Saturday, December 31, 2011

Earth Dragon

I had a little fun playing with the different textures available in Photoshop. Some dragons are not majestic fiery dragons, but shaggy earth beasts who sometimes can be caught indulging in....salad! He doesn't have wings because an earth dragon doesn't have to fly.

Photoshop, 9" x 7", December 31, 2011.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Italian Leprechaun miniature

I used to hang out with Philadelphia science fiction fans, almost to the point of joining their official group, "PSFS" or the "Philadelphia Science Fiction Society." Philadelphia fandom shared the character of its host city, with many folks of Irish and Italian descent. And all of them loved to eat and drink. I made portraits for many of them, including this miniature of one of their club officials. Pete was of both Irish and Italian lineage, so he asked that both these nationalities be represented on his portrait. Thus he got an "Italian leprechaun," complete with shamrock hat, Italian banner colors, a green bow tie, an Irish (or Tuscan?) landscape background, and, of course, a forkful of spaghetti.

Nametag miniature is ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, 2 1/4" x 3 1/2", December 1990.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cat Girl miniature

I did Leslie's portrait as a streetwise, knife-wielding cat girl. The stripes on her shirt were like the stripes on an alley cat's coat. I put the cat's ears where they would be on a cat, rather than giving her pointed furry humanlike ears. She probably has a tail, but you can't see it in this portrait. Leslie still frequents conventions and I see her about once a year, but I suspect this portrait has gone the way of most of these miniatures, lost in many chaotic moves from one residence to another. I suppose I could ask her next time I see her. I think this counts as mildly "anthropomorphic," that is, mixing human with animal in a fantasy character.

Leslie the cat girl's miniature portrait is 3 1/2" x 2 1/4", ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, February 1989. Colors restored in Photoshop from a poor photograph.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Winter Flames

You cannot make this stuff up. This is the sky over Tysons Corner, Virginia at around 5 PM on Tuesday, December 27, 2011. Other than the artifice of using a digital camera, I didn't alter or intensify any colors. Sometimes you can't do better than reality.

Taken with a Canon Powershot S-90, right in front of Trader Joe's Tysons.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mechanical Spider

Here's a little Photoshop action improvising a mechanical creature. It's an arachniform, that is, a spider-like form done in robotics. I think a spider is an ideal model for a robot. It would be stable, swift, and might even be able to climb walls, if it were small enough. In a large version, it would be able to crawl over broken or rugged terrain. Its "palps" or mouth parts could be adapted to all sorts of tasks. This is meant only to be a sketch and the leg mechanisms are not meant to be "realistic" representations of what it would "really" be like.

Done in Photospider, about 10" x 6", December 27, 2011.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Another mini dragon miniature

I drew countless illustrations for Katharine's mother's fan magazines, over the 1980s. Mom commissioned me to do a portrait nametag miniature for her daughter, and the girl herself specified how I was to portray her. She's in medieval Norse garb, holding a Pernese "fire lizard" mini-dragon. I wonder where she is now. So many of these portraitees are lost to the dust of time.

Nametag miniature is The Usual Specifications, February 1989. At that point I was newly established in the Metro Washington DC area, working as an architectural illustrator for a firm that produced drawings for real estate ads.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Snowflake of Metatron

I send out Christmas cards every year which I design myself. Sometimes I actually paint them all but nowadays with the restraints on my available time I use a digital design. In fact my first digitally designed Christmas card was back in 1992. I use a different "theme" color each year, which I will work with in the upcoming year. Thus, my "theme color" for 2012 will be a sky blue like the one you see in this image. The "snowflake" is an interpretation of an esoteric diagram called the "Cube of Metatron." Metatron is a powerful Angel in esoteric lore who protects the earth. I will be using this color scheme and the Cube in a large painting which I hope to finish by late winter.

"The Snowflake of Metatron" is made in Photoshop, 4" x 6", December 2011.

For my readers who celebrate this holiday, may you all have a joyous, light-filled Christmas time. For my other readers, happy Solstice! The days are now getting longer.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Modernist Winter Design

Here's another modernist-style winter holiday design. It's done with a set of Crayola markers that are usually used by kids, but I like them for layouts and quick color doodles. I was trying out a different style, inspired by mid-century (1960s) designs. It's just an experiment.

Markers on sketchbook page, design is about 6" x 8 1/2", December 23, 2011.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Scotsman Portrait Miniatures

In the fannish world, it's cool to be Scottish or some other form of Celtic ethnicity, at least it was back in the 1980s. You may remember Phil from other portraits I've done of him as a mail-clad Scottish warrior or a bespectacled barbarian. He commissioned these miniatures to show off his Clan Campbell kilt and his very large claymore sword, part of his extensive weapons collection at the time. At first I thought I was supposed to add his name to the tag, as the conventional convention required. That way, I used the tartan as a drapery. But he preferred his portrait alone without the name, so I made him another one, this time vertical and showing the kilt where it should be, complete with sporran and decorative belt.

Phil's portraits are the usual miniature dimensions, ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, December 1986 and January 1987.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I can Draw a Dragon's Head

I worked on drawing people until my figure drawings achieved mediocrity rather than wretchedness, and I'm still working on making them better. I intend to do the same with dragons and other fantasy creatures. I have a whole stack of books on "How To Draw Dragons." I learn the old fashioned way, methodically copying and analyzing how dragons are created. Unlike with people, I'm not going to get a live model here. Iguanas made large just aren't dragonish enough, though some Earth reptiles can serve as partial dragon inspiration. This is my first attempt, copied in regular old pencil with some adaptation from an example in "DragonArt: How to draw Dragons and Fantasy Creatures" by Jessica Peffer. The Pern dragons that I did 30 years ago don't count. They looked like stuffed plush animal toys. I want the (un)real thing now.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Winter Solstice 2011

One of my handful of loyal readers encouraged me to create and post "modernist" winter/Christmas themed graphics so here's one. This is called "Paths of the Solstice" and I post it on the Solstice, the darkest passage of the orbit of the year. The purple color is for Advent, the Christian waiting period of four weeks before Christmas. Created while listening to the moving and appropriate ambient album "Black Trees Among Amber Skies" by Canadian composer Altus.

Photosolstice, about 5" x 6", December 21, 2011.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Another Cat Lady miniature

Susan wanted her portrait in a festive, flowery costume of green and pink that she was wearing at DarkoverCon, with the addition of a longhaired black cat. The cat, modeled on a similar cat belonging to a friend of mine, is playing with the ribbons from Susan's headdress. Lots of people wanted their portraits done with their cats. It is a way to remember them when they are gone. You could measure your own life in cat-lives, if you were so inclined.

Nametag miniature is ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, 3 1/2" x 2 1/4", December 1986.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Diana Wynne Jones montage

You saw an image I did from Diana Wynne Jones' "Homeward Bounders" a while ago. This is another Wynne Jones illustration from a somewhat earlier assignment. Some friends of mine were planning to produce a magazine devoted to English children's and young-adult literature, called "Pendragon." They persuaded Diana Wynne Jones to contribute an original fantasy story, "The Three Rings," which would be published in the magazine. I was commissioned to do the cover illustration, based on the Wynne Jones story. This is what I created for them. The story has some scenes set at Oxford University, hence the tower and quadrangle depicted in the background. I don't remember much about the story. The image is a mix-up, or montage, of characters and events from the tale. The magazine title and writing was supposed to go over the sky portion of the picture. I also produced a number of black and white interior illustrations for another story by Jane Yolen, a well-known American young people's fantasy writer.

Due to lack of organization and funding, the magazine was never produced, and all the work I did was never seen except by a few people. My records show that I gave this picture to Diana Wynne Jones as compliments of the artist. Now that Diana is gone, I will never know what happened to this picture.

"The Three Rings" is ink and watercolor on illustration board, about 11" x 14", summer 1981.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Drowsy Dragon Doodle

I drew this when I was playing around with "I Can Draw Dragons" doodles. A dragon should be flexible and fold up neatly when asleep, like a cat. I felt the same way all day, the Winter Solstice time just makes me want to sleep all day and not wake up till spring. Drawn with "digital inking" in Photoshop, December 17.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The People dance in the sky

Zenna Henderson's "People" were gifted with numerous psychic and telekinetic abilities, including levitation. When they were among themselves, with no humans present, they could use their abilities freely. One free moment was on their annual festival "Gathering Day," where all the People who were settled in the American southwest could meet together quietly without being persecuted by the ordinary humans. Then they would levitate together, dance in the sky, and share memories of their lost extraterrestrial home. One thing they managed to bring along with them from the Home were glowing flowers and fruits, which these folk are wearing as garlands.

The "People" were kind and good to an eerie level, and in a way this was part of their alien-ness. They were not brutal or corrupt, although a few of them were ultimately changed by their Earth experiences. During the time I was illustrating the "People" stories in the late 1970s, I was struggling with religious matters and the Henderson stories resonated with me deeply. It occurred to me that perhaps the "People" had somehow been born unfallen, that is, without original sin, and thus had retained their "angelic" powers and abilities which were stripped from us by the Fall. I knew that Zenna Henderson was a devout Christian and I dared to write her a letter asking about the idea of an unfallen People. Amazingly, she wrote back to me, with a mild comment that perhaps it might be true. That letter may still be in my files somewhere. Zenna, like the other pioneers of fantasy and science fiction, is long gone back to the Home.

For this picture series, I used references from utopian communities, hippie gatherings, and early 20th century Western rural people. Henderson's work was a major influence on my own fantasy writing and art back then, but not any more these days. This picture was sold to an unreliable person who didn't pay me for a year, though she finally managed to. It's one of the few of my artworks I wish I could retrieve.

"Gathering Day" is ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, 10" x 14", spring 1978. The image has been heavily restored in Photoshop.

P.S. Please don't lecture me about how awful the idea of "Original Sin" is. I see it demonstrated every day.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tysons Mall Spaces

There I am in the nearby Tysons Corner Mall, doing what most other Americans are doing, shopping for a present for someone. Before shopping, a sip of something is advisable. From the reversed signage lettering at the top of this sketch, you can figure out just where I am. Malls are full of interesting interlocking spaces, made from doors and screens and stairways and storefronts and vending carts and booths. I tried to make clear how all these spaces interact in this drawing, which shows a gateway space between one section of the mall and another. Later I shopped successfully and I know the recipient (a TJ co-worker) will love what I bought her.

Ink on sketchbook page, 6" x 7", December 15, 2011.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Keilian Guide

The Keilians are one of the ethnicities of the Noantri people in my imaginary world. Though the general technological level of Noantri New Earth is relatively high, most Keilians choose to live in a low-technology society, equivalent to our pre-industrial level. They live in tribes and clans, mostly herding and agricultural, though they are also skilled in crafts. They trade with the higher-tech societies, selling the products of their work, but don't want to mingle with them except at festivals. Keilians are also excellent hunters and fishers, and are at home in the wilderness.

Keilians will also hire themselves out as guides for those who want a wilderness adventure, hunting and fishing the old-fashioned way. Anyone who wanders into the mountains without a local guide team is in great danger, not only from wild beasts but from tribal Keilians who will not hesitate to kill an intruder into their territory.

This young man, probably less than 20 years old, is a typical member of a Keilian guide team. In the mountains, he will also be equipped with a rifle and survival gear. He is also trained in what might be called "woods telepathy," able to mentally detect and signal game, other living beings, and men in the forests.

Photoshop, 7" x 10", December 15, 2011. I'm trying to do character portraits in the style of the power professionals such as "Massive Black." I am far from being at their level.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Zenna Henderson's Classroom

Zenna Henderson was one of the first modern women science fiction writers. She spent much of her life as a schoolteacher in Arizona and she used classrooms as settings, as well as teachers as characters. Her main line of writing was about a race of magical (or endowed with psychic powers) people, simply called "The People," who had escaped the destruction of their world and settled in the American southwest. They look no different than Earth people but must keep their powers hidden. They also try to remember their culture and customs from the world they came from, while trying to adapt to early 20th century American life.

This picture illustrates a shocking moment in one of her tales where a whole classroom of empowered "People" children misbehave and run wild with their powers of levitation, telekinesis, etc., thinking that no one can see them. But one girl leads the human authorities to them and when they open the door to the rural one-room schoolhouse, this is what they find. I titled it "Moment of Truth."

This idea of a psychically empowered race secretly living among non-empowered humans is very close to, for instance, Katherine Kurtz' medieval "Deryni" folk, and it has become a very basic repeating theme in science fiction and fantasy. Fans identify with the alien race. We must keep our true nature secret.

I painted this for "Iguanacon," the World Science Fiction Convention that was held in Phoenix, Arizona in 1978. It wasn't sold there, but was later sold to my uncle Joseph back in my Massachusetts hometown. I had no idea why he wanted it; he had no interest in fantasy fiction and knew nothing about Zenna Henderson or the story. My picture, and some others of mine as well, became part of my uncle's art collection, where I could see it whenever I went over to his house.

My uncle Joseph died last month, aged 86. The art remains in his house, but like so many other collections, will probably be scattered by his descendants.

"Moment of Truth" is ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, 11" x 14", July 1978. Click on the image for a bit larger view.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Dragons Suck

Most fantasy artists depict dragons sooner or later. In fact a dragon, along with the scantily clad babe or the brawny barbarian, is kind of a touchstone of how good (or how conventional and commercially successful) your fantasy art is. You have seen many poor representations of dragons attempted by me in my recent "vintage" posts. I might as well admit it: my dragons suck. No matter how I try to do a good picture of a dragon, someone else's dragon will be better. High school kids do better pictures of dragons than I do. But I am determined.

It's kind of sad that I want to improve my ability to draw and paint dragons. Shouldn't I have "graduated" to fine arts and stayed there, making serious and unsellable geometric abstractions? No, for me the challenge is dragons. Not killing them, but depicting them in a respectful and at the same time exciting manner. I have many books of dragon art. Some of these books have step-by-step instructions on how to draw dragons. Some of them even have standard prototypes which you are invited to copy. How easy is that? More art than you think is just some artist carefully copying some image source which you don't see.

So I drew some dragons tonight. Just for doodles, you understand. And soda cans were involved, for some reason. You see? My dragons suck. Through straws.

Photoshop Doodle, digital "inking," December 13, 2011.

Monday, December 12, 2011

You Can Win

In the studio I'm involved with a couple of big projects that do not generate by-products, so I continue to show you either vintage art from my transcriptions, or signage from Trader Joe's. This one is pretty clear. It's done in a retro "carnival" or "comic book" style, accented with a blue and white striped banner with gold accents. The blue and white stripes are taken from the flag of Uruguay, along with the gold accent similar to the Uruguayan flag's sun disc. Why Uruguay? Because I liked the colors, needed a striped banner to catch people's attention, and didn't want to use the all-American red and white stripes just to sell shopping bags. Not that there's anything un-American about selling stuff. Thanks for bringing your own bags...remember to sign up for the raffle!

Spray paint and acrylic markers on Masonite, about 2 feet square, December 11, 2011.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

More Dragons of Pern

I'm not a big Pern fan, despite it having gotten me to Ireland when I won the "Dragondrums" art contest. But it seems I did quite a number of pieces from the Pern mythos before I lost interest in it entirely. I styled my dragons after the portrayal that the author herself had endorsed to me, which made them look like big flying horses. And I tried to be true to the books' rationale for the dragons in the first place, that their fiery breath burnt the poisonous fungus threads out of the sky and saved the people on the ground.

But something about this whole deal just made no sense to me. It didn't make sense in the early 80s when I was doing the pictures and it doesn't make sense now, so maybe I'm missing something essential from my Pern appreciation. The idea is that every century, a rogue planet approaches Pern's orbit and gets close to Pern. This reddish wayward planet, known as the "Red Star" from its color, is infested by a poisonous, spacefaring fungus which it emits as it passes by (or orbits) Pern. The fungus travels through space and rains down on Pern, destroying all life wherever it touches. The human settlers of Pern, after almost being wiped out by this, genetically engineered these flying, fire-breathing beasts from the local fauna. The "dragons," each with a human rider, take to the air and burn the Thread out of the air with their fiery blasts, thus saving human settlements.

OK, so dragons can burn away Thread. But how much can they do? If this poison invasion is happening on a planetwide scale, the dragons can only do so much. Their defense would only be local. And even on a local scale, a squadron of highly mobile dragons wouldn't be able to burn out a whole sky full, say a few cubic miles of infested air. What am I missing here? Does it all ignite when a few dragons breathe fire on it? If so, then there would be way too much conflagration. The dragons might be able to fly in formation in a sweep against Thread, but it just keeps coming. So if there are any Pern fans reading this, please could someone explain this burning question.

"Dragons in Flight" is gouache on illustration board, 10" x 7", fall 1982.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Winery interior

Since I was out in Leesburg placing pictures with the Gleedsville Gallery, I might as well go to a winery. I went to Casanel, where I am familiar by now. Nelson, the colorful Brazilian character who runs the place, offered me a complimentary glass of his excellent Cabernet Sauvignon. After the sip, I took out the wine-loving iPad and did this detail sketch of the wall and mantelpiece of the tasting room. You can see the craggy stonework of the wall, a small window, part of the mantel, and a black armchair on which rests a red pillow with a white snowflake embroidered on it. It's all very homelike. I wish they had a bed and breakfast inn there as well so I could sip more wine and then just go over to the inn rather than drive home. As is, I have to "de-wine" myself before I can drive. Winter wining is much more difficult than other seasons because it gets dark before you leave the winery and then you have to slowly pick your way through long dark country roads to get back to the main highway.

iPad sketch of interior is Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, December 9, 2011.

Friday, December 9, 2011

I can has Leesburg

This Leesburg landmark, the Stephen Donaldson Silversmith house, is right across the street from the gallery where my architectural studies are now on the wall. It's said to date from 1700 although obviously rebuilt many times. It was part of the Loudoun County Museum with historical displays and a gift shop inside but is currently closed and unused. When it was being used it looked well-restored and kind of cozy. I don't think I could fit all my stuff and my book collection into it, if they wanted to rent it to me. I still think it looks like Lincoln Logs and also, the Balsam Incense Cabin, those house-shaped wooden boxes, sold in New England tourist traps. You burned pine resin incense in them and the suspicious-smelling smoke came out the chimney. I miss it. I want to log in.

Donaldson house is ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, about 10" x 8", fall 2011.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Snow Falling on Bagels

Decorations for the Winter Holiday Season demand that I be "traditional," and depict snow, evergreens, gifts, bright ornaments, candles, snowmen, sleighs, angels, elves, and other stuff in an endless parade of cliche's. I'd love to do something radical and different, but the retail world can not risk "radical and different." Similarly in the bagel and sandwich shop; I need to stay within the holiday boundaries lest the clients get disturbed. But if I must be within the boundaries, I might as well make pretty traditional images, hence the wreathlike evergreen boughs twinkling with frost and snowflakes. We'll get some real frost and snowflakes soon enough (that October blast was a freaky occurrence).

If you would like to see what I would do for a "radical and different" Winter Holiday theme, then fantasize how I could decorate a New Age book and gift store, or a chic Vegan restaurant, or some other hipster business that might have a more adventurous clientele.

Chalk ink markers on black-painted Masonite board, about 30" x 20", December 7, 2011.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Homeward Bounders

During the early to mid 1980s I was in friendly contact with the late British fantasy author Diana Wynne Jones. I loved her work, though I never read very many of her books. I ended up illustrating a number of her tales for various small magazines. During one of her visits to the USA, Diana commissioned me to do an illustration of a scene from her book "The Homeward Bounders." In this climactic scene, all the main characters storm an interdimensional fortress belonging to the demons who "play" the worlds as a multi-user roleplaying game. The central figure, the girl in black, has a right arm that can shape-shift, in this case into a fiery beam that can shatter the fortress door.

"The Homeward Bounders" is acrylic on illustration board, 14" x 10", Summer 1982. Click on the image for a larger view.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

In Memoriam "ZipDrive"

I have many, many friends who are cat lovers, and some friends who are cat breeders as well. I have done a lot of art for cat-related purposes such as logos or show awards or T-shirts. This was a portrait of a champion Maine Coon named "Marcus Brutus," which I did on commission for a cat breeder.

I post this majestic Maine Coon image in memory of another majestic Maine Coon, "ZipDrive," who left this world just a few days ago. He was the beloved cat of my friends in Lawrence, Kansas, and he will be greatly missed. I never met him in person, but I saw many endearing photos. I offer this tribute to the departed ZipDrive, long may his memory endure.

"Marcus Brutus" is black ink on illustration board, about 6" x 7", 2003.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Abstract Nametag Miniature

This nametag miniature was commissioned by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, one of the authors whom Galen represented as an agent for Scott Meredith Literary Agency.
She was to give it as a gift to Galen. The design is a colorful "linear-abstraction" suggesting a sunset over the sea. The circular logo with the SM initials of the Scott Meredith agency is done in gold metallic paint in the blue "sky." The name was pressed into the design using white adhesive "press-type," a graphic medium which has almost disappeared with the use of digital lettering.

In those days I did plot and create geometric abstractions, but only in miniature sizes. I only started making them in larger sizes in the early 2000s. They are much appreciated by my more sophisticated patrons and art friends, but they seem to be un-sellable, whether at a convention or in a gallery. Thus I have a stack of them, some of them framed, gathering dust and taking up space in my cluttered quarters. They're too "accessible" for the "serious" avant-garde crowd, and too abstract for the fantasy fans. I shouldn't say this to potential art buyers, but I don't love doing these abstractions. I find them tedious. I really want to paint kitschy, tawdry fantasy pictures with dragons, castles, warriors, mechas, spaceships, monsters, and babes, in digital form which takes up no space and can easily be printed. But don't worry, fans, something will always keep me from abasing myself in that fashion.

Russell Galen's nametag is, uh, ink, watercolor, and metallic paint on Faboo Fabriano paper, 3 1/2" x 2 1/4", December 1986.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


I haven't done one of my "natural history" photoshop doodles in quite some time, so here's one. Twilight, and the jungle is rustling as the emerald snake slithers down in search of dinner and a glass of Cabernet Franc.

Photoshop, about 7" x 9", December 3-4, 2011.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Elizabethan Fan Portrait Miniatures

Jean and Geoffrey were a married couple when I knew them in the mid-80s. They lived in Berkeley, California and were active in Darkover and other fan circles. They came east to DarkoverCon and that's where I first met them. They asked me to do their nametag miniature portraits as Elizabethan noblemen who were Catholic holdouts, not willing to convert to the Anglican Church. Jean holds her prayerbook, and Geoffrey, titled "The Queen's Scholar," holds an open book of theology.

Jean and Geoff, like so many other couples I depicted, are no longer together. Jean, who is the daughter of a fairly well-known writer, became a writer herself. I have heard nothing from Geoff since the time of these miniature portraits.

Portraits are ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, 2 1/4" x 3 1/2", January 1986.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Idyllic Leesburg Porch

Even though it's almost winter, I can visit summer anytime I want by looking at this leafy, idyllic porch in pleasant old Leesburg. Am I ready for my rocking chair yet? I'm not sure the good people of Leesburg would want to hear the ambient electronic music issuing from my sound system. Nor would they want to look upon my horror fantasy art, should I manage to produce any. But nobody doesn't love pretty buildings. I like this one myself, it's one of my favorites so far. I'll try to place this in the same gallery that accepted its siblings.

I hope that's enough buildings for now. I'd really like to do something else. I also have commissions to work on. Stash my watercolors and bring out the "heavy artillery" - acrylic paint and my airbrush cannon.

Leesburg porch is ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, 7" x 10", November 2011. Clickonthepic for a larger view.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Illustration for Visiting Anne McCaffrey

Since I won the "Dragondrums" art contest, I was entitled to visit Anne McCaffrey in Ireland. If you visit someone, you have to bring them a gift, but what could I possibly bring to the Dragon Mistress? Art, of course; original art that no one else would have. I put together this folksy illustration of McCaffrey's popular character "Menolly," and portrayed her with her nine friendly fire lizards. I borrowed the style from Russian illustrator Ivan Bilibin, though I didn't do a very good job imitating him. I also made a nametag miniature for McCaffrey, also with a portrait of Menolly on it.

When I got to Ireland and finally visited the author, I presented these pieces to her, and it seemed to me that her reaction was rather indifferent. Some of that was tiredness, as she had just returned from New Zealand, but also, she had a collection of hundreds of pieces of art that fans and artists had done for her. Mine was just another for the stack. She had at least one of the original covers done by the famous Mike Whelan. As I recounted in a previous post, I got to see a lot of art that she had put up on her walls.

Now that she is gone, I wonder what happened to the art. It could just pass to her descendants, including her son Todd who is carrying on the writing. But what happens to an art collection once the owner dies? If it is of no monetary value, does it just get thrown out if no one else wants it? Is it sold as a lot along with other unwanted possessions? I would imagine that fans of McCaffrey would be glad to buy up the art collection, one by one, including mine, if it ever had to be sold off. Most likely, I will never know what happens to this piece.

This is a personal matter for me. My mother, an artist all her life, has amassed hundreds and hundreds of original works which she has rarely if ever tried to sell (she doesn't believe that fine art should be "marketed", or didn't have the energy to do the marketing). They fill not only a studio but a room of my parents' house. Mother is 90 years old and sooner or later I will face the matter of disposing of (or storing) this art collection. As for my own art, I don't keep it if I can at all help it go somewhere else.

"Menolly and Fire Lizards" is ink and gouache on illustration board, 11" x 14", summer 1980. Click on the pic for a larger view, at least the border is kind of nice.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


This is from my day job at Trader Joe's. I was tasked with painting 28 identical snowman panels, that is, fourteen two-sided boards which hang from the ceiling and advertise the Winter Flyer ad booklet. They aren't completely identical, since each one is painted by hand and is slightly different, and also each side is the reverse of the other except for the lettering. The original design is not mine, it came from another member of the sign team. The boards were cut to shape by brave co-workers with a skill saw. I did most of the painting though I did ask another co-worker to help me with some of the details at the last minute. Fortunately she saved my, uh, snowball by helping me finish on time. She did the lovable faces and the arm-sticks and sign stick. When I was painting the signs held by the snowpeople, I kept wanting to put something "Occupy" on the placard instead of "Winter." It's amazing how fast a movement with a legitimate and serious theme can be commercialized and trivialized. The snowmen are currently marching through my Trader Joe's, demonstrating on behalf of...winter. Just feed them hot chicken soup, though, and the snowpeople will melt and reveal the revived children inside, just as in the famous Campbell's soup commercial.

Snowman series is acrylic on masonite, 14 boards about 2 feet in diameter, November 2011.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Elric Deryni miniature portrait

"Elric's" real name was Andrew, but he was better known by his name in the Society for Creative Anachronism. I did his nametag miniature portrait as a "Deryni," one of Katherine Kurtz' psychically empowered medieval characters. The elf-like Deryni live among ordinary humans, in fear of persecution should their magic be discovered. Deryni are often blonde, with brilliant pale jewel-like eyes, though they don't have pointed ears. One of their more common magical operations is the conjuring of "hand-fire," a ball of cold light in their hand which they use as illumination in the darkness, and I depicted Deryni Elric with it here.

Deryni Elric miniature is ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, 2 1/4" x 3 1/2", November 1986.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Back from Darkovercon

I left DarkoverCon early, only a few hours after the art show closed. I couldn't justify staying another day and paying for the hotel room when I made so little money. I only sold a few prints. My cosmic abstractions were not the right thing for a fantasy convention. Other artists displayed "conventional" fantasy subjects such as dragons, unicorns, exotic creatures, and sexy maidens - and they sold plenty of pieces. I'm not about to paint stuff like that just to sell at conventions. I need to pay attention to the work I actually have commissions for. And I'm still thinking about my sequential art projects (graphic novels). How can I make time to continue these graphic works? It's an endlessly ongoing concern.

DarkoverCon is really about seeing friends anyway, and I did a lot of socializing, feasting, and imbibing. Some of these people, I only see once or twice a year. As always, it's good to catch up with them and hear what they've been doing, and admire their craft work. It seems like everyone in the fan community does some sort of craft. There were spinning wheels and knitters in the hotel lobby. You could also hear live music (usually Celtic folk) coming from many of the rooms. Sort of like a mini-Renaissance fair held indoors. There were plenty of vendors and I bought a few nice things, including a silver-pewter goblet, very shiny for the winey.

So now it's back to pre-holiday stuff and the continuing battle against clutter. I wish I had some extra dimensions to stash it in. But things that go into those dimensions tend to get warped, so I don't want to get anything artistic bent out of shape.

This drawing is the only one I did at the con. They all look the same after a while. The guy with the headphones is selling 'zines, an archaic form of communication that involved binding printed sheets together and selling the paper sheafs.

Pitt black technical pen on sketchbook page, about 7" x 5", November 27, 2011.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Dragonriders of Pern

Here's another artwork I did from the Dragons of Pern books of the late Anne McCaffrey. This was done after I had met Anne and seen what she considered the "correct" illustration of a Pernese dragon. Note the powerful horse-like body and pony-like head, with the tubular ears of a giraffe. The wings are relatively small and if the "levitation" bit is true, act more like propulsion and steering than lifting wings. According to McCaffrey and the books, the dragons are not clad in scales and spikes like so many other reptilian models. Their surface is more like hide, with the texture of suede. But it also has an iridescent quality which I tried to capture in the bronze dragon behind the main figures.

The picture was done for a fan on behalf of his sister who was a devoted Pern fan. The girl riding the golden "queen" dragon is Lessa, one of McCaffrey's main characters. She is leading her weyr, or company of dragons and people, into battle against the environment-destroying alien "Thread." I tried to evoke the land, sea, and atmosphere of Ireland, as you see the earth tilting under the swooping flight of the dragons.

"Dragonflight" is ink and watercolor on illustration board, 15" x 10", March 1981.

There will be no By-Products from Thursday to Sunday as I will be at DarkoverCon. Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Memories of Pern

I just heard that Anne McCaffrey, author of the "Pern" books, has died. I was not as much a fan of the series as others of my friends, but I have vivid memories of Ms. McCaffrey and the era of Pern fandom. In its day, it was a widespread fan community where people took names and role-played in that imaginary world and wrote loads of fan fiction.

This picture won a contest, sponsored in early 1980 by what was, for a while, a fantasy and science fiction art gallery in Boston named the "Earthlight Gallery." The co-sponsors were WBCN Radio (then a rock music station) and Bantam Books, McCaffrey's publisher. The contest was a promotion for McCaffrey's latest book, "Dragondrums," which was the story of a talented but mischievous young lad named Piemur, who finds himself transported to a tropical southern continent on Pern which is mostly unexplored. Piemur is accompanied by his mini-dragon, or "fire lizard," named "Farli." This picture shows Piemur surrounded by tropical plants on a southern beach. The tropical plants are real Earth plants which I copied from books or from a local florist shop.

I only heard of the contest a couple of weeks before its deadline, and after seeing that there were only a few entries, decided to enter it myself. I painted this in a rush, taking only about four days to do it. The picture is in acrylic watercolor, a little-known use of acrylic as transparent wash, which makes the colors very bright and long-lasting. I also made it larger than the other entries. My picture won the contest. Even though it won, it annoyed the gallery-owner who felt that I had "stolen" the prize by throwing in a hastily-assembled but flashy piece of inferior quality.

The prize was a trip to Ireland (for two) to meet Anne McCaffrey. In the autumn of 1980 I went with a friend to the Emerald Isle and we spent a week touring around. One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to McCaffrey's cottage, where even though she had just returned from a trip around the world, she was gracious enough to receive us as guests for a couple of hours. I got to see her own art collection, including a painting of a bulky dragon which she said was as "authentic" as could be depicted. I commented to her that this dragon was kind of heavy and the wings were too small to bear that weight. How could those dragons fly? "They levitate!" was her response. There has always been a wide range of interpretations of what "Pernese" dragons should look like.

This is one of the few Pern and dragon-themed artworks I've done, compared to the myriad Darkover pieces I have turned out over the years. I've never depicted a dragon I've been satisfied with, and I sometimes feel that I am not really "authorized" to depict them like other artist friends of mine who do marvelous dragons. So I have not artistically explored the Pern world very much.

This painting was exhibited in various conventions and then given to a couple of friends of mine in 1982, in return for transportation to DarkoverCon 5. In a couple of days, if all goes well, I will go to DarkoverCon 34. My, how time a dragon, burning up the years.

"Piemur of Pern" is ink and acrylic watercolor on Strathmore illustration board, 30" x 20", Spring 1980.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

White Cat miniature

DarkoverCon approaches, it's that time of year again, for better or worse. In the thirty years I've been going to this, I have watched my fan friends grow old. This nametag miniature brings back memories of 1982. "Morwenna" was a friend of a friend, and both of them still come to DarkoverCon. In 1982 I stayed at her house and was awakened by the white cat crawling on me and putting her face right up to mine so all I could see was a huge cat face. "Mizi" was the name of the cat but I called her "The White Shadow." "Morwenna" was the portrait person's name in the "Society for Creative Anachronism." She had me include not only Mizi, but her favorite triple whorl metal pendant, and the moons of Darkover. The butterfly ornament in her hair is made of copper, and is a typical piece of Darkovan ladies' jewelry. Mizi is long gone but "Morwenna" still appears at Darkovercon.

Morwenna's nametag miniature is ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, 3 1/2" x 2 1/4", January 1986.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bespectacled Barbarian miniature

This was a nametag miniature portrait from the mid-80s, and part of another his 'n' hers set. I portrayed Phil as a well-armed barbarian from the 20th century. I remember Phil vividly, mostly for his weaponry. He had a gun collection and taught me how to shoot at a range, on a memorable outing in suburban Virginia, long before I moved there. We fired on soda bottles filled with water, while bluebirds chirped in the background. His wife was a fantasy fan and fiction writer, a good friend of mine in those days.

Like so many other of these portrait couples I depicted, they are no longer together. The wife left Phil for another woman and they are still together nowadays, though I have no contact with them and haven't for many years. Phil is also lost to the mists of time.

"Bespectacled Barbarian" miniature nametag portrait is ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, 3 1/2" x 2 1/4", January 1986.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Twilight at Loudoun Valley

I placed four of the Leesburgs you saw on this Blog into the Gleedsville Gallery in downtown Leesburg, where I hope they will be viewed and bought by tourists. Three more will follow. I'm glad to have my art in a real gallery. It's progress, of a kind.

Afterwards, it was wine time. My Saturday Sip was at Loudoun Valley Vineyards and winery, near Leesburg. I arrived there late in the day and was able to capture the sunset over the hills with my iPad, while a guitarist played and wine flowed. They have a tapas restaurant there which serves gourmet bits every weekend. I would like to return and try it.

"Loudoun Twilight" is Autodesk Sketch Pro, about 8" x 5", November 19, 2011.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Shaman and Rabbi portrait miniatures

Leigh Ann and David were two of the more interesting people I did a "couples" nametag set for. Leigh Ann was a Pagan and worked with shamanism; David was a conservative Jew who debated whether to become a rabbi, and studied Kabbalah. I did their portraits respecting their spiritual paths. Leigh Ann was a "sea shamaness" who identified with the ocean and its creatures. David, wearing a traditional tallit or Jewish prayer shawl, is surrounded by the flaming Hebrew letters of his name.

This pairing, not unexpectedly, didn't last. Leigh Ann went on to a musical career in the fantasy/s.f. world, and unfortunately died a dreadful death in a motorcycle accident in 2006. I have not been able to trace David Oster, even on internet.

Nametags are the usual, December 1985. Some restoration in Photoshaman.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Norris House Leesburg color

Here's another Leesburg. I'm coloring them as fast as I can so that I can frame them and bring them to a gallery in that town which offered to host them for the holiday season. This is the Norris House, which you remember from my ink drawing, which is a bed and breakfast that I'd love to stay at someday. I'm not sure my colors improve the overall painting, but I added color anyway. 2 more to go and I'll be framing them tomorrow I hope.

Norris House is ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, about 8" x 10", fall 2011.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ipomoea Porch

Here's the colorized version of one of my Leesburg architectural drawings. There really were morning glory plants on the railing, but the flowers were deep purple, not the heavenly blue of the Ipomoea tricolor plant. So I have substituted the heavenly blue ones. By the way, the word "Ipomoea" means "worm-like" in Greek botanical notation, referring to the way the tendrils twine around anything they come into contact with. This porch is probably a private house so I am not identifying it or specifying what street it is on.

Ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, 7 1/2" x 10", fall 2011.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Heroic Scots-Canadian miniature

For some reason, the name "Julian West" sounds like the name of a dashing fictional adventure hero. But the real Julian West was a techie at a convention who commissioned a nametag portrait from me. His specifications were, uh, specific. He wanted a portrait of himself in cerulean and crimson Scottish garb, with a banner displaying a mathematical pentangle symbol that he used as an identification. Since West was a student at M.I.T., originally from British Columbia, Canada, he wished his colors to be the cerulean blue and wine-red of the British Columbian official tartan. I had no idea that Canadian provinces had an official tartan plaid pattern, but there it was. The portrait was highly idealized, portraying Julian as a banner-bearer. I titled it "Knight of the Nine Elect," inspired by the degree of "Knights Elect of Nine" in Scottish Rite Freemasonry.

"Knight of the Nine Elect" is ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, 2 1/4" x 3 1/2", January 1986.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Leesburg portico colorized

Whew, made it...trying to post a November 15th image here in order to keep my string of consecutive days going. This is the Leesburg portico you saw on my November 10th entry. I've added color but only in monochrome, for a "brownscale" look. I didn't want to get in the way of my inkwork which I was pleased with here. I think extra colors would only be a distraction. The other Leesburgs will probably be in full color.

Ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, about 8" x 8", November 15, 2011.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Flame Tree of Autumn

I saw this blazing maple on my walk break from work. The tree is right at the side of the main road. Though this picture is taken from memory, I am not making these colors up. Virginia fall colors have been vivid this year, and also a week late. Right now gusty winds are scattering the leaves from the trees. Photoshop is very good at making leaf textures and color blends. Bare twigs take more invention but are also a good Photoshop subject. I feel as though I never have enough time to sketch. Digital sketching is a good way to do a lot of color and black/white drawing without stacking up lots of space-filling papers.

Photoshop, 10" x 7", November 13, 2011.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Village Vino Crowd

I had a one-day art show at the Village Winery in Waterford, Virginia on Saturday. The owner invited me to set up my prints and cards on two tables in the tasting shed for that afternoon. I got a lot of views and met a number of nice people. I showed prints of my Virginia wine art which you have seen on this Blog, as well as some of my abstracts and my "Modern Science Angels." I sold a few cards and got some contacts from people interested in my work. During my show hours, a busload of about 40 wine-lovers arrived and the crowd filled the rustic little wine lodge, as you can see from my drawing. The group looks all female here but there were numerous males as well. Winery visiting is a big attraction here in Northern Virginia and the bus tours allow people to get happy without having to drive. The Village specializes in unusual wines made from fruits and berries, as well as the classic wine grapes. I took home two bottles of their elderberry wine.

Drawing is Pitt black technical pen on sketchbook page, about 5 1/2" x 7".

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cavalier Cat miniature

Instead of his own portrait picture, Kenneth asked for a Cavalier Cat. This was inspired by a wonderful statuette of this character, about 18 inches high, in which the clothes were elaborately created in miniature and the cat's figure was made of black velvet. It was on display at a Baltimore area science fiction convention. I loved it so much I wanted to own it but the selling price was far too expensive for me to afford back then. So I re-created it in a miniature portrait. I have often wondered what happened to that fabric creation. I hope it is in someone's much-admired collection somewhere. No clue, or interest, about Kenneth.

"Cavalier Cat" is watercolor and ink on Fabriano paper, 2 1/4" x 3 1/2", December 1985.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Tom Bombadil and Goldberry portrait miniatures

Tom and Nancy were friends of mine in the 1980s. They were part of the then-active Darkover fantasy fan community as well as explorers of esoteric spirituality. I did these miniature nametag portraits for them for DarkoverCon, the same convention that is now approaching its 34th (can you believe it?) meeting.

They were also Tolkien fans (who isn't?) and so I decided I would portray them as Tom Bombadil and his wife Goldberry, a pair of nature spirits who appear in Book I of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, as the Hobbits and their associates trek out of the Shire and into unknown territory. The faces here are highly idealized, but they are built on the couple's real looks. Nancy had sky-blue eyes and a cloud of frizzy golden hair, and she modeled for me many times. She had two orange cats which I depicted in her portrait. Tom was a huge Deadhead who had been to over 100 Grateful Dead shows, and he introduced me to the Grateful Dead fan world, where I eventually attended about 11 shows.

In the old days of hippies and outright fantasy in the late 1960s, Tolkien, and especially these two characters, were thought of as analogues for a hippie, all-natural, and, uh, mind-expanded lifestyle. I did not see these friends indulging in anything illegal, and in fact Tom had a PhD in economics, so if he did indulge, he somehow found a way to coexist in a highly technical field. They went on to have two children and are still living somewhere near me, though we drifted apart for various reasons and I have not seen them for many years. The fantasy lives on.

Nametag miniatures are the usual, November 1985.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Leesburg Portico

Blogger, my host here, has been unusually wonky these last few days. Last night, it didn't work at all. Now it's OK. Here is another in my Leesburg architectural studies. This majestic portico is now the entrance to a group of insurance and real estate title offices.

The details in this nicely restored woodwork originate more than 2000 years ago in ancient Greek ornament, which was then elaborated in ancient Roman times. One of the things I love about historic Virginia Americana is that the people who created these buildings lived in a culture which was aware of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Those who were fortunate enough to have a higher education in those days (relatively few, that is) knew Greek and Latin and had read the Classics. They also knew their Classical architectural elements and this was the vocabulary of the American designer all the way from colonial times to the late 19th century. As a one-time classical scholar myself, I feel a kinship with these bygone classical designers and people living in a Classically inspired culture.

None of this survives today as anything but antiquarian. The world is globalized and design no longer comes from ancient Greece and Rome. But every time I see some of these white pillars I remember and appreciate my personal cultural origins.

Leesburg portico is technical pen ink on Fabriano paper, about 8" x 9", November 2011. Some color will be added later.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Peacock Lady portrait miniature

Bobby Gear, wife of costumer and vampire entertainer Marty Gear, has been gone for many years now. Back in the 1980s I was friendly with these folk and did art for them, especially costume-related. I did a number of portraits as well. This nametag miniature commemorates one of Bobby's fabulous get-ups. The lady peacock in reality doesn't get to wear her man's gorgeous plumage, but in fantasy costumeland she does. It's a nice thing to remember her by.

I nearly didn't get a posting entered here today (November 9)...I was too tired to post after midnight last night the way I usually do.

Bobby Gear's miniature portrait is ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, 2 1/4" x 3 1/2", January 1985.