Friday, August 31, 2012

Escalator Under Repair

It is a tradition to celebrate when a sketchbook is all used up. All the pages have drawings on them! For this sketchbook which I have used since 2009, I started with a drawing done in my local mall, Tysons I. So I finish off with this drawing done in the same mall. An escalator was under repair and they had left it uncovered. The beige covering hiding the industrial mechanisms of moving consumers was gone, revealing the dark machinery within. "Pandora" is a jewelry shop. 

I'll be moving on to another sketchbook. It isn't entirely new, I've sketched in it before and shown the work here, but this one is a Moleskine with yellow paper, and I will be using greyscale markers as well as penwork in it.

Pitt black ink technical pen on sketchbook page, 10" x 7", August 30, 2012. Drawing took about an hour and a half to complete. Click on the pic for a larger view.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Trader Joe's Tuscan Pane

The new managers at my Trader Joe's are replacing faded old decorations and ads with catchy, simple billboards advertising favorite products with cute slogans. I am using bright, comic book style frames with word balloons for these. This one is the first of the series and will go high up on the wall near the ceiling. The picture of "Tuscan Pane" (Tuscan Italian style bread) is a somewhat glamourized portrait of an actual loaf of the bread. 

"Tuscan Pane" is spray paint, acrylic, and acrylic markers on Masonite, 48" x 36", August 2012.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

iPad roof edge

I did this sketch on the iPad during my work break. It's about 20 minutes' worth of work. I'm finally getting close to what I want with these images, which is the interaction of building with environment, done in a digital style which resembles a gouache (opaque watercolor) painting. I must admit that some re-working was done in Photoshop before I presented this here. I haven't found the "ruler" in Art Studio which would give me accurate straight line architectural elements. I think it is there though. The texture brushes in Art Studio give me a very nice tree and leaf look.

No one is commenting on my architecture and landscape, maybe I should go back to some figure studies and dragons. There is no rule that I have to make architectural studies on my work break art time, and my neighborhood, frankly, is kind of boring when it comes to environmental elements. Unless you really get into apartment buildings, shopping centers and urban vegetation. I have to remind myself that there is no artistic prohibition on fantasy drawings on either paper or screen. 

Art Studio iPad app, August 28, 2012.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Flaming Ramparts panel geologists

This is a panel from THE FLAMING RAMPARTS, the graphic novel I've been working on for more than ten years off and on. This panel is from about 2003. It shows two of the geologist characters talking about whether the big volcano is about to erupt. Note that one of them is holding an iPad, at least the Noantri-world version of one. This is 7 years before real iPads made their appearance in our world, but tablet computers were already around long before I did this panel. 

This is from page 19, and I'm currently working on page 43. The pages are 11" x 15" which means that I can't fit them on a conventional scanner. I have a hand-held scanner which produced this image but it also doesn't scan enough of the page to be useful and avoid a load of Photoshop image-merging work. I might have to scan these pages one panel at a time! I wish there were a way to just scan each page as a single entity. Photography is not sharp enough. I need to find a way to do the imaging without spending a fortune in fees. I am planning to switch to a digitally colored format after this chapter is done, which will save me a lot of scan work, though the original hand-drawn inking will have to be scanned anyway.

Needless to say, these guys are wrong. They are greatly underestimating the volcano's power, and in later pages, stuff blows up real good. 

Panel from THE FLAMING RAMPARTS is ink and watercolor on Fabriano illustration board, about 3" x 3", sometime in 2003.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Big Mistake in Strasburg

My last stop before returning home was Strasburg, Virginia, a small town at the foot of the northern Blue Ridge. It has plenty of history from the 18th and 19th centuries, but it remains almost as dormant as Lovingston to the south. There are some good 19th century commercial buildings in the downtown area, as well as this one here, from around 1900, which is the "Hotel Strasburg" where I stayed. The hotel is done up in Victorian style and has a fairly good restaurant as well. I stayed there when on my West Virginia tour of 2009. It's real cozy. 

Naturally I wanted to draw its Victorian facade so I sat on my mini stool across the street in front and drew. I managed to get most of the upper story of the hotel drawn before I realized that I had made a big mistake. It was such a big mistake that it caused me to abandon the drawing. Can you spot it? Well, let me show you. There should be two windows with shutters, one on either side of the central upper pediment porch. But I have only allowed room for one, as seen on the left side behind the flag. I ran out of space to draw the window on the other side! I left an indication of half a window on that side, which looks stupid to anyone aware of architectural drawing. Well maybe next time I will take more care on the proportions of my buildings.

Pitt black ink technical pen on sketchbook page, about 6" x 9", August 19th, 2012.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lovingston buildings

I didn't do just wineries and landscapes when I was on my Virginia jaunt. I did on-site drawings of interesting architecture too. Lovingston, in central-west Virginia, is a small town where you can find 19th century commercial buildings like these in the illustrations. The top one is a private house which is also a law office, with a majestic carved-wood porch. Unfortunately, I made the drawing too small to show the ornament in any detail. The lower drawing is a main street shop front, with a characteristic Southern two-story porch. 

Most of the commercial buildings on the historic Lovingston main street need some attention. No one has renovated them recently and many of the storefronts are empty. If I had heaps of money I'd renovate them and turn Lovingston into a cutesy tourist destination. 

On-site outdoor sketching isn't as pleasant as it is cracked up to be by the purist artists who demand that you must be outdoors looking at the real thing when you draw or paint something. You have to find a place to sit and when you do, it is usually crawling with ants and other annoying insects, which bite exposed parts of you and cling to your clothes. Nevertheless I followed the Artistic Specifications to do these and I am still scratching some of the insect bites.

Black Pitt technical pen on sketchbook paper, about 6" x 9", August 16, 2012.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Shenandoah Vineyards

The last winery I visited on this August journey was Shenandoah Vineyards, situated in the irresistibly picturesque Shenandoah Valley. That day was a rainy day and clouds obscured the tops of the hills. I did my usual tasting and sipping and sat out on their vine-draped upper porch to do this panoramic view. Colored pencils can be used almost like paint, since their leads are made out of wax which can be blended in layers on the paper surface. As always, I tried to make the most accurate color matching with my pencils, including the brownish areas of trees which had been troubled by excessive heat. The grape-laden vines were a vivid yellow-green that seemed brighter even than my pencils could portray. By the time I finished this drawing, the clouds had lifted from the mountains and the sunlight was returning.

Here's a picture of my drawing set-up at Shenandoah. You can see the unfinished drawing in my sketchbook, as well as the brown Pitt technical pen and my colored pencils in their elastic loop-secured cases. The wine in the glass is Shenandoah's "Fiesta," a sweet red blend that includes Concord grapes. It's delicious and I brought home a bottle. 

Click on the drawing to see a larger view. Sip Fiesta wine when appropriate.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Flying Fox Vineyard's Tasting Space

More Wine was consumed on August 18 at Flying Fox Vineyard's tasting room, in the valley between blue hills. There was both inside and outside tasting, and after I sipped inside, I went outside and did this view of the Garden Umbrellas (can't forget them, you know!) and the view. In the Blue Ridge area it's hard not to get a good view. I incorporated a comment from one of the wine-loving visitors in this piece's inscription. 

Colored pencils and Pitt brown technical pen on sketchbook page, 7" x 6", August 18, 2012. As with all these vineyard sketches, click for a larger image.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Veritas Winery Visit

Another day, another winery. My August 17 destination was Veritas Vineyard and Winery, the most elaborate and elegant of the wineries I visited. Veritas looks like part of a luxury hotel and is designed to host big weddings and events. They have porches, decks, and a forest area for picnicking. Inside, their tasting room is one of the largest and most luxurious I've ever seen. They make a lot of delicious wines and my favorite was "Red Star," a blend including one of my favorite varieties, Chambourcin. I enjoyed a glass of Red Star while drawing this view on the porch. Notice that the grapevines have a white band underneath them. This is a veil of strong netting which protects the precious grapes from deer, other animals, and birds. 

Colored pencil and brown ink on sketchbook page, about 8" x 10", August 17, 2012. Click on the image for a larger view.

I later sketched this view from memory in "Art Studio" on my iPad, as you see here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Lovingston Winery

The next day, August 16, I visited the Lovingston Winery which was very close to my temporary dwelling. This small "boutique" winery didn't have a fancy tasting room, didn't have grand landscape views, and only produced a short list of wines. This was fine with me as the emphasis is not on having weddings there but making the best wine possible. The tasting was offered at a small wooden bar overlooking the winemaking machinery and vats. Riaan Rossouw, the South African winemaker, personally offered the tastings and enthusiastically told the stories of his wines and the grapes that made them. After the tasting I sat in front of the winery building and drew the scenery you see here. Despite the pastoral quality of the drawing, Riaan played some of his favorite old rock music through the winery's sound system: Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground. It was surreal to hear this powerful dark music while in the presence of the grapes of sweetness and peace. After the color sketch I went back inside to draw the wine vats from the vantage point of the tasting bar. I hope that the grapes didn't hear too much Velvet Underground; it might change the quality of the resulting wine.

Colored pencil and Pitt brown technical pen on sketchbook page, about 8" x 10", August 16, 2012. Click for larger view.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Afton Mountain Winery visit

My first Blue Ridge winery visit was to Afton Mountain Vineyards, one of the oldest wineries in Virginia. As with most vineyards, it was situated in a beautiful environment; their motto is "Grapes don't grow in ugly places." Their buildings, unlike the woodsy stone-and-wood style which is typical of wineries, are built in a Frank Lloyd Wright style complete with stucco and red roofs with overhanging eaves, as you can see from my ink sketch. The wines, created by a European-imported winemaker, all have a gentler taste than usual, at least in my opinion. It was interesting to me to see this common quality in all the different varieties. I am not yet a Wine Expert so I am only speaking from my own experience. 

Afton Mountain view is colored pencil and technical pen on sketchbook page, about 8" x 10", August 15, 2012. Click on the image for a larger view.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Back from the Blue Ridge

I'm back from the Blue Ridge after 6 days of exciting country traveling and wining. This was a busy vacation in which I did art every day and visited 5 wineries. Every view seemed to be a picture subject and I did as much photography and art as I could. Maybe even too much as I seemed to be driven to action rather than spending quiet leisure time listening to the birds. Maybe my next vacation won't be so busy.

I did this iPad sketch of the evening sunlight on the trees at my favorite bed and breakfast place, the "Inn on Poplar Hill." Just an hour or two later a big storm boiled up and there was thrilling lightning and thunder all evening. This was my first night out on vacation.

I am now using the new improved "Art Studio" app on my iPad.This app is as close as I can get to an iPad version of Photoshop and it does wonders, especially with its texture brushes that simulate leaf clusters. As always I try to match the colors to the view as accurately as possible. 

Sketch is on iPad "Art Studio," August 14, 2012.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

By-Product on Vacation

"Art By-Products" will be on vacation from today, 14 August, till Monday, 20 August. I expect to be doing a lot of what you see here: Drawing and sipping. I will be in Central Virginia visiting wineries and friends. I hope to bring back lots of drawings and iPaddery for your enjoyment when I return.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Extended Carport

This is a drawing of the other side of a building I drew and presented here in my entry for June 8th. The original cottage has been remodeled and an extended porch-to-carport has been built, with a remarkable low pitch and long straight pediment base. This residence is on a rather steep hill and that has been remedied by the excavation and paving of the curved front driveway and platform that leads to the front door and the carport. There's quite a lot of room under the carport, more than is needed for one car. It doesn't seem to be set up for work or leisure activities, though. There are some chairs on the porch. Fortunately the residents weren't there to see me, though some of the neighbors were, and as usual I had to convince them I was harmless by pointing to my pen and sketchbook. I sat on my tiny folding stool to do this drawing and it wasn't very comfortable. Should I submit my thesis to Harvard Graduate School of Design in "Vernacular Remodeling on Early 1950s-Era Cottages in Suburban Northern Virginia."

Pentel Pilot G-2 on sketchbook page, about 6" x 5", August 12, 2012.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Another Wine Paradise

I visited a new winery on "Wine Saturday," Otium Cellars. This lavish establishment is run by a German family and they feature German red grapes that are not grown anywhere else in Virginia. The "Blaufraenkisch" and "Dornfelder" varieties produce rich, fruity reds that are good accompaniment to drawing pictures. Otium's location is in verdant hills with acres of vineyards, and also includes horse enclosures and a barn with a riding practice area. I saw some lovely horses there but didn't have the time to draw them. Hopefully I can do that on another visit. The sunset was spectacular and the lady of the house said that they bought the property because of the sunset views. I'm trying to figure out a way I could live in that area, but maybe that would be too much of a good thing.

Colored pencil and Pitt technical pen on sketchbook page, about 8" x 11", August 11, 2012.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Mexican Menu Fab Four

As I said earlier, the management of Paco's Tacos asked me to do music-related menu boards for their Kenmore Square location. I respected all genres of music, though the snobs at the nearby New England Conservatory wouldn't (at least back then). The Beatles were a natural for a Kenmore menu board and this was one of my most popular designs. For those who don't recognize what this is a parody of, it is from "Meet the Beatles," released in early 1964, which was their second American album. The Beatles were known as the "Fab Four" in their day, and this album photo did wonders for black turtleneck shirts as hot fashion items. 

Restoring these faded old slides is a painstaking process which involves not only saving the degraded image but restoring white areas which have turned a murky purplish blue. Photoshop has a fantastic tool called the "Magic Wand" which finds edges in your image and selects the area around them or, in "inverse," only the area which is a similar color like lettering. I used that tool everywhere in this piece, restoring the original white background by filling in the selected areas with white. Kind of like digital whitewash or bleach. At the same time, I enhanced the contrast of the black areas so they would be clearer and stand out more.  
I still have the old vinyl album somewhere in my collection, though it might not play any more due to 48 years of record rot.

Markers on posterboard, 21" x 13", early 1980, restored in Photoburrito.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Mexican Menu Dr. Who

This menu board's photograph is even worse than the others in the series, suggesting to me that I took it at a later date. I believe that this Dr. Who sign may have been a replacement for a sign that got destroyed or given away. I don't remember everything, it was a while ago. In those days (c. 1980) Dr. Who was a novelty here in the USA, running on "Public Broadcasting Service," (still known as PBS) and it was just beginning to get popular. The episodes we watched were those where Tom Baker played the Doctor, so that's Who is on the sign. I loved Tom Baker's character and stopped watching the show when he left it. Note the "Tardis" craft as blue phone booth to the right side of the board. This board in public view probably violated copyright, but since it was only a piece of fan art nobody bothered about it.

"Dr. Who" menu sign is markers on posterboard, 21" x 13", early 1980. Magically restored in Photoshop.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Car Creature

My self-assigned art task for my work break on the iPad was to take an ordinary car in the parking lot and turn it into a creature. This is the result. The body of the creature is a Saturn wagon of a few years ago. Its arms and legs come out of the wheel wells rather than tires. The face of the creature is the front end of the car with eyes as headlights. Car front ends look like creature faces anyway, so this is just making it more obvious. The canopy of the car is a turtle-like shell with spiny projections. 

This was drawn in "Procreate," yet another iPad art app I just acquired. This app is versatile and it does nice drawings, but it is balky and often does not perform the functions it claims to do. Saving and downloading pictures is especially difficult. I'm wondering whether this app is really meant for the more advanced iPads now in use rather than my "original first edition" iPad 1. I don't have those problems with "Art Studio" or Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. 

"Car Creature" is done in "Procreate," around 5:30 PM, August 8, 2012.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

New revised iPad app trees

The "Art Studio" iPad app has been almost completely revised and I am pleased with what the makers have done. It really feels like a mini-Photoshop complete with layering, texture tools, and most important for me, tools for making straight lines and geometric blocks of color. I like this because it allows me to make architectural images of walls, pillars, windows, etc. without my result looking like a hurried painting rather than a precise rendering. The image above has two separate attempts with the app during my half hour work break. The tree study was made using the new texture tools. The pillar, a detail from my small shopping center's arcade, was done with the straight-line tools. I would like more time to spend with this new app. I spend my work break drawing instead of walking which is good exercise. I'll figure time management out someday.

iPad "Art Studio," around 5: 30 PM August 7, 2012.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mexican Menu Mayan God

Yes, it's yet another Mexican menu sign, with an image of a Mayan god taken from my collection of "pre-Columbian" source materials. Tristan would love this, and he'll see it when he gets home from the 14th century. My "Mexican ethnic" designs grew more and more complex as I made more menu boards. I also must admit I love that kind of food and will eat spicy taco meat rather than steamed vegetables at any time. I hate salad and vegetables and will only eat them when I convince myself I'm supposed to because they're good for me. Then I get a bellyache from them and I stop. I don't know what that has to do with art anyway.

Mayan God is markers on posterboard, 21" x 13", winter 1980.

Monday, August 6, 2012

iPad Storm, Tysons Corner

After weeks of almost no rain and storms which always seemed to veer away or dissipate, we finally had a satisfying cloudburst and shower in this urban corner of Northern Virginia. I was thrilled to see dark clouds roll in and deliver. There wasn't much lightning or thunder, except for one quite loud blast. I used my work break to depict the turbulent skies over the foliage in an impressionistic iPad sketch. It is only a minor attempt as I have yet to get the iPad to give me the image precision I want. Since other artists have done it I know that I can, but perhaps 25 minutes a day is not enough practice time. 

Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, about 6 PM, August 5, 2012.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

August at Piedmont Winery

I revisited Piedmont Vineyards and Winery on "wine Saturday" and found, as I had heard in rumors, that the place is up for sale. The Piedmont wines that I liked so much were sold out and the place was instead offering wines from a Charlottesville-area winery. Meanwhile, the vines were overgrown and neglected, which made me feel sad. The going price for this valuable land and winery is about 5 million dollars, which is a bit above my affordability range. I hope they can find a buyer so that the peaceful place can continue. Otherwise some excessively rich person might grab the land and build some ostentatious palace on it. I did this study while sipping on their deck, even though it was quite hot outside. The greens of trees and grass are now the golden tint of August. 

Colored pencil on sketchbook page, about 6 1/2" x 9", August 4, 2012.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

VIntage Cars First Friday

"First Friday," as regular readers of this blog know, is a monthly art and entertainment festival held in various towns around Virginia and elsewhere. During the summer, Falls Church's First Friday features a small but choice show of beautifully restored vintage cars and trucks, as well as live music and a gallery opening. I love to draw the vehicles so here is a page of sketches, including the fabulous gull-wing doors and open hood of a fancy Mercedes. The Pontiac was a cherry red "2 + 2" which the owners tell me was only available as a separate model in the USA for one year, 1966. Lest I forget, there is a garden umbrella over a table in back of a nearby Thai restaurant. The band this time was "Big Tow," playing covers of less familiar but just as good songs from past decades. 

Pitt technical pen on sketchbook page, 10" x 6 1/2", August 3, 2012.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Mexican Menu Guacamole Dog

While I was working at Paco's Tacos, I had a dream about a guacamole dog. That is, a dog made out of guacamole. So I did a menu board featuring "Paco, the Guacamole Dog." Paco was already a pelican but I figured any fantasy critter could be Paco. This sign had a culturally disturbing sub-text (excuse my pretentious language) in that dogs were raised for their meat in Mexico. There is a breed called the "Mexican Hairless" which was specified as an edible dog. I didn't know what the dog looked like and besides he had to fit a menu on his figure, so this is what I drew. I don't know whether people eat dogs in Mexico nowadays, but since this one is made out of guacamole (avocado, onion, tomato, etc.) it's all right to eat it.

The usual dimensions and medium, winter 1980. Restored from a really bad photograph.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mexican Menu Diaghilev Firebird

This rather splendid Mexican menu illustration is one of the first in my third series of Paco's Taco's menus. In 1980, they opened a third shop in Kenmore Square, in one of the busiest places in Boston. The management commissioned me to do another series of illustrated menu boards for their newest location. Kenmore Square is in a concentrated cultural area which features all sorts of music, art, performance, and shopping. Symphony Hall, Boston University, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts are all fairly close to the chaotic traffic of Kenmore Square, as well as the Temple of Baseball, Fenway Park. I was encouraged to use themes from the artistic and musical world for these Kenmore boards.

This was one of the first ones I did. It is derived from an early 20th century ballet design illustrating the famous Russian ballet, "The Firebird," as conceived by the great producer Serge Diaghilev with music by Igor Stravinsky. The style is that of the Russian illustrator Ivan Bilibin, who was influenced not only by Russian folk art but by Art Nouveau and Art Deco. In the illustration, the prince/seeker character dances with the scarlet-clad Firebird, while a royal peacock looks on. The typeface is inspired by old Russian lettering. Yes, there was a lot of Culture in Boston, and why not borrow it to sell tacos. 

"Diaghilev Dinner Special" is markers on posterboard, 21" x 13", winter 1980.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Compact Porch

Thunder rumbled on a sultry day, but no rain fell as I did my work break drawing. I sat on my little folding camp stool which I have kept for outdoor sketching and am finally putting to use. This house, which is very close to my workplace, has a compact little porch, big enough for only one or two chairs. I think it is amateur-built as it is unpainted and slightly unfinished. I've photographed it before on a freezing winter day and today I didn't get a complete view due to the leaves. During my drawing session the resident came out and asked me whether I needed help. I waved my pen and drawing book about and said that I was doing a drawing. Residents are often suspicious of my artistic activity. But as long as I stay on the sidewalk (which is public property) I can legally draw whatever I want.

Pitt technical pen on sketchbook page, about 5 1/2" x 5 1/2", July 31, 2012.