Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cosmic Lily

I did a series of flower pictures into which I added my characteristic geometric abstraction/astronomical patterns. This series was originally aimed at a gallery but I completely misjudged the needs of the gallery, which was in the affluent suburb of Potomac, Maryland and wanted mostly equestrian and landscape subjects. So I ended up selling these one by one at my usual science fiction conventions. This one is called "Cosmic Lily" and is a Daylily against my favorite spacey blue curved geometrics.

You never know, I may try this "composite" style of abstraction and flower again, but would it still be unsuitable for affluent suburbanites, 20 years later? Who knows. Unlike what is thought of as a "true" artist, I want to sell what I make and move it out of the studio, and if that means adjusting my style or subject matter, that's all right with me. The interesting part for me is solving a problem in an artwork, not "expressing myself." That makes me a commercial artist, even if I don't make much money doing art. Cosmic for cash.

"Cosmic Lily" is watercolor on Fabriano illustration board, 10" x 7", fall 1992.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Faerie Library

In Faerie-land, texts are inscribed on petals which the Faerie Folk can detach from flowers and then miraculously return and re-attach. They can also go to large flowers which serve as terminals from which they can gather information in the form of fragrance and nectar. When you see faeries or hummingbirds or insects delving into flowers, they are not just pollinating the plants but gathering information which they later share among other faerie creatures. A garden is a faerie university.

"Faerie Library" is ink and watercolor on illustration board, 10" x 7", November 1991.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Active Universe

Reading books on cosmology makes me want to use bright colored abstractions in spacescapes. Well, maybe not, but all that red from the redshifts has to go somewhere. This is inspired by galaxy clusters and gravitational lenses which squirt photons around major mass concentrations. Not to mention the dark matter, which you can't see in this picture at all!

I have been nibbling at Science once again through reading books, although I'm not doing any math, but perhaps I should start writing again on my other blog, ELECTRON BLUE 2, which has been in suspended animation since last year. Could you stand more writing from me, or is this quite enough?

This piece was done in both Photoshop AND Adobe Illustrator, which was responsible (through my action using it, of course) for the hard edged shapes of red and crimson and yellow.

"Active Universe" is Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, 7" x 10", March 29, 2011.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sky Light Iris

People breed irises with unusual characteristics. One beautiful mutation appears on these irises, where the usual oval fuzzy "beard" has been replaced by a blue feathery curl, emerging from the center of the plant and opening up on the lower petals. In fact many of the varieties of German bearded iris could not survive and reproduce in an uncontrolled natural environment, since they cannot be pollinated by ordinary insects such as bees and butterflies because the flowers are too large and the creatures can't reach the pollen parts. People do the pollination, thus enhancing evolution. The variety with the feathery blue curls is called "Skyhooks."

"Sky Light Iris" is watercolor on illustration board, 10" x 7", fall 1992.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Casanel Vineyards

Casanel Vineyards, near Leesburg in Virginia wine country, has some of the friendliest wine people I've ever met. It's run by a family, mom and pop and two daughters. Sipping wine there is like being at home with people who are glad you came to visit. The wine is excellent, too. I spent some time standing at one end of the wine bar, with my sketchbook and pencils on the bar, drawing this while sippers milled about on a busy Saturday. I got to talk with the father of the family, who built the wine tasting room out of a historic farm building and has personally done most of the renovations on the rural site. It's still a new establishment, and the vines are young, but there are ambitious plans for landscaping and more building. Virginia's wine industry is the future.

Drawing is ink and colored pencil, with some Photoshop coloring, on sketchbook page, about 9" x 7". Click on the pic for a larger view.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Harvard Man

You don't often see Harvard stuff on people around the Northern Virginia area. Most of the university livery is from in-state places like George Mason, James Madison, or Virginia Tech. But here is a fine bearer of the Crimson, sitting in Starbucks doing whatever on his computer, while his huge backpack occupies a whole chair. It looks like he is emerging from his backpack, but it is actually next to him. Long, long ago I was a graduate student in Greek and Latin at Harvard, but the experience was so miserable that I would never, ever wear anything crimson or Harvard-branded. This guy may have had a better time there.

Pitt technical pen on sketchbook page, about 5" x 5". Color added in Photoshop.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Winter Garden Hotel and Casino

It may seem as though I am not producing much new art product these days, but that isn't quite true. I am actually working on a major piece in digital format. It's a city panorama of my favorite city in my imaginary NoantriWorld, Surakosai. I have been putting this together for months, bit by bit, because I don't have enough time to work on it at length. I still have quite a lot to do on it, so I will continue working on it in my piecewise manner, while you yawn through my flower pictures from 20 years ago.

Nevertheless, I am providing you with a mini preview here. This is a few inches excerpted from the panorama. It depicts the "Winter Garden" hotel and casino, on the waterfront. This luxury urban resort features an enclosed garden including trees and landscaped playgrounds, on the roof of the building under a high-tech canopy. In front of the hotel is an outdoor quay-side park and a marina where fancy yachts are moored. Some Noantri live very well.

"Winter Garden" is Photoshop, only 2 1/2" x 1 1/2", 300 DPI, March 25, 2011.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Magical Meadow

The more alert among my handful of readers here may note that I have not posted a By-Product for two days. That's because my internet service was Kaput for those days and I couldn't get online from my studio computer. The repairman arrived and fixed it on Wednesday morning so here I am back again. My vintage picture this time is a tiny piece that was no more than a "toss-off" to use a remaining piece of illustration board, but it proved to be popular enough at a DarkoverCon show to sell. Perhaps it was the creature faces. These are "dogbirds," which look like flying Chihuahuas, as well as one real bird, in the upper right area. They rustle through a meadow in which bright spring irises bloom.

"Magical Meadow" is watercolor on illustration board, 8" x 7", November 1991.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Faerie Liturgy

Never let it be said that I can't do Cute. If inspired enough, I will add Cuteness to things which aren't normally that way, like High Mass liturgy. Why can't faerie creatures be Catholic? Or perhaps what passes for Catholic among the nature spirits. Here are some tiny beings celebrating Mass, maybe imitating the big humans they see inside the built stone caves. Instead of a cathedral, they have built an altar and a canopy of petals. What kind of deity are they invoking? Are they consecrating pollen instead of wheat wafers? What about the gender of the central celebrant? Do the spirits have gender, and can they be ordained? All these questions remain unanswered.

As for the picture itself, this is one of the few pieces which was stolen from me, or at least never returned from being on loan. I consigned it to an "agent" who promised to sell it at a convention somewhere. She didn't sell it, and never returned it (along with others in its series). I couldn't reach her, so the picture was lost. Only this photo remains to document the peculiar liturgies of the faerie spirits.

"Faerie Liturgy" is watercolor on illustration board, 7" x 10", November 1991.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

8 Chains North

I'm back at the wineries now that spring is approaching. This Saturday I visited "8 Chains North," near Purcellville, VA in the northernmost corner of the state. "8 Chains" refers to an old measure of distance, a length of chain, used before the Civil War. They don't have much of a vineyard on their site but they source their grapes from affiliate and family farms nearby. They offered two whites and four reds at the tasting, and I continue to be pleased with Virginia reds, especially their "Furnace Mountain" red blend.

After sipping I went outside for the first drawing time this year and drew this view of their patio and their back yard, including the air conditioning box at right. Baby vines are planted in another section. This winery is less than one year old, so they're just getting started.

Sketchbook page, ink and colored pencil, about 8" x 10".

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Iconic Trader Joe Indicator

Trader Joe's still uses the red hibiscus flower as a logo, though most of the stores now are not near hibiscus territory. The surfboard and the friendly blue wave are also "traditional" imagery. This was created for the "Fearless Flyer," the humorous advertising brochure which TJ sends to the neighborhood around it. This design will be placed with every Flyer item in the store. Also, this is meant to be more permanent so that it can be re-used as part of a standard Flyer advertising kit.

TJ Flyer Indicator, hand drawn with pencil and then redrawn and colored digitally, 5" x 5", March 19, 2011.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Phoenix Lily

A daylily renews itself in a burst of fire. Or perhaps a volcano erupts a flower of lava, a Lavalily. I have over the years identified myself with the color orange. But I am just as fond of black, or purple, or shades of blue. Fortunately there are flowers in those colors too.

I just transcribed the rest of my flower paintings so there are still more to come on what is currently "Garden By-Products." The official title of this piece is "Phoenix Lily."

"Phoenix Lily" is watercolor on illustration board, 10" x 7", November 1991.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Ancient Acropolis

I have been "urban sketching" for decades. This image is almost 28 years old, judging from the date I put on it. This depicts the "Acropolis" restaurant on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, the city where I lived from 1977 to 1988. In those days I was a full-time artist and had plenty of time to draw whatever I pleased (though I didn't make much money). I sketched and documented a lot of places and people around Harvard Square. The "Acropolis," which is long gone, served mediocre Greek food. I didn't eat there very often. But its "classical" facade was, uh, classic. Note the neighboring "Computer Store," a sign of the incredible future that would soon overtake our world.

"Acropolis Restaurant" is ink on sketchbook paper, about 10" x 8", September 9, 1983.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bronze Stars

These bronze-colored irises were another commission from my astronomical friends. I received the munificent amount of $30 per image, so I wasn't exactly making a fortune even in 1991 dollars. They didn't take too long to make, though. Some of them, I hardly remember. I must be nearly through transcribing my flower pictures, I'll do the rest of them soon so we can move on to something else.

"Bronze Stars" is acrylic on illustration board, 7" x 10", June 1991.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Another Featured Item

As long as most of a design is done by hand, the Trader Joe's management doesn't mind my using a computer and Photoshop to do the coloring. The Flyer is coming out again (a pamphlet with descriptions of all the featured goodies) so this time I got to do the larger "Flyer Item" sign. Someone in the main California graphics workshop of Trader Joe's must love Victoriana and Steampunk, because every year the Flyer gets a neo-Victorian design theme. This is for this year's and I've added as much as I can in the graphic style of the Flyer. I have to leave a lot of space in the interior for the lettering. The little owl with the paper in the lower left corner appears on the Flyer and I copied him into my design. Not too many people will know what "Woot" means, but I think it is something an owl would say.

Original drawing is ink on paper, 8" x 6", colored in Photoshop.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Main Sequence Irises

This acrylic iris painting was a commission by the same astronomical folks who were behind my "High Frontier" logo design. They enjoyed flowers and stars as much as I did so I combined a galaxy view with some lavender-blue bearded irises. The title "Main Sequence" refers to a well-known classification of stars used by astronomers. The sequence includes not only red giants and white dwarfs but mid-range yellow stars like our Sun. If these flowers were stars, they would be a blue cluster, freshly opened, emitting fragrant radiance into space.

"Main Sequence Irises" is acrylic on illustration board, 7" x 10", June 1991.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Creature Doodles

Lately, I've been making up little creatures, while doodling in my notebooks. I don't want them to be frightening, I want them to be whimsical. I suppose I could draw scary ones too. Some of them are almost like real living things and some of them are not, they're sort of like mixtures of attributes of real animals. If you put a pen in my hand these days, you're likely to get one or more of these creatures.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Faerie Creatures of Spring

I've seen daffodils, so I know that spring is just around the corner. I rescued this image from a very poor, dust-covered color slide. Daffodils look like faerie architecture anyway, so the ethereal creatures probably live inside the petals. Spring releases vast numbers of faeries into the air. Or maybe that's pollen.

"Faerie Creatures of Spring" is watercolor on illustration board, 7" x 10", December 1990.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Mall Concierge

I haven't been in the nearby mall for many months, so it was time to visit and see what was new there. One new thing was a "conveyor-belt" sushi restaurant, where goodies were constantly circulated in front of the eaters. I was being frugal so I didn't eat there. But I did buy a Starbucks coffee, which allowed me to sit in the sipping area in front of the store and make this drawing. Tysons Corner Mall has a wealth of design vistas which invite me to draw their complexity and perspective. I had not yet drawn the round concierge kiosk so this was my subject today. The shape in front is the arms and back of an upholstered chair in the seating area.

I've done uncounted numbers of these urban sketches over the years. Lately I've been wondering, rather crassly and un-artistically, whether I could make money by marketing either the sketches themselves or my ability to do them. They aren't slick and computerized like most architectural concept drawings nowadays, but maybe someone in the architecture world wants this style.

Black Pitt technical pen on sketchbook paper, about 7 1/2" x 6".

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Storm Flower

After doing a year's worth of flower pictures in watercolor, I tried some in acrylic, which is more opaque and takes longer to work with. This was a commission from a friend who liked the color orange as much as I do, and had irises in her garden. It was early summer and I incorporated the stormy weather into the picture. The original title is "Stormlord's Flower." I'd put it on a black T-shirt, if I were marketing it, and I'd wear one myself.

"Stormlord's Flower" is acrylic on illustration board, 7" x 10", June 1991.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wyatt's Torch

"Wyatt's Torch," my new painting, is now done. It was originally conceived as an abstract meditation on an incident from Ayn Rand's ATLAS SHRUGGED, but underwent a re-conception when I decided to enter it in a local juried show at Falls Church Arts. The theme of this juried show is "Letters," in which you have to somehow incorporate one or more letters from our alphabet into your artistic entry. In this piece, I've placed the letter W prominently in fiery red on a black background. W stands for "Wyatt." I hope my art is accepted for the show.

In Rand's book, Ellis Wyatt is a defiant oil magnate who blows up his own oilfields and refinery rather than allow it to be taken over by the government. What is left after the destruction is one flaming oil derrick that no one could put out. That came to be known as "Wyatt's Torch." I am a big fan of fiery stuff so I am glad to create a picture full of stylized flames, volcanic and industrial-apocalyptic at the same time.

"Wyatt's Torch" is acrylic and colored pencil on illustration board, 16" x 12", March 2011. You are invited to click on the image for a somewhat larger view.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Alchemical Flowers

This is an alchemical bouquet, composed only in artistic reality without a photograph or a real arrangement to copy. It was given to one of my artistic patrons, who ran a convention at which I was Guest of Honor. Since it was an esoteric convention, and I was painting esoteric flowers, I chose that theme for my art gift. These are the "Flowers of the Four Elements," each one signifying one quarter of the modern esoteric quaternity. The orange lily is Fire, the blue morning glory covered with dew is Water, the yellow rose exuding its perfume is Air, and the green fern is Earth. Above them is the purplish-black Iris of Spirit. The triangular symbol for each element hovers near the flower. The imaginary container for this cosmic bouquet is meant to look like a starry sky.

In the background is some geometric abstraction and a series of rainbow color lines. The rainbow stripes are in honor of my openly Gay patron, as the rainbow logo has become a symbol of Gay pride and rights.

This image was rescued from a very poor photograph with the miraculous power of Photoshop. It is amazing what this software can do.

"Flowers of the Four Elements" is watercolor on illustration board, 11" x 14, August 1989.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Guinness and Murphy

The inexorable grinding wheel of the year now brings us to the celebration of things Irish, whether they are authentic or not. I think Guinness Stout is authentic because I remember drinking it in Ireland. These cans of stout are built with a clever contraption inside them that re-creates the texture and foaminess of draft beer. I have been to Ireland twice and I have vivid memories of the place, including watching raptly as draught Guinness separated black elixir from white foam.

I don't often do big boards for Trader Joe's but this time I did, adding pseudo-Celtic ornament to an ad for Guinness and Murphy. The ad copy was provided by a co-worker who is at least partially Irish and married to someone of Irish background.

Trader Joe's endcap board, about 36" x 24", March 6, 2011.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Iris Mystique

Not much fantasy to this set of irises, but plenty of pretty. The cultivar of this iris was named "Mystique," with dark purple lower petals and lavender upper petals. Tristan can have another choice for a T-shirt! This was a commission from a lady who sells lovely jewelry at conventions, often in the colors chosen here.

"Iris Mystique" is watercolor on illustration board, 7" x 10", November 1990.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Gaming Goddess

I used to do commissions for gamers, illustrating their gaming characters. This gal is a Goddess, or more likely a demi-goddess, from someone's role playing game. My client gave me elaborate instructions for both the character and her background, and I remember working hard to stuff all the details into a rather small picture. She's holding some type of Sphere of Power, and is standing in front of a glowing yellow altar, on a mystic screen disc. A dragon made of smoke curls around her above the altar, and an emerald dart or arrow rests in a holder placed on the altar. A ruby-encrusted crown is at her left, also on the altar, resting on a black velvet cushion.

Her name was "Ivutar Blackheart," and I don't remember whether she was evil or good, or even whether she had an action role. Anyone else would have made her with a low-cut dress and a lot of buxom cleavage, as well as a slit skirt revealing lots of leg. But I didn't, I made a modest Goddess which I vaguely remember was what my client wanted. I was never satisfied with the way this picture came out, and it's not well documented in my files nor was it well photographed. I still love doing character portraits. I wonder what ever happened to my gaming client, or Ivutar. Probably she is long forgotten, except for her unexpected revival here in this By-Product...but no! I found her on the home page of my old client, and here she is - (click on the little image of the painting under the word "Warp")...with my mundane name totally misspelled.

"Ivutar Blackheart" is acrylic on illustration board, about 8 1/2" x 11", 1985.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Celtic Mardi Gras Cheeseburgers

Pseudo-Celtic designs meet Mardi Gras in my latest sign for "Bagels, Deli, and Donuts." Mena has added cheeseburgers to the menu, at least for now. It's unusual for Mardi Gras and St. Patrick's Day to be so close together in March, but it happens this year. More commercialized holidays to roll in the inexorable turning of the year.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Aeonian Gate

This picture dates from 2001, when I was just beginning to put together geometric space abstractions in acrylic on a larger scale. The design comes from what is known as the "vesica piscis," or "fish bladder" shape, which is derived from the intersection of two circles. I had not worked out the acrylic technique that I used for my later abstractions and this one was done partly in airbrush and partly by hand. It represents a gateway through space, into another universe perhaps. I never got a good photograph of it, so some of the details and colors (in the light colored center, especially) are washed out. The whole composition is inspired by my journey into mathematics and physics, which was quite new when I painted it. The lines coming out of the center represent particle trails, and the curved lines are derived from conic sections as well as the legendary circles.

"Aeonian Gate" is acrylic on Masonite, 24" x 16", August 2001.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Post Number 1000: High Frontier

It has been almost three years since I started "Art By-Products." I have posted almost every day for those three years. Now I've reached a milestone: this is posting number 1000. I'm kind of amazed that I've managed to keep posting a different piece of art or graphics each time. I thought I'd run out of images before now, but I seem to have plenty to spare and plenty more to post here. The act of putting up an art post every day is a discipline that has kept me from being too lazy about my art work. So I'll continue to offer up Art By-Products until something essential to this project changes.

I debated what to put up as an image for #1000. Perhaps one of my extravaganza fantasy cities, or some lofty Angel, or even an elaborate sketch of some architectural monument. But I decided to retrieve this simple image from the ancient library of my CorelDraw-using PC instead. This is the first digital image and graphic I ever created. It was done on CorelDraw 2 in 1991. It was a proposal for a logo for an organization dedicated to promoting missile defense. Their website still exists but it seems to have been abandoned in 2003. My logo design, which was ignored, was requested by friends at the Frontier, who have long since dispersed to other places, still dreaming of missiles, this time for private space exploration.

From this distance in time I can see that this logo would be unusable because it resembles too closely the famous logo of Paramount Pictures.

This image needed a lot of restoration. It doesn't look exactly the way it did when I created it, because I had to replace the stars and the type with modern equivalents. Some elements are the same as I would do nowadays in Adobe Illustrator: curved abstract shapes and simple but effective two-color gradients. In 1991 the Web we live with didn't exist yet, but now "High Frontier" has caught up.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Felsic Current Mage

Last year at DarkoverCon I encountered a colorful character named "J.F. Bibeau," a French-Canadian transplanted to Baltimore where he was enjoying life designing costumes, doing theater, and writing fantasy. He was marketing his self-published fantasy tale, "Felsic Current." "Felsic" takes place in a bizarre world much influenced by Terry Pratchett as well as J.K. Rowling, in which magic, or "current," is a physical force which uses animal blood as an energy source. The animal blood is contained in wands made of bone called "amposteos." The story of the book is how a number of renegade magic-users as well as various government and military figures fight a campaign to save a magical sanctuary and in the process, they re-discover some perilous secrets about their world's past.

Magic, in the book, is not only dependent on a large syringe-wand filled with animal blood (human blood just won't do, for some reason), but the magic user must dance out his or her spells. Thus my portrait of a Felsic Current user portrays him as doing elaborate movements in order to master the current coming from his bone "amposteo." The costuming in the book is described as ranging from late medieval style to a contemporary modern look. There's plenty of political satire, scientific amusement, and slapstick action in the book.

Once I found a suitable photo-model caught in a magical dancing pose, I put my bloodless stylus to tablet and produced this portrait of a Felsic mage working Current in a forest setting. This took quite a while to do and is part of my digital character portrait learning program. It's done in Photocurrent, 7" x 10", February 2011. Click on the picture for a somewhat larger image.

You can read more about "Felsic Current" and other stuff J.F. Bibeau is doing on his Felsic website.