Saturday, January 31, 2009

Color Playground

In Photoshop you can do things with color that you shouldn't ever do with paint, like blend yellow with purple. Here's a cheerful, garish playground of shape and color, one of my "K-Series" quick abstract improvisations. If printed, it would be 10" x 7". 

Friday, January 30, 2009

Sharra the fire goddess of Darkover

In my ongoing media archaeology program, I am now scanning in slides of my very first professional work. I painted this image of "Sharra," the fire goddess of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover, back in the fall of 1980. I did it because I had heard the author read from her upcoming book which featured this goddess, at the World Science Fiction Convention earlier that year. I thought that maybe the author would like it and recommend it for the cover of the book. The picture went to DarkoverCon (the annual Thanksgiving Day weekend convention) with a friend of mine, as that was one of the only two DarkoverCons I didn't attend. Sure enough, Bradley loved it and asked for it as the cover, and so it was. This turned out not to be so good politically for me, as the author usually has no influence over the choice of cover art. The publishers resented that the author had pushed the work of an unknown artist for the cover. But it was my first real commercial cover. 

The image was derived from a drawing by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and the blue crystal is a Sandwich glass salt cellar which is still in my collection. The goddess is wearing handcuffs and chains because Fire is only good for human beings when it is controlled.

This photo was taken with a flash and so the face and center portion is bleached out. Acrylic on illustration board, 10" x 18".
The book was published in 1981, and the cover looked like this:

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Enlil the great adept

Of all the characters I've made up (or encountered!?) in my imaginary world of the Noantri, the most memorable by far has been Enlil, the famous psionic adept (in their parlance, Theophore.). Enlil was a rebel against his aristocratic background, a wanderer, adventurer, and mystic, who ended up founding the modern Theophoric Institute at Surakosai. In his long life he did an astonishing variety of things. He was a professor of the dangerous subject of ancient history, and he was a movie player and actor. He was a diplomat and, when called upon, a wielder of devastating weapons of war. He had his hand in politics from one shore of the Middle Sea to another, but lived a reclusive life in a rustic garden. He was a devotee of an ancient religion that had been dead for twenty thousand years. And he was, until his disciple and successor changed the basis of theophorica from art to science, the greatest Theophore that has yet appeared on New Earth. He was also fascinated with volcanoes and geology, working with scientists to defend against the destructive forces of nature. Enlil, in his old age, very appropriately perished on the high edge of the crater of Mount Aitna, when a sudden volcanic blast vaporized him. 

He was famous for his bright orange aura, which glowed when he worked with high energies. In Trinacria (known to us as Sicily), where he had his homes, there are many memorials to him as well as a wide variety of souvenirs. Some people say they have seen him in dreams and visions, as if he were still alive in spirit.

Image is ink colored in Photoshop, derived from my upcoming "graphic essay" on modern architecture in Noantri World.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Palace of Vision

I've always been fond of fantastic cities and architecture, so I never get tired of doing illustrations of them. This one presented me with some technical difficulties, as the board I painted it on was not absorbent and my paint just slid around on the surface. I was able to use that to my advantage to create interesting textures. This bit of "visionary" art uses Indian architectural models. Maybe it's a city in Heaven, or in one of the many layers of Gnostic imaginal reality. Ink and acrylic watercolor, 9" x 12", painted in March 1999. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Undeveloped Site

The Noantri had been settled in the New World for more than 200 years when the Institute of Psionic Studies (known to them as the Theophoric Institute of Surakosai)
new campus was built. This is the undeveloped site for it, given to them by its owner as a donation. The land had been originally occupied after the Crossing by a primitive Noantri group given to low-tech feudal warfare. The site featured the remains of one of their castles. It was more than 150 years old, which by New Earth standards was quite old. In the Old Worlds, before the Crossing to New Earth, Noantri history went back more than 100,000 years, if any sort of Earth time measure could be applied to galactic history.

The blank block is for text which will appear in the final version of this graphic essay. Ink drawing, colored in Photoshop, about 5" x 4".

Monday, January 26, 2009

Deli Design

Here's the next in my Trader Joe's department sign series, created in carved foamboard mounted on Masonite. It's groovy and fab. Cruise into our parking lot in your new 1964 Ford Mustang, the first of its kind. Beatle music in the air, everywhere, yeah, yeah yeah!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Darkovan Falconer

You might remember Darkover, the world of the Red Sun. I painted countless pictures set in Marion Zimmer Bradley's colorful, primitive world. Some of them were portraits of real people. This fellow wished to have his portrait done to match the one I did of his fiancee. He posed for me in costume and I created him as a Darkovan nobleman with his hawk. Acrylic on illustration board, 9" x 12", July 1987.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Blue Light Special

Here's another of my "K-Series" sketches. Done in Photoshop, which can be fun if you bow down and worship it first. There's more than a little Retro-60s flair in this, since I've been soaking in it at the graphics beauty parlor. It's sleek and iconic. " Sleek" is the new Iconic. Check it out in ads for stuff you crave. My buzzword detector is working fine. I, personally, am not sleek at all.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Theophoric Institutes

Two institute buildings in the country of Khemi, designed by Khemaru theophoric architect Mereth Kahn.

Isemkheb Karpes was a famous Khemaru theophore (psionic adept) of the first century after the Crossing. He developed many high-energy techniques, some of which are still used now. He built a hermitage in remote desert mountains, where his practice work would not disrupt settled areas or electrical networks. This nouetic center, designed by Mereth Kahn, is also in a remote place, privately founded and funded to continue training gifted people in a safe environment.

The Minyar institute is larger, and located in a middle-sized industrial city, Tireina. Its training for nouetics (psychics) and nouergists (techno-mages) is directed at those industries where nouergic components are used. The tower, reminiscent of an airport control tower, is used in training operations where a long-distance line of sight is required. It also is used in communications. This was the last building Mereth Kahn designed before he received the commission for the much larger Theophoric Institute of Surakosai.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Say Cheese

At Trader Joe's we're changing the big signs that name the different departments of the store. I have been tasked with replacing the old ones, from a previous administration, with fresh new signage. If you've been following this blog, you know of my fascination with the American pop style of the late 50s and early 60s, the style of Tomorrowland and the 1964 New York World's Fair. This is the style we are using to re-decorate the store. This Big Cheese is the first one of my new signs. The typeface is taken from 1960s California low-rise apartment building sign titles. The roughly triangular bar under the letters has the pseudo-Polynesian touch required by Trader Joe signage directives. 

The base of the sign is quarter-inch Masonite, 4 feet by 2 feet, which I sprayed to a proper shade of Cheddar orange. The free-form background, letters, and decoration are made of carefully sculpted foamboard, sprayed to the proper color. The cheese "holes" are painted on with acrylic. The free-form board was glued to the backing with craft glue, and the other stuff was stuck on with industrial-strength double-sided tape, a mainstay of our signmaking at Trader Joe's.

The general pattern will stay the same throughout all the big department signs, though the backing color will change. All the writing will be red, and there will be other bits and pieces of design appropriate to the department. I have about eight more of these to do.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Stacking Crate Geometry

This is from my illustrated 2003 journal. It was just before I took the job at Trader Joe's. I was going through a frenzy of housecleaning, for some reason, and was trying to wash even plastic openwork boxes like these, which are almost impossible to keep clean. I was studying mathematics at the time and I wondered how one could compute the surface area of one of these complex structures. In other words, I had too much time on my hands and it was my good fortune that Trader Joe's came along to take up my time in more profitable pursuits. 

I still have these boxes and they are still stacked somewhere, and I am still working at Trader Joe's. I have been living in the same apartment for 18 years and have filled it with so much clutter and packed possessions that it is driving me crazy. Would you like a plastic openwork box or two?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Techno-psionic Laboratory

This is a small Noantri psionic laboratory, one of the earliest designs of theophore architect Mereth Kahn. The dome is typical of Khemaru nouergic workrooms, which are round and domed rather than rectangular. The spire serves many purposes, including communications, navigation, and occasionally channeling extra energies into space.
Ink colored in Photoshop, about 5" x 4", from my Mereth Kahn architecture pictorial booklet; summer 2008 through present.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Mediterranean Modern

The Noantri occupy our Earth in an alternate universe. The geography of their Earth is more or less the same though their era is during an ice age where much of the northern hemisphere is covered with glaciers. Their Mediterranean, which they call simply the "Middle Sea," is the center of their civilization. This is a villa somewhere on the southern Mediterranean (our North African) coast. In their day the Middle East and North Africa are not deserts, but are lush and green. 
Original ink drawing 5" x 4", colored in Photoshop.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Julian May Fantasy Battle

I have been a big fan of Julian May's "Pliocene" and "Milieu" fantasy series since their appearance in the late 80s and early 90s. I admit that I borrowed a lot of ideas from May's world and stories. May uses psychic powers in her imaginary world, too (she calls them "metapsychic" powers) but at a much higher and more spectacular level than what I do. Her empowered characters are almost like superheroes in the amount of energy they use. And she has a lot of lavish costuming and special effects, which makes it fun to illustrate the books. This one above was done in August 1991, and depicts a grand battle between two of the most powerful characters. Dimensions are 17" x 28", acrylic on illustration board. The original is currently in a private collection in Philadelphia. My Noantri don't do stuff like this, except in their movies and other entertainments. 

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Tanheu the techno-mage

The quizzical man you see in this image is named Tanheu, full name "Tanheu Afboureh Souteth." He is an important person in my world of the Noantri, an imaginary universe that I have been making up since my youth. You will see a lot more images and words from this world on my Webspaces this year. 

I must reassure you that the Noantri world is not part of this world here. It is a made-up world. None of the people or things or places that I depict, no matter how much they resemble things on this planet, are "real" in the common understanding of "real." I am adding this disclaimer because I was astonished and embarrassed that someone I was talking to about it, thought that I was talking about something in the "real world." This is imaginary. Or perhaps better said, "imaginal," possessing its own form of imaginary artistic reality.

The Noantri universe is an "alternative universe" where things happen that can't happen in our world. Psychic powers work there, and are scientifically explainable. Most people there have some form of psychic power, even if it is modest. Some have much more, and a special group have lots and lots of powers. They are called "theophores," and they are rare. To borrow a phrase, they could be considered "techno-mages." They are trained to use their powers, usually in dedicated institutes and academies. Those who use their powers in a scientific, methodical way are called nouergists.

Tanheu is a famous theophore who is also a scientist, and he was the first in his era to re-discover the scientific basis of psychic powers. As a master of his craft, a Nouergist, he is now the director of a major Theophoric Institute in a city called Surakosai. You'll see more of him and his world as time goes on. 

I have a page devoted to the Noantri world on my main Website, and you're welcome to visit there. I will be "mirroring" that page with what I put up on this blog, so images will go up in two separate places. 

I am not switching this over totally, there will still be plenty of sketches, archival pieces, and other art by-products beside the Noantri material.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Toilet Paper Icon is Iconic

Finally....fresh, new, soft art, ready for use! I buy only the best paper for my work. And the graphic design must be satisfactory as well. No smiling babies on plastic film to rip apart, just a cartoon of an animal (bear) who is usually fierce and wild, having a happy moment with a roll and banners. Addled with coffee, I left this package in a Starbucks and the baristas there saved it for me until I could retrieve it. 

If you find any of this funny, blame Walt Taylor of "Crack Skull Bob," whose hilarious rants awakened me to the possibility of being funny on a blog rather than pretentious.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Shenandoah Twilight

Last year (2008) I took a vacation trip in January, down through the Shenandoah Valley to Tennessee and North Carolina. It was too cold most of the time to sit outside and sketch but I took lots of photographs. I painted many winter landscapes from these references when I returned. This is one of them. The Blue Ridge Mountains really are that color of intense blue, during any kind of daylight. This part of Virginia has to be one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited in the USA and I hope to be able to return there often. This painting and a few others in my "Virginia landscape" series are on display in a gallery in Staunton, Virginia. I really must go there again and check up on how they're doing. 

Acrylic on illustration board, 12" x 9".

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Stately Bygone Home

It was not so long ago that houses like this one were popping up all over urban America. Any empty space, whether forest or old farmland, would suddenly be cleared and instead of crops, would sprout these oversized dwellings which were sold before they were even built. I was part of this for many years, as I worked for people who built these luxury edifices. As an architectural illustrator, I can look at blueprints and then create a rendering of what a building is going to look like when it's done. It's an ideal world without traffic, light poles and wires, other houses close by, or bad weather. The builders commissioned me to do these idealized mansion portraits as both enticements and gifts to clients.  

How times have changed, as the saying goes. This mansion was done in 2004, when it seemed that there was no end to the trend. Now the building boom is gone and my builder friends haven't gotten a new commission in more than a year. For the time being, the luxury outbreak is over.  

Watercolor on Fabriano paper, 30" x 22", July 2004.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

More Pictorial Pricetags

Here's a second set of the "templates" from the delicatessen section of Trader Joe's, late 2003. The black ones were for Italian, Mediterranean, and Mexican items, so I did these with Italian motifs. Other sets had Mexican motifs. I did a load of miniature artworks back then, and they are all hidden away in my archives, seen by no one except me. 
Computer-printed border, drawing done with markers, each rectangle is 2 1/4" x 5 1/2". 

Monday, January 12, 2009

Pictorial Pricetags

When I was first starting out at Trader Joe's in late 2003, the company was just beginning to experiment with hand-done graphics for its smaller signs. I was invited to design decorative price tags for every category of item in the store. These price tags are called "templates" because they are reproduced (by wax-transfer laser color copies) from the prototype and left blank so that the name and price of the product can be written in. I made dozens of mini-pictorials (they are 2 1/4" x 5 1/2") each telling a bit of a visual story about its category of products. These red ones were for the delicatessen section. We had an extensive color code in the refrigerated section which assigned a different color for each type of goodie, from cheese to meats to Mediterranean specialties, Mexican stuff, and even smoked salmon. The red labels were for fancy meats. These signs started with a computer-printed border in the appropriate color and then I drew the pictorial stuff over the printed area with markers, leaving the center blank for lettering. 

We still have decorative price tags at Trader Joe's, but not in such profusion, and the designs now are much more conservative.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

First Class Auto

This drawing is dated January 12, 2001 and was done, as the inscription says, in Arlington, Virginia. It was too cold to draw outside so I sat inside a McDonalds across the street and drew the view through the window. This was once a private house but is now the office of a very low-end used car sales business. The notes say what was on the signs in the window: "No credito, mal credito, no problema. We fin." Which means, "No credit, bad credit, no problem, we finance." And then, "Buy here, pay here." The house was painted a number of garish colors over the years but this was the brightest and most glaring of all, purplish pink with bright yellow trim. I haven't been back to this place in a while so I don't know whether it is still there. Drawn in ink and colored in colored pencil.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The usual

It's too cold to sketch outside. One place remains where I can sit down and sip something and draw. The usual, please. This fashionable dame, looking good all in black, walked into my field of vision, so she was at the point of my pen. 

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Inauguration Bagel

Around the Washington area the Inauguration is the thing for now. Its effects will be felt even in Northern Virginia. My latest design for my friend Mena's snack shop "Bagels, Deli, and Donuts" celebrates the big event. Honor the new President with banners, roses, and a bagel. As always, acrylic markers on black-painted Masonite board, 30" x 20".

Cheerful Little Oranges

It's nice to have a bit of sunlight on a dreary grey January day. If sun is not available, try a miniature orange or two for a spot of cheer. I did this on Wednesday for one of Trader Joe's featured items. Clementines are sometimes considered to be a variety of "Mandarin Orange." They're also good for juggling. The "retro" ornamentation on this sign appeared in early 1960s housewares such as Formica tabletops. Uphold the illusion of bygone innocence.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Progressland at Starbucks

A change in district management has allowed the local manager of my favorite Starbucks more freedom to decorate his coffee ad board, so he invited me to resume doing theme art there. This is what I did on the board on Tuesday night. As usual, I use opaque acrylic markers. All of this futuristic architecture is taken from images of the 1964 New York World's Fair, of which I have spoken in previous postings. "Progressland" was an exhibit at the GE (General Electric) pavilion, created by Walt Disney Productions, which showed how America has made progress in electricity and energy, including fusion energy, our source for the 21st century. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Unintentional Spaceship

This spaceship is not what it seems. It is actually an unfolded cardboard box which contained a portable hard drive. I bought the hard drive to back up my files after the shenanigans that Photoshop has been pulling. Tonight I found that many of the brushes that I thought I had lost were in a file along with the other brushes that came with the software. I re-loaded these and will sort them out. However, the brushes that I personally created and named are still missing. Maybe they are somewhere. But I am not as set back as I thought. I deployed the hard drive and now my files are stashed in something I can carry about. I am still painstakingly saving old images from slides and old music off cassette tapes. All this media recovery is giving me momentary hallucinations of memories from my previous decades. This is not so good. Daydreams are banal, but memories come back to haunt you with unpleasant strength.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Emerald Palace

I've lost count of how many fantasy architecture pictures I've done. I sure have a lot of them in my image archive. I did this one back in May 2002 and sold it that month at Balticon. The architecture here is taken from Roman and other European Baroque buildings. But instead of Classical stone, these buildings in a fantasy world are made of emerald or some other shiny green material. This is definitely not Noantri New Earth, it's somewhere else. The drawing is done in green ink, with watercolor over it, on illustration board, 10" x 7". 

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Otherworld Mediterranean

I did this house some time ago (February 2008) as a practice for architectural rendering of "traditional" buildings in Photoshop. It was done with the "brushes" (by which I mean, simulated textures), which I no longer have due to the Photoshop crash and which I will have to re-create one by one. 

The house is from my imaginary world of Noantri New Earth, and was built on the shores of their Mediterranean Sea, which is our Mediterranean sea in an alternative world. It's probably in the analogue of Sicily, which is the near-island of Trinacria. The inhabitants are from a rustic tribe called the "Keilians." They retain their simple and low-technological ways even in the middle of other high-technology cultures. 

My time management has gone all to hell. Even though I only work part time, I seem to have no time to do any of my creative endeavors. Today I spent my day wandering around spending money on non-frivolous things like art materials and a portable hard drive. If I had backed up those Photoshop brushes somewhere, then I could just re-load them. Now I will be spending hours and hours of precious time re-making them. I need more time but how to get it? I am absolutely no good at getting up in the morning. I mean, it's not just a bohemian preference, I am totally useless before noon. I think it is some perverse biological thing. Thank goodness my job is in the afternoon and evening. If any of you have any ideas how I could get anything done besides my day job, feel free to volunteer a (non-sarcastic, please) suggestion. 

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Winter Twigs

This is an image of the twiggy trees out my window, done in markers in my illustrated 2005 journal. If I were to do another study of those same trees out that same window, it would look exactly the same as this one 4 years ago. Therefore if I show you art from the archive, I don't have to feel too guilty about not giving you totally fresh art like those other more active sketchers on the blogs I've cited above. Does that make any sense? It's all my art. If I didn't date it, you might never know if it was done in 1989 or 1999 or yesterday. 

In a stunning example of the perversity of Photoshop, tonight when I activated it, I found that it had "lost" all my custom brushes which I had carefully developed and maintained over the last years. Why? I ask you. Why?? Because it's Photoshop, would be the answer, and not even running on a worshipful iMac prevented this. Now I have to collect and modify 'em all over again. Rats.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Technomagical Institute

This is the first thing I drew in 2009, ink sketch colored in Photoshop. It's an illustration of a building from my imaginary world of "Noantri New Earth." This is an institute of techno-magical (psionic) study and practice, somewhere on the eastern Mediterranean shore. I am going to be drawing a lot of architecture this year, because I love designing and drawing buildings most of all. You will also see stuff from the Noantri world too, both here and at the Noantri Webpage on my main site. 

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Party People At New Year's

After a day and evening of unpleasantnesses, the less said about the better, I finally ended 2008 at a party to which I am invited each year. There was plenty of food and noise and interesting conversations. I made sketches, the way other people knit, just to have something to do with my hands. All of the people there are fantasy and science fiction fans, my tribe. It's 2009. I've made it through into another year.