Sunday, September 30, 2012

Aldie historic building

I spent a surprisingly wineless Saturday driving around Loudoun County, Virginia, a few miles west from my urbanified home. My destination was not a winery but a country store in the tiny crossroads town of Philomont, where I bought a pair of deerskin gloves. So my wine budget went to gloves instead. Down the road and through the horsey fields, you get to Aldie, which is another slightly larger town full of historic buildings and attractive shops. I stopped in one shop and sat in a rusty old chair from the next door's property to do this drawing. This building was built in the 19th century as a country store but was turned into a residence and then abandoned, so no one lives or works there now. The double-stairway porch is impressive for a vernacular building. The place is in disrepair and if I had a lot of money I would buy it and fix it up. Unfortunately, I can't make this happen so all I can do is draw it.

I didn't get all the work I wanted done on the drawing because the sun was setting and I was losing light. So I finished it when I returned home. I also did some touching up in Photoshop. I know that the Rules of Plein Air Art forbid such studio re-working, insisting on the Authentic Experience of Being There. Well sue me then, if I can't fix up the real building I'll fix up my drawing.

Pentel Pilot gel pens on sketchbook page, 9" x 8 1/2", September 29, 2012. Clikonthepic for larger view.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Salon Portrait

I got my hair done today, and as usual while I'm waiting for the hair dye to do its thing, I draw on sketchbook or iPad. Today one of the employees at the salon noticed the iPad and when I said that I can make art on it, she asked me to draw her portrait. This is the first time I have ever tried to do an iPad portrait (rather than a sketch or a caricature) of a real live person in front of me. Interestingly, working with opaque "brushstrokes" with a blender was more like working in pastel than in acrylic or colored pencil. I've never done any work with pastel so I was improvising, but it turned out a little better than I thought it would. It isn't great by any means but it's an attempt. If I wanted to I could probably make it more accurate and realistic in Photoshop. I want to do more faces, especially women, and depict people on the iPad, not just Virginia landscapes.

Art Studio, about 25 minutes, September 2012.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Mexican Menu Galaxy

By the time I got to the third series of menu boards, I had some fancy graphic design production values. This "Galaxy" had a nice Art Nouveau typeface and a mainly black-and-white color scheme. The color of the writing was originally white, with some color blends to the left, and the words "Galaxy Dinner Special" and "Nacho" done in metallic silver. The numbers were red or yellow, now faded. I left some of the color artifacts of fading in the writing. I had to simulate the silver with Photoshop as it didn't show up in the image. Despite the failings of the photograph this is one of my favorites among my Mexican menu boards.

The usual with silver metallic pen accents, winter 1980.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

September Skies 2012

Autumn comes to my work break and my bleak urban environment. This is a scene a few days ago, as twilight clouds swirled over the few trees bordering the big highway. The leaves are turning a greyish-yellow. I have been looking at this same line of trees for more than 20 years. 

I would like to make fantasy pictures instead of reality pictures on my work breaks. I will not do portraits of Dumpsters, I just can't stand the prospect of it. I have no more than 25 minutes to create something. I want more than dragons. I am sure that many of you are bored with this. I have to promise myself that I will do a fantasy picture rather than a drawing of someone's immense SUV. My ghod those cars are big. They don't even fit in the parking spaces. I already turned one into a creature some time ago. Fantasy pictures tend to take longer than reality pictures though and my work break is only half an hour. I continue to suck at time management.

"Art Studio" app on iPad, September 2012.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mr. Suds

Beer. Bheer. Beeee-yah! Trader Joe's has it, and this is the stuff, TJ's basic brew, only 4 bucks for a six. I helped design "Mr. Suds" to advertise the house "Name Tag" brand. Mr. Manager came up with the idea for a beer can in a Trader Joe Hawaiian shirt. And thus it just sort of happened that the shirt I put on the can is the one that the manager was wearing on Tuesday when I did the sign. But I didn't give "Mr Suds" a Beer-d like our manager. 

Acrylic and acrylic markers on masonite board, 48" x 36", September 2012.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mexican Menu Punk Rock

At its height, Paco's Tacos had three Boston area locations, one of which was in Kenmore Square downtown at one of the busiest places in the city. Kenmore Square was a center for live music and music clubs, where bands both famous and obscure could play. In the late '70s while the world was amusing itself with slick, glitzy disco, the punk rock scene was also flourishing in all its deliberate obnoxiousness and intentional lack of artifice. There was one music venue, the "Rathskeller," right next to the Paco's at Kenmore. The "Rathskeller" was the center of Boston's punk performances, and it was known by fans as the "Rat." 

Since many of my Kenmore Square menu boards featured music of various kinds, I naturally did a "punk rock" themed board. This one, done in the collage format favored by punk graphics and design, references a number of bands which were popular at the time, such as Devo, the 2 by 4's, "Human Sexual Response," and the "Specials," who were not a punk group at all but a "ska" band. I also included rockabilly great Duane Eddy simply because I had an album with his picture on the cover, which I copied into the composition (at right). The "Duane" also refers to "Duane Glasscock," the comedy pseudonym of Boston's radio personality Charles Laquidara. There is a cartoon of my then-boss at Paco's, "Kevin," in the center with a one-shouldered T-shirt holding up a burrito. My face also appears to the right of Kevin, with glasses shattered into my starlike art monogram. At the top it says, "Everyone could hear what went on in the Rat." All of this scene is now long gone, even the buildings, replaced by a luxury hotel.

Collage and markers on posterboard, 21" x 13", winter 1980.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Moon Wines Sign

My latest billboard for Trader Joe's advertises a series of California wines all of which have a "moon" in their title. I'm especially fond of "Old Moon" Zinfandel. Note the "bottle rocket" flying past in the upper right area. I'm inspired by old "retro" science fiction comics in this design.

The TJ peanut butter concern has been in the news lately and we are reassuring people that  the store has already withdrawn the product.

Acrylic on Masonite board, 48" x 36", September 2012.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Plains Main Street

After wining at one of my favorite wineries, "Naked Mountain," I visited "The Plains," a little town in the outer suburbs of Metro DC. The downtown area has been renovated and there are art galleries, gift shops, coffee shops, and a very nice restaurant, "The Rail Stop," where I dined and had a glass of Naked Mountain's Chardonnay. I hope to return to Plains and the Rail Stop when I can.

Before I went into the Rail Stop I sat on my car's tailgate and did this iPad sketch of a commercial porch in the middle of The Plains. 

"Art Studio" app, about 5:30 PM, September 22, 2012.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fantasy Pin-up Sketch

Time to do another fantasy pin-up. I selected a model photograph from one of my many photomodel books and sketched from it, adding contours and costume where necessary. This is the first preliminary sketch. I will do all sorts of digital work on it, inking and coloring. I recently acquired a book on digital inking and coloring and I'll be using this sketch and others later on as examples to work on. I also will receive soon a "how-to" book on digital painting in Photoshop. I have done a lot of Photoshop painting already but I am hoping that I'll get a more professional look to my digital art from this resource. I'm still working on page 43 of the graphic novel, in traditional watercolor. After page 50 or so, I'll be using digital color on that. I keep busy.

Pencil on sketchbook page, 5" x 8", September 22, 2012.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Another Dragon

I haven't done a dragon drawing for quite a while so here's one. I wouldn't want to neglect my winged fiery friends, if they are friends. This one is an adaptation of a dragon build step-by-step process from Sandra Staple's drawing dragons book, one of a whole stack of dragondraw books I have collected. They're all helpful and I will continue adapting from them. It isn't actually copying, though I am following the steps and drawing the creature in the same position as the model. It's not like they're going to come into the parking lot and pose for me.

Pencils on sketchbook page, about 7" x 5 1/2", September 21, 2012.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mexican Menu Summerland

I collect Victorian visionary tales of the afterlife. These accounts of the Other Worlds are usually produced, or channeled, by Spiritualist mediums who can recount what they see, or speak in the voices of the departed who are already in the other world. Often, the Spiritualists  called this other world the "Summerland," a place of perpetual but unthreatening summer. There was no night there, or else night was a time of faery flight and dreams. The heavenly world's landscapes are populated with happy spirits, dressed in white Victorian gowns, surrounded by flowers and meadows and friendly animals. There are cities and villages there, made of glass or gold or other shining substances, in which the blessed spirits live and enjoy heavenly banquets and pleasant companionship. The air is bright and sweet and no one has to toil or endure disease and misery. 

Many of these Spiritualist visions of heaven are derived from the Bible; the nineteenth century in America was far more Biblically aware than our own era. Similar descriptions of Heaven can be found in the Koran. In a society where many more people died young than nowadays, whether through sickness, war, or accident, the Spiritualist visions of departed loved ones living in Summerland gave comfort that is no longer available to our modern age. All I can do is enjoy my banquets (whether Mexican food or not) and my wineries, set in Virginia's earthly paradise.

"Summerland" is markers on posterboard, 21" x 13", winter 1980. Heavenly restoration in Photoshop.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Return of Pumpkin

I don't usually get to do the "end-cap" signs at Trader Joe's (which advertise a large deposit of a promoted product) but I did one on Tuesday. It's that time of year and the wildly popular pumpkin products are returning. I was tasked to do a sign that would be intense and bold and visible across the store from up to 40 feet away. Since my friends and co-workers know that Orange is my favorite color they expected me to use the appropriate colors. I am now suitably pumpkinified.

Acrylic markers on black-painted Masonite board, 36" x 24", September 18, 2012.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Commercial Porch

My work break iPad drawing for September 17 was a scene from the shopping center where I work. I sat on a metal bench and drew the mundane view. The "stonework" pylon to the left is part of a porch and arcade shading the store entrances. It isn't really stone, it's a concrete imitation. On a gloomy day, the trees are not very green, they shade towards greyness. The bright stuff is the container of plants, one with red leaves and the other with yellow-green leaves and pinkish-red flowers. I am slowly getting better at rendering reality with my iPad, though I must admit to a couple of touch-ups in Photoshop before posting this image. 

ArtStudio on iPad, about 25 minutes' work, September 17, 2012.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Roma 1971 Interior

I lived in Rome with my parents in 1970-1971. I was taking a year off between high school and college, which I filled with Roman antiquities, Latin study, exploring Rome, and art. I had my watercolors and colored pencils there, and did a lot of architectural studies. We lived in a villa which was part of the American Academy in Rome campus. I did this interior of the villa's living room on a chilly, boring night, using my colored pencils to try to get as "photorealistic" a rendering as possible. What is interesting about this interior is that there is nothing in it that would indicate that this was in Italy, let alone Rome. Perhaps the only clue would be that shiny black pitcher on the fireplace mantel, which was probably made in Italy. Everything else could just as well have been in Massachusetts. Possibly this was designed to make the Americans feel at home. 

Looking at this drawing decades later, I don't think I could do any better nowadays, colored pencils and all. It's kind of annoying to see work you did as a teenager which is as good, or even better, than what you can do now. If my life had gone according to what my parents and culture expected of me, I would probably have returned to the Academy as a classical scholar. But things did not go accordingly.

Colored pencils on sketchbook page, 12" x 8 1/2", winter 1971. Clickonthepic for a larger view.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bluemont Fair 2012

I attended the Bluemont Fair on Saturday. Bluemont is a tiny town in the foothills of the Shenandoah Blue Ridge, which is usually peaceful and empty except for the fortunate folks who live there. It was supposed to be a resort town back in the late 1800s and there was a railroad that ran from Alexandria all the way to Bluemont so that vacationers from the humid, overheated Washington area could find some fresh air in the hills. The resort town never took off, though, and the railroad was eventually dismantled. Some stretches of its rail are now bike paths. Bluemont has a fair every September with crafts, vendors, food, music, historical exhibits, alpacas and fiber spinners, and some wine tastings offered by local vineyards. After this weekend the fair disappears and Bluemont returns to its quiet existence. 

The top drawing shows a wood-crafted playset and a vendor's canopy, as well as an elderly Spanish lady who was visiting with her family. The lower drawing shows the tent-topped bandstand, without the band, along with hay bales that the audience sat on. The man on the left of the lower drawing is not missing his arms, he just has them folded out of sight in front of him.
Pilot G2 pen on sketchbook pages, about 6" x 6" each.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Panel from Page 43

This is what a panel of my ongoing graphic novel looks like before I add the color. This character is one of the geologists who are associated with the techno-wizard, as the volcano gets closer to erupting. I drew this on illustration board which is suitable for watercolor, and that's how I'll color it, directly painted on the board. But once this current chapter section is done, I'll switch over to digital coloring though I will continue to draw the original line art by hand using an old-fashioned dip pen and ink. If you know enough about working in Photoshop, you can use textures to color an ink drawing so that it doesn't look mechanically colorized. And with digital art not only is it not messy, you can change whatever you want. Don't worry, though, I will still do plenty of real watercolor, especially in my landscapes and depictions of buildings.

Ink on Fabriano illustration board, about 5" x 4", September 2012.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Victorian Back Porch

As soon as I saw this porch, I knew I had to draw it. So I returned to the site with my little folding stool, and I spent about 45 minutes doing this drawing. It's the back of a sprawling Victorian house off the main street of Vienna, Virginia, one of the few real Victorian houses in that city to be spared from the developers. Note the interesting little pyramid-roofed upper porch, just enough to fit one room. The back door of the house is under the lower porch. The drawing of the lower story isn't complete because my view was blocked by some landscaping trees.

Unfortunately, I had to do a lot of "cleaning up" the reality of the house. It is in bad shape, with decrepit roof tiles and woodwork, flaking paint, and a gutter that has fallen down from the roof and waves in the wind. Much of the house is hidden by overgrown vegetation and shrubbery. I don't know who lives there or who owns it, but I wish they could spare the cash for a good restoration. That would be a lot of cash, though. 

Gel ballpoint pens on sketchbook page, about 6" x 6", September 13, 2012.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Zoomorphic Vehicle

I found it in the parking lot on my work break. Most people who park in this lot don't see things like this. If I have my iPad or sketchbook with me, I will draw what I see. This one has the front end of a classic Volkswagen Beetle and the body and tail of a mechanical armadillo. Some people may say that I was inhaling too much spray paint fumes while creating billboards. But I know what they really drive here in Northern Virginia. This vehicle is particularly impressive at night when the two "whisker jowls" on either side of the "hood" light up as headlights, and the body is dotted with luminescent points. 

Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, September 12, 2012.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Can o' Corn

Here's another in my comic strip-style billboards advertising various Trader Joe favorites. This baseball-themed panel plays on the traditional slang term for a looping fly ball into the outfield that is easy to catch. The outfielder sometimes doesn't even have to move, the ball just falls into his glove. I had fun rendering the baseball glove and the can of corn. The design of that can, resembling 19th century canned goods labels, is one of the oldest unchanged pieces of Trader Joe's stock. "No G.M.O.'s" means that TJ's corn does not contain any controversial Genetically Modified Organisms. I put an apostrophe after the acronym because otherwise it would look and sound like a computer component or some government agency.

Acrylic and acrylic markers on masonite board, 48" x 36", September 2012.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mexican Menu Luna Park

I have written in earlier posts about my old friend R. and her Heinlein-inspired imaginary world of "Luna Park." This was a role-playing world shared between myself, the artist, and R., who didn't write it but made stuff up. R. asked me to make a menu board from our lunar mallworld, and this saw plenty of action in the underground restaurant before I retired it from service and gave it to her. This is a diagrammatic view, which shows not only the domes on the lunar surface but the midway-like mall and pneumatic coasters which travel between levels. I also enjoyed making the graffiti-inspired type for the menu sign. 

The original piece was destroyed and this is my only record of its existence. I'm glad I was able to restore the faded old photograph with the magic of Photoshop.

Markers and some taco sauce on posterboard, 21" x 13", winter 1980.

Monday, September 10, 2012

September Sky

All summer long the clouds have been beautiful, big puffy cumuli drifting across the sky, rising up and tumbling down again, sometimes gathering ominously and other times filling the sky with cottony filaments. As September comes and humidity drops, the blue sky becomes clearer and the clouds more distinct. I did this iPad sketch looking up through the urban trees. Even though I am in the big city, I can always look up at the sky.

"Art Studio" app, September 9, 2012.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

After the Storm

When my friends and I reached Otium Cellars for our Saturday wining, dark grey clouds were already moving into the area. A few minutes later, rain started and soon it exploded into a furious deluge. While we and other folks sat inside enjoying our wine and snacks, the water poured and poured. But in a half hour or so, it had subsided and we could go out into the soaked outdoor areas. I sat on a wet wooden bench to do this iPad sketch of the countryside. The departing clouds swirl overhead while other clouds drift over the blue hills. I love the texture "brushes" for depicting trees. The horses were still safely inside their stalls, but the rain delayed the grape harvest. I placed five of my vineyard and countryside paintings in the tasting room, invited by the family who runs Otium. I hope the wine sippers like (and buy) them.

"Art Studio" app on iPad, September 8, 2012.
You can read about, and see photographs, of another account of this same event at "Rae's Photographic Ramblings."

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Game Character Admiral

I have done a lot of gaming character art, though it is not in the same style as modern digital game art such as you find on "CGHub." This one was done for a game created by a friend of mine (who was also my math tutor). The game was situated in an imaginary Renaissance-style world and concentrated more on political intrigue than hacking and slashing. This character was a "non-player" character, that is, your characters could interact with him but he could not be played as an arbitrary character himself. I enjoyed finding just the right costume for the Admiral.

I drew the image in traditional pen and ink and then colored it in Painter 7, a program I no longer have. I do have Painter 9, but since Corel Painter is now up to number 12, I don't know whether this older version is still usable. 

I miss doing fantasy characters like this one. Seems that my current work is all buildings and landscapes. I have some fantasy characters in mind though and they will have nothing to do with role-playing games. They will be done in this style and I think that Photoshop will work just as well for colorizing them.

Admiral Olana portrait is ink on Bristol board colorized in Painter 7, 4" x 5", March 2003.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Mexican Menu Chac the Rain God

"Chac" was (is?) the Mayan rain god. I copied this Mayan portrait of him from my resources and added the colors myself. I love the purplish blue and grey of storm clouds. But due to the fading of the film I don't know what my exact colors were back then, so this is a Photoshop approximation. The "torches" he holds in his hands are lightning bolts. I made up the "Mayanish" typeface myself.

I often evaluate color combinations by thinking about whether they would look good in a costume, especially a superhero costume. I think Chac's greys and blues and purples would make a nice costume combination. But traditional comic book printing was never able to handle grey, which is why Batman's costume looked purple and blue rather than its "real" grey and black. Nowadays comic book printing is much more sophisticated but you still rarely see costumed characters in grey. 

Markers on posterboard, 21" x 13", winter 1980.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cats Cookies

Here's another of my set of billboards advertising favorite products at Trader Joe's. "Cats" cookies appeal especially to children. The cookies are in the form of cartoon cats and you can dunk them in milk, or coffee if you are the parent rather than the child. TJ stores are often filled with children, as well as mothers-to-be. In my 9 years there, I've watched a number of these youngsters grow up, as if I were some kind of grocery store Auntie. But then I've done a lot of kid-friendly advertising for cookies, too. 

Spray paint, acrylic, and acrylic markers on masonite board, 48" x 36", August-September 2012.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tree Study

More iPaddery during my work break. I love depicting trees, even if they seem somewhat boring. The bright greens of summer are fading into the grey-yellowish green of early fall. I spent only about 15 minutes doing this. There just aren't many scenic views around my workplace, and I refuse to do the "ashcan school" thing on my work breaks. Unless you really want to see pictures of Dumpsters, refrigerator housings, a 7-11 convenience store, and squashed tomatoes.

"Art Studio" app on iPad, September 4, 2012.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dragon and Hydrant

I drew it in the parking lot during my work break. "Reality" says that it's just a fire hydrant. But there was an inquisitive dragon there too, who seemed to have never seen one of those things in its life. So what do you do with this somewhat zoomorphic piece of machinery? Do you:

rip it apart?
pull off those plugs with chains on them, let the water gush out, and drink it?
Or....PEE ON IT the way a dog does?

Or do you just fly away when a Trader Joe's shopper tries to get into that parking space with her gigantic SUV.

Pentel Pilot G2 on sketchbook page, 6" x 6", September 3, 2012.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Everlasting Sunshine

When I saw this container of "body wash" I had to have it. The title of the product is "Everlasting Sunshine," which set off my yearning for a world where summer would never end. Somewhere there is a peaceful place where it is summer all year round and snow never falls. I would like it to be in the USA so I wouldn't have to leave the country to move there. But I think that the Summerland of Body Wash is more like a spiritual state, an eschatological dream where clean washed souls go after the travails of earthly life. I can dream of a flowery Summerland, with the Blue Ridge mountains as the backdrop, where the wine of heaven is served. But in reality September is here and I will have to face the oncoming darkness of autumn and winter. 

Here is a Photoshop skyscape for you:

Photoshop, 10" x 7", September 2, 2012.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Mexican Menu Siegfried

This Paco's menu was my homage to "classical" music and opera although Wagner's great works were hardly "classical." I depicted Siegfried, the hero of the Ring Cycle, dressed in his neato-barbarian outfit. I copied a leitmotif out of one of my old music reference books, so that the New England Conservatory crowd could sing along. I also included many symbols such as the sword, the dragon, and the ravens, all of which appear in the opera. 

The character himself with long red hair is actually an imaginary character of mine, an opera-singing Jesuit, originally from Switzerland (hence the white cross on red square on his cape, even though there were no Jesuits from or in Switzerland). This hair was a wig, but he really was red-haired. In my imaginary life for him, he performed the role of Siegfried as an amateur. In his main job he was a Jesuit priest and a professor of German literature, with an emphasis on the influence of Jung and Freud on 20th century writing. He could also go on at length on the religious aspects of the "folkish" movement in German culture. And he was fond of Mexican food, or just about any other type of food.

"Siegfried" is markers on posterboard, 21" x 13", winter 1980. Extensively rescued from purplish obscurity by Photoshop.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

August Green

I was sitting at my art desk pushing eraser leavings around when I looked up and saw these colors in the trees outside my window. The trees make living in my apartment bearable. I had to grab the iPad and do this quick color and leaf pattern study before the evening sunlight disappeared. August is over now. I will find more ways to do sketches on the iPad I'm sure. At least I can look out the window. 

"Art Studio" on the iPad, about 6 PM, August 31, 2012. 
Is anyone reading this? I haven't gotten a comment, other than Tristan's, in weeks.