Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Space Yacht miniature

This nametag miniature depicts what could be either a dual ship or a single larger ship, perhaps a private "yacht" with a small "tender" ship attached to it by cords. I was not going for practical use but just for interesting shape, color, and design possibilities. The large fins look like they will open like a fan, either for catching stellar radiation for power or perhaps as a wing in an atmospheric flight. In my early years as a science fiction illustrator I was often asked to justify a design feature in terms of technology: "what does THAT do?" or "what is that there for?" In the science fiction world, you can always find some reason for it being there. I didn't usually paint pictures of existing satellites or space equipment.

"Space Yacht" is watercolor on Fabriano paper, 3 1/2" x 2 1/4", February 1978.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Balticon Characters 2011

Balticon is a family gathering where only the eccentric members are invited to attend. For the weekend, it doesn't matter what your level of sanity is, only that you adhere to some basic level of civilization. There were lots of splendid costumes to look at, especially those neo-Victorian getups inspired by the Steampunk genre. The con suite, where all con-goers were welcome to partake of snacks and non-alcoholic drinks, was decorated (by the hotel, not by the convention) in shiny 1950s diner style. I had my sketchbook in hand and was able to capture some of the members and even dialogue of Clan Balticon, including a very well-attired Jedi (right foreground) with his light saber.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Angel of Geometry

I didn't think I'd get this finished in time for Balticon, but favorable circumstances at work allowed me to have an extra studio day to work on it. This is actually a sketch and a test run for a piece I've planned for later this year. The background, with its heavenly blend of sky blue and gold, is something I've had in my studio for years and years, and I'm glad I was finally able to use it. That gold-to-blue background is a solution to a painting problem in which I was faced with trying to put my colors on a white background. As it is, when I do the final version there will be a lot of airbrushing to do. After that, I'll paint my colors over this blended background, which will look much nicer, and I won't have to pile up the color in little heaps in order to make it cover and look evenly painted.

This picture is influenced by the work of Paul Klee and Rene Magritte. The top sphere looks vaguely like a head, in the whimsical style of Klee. I love these artists, Modernists and Surrealists. As of yet I don't know where to bring this art to sell it, other than at a science fiction convention, where it will sit looking cool and Modernist among the dragons, barbarians, spaceships, babes, and vampires.

I am off to Balticon and I will not be posting to the By-Product until I return on Sunday.

"Angel of Geometry" is acrylic on illustration board, 9" x 12", May 2011.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Breasts Are Good

This drawing is from the May 18 life drawing session at Falls Church Arts. I was happy to have a model who had nice large breasts. This is the most important part of the female figure if I am to make images of fantasy women for a (straight) male audience. If I am making images of fantasy women for a female audience, it isn't the breasts but the flowing hair and dreamy eyes. I left that out of this drawing because I only had twenty minutes to draw it. Do the breasts first, right after I've established the basic proportions. But fantasy breasts don't hang like real flesh. They are perfectly spherical and look like they are inflated with helium so they float and have no weight. Implants give real women this look if they want it. So if I turn a live model into fantasy I have to make sure that the breasts are suitably artificial. Fantasy women warriors rush into battle wearing peculiar armor that covers the arms and legs heavily but leaves the torso bare. Presumably the enemy will be so dazzled by the woman warrior's perfectly round breasts that he will forget to attack or fire.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Spacewarp Miniature

I thought I didn't do much abstract art back in the 70s but I did quite a lot. Most of it was in miniature form which is why I probably don't remember it. But transcribing these old slides brings it back. This one is another nametag miniature blank. The purple area in the lower right was where the name was supposed to go. I don't remember whether this was sold or not and I never put a name on it. Note the "impossible" spacewarp ship with its filigree halo. I did all those tiny dots by hand. I had a lot more patience (and time) back then, and computers were still something that only a university could afford.

Spacewarp nametag miniature, watercolor and gouache on Fabriano paper, 3 1/2" x 2 1/4", February 1978.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Jack Vance Dragons miniature

Sometime in 1977 I read some fantasy tales by Jack Vance. I read "The Dragon Masters" and "The Dying Earth." I read these books mostly to get ideas for illustrations, though they were entertaining enough. I did some nametag miniatures from "Dragon Masters" which I marketed at conventions. This one shows the mutated dinosauroid "dragons" from the book, having at each other. They were semi-intelligent and knew how to use weapons as well as their inborn fighting abilities. Vance used dinosaurs as the models for these "dragons," adding an extra pair of legs in the midsection. I also used dinosaurs as models, especially the "old-style" Tyrannosaurus Rex, who doesn't look like that any more. Back in those days, I depicted dinosaurs and dragons if I felt like it. Nowadays I would hardly do any pictures of dinosaurs as they have been pretty much monopolized by professional artists like James "Dinotopia" Gurney or Bob "Godzilla" Eggleton. Any dinosaur or dragon I did now would look exactly like the well-known version of one, because these creatures are "standardized." Back in 1977 I was an amateur and I didn't know that, so I did whatever I thought fit the illustration.

The Dragons nametag miniature is ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, 3 1/2" x 2 1/4", summer 1977.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Wine and Craft Festival

"Wine Saturday" was spent with a whole lot of different wineries, all of them offering their wares at the Virginia Wine and Craft Festival in Front Royal. I have been going to this festival every May for twenty years, minus one or two which had bad weather or were rained out. The wine quality in general continues to improve year after year. In the old days twenty years ago, Virginia red wines were bad. But now, the reds are often delicious, in ways quite different from the French or California ideal. I tasted a lot and afterwards drew this quick sketch of the tasting booth of Mattaponi Winery, which crafts Native grape varieties as well as sweet fruit wines.

Sketch is Pitt black technical pen on sketchbook page, about 9" x 6".

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Folk Art Bagels and Sandwiches

Folk art patterns in an interesting color scheme adorns Mena's sandwich board for May-June. I visit the shop every week to update the lunch special but the whole design stays for a couple of months. I get paid in food. Today I had one of Mena's excellent bagels with lox, cream cheese, and a bit of tomato, onion, and capers. So good! A New York Jewish specialty, provided by an Ethiopian Christian lady in Northern Virginia. That's globalization!

Sign is about 30" x 20", acrylic "chalk ink" markers on black-painted chalkboard.

Friday, May 20, 2011

C.J. Cherryh's Nametag

This image and subsequent slide rescues belong to my earliest days as a science fiction and fantasy artist. I was still an amateur when I made this. In those distant days, science fiction conventions were new to me and full of fascinating stuff and people to meet. You could even meet your favorite science fiction author and even sell them art! One way to display art was by wearing it as a nametag miniature. Designed to fit into clear plastic convention badge holders, these watercolor or acrylic tiny pictures were status symbols as well as personal expressions.

I used to make a series of generic themes and scenes, leaving a blank area for the name. Then I would sell them, either in person or through an agent, at conventions. The buyer (or my agent) would send it back to me, and I would letter it with my choice of type. Then I would send it back to the buyer. This one here gave me much status as it was bought by a major science fiction author, C.J. Cherryh. I enjoyed the nametag miniatures because I could mix type with images.

It's hard for me to remember how exciting and fun it was to go to conventions in those days. I really felt I had a future as a science fiction and fantasy artist. That was 34 years ago. I wonder whether she still has the nametag. Highly improbable.

C.J. Cherryh's nametag was watercolor on Fabriano thick paper, 3 1/2" x 2 1/4", summer 1977.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Drawing of seated figure

The series of model drawing sessions at Falls Church Arts is over now and I will miss drawing each week. This week's model was quite different from the others and had plenty of curves and volume to draw. I fell into a "precisionist" technique trying to depict the many lines and spaces her poses provided. This is one of the twenty-minute drawings we did. It's quite complex and I didn't have enough time to draw her face, so that's why it's blank.

There are other model drawing groups in the area and I hope to sign up with one or more of them. I never get enough life drawing. I need to keep drawing women, from life, over and over and over again, and I need to put images of beautiful, lifelike, nude women into my art, just like other "real" artists do.

I do these drawings in plain old #2 (HB) pencil on a sketchbook page.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Girl with the Flaxen Hair

The official title of this little portrait is "The Eternal Ideal," and it was inspired by Marion Zimmer Bradley's re-telling of the tale of Mozart's "The Magic Flute." The girl here was Pamina, the heroine of the story, described as innocent, good, and pale blonde. Blonde-ness (with deep blue, almost violet eyes) is a traditional standard of female beauty and goodness in traditional fantasy fiction. In the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth, these sweet flaxen-haired girls served as angels, inspirations, and ideals which the male hero worshipped as well as desired. Only with the coming of the blonde sexpot or bad girl in the movies did the traditions change.

When I painted these angelic young ladies, I assumed that real people never looked this way. But today I saw a living example of her in the store where I work. She must have been about 13, standing with her mother and the shopping bags. I so wanted to draw or paint her portrait, dressed in an ethereal costume. I will just have to keep my memories of the eternal ideal come to life.

"The Eternal Ideal" is acrylic on illustration board, 8" x 9", November 1985.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Monitors cover

I did this picture for a book cover published by TOR books in 1984. The book was "The Monitors" by Keith Laumer. In the book, Earth is invaded by an army of identical tall handsome blond men wearing yellow suits, who become the "Monitors" of Earth's life and existence. The story goes downhill from there. It turns out that these guys are all robots, as I remember dimly. The template for the face of the Monitors was a TV news announcer, Jack Williams, who was on WBZ-TV in Boston in those days and incredibly, is still there now. This whole project was not a success and it reminds me how bad I was as a cover artist and how much I should have done differently.

"The Monitors" is acrylic on illustration board, 13" x 22", November 1983.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Begin the Race

This is from last Wednesday's life drawing session. Our athletic model was able to hold this pose for 20 minutes, without falling over. It's got a lot of interesting foreshortening problems to solve as well as hands and feet braced against the floor. She looked a lot like a sprinter "on the mark" before a race. This is the kind of unusual pose I enjoy drawing. Also I was doing more with line widths and shading, which gave me the more precise look I was hoping for. Only one drawing session is left in this series. The drawing is done in simple pencil on sketchbook paper.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Model Moves

This is again from my most recent (May 11) life drawing session. Our model did a series of graceful poses for one minute each. As with all artists who do life drawing, I wish that I could preserve the sense of motion and life in these drawings if I were to do them in a more finished style. Some great artists manage it. All I can do is keep drawing. Now if I could only get the model to do comic-book-style poses. I bet she would if I asked her. I don't know what model I will draw next but I know it will be a female.

Art is the only thing I really want to do these days. Well, and visiting wineries and drinking wine. I am hoping to combine the two with vineyard-themed artwork. You've seen some of it. There's more where that came from, I hope. I never get bored with doing art, and every year there's a new vintage.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Lair of the Yellow Dragons

"Blogger," the host here, had some problems but it seems that May 12th's post is now restored and I can get back to putting up the art. This tranquil scene is a view of Falls Church Maintenance's vehicle shed, containing dragon-like digging machines and heavy trucks. You can also see the rainwater collection tank at the side of the building, fed by two roof tubes. This art was done entirely on-site ("plein air") while I sat on the tailgate of my car. I hope to submit this piece to an exhibit of work done outdoors. The requirements are that all the work be done in one session on-site (no touch-ups in the studio) and that it depicts a location in Falls Church city. I wonder if anyone else will depict industrial or maintenance equipment. Usually "plein air" concentrates on pretty gardens, landscapes, and historic buildings, although I've seen some great industrial images done on-site using digital screens.

"Lair of the Yellow Dragons" is Pitt brown technical pen, black marker, and colored pencil on Bristol board, 14" x 11", May 12, 2011. Click on the pic for a larger view.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Most recent figure drawing

There was live model drawing again on Wednesday night at Falls Church Arts. Our model this time was an athletic, trim, elf-like girl who could easily pose for someone from a fantasy tale. This drawing was from one of the longer poses, about 20 minutes. I think it's pretty good, though I may have made her torso too narrow. Also, there are too many straight-ish lines in my drawing...another example of how my drawings of people look like buildings. And yet I am trying to reproduce what I see. Should I exaggerate the curves and make her look more voluptuous? I would give that a try if I had more life drawing time. There's one more session left and then I must search further afield for more opportunities to draw from live models. I know of some other arts groups who do life drawing, so I will have more chances to do figure studies. An artist can never have enough of this practice.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Vampire Saint Germain

I've never been a huge vampire fan. Certainly not like the fanatic followers of today's vampire books and shows. In my youth I did follow the "Dark Shadows" TV show and liked the character (and the fin-de-siecle fashions) of Barnabas Collins, but I never fantasized about being, uh, bitten by a vamp or turning into one, even though I am nocturnal by nature. Later I read a few vampy novels by Anne Rice, but I gave up on the story after about the third book ("Queen of the Damned").

I have, however, done numerous vampire pictures as commissions for friends who are far more into it than I ever was. This is one of my better ones. It was painted for a fan in Lincoln, Nebraska, who ordered a portrait of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's vampire hero, the "Count of Saint Germain," as a present for her sister. She requested that the Vampire look like a TV actor from the soap opera GENERAL HOSPITAL, Paul Rossilli. In the commission materials, she included a TV fan magazine with a picture of Paul for reference. As a fantasy portrait, this is one of my "oldies but goodies."

"Young Saint Germain" is acrylic on illustration board, 6" x 9", June 1983.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

More Quick Poses

Here are some quick one-minute poses from my most recent session drawing a live model. This one had a different body type from the first one but she was still a very good model. You can see her in colored pencil on my May 5th posting here.

My life drawing style is rather "naturalistic," designed to represent the reality of the figure in front of me. Other members of the drawing group produced more abstract, gesture-based images, or attempted to form the body in color and paint texture. But if I had ambitions to be a comic book artist, I would need to transform this "realistic" figure drawing style into something which would be entertaining for that audience, with elongated proportions and large, spherical breasts. Maybe I'll try that for a pose at my next life drawing session.

Monday, May 9, 2011


I did this for a portfolio piece, and also to practice figure painting. I used a girly mag photo as my model, and was never pleased with my attempt to render the nude figure. However, I managed to get across the dopey quality of the heroine, who fornicated her way through planetary adventures wearing as little as possible. "Aleytys" was a creation of the late Jo Clayton, who mixed feminist allegory with cheesy pulp science fiction. Aleytys was an unknowing member of a super-race with psychic powers. She was "possessed" or perhaps "invested" with a magical piece of jewelry, the "Diadem," which also contained three other personalities (as represented by the ghostly pairs of eyes in the halo around Aleytys' head).

Aleytys, like countless other science fiction and fantasy heroes, had flaming red hair. Red hair is a feature which never leaves the sf/fantasy genre but returns again and again and again. Every author adds red-haired characters and usually first-time authors (females especially) give their heroine or hero red hair. It is a sign of special gifts and abilities as well as genetic superiority. Many years ago I wrote and published an article about it called "Red-haired Heroes, Brown-haired Losers." At one point I considered writing a humorous story about an ordinary-looking brown haired girl who finds she has magic powers once she dyes her hair red...but loses them when the roots begin to show.

"Aleytys" is acrylic on illustration board, 11" x 17", October 1982.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Moonstone character sketch

Ever since I was a little kid I've wanted to draw superheroes. And I did, populating my notebooks with colored pencil designs of costumed heroes. I used "Venus Paradise" brand colored pencils, which later evolved into the Prismacolors I still use today. I gave them powers and designed costumes for them. But I never did any sequential graphic continuity (comic book pages) with them. I have never stopped drawing superheroes, even though there is neither status, profit, or profundity to be had from them. When I got into working with acrylic, I used this medium to paint superheroes, of course. I wanted the slick look of Vincent diFate and Alex Ross, and rarely if ever achieved it. But I kept trying, painting heroes on little fragments of illustration board left over from other projects.

Even now, when I think of putting two colors together, I wonder how they would look in a superhero costume. The standard heroes are in primary colors, blue/red/yellow. But lesser characters could dress in more unusual combinations. Villains often wore green or purple. I would search for Marvel or DC characters who were not main players, and attempt to portray them "realistically" with acrylic. This is one of them: "Moonstone," a glamorous female character who started out as a super-villain and ended up on the good side. She was garbed in gold (or yellow) and silver, with dazzling metallic elements of helmet, bracelets, and silver boots. This is my rendition of Moonstone in this costume which was not used for very long. The artists replaced it with (of course) a much more revealing version without the threatening helmet and metal gear.

"Moonstone" is acrylic on illustration board, 3 1/2" x 7", April 1987.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Occult Goddess Isis

When I first encountered the esoteric philosophy and ritual practice which is commonly called "the occult," I was fascinated and scared at the same time. It was ancient, it had gods and goddesses, and it claimed to be able to change the world by ritual and mental practice. I wanted there to be Adepts who were not only moral leaders but possessed of extensive mental discipline and the ability to travel between realities.

Now in my older years "the occult" looks like a form of Catholicism with some of the characters and stories switched around, where you get to do the rituals and wear the ornate vestments yourself, though you are doing them in your living room rather than in a nice sculptural ritual space. Many occultists are ordained as independent Catholic priests anyway, so you get a side helping of old-time religion, though not orthodox by any means.

I did this little piece in the living room of an occultist friend of mine in Washington, DC. The "Goddess Isis" is based not on a real person but on a fantasy character of mine, one of my "techno-mages." Fantasy is a basic part of occult practice, and in some rituals the celebrant is called upon to temporarily take on her/himself the identity of an ancient God or Goddess. In this case it is "Isis," the ancient Egyptian goddess of esoteric insight and knowledge.

"The Goddess Isis" is ink and watercolor on paper, 5" x 7", January 1984. In this restoration, I have added in Photoshop, flesh color to the Goddess' head, arms, hands, and feet, since the bad photograph completely faded those colors out.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Techno-mage in Uniform

Here's my friend Tanheu the techno-mage again. He's wearing the quasi-military uniform he favors. He has a military background; he attended a military "high school" and was in officer development in university, in his original country, Khemi. He was destined to have a career in the Khemaru military, in intelligence and nouergic defense, until he became a political dissident and was exiled from his country (and nearly executed, except for the influence of a powerful patron). In Surakosai, he serves in the reserves, also in nouergic defense. He is not a dissident in Surakosai, but a loyal defender.

Photoshop, about 5" x 10".

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Figure in Colored Pencil

More figure drawing happened tonight at Falls Church Arts. This time I took my colored pencils with me and attempted to render the many interesting light, shadow, and skin tones on our expert model. The model has had a long career working for artists, including being a live model for Disney animators in Florida. She said that during the production of Disney films such as "Lilo and Stitch," the company kept models on 24-hour call so that if the artists (working all night) got into a problem, they could immediately work it out with the help of a professional model. Imagine that! That was a while ago, now they probably just use the abysmal "Poser" or other 3-D computer figure generating software.

Figure drawing is colored pencil on sketchbook paper, about 7" x 9", May 4, 2011.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Universal Graph

Here's another in my patented geometric style. This one is called "The Universal Graph" and is inspired by the standard of two-dimensional graphing, the Cartesian coordinates. The perpendicular white lines are the two dimensions of the coordinates, X horizontal and Y vertical. The other lines in the picture are straight and curved outcomes of various equations, all plotted on this graph. It's universal as long as you are working in 2-D, and thus this flat image and screen.

This is done in acrylic, acrylic watercolor, and some watercolor metallic/iridescent paint. The lines are added on with acrylic markers. Some spray paint was used. This is all painted on a piece of dark blue Canson paper. I hope to display this at Balticon late this month.

"The Universal Graph" is acrylic and watercolor on blue paper, 11" x 8 1/2", May 2011. Click on the image for a somewhat larger view.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sun Chalices

1998 seems a long time ago, even though it is only 13 years ago. Well, 13 years is quite a long time. In those days, I was living where I live now, and I had everything I have now, except for the orange Honda Element. In those days, I did not have a day job, and I spent a lot more time doing art, including lots of on-site sketches. My 1998 daily journal was lavishly illustrated with ink and colored pencil drawings, one on each page. This one was a springtime effort. I remember clearly sitting on the garden wall in front of this flower area near a big apartment building, drawing these sunlit blooms. Every so often spring produces a warm, sunny, flower-filled day which actually lives up to the poetic hype. My recent Saturday at Village Winery was one of those days. I add to the poetic-ness by calling these flowers "sun chalices." Tulips do look like wineglasses, full of sun-wine. Original drawing size, about 4" x 5".

Monday, May 2, 2011

Melaklos with Panorama Egg

This character is from an obscure fantasy book published in 1978, "The Panorama Egg" by A.E. Silas. It was a story about a modern man who is transported into an alternate fantasy world through the portal of a "panorama egg," an ovoid which shows another world inside it. The egg is presented to him by a mysterious alien sorceress called Mera Melaklos, the character in this portrait. In 1983 one of my fantasy-loving friends commissioned me to do a portrait of the Melaklos character, and this was finished in April of 1984. It is one of the only paintings I have ever posed for myself. I felt an affinity for the character who could walk between the worlds. I didn't use my face, obviously, but the rest of the figure is me wearing a grey hooded cloak and holding an egg. I'm still wandering between the worlds.

"Melaklos" is acrylic on Strathmore illustration board, 15" x 22", April 1984. Click on the pic for a larger image.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Village Winery

Saturday's winery visit brought me to Village Winery in historic Waterford, Virginia. It's set in a park-like paradise which was glowing with sunlit spring green. The vines were sprouting fresh new leaves and visitors sat on the grass sipping nectar. Village Winery specializes in elderberry and apple wine as well as the more familiar grape varieties. I enjoyed a glass of the apple wine while drawing this view of their old barn. This is an "authentique" "plein air" artwork, done all on site with no studio alteration other than preparing it for placement here and a bit of enhancing the contrast. It's Pitt brown technical pen and colored pencil on sketchbook page, about 10" x 8".