Friday, December 31, 2010

Cosmic Transfiguration

In 1987-1988 I did a lot of cut-paper religious images. They are the "orthodox" version of my Kabbalistic angels. I would airbrush the background, draw the figure and colored pieces, trace and cut them out, and affix them to the background with glue. This was a laborious process but I wanted the smooth color blends and the sharp edges and flat colors of the cut paper. But none of this was permanent. The color coating of the paper wore off or flaked off when bent or scraped. And the iridescent paint I used did not keep its metallic shine, but tarnished. I tried making some larger versions of these in cut and glued felt, but that, too, faded and disintegrated. So when digital art came around, in the form of CorelDraw, I was thrilled because I could do these shapes and blends without having to precision-cut paper. But I didn't have a computer in 1988, and I wouldn't have one till 1991.

This piece is a modernist version of the Transfiguration of Jesus, which is recounted in the Gospels (for instance, Luke 9:28). I eliminated the figures of Moses and Elijah, and dressed Jesus in a spacesuit instead of robes. The transfigured Christ is a white silhouette, more abstract than usual representations, standing on a planet about to be redeemed. A star-halo (restored by Photoshop) is behind his head.

"Cosmic Transfiguration" is cut paper on an airbrushed illustration board background, 9" x 12", January 1988.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Face Study

I did a digital face study. My model is from one of the excellent "Art Models" series of books which are full of draw-able people posing in interesting positions. This is the first time I've done a face in Photoshop. Original resolution is 300 dpi. I worked carefully on the eyes, nose, and mouth, trying to get the drawing and modeling right. I didn't draw it in pencil first and I did not trace, I copied by eye drawing on my tablet, from the model photo on the screen. I know that this drawing is rather flat and doesn't have enough shadow and light, but I am going to work on that. The next model photo collection from "Art Models" will be "The Female Figure in Shadow and Light." Which sounds a bit mystical but it is just what I need.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Paper Cherubim

Here's another of my occult angels from the Highfield book. This one is a Cherubim, or more accurately, a Cherub though the word "cherub" is now used to describe those pudgy baby angels with tiny wings. A "real" or mythologically correct Cherub has a flaming sword and guards the way back to Eden, among other biblical guardianships. This one follows the image making instructions in the book. Since a majority of its body parts were deemed "masculine," I made this a male figure. He still has the grey-green legs and olive-green feet of any angel whose name ends in "-im."

I've done a little Photoshop work to this piece. The flaming sword was made from red foil and the metallic glint did not show up in the photograph. So I improvised a red flaming texture and re-created the sword. I also added a few little whitish specks, or stars, to the dark lower background.

"Cherubim" is cut paper and foil paper on an acrylic-painted background, 7" x 10", January-February 1987.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Revisiting Enlil and Ramparts

Some of you may remember Enlil, the master techno-mage from my imaginary Noantri World. I have been working on a graphic novel starring Enlil for more than 10 years. I leave it, come back, do some work on it, go away again, and then come back. This upcoming year I am determined to make some serious progress on it. The story is fairly simple: the Techno-mage (or in my terminology, "nouergist" or "theophore,") has been working with geologists on a restless volcano that shows signs of being about to erupt. But the geologists mistrust him and reject him after an accident on the volcano's summit. Enlil uses his powers to secretly teleport a geologist to the site for further observation. Here, he is mustering the interdimensional energies which will create a teleportation gateway.

The title of the tale is "The Flaming Ramparts." I currently have 41 pages of the story done and have just started on page 42. I expect the whole thing to be about 80 pages; graphic novel size. These three panels are from page 37. Art is ink and watercolor on Fabriano illustration board, about 4 1/4" x 9 " altogether. I think that after this chapter is done I will continue to draw the art by hand with ink pens, but will color it with Photoshop. The option will remain for me to color it with watercolor later.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Tibetan Master

Ever since the British colonialists "discovered" Tibet and fought for it in the "Great Game" of Central Asian geopolitics, Tibet has been a mystical and mythical resource for occultists in the West. The Theosophists of the late 19th century based a lot of their teachings on what they thought was esoteric Buddhism from Tibet. Madame Blavatsky, the founder of Theosophy, claimed to have traveled in Tibet and learned from Tibetan Masters. Alice Bailey, another occult leader in the Theosophical tradition, derived her doctrines from an astral connection to a person known as "The Tibetan," later named "Djwal Khul." Tibetan Masters are part of the Theosophical corps of World Masters who live in inaccessible places but nevertheless send forth their influence into the world. The explorer Alexandra David-Neel wrote fascinating tales of her travels in real Tibet. And later on, there were the writings of life in "Mystic Tibet" of the irrepressible "Lobsang Rampa," actually an Englishman who had never been to Tibet at all.

As an esotericist I was naturally fascinated by Mystic Tibet, since I was also fantasizing about psychic powers which were supposed to be part of the lives of lamas and devotees, even of the general public in that remote land. I wanted there to be Masters, both in the East and the West. Since I hadn't found any real Masters, I made them up. This one is a portrait of an idealized Tibetan Master. There are some authentic details in the picture that I copied from old photos of Tibetan lamas and devotional spaces. I added the halo and the light around the hands, to show that Tibetans could have special powers.

Many years later I met and observed real Tibetans when a number of Tibetan families moved into my neighborhood. Though Grandma wore colorful native dress, I did not detect any psychic abilities among my neighbors. They just seemed like one more of the myriad ethnicities who populate my general area. They adapted quickly to the new country. One driver, referencing a Tibetan beast of burden, had a vanity plate on his SUV that said "MY YAK."

"Tibetan Master" is watercolor and ink on illustration board, 9" x 11", January 1988.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Puppy

He isn't my puppy, I didn't receive him for Christmas. But my friends did (actually, a week before Christmas), and when I went over their house on Christmas Day they asked me to bring my sketchbook so I could sketch the new member of their family. The dog's name is "Buster Brown" and he is a pitbull-boxer-other mix. He was abandoned in southern Virginia and my friends adopted him from a shelter. The brown and white pup is full of energy but enjoys cuddling with his people, which is where I drew him. He'll grow into a big dog soon enough.

I didn't have a bad Christmas Day, though I thought I was going to. There were friends and pets and lots of food. Now comes the snow.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Solstice Eclipse

I had nothing to give my friends for Christmas. They have everything and it just seems ordinary to give them goodies from Trader Joe's. But they like my art, so why not give them art. I didn't have any art that I could give them, so I made some. Originally I thought to make three different "artist trading cards," these miniature paintings on little 3 1/2" x 2 1/2" cards. But then I thought, why not make one piece that is 3 of these cards together, and divide it up after I'm done? So I did this geometric abstraction, based on recent astronomical events. On the Winter Solstice we had a total lunar eclipse. This piece features the big round Earth, in light blue, shadowing the Moon which is dark red, to the right of center.

After I did the long piece, which is 10 1/2 inches by 2 1/2 inches, I decided not to cut up the original into three parts. Instead I scanned it, cleaned it up in Photoshop, and printed it in three sections corresponding to the size of three artist trading cards. I'll trim those to size, and that is what I will give for a holiday gift...along with the original for their own collection.

Here's one of the trading card sections:

"Solstice Eclipse" is 10 1/2 " x 2 1/2", mixed media on Fabriano illustration board, December 24-25, 2010.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Astral Journey

I did a lot of dreadful New Age art in the 1980s. I am finding it now in my slide files when I transcribe them to digital format. Most of these slides are also in poor condition, covered with dust and fibers and faded to a murky dimness. Or perhaps it was my bad photographic skills back then. But the Marvels of Modern Technology March On, and I can do all kinds of Photoshop magic to retrieve the image from its deteriorated state. This one, for instance. In order to get the sunlight to reflect off the iridescent paint on the ribbon around the figure, I had to tilt the painting quite a lot. I had a tilted image in the photo. But now with Photoshop's "Lens Correction" filter, I was able to put the painting back into a proper rectangular shape. This is one of the better examples of the bad new age art I did back then, so probably worth saving, at least for me.

"Astral Journey" is acrylic on illustration board, 8" x 10", June 1988.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pin-up Attempt with Fantasy

My friends challenged me to move beyond schematic simple figure drawings and create a pin-up girl for the By-Product. Well here she is, Miss Fantasy December, with an I.O.U. for the dragon. I found her image in "Art Models 5," a book of helpful nude model photographs designed especially for artists. This is sort of a transitional piece between Photoshop-colored line drawings which I am sort of familiar with, and fullly rendered two-dimensional Photoshop figures, which I haven't done yet. Photoshop keeps getting out of hand, and I find the Wacom tablet slippery and difficult to get precise with. Nevertheless, this whole thing was done digitally without a pencil or pen drawing as a base. I didn't trace the image, I drew it while looking at the paper copy in the book, because unfortunately the DVD with all the pictures on it, that came with "Art Models 5," doesn't work. That was disappointing but here it is, this is my art adventure for tonight.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ambient Doodle

I did this while listening to ambient-electronic music. Photoshop makes it easy to do interesting things with repeating shapes. I suppose I could do the same thing in conventional paint by preparing rubber stamps and trimmed brushes. Some people might say that abstract Photoshop art is like ambient electronic music: aimless, toneless, and repetitive. But hey, I'm giving you a break from my sucky figure drawings, right?

Photoshop, 7" x 10", some sort of doodle, December 21, 2010.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Figure dancers

The idea in my current self-administered course is not to become a good figure draw-er from life, since I have little opportunity to draw from real life models. The goal is to draw decent figures from my mind and memory. These are copied from Hart's book, and are attempts at drawing figures in graceful motion. You can see some of the geometric construction lines that underlie drawings from memory. Ideally, I want to be able to draw the human figure in any possible position, without using a model.

The question is, who am I drawing pictures of, and why? Pin-up girls, yes, and barbarian warrioresses, sure. Elf maidens, on request. But "real" people, no. "Real" people, the ones who work with you or sell you stuff or fill the aisles of stores and malls, don't look like models, don't look like elves, and don't look like barbarian swordwielders. They slouch, they drag, they shamble. They are not graceful. And they won't be in fantasy illustrations. It would be kinda cool though if suddenly everyone in a mall turned into a fantasy figure. Everyone would be about a foot taller, the guys would have the bodies of football players, and all the women would be wearing tiny bikinis and have big round boobs. And all the women would have natural flaming red hair! Ah, what a dream. Now back to the drawing board, boring drawings or not.

Monday, December 20, 2010


I did an unusual series of artworks in 1987. This was at the height of my interest in occultism and esotericism. The "Book of Celestial Images" by A.C. Highfield continued to inspire art based on his esoteric visualizations. This image above is one of those visualized figures. It is an angel of the order of the "Chasmalim," associated with the sephirah of Chesed (blue, the Righteous King). The colors of the various limbs and parts of this angel-figure are rigorously specified, deriving from Westernized Kabbalah. The colors are derived from the correspondences of each Hebrew letter in the words making up the Angel-names. Each letter also makes a part of the Angel's body, and has a color, a gender, and a mood. Esotericism and its visualization systems can get quite complicated.

For instance for this figure, Highfield specifies: "Cheth (Hebrew letter): Head; Receptive, Concentrated, Feminine. Rich bright russet. Shin (Hebrew letter). Neck: Radiant, dominant. Very powerful. Masculine. Scarlet, flecked gold.(...) Yod (Hebrew letter), Legs: Delicate, yet powerful. Scintillating. Masculine. Green-grey. Mem (Hebrew letter): Feet; Receptive, stable, feminine. Deep olive green." So when I created the art for these visualizations I tried to integrate these male and female parts into the figure. The torso and head of this one is specified as feminine, so I made it a female figure. Since most angel names end in "-im," they all had green-grey legs and olive-green feet. Or perhaps ballet shoes; I envisioned these as dance costumes. This angel is said by Highfield to be cheerful and joyful, so I made it a lively, dancing figure.

This piece was made with mixed media. I sprayed a standard black background with silver paint, then cut out the figure's parts from pre-printed Color-Aid paper which had all the shades to match the specifications. I glued it together and added press-on shiny stars from a stationery-store purchase. This was not a very permanent arrangement. This piece and the others in the series probably don't exist any more. I gave them to an elderly artist friend of mine who is long gone, along with his possessions and his own artwork.

"Chasmalim" is mixed media on black illustration board, 7" x 10", January 1987.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Winter Fashion Princess

This is just an experiment, not too serious, but I wanted to try to render a fabulous 1930s film costume in Photoshop. This fur-bedecked extravaganza is from "Roberta," a 1935 film starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, along with Irene Dunne and Randolph Scott. It's got dancing, romance, and loads of fashions. I haven't seen the film, just read about it. Now I want to see it. I wish that costumes could use real fur. These cold nights and days I would love to wrap myself in a puffy white fox fur like this lady here. I apologize for the face, I can't paint faces in Photoshop (yet).

Photoshop, 7" x 10", December 19, 2010.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Archangel Uriel

Archangel Uriel isn't in the Bible, but he appears in later mystical literature and angel magic. He's been standardized into the spirit of the earth, of the North, of death and the night, and colors of green. That's how I depicted him here. He's holding an inverted torch which is a medieval and Renaissance symbol for death. I made him sort of Asian, in my policy of Angel Diversity.

As with the other 3, Uriel is about 3" x 5", ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, August 1985.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Buy a Bag of Bagels

You've seen the seasonal sign decorations I do for Mena's bagels, deli, and donut shop. Here's some of the signage I do for her. This sign replaces a rather decrepit plastic sign that had small, disorganized writing on it. I hope the customers will notice this more. Its style matches the other signs that I have already placed on the shop walls. Buy a bag of bagels in our Mega-Deal!

Black chalkboard paint underneath, acrylic markers for writing and border. 36" x 16", December 2010.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Archangel Gabriel

Archangel Gabriel, in the modern standardized occult symbol system, is associated with the color blue, the evening, water, and communications. He is important in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as God's message-bearer. In Christianity, Gabriel brought the message to Mary that she would bear the divine Child. And in Islam, Gabriel brought revelation to Mohammed.

In my image here, I depict Gabriel as a Black person because I believe that angels should be represented in diverse types of humanity. He holds a lily in his right hand because he is often shown presenting that flower to Mary in paintings of the Annunciation. In his left hand he holds the scroll of written Revelation.

As with the other archangel images, Gabriel is about 3" x 5", ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, August 1985.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Artist Success Talk

I went to a talk by Lesley Riley, an artist who has put together programs for other artists who want to improve their production and earning power. It seems to be aimed at women though there were some men in the audience. Most of the things she said had good value to them, and she tells her own story as a mother, businesswoman, and artist. She offers personal counseling to motivate artists and will work with them on business plans, time management, and scheduling. I have signed up for her e-mail newsletter though I am not quite ready to do (or pay for) her personal counseling plan.

She had beautiful white hair and wore a blue sweater in her theme color of sky blue. I drew her while she talked, and I also took notes.

Sketchbook drawing in Pitt pen, with some Photoshop embellishment. December 14, 2010.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Archangel Michael

This picture, the Four Archangels group, is still in Massachusetts, if it hasn't been lost. I've done many Archangel Michael pictures, and this tiny image was one of my earliest. I dressed him in the appropriate fiery armor, and suggested red flaming wings behind him. But why did I have his sword lowered, as if he were about to give up the eternal battle? I'd certainly make him more active if I had to do another Archangel Michael. But lately I have about had it with angels. They are everywhere in pretentious pop culture art and even Japanese anime seems obsessed with them. Enough with the angels please.

"Archangel Michael" is ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, about 3" x 5", August 1985.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Archangel Raphael

This Archangel icon is from a set of 4 tiny pieces that I did for some friends back in my occult days of the mid to late '80s. Raphael follows the "standardized" late 19th and 20th century image from angel magic. He's dressed in yellow, his theme color, and he carries a box of healing tools as well as a guide's staff. In those days I was much influenced by stained glass and Tarot cards, and there is some of my characteristic geometric patterning in the back. There's also a science fiction/comic book influence hiding in these angel pictures. Raphael's head looks kind of like one of those superhuman "good guy" aliens who come in their silver UFO's to benefit our backward world.

"Archangel Raphael" is ink and watercolor on Fabriano watercolor paper, about 3" x 5", August 1985.
At one point I marketed cards with these images on them, but not currently.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sticking with Figures

I've been following the drawings in the Hart book devotedly, trying to add the sense of motion and balance that I need for active, non-stiff-looking figures. All my figure drawing has been mechanical and static and stiff, and I never knew why. Figures must always be in some sort of action pose to make them interesting. Therefore I observe and copy carefully Hart's geometric reductions of humanoid forms. The "spine line" must always curve, and the masses of the body are tilted one way or another. I'll get graceful someday.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Code Name: Assassin

The truth about me as an artist is, all I ever wanted to do was draw pictures of superheroes and make comic books. I can be Artistic and Profound and even place Fine Art in galleries, but inside I am still making up stuff about people and animals with superpowers and creating costumes for them. I've done it since I was able to hold a pencil. I have painted a lot of quality art but when it really comes down to it, just let me depict someone in tights with a cape and a mask and some glowing special effects.

This guy is an obscure, morally ambiguous superpowered person from a DC comic book called "Code Name: Assassin." He made only one appearance in his own title, in 1976. In that volume, which I own and is now of vintage age, a failing graduate student named Jonathan Drew, had gained powerful psychic/telekinetic abilities from (of course) a laboratory accident. When gangsters killed people close to him, including his sister, he swore revenge and became a costumed vigilante code-named the "Assassin," using psychic blasts, gadgets, and weapons to destroy them. In the book he wastes a number of gangsters in various ways, though he tries to keep actual deaths to a minimum by using tranquilizer darts instead of bullets. According to comic book encyclopedias, he later returns briefly as a super-villain. I guess that might be a logical development, given the intensity of his desire for revenge.

This is my latest attempt at doing a standard digitally rendered character/costume portrait. The costume in the comic book looks dark blue and orange, but in those days they couldn't render a black costume which I think was the original intention. After all, an assassin should wear black. The orange trim seems particularly Seventies-ish but I like orange and black together. The cuffed boots might be a bit cumbersome in a fight but probably contain lots of miniaturized weapons and gadgets, as do the belt and gauntlets. The pale orange glow around his head and hand denote psychic power at the ready.

"Code Name: Assassin" is Photoshop, 7" x 10", (3000 x 2100 pixels), December 2010.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Chesed, King of Kindness

Here's another of the pieces I did from Highfield's compendium of occult images. This figure is the character-image for "Chesed," or "Hesed," the fourth of the Sephirah, or stations, on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. As with Geburah, the red image, this Sephirah has many traditional associations: the planet Jupiter (whose symbol is on the figure's robe), the color blue, the tetrahedrons, and the righteous King who rules with compassion and kindness. As with Geburah, I borrowed from 19th-century Russian fairy tale illustrations to create this image.

"Chesed" is ink and watercolor, 5" x 9", January 1985.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Gnostic Surrealism

This image is a mixture of science fiction and Gnostic Christian symbolism. The crude cross with the ragged red banner is an image of Christ dead and resurrected. The dragon/snake on the right is the bearer of both true knowledge and evil. And the tentacled floating robot on the left is there because I wanted to practice rendering metallic surfaces and biomorphic shapes in Photoshop. In fact this whole picture only exists because I need to practice painting things "realistically" or artistically in Photoshop. The Gnostic symbolism came later because that's what my odd little mind is filled with. I don't yet feel up to painting human babe-flesh, let alone faces. Maybe God needs more tentacled floating robots. Gnosticism, which could be described as "weird off-brand Christianity," was one of the sources of the modern Surrealist movement, so I might as well go there.

PhotoGnosis, 10" x 7", 3000 x 2100 pixels, not a speedpaint. Two nights in the darkness before the Solstice, December 8-9, 2010. Klikonthepik for a somewhat larger view.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Back to Bagels

That's right, there are always bagels and sandwiches to advertise, at least for now. My winter/Holidays design for Mena's ad board features mid-century geometric ice chips and some flowing grey winter wind lines. Mena asked me to add some poinsettias in the corner because she thought the design was not "seasonal" enough. So there they are.

(But when do I get to do the babes and the monsters and the spaceships and the barbarian warriors? Not on Mena's lunch special sign for sure!)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Household Apocalypse album

Some of you may not know that I also make sound compositions, under the artist name of "Altocumulus." This is in the realm of what the Europeans used to call "musique concrete" or "found sound music." I record sounds in the environment or sounds made by striking, dropping, or scraping household objects like pot lids and glass jars. I also use sounds recorded through my windows or on my terrace as background. Then I add more sounds from my software synthesizer, the excellent Macintosh "GarageBand." Smoosh 'em all together and you've got sound pictures, some noisy and some quieter.

Today, December 7, is the release day for my first album of new musique concrete. I was active as an electronic music maker 40 years ago, and now after all those years I'm back at it with a modern digital microphone and software synthesizers. "Household Apocalypse" is eight pieces of sound-collage. I hope that each one evokes a mood and a non-verbal story, whether apocalyptic or scary or eerie or even humorous, or a combination of all of it.

The picture here is the "cover" of the album. It's a photo of a jumble of my kitchen things, many of which I used as sources for the sounds in the pieces.

"Household Apocalypse" is FREE to download on the "Just Not Normal" Net-label, based in the Netherlands and presided over by the excellent Mark "Mystahr" Stolk. Many thanks to Mark and to my friends at who encouraged me to make noise again after so many years.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Geburah, King of Mars

During my esoteric studies in the mid-80s I came across a book, "The Book of Celestial Images," by A.C. Highfield, which was filled with colorful and highly imaginative descriptions of esoteric entities. There were angels and archangels, embodiments of Kabbalistic Hebrew letters, visualization keys, and characters both good and evil. Each sephirah, or station, on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life had a guardian character who could be visualized by the imagination of the esoteric worker. This image here is the one for "Geburah," the fifth of the Sephiroth and the one standing for Mars and martial power. This mythical concept has a long history in Western culture and has many correspondences, such as the planet Mars, iron, weapons, pentacles, and in general the color red, which comes from iron's rust.

Highfield's book was the source of many of my illustrations of that period. I did them in a kind of "storybook" style, influenced by late 19th century Russian illustration. I loved this sort of Western Esoteric practice because there were so many pictures to imagine. I'm not good at a spirituality which doesn't have a lot of images. I painted three of Highfield's Kabbalistic figures but for some reason never painted the other seven, though he describes them in the book. I've still got the book, so you never know when I might get Kabbalistic again.

"Geburah" is ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, 5" x 9", January 1985. Click on the picture for a larger image.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Wine Violet Hills of Virginia

My Saturday wine destination this week was Delaplane Cellars in Delaplane, Virginia. This is in the Piedmont, the foothills of the Shenandoah Appalachians. The winery is on a hill and is situated for the best view. People like the same view that grapes do. Their lovely wine tasting building is only a year old, and young vines adorn the hill, reflecting the rapid increase in Virginia wine development. Their "Cinq" five-variety red blend is particularly nice. These colored pencil and ink sketches were done in the wine hall in the early evening, while sipping Cinq and eating rustic home-baked bread.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Angry Little Red Square

This is the way I feel about my art right now, I want to make lavish Photoshop scenes with barely clad Amazon warrioresses and glitzy spaceships, but all I come up with when I say "Speedpaint!" is this, which is considered "Self-Expression." If I can't draw figures, well, I'll make them out of geometric shapes. I sort of like this little guy anyway. Some folks say he reminds them of a cinnamon Chiclet but we haven't had those confections in many many years. Angry Little Red Square needs motivation and self-management skills. Eventually he'll get up and trundle away. Brought to you by Photoshop.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Constructing Figures

Here's yet another page of my perpetual efforts to draw human figures. These don't look so bad, but before you congratulate me for my improvement (not) I must admit that these drawings are copied out of my Chris Hart book, complete with the construction shapes that Hart uses to make bodies, such as little circles for the joints and a bent oval for the torso. I'm copying most of the drawings in the book. It's a way to learn, though not as good as drawing live models, because the Artists say that nothing is as good as drawing live models. These are idealized commercial-style drawings anyway, note the high heels on the lady figures. I've drawn a lot of live models in my time, and not a single one of them ever wore high heels while posing.

In my few moments in art school back in the 70s, that kind of thing would be despised. Anything that even hinted at "commercial" was rejected, and anything from POP CULTURE was totally out of the Artistic sphere. Whenever I hear of someone learning comic book art or fashion drawing or illustration or animation at some non-art-school university, I do this double take, and I think, When did THAT happen? Isn't my art supposed to be devoid of anything but classical realism and lofty abstractions? But I think that about a lot of things, like the cellphones that everyone, yes, everyone but me, has with them every moment of their lives. When did THAT happen? It's my fault for living so long.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Old School Santa Klaus

At Trader Joe's this year, our sign team has done masonite cut-out figures of Santa, elves, snowmen, Christmas trees, reindeer, sleigh, and piles of gifts. This is my latest effort in that regard, an "old-school" European style "Father Christmas" elf. He's holding a Covered Dish which contains stew made from Trader Joe's ingredients. It's for a Church Potluck Supper in the Elven Midwest.

Acrylic markers on Masonite, about 3 feet tall.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Gaia the Earth Goddess

During the late 80s I hung out with a community of esotericists, pagans, and Grateful Dead fans. It sounds more hip than it was, since all of these people were also either graduate students or workers in high tech or other upper-echelon jobs, and they lived in suburbs or cities, not in hippie communes. These folks inspired a lot of art from me, some of which was good and some of which was not. This is one of the better ones, though the photo isn't very clear. It's based on a real person, who I used as a model many times. She had the face of a Renaissance Italian Madonna, and golden fluffy hair. She also had a big blue dress which was just right for many Goddess or Marian concepts. I took many photographs of her in that dress, storing up image stock for whatever Virgin Mary or Earth Goddess I would do in the future.

This is one of the paintings which came of that photo session. In this, she is Gaia the Earth Mother, taking care of planets and an idyllic Earth. The child and the cat in this image didn't exist. I put them there to suggest a family which she might have in years to come. After exhibiting the picture, I gave it to her and her husband. I suppose they still have it. I lost contact with all of these folk over the years, though I know that my model went on to have two children, who looked nothing like the child in this picture. They still live near me in Northern Virginia, but I haven't seen them in more than fifteen years.

"Gaia, the Earth Goddess" is gouache on Strathmore bristol board, 13" x 15", January 1988.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Malleable Flesh

This rather burdened character appeared at DarkoverCon. She definitely made an amazing presence and one wondered how she could walk. I suppose it is a matter of balance. I might be exaggerating a bit in this drawing, which is from memory....but not by much.

Monday, November 29, 2010

DarkoverCon People and Things

Only a couple hundred people showed up for DarkoverCon so this is a fair sample of the types who attended. I sold unusually well for a small convention (thank you, art-loving friends!) and was on some interesting panels. There were a lot of nice costumes including Victorianoid Steampunkery. Steampunk has gone from cool to cliche' in record time, no more than a year it seems. But wait...I have plans for some Steampunk style art, done from an authentic period-era Victorian fantasy novelist, Marie Corelli, whom no one knows these days. It won't be the same old goggles-and-corset business.

Meanwhile, this is what you do when you have a sketchbook and you are bored after the end of the convention but you can't go home yet. You draw any damn thing including this thrilling (not) desk lamp and empty bottle of Sprite. This is the artist's life. Or perhaps, the unimaginative artist's life. Someone else would be drawing dragons or barbarian warriors or spaceships.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Cyber Pirate

Well well me buckos, time to party hearty. I will be off to DarkoverCon and will not post to the By-Product until I get home next Monday. I'd better make some drawings there. This one here is another fan-related art piece. It is the Holidays card for the staff of BucConeer, which was the World Science Fiction Convention in Baltimore in 1998. The theme for that convention, was (could you guess?) pirates, so that's what they asked for on their card. CyberPirate poses with a glass of some hooch, as his cat takes the wheel. Arrr ye mateys, have a fine Thanksgiving and remember it's not ALL about the feasting. Even a pirate has something to be thankful for.

"BucConeer" Holiday Card is ink on Bristol board, 5" x 7", November 1995.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Goblin Market

It's almost that time again, for me to go to "Darkover Grand Council," the annual convention of fantasy fans which once belonged to Marion Zimmer Bradley and her admirers. It might as well be a Goblin Market, full of vendors, entertainment, and unusual costumes. I will have an art show there, along with a few other folks, and maybe if I'm lucky I'll make a few bucks. But if all goes well at least I'll see my friends and enjoy a few parties.

Marion Z. Bradley used to have a fantasy magazine where she and her writer friends and fans could publish short fiction and original art. I did a lot of illustrations for this magazine, whose run ended in 1999. This was one of the later things I did, for a very short tale by Marion featuring her cross-dressing mage, Lythande.

"Goblin Market" is ink on Bristol board, 7 1/2" x 4 1/2", May 1999. Published summer 1999. The lettering was printed out from computer typesetting and pasted directly onto the art.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Studies for Engineer

I never give up hope that I will learn to draw human figures well. These are some practice drawings, some from my Chris Hart learn-figures book (including the peanut-like basic torso form) and others from a reference photo that I found. I searched for ages before I finally found a photo of a man in the position I was looking for. This is the figure with his left arm up and his right hand on his hip. He will eventually be the model for what I am calling the "Heroic Engineer," an Ayn Rand illustration of John Galt standing by the Dieselpunk-style engine he created. Yes, Rand is "dieselpunk," a sort of steampunk advanced into the smoky, crackling age of diesel and electricity. The figure in the lower left is my best try so far but I have a long way to go. Meanwhile I continue to try to do graceful, pretty ladies in drawings too. Now what happens if the lady is an engineer? Does she still have to look like a pin-up in revealing attire while she's cranking the gears? Remember, there are many representations of women which are still taboo in popular art.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Warmth and Wine

Here's one of my latest efforts for Trader Joe's. It is a tiny piece, only about 5 inches by 3 1/2 inches, and it's made to be the price tag template for TJ's featured holiday wines. The blank area is where you write in the name, description, and price of the wine. I added a scene that could be from any of the wineries I've been visiting. As winter arrives, many of the wineries prepare indoor dining and gathering rooms, some of them with a fireplace to give you a homelike atmosphere. Working with food and wine is sort of an archetypal experience. You follow the seasons, not like an agriculturalist would but with the availability of various goods, and the customers' imagination. The world may be cold and harsh and full of bitterness, but indoors there are sweets and wine by a friendly hearth.

"Holiday Wines" is ink on paper, colored in Photoshop, 5 1/2" x 3 1/2", November 2010.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Iconic Mr. Spock

This is one of my most notorious images. I've sold a lot of prints of it nevertheless. I almost never do images of well-known media characters and this is a very rare exception. I did it for my friend Laura J. who at the time was a big Trek fan. Mr. Spock was her favorite character. He is depicted in a meditative pose from the movie STAR TREK II, in an "icon" conception, with halo and inscription. Two candles burn beside him, one red and one green, red for Captain Kirk and Earthling blood, green for Spock and Vulcan blood. Incense rises from a Vulcan incense burner. Some pious types objected to the Christian icon tradition re-adapted to a television and movie character.

Laura J. left this with me when she moved away and I have never returned it. She lost interest in STAR TREK and went on to other things. I know you're reading this, LauraJ, so if you want old Spock back, just say so.

"Saint Spock of the Spaceways" is acrylic on illustration board, 6" x 9", August 1985.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Drama Girl of Darkover

You saw the background a few days ago, now here's the finished picture. I created the "Drama Girl of Darkover" referencing from a stock photo offered on deviantART, of a girl in a white "princess" dress striking an appealing pose. I changed the colors of the dress and hair, and made her a bit more distraught. Women get distraught a lot on Darkover. The official title of this piece is "Forsaken of Darkover," which sort of tells whatever story is needed. Why she is in St. Louis, however, or what St. Louis is doing on Darkover, is a mystery. But that Archway got there somehow.

"Forsaken of Darkover" is Photoshop, 2100 pixels x 3000 pixels, 7" x 10", November 2010. You can click on the image for a bigger view.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Post-Modern Judgement Day

The Post-Modern Tarot was created with the CorelDraw graphics program and was originally printed on an HP PaintJet printer. The color scheme for the cards is based on the Neo-Kabbalistic idea that each card symbolically links together two stations on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life (which resembles an esoteric flow-chart of the Universe. ). Since each station has a color, each card features two colors in combination. This one has brown and orange as its color pairing.

This concept of the Tarot comes from the same body of Western Esoteric lore that produced the "Ritual" painting that you saw here a few days ago. But I gave it a modern twist, using symbols from our own era rather than the Renaissance ones usually depicted on Tarot cards. In this one, Judgement Day is a nuclear explosion over a city. No angel with a scale will save the victims of a nuclear blast.

The "Post-Modern Tarot" (later re-named the "CorelDraw Tarot") was created on CorelDraw 3 from 1991 to 1992. Each image is 7" x 10".

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Magical Mama

This scene of kitchen magic takes place in a fantasy Mediterranean land where old women work helpful magic with common household materials like sugar, flour, glass, and water. The original title for this piece was "Mother Marisa and the Fountain." I later simply called it "Magical Mama." The original location for this little fountain square was in Vence, France. I copied it from one of my countless books of Mediterranean architecture. I wanted to depict an old woman who was not a wicked witch nor a Pagan herbalist. In most of fantasy and comic book art, positive images of older women are taboo. Look for them and you will see. In Fantasy Art Land, women are either hot, barely clad, and young...or non-existent. In literature, they appear more often, such as the wonderful older women of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books. Interestingly, I had trouble selling this picture, and finally sold it to an older woman.

"Magical Mama" is acrylic on illustration board, 9" x 12", May-June 1989.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Darkover Background

Marion Zimmer Bradley died more than ten years ago, but her convention and her world of Darkover lives on. The World of the Red Sun is populated by romantic figures: the forbidden lovers, the mad king, the brave (female) knight, the sadistic but sexy male villain. There are still stories to be told, and even now Darkover-based fiction is published by authors who were friends of Marion's and who are willing to carry on her legacy.

This is a background, set in the World of the Red Sun. I will put a figure in front of it. I may be overcome with wussiness about producing new art, but there is a convention coming up and I have to create at least a few new pieces for it.

"Darkover Background" is Photoshop, 7" x 10".

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Magical Lodge at Ritual

In the late 80s I was very involved with Western Esotericism, which is sometimes called "occultism" by people who don't approve of it. Unlike greeny, emotional Neo-Paganism, it offered an urban, intellectual, complex path for cerebral types like me who were unsatisfied with simple-minded ordinary religion. Western Esotericism also had neat graphics, a colorful symbol system, and lots of interesting mythology and role-playing. It also had the possibility, no matter how fantastic or unreal, of actually causing changes in the "real world" by magical means, that is, a magical technology.

The means that Western Esotericism used were rituals. By the late 19th century, scholarly mystical types had put together a coherent body of occult symbolism and ritual, derived from European Renaissance magic, Gnosticism, Kabbalah, Tarot, Freemasonry, and alchemy. This cultural collection was used in occult groups such as the Golden Dawn and the Rosicrucians. By the late 20th century, the "Western Tradition" had been standardized so that most Euro-American occultists recognized a common set of symbols. For instance, this included the use of four colors (blue, red, green, yellow, three primaries and one secondary), four Archangels (Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel) and the four directions, used especially in Freemasonic ritual.

That's what's in this painting of mine, done in 1989. It depicts an idealized group of ritualists, who have their own church-like ritual space, their own custom vestments, and best of all, real magical powers to make things light up. There's one chief celebrant for each color, and the environment is loaded with symbols (such as flags, lanterns, lettering, glowing bits, and checkerboard floor). I added the occult motto "As Above, So Below" translated into Latin above the colonnade. I designed the vestments for two male and two female celebrants. I also designed the banners held by the acolytes. The golden winged sun above the apse is from alchemical illustrations. There are more things that I threw in there for people to find.

This picture is fantasy because the celebrants are actually doing visible magic. Real magic, altering reality by the use of symbols and symbolic actions, is much trickier, and scarier. This Lodge is doing the kind of ritual that I and my esoteric friends longed to do: pretty, introspective, and very much on the side of the good angels.

"Magical Lodge" is watercolor and other media on illustration board, 20" x 16", July 1989.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Autumn Glow

This is another of a series of round-top backdrops I'm doing for the vegetable and fruit displays at Trader Joe's. It's inspired by a real view that I enjoyed at Willowcroft Winery. The day I went to Willowcroft I blithely forgot my camera so I missed recording some splendid autumn scenery. But I have a good visual memory, so this is an impressionistic view depicting what I saw, not a photographic one. You can see the leaves flying in the wind. There was a misty autumn glow in evening sunlight over the valley, it was heavenly. This little bit of heaven will be behind bananas or pomegranates or bags of apples.

"Autumn Glow" is acrylic markers on Masonite, about 3 ft. by 2 ft.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Winery Sunset

You can't make this stuff up. This is for real, at least as real as a digital camera can record. The sunset is behind the vine rows of Chrysalis Vineyards near Middleburg, VA. Virginia is the most beautiful state I've ever been in and I want to keep living here. I would move to the "urban countryside" in Northern Virginia if I could but you have to either be born there or be a multi-millionaire or be willing to put in a 90-minute commute each way to and from work. I'll be happy to spend Saturdays out here taking pictures, drawing landscapes, and sipping wine.

This is a photograph. As with the New England autumn leaves I don't see how I could do any better with paint or pixels. Besides I'm having a lot of trouble making any art. Not the commercial work for Trader Joe's, I mean the illustration work that I need to put into my portfolio. The more I look at the work of the current illustrators, whether on deviantART or on their own websites, the more discouraged I get. I feel like the only thing I'm entitled to do is training drawings, thousands of them, and nothing "finished" or elaborate because I don't know how to do the hot exciting work that will get me illustration jobs. I mean, just look at this ossum stuff, this is what they want nowadays. But I don't even know where to BEGIN, let alone do something like that.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Blue Mystical Ascent

I catalogue all my art works. Every piece has a number. In the spring of 1986 I reached a major number: 500. I wanted to do something really special for the round number, so I retrieved a design I had had in my files but never realized. This is a Symbolist painting of a Catholic doctrine, the "Assumption" of the Virgin Mary after her death. In Catholic Christian mythology, the Virgin Mary did not die in the ordinary way of human beings, but was bodily taken up to Heaven where she now enjoys eternal life as a holy being helping souls in the Universe. Non-Catholics (and many Catholics) find this whole thing absurd but it makes great pictures and gives a mystical third dimension (upwards) to a human word-based religion.

The Virgin is represented in this semi-abstract painting by a lily flower done in aluminum-gold leaf. She ascends into a cobalt blue empyrean, leaving a trail of light blue starshine. Sky blue is the traditional color of the Virgin Mary's cloak. Below, at the bottom of the picture is a stylized landscape of hills in green, light blue, and purple. Another name for this picture is "Le lys bleu,", ("The Blue Lily") a French name recalling the Symbolist and Surrealist inspirations for this work.

The picture was released in 1988 and shown at Esotericon '88, in Elizabeth, N.J. This was a convention for Western Esoteric and Pagan interests. A hotel employee named Anna-Marie diGennaro, seeing the picture in the art show across from her office, fell in love with it and bought it from the convention. So my symbolist Virgin Mary went to a nice Italian Catholic household. I wonder where it is now.

Meanwhile, after 24 years, I am coming up on another major catalog number. I hope to create picture number 1000 in 2011.

"The Assumption of the Virgin Mary" is acrylic on Masonite board, 12" x 26", May 1986.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Figure Forms

I'm back to drawing figures from formulas. This is from the Chris Hart figure drawing book I mentioned earlier. This approach is directed completely at commercial artists and comic book illustrators and is in no way "fine arty." And you know, I'm OK with that. You draw some guidelines, put together the formula shapes, attempt to get your proportions right, and just copy the drawing.

I'm supposed to copy Exquisite Renaissance Drawings by godlike Michelangelo and Raphael, or plaster casts of Greek and Roman statues, 'cause that's how Academic artists learn. But then I'm also supposed to take anatomy classes and draw day after day from real models posing in real old messy studios. If I had another life to live, sure I'd go and do that. But I don't. So I take advantage of what is offered in books and online and there's a lot more options for private learners than there used to be. Right now my drawings suck but sooner or later I'll have something that will be worth putting a costume and colors on. And for females, remember, draw the boobs first and make sure they're big and spherical.