Friday, July 31, 2009

Space Warp with Craft

I really like blue stuff, almost as much as I like orange stuff. Here's a blue spacewarp with yellow accent, painted in 2004. It's acrylic on illustration board, 14" x11". I showed it at Balticon where it was bought by one of my faithful collectors. Some people didn't like that I put a spaceship in it. They want pure abstraction with space elements. This geometric-space style of mine isn't my favorite thing to do, despite its popularity with my more sophisticated collectors.

This may come as a surprise but I really don't have any great inspirational need to "express myself" in my art. I regard each painting as an interesting problem to solve, and often nothing more than that. Once I've solved the problem, then the painting has no more interest to me and should be sold. The art that comes closest to actually meaning something to me is my Noantri and architectural art, and I haven't done enough of that lately.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sky Study

The skies over Northern Virginia this summer have been filled with wonderful cloud formations. There is everything from mathematically tiled and regular Altocumulus, to ethereal Cirrus. And of course there are the big puffy Cumulus clouds, rising up into Cumulonimbus thunderheads. These clouds look edible, like cauliflowers or whipped cream or big scoops of ice cream. The sky is enriched by layers of clouds at different heights in which all these "species" can be seen.

Every time I see these clouds I want to paint pictures of them, but when I see them I'm at work or somewhere which is inconvenient for painting or drawing. So I did this image from memory. It's not Photoshop, it's acrylic on blue paper, meant to be nothing more than a quick sketch attempting to set down the wonder and majesty of a summer cloudscape. Size is 10" x 7".

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Time Traveler Freak Out

I just did this drawing as an illustration for a friend's "fan-fiction" story set in the Deryni world of Katherine Kurtz. It will be privately published in a small-circulation fan magazine. In the story, a modern girl is magically transported to another universe and back in time to the Middle Ages of Kurtz' books. She has to find her way back as well as discover her own magical powers. This picture shows her awakening and realizing that she is far, far from home and stuck a thousand years in the past, at which point she becomes hysterical. The man trying to restrain her is the Deryni Healer, Rhys Thuryn, whom she becomes attracted to despite the fact that he is a happily married man. This is the first installment of two or three, so the story is only partially told. Drawing is ink on Bristol board, 8" x 10".

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Artisan Breads Fresh Daily

I haven't posted much Trader Joe's art these days. Some of that absence was due to my vacation in the mountains, but another reason is that most of the major sign art I was doing is finished and there isn't much room for more. So most of what I do now at Trader Joe's is plain lettering, whether on miniature price tags or on bigger signs like this one, advertising our handmade artisan bread. Which is delicious by the way. This sign, in acrylic spray paint and markers on foamboard, is about 24 inches wide.

I have been working at Trader Joe's long enough so that I have to re-create signs when the prevailing style and theme of the decor changes. I painted this version of the "artisan bread" sign in 2005, when our decor was not mid-Twentieth Century but late Nineteenth Century, "country store" style. I liked this sign so much that when it was decommissioned, I claimed it and took it home for my collection. It is still on my wall after four years. This sign is 22 1/2" x 16 1/2", and it is acrylic on Masonite. The newer sign probably will not last as long as the older sign, being on a lighter and more fragile material. I often see my signs destroyed, or thrown out when they are no longer useful.

Monday, July 27, 2009

More Modernism

Sipping martinis by the pool in Palm Springs, I'm so cool I astonish myself. How did I know my style would be ripped off by irony-laden graphic designers fifty years later? We all knew what the future was gonna look like. Freeways and soaring viaducts...we got'em. Videophone hookups? We got'em. I'm fascinated by the olive in my drink. Should I eat it? Look at that babe with the silver boots. I know I'm in the future now.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ramparts Panels

I finished page 41 of my graphic novel, titled THE FLAMING RAMPARTS. I have been working on this sequential epic for ten years now. It is a story about an erupting volcano, the geologists who work on it, and a psychic adept who uses his powers to do geological research. In these panels, you see the interior of a psychic workshop where two researchers (standing) have just concluded a secret mission. The adept's apprentice, in the light jacket, is in the foreground complaining about the smell. That is volcanic sulfur gas which you can see floating in the air behind him.

Someday I'll publish this, but I still have a long way to go and it's hard to find time to work on it.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lackey Herald in Costume

I told you earlier that I had created a number of pieces illustrating the "Valdemar" books of Mercedes Lackey, and that they were all garbage. Well, I found one that isn't too dreadful. This one, titled "Herald in Splendor," was finished in September of 1991. Ink and watercolor, 7" x 10". Earlier that year I had attended CostumeCon (as I did this year) and I had photographed a costumer wearing a Renaissance outfit. He and his garb were my model for this picture. The "Heralds" of Lackey's books dress all in white and ride magic white horses to whom they are permanently telepathically bonded, and they have these cute mental conversations with them. Say no more.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sandwich Summer Design

The summer design for Mena's bagel, sandwich, and doughnut shop uses "Oriental" Art Deco motifs. There is no red in the composition, because I wanted to keep the color scheme cool. The store was full of lunch eaters when I did this sign. As always, it's done in chalk-ink markers on a prepared Masonite board, 30" x 20".

Thursday, July 23, 2009

K-Series Improvisation 6

Enough of these realistic sketches of grubby downtown corners. Here's the latest in my "K-series" Photoshop improvisations. Jazzy shapes bounce around a spacey rectangle, while a Noantri inscription appears on a reddish right angle. I don't know what it says. Maybe it's an ad for something.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Craftsman Auto

Here's another sketch of a business place on industrial Gordon Road. This is Craftsman Auto, a car repair and body shop. There is (or was) a Masonic emblem on the front of the garage, alluding to the "fellow-craftsmen" of Masonic brotherhood. This drawing was done in August 2003, and is about 5 inches square. I was testing out a new set of markers, which contained "natural" foliage green tones. Those are the hardest colors to find in markers.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Industrial Summer

I take my bottles and papers to a recycling center in a small industrial area of Falls Church, down a street called "Gordon Road." Throughout the years I have done lots of drawings of the business and utility buildings on this road. There is a concrete plant, Falls Church road maintenance machines and sheds, Dixie Sheet Metal with their ten-foot-tall sheet metal cowboy, and "Home Paramount" exterminators. All of these have gotten attention from me in drawing or photography.

I love small industrial areas, especially in the summer, where they rest, dusty and inactive in the sun, while cicadas provide natural machine noise in the background.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Goodbye Poplar Hill

The next day, the last day of my vacation trip, was brilliant and clear and sunny. After a home-cooked breakfast, I wandered in the meadow grounds looking at birds and flowers, and getting soaked with dew. The check-out time was leisurely and I stayed until early afternoon, making this drawing on the porch. This is the last drawing in my vacation series: ink and colored pencil, about 8" x 10".

I keep thinking about the Inn on Poplar Hill, with a kindly innkeeper whose wish is to make you, the guest, relaxed and happy. If there is a Heaven, I hope it is like this, with God as an innkeeper rather than the harsh judge the Scriptures describe. I'd go back here in any season. But I had to leave Central Virginia Heaven and return to Tysons Corner Edge City, which is not like Heaven at all.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Parlor on Poplar Hill, Orange VA

I spent the evening of July 4 on the outskirts of Charlottesville, at a Hampton Inn. Charlottesville was filled with patriotic tourists doing Jefferson tours, and also populated by lots of preppy youths, students at UVA in one form or another. I didn't see the town itself, but outside the town there are miles and miles of shopping centers, sprawling businesses and office buildings, and housing developments. I was told that Trader Joe's was finally going to put a store in one of these shopping centers, after years of begging by Charlottesville residents. But this may not be really happening, I hear denials from the management. I heard fireworks explosions from my room at night and I rushed out to the parking lot to view a nice half-hour pyrotechnic display just over the trees, along with a small crowd of guests and passers-by.

July 5 was a rainy day. I wonder whether the Morgan drivers did their rallye and car agility contest in the wet weather. I left Charlottesville and drove around central Virginia in the mist, visiting antique stores and the excellent Lovingston Cafe, a brave gourmet restaurant serving urban-style food to folks in the little town of Lovingston, which has not yet been gentrified.

I then looped back toward Charlottesville and passed by it moving toward the central Virginia town of Orange. Orange, as you all know, is my favorite color, but Orange, Virginia is not such a bright place. It is an old industrial town which is only in the early stages of transforming into a modern place. I drove around but found no inn or motel, until I went back the way I came and happened upon a bed and breakfast place called "The Inn on Poplar Hill." This place had a porch, and gardens, and cats. It was just perfect. A kindly innkeeper welcomed me in and informed me of the amenities in this gracious place. It was like being welcomed into a friend's house as a personal guest.

Later in the evening I tiptoed downstairs from my "Secret Garden Room" to draw the parlor of this nineteenth-century house, while I sipped some chamomile tea. I had the weird feeling that I had somehow secretly sneaked into a private house, and I didn't want to wake the family who lived there.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Morgan cars, Staunton VA

I didn't do any art on July 3. Instead I drove up and down mountain ranges on the exciting and historic "Parkersburg-to-Staunton" road. I crossed back into Virginia and visited the attractive mountain town of Monterey before I arrived at Staunton, where my friends were waiting for me.

My friends, a fantasy author and her husband, live a gracious life in the town of Staunton, which is pronounced "Stanton," for some unknown Virginia linguistic reason. The weekend I was visiting, that is July 4th weekend, they were hosting a get together, show, and rally for Morgan cars and the cars' owners. My hosts had one of these vehicles and it was in the show too. On July 4th, they closed off one of the main streets of Staunton and lined up almost 50 colorful, well-kept Morgan cars for the public to admire. Morgan cars are hand-built English sportscars, filled with charm. They are small and they don't go very fast. To me, they look like something that Snoopy would drive. Their virtue is not in macho speed and noise but in agility and good looks. They compete in time trial rallyes and maneuvering contests. I drew some of the cars and met their owners.

Staunton is very quickly getting to be an upscale tourist destination. I ate gourmet food there, a sure sign that things are changing. It is no longer a quiet country place. Later that day I left Staunton and proceeded through the countryside to Charlottesville.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Country Store Porch, Bartow WV

I spent my second day in remote, quiet Bartow making pictures. After I completed my watercolor in the restaurant, I took my sketchbook and went across the street to a tiny store, "Edith's Produce," which served the neighborhood. There are a lot of these little stores in the Appalachian area, run by one person or family (in this case, Edith) and stocking basic things that residents and tourists want, everything from milk and canned vegetables to live bait. This one had a small porch out front, where visitors could sit on rickety, mismatched chairs under a roof. That day there was nothing to shade from, just cold and damp but I sat outside anyway to draw this scene.

I love country stores and always have loved them, but they are disappearing in the current economy. I guess rural dwellers will now have to drive miles and miles to the nearest Wal-mart for their supplies. In a few weeks, this one will have lots of fresh produce from the area to display, and it seems to be surviving just for now.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

West VA Watercolor

Though it was the middle of summer, my "hermitage" at Bartow, West Virginia was downright cold. That was because the area was at least 2800 feet in elevation, perhaps more if you counted from the hillsides. That's fairly lofty, at least for the eastern USA. I had brought a hoodie sweatshirt and a rain parka, and I wore them both with the hood up and was still cold. So drawing outdoors wasn't something I wanted to do for very long. Instead I asked the hotel's restaurant workers whether I could use one of their tables to paint from, since the place had a nice view. The restaurant was closed from after lunch until early evening, so they allowed me to paint there. This is the result. It's a faithful rendering of the view from the road, complete with barn and field and wooded hills. If you look closely just at the front tip of the barn's pointed roof you can see tiny dark brown cattle grazing in the field. Gray clouds rolled across the sky all day. This painting was done all on site and is 11" x 8" on watercolor paper. It was the only watercolor I painted during my entire journey.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rain and Clouds, West Virginia

Elkins, West Virginia is a town that has figuratively been squashed flat by the current Deprecession. The downtown area is filled with empty storefronts and absent businesses. There are probably richer, better-kept areas of town but I didn't see them. I left Elkins quickly and went back into the countryside, up into the mountains. As the clouds darkened, I reached Bartow, a tiny but historic village at an old nineteenth-century crossroads. At Bartow was the Hermitage Motel, which was just what I was looking for. I booked two nights there and settled in just before I heard the rumble of distant thunder. I drew the color sketch, and the small brown ink drawing, while sitting in the porch in front of my room. Rain followed.

The field you see in the color sketch is not cultivated in rows; the stripes are the tracks left by a lawnmower. Despite the wet weather I roamed around the motel grounds, enjoying the fresh mountain air. This was the forest refuge I was seeking in my travels, filled with birds and greenery.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

After the Rain, Elkins WVA

After Old Fields I went north and west into the center of the state to reach Elkins. This was another town on the map which enjoyed a lot of storms, as I observed on the weather readout. Sure enough, as I journeyed there through rural valleys, the clouds turned dark and I rode through heavy rain. By the time I got to Elkins, an old railroad town, the rain was stopping.

I turned in at one of my favorite motels, a Hampton Inn which was newly built on a commanding height above the commercial strip. In earlier days, a "robber baron" would have put his ostentatious castle on this site. The view from the room over the valley was spectacular. I drew these scenes of the departing storm from my window. (Click on image for a larger view.) As the clouds parted, glorious rays of sunlight shone forth over the darkened mountains, until the sun set. I tried to capture the ever-changing colors of the sunset and clearing sky. After the epiphany was over, I went and had dinner at a Quizno's Sub shop.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Old Fields Evening, West Virginia

I stayed in a motel near Old Fields the night of June 29. This motel was in the same serene landscape, and across the street was a barn and farmland that was perfect for drawing. I did this sketch in ink and colored pencils, as the sun was low on the horizon. Evening light adds to the pastoral dream of sunlit fields, long shadows, and distant lavender hills. I suspect that if I ever had to spend time working at a real farm, I would lose all my love of pastoral scenes.

This barn and the beautiful scene is possibly doomed, anyway, because the motel site and the road are on "Corridor H," a massive road development planned for the eastern part of West Virginia, in the hopes that easier travel will bring prosperous tourists and developers to the state. The motel was filled with construction workers who were working on a big overpass just a few hundred yards away. The "Corridor H" project, though, is rather like nuclear fusion power. They say that progress is being made, and soon the project will make real power, but it never quite happens.

Throughout my travels I appreciated these beautiful pastoral scenes and quiet villages, knowing that the people in them probably are desperate to get out and come to the big city and get a paying job. Farms and quaint houses and little villages are "packaged" for people like me, visitors from the city with money (or a sketchbook) in their laptop backpacks.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Old Fields, West Virginia

I went to Old Fields, West Virginia because of its name and because it was always on the weather map when I looked at the online Weather Channel Doppler readout. It took me a while to find it because there wasn't much of a village there, just a gas station, a church, and some houses. It was originally named "Indian Old Fields," and it is one of the few level places in West Virginia. Because of that, people had been farming its flat valley land for centuries. I made this colored pencil drawing while parked in a church parking lot. I have found that these parking lots are empty except for Sunday and are not locked up or defended, so I can park there and make a sketch. The view was pastoral and peaceful, a bright green sunlit pasture with fresh rolls of golden hay strewn about. I could look at this place for hours, watching the light and clouds changing. Somehow, I don't feel any desire to look at the traffic at Tysons Corner for hours, even though it also changes.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Scenic View, West VA

I crossed into West Virginia and higher ranges of Appalachians. I did this drawing at a "scenic overlook" by the side of the road. The sky was brilliant blue and full of puffy fair-weather clouds. The shadows of the clouds make an ever-changing green and blue patchwork quilt on the forested mountainsides.
Drawing is in colored pencil, about 7 inches wide.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Green Field in Sunlight Virginia

The next day, June 29, I headed west from Strasburg into the hills. Soon I encountered the Woodbine Farm Market, a place so new and fresh that it had not yet attained the weathered and dusty quality which makes country stores so appealing. Yes, nowadays even farm markets and country stores have nicely designed Websites. I sketched this view of the field, trees, and hills across from the Woodbine Market while sitting on the tailgate of my car. Throughout my trip sketches you will find me struggling to perfectly render the colors I see in landscape and building, using colored pencils. There are fields that are really this green, under a sky really this clear, with real hills this blue in the distance.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Strasburg, Virginia back yard

I spent some of the evening of my first day out, doing a drawing of the back yard behind the Hotel Strasburg in Strasburg, VA where I stayed. These are historic houses from the late 19th century. The white one on the right belongs to the Hotel Strasburg and contains suites. I was sitting on a porch in the back of the main building. The Hotel Strasburg is one of the cutest places I have ever stayed. The lobby and all the guest rooms are done up in Victorian style. There is also a gourmet restaurant in the hotel. I hope I can go back there soon. I never get enough porches.

The drawing is done in ink and colored in with colored pencils, size is about 8 1/2" x 10".