cutesy personifications of bottles, drawn by an illustrator who has since left our studio and gone home to Texas to be with his family. This sign was in the series so I had to make it match the others, even though I don't usually create cartoons in this style. Acrylic markers on black-painted masonite board, 9" x 12".

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sports Action

Master Hogarth's figures are good models for sports action pictures. The guy at the top is sliding into second having extended a single into a double. You'll have to imagine that he is wearing a proper baseball uniform and gear, otherwise, he would be quite uncomfortable on the infield dirt. I'm not sure what the second figure is doing. He could be an outfielder throwing the ball in trying to catch the dude who is running towards second. Or he could be an incompetent receiver missing the quarterback's throw. I've now copied a lot of Hogarth's model faces, and none of them ever look happy.