Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Loving Couple

I just had Thanksgiving dinner with these folks, so I will post this portrait I did of them many years ago. These two bearded gentlemen are a loving couple who have been together as man and husband for a long time. One of them (reclining) is a fine cook who prepared the Thanksgiving turkey, side dishes, and fruit tarts. I did this portrait of them in September of 1998 and am glad to see them again every year. They live in a state that does not recognize them as a married pair but maybe someday.

Ink on sketchbook page, September 1998.

Monday, November 26, 2012


I'm back from DarkoverCon where I sold 6 of the 10 pieces I had for sale. All of my art sales were to friends who already know and love my work. I can't complain. Thanks friends! Here is a photo of my art show at Darkovercon. Metatron dominates the wall but of course she/he is not for sale. I will have some prints of it for sale if you are interested. Note the string ties which were necessary to keep the picture from falling off the wall, as its frame didn't have any hanging hardware. My dragons were appreciated. Now that I know how to depict dragons fairly well I will move on to depicting buxom maidens and pin-up girls.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Crag Dragon colors

This is the color version of the first dragon in my recent series. The Crag Dragon is vivid green-gold and enjoys the sunlight. He climbs up rugged rocky crags until he gets to a place where he can leap off and fly about. Taking off from level ground would be quite difficult for this dragon, though not impossible. He'd have to get a running start, rather like an airplane. The triangular paddle at the end of his tail possibly gives him some stability in the air. 

"Crag Dragon" is watercolor and ink on Fabriano illustration board, about 6 1/2" x 9", November 2012.

Further notes on "Electron Blue." It occurred to me that all I'd have to do was change some of the text in the header and explain to my vast audience of readers that this was now a more general comment-and-essay blog, where I would write about anything that I wanted, including science and philosophy but not concentrating on it. And my "no politics" rule would still apply. This way I would not have to change the name or lose my myriad (I think about five people) readers.

Meanwhile there is another blog I want to start and that will happen after I get back from Darkovercon outside of Baltimore, Md., where for 34 years of the 36 it's been held, I will exhibit my art and hold my annual room party, "Salon Pyracantha."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Have a Cookie

I'm doing a lot of these signs for Trader Joe's these days. The store is now well-loaded with holiday treats and more are coming in every day. The "European" cookies are covered with chocolate as advertised and you get a lot of them in a square red metal box. Once the cookies have been consumed, the box is a great container to store your sewing things, your markers, your digital archives, or your stash of whatever.

Acrylic markers on black-painted Masonite, about 30" x 20", November 2012.

Note to my loyal handful of readers: I am planning to shut down and remove the companion blog to "Art By-Products," that is, "Electron Blue 2." My priorities have changed and I don't have the time any more to work with math and physics. I need to concentrate on digital fantasy and s.f. art and my graphic novel. This doesn't mean that I will stop blogging. I will be creating some new bloggish content on this same site, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Digital Dragon: Twilight Call

You've seen my ink and watercolor images of dragons, and one hybrid marker/digital dragon, well here's an all digital dragon. This one is calling forth a fiery song to mark the twilight of another day. Dragon fire is pretty good for lighting your way through the night, too. Most of my digital pieces are experimental, I learn something new with each one. I hope to exhibit "Twilight Call" with the rest of the series at DarkoverCon.

Photoshop, 7" x 10", November 2012.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Cranky Dragon colors

Here's Cranky with colors added. I have been looking at big reptiles for dragon inspiration, and I finally found out the difference between a crocodile and an alligator. Crocodiles have long, pointed snouts and eyes that are at the side of the head. Alligators have blunt, rounded snouts and their eyes are on the top of their heads, so they can peer out from the surface of the water while remaining mostly submerged. Cranky is based on an alligator, though of course the dragon form dominates. The traditional dragon head is based on a crocodile, which the Old World artists would have seen, since there are no alligators in the "Old World." I don't think I've ever seen a live alligator, though I have eaten alligator meat at one memorable restaurant meal in Florida. Dragons are not known for their edibility.

Ink and watercolor on Fabriano illustration board, about 10" x 7", November 2012.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

November Dragon colors

Here's the "November Dragon" all colored in. I'm reproducing the old ink and watercolor "storybook style" that I used to use back in the 1970s. I added a little marker work here and there to emphasize some lines. Back in the previous century I used Rapidograph pen as well as dip pen but I am not currently using the difficult and temperamental Rapidographs. With the advent of pigmented marker ink it is possible to use markers in a final piece without it fading away later on. I hope to show this piece at DarkoverCon next week.

Ink, watercolor, and acrylic border, about 10" x 7", November 2012.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

It tastes like Autumn

This sign is from 2003, when I first started working at Trader Joe's. This is what our shelf ads looked like in those days. The style has changed considerably in the 9 years since I've been working there. And TJ's doesn't carry the maple horseradish mustard any more, though they still have honey horseradish mustard. I have a large collection of photos and scans of signs I've done for Trader Joe's showing how sign directions have changed during my years there. 

Markers on cardstock paper, about 8" x 5 1/2", fall 2003.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Watery Dragon digital hybrid

Here's a return visit from the watery dragon I depicted some posts ago. Now you can see the whole beast as well as some of its bubbly environment. Even though this is an air-breathing creature its home is in the waters so it is adapted to that world, with features of both crustaceans and reptiles.

Now here's the technical question: is it digital or is it traditional? You know the answer if you look at the title, or the post from a few days ago on November 13. I completed my portrait of the creature in Photoshop. I scanned the original, imported it into Photoshop, and drew the rest of it digitally. But can you tell which parts were done in Photoshop and which were done in markers? Of course if you look at a comparison between the two pictures finished and unfinished, you can tell. But if you couldn't see the unfinished picture, only this one, would it be so evident? If you were familiar with Photoshop, you'd be able to tell, but only by looking closely. If you know Photoshop well enough, you can simulate all sorts of "traditional" media.

Some of my fellow artists simply reject digital media outright, as it is an "imitation" and not a "real" art medium. And some clients won't buy a print of a digital piece since no matter how beautiful the art is, it is still a print and always will be, and not unique. I can show and sell multiple copies. So I might have to charge print prices, which are lower, for a digital piece, even if I spent as much time on the artwork as if I had done it in markers or watercolor. Time spent on a piece is a factor though not always for the client. Anyway some of you will see this piece at Darkovercon and appreciate it as it is. 

Finished piece around 8 1/2" x 11", markers and Photoshop, November 2012. Click on the picture for a larger view where you might be able to see evidence of digital artwork.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Georgetown 2004

This early 20th century building (dated 1909 on the top ornamentation) is in Georgetown, Washington DC, on M street. I did the drawing in May 2004 on a sketching expedition downtown. The sketch is done in markers, which is unusual because I hardly ever draw on site in markers. I was in a coffee house so I had a place to sit down and put my markers within reach. I don't take my markers on drawing trips because they take up too much space and I can't stock enough colors. Markers often come in portable sets but these sets are useless for on-site drawing because the pre-selected sets contain only bright colors and no pastel, earth tone, or grayscale shades. If you spend the bucks and get the shades you want individually, you'll soon find your collection getting too big to schlep around to drawing sites. This drawing was done with a limited number of water-based (Staedtler, no longer available) and alcohol-based (Copic) markers. Another problem with marker drawing is that you can't blend them smoothly from one color to another. I had this problem with the blue sky on the picture, which I went over with a semi-opaque white marker when I got home. I wouldn't be averse to trying marker on-site drawing again but I'd have to build my portable selection carefully (and expensively, as Copics cost 6$ apiece). I've moved on to colored pencils for my on-site drawing at wineries and elsewhere, since colored pencils are easier to take with you and you can blend them.

Markers on sketchbook page, about 6 1/2" x 10", May 2004.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

November Dragon

I just finished inking this dragon drawing. I used a combination of brown ink, black ink, and pigmented brown ink markers. The dragon "species" is a traditional quadruped with wings and limbs high off the ground in a stance much more mammalian than reptilian. I present it here only in ink but I will be coloring it in and hopefully showing it at Darkovercon. I admit I've never been to Dragoncon, the huge media/everything SF and fantasy convention in Atlanta. At this moment I do not have enough suitable pieces to show at a big convention. 

"November Dragon" is ink on Fabriano illustration board, about 10" x 7", Novembeer 2012.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Watery Dragon

I tried a different approach to dragon drawing. This drawing is done with markers. I started with a few curved spiky shapes which would be the spiny fins of the dragon, and improvised from  there. You can't see the back end of the dragon but it's there, hidden behind the green fins and spines which camouflage the creature against a background of seaweed. The sea dragon shares elements from both reptiles and crustaceans. Its head and neck are reptilian but its front legs, with grabbing claws, are more like lobster or shrimp limbs. This dragon does not fly, but swims. It climbs out of the water occasionally to hunt for prey or to find a mate and reproduce.

Markers on sketchbook page, about 7 1/2" x 11", November 13, 2012.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Mug 'n' Muffin 3

Mr. Mugg and Ms. Muffin look out at the city at sunrise from a rooftop. This is the last of the three breakfast menu signs that I did for the "Mug 'n' Muffin" cafe in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts. The city in the  picture is not specifically Boston or any other city, it is just a generic view. 

As with all the other menu and restaurant signs I did in those days, the original work was "used up" in the messy environment.  None of the originals have survived except the three Paco's Tacos signs that I saved and stashed in my archives. As a commercial artist, I have had to get used to the fact that none of my original work, whether for a restaurant or Trader Joe's, will last a long time. Even my best work for these places has to be thrown out to make room for more marketing and menu changes. But thanks to Photoshop I have been able to save my images from oblivion. Now we will see whether digital images last any longer than markers and paper.

"Mug 'n' Muffin" Sunrise Special is (was) markers on posterboard, 21" x 13", winter 1980.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Cranky Dragon

Dragons have moods, just like people. This one is in a cranky mood. Maybe he's hungry. Maybe he's upset. Maybe he's fed up with politics. Don't get in the way of those slashing claws. He is an in-your-face dragon and he won't hesitate to attack if you bother him. 

"Cranky" is drawn in brown ink and some marker on Fabriano illustration board, 10" x 7", November 2012. I will be adding color soon.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Mug 'n' Muffin 2

Mr. Mugg and Ms. Muffin go on a winter vacation in this menu board. They're nicely bundled up as they take in the snowy sunrise. Lovely place to be, but not in Harvard Square. When it snowed in Harvard Square, the snow was quickly turned to grey slush by the many passing vehicles, and you would have to step through icy puddles to get where you were going. One time while trying to get through a puddle my boot cracked at the ankle and let in icy water. That may have been when I decided to move away from this cold urban wasteland, notwithstanding the muffins and tacos.

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

Friday, November 9, 2012

Ink Dragon

I drew a dragon in ink. This is part of a series of dragon pictures that I will be doing for my upcoming show at DarkoverCon. I may do some warriors as well. I am using a style which I haven't done for many years. I call it my "storybook style" because it has often been used by other artists for children's books and mythic fantasy. It is basically an ink drawing colored in watercolor with little or no opaque paint. I like to use brown ink as I've done here. I will color this dragon and its environment in watercolor but first I scanned it in, so I can also experiment on coloring it in Photoshop. Things have changed quite a bit since I last used this style. 

Ink on Fabriano illustration board, 6" x 9", November 2012.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Mug 'n' Muffin 1

Paco's Tacos was not the only place I did menu boards for. The owners of a Harvard Square cafe called "Mug 'n' Muffin" hired me to do three menu boards for their own "Sunrise Special" breakfast. They asked that I create cartoon characters for their specialties, "Mr. Mugg" and "Ms. Muffin." "Mr. Mugg and Ms. Muffin" would be featured in different situations. This is the first of the series I did for the cafe. It features the character couple in a summer, outdoorsy environment. Note the Harvard crimson "H" shirt on Ms. Muffin. 32 years later, I am still doing cartoon characters marketing food and drink.

Interestingly, though the Harvard Square cafe is long gone, there is another "Mug and Muffin" near me near Reston, Virginia. I really should visit there. 

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

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Creatures for Obama

I drew these creatures while waiting in line to vote at my polling place. My area of the country, famous Northern Virginia, is a hugely diverse area. The crowd waiting patiently at the polls was literally a "one of each" cross-section of American voters: male, female, old, young, moms with kids, hipster youths, black, white, Latino, military folk, immigrants from India, Philippines, and Trader Joe's crew. 

Some of the creatures I drew were for Romney, and others were for Obama. I am very glad that more of them voted for Obama than Romney. It is a good night for creatures all over America.

Pitt drawing pen on sketchbook page, 6" x 6", November 6, 2012.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Purple Moon Wine Sign

Here's another Trader Joe's endcap sign. This time I added some of the standard Trader Joe's shaded-color letters schtick. You see this on TJ signs from California to New York, but I have mostly resisted it because it is, uh, very often used. But I like purple, complementary color to my usual orange, and I don't get to use it on signs that much. And that's right, 4 bucks for a bottle of California wine. It's not the famous "Two-Buck Chuck," which actually costs $3.29 in Virginia, but it's close. 

Acrylic markers on black-painted Masonite board, 30" x 20", November 2012.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Nude Model at Trader Joe's

There are nude life drawing models at Trader Joe's! Who knew I was working in such an artsy place? Well, the model is a photo printed on paper and I am in the art room taking my work break on the iPad, but hey, you can't always do stuff the Authentic Artist Way. A bemused co-worker viewed the final product, but it wasn't the final product 'cause I did stuff to it in Photoshop once I got it home. I'll do as many of these as I can, or perhaps close-ups of hands and faces, as long as I have my half hour to do it. 

"Art Studio" and Photoshop, November 4-5, 2010.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Angry Dragon

It's Dragon Saving time now, and I need to do fantasy art. I've spent a portion of 2012 learning to draw dragons, so I might as well do another. This one is angry, and he's pointing his claws at you. He's adapted from a "front face" dragon build in "Drawing Dragons" by Sandra Staple. This book has been very helpful in my dragonification activity. I would have made the wings bigger on this one but I ran out of room on the page.

I want to do more fantasy art, but the more I look at the dazzling work done by gaming artists, illustrators, and comic artists, (see "Shadowcore" and "Muddy Colors" on the sidebar here) the more discouraged I get. Their action-packed, realistic, brilliant work seems an age...years of training and practice... away from even the best stuff I do. I am so sick of doing pictures of trees and clouds on my iPad. But I seem to have run out of fantasy illustration ideas. This happens to me every so often. I'd better have something by DarkoverCon though. 

"Angry Dragon" is pencil on sketchbook paper, 8" x 8 1/2", November 4, 2012.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

More Mexican Hot Chocolate

It's so cold out now...wouldn't you like some hot chocolate with cinnamon? I had some ultra-rich "sipping chocolate" at "Pitango Gelato" in Reston, VA. They'll be serving it all winter though without the cinnamon. This is the thick melted chocolate treat that Starbucks once marketed as the "Chantico" but discontinued. Trader Joe's sells a sipping chocolate mix that you assemble yourself, adding whatever you want. I went over the top and added whipped cream to my cup.

Hot Chocolate sign is markers on posterboard, about 13" x 10", winter 1980.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Utopian Conservatory

This illustration comes from the multiple series of black and white images I produced for a fantasy writer and engineer who wanted concept sketches and depictions of his imaginary utopian society. The people in this utopia were all young, sexy, and beautiful and got naked a lot (see bathers in the lower left corner). They lived in these great glassed-in conservatories where the weather was always warm and perfect (so you could dress in skimpy clothes all the time). Inside the conservatories were the facades of their communal houses and places of education and entertainment. You could leave the conservatory and enjoy the real outdoors by going out the back doors of the buildings. Nowadays, buildings like this really exist but they aren't utopian pleasure-domes, but commercial megastructures, and no one can go naked there.

P.S. I wonder whether I will ever do a fantasy picture again.

Ink on Bristol board, 9" x 11", September 1996.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

From hurricane to workplace

I am finally home in Virginia after three very stressful days. On Sunday just before the storm I drove from Mass. to my stopoff point in southern New Jersey. I decided to stay there and weather the storm in the hotel even though Jersey was the worst affected by the hurricane. I stayed in my room Monday while the storm raged. The power went out in the hotel, though there was a generator for essential things like hall lights. But there were no room lights, heat, or hot water. I bundled up and stayed in the room. On Tuesday afternoon the power went back on after 17 hours. I stayed Tuesday night and then drove home from New Jersey on Wednesday. I visited my workplace Trader Joe's which had luckily never lost power. My apartment never lost power either. The manager asked me to work some hours so I did that even though I was real tired from the trip. I came home at around 9 PM and will have some nice Trader Joe's beef pot pie. 

Trick or treat indeed! I have had the week (or rather, 9 days) from hell. 
The parents are in bad shape and I don't know how long it will be before an accident or illness forces them to change their lifestyle. 

I did this sign for TJ's on Wednesday. The current requirements for end-cap (large) sign graphics are that the name of the product and the price be as large as possible, with a minimum of text and no pictures whatsoever.

Acrylic markers on black painted masonite, 30" x 20", October 31, 2012.