Friday, September 30, 2011

Darkovan psionic miniature

Here's another of the series of nametag miniatures that I created for convention sales thirty years ago. I would like to think I had made some artistic progress in those thirty years but who knows. This depicts Regis Hastur, a major character from Marion Zimmer Bradley's "Darkover" books, involved in some psionic (magical-psychic-technological) incident. I don't remember what it was but the array in front of him is some sort of control device that is malfunctioning. Regis was very popular with fans in his day because of his being gay in a homophobic world. He also looked good, with the flaming red hair of Darkovan psychic noblemen (and countless other fantasy/sf heroes). I ended up doing a lot of Regis Hastur character portraits. Now he is almost forgotten.

Regis miniature is ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, 3 1/2" x 2 1/4", summer 1981.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Abyssinian Cat Portrait Miniature

Now back to some vintage images. In the summer of 1981 I made a series of miniatures to sell at conventions. They had a blank space for the owner to have her or his name inscribed. I chose various fan-friendly themes including cats, unicorns, and dragons. I did my portrait of an imaginary Abyssinian cat in an Egyptian setting. The white oval at the bottom of the image is for the name of the owner. Somebody bought this but I don't know who. It was a long time ago. The cat is now mummified.

Abyssinian cat miniature is 2 1/4" x 3 1/2", ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, summer 1981. This has been heavily restored in Photoshop.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fashion Figure Digital Drawing

"Blogger," the hosting service for this blog and zillions of others, gives you a "Stats" feature where you can see just which posting people look at, and how many visits your blog has, and where these visitors come from. And when I look at this, I would expect people to visit my more successful and spectacular postings, like my panorama of Surakosai city or my vintage fantasy scenes. But no, most of the visits seem to occur at my mediocre and sometimes outright bad figure drawings. What's with that? Somehow, Google and other devices lead people to my attempts to do fashion or figure drawings. Yes, some of them feature nudes, but there are so many more drawings of naked
people than mine, I should get no visits at all from people who simply wanna see someone naked. Is it the word "Fashion" or "Figure" in the title? This may be part of it, as people always want to look at (clothing) fashions. But some of these visits are just incomprehensible. I post this as an experiment. It has the keywords in the title, a bad figure drawing, and mostly meaningless text. The drawing is one of my many attempts to depict a human figure in digital "painting." Sooner or later I'll get it right enough that I can clothe my model in skimpy battle armor, so I can do the warrior babe pin-up I've always wanted to do. Now that's fashion.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Halloweenie Pumpkin Cat

More work for Trader Joe's in my series of Cutesy Halloween Characters. I was given sample graphics and told to adapt them, so I did. The original graphic had a cartoon cat emerging from a pumpkin but you couldn't see what was going on, so I re-created it. The cat has a "tuxedo" black and white pattern, and is (sort of) wearing a traditional pointed "witch" hat with the top flopped over. The design has a shaped edge, done by cutting out the contours from a Masonite board.

I thought I couldn't do cartoony stuff but I guess I can. I have to remember to do the big grinning smiles and make them happy, and also make big eyes which focus. Cartoons have fewer lines and are less complex than "regular" illustrations so you have to make sure everything fits with what you are trying to do.

My "Halloweenies" are unexpectedly popular among my co-workers. The boss likes them, too. Who knew?

"Pumpkin Cat" is about 3 ft. by 2 ft., acrylic spray paint and markers on Masonite board, September 2011.

Monday, September 26, 2011

iPad Landscape from Memory

IPad, I coax you into submission. This little landscape is the outcome of a practice session working not from a real site but from memories. I have now traveled through enough Virginia countryside that I can reproduce its forms, textures, and colors accurately from memory. This scene "really exists," but is not a photographic reproduction of a place. It occupies a middle position between true "plein air" (done completely on site) and a rendering from a photograph (almost always derided by fancy "fine" artists as lifeless commercial art).

Autodesk Sketchbook Pro really is a terrific digital painting and drawing app. It's got a wide variety of "pencil," "pen," and "brush" tips as well as a number of very useful textures that can depict foliage, grass, hillsides, and clouds nicely. The images are produced in 72 DPI, which is not a high resolution, but suitable for the relatively limited power of an iPad. As I have said before, the user interface and the onscreen tools are annoying, but workable once you get used to them. Just don't hit that thing that looks like a door with a blue glass of water in front of it, which is very close to the "Save to Gallery" screen button. Don't touch that blue and white thing or else your painting DISAPPEARS DONT TOUCH THAT

Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, about 5.3 inches x 5.9 inches, September 25, 2011.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Molon Lave in Autumn

My wine destination this Saturday was a return visit to the "Molon Lave" winery near Warrenton, VA. The last time I was there was in July of 2010, documented in this posting to the By-Product. The Greek-American family was there to serve their delicious wines, including excellent reds and their signature "Kokineli Rose" with its hint of Greek retsina resin taste. I did a longer view this time, showing the vines at the left and part of their pond to the right. It was a grey, cloudy day, so the colors aren't as vivid as some of my other winery drawings. I've visited so many wineries by now that many of my visits are returns rather than discoveries. That's all right by me.

Molon Lave view is 10" x 5", colored pencil on sketchbook page, September 24, 2011.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fantasy Wedding

This elegant couple did not belong to the Court of Tyr Moel. They were in a completely different area and community. But they were the same type of people as the Court: fond of fantasy role-playing, games, and costuming. And they commissioned me to do their wedding portrait. For their ceremony, the couple wore this Renaissance garb. The bride sewed both her own gown and the groom's finery, and they posed for me wearing their garb. They were not, unfortunately, married in the cathedral I depicted for their background; that was my own creation. As of 2008 they were still together, but I don't know what they are doing now.

Renaissance wedding picture is 18" x 24", acrylic on Masonite, summer-to-fall 1986. Click on the pic for a somewhat larger view.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Halloweenie Mini-Mummy

I hesitated to post this because it is so cute, and people will say how nice it is that I can do cute things. This is what the management at Trader Joe's wants, and of course I will do it right. And then someone will say, well you might do children's books, and I would reply, I would do it, but I would spend my children's book earnings on booze and become an alcoholic.

There are four of these cute Halloweenies in the series. Three of them are previously scary figures and one is just cute all the way through. I have done Mini-Dracula and Mini-Ghost, and the other one is the Black Cat in the Witch Hat popping out of a jack 'o' lantern. The mini's are images of kids in costumes, really, not the actual Halloween figures.

That's because the real Halloween figures of the Mummy, Ghost, Vampire, etc. are horrifying and terrible and UNDEAD, and they were once things to make tough souls tremble, creatures who drank the blood of children. But just like other awesome monsters like Cthulhu or Godzilla or even plague germs, they have been cutesy-fied and turned into plushies or little costumes for kids. This is what has happened to the terrible fantasies of the previous (20th) century. Cuteness, rather than rationality, drained the dark power out of the fictional monsters, while real monsters walked the earth un-trivialized. So where are the scary monsters now? They're still very much with us, but I can't put a kiddie version of them up in the store.

"Mini-Mummy" is about 2 feet x 3 1/2 feet, acrylic spray paint and markers on Masonite, September 2011.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Knighting at Tyr Moel

The Court of Tyr Moel assembled for a solemn ceremony: the knighting of one of their bravest warriors. Ricardo had started as a street fighter and roisterer, but had been swept up in the campaign and become a heroic figure in battle. Queen Kate chose him for knighting to reward him for his efforts. The Court convened at the Cathedral of Lowell, and all the characters assembled for the festivities. Here is a panorama of the Court at the moment of Ricardo's knighting, as Queen Kate dubs him with the great sword of the realm. Click on the picture for a larger view.

Everyone who I depicted on their card is here, along with their own heraldic devices all about the scene. Some of their cards, as I've explained, were not well-preserved enough to show. There are also people in this scene who belonged to the Court but who did not get a portrait from me. At left, in the throne area, you can see the two Companions of the Queen, including Kevin, a red-haired stalwart, and Nancy the unicorn girl. The Queen is in a lavender and purple gown with a silver tiara. Lisa, the Queen's Champion, stands proudly just behind the kneeling Ricardo. Various nobles and warriors stand behind the new knight, and up on the sheltered platform is a Tyr Moel trumpeter and Elizabeth the Herald, showing a banner emblazoned with many coats of arms. And if you look closely near the Queen, there's a figure swathed in a big black cape sparkled with stars, wearing a tall squarish headdress with one star on it. That's me, the cleric/wizard portraitist, with my monogram.

This concludes the retrieval of the art from the Court of Tyr Moel. This ceremonial court scene is ink and acrylic watercolor on illustration board, 18" x 10", August 1982.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Herald of Tyr Moel

Elizabeth, along with Ricky, was one of the later members of the "Court of Tyr Moel." She was a Herald, and could actually describe the arms of the Court in proper heraldic language. She requested that she hold her Book of Heraldry in her miniature portrait. Everyone in the Court also had their own personal coat of arms so there was plenty of heraldic work to do.

You may wonder (but probably not) whether I made my own card as a member of the Court. Was I a self-referential Court Portraitist? I did indeed make a miniature portrait for myself, but the photo is so poorly preserved that I don't want to show it. I did not wear Tyr Moel blue, but mostly black, on a black background, distinguished only by a long white scarf. I did other Tyr Moel court portraits whose photos have unfortunately faded too much to be shown. Elizabeth's was marginal; like the others, it has been heavily treated in Photoshop just to look good enough to post. My color slides from the late 1970s and early 1980s have not fared well over the decades. Some of them have simply faded to black.

Elizabeth the Herald's portrait is ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, 3 1/2" x 5 1/2", fall 1981.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

September tree doodle

I brought some old water-based sketch markers to work for layouts. These Pitt brush pens seemed very promising when I first bought them, but they had the same flaw that all other marker sets except the most expensive have: their colors were too bright and rich. To get the quieter, more neutralized colors of the real world, you have to pay major bucks for Japanese imports or hard-to-control Prismacolors. As a result, I put my set of Pitt pens aside, and they remained unused in the studio for many years.

I took them out last week to see whether any of them were still usable. Most of them were, but to my surprise the colors in the pens had faded. I had already noticed their variability when I first used them, but even without any use the Pitt colors had changed quite a bit. They had actually faded to the colors of the "real world." I have been looking for just the right greens for muted autumn foliage, and here they were in markers. I doodled this little scene at work and saved it in my portable file box. The trouble is, these Pitt colors will fade or change further, and I can never predict what will come out of the brush. Again, colored pencils win. Their colors never change.

Drawing is markers on plain paper, 5 1/2" x 3 1/2", September 2011.

iPad Update: I found the instructions for "Autodesk Studio Pro." They are accessed by pressing an icon with the lowercase letter i. I've seen this icon before and have had all sorts of things come forth from clicking or pressing it. I would think it would be the square root of - 1 but no. The Autodesk instructions come in a variety of languages in case people in Turkmenistan or Angola need to learn this app. There are also drawings of a big hand pressing the icons and showing screens, in case the user can't read at all. It turns out that I deleted my drawing because I pressed a mysterious icon that looked like a piece of paper with a glass of blue water in front of it. This was the "Clear Layer" control. Since my drawing was a layer, pressing that cleared it to a blank white. And I thought that was a new drawing page, assuming that the old one was safely saved. Oh well. Autodesk made a fool out of me and it won't be the last time.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Street Fighter of Tyr Moel

Ricardo, known as "Ricky," was a late-comer to the Tyr Moel group. He was one of the very rare Black and/or Latino science fiction fans back then. In those days, fandom was pretty much all-white and all-English speaking in America. This situation is finally changing after many decades. Ricky played the role of a street fighter or "bravo" as they used to be called. Note the "Tyr Moel" inscription on his blue bottle.

Ricky modeled for me in a costume, as did many of the others. I still have their photos somewhere. As with the others, I wonder what happened to Ricky. Maybe I shouldn't wonder too much. Maybe it's better not to find out. I recently found out what became of another friend from that era, and it was not pretty.

Ricardo's miniature portrait is ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, 3 1/2" x 5 1/2", fall 1981.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


This "vinescape" or landscape with grapevines could be from any vineyard in Virginia, and it is in fact from the Corcoran Vineyards near Waterford, as I identified it in the ink-only posting a day or so ago. I would have liked it to be from the vineyard I visited on "Wine Saturday" yesterday, Narmada Winery, but I failed to produce my wine artwork there as I will explain in a bit. After today's tasting Narmada goes to the top level of my Virginia wine appreciation list because I loved their wines. They excel in the "off-dry" or slightly sweet wines because they want to match the wine with spicy Indian food. But there are some excellent dry offerings as well, especially the red blends. And they've got some enchanting sweet dessert wines too. So that's the wine blog part of the By-Product today. (I don't think "Wine By-Products" sounds too good.) And now for a little Rant.

iPAD RANT. I took my 21st century marvel gadget to Narmada and did a fairly good sketch of their beautiful view using the "Autodesk Studio Pro" app. I saved it multiple times and thought it was securely placed in the "Gallery" section. Then while attempting to make another drawing, I somehow DELETED this sketch. With no warning. (This is not necessarily due to wine consumption, as this has happened to me more than once, with no drinking involved.) All I can figure is that while trying to save the second drawing, I overwrote the first one. But I had no clue that I was doing this and the machine certainly wasn't helpful. Usually if I am in danger of overwriting something, the program says, "Replace older version?" Nothing like that here. At which point I wanted to pitch the iPad into Narmada's lovely reflecting pond. I didn't, but I am not gonna give this insolent device a chance at a winery drawing again. I won't be able to get back to Narmada for quite some time, and when I do, I will take my colored pencils and sketchbook, as I have done all along. Traditional media win!

I am having a lot of trouble learning to use the iPad and its apps. The reason is that none of these things comes with any clear instructions. There might be a single screen of explanations but really nothing relevant to the artistic user. One music app offered online instructions but they were written in such garbled Japanese-translated English that it wasn't worth reading it. I guess I am supposed to already know what these cryptic icons mean, like little crosses or triangles or zigzags or double-pages or whatever. Maybe they come from using an iPhone, which iDon't have. I downloaded the "Kindle" app for the iPad but I can't get it to show me any books, either for sale or any other use, even though the Device is connected to the Net by Wi Fi. Is there something I am missing here? Am I just too old for this? I have not heard of any other folks having trouble learning how to use the iPad, so what's wrong with me? Maybe one or two of my readers could be forthcoming here. Wait, that's ALL my readers, that is, my artist friend Tristan and someone named "Mike," who could be one of dozens of Mikes that I know but is probably my Canadian composer colleague. As always, I await enlightenment.

"Vinescape" is ink, watercolor, and watercolor pencils on Fabriano paper, 12" x 9", September 2011.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Unicorn of Tyr Moel

The heraldic creature for the Court of Tyr Moel was the Unicorn. The arms of the kingdom featured a white Unicorn rampant on a blue background. I could describe this in "official" heraldic terminology but I'm not pretentious enough to do that. Horses were popular among the Court and I depicted two of the young Knights with their steeds. Nancy was one of the youngest members of the Court and was chosen to accompany their symbol in her portrait. I added a blue ribbon, as if it were Nancy and her prizewinning Unicorn.

When Nancy went off to college, she had a major misfortune: most of her possessions were stolen, including the portrait I had made of her with the Unicorn. When I was told this, I immediately made her another portrait, and the new one was better than the old one (which I still have the image of). This is the second portrait. I keep wishing I could find out what happened to these people; they were good friends while our association lasted. I try the almighty Google and what I find are predatory sites which offer information about people, for a fee and years of virus-ridden cyberslavery. No thanks to that. Facebook is no better at finding them; so I am left to wonder.

Nancy and unicorn is ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, 3 1/2" x 5 1/2", summer 1981.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Swordsman of Tyr Moel

The young men of Tyr Moel's imaginary court enjoyed playing the roles of swashbucklers and bladesmen. I provided them with their weaponry, even if it was only in a miniature portrait. I also gave them magic crystals to wear in a pouch around their neck or as the fasteners to their cloaks. I wonder where these guys are now, whether they have sunk back into the world of mundanity and gotten dumpy and old.

Richard's portrait, like all the others, is ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, 3 1/2" x 5 1/2", spring 1979.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Grapevine and Posts

Here's a posting with posts. These slanted vine anchor staves are at the Corcoran Vineyards near Waterford, VA. The vines are trained to go along horizontal wires which are strung from the posts. The posts themselves are anchored to the ground by other wires, reminding me of the physics problems I did in the previous decade which dealt with tension on wires and supporting cords.

The usual disclaimer: this drawing was done from a photograph. Colorization in watercolor will follow shortly. Drawing is done in technical pen using brown ink, about 10" x 8", September 13-14, 2011.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Wizard of Tyr Moel

The imaginary Court of Tyr Moel wasn't all girls. They had as many signors as damsels, and I did their portraits too. This one was the Court Wizard, in his robes of Tyr Moel's heraldic blue, holding his staff and his copy of the arcane book, the "Necronomicon." Even back then, this portrait reminded me of a wizard at his high school graduation, holding his yearbook. Many of the Court were indeed just past high school age, and in fact the Court was disbanded as the members went off to college and careers.

"Wizard of Tyr Moel" was watercolor on Fabriano paper, 3 1/2" x 5 1/2", spring 1979.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Waterford Colors

A few days ago I posted the ink drawing of this 19th-century house in Waterford, Virginia. Here it is "colorized" in watercolor. This technique of technical pen drawing colored with watercolor on absorbent Fabriano paper is an old format which I used back in the 70s. I've revived it for my current Virginia wine and landscape series and it seems to be working well. I am hoping to show these in a gallery in Leesburg as well as at the Village Winery in Waterford.

Waterford house drawing is watercolor and ink on Fabriano paper, 8" x 10", September 2011.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Champion of Tyr Moel

In this little role-playing world of the Court of Tyr Moel, the Queen's Champion was a heroic swashbuckler girl named Lisa. It was her job to protect the Kingdom and to answer the challenges of warlike rivals. The official colors of Tyr Moel were royal blue and white so the Champion dressed in this livery, including a spiffy (but imaginary) blue hat with a white feather. Lisa was equipped with a number of weapons including a fighting staff. The Siamese cat was a real cat that was Lisa's pet at the time.

This image needed extensive Photoshop restoration. The original photograph was bad and much of the color has faded from these 30-year-old color slides. Lisa still lives in northern Massachusetts and I wonder whether she and the others still have the tiny portraits I made for them.

Lisa's miniature portrait is watercolor on Fabriano paper, 3 1/2" x 5 1/2", fall 1981.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Queen of Tyr Moel

An age ago, before public Internet, before cell phones, before iPods, even before widespread use of personal computers, I was a member of a club of young people who ran a kind of private "S.C.A" of Renaissance role-playing. They put on costumes, had parties, and created games and ceremonies for their roles. They chose a young lady from their ranks and elected her Queen. The name of their kingdom was "Tyr Moel," pronounced "turmoil."

I was their court artist. I was tasked to create miniature portraits for each one of the group, Tarot-card-like images inspired by the "Trumps" of Roger Zelazny's "Amber" series. I portrayed them with idealized but identifiable faces and figures, dressed in the costumes of their choice. In the world of art, they could have whatever magical creature or thing they pleased. Since this group all had something to do with Lowell, a city in northeastern Massachusetts, I called this set of card portraits the "Lowell Trumps."

Here is Queen Kate, in royal blue and gold, holding her pet dragonette which is presenting her with a blue flower.

Lowell Trumps are ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, 3 1/2" x 5 1/2". This one was done in the spring of 1979.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Waterford House

Waterford, Virginia, home of the "Village Winery" with its apple and elderberry wines, is one of my architectural destinations. It's full of beautiful old 19th and even 18th century houses, many of which have wood-columned porches which I love. This town was bypassed by developers after the Civil War due to political reasons, and as a result has remained old and not very active, although it was for a while in the 20th century a writers' and artists' colony. Every year the town explodes for one weekend in October when a huge arts and crafts festival takes place there. The rest of the year it is filled with a quiet, older population, most of them commuters to the urban areas.

I did a lot of photography in Waterford, something which is a popular tourist pastime. I'd like to sit in the town and draw on site, but it isn't always possible and the cold weather is just around the corner (sigh). So I draw the town from my photographs, as I did with this fine restored old house. Some art schools and galleries refuse to consider a drawing or painting from a photograph to be "real art," only commercial art; an image must only be done from life, direct viewing, on site. Fortunately other art concerns are not as picky and I am hoping that this architectural study, along with others, will be shown on a gallery wall. I plan to add some color to this, but here's the inks alone for now.

Waterford house drawing is 8" x 10", brown ink in Rapidograph technical pen, September 8-9, 2011.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Cars in the Rain

As I was coming home from Mena's bagel and doughnut shop, I became imbedded in very slow-moving traffic. A mile up the road, there must have been a flood or an accident, in torrential rain that did not let up for hours. So what do I do when sitting in traffic, immobile for many minutes at a time? Draw, of course. I have a couple of sketchbooks in my car for these moments. Here are the cars in the rain, the suburban deluge. Eventually I was able to leave that road and go home via a back way. When I got home I found the backyard and swimming pool flooded with silty water. Fortunately, I don't have to clean it up, someone else will do that work. The pool is closed for the fall, anyway. I'm glad my car doesn't leak. That might get water on the drawing.

"Cars in the Rain" is ink on sketchbook page, 6" x 4", September 8, 2011.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Audient Void

I do album covers for my ambient music-making friends. Well, they are virtual album covers as they will never be printed on CD labels and no CD will be produced. All the sounds are directly downloaded to the listener's computer. Nevertheless the identifying illustrations are done in a square format which could be printed if you wanted to.

"Tange" is a Scottish musician, inspired by "Tangerine Dream," who creates long spacey pieces of electronic sound, some with a beat and some without. I've already done a couple of album covers for him and this is another one. "I will tell the audient void" is a quote from H.P. Lovecraft but the quality of the two pieces in this album isn't scary or Lovecraftian at all, it's like gazing into the ripples in a pool of starry water. I tried to get that feeling with this digital abstraction. This is only a first draft, so he may ask for some changes. Eventually he will release this album, with or without the writing on the "cover" art.

Tange's album cover is Photoshop, 4.8" x 4.8", September 8, 2011.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Darkovan heroes fanzine cover

This heroic trio comes from Marion Zimmer Bradley's "Darkover" saga, "The Sword of Aldones," in which the characters must wield a godlike flaming sword against a coalition of villains. It was created for a fan magazine, "Moon Phases," which flourished in the heyday (what's a "heyday" anyway?) of Darkover's popularity in the mid-1980s. I used to squander my time creating illustrations for these 'zines for little or no money, while other artists were busy building real illustration careers.

"Moon Phases" cover is ink on illustration board, 8" x 10", fall 1983, published 1985.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Jedi Jawa color final

It's not in the films, but in the wider world of the Star Wars universe, where the gamers play, a Jawa can become a Jedi. Jawas, as you may recall from the original "Star Wars" film now called "Episode 4," are little rat-like humanoids who collect junk and live in the desert. If one of them became a Jedi, able to use the magical "Force" and wield a lightsaber, he would probably still collect junk and tinker with whatever came his way. Here, a "Jedi Jawa" brandishes his lightsaber, holding a rather unhappy robot head under his left paw. This character was described to me by my game-playing co-worker, with some image suggestions; the rest of the concept was up to me. I posted the original drawing for this, here in late August.

I hope to add this to my portfolio and eventually have enough modern fantasy, s.f. and game related art to begin looking for illustration work.

"Jedi Jawa" is Photoshop, 7" x 10", 300 dpi, August-September 2011. Click on the pic for a larger image.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Lurid Bible Character

Judith of Bethulia is a Biblical heroine who proves (as if proof were necessary) that Jewish women can be bad-ass if the need arises. There's a whole short book in the Bible devoted to her story, the "Book of Judith" (the Jewish and Protestant Bibles leave this book out). The lurid tale takes place during a war between the Jews and the Assyrians. The main character Judith, a beautiful young widow, does her part to win the war by seducing the enemy leader, Holofernes, and then beheading him while he is lying in a drunken stupor on her bed. Many artists over the years have portrayed this scene, which gives them a chance to combine sex and gore and still remain properly religious.

I did this small rendition of Judith using a model photograph from a girly mag. The costume and weaponry is Hollywood, not historical. I jazzed it up further by putting a shiny gold mat border on the piece. I then sent it to "Iguanacon," the World Science Fiction Convention, which was held in Phoenix, Arizona in 1978. Though I was not there to promote it, I heard that the picture caused quite a stir. And the bloody sword inspired another explanation for the picture, which I hadn't intended. Some of the fans called it "Get it up or I'll cut it off."

"Judith of Bethulia" is watercolor on Arches paper, 4" x 8", July 1978.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Frank Lloyd Wright at Dollar City

I drew this in the parking lot where my hairdresser's shop is located. The whole shopping complex was rebuilt last year and this roofline is from the new design. Whoever designed it was well-influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright; note the flat overhanging rooftops, the chunky geometric buttresses, and the parallel lines and stucco planes. "Prairie" architecture comes to urban Northern Virginia, so that Dollar City can have a classy home.

Drawing is about 6" x 3", ink on sketchbook page, parking lot plein air.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Alchemical Teen Titans

Some of you who know superhero comics from decades past will remember the "Teen Titans," a team of youthful heroes who banded together to fight demons and villains and other bad guys. This was just before comics got "dark" and "realistic" and full of brutality. These graceful boys and girls still wore bright costumes, drawn by the master George Perez and later by the equally masterful Jose Luis Garcia Lopez. (My huge admiration to Wikipedia for having such highly detailed articles on these "insignificant" pop figures and artists.)

I had a friend who was not only a big comics fan but esoterically minded. At one point she conceived of an alchemical correspondence between the traditional "Four Elements" and four of the main team of Teen Titans. "Cyborg" the steel machine man was Earth, "Starfire" the alien babe was Fire, "Nightwing" the former sidekick of Batman was Water, and "Wonder Girl," the young sister of the Amazon Wonder Woman, was Air.

My friend told me about this piece of comic book esoterica and asked for a rendering of the characters with their respective Elemental symbols. I did this and gave it to her for a Christmas present.

"Teen Titans as Four Elements" is watercolor on illustration board, 14" x 11", December 1990.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Cambridge Cosmos

Cambridge, Mass. has got a lot of large and oddly shaped houses. I used to wander around my neighborhood drawing them. This was one of them, with a fanciful curved wrap-around porch and a tall conical turret. It was only a matter of moments until I saw it as a rocket taking off into space. So Cambridge's houses became spaceships.

"Cambridge Cosmos" is gouache on illustration board, about 6" x 6", March 1986.

Note: You are seeing a lot of vintage art here because I am working on something digital which is a portfolio piece and not my usual subject; it's game-related. Please stay tuned.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Loosestrife Landscape

Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) is a beautiful but invasive plant which infests swamps and wet areas all over the USA. It is especially aggressive in New England where it crowds out native plants and environments in wetlands. It blooms in August and September, in general late summer. The trouble with it is, it's so beautiful that people don't want to destroy it, even if it is destroying wetlands and native ecosystems. 

A friend of mine loved the look of the purple blossoms infesting the wetlands, as well as my landscape art, and she commissioned me to do a painting featuring this scene. This is the result. The scene is the marshes of the Sudbury River.  It was done from a photograph and from memory, rather than on site, which was impossible given that the scene was visible only from a busy highway. Note my use of grey-purple clouds in the sky, and an evening pink sky tint matching the flowers. 

"Loosestrife Landscape" is watercolor and gouache on Fabriano paper, 19" x 13", August 1985.