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.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Darkover bit of a sketch

This is a bit of a doodle practice sketch, set on Darkover, world of the red sun. DarkoverCon is coming and I'm not sure I will have anything specifically Darkovan to show there. This is just something for me to experiment with textures and colors, trying to get an alien vegetation effect without being weird or scary. The figure is a wanderer, probably a hunter, though you can't tell what he will catch his prey with. The ban on long-distance weapons for Darkovans means that you can't shoot down animals or birds with a bow and arrow. Probably, he is checking traps or snares. I don't claim any illustrative excellence for this. It's why this Blog is called "Art By-Products."

Photoshop, 10" x 7", November 6-7, 2011.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Cat and Dragonette miniature

This nametag miniature is one of the only ones where I still know both its location and its owner. Patricia, (known mostly as "Pat"), a costumer and Darkover fan, commissioned me to do her portrait with her cat and a mini-dragon, set on Darkover. Pat placed the nametag in a plastic pin sleeve and has worn it at conventions ever since. The nametag is well-preserved but the plastic display folder has deteriorated and turned brown. Pat's still a good friend of mine after all these years.

Cat and dragon miniature is ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, 3 1/2" x 2 1/4", February 1985.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Autumn Winery Colors

My destination winery for "Wine Saturday" was "Miracle Valley" Vineyard, hidden away deep in the countryside near Delaplane, Virginia. It was a splendid autumn day, with crystal-clear skies and colorful trees. I did my usual sip and draw, choosing their tasty sweet rose'. "Miracle Valley" is run by military veterans who find jobs and new lives for wounded warriors. The grounds are beautifully kept and in one hilly space is a metal angel which was created to honor those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks as well as the wars which followed them.

Drawing is colored pencil and Pitt technical pen on sketchbook page, about 7" x 10".

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Leesburg landscaping

Here's another in my series of architectural studies of Leesburg buildings. This porch was especially nice because of the colorful shrubs and morning glory vine twining up the pillar. This version of the drawing is all brown (rendered in Photoshop) though my original drawing is in not only brown but green and blossom-blue colored ink. Watercolor will follow. Drawn from a photograph.

Leesburg porch is technical pen ink and some brushwork on Fabriano paper, 8" x 10", November 4-5, 2011.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Well Fed

I enjoyed a tasty and satisfying Indian dinner with a friend on the night of November 3. And unlike this critter, I took home the leftovers! I think he looks a little like the comic book character "Wolverine," but this guy wouldn't hurt a fly. Well, unless it was his dinner.

Photoshop, digital drawing on wacom tablet. If I hadn't told anyone, Tristan, you would think it's a pen drawing.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Lovely Autumn Evening in the Courtyard

The pleasant landscaping and garden furniture of the courtyard at Marriott looked inviting for an evening cocktail. I wanted to take my glass of pinot noir out into the space and enjoy the autumn evening. Just brush off that powdery coating....what is it, pollen? stardust? cocaine? Have a seat. I'd like to do some fantastic art like what you see from Blizzard Entertainment, but I seem to be snowed in when it comes to imagination. I hear there's a freeze on hiring anyway, so I might as well just chill.

Yes, this is a photograph. Marriott Courtyard in Wallingford, Connecticut, a welcome refuge for stranded travelers. October 29, 2011.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

And then I discovered straight lines

So far I have done only "reality" drawings on my iPad. That is, portraying only things I am actually looking at, whether landscape or buildings or interiors. But my attempts at depicting buildings continued to look messy and imprecise because I did not have a "ruler" to draw straight lines. But lo and behold, in the controls for Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, I found a tool to draw not only ruler-straight lines, but frames and blocks and circles and ovals as well. So now when I draw a window, I don't have to draw the frame free-hand unless I want to. I want to draw things that look like what digital master artist Robh Ruppel draws. His architectural scenes are amazing, and at least some of them are drawn on an iPad.

The window you see here is in the music room of my parents' house, over the piano. This used to be a really nice room until it became jammed with my father's hoarded clutter. No one can do anything about it now. You can see overgrown foliage and some fall leaves out the window. The fall colors in New England this year were surprisingly dull, due to heavy rains in August and September.

Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, October 2011.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Honda Windows

While in Natick, Mass. I took my Honda to Bernardi Honda on Route 9 for regular maintenance. I sat in their well-maintained, WiFi equipped waiting area while they did the work on my car. I had the iPad and after checking my thrilling (not) e-mails I did this drawing of the door and front windows of the Honda showroom. It was a grey day so there wasn't much contrast or color. You can see parked cars as sketchy black and white areas with red tail lights. As I was waiting and drawing, people were putting up blue, white, and silver-colored balloons (visible at upper right) for a marketing event.

Honda drawing is Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, original image about 8" x 6".