Monday, December 31, 2012

Twirly Pasta Sign

"Fusilli" are corkscrew-shaped pasta, more interestingly shaped than just plain spaghetti. Trader Joe's has not just one variety of fusilli, but three, including this whole wheat organic rendition. My lettering for "fusilli" on this sign is made to look like the pasta. Chalk markers on black-painted Masonite, about 36" x 24", December 30, 2012.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

More warrior sketches

I left the sketchbook open on the drawing table in my back room. Every few times I went in and out of the room, I drew a little action warrior sketch on the page. These are not Space Marines as they are not wearing huge power armor suits, just regular combat gear. I intend to do lots more Warhammer-inspired sketches and illustrations. I have no idea whether anyone will buy any of this nor even if anyone will look at it, but I've always been fascinated by warriors and armor. Warhammer also appeals to me because many of the authors are history fans and classicists so they mix in a lot of the Greek and Roman and world history that I used to study in academia. They also use some (slightly altered) names and motifs from Western esotericism so it's quite an erudite game universe, and not a big-eyed anime face to be seen anywhere.

Pencil on sketchbook page, about 8" x 8", December 2012.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Warrior Sketches

I dashed up to New England without a sketchbook, I was in such a hurry. As the parental sicknesses continued, I needed to get one so I bought one at Rite Aid, which I was glad to see carried a few artist supplies for school children. I already had some pencils so that was enough for me.

One of the things which has been giving me welcome distraction in my parent-care situation is "Warhammer 40,000 AD" which is originally a tabletop fantasy war game and now the scenario for dozens of novelizations, mostly written by a group of British writers in Nottingham, where evidently there isn't much else to do. "Warhammer 40K" is a wildly rich universe of grim but colorful fighters who spend most of their lives destroying stuff and each other. This is nothing like real war as we know it; Warhammer combat resembles ancient Homeric warfare with an emphasis on direct encounters between individuals. The characters, the "Space Marines," are impossibly heroic hand to hand weapons fighters, giant super-soldiers with superhero physiques (all male, not a female among them!), wearing carnival-colored huge armor suits which also are depicted in the game playing miniature figurines. 

I filled pages with sketch figures for these warriors as the long nights dragged on. Here's one of them. Page is 7 1/2" x 11".

Friday, December 28, 2012

Celtic Teenager Art

I found this very intricate watercolor of mine just lying on top of some dusty furniture in my sleeping room at my parents' house. It had been there for years, ignored and untouched except perhaps by me. I clearly remember doing this piece. This is what can happen when a young artist (19 years old) with good close vision has a lot of time to do non-paid work. I traced a repeating zoomorphic pattern square from a photo of the Book of Kells (or some similar Celtic illumination) and repeated it 6 times in mirror-fashion on the two red-bordered panels. I also traced the roundel in the center. I designed the top two mirror-imaged crest pieces myself. I used tracing paper which I covered with graphite to "print out" the design when I traced over it. Then I inked the designs with a tiny crow quill pen and colored them in watercolor. The artwork is dated "January 29, 1972" on the back, the day I finished it. 

In those days I was fascinated by Celtic artwork, which I learned about while taking art history courses at university. 1972 was still within the "psychedelic" era of art and graphics, in which Celtic art was used as a source. Nowadays Celtic art and ornament is still in fashion among Pagans and science fiction fans and gamers, tattoo enthusiasts, and costumers, most of these being the same people across the interests. And traditional Celtic designs show up of course in Irish dancing outfits. There is a darker side to Celtic ornaments in that they can also be used as a mask or code for white supremacist beliefs. The Pagans and the fans probably don't know this, and I certainly didn't when I did this work. I would never do this again, because I don't have either the patience or the eyesight to create such a thing.

Celtic piece is ink and watercolor on thick paper, 3 1/4" x 6 3/4", January 1972. Clickonthepic to show obsessive 19-year-old at work.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The dismal room

While at my parents' house, I stayed in a back room that had once been my father's music studio. It became a storeroom, not only for stacks of my mother's large flat paintings on board, but for boxes of debris left after my father's audio or house maintenance projects from decades ago. My father never threw out anything and so he kept every little scrap of wire or board or metal in piles, bags, and boxes. This room also had a small bed where I slept, some other unused old family furniture, dusty art books in bookcases, and this art table which my father built back in the 1960s. All surfaces in this room, which I remember from my childhood as spacious and inviting, were covered with dust, cat hairs, and tobacco smoke residue. The table was loaded down with old art materials from my mother, who had not worked there in a long time, as well as other random metal and plastic debris from my father's old tinkering jobs. 

In a New England December the nights are endlessly long, dark, and cold. The house is covered with overgrown vegetation so there is almost no view out the windows, and at night the windows are dead black. I took my favorite cleaning tools, Windex and Bounty paper towels, and busied myself decluttering and cleaning as much as I could. I cleaned the big picture window and cleared the surface of the table. I set up a sketchbook there where I could draw in pencil. Then I did an iPad color sketch of the window and the table.

The house is lit throughout by fluorescent bulbs (which my father in his endless quest for cheap everything) had stocked up on. These bulbs shed a weak, yellow-grey glow over the cluttered rooms. I tried to reproduce this color in my digital sketch here. You can see the reflections in the newly cleaned windows as well as some art stuff on the table. And the blue accent is my trusty bottle of Windex, next to the roll of paper towels. The reflection of the Windex shows in the window. 

iPad "Art Studio" app, December 2012.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Early Superhero

Here's another one of my childhood drawings. You can see that my basic artistic interests have not changed during my lifetime: superheroes and birds. "Birdman" has a bird's head and beak and a humanoid body. I even added sound effects ("Thump thump"). The drawing is done on what used to be called "arithmetic paper," an inexpensive, off-white sheet which was abundant in schools and used for throwaway calculations. Over more than fifty years later the paper has turned golden yellow. I'll save it where I discovered it, though in another place: between the pages of a book. 

"Birdman" superhero portrait is pencil and crayon on paper, 6" x 9", about 1958.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Winter greys

I didn't have much time to do art while I was in New England. Most of my time was spent caring for two sick parents, administrating their hospital care, and talking to concerned friends and relatives. I did manage to get this iPad view done, looking out my window to the back yard and some of the neighbors' house. This is a very typical scene and at that moment there were a few snowflakes in the air too. New England winter often is almost monochrome, just greys with a little bit of muted pine green or leaf bronze here and there. 

All the Christmas/Holiday stuff has just washed over me, I haven't had a moment to think about holidays or do gift shopping or even write any cards. Sorry folks, it's all a blur to me, except for the twigs.

Art Studio app, December 2012.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Woodpecker juvenilia

While I was in my parents' house taking care of my mother, I found numerous saved examples of my childhood art, usually pressed in between the pages of books. This woodpecker dates from the late 50s when I was but a wee thing. But you can see that I was already a bird-lover and knew what species looked like. This woodpecker is unmistakably a Pileated (or even Ivory-billed) as seen by its bright red pointed crest. I didn't portray the body as black, though. I did watch Woody Woodpecker cartoons but this guy is not inspired by the cartoon character. 

Colored pencil on folded construction paper, 4" x 5 1/4", about 1959-60.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Winter solstice return

A couple of my little group of readers who don't read my Facebook updates may have wondered why there have not been any postings on the By-Product for the last three weeks. The reason for my absence is that both my parents became seriously ill almost simultaneously and I had to go up to the Boston area and reside in my parents' house until my mother was well enough to stay there by herself again. My father is still in the hospital and his future is uncertain. Mother is at home being cared for periodically by visiting nurses, friends, and relatives. During the time I was in my parents' house at first I could not access the internet and had to go to an outside source for wi-fi. Later a friend of mine installed a router in my parents' house so I could get internet there. But there were bandwidth problems as well as lack of time, so I couldn't post from there. I didn't do much art while I was in Massachusetts, my whole time was spent on the phone or conversing with caregivers, doctors, service providers, concerned friends and relatives, and my mother. I will spare you more of the depressing details of this ordeal. 

I'm back at my job now, and I'm glad. It's good to be home in Virginia with my friends and co-workers. But the story with my parents isn't over at all, and the situation is unstable. I did this digital piece while on work break telling a co-worker about my parent care situation. The image depicts the skies and trees of New England in the lightless solstice season, done from memory. 

Done on the iPad, "ArtStudio" app, 5:00 - 5:30 PM, December 22, 2012.