Sunday, April 25, 2010

Star Seeds

They may be seeds, or they may be eggs, but whatever they are, they are just about ready to hatch, or bloom. These fresh new stars have dissipated most of the nebula gas and dust which was the garden of their birth, and now are ready to shine forth in a close bright cluster of radiant flowers in a cosmic springtime. The usual, October 1990.

"Art By-Products" is going to be on an "away from studio" schedule while I travel to Massachusetts to celebrate my father's 90th birthday. I might be able to post something, if I draw it and can photograph it well enough to show up on the web. Anyway, no nebulas for a while.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Venus and Taurus

A friend of mine wants to commission me to do a mythological piece on the theme of "Venus and Taurus." The idea was to depict the Goddess of Love and Beauty calming a raging bull. These figures are linked in classical astrology which is a factor in the commission assignment as well. We in the Northern Hemisphere are currently in the sign of Taurus, which is ruled by the planet Venus, bright in our evening skies.

I showed this digital sketch to my friend/client tonight and though he enjoyed it, it was definitely not what he wanted. He showed me another picture entirely - of football action! to show what he wanted. His Venus and Taurus are engaged in a much more aggressive way, with the bull charging like a tackler against an opponent holding the ball. The mood is more like bullfighting than football, though instead of murdering the bull, Venus will tame him with bravery and Love. So I'm back to the drawing screen, but not for a while as I will be out of the studio for a week or so.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Red Smoke

You saw "Purple Haze," now here's "Red Smoke." Don't believe the color, either here or in the garish nebula pictures that you see from Hubble or other telescopes. Some scientist has been busy enhancing the colors so that the pix will be sexy. Didn't think space could be sexy? In America anything can be sexy, if you need to market it. Is that nebula one of space's Red Light Districts? Are there nebula nude starlets waiting for you in a cosmic bordello? Get astrophysical with these hotties.

"Red Smoke" is acrylic on illustration board, 7" x 10", October 1990.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Purple Haze

Believe me, this is not about Jimi Hendrix. It's another of my attempts to make a slightly larger nebula picture. My airbrush and paint mix has always resulted in a slight granular texture, which shows more in the little pieces than in a larger one, since you look at the smaller area more closely. If I had spent more money and gotten a finer airbrush, I would have been able to spray paint with a photographic smoothness. Now all I have to do is use the "Airbrush" tool in Photoshop.

"Purple Haze" is acrylic on illustration board, 14" x 20", October 1990.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The White Eagle

This is one of my favorite paintings I ever did, even though it's now 24 years old. It's from a forgotten book by a forgotten author: "The Secret Power" by British author Marie Corelli. I have been a Corelli fan ever since I found one of her extravagant fantasy novels in a used book sale back in the 1960s. "The Secret Power" was published in 1921. Corelli was very popular during her lifetime (she lived from 1855-1924) and I have most of her published works.

She was a science fiction writer before the genre had been invented, and she wrote thrilling fantasy back in the 1880s and 1890s. I have illustrated many a fantasy scene from her work, but this is the only one I did from her science fiction tales. The character depicted is named "Morgana Royal," and she is a tiny girl with dazzling golden hair that reaches almost to her knees. She is impossibly rich (the heiress daughter of an Andrew Carnegie analog) and impossibly brilliant, an engineer and inventor who has designed an ornithopter airship, the "White Eagle." She almost always dresses in white (as did Marie Corelli herself) and she wears a snow-white flight suit decorated with diamonds. Morgana is quite a tease, but she rejects the advances of numerous men smitten with her. She is in search of a mythical, mystical "Golden City" where a race of super-people (who look like her) are hidden somewhere in the Middle East.

As far as I know, I am the only modern fan of Marie Corelli. In her day, Queen Victoria loved her work. Corelli also was quite "racy" for her time, with plenty of erotic energy in her characters and storylines. Her lavish descriptions make her works an illustrator's dream. I sold this painting to a couple of fans who didn't know anything about Corelli or the book, they just loved the colors and the character.

I never thought I'd see Victoriana become science fiction, but now in the era of "Steampunk" I see lots of things that tempt me to revisit Marie Corelli and her works of fantastic and occult fiction. Is it legitimate to return to the stuff that inspired you when you didn't know any better?

"Morgana and the White Eagle" is acrylic on illustration board, 13" x 22", February 1986.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Death's Master

I used to be a big fan of Tanith Lee's books. They were published, in the USA, by DAW Books, which I did some covers for back in the early 80s. Tanith Lee is still alive and writing her baroque, erotic horror-fantasies, but I haven't read anything by her in almost 30 years. When I was just starting as a professional, I hoped that I would be able to do covers for her books so I painted this one as a practice. It's from "Night's Master," which was published in 1978 (with a cover by George Barr). The convoluted storyline involved a hermaphroditic hero, a blue demon named Azhrarn, and Death (here in white, seen from the back).

Again you see my bad figure drawing which has barely improved since I painted this picture in the distant past. There is hope for me though since I have recently acquired a figure drawing course on DVD's for my home study. I never give up hope that I could draw fantasy people figures. I still want to paint things like this, except in digital media. I am really an amateur again, I can't call myself a professional artist right now.

Back then I didn't worry about my "legacy to the world." I just painted illustrations from books I read, hoping to become an Illustrator. Now I want to leave a body of Original Serious Art, not cheesy illustration, for the world to remember me by. The trouble is that I don't have any fun doing Serious Art. Can you do Serious Art in a digital medium? I really like what George Barr says on his site and wouldn't mind having that attitude, but I am too Serious. I've always liked George Barr's art. Maybe I'll re-read some of my dusty old Tanith Lee books.

"Death's Master" is acrylic on Masonite, approximately 11" x 18", February 1981.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Asteroid Barbecue

For the last two posts I've brought you pictures of the terrible earthquake that leveled the city of Eridu. Here's a whole planet breaking up! Well, at least it's not a life-bearing planet with an atmosphere and living things to perish by the billions. This is the kind of stuff that happened for millions of years during the early times of our solar system (and countless others). Roundish planetoids would form from dust and accreted rocky matter. They would get larger by collecting more stuff by gravity. Then some other rocky lump would smack into them and bust them back into loose gravel again. All of this happened in a hot, harsh environment with lots of spilling magma. After a while, the planetoids got big enough to absorb the debris in their areas and clear out a space for themselves. All those craters on the planet and moon pictures you see come from a time like this, when planets were bombarded by rocks and barbecued by heat and radiation. It must have been fun to watch.

"Asteroid Barbecue" is acrylic on illustration board, 10" x 7", October 1990.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Earthquake pictures from Eridu

Here are two pictures of Eridu just after the great earthquake. Much of the city is in ruins. All services, electric and communications and utilities and water, are gone or disrupted. People dig with whatever they have to free others from the ruins. It is impossible to count, but early estimates are that hundreds are dead and thousands are injured.

This is by far the worst earthquake to strike any city in New Earth since the Crossing. Eridu used to be the grandest and most prestigious city in the settled world, before revolutions and unrest put it into a social and technological decline. After this earthquake, it may be many decades before it is restored to any of its former greatness.

Photoshop, April 2010 (our time)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Earthquake in Eridu

Today in the year 230 after the crossing (A.C.) a devastating earthquake struck the city of Eridu, where the Great Library is located. (See posting of April 5.) It is estimated to be more than 8 on the Richter scale. Much of the city is in ruins and many of the approximately 75,000 people in the city are dead, injured, or homeless, and that doesn't count the population living in the crowded suburbs.

The Great Library is severely damaged, as you can see from this sketch. The front wall, known as the "Wall of Nine Gates," collapsed along with the portico and part of the roof. Even so, parts of the Library are still illuminated with electric lights, from solar battery power. There are people trapped under the collapsed wall and portico.

An Aurian force has entered the city for humanitarian aid purposes. You can see some Aurian carriers to the right of this picture, with the Aurian red triangle symbol on them. The plaza in front of the Library is becoming an area for field hospitals, shelter, and feeding areas for the homeless. Aurian engineers and relief workers are setting up temporary structures there. Meanwhile, Aurian soldiers are keeping looting to a minimum.

You can read more about this awful disaster on my Noantri Blog, where you will be able to see dispatches from the Eridanian area.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Green Moon

Here's a bit of science fictioniana with this Deco-style spaceport control tower. We're taking off in that rocket towards the Green Moon. This might be our own moon, somehow terraformed, given an atmosphere and vegetation and turned into a companion planet. Or it is more likely another moon in another solar system entirely. It's nice to know that we will have Art Deco style in the distant future.

"Green Moon" is acrylic on illustration board, 7" x10", October 1990.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Exoplanet Landscape

This is probably what the surface of a lot of exoplanets looks like: lava and sand flows and eroded rock, with jagged deposits of new lava oxidising in a harsh atmosphere. This might be similar to the surface of our bright neighbor Venus, and there are probably a lot of planets like that out there. A heavy atmosphere obscures the horizon. It's not a hospitable place, and there's probably no life there. Dreary prospect, a world without spring.

Created quickly in Photoshop, April 15, 2010.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Fire Down Below

There is no "below" or "above" in space. There is only dust, rock, gas and radiant energy. Here's one of my now-standard red and blue fiery nebulas from one of my editions of small space pictures. I just kept turning them out didn't I. I tried other colors but red and blue seemed to make the best pictures. I have hundreds of these. I made them because I could make them quickly with the airbrush and I knew I could sell them and make a little dough. In fact I used to call them "twenty-dollar bills." This one didn't even make $20, my records show it sold for $12 at a Philcon (Philadelphia science fiction convention) in 1990. That wasn't a lot even 20 years ago. After a while it wasn't worth it for me to make these pictures any more.

"The Fire Down Below" is acrylic on illustration board, 10" x 7", October 1990.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"I Should Have Been A Girl"

I work in a public place with a lot of families and kids, and I've noticed that in recent times, the great majority of the little girls are dressed in pink. When they are asked to choose something in a color (like a balloon or a candy) they choose a pink one. The relentless pinkness of little girls and some grown women inspired this picture. Is it something the parents do deliberately? Is it a marketing thing which reaches across-the-board for all American children? Even very young girl babies are carried in pink carriers and wrapped in pink blankets. The males do not have these color restraints.

I am not supposed to talk about these things, since I don't have a clear statistical presentation to back it up. Obviously, some little girls aren't wearing pink. But the gender constraints and programming continue to alert me to the continuing presence of gender stereotyping even in our ostensibly free society.

I am always looking at new popular art such as appears in individual artists' sites or collective groups like DeviantART or CGSociety or Almost always, I can tell which pictures were done by females, and which were done by males. The gender divide is sometimes painful for me to see. For females: fairies, doll-like figures, angels, flowers, unicorns for ghod's sake. For males: heavily armored figures, robots, vehicles, weapons, monsters, apocalyptic cities, and scantily clad babes with boobs, boobs, boobs. And they don't cross over! At least not often. I have never seen (ok, disclaimer, I haven't seen YET) vehicles, warriors, and industrial apocalypse done by a woman fantasy artist. It's like being in fifth grade art class all over again.

Now I know where all the straight male artists have gone. They're in "concept art," working or wanting to work illustrating games, movies, book covers, gaming cards, mainstream comics, entertainment venues, etc. I am constantly looking at this kind of stuff wondering whether I could do it, and I find that the artists are overwhelmingly male. (OK, disclaimer, there are a few female artists in that business.)

There is doubtless some deep-seated anthropology at work which explains why the guy artists do monster mechas (battle robots) and the girl artists do fairies (gossamer wings). There are probably even evolutionary adaptation reasons why males choose some subject matter and females another. I am not an anthropologist, just an artist and I shouldn't even be talking about this. But I am wondering why someone else doesn't. There is a fairly clear gender structure to art making and aesthetics which should have attracted some attention, but I haven't found anything written about it.

Interestingly, after centuries of sexist restriction, the upper levels of "fine" arts have evened out gender-wise, so you are more likely to find female artists in trendy New York galleries than you are in a game development company.

Therefore, I'm pink today! Shall I do fairies with fox ears and angel wings next?

Or perhaps a huge pink doll-faced battle robot?!

"I Should Have Been a Girl" is acrylic (with iridescent and glitter paint) on purple paper, 9" x 8 3/8", April 2010.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Gold-Bearing Asteroids

This picture was inspired by a question I asked myself as a potential space miner. Would there be asteroids with openly available deposits of gold or other precious metals or elements? I didn't have much geological knowledge, but I speculated with this picture that there would be broken-up rock material which would reveal rich and shiny gold veins and nuggets, just there for the taking.

Turns out with a casual Web search (which didn't exist in 1990 when I painted this, it seems unbelievable) that gold deposits usually form on planets with water and atmosphere, where water under steam pressure leaches gold out of rocks and then deposits it in veins and pockets. So in order to have accessible gold in space you need some sort of liquid water processing, which wouldn't take place in the hard vacuum of space.

So what might be going on here is that these rocks are the remains of a planet that once had water and an atmosphere, and that its disintegrated fragments break open to reveal the gold that the water had left there. I hope that there wasn't any life on the planet when it broke apart. There's gold in them thar asteroids.

"Gold-bearing Asteroids" is acrylic on illustration board, 10" x 7", October 1990.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Black Lion-Headed Rabbit

I visited the house of some friends on the evening of April 10. They keep rabbits in their home ("house-rabbits") and one of their new acquisitions, a bunny in temporary residence as a foster-care creature, is a "lion-head" rabbit. I had never heard of that kind of rabbit but here are some fancy samples. This one here is less extravagant but still has the fluffy ruff around its head. It's all black with just two white spots, one on its nose and one on its chest. It was active and friendly and I got to pat it on the head. Then I sketched it. The bunny is named "Dervish."

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Back to the Amazon Wars

Back in 2008 you struggled with me as I attempted to learn how to draw human figures in a classical, academic manner. What little formal art education I had was absolute when it came to depicting the human form. Drawing and painting must be realistic, with all proportions exactly as one sees them, with no deliberate distortion and no "story-telling" or any kind of embellishment. You see this kind of painting at one of my favorite sites, the "Art Renewal" web headquarters, where there are ads for academies, books, and videos where you can learn this kind of painting.

As you know from my blather here on the By-Product, this is not quite what I want to do. If I am to return to fantasy illustration, I need to do a more stylized and interpretive style of human figure drawing and painting, while not forgetting the basics of anatomy, proportion, etc. But where will I find models who have fantasy proportions? Not in classical model books, wonderful though they are. Those books have helped me draw lots of figures, some of which drawings weren't bad.

But the fantasy girls with the ample proportions? I'll find them in Playboy! I'm not talking about porn models, whose positions aren't quite the fantasy I want. Playboy models are imaginary women, created from some distantly real female, already half-artificial by the time they are photographed. Their cheesecake positions are easily adapted to fantasy roles, from Amazon to harem babe. I found to my delight in a local bookstore, the "Complete Playboy Centerfolds" collection. There are more than 50 years of Playmates, a compendium of America's fads and fashions through the filter of pin-up girl pictures. These Playmates are not pierced, tattooed Goths. They are not hot 'n' heavy erotica. They are not porn. The girls are presented as alluring, sweet and unthreatening companions, ready for a happy time. The photos are steeped in a warm, amber-pink color mist that I would do well to imitate, except that in my pictures the girl will have a sword or an axe, which of course will not be used on the viewer.

Amazon warrior, pencil drawing from Playboy model, colored in Photoshop.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Andromeda Fleet

Spaceships are architecture in space, as I've explained before here. So when I depict spaceships, I can borrow from the work of architects. These were borrowed from my old ideal Lebbeus Woods (see "Lebbeus Tower" from my March 27 entry) and placed over a rather messy nebula background. Space architecture is always in ultra-high contrast because there is no atmosphere to blur the details and soften the transitions between dark and light. Even a foggy-looking nebula is really a very thin gas, much thinner than a planetary atmosphere.

I should try and paint some more spaceships, this time in digital media. I would do much more but I am constantly lacking available time, just like everyone else where I live. I admit that I spend too much of my precious time looking through pages and pages of other people's art on "DeviantART." Then I get jealous and frustrated because some twenty-year-old boy in China or Rumania or Singapore is doing better art than I have ever done.

"Andromeda Fleet" is (you have this memorized by now) acrylic on illustration board, 10" x 7", September 1990.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Slug Me

My art buddy Tristan, who has contacts and clients in the "anthropomorphic" community, tells me that everyone has an animal analogue. This is a creature which they can dress up as, or impersonate, or at least identify with. Some people might have a lion, or a horse, or a fox as their animal identity. The persona (sometimes called a "fur"-sona) is a mixture of animal and human features. Tristan's persona, for instance, is a bat-human.

So I asked him, do I have an animal persona? Sure I do. I am not much of a fan of anthropomorphic (or "furry") role-playing, but I do have an animal that I identify with. I am a slug.

Ever since these creatures ate all my strawberries out of my garden patch back in Massachusetts, I have had a sympathy and fascination with them. It also helps that they are slimy, loathsome, and, uh, sluggish. I also like that their eyes are on the end of extendable stalks.

Thus I present here my anthropomorphic persona, or perhaps "slime-sona," that is, my identity as a slug. I'm ready to devour your garden and then retreat under a rock to do lots of nothing.

Realized in Photoslug, April 8, 2010.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Cyan Light

Here's a little more fun with Photoshop. Some of these geometric figures, like the trail of ovals and the "Nike Swoosh" in greyish blue, are custom "stamps" that I created myself. I'm still trying to get comfortable with working in multiple layers. My transition to digital painting is not as easy as it seemed when I first started it. And I haven't drawn enough sexy women yet. But my "Draw Fantasy Women" and "Draw Fantasy People" books arrived yesterday, so I can apply myself to it. You may think I'm an idiot for wanting to draw banal conventional fantasy stock figures and scenes when I have so much imagination.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Blue Wave

Another pretty blue space picture rescued from my dusty archives. This is a supernova remnant, heading outward from the point of the explosion and illuminated by the radiation from the blazing star core. I don't know where all that dust on my slides comes from. Maybe it is space dust.

My records show that this picture was sold at a convention in western Massachusetts for only $15. Many of my space pictures were done in sets, almost "mass-produced" and so I didn't charge very much for them. I don't want to do that kind of work again, even though I would have to sell them for more. The average science fiction fan thought $20 was a lot of money for a piece of art back in 1990, and the sad thing is, they still do in 2010.

"Crest of the Wave" is acrylic on illustration board, 10" x 7", October 1990.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Great Noantri Library

This is a depiction of the Great Library of Eridu, which is in my imaginary world of Noantri New Earth. It is in where Iraq is now, on an alternate Earth where psychic powers work. You can read more about this on my Noantri blog which is on my main site. I will keep posting stuff about the Noantri world and people as I create it. There must be some sexy women in that world somewhere.

"Great Library of Eridu" is brown ink and watercolor, about 7" x 5", around 1992.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Axis of Asymmetry

I didn't expect to finish this painting today, but I did, thanks to quick-drying and rewardingly opaque acrylics. The title "Axis of Asymmetry" refers to the "axis of symmetry" which runs down the center of a parabola. There's a proper parabola in this composition but the rest of the shapes are not symmetrical, that means that they will not look the same if you flip them horizontally.

I realize that there's too damn much BLUE in this picture but I just couldn't stand adding in some other intrusive color. Pink? Red? Gold? Ah, forget it, it's just one blue thing after another. I do these geometric abstractions because I suck at painting people and action, so I might as well do some visual math. I hope to have this, and others like it, on my art display panel at the Balticon art show.

"Axis of Asymmetry" is (yes, after all these years, it's still) acrylic on illustration board, 7" x 10", April 2010.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Fallen "Obelesk"

I've been rummaging through old papers from 1995, trying to throw out what I don't need and pack away the rest. In the file box I found flyers and correspondence from "Obelesk Books," a small press I used to do cover illustrations for. The misspelling of the word "Obelisk" was deliberate though I don't remember why. Obelesk Books specialized in stories about Gay, Lesbian, transgendered, and disabled people, portraying them as heroes. The editor was a female-to-male transgender. I did a number of pieces for them in the mid-90s, all black and white. This Egyptian angel by the fallen obelisk was a design suggested by the editor, and it appeared on advertising flyers sent out by the publisher. The Obelesk Books publishing house is long gone and I wonder what has become of the editor and the writers he published.

"Obelesk" books emblem is 8 5/8" x 3 1/4", ink on illustration board, February 1995.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Springtime Lunch Special

On a glorious spring day, we could open the door at Mena's bagel and sandwich shop and take in the breeze and sunlight. I decorated the board with the appropriate spring flowers and new green leaves. Mena tells me that the board gets a lot of attention from the customers and when the special was chicken salad, she sold out of it. See how ads work! Good weather helps, too.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


While on my afternoon walk in my neighborhood, I was graced with a bright sight, this forsythia bush in full bloom. With brilliant yellow blossoms against the crystal blue sky, the scene says SPRING! But it will be a while before we forget that less than two months ago our area was buried under two feet of snow. This was done in Photoshop from memory. If I get an iPad, maybe I will be able to do Photoshop sketches right there on the scene. But I will need time and money before I get any more expensive, trendy gadgets.