Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Temporary National Condition

"A Temporary National Condition" baffles poor Eddie Willers, who is Madame Rand's version of a Common Man who is basically good-hearted but not too bright. In Randworld, government can do nothing right, especially in a crisis situation. And neither can most business, as long as it colludes with government. There are still a lot of people who think they have all the answers.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Atlas, page 7

"It's a temporary national condition," says the loathsome Jim Taggart, the weenie president of the railroad. In Rand's writing, everything is symbolic and planned. James Taggart always speaks conditionally, with "it seems to me," or "it has been said," or other evasions of plain truth. Hey, I was taught to speak like that, too, rather than make bold general assertions which were always untrue. But I don't go on like that any more. I try not to Go On at all. I just make graphic text and pictures.

I am planning to do the first few sections of "Atlas" as graphic sequential art. These sections introduce the major characters of the book, so I get to draw them. After that, I am not sure what I will choose to illustrate in the Atlas series. I have a whole lot of other projects to work on. If you want winged kittens or scantily clad babes, just speak up.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Space Stations and Hardware

Here's another one of my attempts to do a space hardware book cover. But as before, no publisher bought this for any book. I struggled with this piece from the beginning. It's inspired by the work of Paul Alexander and Vincent DiFate, as were many of my space pictures from that era, but I just didn't have any excitement in the picture. The elements are too balanced. The operating words for book cover art then, as now, are "slick" and "solid." The art directors wanted something photographically real but fantastic. Now it's easy to do that with digital art but with acrylic you had to work with it. The only part that was painted with airbrush is the background. Also, I remember being frustrated that there was no easy way to draw big mechanical ellipses (larger than a few inches wide) to indicate a circular object in perspective. Again, nowadays all of that is done in seconds with digital design tools. This is another one of my "space hardware" pieces that will take its place in the obscurity from whence it came.
"Space Summit" (its original title) was painted in acrylic on illustration board, 13" x 22", January 1986.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Atlas page 6

Eddie Willers, loyal assistant, meets the dreary and soon-to-be-sinister boss, James Taggart, to give him more bad news. Doing this graphic sequence I'm learning a lot about men's business suits, mid-century style. It's my own version of "Mad Men." But I don't even watch the show! Maybe I should, just for the fashions.
Ayn Rand Comics is ink on sketchbook paper, lettered in Photoshop, about 7" x 9".

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Tysons Mall Rotunda

I haven't been to Tysonia in a while so I decided to be a good American consumer and go there. I liberated currency in Starbucks and Barnes and Noble, paying with a gold coin that had the image of Ayn Rand stamped on it. All right, it was a Visa card, but I'm living in more than one universe these days. Well, maybe every day. Then I sat down with my cappuccino and a soft pretzel and while consuming these, did this drawing. Friday afternoons and evenings are good for mall sketching because the mall is full of people. You want the drawing to be populated. This is the first drawing in a new sketchbook, so it has to be good. I enjoy drawing malls because their inner spaces are layered and complex. The interesting "pineapple" lantern to the left near the rectangular pillar is from "Coastal Flats" restaurant. This really nice restaurant also has an anomalous white faux-carved-wood porch in front of it. But this porch, instead of being on a street in the Florida Keys, looks out on the artificially lit, swarming interior of a shopping mall.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Golden Nebula

This is actually a religious picture. Entitled "The Eternal Sunrise," it depicts a space traveler gazing into a golden nebula, which looks like a sunrise. In the early 80s, I made up ideas and stories about an order of "Space Jesuits" who would travel from world to world in their sleek black ships doing God's work. You can see one of these ships here, lower center area. It looks like an X-15 because it is made for both space and atmospheric flight. There is a tiny figure standing on the asteroid looking out at the marvelous sight. Some of the space devotees were hermit monks who spent time praying alone in hollowed-out asteroids.
"The Eternal Sunrise" is 8" x 5", acrylic on illustration board, Spring 1984.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Atlas, page 5

Page 5 of my "Atlas Shrugged" graphic sequence involved quite a lot of architectural drawing, but that's what I do best. I am really enjoying this. If I had all the time in the world, I'd make a graphic novel out of the whole book. It is so right for a graphic story format. Ink on notebook paper, about 7" x 10". Type added in Photoshop.

I consider RandWorld an alternate universe, set in about 1950. Don't expect computers, cell phones, widespread air travel, spaceships, or even television. Think of RandWorld as a variety of "steampunk," set in the grim years after World War II - which the Russians won. In Rand's own story, Europe and the rest of the world has been converted to Communism. Countries such as Britain, France, and Japan are now "People's States," while only America retains something of a capitalist economy.

Industry is on a smaller scale than we have nowadays, and the best companies are family-run enterprises bearing the family name and run by descendants of the patriarch. Railroads still dominate the transportation sector, as there are no long-distance jet plane flights nor interstate highways on which long-haul trucks can travel.

Rand was not a world-builder; she wanted to concentrate on preaching her philosophy. But here in an unspeakable future world beyond Ayn Rand's comprehension, I can illustrate it, philosophy and all.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Radiolarian Aliens

In the mid-80s I was still painting space pictures with the top part empty, hoping to have them picked up for book covers. None of them ever made it, I'm sorry to say. During that era I was very influenced by the science fiction illustrations of Paul Alexander, who worked in gouache and had a brilliant sheen to his colorful work. This painting is entitled "Radiolarians," and depicts a battle between two alien entities who are shaped like the Earth's tiny marine creatures called Radiolarians. One of them is shooting some sort of energy weapon at the other one.
"Radiolarians" is acrylic on Strathmore illustration board, 12" x 20", February 1986.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Curiosa Positronica

Remember the robot drawing I posted a couple of weeks ago here? It was for an album cover, and now the album has been released. It's called CURIOSA POSITRONICA, and it's by an ambient ensemble called "MindSpiral." Three guys play all sorts of electronic and occasionally acoustic instruments to create music which ranges widely from prog-rock instrumentals to outright chaotic noise. They are also capable of beautiful musical passages, such as the meltingly melancholy last piece on the album, "La Derniere Lemurien."

If you want to hear "Curiosa" you can download it for free at the "Earth Mantra" website. Earth Mantra is a "net-label," an online music publisher which offers downloads of music rather than sending you a plastic CD. It is maintained by one of the members of MindSpiral who played on this album, and it is a treasure trove of ambient and other experimental musical goodness. And it's all offered at no cost, there for you to explore and enjoy. When you download the "Curiosa" album you also get files for all of the graphics on the liner notes, CD cover tray, and even a round design to print on the CD, all of which you would print yourself to get a fully decorated physical album.

The members of this ensemble are Michael Metlay, who organized it all, Darrell "Palancar" Burgan, who not only manages two netlabels but is the creator and tireless maintainer of, and David K. Herpich, who creates elegant jazz-ambient under the name of "Emerald Adrift."

This cover graphic is created in Photoshop using a combination of scanned ink drawings, Victorian clip art graphics, and Photoshop digital painting and special effects. The interior graphics were adapted from other work I did for the album.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Atlas Shrugged page 4

Here's page 4 of my Rand graphic sequence. I realize that only a few of my handful of readers enjoy or have even read Rand, but I will be posting these anyway. I am excited about doing sequential art that is not tied to the European style that I have been using in the Noantri illustrations. I also like the idea of illustrating "Atlas Shrugged" even though due to severe copyright restrictions I will not be able to publish it. I'm looking forward to illustrating the industrial scenery, the railroads, and the characters who are involved with them. Ayn Rand's characters are usually considered "cardboard" or "one-dimensional" but with the adaptation of the text and pairing it with illustrations, I think I can bring these figures to life. Whether anyone wants them to be alive, is another question. I don't think John Galt would make a pleasant companion. He would always be going on about something. You want to tell him, "Shut up, capitalist messiah, and drink this beer." Maybe in my illustrations he'll get to drink it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Iconic Bacon Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich Sign

Hah! You thought "iconic" was done! But it is not! "Iconic" still appears in at least one of every two pieces of published journalistic text that I read. You'd think that editors might have realized it by now and added it to the "overused" list but no! In fact the truth is that there are no editors and the texts just get cranked out with no style checking at all.

Gold-colored paisley and floral designs complement red and orange fruit and flowers in the Fall version of the specials sign at "Bagels, Deli, and Donuts." Come enjoy a tasty snack or sandwich at this iconic Falls Church culinary institution. Located in the "Falls Plaza East" shopping center, across from Don Beyer Volvo/KIA on Route 7, Fairfax County, Virginia, USA.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Atlas Shrugged Panel 3

Atlas Shrugged, panel 3. So far I'm doing it scene by scene, but I'm hardly gonna do the whole 1000 plus pages of this epic. Most likely you'll see pieces extracted here and there, with some continuity as the scene permits. Rand was a screenwriter after all, and this book is heavily indebted to the films of the 40s and 50s. You can even see the camera angles. Here I have poor Eddie wandering through the city, wondering why things look so lousy. Failed businesses, empty storefronts, nothing topical to the current time or anything. The writing is adapted from Rand's original text. Were I to include the whole thing, there would be no room for the image. (Click on the picture for bigger image.)

Everybody laughs at Rand's writing, but there are a lot of things to admire her for. One thing that particularly stands out for me is her admiration, her exaltation of human intelligence and ability and outright competence. She values initiative and thinking and problem-solving. Her characters are passionate about it. Not only that, she implies, by the character's actions, that a person, (she would say "man," she always insisted on using the masculine for generalizing people), a competent and intelligent man would not only be competent in his own field, whether philosophy, physics, or engineering, but would be competent in anything he tried. In her book, for instance, the philosopher employed in a diner makes the best diner food that the narrator ever tasted. The industrialist landscapes and rebuilds a house in the wilderness. The application of brilliant intelligence, drive, and problem-solving ability can make any job, great or small, into a triumph. I wish this were true.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Summer Pastorale

I have wanted to paint this picture for more than a year and now I have done it. This originated in a real scene in rural Virginia. Perhaps not so rural since it was located next to a busy highway. It was risky just stopping on the side of the road to take the reference picture. But I am glad I did. The painting is called "Summer Pastorale," which in French is "Pastorale D'Ete' " and is the name of a lovely modern piece by Swiss composer Arthur Honegger.

The painting is in acrylic on illustration board, and is 17" x 14". It is my attempt to capture the ideal and idyllic quality of summer in the countryside, where warm air mutes the colors and turns distant hills blue. Crickets chirp in the golden meadows, and the only other sound is the constant traffic on the big highway that cuts was supposed to be a quiet little country lane, but you can't have everything.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Space Station over Darkover

I was doing a lot of Darkover pictures in 1985, as you may remember. This was my attempt at doing a space Darkover image. After all, the basic conflict of Marion Zimmer Bradley's series was the difference between technologically advanced, spacefaring Terrans, and the non-technological, magical human colonists of Darkover.
In this image, a space station is in orbit around the planet Darkover. The four colorful moons of the planet are all visible. I solved the problem of having only red light from the Red Sun, by inventing another light source, from another star probably a white dwarf companion.

The background was airbrushed but the planet and the space station were hand painted, in my attempt to imitate the style of master spaceship painter Vincent di Fate. As in other paintings of this era, I left the top half devoid of major compositional elements so that writing could be superimposed there. But as before, no cover was ever made from this piece. Acrylic on illustration board, 13" x 22", February 1985.

After I finished it, I realized to my dismay that the space station I designed, despite the lack of direction or weight in space, was "bottom-heavy." Not only that, it looked a lot like an old fashioned toilet plunger. Once you see that, it is the end of any serious look you will ever give this picture, which is why it will stay in the obscurity of my archives.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Modernist Quadrants

When I was very young, my family had sling chairs (also known as "butterfly" chairs) in the living room. They were the height of late 50s modernity. They looked great but once you sat in one, you could barely get out. Sometimes you had to tip over the chair to free yourself from it. Here's a modernist abstraction to go with your butterfly chairs and your free-form glass topped coffee table. Slick.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Halley Cat

In December of 1985, I prepared a series of about 50 custom made, hand-painted holiday cards to be sent out for the season. I used airbrushed acrylic on colored paper, mainly black or blue, and did a series of astronomical images such as galaxies, nebulae, or comets. Everyone on my mailing list got an original work of art! I had more time back then than I do now.

In this series were also some cards starring Halley's Comet, which was about to appear in 1986. Some had just the comet, but others had a cat silhouetted against the comet, as does the image above. The astronomical perspective could make it appear as though the cat was pawing at the long-tailed comet as if it were a mouse, or perhaps a fuzzy cosmic cat toy. The cat was a stencil that I drew and cut. I airbrushed blue paint around it on black paper. I made a number of cat comets and naturally I called it the "Halley Cat."

"Halley Cat" is 5" x 7", acrylic spray and brushwork on black paper, December 1985.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Late summer, Cambridge

Back to 1984. While I was producing space and fantasy images in my studio in Cambridge, Mass., I was also roaming my neighborhood drawing pictures of houses and street scenes in a sketchbook. I drew the sketch in brown ink, used watercolor pencil to note the colors and then added watercolor in the studio to finish the work. I did quite a number of these, on location sitting on a folding stool, before winter came and made it impossible to draw outdoors. This one is dated August 21, 1984. Ink and watercolor on sketchbook page, 5" x 9".

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Space Flower

I love gardening and plants almost as much as I love art. So I tried to combine the two with space flowers. This is a rendering of a spaceship in the form of a Columbine flower. The rear of the spaceship is towards the upper left, and is emitting a propulsion trail of green gas. This picture was done in 1985, and is acrylic on Strathmore illustration board, 12" x 21". The top is somewhat empty because I hoped that it might be bought for a science fiction book cover, and the title and writing would go there. No book cover happened, though the picture was bought by a fan in 1986.

Looking back from now at my old science fiction pictures, I think of how I could have made their compositions more exciting. This picture could have been so much better if I had done a close-up view turned more towards the viewer, with less space around it, and the attendant ships more visible and active. I'm not about to go back to this concept any time soon, though.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Man Without Pain or Fear or Guilt

You gotta have character portraits if you're doing illustrations. Rand is no exception, but she gives you a really difficult job. Who is John Galt? What does he look like? I haven't done faces in a while, and I've been poring through years and years of files, as well as Google Images, for pix of ruggedly handsome manly movie guys. Rumor was that Rand herself thought Robert Redford could play him. But Redford seems too cowboy-ish for a Midwestern working-class engineer hero. More recently, movie idol Brad Pitt has expressed an interest in the part, and I think with enough makeup and tweaking, he might be able to do it, but he isn't gonna get the chance. I think eventually only computer-generated animation will solve the problem of bringing ATLAS SHRUGGED to the big screen.

Given that, here's my sketchy rendition of J. Galt. Author Rand gives him a page-long introduction, as he gazes into the eyes of Dagny, the female lead, for the first time. "A face that bore no mark of pain or fear or guilt....arrogance, tension, and scorn," but also "serene determination of certainty, and the look of a ruthless innocence which would not seek forgiveness nor grant it." Wow, that's a hard act to work.

My sketch is inadequate to capture this, but it's only a first draft anyway. What would a person with the aforementioned qualities really look like? My drawing is a bit too pretty. And I haven't conveyed just how bad-ass John Galt is. After all, this is a guy who came up with a scheme to take all the competent and intelligent people out of key positions so that civilization would collapse! And not only that, he was able to persuade them to follow him. He's really somewhat like one of those social visionaries like John Brown the abolitionist, essentially a fanatic in a good cause. A cause which will result in many deaths, as Rand details in many scenes of her book. And I have to also mention that Galt is capable of rape, although with a "willing" partner. All this will go into a good illustration, probably in the black and white graphics I am doing.

John Galt is digitally rendered in industrial-strength Photoshop, over a quick ink drawing.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Heavy Industry

I learned to love heavy industry when I was young, from my father who was impressed with it in a sort of Socialist Realist way. I was privileged to see the steel mills of Youngstown, Ohio in 1973, before they disappeared. And I am probably one of the few people who rejoice when driving through the refinery area of Elizabeth, New Jersey on the Jersey Turnpike. I love the towers, the complexity of metal beams and tubes and platforms, the primal shapes and geometry, and of course the volcanic power of flames and furnaces and gas jets lighting up the night sky.

Madame Rand feels the same way. In ATLAS SHRUGGED she spends rapturous pages talking about the thrill of heavy industry, whether it be refineries or steel mills or railroads or mines. She has absolutely no sympathy for environmentalism; she loved smokestacks. This is, as she would put it, "the shape of Man's achievement on earth." And she meant man, not "people's." These grand, phallic structures are the work of males, through and through, from design to forging to building to operation. You don't hear that said very much. It's politically incorrect. And yet the macho power of heavy industry resonates throughout Rand's book. Rand visited steel mills doing her research for the book, but she portrayed them not so much as engineering but as a kind of artistic symbol for the brilliant industrial achievements she exalted. It's not socialist's capitalist fantasy.

I did this picture in that busy year of 1984, 25 years ago. It shows new rockets being moved through a giant assembly structure. This structure, of course, is not really a rocket assembly. It's gantries and transporters from a steel mill. I have a large library of books about heavy industry, filled with exciting pictures of these complex structures. The design is deliberately retro, even for the 80s. If you look closely (click on the picture for a somewhat larger version) you can see tiny figures moving about in the metal network, going about their business. Painting is acrylic on illustration board, 14" x 18".

25 years later, there is hardly any of this earth-shaking heavy industry left in the USA. It's all in China or India or some other ambitious place that doesn't mind danger and pollution. I'm not sure just what kind of capitalist fantasy we could have in 2009. Web 2.0? Video games? Sustainable energy from biomass? Software? Where are the girders, the great wheels, the mighty engines? Where are the hardhats? Where are the flames in the night? Atlas is poking away at computer code, lit by a pale, flickering screen in the darkness.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Literary Robot

Even artificial android intelligences want to read books. This one is perusing ATLAS SHRUGGED and wondering why Ayn Rand did not include robots in her story. Or perhaps she did. Illustration for an album cover still in progress, ink on bristol board, 7" x 5 1/2".

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Dark Planet

By 1984 I had switched to acrylic and also had a finer-spraying airbrush which allowed me to do nice space scenes and special effects. From the number of artworks which I am cataloguing from that year, it seems I was quite busy in 1984. Part of this was that I was preparing a show for the 1984 World Science Fiction Convention in the Los Angeles area so I was making art that would be suitable for a large audience.

This piece is originally titled "Dark Contemplation," a title taken from the literature of Christian mysticism. I was quite fascinated by that in those years, and I read some of the great texts such as Saint John of the Cross, the Byzantine Saint Symeon, and the anonymous "Cloud of Unknowing." But as I can admit now, I was more interested in the phenomena of altered consciousness and mystical visions presented in these authors, than actually following that mystical path myself. I was no good at meditation or humility, and I had no impulse to help my fellow human beings in charitable work. Yet those texts were really inspiring to me when it came to images, and I guess they still are.

"Dark Contemplation" is dated April 1984. It is acrylic on illustration board and is 8" x 8". It was sold at LA-Con 1984 for a very modest sum.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Feeling Purple Tonight

Reach for the stars, purple rays! Be ultraviolet tonight...The stars are shining mercilessly, but you are stronger than they are. Your reason and will can overcome gravity! Energy radiates from excited electrons. There is a direction to your radiance, as long as you know you can control it. Aim for the stars, purple ray, be ultraviolet in the long night. And happy birthday, Tanheu.

Photoshop, one of the "K-series" abstractions.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Atlas Shrugged Graphic page 2: The Mysterious Panhandler

In the opening scene sequence of Ayn Rand's ATLAS SHRUGGED, one of the main characters is walking forlornly down a twilight New York street when a mysterious beggar approaches him for a handout. The dialogue in the scene is essentially what I've illustrated here. The character hands the beggar a dollar (in Rand's time, that was a dime) and walks on.

I have thought about this scene as if I were re-writing it or possibly directing the "unfilmable" movie of this book. It occurred to me that there was something mysterious about this beggar. Rand says that he had "intelligent eyes," which could mean that he might not be what he looked like. I don't think Rand would have had this in mind, but I believe that that beggar was really John Galt himself in disguise. Throughout the book, Galt has been hanging around in the shadows, spying on the main characters, hoping to eventually recruit them for his movement. Galt also has some of the qualities of the pulp-written adventurers that Rand read so much of in her youth, kind of like an industrial Doc Savage. It would be kind of neat if Galt, the towering hero of the book, appeared on the first page as well as the last.

I've brought that out in the illustration, or tried to; John Galt had a kind of superhuman beauty, power, and charisma, not to mention engineering genius. Not even stubble and dirty makeup or the disheveled garments of a street vagrant could completely cover up his aura. More to come in my graphic experiments with Randworld.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Post Number 500: Retro Space

From the same 1950s era that brought us glitzy motel signs, tailfins on cars, and rock 'n' roll, came colorful streamlined spaceships and rockets that looked like rockets. Even though they didn't have to go through an atmosphere. Here we are landed on some barren moonlike planet close to the center of our galaxy. The astronauts have silver spacesuits and perfect hair. I hope they have enough fuel, and a strong enough spacewarp, to get home.

I painted this in gouache on illustration board, 8" x 7", February 1984.

This is my 500th post to "Art By-Products." I'm a persistent blogger that's for sure.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Atlas Shrugged: First image

As some of you know, I have been re-reading Ayn Rand's ATLAS SHRUGGED in a rather bits-and-pieces way, with the idea of illustrating some sequences from the book in a graphic novel style. I have been experimenting with another graphic illustration style, currently known as the "noir" style since it takes its inspiration from film noir. Rand was a screenwriter for Hollywood movies and she wrote ATLAS during the heyday of the film noir style. I think the graphic novel format can work for visualizing Rand's extremely wordy book.

I wouldn't try to do long sections, let alone the whole book. Ayn Rand's books are under serious copyright rules and any commercial publication of illustrations would involve a lot of legal negotiation. Any sequential art I do from ATLAS SHRUGGED (or other work of Rand's) is purely in the realm of experimentation. I've always wanted to to character portraits and concept studies as well, so you will see them here.

This scene is the very first scene in the book, where Eddie Willers, the assistant to the main character, walks on a New York street wondering why things look so bad. A homeless man (the shadow to the right) asks him for spare change. More of this sequence forthcoming. Drawing is ink on notebook paper, 6" x 7".

Friday, September 4, 2009

Commercial building, Route 7

Route 7 in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, is also known as Leesburg Pike. It goes all the way from Alexandria, on the waterfront, to Leesburg, well into the foothills of the Appalachians. It is one of the busiest thoroughfares in the region and has innumerable shopping centers, office and commercial buildings, and residential complexes along its path.

This is a drawing of one of the commercial buildings on Route 7. It currently houses a Mattress Discounters. You can see some vague reflections of the "futuristic" designs of the 1960s in this structure, with its slanted roof and dormer, its solid portico also with a slanted roof at the left end of the drawing, and the stacked up sign, now in disrepair, at the apex of the roof. I drew this on location, ink in sketchbook, about 10" x 7".

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Steam-driven Photoshop

Some of my handful of readers have heard of "steampunk," which I mentioned in a couple of earlier posts. Basically, it's "neo-Victorian" or even "neo-Industrial" science fiction. The concept is an alternative world where technology consists of gears, dirigibles, pre-digital media and primitive but beautifully designed electric instruments. Graphic designers have been busy creating Photoshop "brushes" (like digital rubber stamps) of gear patterns and other Steampunky industrialia. Here's a composition using some of them. It's a study for a larger graphics project I'm working on, an album cover for an ambient band's upcoming release. Photoshoppe is the medium, marshalling all those electrons into glowing order.

I'm working in a much higher resolution than I usually do, and it gives my iMac the vapors. In fact, a lot of things, such as music synthesizer software (the disparagingly named "GarageBand") give this supposedly powerful computer the vapors. The machine slows down and gets wonky and I have to stop and let it cool down. I'll just have to consider it one of those pieces of pretty but fragile electrical equipment that glimmer inside hand-blown bulbs surrounded by brasswork.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Message from Cloudworld

This is one of the best space pictures I've ever painted, even though it was tiny. It's called "A Message from Cloudworld," and I did it in February of 1984 as part of my annual art display at the group show at Boskone, the Boston science fiction convention. It's done with my airbrush, and I'm still using gouache. That difficult medium was once much more popular among space artists and science fiction illustrators, but is now almost completely out of use. Some artists still use acrylic and oil in actual paint media, but most science fiction and fantasy illustration is now done digitally. "Cloudworld" depicts just what the title suggests, a flash of light in a message pattern coming off the surface of a mysterious little planet near a nebula. It's not illustrating any specific story.

Not only was this picture a nice one, it also was unusually successful at Boskone. Paintings in the show are all at auction, where people bid up the value from a basic "minimum bid." My minimum for this picture was only $10, but it ended up going for more than $100 as two or more collectors fought over it. This is unusual for my art, and it has hardly ever happened again at any of my shows. I have no idea where this piece is now, though I do have the name and an old address of the buyer.

"A Message from Cloudworld" is 9" x 7", gouache on illustration board, February 1984.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


This is a drawing of a Ring-tailed Lemur playing a tin whistle. The lemur is not playing a didgeridoo, but I like the idea of it hence a "lemuridoo." There are no lemurs in the wild in Australia where didgeridoos originated. I just made this drawing as part of an album cover I am doing for an ambient trio's upcoming music release. One of the band members just loves lemurs, hence this musical critter. "Lemuridoo" is ink on Bristol board, about 6" square.