Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Reduced Guilt

Why would potato chips make you guilty? Is it the fat or the salt or the carbohydrates or the crunch? Why is food so dangerous? I don't see why a mostly harmless little bag of crisps would ruin your life. But I trespass into perilous territory here. This is the "winter" edition of a standard store sign background, advertising the now-less-dangerous potato chips which are baked not fried, with less fat and less guilt for the crunchy New Year. Even Byzantine monks could eat them. 

Markers on white card stock, 7" x 5", December 30, 2013.

Monday, December 30, 2013

More 1974 Character Portraits

The Greek calligraphy behind the figures identifies the red-clad fellow on the left as "Heliodorus," and the lady as "Charis." They were characters in my Byzantine adventure story. Heliodorus was a eunuch who had been an official in the imperial court and then a builder and manager of shipping lines. Kind of like the Aristotle Onassis of the later Roman world. Even though he was missing a pair of critical parts (I did a lot of research on this Byzantine custom) he had a lover, Charis, who was a married noblewoman involved with something nefarious…spying or smuggling, I don't remember. This pair either protected or schemed against the earnest and confused heroine. Don't ask me to re-read my manuscript, it is just too embarrassing. 

My costume designs and the whole style of these portraits is based not on original late Roman art but on 19th century engraved historical costume picture books, which I collected in facsimile. I was still using the thin-pointed Graphos pen. I wonder whether I can re-create this old style with modern tools such as my Pitt sepia technical pen. 

Pelikan Graphos pen with sepia ink, colored in watercolor, about 5 inches vertical, 1974.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Character retrospective 1974

I didn't add many drawings to my 1974 journal as I was busy writing my late-Roman adventure story. But on May 25, a day after the 7th anniversary of starting my journal, I drew and painted this year-by-year pageant of imaginary characters from my fantasy and historical writing efforts. I also painted in the "year color" of each year in the panel. I continue to choose "year colors" even now. I remember all of these characters, some of whom you've seen before here. So here's the roster as of 1974:

1968: Oyatna, a philosopher-adventurer from my world of Noantri New Earth (fantasy)
1969: Alexander Solomon, a Jewish baseball player in the minor leagues
1970: Three artist characters from "The Mozart Machine," a contemporary-based story about electronic music. Left to right: Ari Roussel, painter, Sarah Leuschel, composer, David Rifkin, writer, poet, librettist.
1971: Redon IV (seated) lord of Eridu, with his first wife Atmon, from Noantri New Earth.
1972: Three Catholic churchmen. Larger cardinal, the Frenchman Maurice Alphard. In black, Father Alban, a Jesuit. Smaller cardinal, Giovanni Cardinal Acquaviva.
1973: Archimandrite Loukas Chiaramonti (Orthodox monk)
1974: Two later Roman characters, the eunuch and shipmaster Heliodorus and the heroine Aurelia with her magical Codex. From "Codex Mirabilis," a magical-realist historical tale set in the later Roman Empire.

This set brings back many memories as well as affirming that even (especially!) during my college days, and even when I was traveling in Europe, I never stopped writing about something, no matter what it was. Looking back on all this writing, I know I was no literary lion (or lioness) but I loved what I was doing. I really don't want to show any of this or publish it, but I'm glad I did it. One of these writing projects, the "Codex," won me a fellowship for a year's study in Europe, which I took in 1975-76.  

Since then, many more characters have populated my notebooks and image files. Some of these characters appear as "historical" in their own timeline and made-up world. I still like to write just as a sideline, so stay tuned for revived developments in this department for 2014.

Pelikan Graphos sepia ink colored in watercolor on sketchbook page, 8" x 3", May 25, 1974. Click on the pic for larger view. This is a tiny picture so you might want to look closely.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Egret Dream

It's just a Photoshop doodle I made while listening to ambient music. It's not realistic, there are not three planets in the sky, but the egret is somewhat identifiable. I like the colors a lot. They make me dream of summer in the middle of the winter. It's gonna be a long winter, might as well dream away the cold and the dark. 

Photoshop, 7" x 10", December 27-28, 2013.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Eat At Frenchy's

Frenchy's Restaurant was on a road that led from my summer abode to Buffalo. It was close enough to my hosts' home that I could walk there with my sketching stuff and set up to draw. As you know if you see enough of my architectural drawings, I love porches with wood pillars and carved ornaments. This restaurant was built into an old house complete with porch and a rather shabby couch to sit on. 

I used my Graphos pen and also an instrument which I rarely if ever bring to an on-site sketching session: a ruler. If you look closer you will see that most of the longer lines were done against a ruler, which the Graphos pen allowed you to do. I miss that Graphos pen a lot and there's nothing quite like it on the market now. It had a flexible point so you could go from a tiny line to a bolder mark for instance when you were drawing tree trunks or heavier roof lines. But it also dropped a glob of ink without warning on your finely done drawing, which wasn't good at all. 

I never ate at Frenchy's so I have no idea whether the food was any good. I am sure that both restaurant and house are now history and some strip mall now occupies its place. 

Pelikan Graphos sepia ink, colored in watercolor on sketchbook page, some touching up with Photoshop. 8 1/2 x 7", August 1973. Click for larger view and ruler lines.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Wines

Here you go, fresh drawing of a relevant subject, with no Byzantine monks visible anywhere. I feasted and wined very well at the house of friends and the table was full of drawable items, plus the Christmas tree in the back. The two vessels in front are a creamer and a sugar dish. There was a lot of wine, beef, mushrooms, and chocolate, which are all among my favorite things to consume at any time. 

PItt technical pen on sketchbook page, about 4 1/2" x 7", December 25, 2013. Some adjustment of drawing space with Photoshop.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Modern Family at the Nativity

This fannish family was a regular visitor to DarkoverCon in its earlier days. I enjoyed their company and they bought my art, too. Since DarkoverCon (now Chessiecon) takes place a month before  Christmas, there is always an element of preparation for the holiday at the con. My art-patron family commissioned me to do an illustration of themselves at the traditional manger of the Nativity. They would use this as a Christmas card for their own friends. So I placed them in the Biblical legend as modern visitors to the sacred crib. I included some traditional animals, but in the sky the holy Star of Bethlehem was replaced by a dirigible, which the boy on the right is excitedly pointing to. The ruins of an ancient city are in the background. I was hoping to see these folks at the last DarkoverCon but it didn't happen. 

Fan family at Nativity is ink on illustration board, 8 1/2" x 11", December 1993. 

And a very merry Christmas and/or Happy Holiday to all my By-Product readers, near and far. Remember: Imagination is reality!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Summer Shed in the Back Yard 1973

There was a building in the back yard of my hosts' house in the Buffalo suburbs. It was too big to be just a garden shed but it was too small to be a full size barn. I guess I'd call it a small barn and it was used for utility stuff when I was there. I drew and colored this rendering of it using the same ink and watercolor technique as I did for the neighborhood tree. This drawing took all kinds of patience because I wanted to have everything in its place and I wanted to portray the effect of sun shining through leaves. Later on after I left, the family turned this structure into an art gallery where they had exhibitions for a few years. I never showed art there although they invited me. I just got a Christmas card from these folks so after all the years they are still there. 

Pelikan Graphos sepia ink colored with watercolor on sketchbook page, about 8 1/2" x 6 1/4", August 1973.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Kelson, the Deryni King

I've been illustrating the work of my friend Katherine Kurtz for years…decades in fact. She has written an extensive collection of books set in her medieval fantasy world of Gwynedd, and I have been following them with drawings, paintings, and fan art. This piece is a portrait of Kelson, the teenage king of Gwynedd, whose Deryni wizard heritage and powers as a magical king surface in Kurtz' first trilogy. I will openly admit that Katherine's magic and magical world were a major influence on my own world of the Noantri, although mine is set in a modernist era. And so far there are no exploding volcanoes in Katherine's tales of magic and adventure. 

King Kelson is ink on illustration board, 8 1/2" x 10", May 1993. It would be interesting to colorize this drawing in Photoshop but it would be a lot of work too.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Summer in Buffalo 1973

In July and August of 1973, I spent time in Clarence Center, NY, a suburb of Buffalo, at a summer job, working for Moog Synthesizers as quality control. I tested transistors and finished MiniMoog synthesizers, and created "sound charts" to instruct new users on how to set the machine to get good sounds out of it. In the course of my work I met the inventor Bob Moog as well as various pop musicians including Keith Emerson of "Emerson, Lake, and Palmer." I lived with the family of an engineer who was a friend of my family, and I sometimes took care of his three young children.

I must have had plenty of leisure time, too, since my sketchbook journal is filled with lots of elaborate drawings and paintings. This is one of them, dated with my date stamp. This gnarly tree sat between my residence and the neighbors' on a leafy suburban street. I had a good view of it through a window and so was able to draw it from life, every sunlit leaf of it. After all these years this is still one of my favorite artworks of mine.

Old Tree in Clarence Center is Pelikan Graphos sepia ink colored with watercolor on sketchbook page, about 8" x 9", July 18, 1973. Click for a larger view.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Loudoun County winter scene

I was wandering in Loudoun County and Leesburg, Virginia on Friday, bringing my "Earthly Paradise" book to distribute to a winery and a gift and book shop. I saw plenty of landscapes that looked like this. I drew the scene from memory in the studio.

Grayscale markers and ink on sketchbook page, 8 1/2" x  2 7/8", December 21, 2013. Winter solstice time.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Singeric the Goth

There really were "barbarians" who looked like Conan and all the wandering fantasy warriors of pulp literature. They were Goths but certainly nothing like the costumers and lifestylers we know as "Goths." These invaders were tribal societies of Indo-European peoples, moving into the Roman Empire from Eastern Europe. Aristocratic Romans looked down on them, but these barbarian tribes soon became mercenaries paid to protect Roman lands against still more invaders from the East. "Singeric" (a historical name) is my rendering of a Gothic warrior. He must have some rank as he is wearing a chain mail tunic and has bronze ornaments on his shield and sword sheath. The Romans disparaged the trousers worn by non-Roman tribesmen but eventually wore them themselves, as tights or hose in later Roman times. 

Pelikan Graphos sepia ink on sketchbook page, colored with watercolor, about 3 1/2" x 6", October 1973. Sorry for lack of fresh 2013 art in here but I am really busy distributing and promoting my wine art book these days.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Life with Loukas

To understand this post, you have to imagine that the events and characters I am talking about actually existed, even though I assure you they didn't. They may have been based on real things and people, but they were part of a story I created in the 1970s, wrote about in the 1970s and 80s, and then forgot. My notes from my journals in the early 70s are bringing some of it back.

Loukas Chiaramonti, the man in the library some posts back, lived a long and varied life. When I "met" him in Europe and at Harvard, he was in his 50s and already an Eastern Orthodox monk. He may also have been ordained a priest by that time. The drawings on this page show Loukas as a professor of Byzantine and Orthodox studies at a guest semester at Oxford. The other man in the picture was named Elie Clemenko and was an Ukrainian graduate student temporarily allowed to study at Oxford. This may be the only appearance of Clemenko in the storyline, a minor character who returned to the then Soviet Union. 

Loukas was a formidable presence, about six feet tall and usually dressed in either black clerical garb or a dusty black Orthodox monk robe. He wore a cylindrical black hat on his bald head. Though he was the picture of Orthodox Christian asceticism, I found that he knew quite a lot about music, gourmet food, poetry, and other worldly things. By talking with people who knew him and were happy to offer information, I traced his life from his Venetian origin to his current (1973) temporary teaching job at Harvard. It turned out that during the war (World War II) he had been in Greece studying Orthodox liturgy and history during the Nazi occupation. He had joined the Resistance where he had been wounded (he still walked with a slight limp).

After some time in America after the war, he returned to Greece where, to my surprise, he married a Greek woman. This was during the 1950s. By the early 1960s though, they were divorced when she left him, complaining about his obsession with religion and monasticism. (Divorce is permissible in Eastern Orthodoxy.) He emigrated to America again and spent most of the 1960s in a peculiar world of academic bohemia crossed with Eastern Orthodox monasticism and mysticism among the large Greek Orthodox community in the Boston area. By the early 1970s he had expanded his PhD thesis into a definitive work on the Eastern Orthodox liturgy and the role of the "holy word." 

Here's another, more formal picture of him, excerpted from a group portrait I did in 1973. Painted in gouache (opaque watercolor).

I was certainly not close to him but I did attend many of his lectures and I confessed to him that I wanted to convert to Christianity. As I said before, Loukas became an ideal to me but his influence did not keep me within the academic fold. I lost contact with him by the mid-seventies. 

There's lots more about Loukas but I'll spare you further details at least for now.

Loukas Chiaramonti journal page is ink and watercolor on sketchbook page, about 8 1/2" x 11", August 1973. Click for larger view.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pita Bite Crackers

As you can imagine, Trader Joe's is very busy this time of year providing goodies for countless holiday parties and occasions. Of course it's essential to have the right crackers for your cheese and charcuterie and wine. We TJ artists create billboards to attract the customers to the displays. Pita Bite crackers have an orange box and the ad must match the color of the package. The graphics have to match too. I did this billboard in one day and I hope it passes the requirements for a proper TJ advertisement.

Acrylic markers on black-painted board, 6 feet x 2 feet, December 17, 2013.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Yaz at bat, July 1973

My entry for July 1, 2013 covers in detail how my father and I and a friend attended a baseball game between the Red Sox and the Milwaukee Brewers, who were at that time in the American League. I took my sketchbook and drew pictures (which I finished and colored at home) at the game, including this one which depicts Carl Yastrzemski at bat. You can see how he scratches in the dirt around home plate with his foot, a pre-hitting ritual, while the catcher and the umpire look on. Red Sox uniforms looked quite different in those days. No one in 1973 would believe me if I told them that by 2013, 40 years later, the Red Sox would have won THREE World Series championships. 

Graphos sepia ink and watercolor on sketchbook page, about 4" x 8 1/2", July 1, 1973.

Monday, December 16, 2013

More Byzantine Action 1973

Take a break from "Winter Wonderland" and "All I Want For Christmas is YOU" and gawk at my Byzantine doodles from 1973. Drawn in the sepia ink "old master"' wash drawing style, I just stacked characters and images without much thought to perspective or spacing. I threw in a muscleman as I always like to draw musclemen. There's a badly drawn lion, copied from some random critter photo. There's a fairly well-drawn Byzantine warrior. A somewhat agitated lady floats above center while another richly jeweled lady's hand projects from outside the frame. Finally there's a teenage boy standing there at the lower right wondering what this is all about. I don't do this type of stuff any more since I'm so busy drawing wine lodges and half-filled glasses. 

My wine book, "The Earthly Paradise," is selling well to friends, relatives, co-workers, and now to winery owners, wine-loving visitors, and my boss. I have placed wine books at two wineries and hope to place more this weekend. People love my book! I'm thrilled and hope that its attraction will continue after the holiday giving season is over. I have more plans for later marketing.

"Byzantine Action 2" is sepia ink and wash on sketchbook page, 8 1/4"x 11", September 1973. Cliquez for a larger view.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Byzantine Action 1973

The caption reads: "An illustration for a Byzantine historical novel not yet written." This sums up what I was planning in mid-1973. This full-page journal illustration contains what were just stock characters at that point. From left to right: a prince, an Orthodox bishop, a street fighter, a nun, and a Muslim ambassador. They never made it into any piece of writing, though I did eventually produce an adventure story set in Late Roman times. Of this literary effort the less said the better. The round panel in the center contained a journal entry which I have blanked out for privacy. 

Colored pencil, Graphos sepia ink, and watercolor on sketchbook page, 8 1/4" x 10 1/2", August 2, 1973. Click on image for larger view.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Pin-up model drawing

After my old friend Loukas the monk, let's go on to something quite different. Let's talk about pin-ups. I love pin-up art and have a lot of books of it as well as model photography but I've never done a successful pin-up picture yet. This drawing was copied from one in a collection of famous photographer Bunny Yeager's model photos. It is not an official pin-up but just a study from a photograph. When I have done art class life drawing, this is the kind of "realistic" model art I would do. But pin-ups are not "realistic." They're more like cute caricatures. Now let's talk about boobs. I've seen and drawn a lot of breasts but they don't have that saucy roundness and cleavage and attitude. It took me a while to reach the "duh" moment when I realized that pin-up and fantasy character boobs are shaped and pushed up by tight bikinis or corsets. They are not "nude" breasts which are more artsy and can also be in pin-up art but without the costuming. I have not had the opportunity to depict the all-important cleavage and pushed-up roundness which is the characteristic of fantasy boobage. I tried to draw it from Yeager's model here but I only had a sketching pen to work with. Now this isn't the best of drawings and her face isn't "pretty" (neither was the model's face conventionally pretty) but at least I'm making an attempt.

Pin-up girl is ink on sketchbook page, about 3" x 5", December 13, 2013. Some revision work in Photoshop. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Monastic Scholar

This scholarly gentleman is a Byzantine monastic who was an imaginary character of mine back in my university days of the early 1970s. I  looked to him as an ideal during my classical studies. His monastic discipline and personal self-control would be mine, and his research and writing would inspire my own. His name was Loukas Chiaramonti, and he was born in Venice to a Greek mother and Venetian father. Despite being brought up as a Catholic, he switched to Eastern Orthodoxy in his 20s and later became an Eastern Orthodox monk. Loukas had a very diverse personal history through most of the 20th century. He had been a resistance fighter against the German occupiers of Greece as a young man. After the war he came to the USA where he became an academic specializing in Byzantine liturgy and religious poetry. He traveled in Europe and the Middle East doing research and was for some years a professor at Harvard. Later in his life he renounced the academic and modern world and joined a monastery on Mount Athos, where he spent about 20 years. He died as a monk in his late 80s. 

I have been re-reading my journals and my constant pleas to Loukas for the discipline and energy to continue as a classical scholar. From 40 years away it is obvious that I hated the scholarly life and academia and was miserable the whole time I was there. I just assumed that I would be doing this work no matter how I felt about it. Loukas was my ideal but I just couldn't transform myself into him. I could invoke his stern presence in front of the icons in his study but could never do enough. After a while, the whole thing just failed me and I had to leave.

Interestingly, the study in which I type this post, with a computer and Internet that I could not have imagined back in 1973, looks kind of like the library that Loukas is working in. I even have the icons on the wall but not the candles at the devotional sideboard. I wonder what Loukas would have made of the futuristic world I now inhabit. Meanwhile, I notice the colored illustrations in the book he is perusing. Is that an llluminated manuscript, or a comic book?

Loukas in his study is done in Pelikan Graphos sepia ink, and colored in watercolor. About 8 1/2" x 6 1/2" on sketchbook journal page, August 1973. Click for larger view.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


It is my custom to draw something every day, no matter how small. Often I don't have the time to do a lot of drawing. For some reason, my modest part time job ends up making me as tired as if I were working full time. I'm not sure why, possibly it's the constant stress of a chaotic, very cramped and cluttered environment. So I will draw whenever I can, even when a normal person would or should not be active. My sleeping and waking schedule makes people cringe in horror so I will not inflict that information on you, however I will say that I did this drawing in bed just before I went to sleep (or attempted to sleep). There is a drawing on every page of my notebook journal, and many of them are rather small. I started this from nothing, drawing directly with pen, no model except memories and ideas of robots and crustaceans. Hence the "crabboid" or robot crab designed for underwater surveillance and stealth warfare. It only took a few minutes to draw, though I added the shading later. My personal schedule may be disgusting, but I do get my "one creative thing a day" done, somehow.

Ink and greyscale markers on sketchbook page, about 4" x 3.5", December 2013.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The plant area in my dorm room

In my sophomore year at Brandeis I lived in an old single-family house that had been converted into a dormitory for about 12 female students. I lived in the room that had once been a living room, with my art historian roommate, Amy. Even in this limited space, I had an indoor garden under a fluorescent purplish "grow light." This tiny garden was on top of an old foot locker trunk. There were a few sprouts in plastic pots, and a terrarium in an old aquarium. There are coleus sprouts in one of the pots, evident from the red leaves. You can see these items in this sketch which I did of my mini garden, helpfully dated with a date stamper. I had one of those adjustable date gadgets which I used in my journal for many years. I had that plant light for an astonishing forty years before it fell apart just a few years ago. I still have plant areas inside my dwelling including a light stand for my cacti, succulents, and african violets.

Colored pencil on sketchbook page, about 4" x 4", March 21, 1973.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ancient Roman Street Scene

Ancient Rome may not have looked that different from the older areas of modern Rome, if you ignore the electric power lines, cars, and cellphones in everybody's hands. This is my concept of a small open square on a chill, rainy day. Perhaps it isn't crowded enough for a real Roman scene, but the weather is bad, and only servants or slaves are about. A boy leans against a doorway to the left, while a servant girl wrapped in a cloak hurries towards us in the center. The "insulae" or apartment buildings of ancient Rome were very similar to current Roman apartment buildings built since the 18th or 19th century. As I remember from living there, they were very cold in fall and winter, with stone slab stairways to walk up and stucco walls with crumbly surfaces. Efficient heating was nearly impossible. I haven't been back to Rome for decades though and I'm sure many basic things about living there have changed.

"Graphos" technical pen with sepia ink, colored in watercolor, on sketchbook page. 8" x 6 1/2", April 1973. Click for larger image.

Monday, December 9, 2013

No Top Secret Handshakes

This Trader Joe's billboard was a particularly difficult assignment and I was apprehensive about it. The idea, set by another member of the sign team, was to render the slogan in multiple typefaces, sometimes each word in a different typeface. These were to be done by hand in white acrylic marker on a black background. I created the prototype of the sign on Adobe Illustrator using my font resources, then printed it out and brought it in. The slogan came from a handbook and I couldn't change it. Part of the design was shading in white using a white pencil. 

With all these words and different typefaces it was difficult to make the sign readable especially since it was to be mounted above eye level and on the back of other signs. I think this one works, at least for now. They may ask me to put more visual clutter on the sign but this is my offer, folks. Note the triangle beneath the "no top secret handshakes" phrase. That is an allusion to Freemasons or Illuminati and for all I know we may have angry Masons complaining to our management that we are making fun of them. But one co-worker said it looked like the prism on the famous cover to Pink Floyd's album "Dark Side of the Moon." So I've got an alternative explanation for it. 

White acrylic marker on black-painted Masonite, 6 feet by 2 feet, December 8, 2013.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Esotericon 1984 cover

"Esotericon" was a convention for fans of the esoteric and occult. When I say "occult" I don't mean the usual connotations of satanic rituals, voodoo, spells and curses, or other lurid popular conceptions. Esotericon's "occultism" was better defined as the "Western esoteric culture" which had its origins in alternative religious traditions such as Christian Gnosticism or Jewish Kabbalah. Even so, in 1984 I was wary of this type of study, because I was still trying to reconcile my adopted Roman Catholic faith with the mystical world I experienced. Nevertheless, when my friends running the convention asked me to do the cover for their first program book, I designed this symbol-heavy panel for them.

The design was derived from Tarot cards, specifically the "Lovers," the "Star", and the "High Priestess." In the design, the High Priestess is lifting the veil from a doorway, revealing the Star and a paradise landscape to the white-clad Lovers, who are standing at the base of a
broad stairway. On the steps of the stairway are the four Tarot symbols, the Cup, Wand, Pentacle, and Sword. The wall behind the Priestess is decorated with the symbols for that card: pomegranates and palms.

The archway is flanked by the two pillars in the High Priestess card, the pillars of the Temple of Solomon, black Boaz with a B, and white Jachin with a J. In the border of the cover design are symbols of various occultist paths: the Masonic/Hermetic Eye in the Triangle, the Christian tongue of fire, the Jewish Solomon's Seal, and the Egyptian ankh, symbol of eternal life.

I was associated with Esotericon for years until it merged with another convention and became "Sacred Space." I worked with "Sacred Space" which later came under new management and was re-named "Ecumenicon." I did design work for a few Ecumenicons until work commitments and management changes made it too difficult for me to continue. I'm not much of an active esotericist these days, though that cultural world is still part of my inner life and artistic inspiration. 

Cover for Esotericon 1984 is ink on illustration board, 7" x 10", fall 1983. Click on the image for a larger view.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Tanks on the battlefield

It has been my custom in the 5 years of this Blog to follow vintage art with fresh art, so that you get a good mix. But first I have to make the fresh art, which sometimes I'm too lazy or time-constrained to do. And I want to deliver to you the best quality Art By-Product which means no slacking on the job. Sometimes though I can only do tiny doodles in the "Fresh" category, such as this one. I got a book on "How to draw tanks and other war vehicles." This is one of my first results. It's probably from the Warhammer 40K world and is just an experiment, a battlefield miniaturized onto a sketchbook frame strip.

I've been looking through my early 1970s journals and am sort of sad that so much of what I wrote was about being angry with myself. I was angry because I wasn't working hard enough, that I was obsessed with religion, that I was silly and escapist, that I had no social skills. All the things that make up my life now, I was embarrassed or angry about when I was in my early 20s. But those were the things that matter, religion, art, and escapism. In the grinding politics of that generation and the waning Vietnam War, anything having to do with fantasy art or writing was viewed as distracting from your true mission to enlighten the people, end poverty, and stop the war. I tried political "action" (demonstrations and invading a store) once or twice but found it insincere and embarrassing, and I didn't do it again.

Meanwhile, I studied subjects which nowadays guarantee that you will never find a job in your field: Greek and Latin Classics, and Art History. Interestingly, the techniques of analyzing artistic style and chronology I learned in Art History class are useful to me now as I put the catalog of my mother's art together. You never know when something you learned 40 years ago might be useful.

"Tanks on the Battlefield" is ink and greyscale markers, increased and completed with Photoshop, 9" x 3 1/2", December 7, 2013.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Turnus the barbarian prince 1973

Well, that's enough for 1972. In 1973 I foreswore fantasy cardinals and went to the Classics for inspiration. This armored guy is Turnus, the king of a barbarian tribe that lived, according to Vergil's Aeneid, in the area of Latium which would later be the first territory of the Romans. The immigrant Trojans, led by Aeneas, must fight their way into that kingdom to establish their home, and Turnus is Aeneas' enemy. Ultimately they fight a single combat which decides the fate of the land. Most high school readings of Vergil's "Aeneid" don't read the later chapters but these texts are full of gods and goddesses, bloody battles, barbarian tribesmen, and enough sword-and-sandal adventure to satisfy any modern fantasy reader. 

The armor here is mostly my fantasy design but some elements such as the horsehair helmet crest and the scale-mail armor did appear in ancient Roman armor. But they probably weren't worn by native Italian tribesmen. Vergil's text is itself a nostalgic fantasy based on a nationalist founding myth rather than what we would think of as historical scholarship.

I drew this with my Pelikan Graphos. I could get a real thin, etching-style line with it using sepia ink which was waterproof so I could color it later.

"Turnus" is ink and watercolor on sketchbook page, 4" x 7", April 1973. Click on the image for a larger view.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Little Temple 1972

In this brown ink and wash drawing I was attempting to copy the look of "Old Master" drawings. The "Old Masters" would do scenes or figures in pen and ink and then go over it shading in wash. They did the preliminary sketches for their paintings in this medium. Sometimes they were outdoors on site with their inks, but other times they were in the studio doing evocations of Classical antiquity with forests, temples, nymphs and satyrs. Since I was studying art history as well as Classics, I put the themes together in a pseudo-18th century composition in my sketchbook journal. I even illustrated a paper for Latin class in this style, perhaps one of the first multi-media term papers submitted at my school. I regret doing this, it was a gimmick, but it was 40 years ago and only I remember it.

"Little Temple" is sepia ink and wash on sketchbook page, 7 1/2" x 5 1/4", October 1972.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Hotel interiors are some of the bleakest environments I've ever been in. They are not impoverished or depressing or destroyed, but they are character-less and incredibly boring. I think hotel designers do this on purpose so that you stay only as much as you need to rather than actually liking the place. This is true for the venue of DarkoverCon/future Chessiecon. It is a huge, hangar-like atrium furnished with comfortable but aesthetic-free furniture and decorations. The scene above shows one of the few views that is not devoid of interest. The garden umbrella, still up in November, is at least a touch of leisure, and the table in front actually does have a tea station on it. The great bleak space is by now filled with pathetic Christmas decorations and plastic Christmas trees. As an equal-opportunity sketcher who will draw anything, I found this water dispenser to be worthy of my sketchbook.

Pitt technical pen on sketchbook page with greyscale markers, some adaptation in Photoshop. December 1, 2013.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Stonehenge Con

At the last DarkoverCon, some fans built a Stonehenge trilithon in honor of those fans who created and ran the convention but are no longer in this world. The monument was made out of painted cardboard (at least I think so) and was surprisingly realistic, even though each piece could be lifted by a non-Obelix man. The persons crouching in front of the monument are not worshipping the gods of the Earth but tracing out a dress pattern on a piece of cloth.

This was the last DarkoverCon. There will be a new convention at its time and place next year. This will be "ChessieCon," named after a legendary sea monster who lives in the Chesapeake Bay. The management will be new but has experience in running conventions. There will be plenty to do, with costumes and music and art and fantasy writers. It may be better than Darkovercon has been over the last years. But it will not be the same. The mystical Red Sun of Darkover has set.

Pitt black technical pen on Moleskine sketchbook, about 5" x 5", December 1, 2013.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Art Barn summer 1972

I don't have much formal art training, but I did go to art school in a concentrated summer session in 1972. This was at the Boston University Art School's summer program which took place in Lenox, Massachusetts, in the scenic Berkshire hills near the famous concert hall in Tanglewood. I had an almost unbearably cultural summer there while struggling with my own religious path undergoing pressure to "accept Jesus into my heart" from Fundamentalist classmates. I also made a lot of student art in oil paint and watercolor. 

This piece was done in sepia pen work. In those days I had a pen called the Pelikan Graphos. This was a combination of a flexible point metal dip pen and an ink reservoir in the handle. You could use real sepia India ink. I did this picture and many others with the Graphos. But the pen had a lot of design flaws. The pen was constantly leaking as it didn't  have a sealed cartridge. And the handle reacted to the solvents in the ink and got corroded. You couldn't take your Graphos traveling because the movement of a car or even an art bag caused it to drop ink. Pelikan discontinued the Graphos and it is only available in relic form on eBay for too much money. But boy, when that Graphos was working, I could draw some cool stuff including this pen-line-fest of a drawing of our communal art studio. You can see the easels and the paint tubes and the wooden structure of the "art barn." I was always afraid that this rather shaky shed was going to either burn down from all the flammable art materials and a lightning strike, or else it would just collapse on its own. Boston University dropped its summer art school sessions some years after I was there, and the art barn disappeared along with the Pelikan Graphos. As for Jesus and my heart, that went a very different way and I don't want to talk about Jesus on this By-product blog.

"Art Barn" is sepia India ink, Pelikan Graphos pen on sketchbook page, 5 1/2" x 11", August 1972. Click on the image to see the mad pen line work. 

I'm off to DarkoverCon this weekend, so no By-Product till I return on Monday December 2.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Elf Rockers

OK, this is one of my stupider pictures, but it is in the collection so I might as well show it. Around the time this was painted, there was a fantasy fad of putting elves and other familiar genre figures into modern settings especially rock music and car racing. These tales were quite popular and illustrations and fan art followed. The rock music for elves was not the grunge or heavy metal of more realistic rock but the "hair" or "glam" rock where beautiful, androgynous blonde creatures would cast spells with stagey shows and glitter costumes. It all seems dated now but there are of course "tribute" bands where aging elves with a "muffin top" around their spandex waistbands trot out the songs of yesteryears.

"Elf Rockers" is ink and watercolor on illustration board, 7" x 10", May 2002.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My Medieval Age 1972

In 1972 I had the identity of a medieval scribe and illuminator in a scriptorium. I wrote in Carolingian minuscule (early medieval hand script), dressed as a monk in a long robe, read Latin manuscripts, and created art work like this one above. This illumination, done in a modern version of an eleventh-century Germanic style, features four saints. From upper left clockwise: St. Cecilia, patron saint of music, playing an organ. Saint Jerome patron of scholars, with his book, his pet lion, a cardinal's hat, and a skull. The Virgin Mary, opening a door to the heavenly world of Christianity, and Saint Luke, patron of artists, with a sketchbook and his symbol, the winged lion. The ornamentation is borrowed from medieval manuscripts as well.

In those days I was a common eccentric medieval-obsessed type. If I had been in the Society for Creative Anachronism, I would have done more of these artistic things but I was intent on my religious life at the time and the SCA was determinedly non-religious. This piece is the frontispiece for my 1972 journal.

Medieval Frontispiece is heavy watercolor on paper, about 8" x 10", early 1972. Click on the image for a larger view.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Winter Solstice at Trader Joe's

The seasons passeth at Trader Joe's, and Winter cometh to our land. This familiar landscape will advertise Holiday Season goodies, sweets and treats for our customers. Instead of the usual Holiday hokum I have reproduced the winter solstice sunrise over Virginia's Blue Ridge hills. The writing goes in the central empty panel. It is a version of my "winter wine" background for "The Earthly Paradise," my wine and landscape picture book. Remember folks, "Earthly Paradise" is coming soon! I can get eschatological about my commercial art if I want to.

"Art Studio" app on iPad, finished in Photoshop, 8" x 5". This is the first art I have done for Trader Joe's on the iPad.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


Recently I've begun following the blog and podcast of Michael Nobbs, a British or Welsh artist who lives in Wales. It's called "Sustainably Creative" and it's about how to do art when you have very limited time, energy, or availability. Michael has an autoimmune disorder which severely limits his energy and ability to do daily tasks, let alone art. So he has put together a strategy for working around those limits. He does a daily podcast (voice blog) which is about five minutes long, and longer podcasts and videos occasionally. He also has blog posts, strategy "courses" you can take, and booklets of his art, too. In my case it's not sickness (not yet, that is…) it's the time and energy my day job takes away. One of his strategies is something I already do: draw something every day, no matter how small or ordinary or mundane. I do this and call it the DotD or "Drawing of the Day." I don't do one every day but most days. The one above was drawn at the Honda center where they were replacing a plastic panel on my car. The tires in the rack had an appealing pattern. 

And this one is a "still life" on the hairdresser's shelf which I drew as I was getting my hair done. You can see the tube spray can of hair spray as well as the tall jar full of disinfectant in which they keep combs and picks. And there's a cup of tea. Michael Nobbs, true to his Britishness, is always mentioning and drinking tea. I think that's a good idea, too, just a little pick-me-up to drink in a civilized way. "Sustainably Creative" is refreshingly far away from so many teeth-gritting, muscular, high pressure, rock-climbing "personal development" sites which expect you to be a superhero. I'd rather sketch and drink tea.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Darkover Castle

It's that time of year again…not only Thanksgiving, but DarkoverCon. This convention has run for 36 years, and I've been to 34 of them. The convention, which has taken place in Timonium north of Baltimore for almost half that time, has been run by the same person all those years. But she passed away earlier this year, and with her goes the convention that she was central to. This year's DarkoverCon will be the last one. Next year another convention with another name and other staffers will take its place. With DarkoverCon 36, we surviving members will pay tribute to the convention, its history, and its colorful personalities. I'll be showing a retrospective series of my best Darkover art in print form, including the castle scene here.

This is "Comyn Castle," home to the Darkovan ruling sector, known as the "Comyn." These warrior and magic-using aristocrats are distinguished by their psychic powers and their flame-red hair (remember: IFRR In Fantasy Redheads Rule). The light is the pinkish red of the Red Sun of Darkover. This photo enhances the effect of the red light on the castle, which is built of blue-ish crystalline stone.

So, goodbye DarkoverCon, it was a fabulous run. The World of the Red Sun will live as long as memory and media survive.

"Comyn Castle" is acrylic on illustration board, 10" x 7", November 1996.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Owl Character

Ornithologically this is not a real owl of any species. It is a fantasy owl character with a few dragon-ish features. I like owls because they're like me, up most of the night. Real owls show up in my building's back yard and make noise during the spring and the fall. This fellow may even be sentient, if he is in a fantasy story. The spiky feathers probably will smooth down once he gets a little calmer about being in a blog.

Ink and greyscale markers on sketchbook page, with some Photoshoppage, 4" x 4", November 22, 2013.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Administration Building of Heaven

Even Heaven - perhaps especially Heaven - needs administration. You wouldn't want souls to go to the wrong place or the wrong area. You need more than just the Pearly Gates, you need GPS (Glorious Positioning System) to find your way to the pasture or city of your choice, once you've been interviewed and analyzed for your moral quality. Any number of things need to be attended to and this is one of the buildings where that work takes place. I painted this little picture inspired by another larger one I had done a bit earlier, my "Persian Heaven" picture, "City of Light." The earthly model for the "Administration Building of Heaven" is a pavilion at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.

"Administration Building of Heaven" is 9" x 11", acrylic on illustration board, November 1996. Click on the image for a larger view.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Another Little Mecha Monster

Coming at you with an angry buzz, or sometimes with no sound at all, it's a little insectoid flyer with enhanced jet-paks on its back. It has articulated arms with sticky burning fingertips, and extendable stingers on both sides. Even though it's only the size of a bean, it can hurt or kill you with potent chemical charges. Consider it the bad black-fly of futuristic combat, and wear plenty of armor to keep this one at bay.

Ink and greyscale markers on sketchbook page, about 4" x 3", November 19, 2013.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Elopement

My idea on this little picture was to create a story without actually telling it. "The Elopement" has two lovers running away in broad daylight, in a deserted Italian piazza. I wanted it to resemble an opera scene, or perhaps a romantic novel illustration, with a touch of deChirico surrealism. The architecture is real, adapted from a photograph in one of my many books on Italian architecture. As to the plot and progress of the story, who knows. I never bothered to invent it.

"The Elopement" is ink and watercolor on illustration board, 10" x 7", May 2002.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Mecha Red Triangle

Here's another mecha, again adapted from David White's book. White's main style of mecha design is built from blocky squarish shapes, but depending on the technology a mecha could be curvy and graceful too. I think about what shapes would deflect incoming fire and move easily on the battlefield. Old-fashioned knight's plate armor would be a classic mecha design idea, and there are plenty of them around, but there are other models for battle robots, such as hard-shelled insects or crustaceans. Imagine a Fighting Lobster on your side, with lasers coming out of its giant arms. Or a Fire Ant, with a flamethrower as well as a sting. The possibilities are myriad. Note the mechanical "grinning skull" headpiece of this figure. The Warhammer universe designs are filled with skulls of all sorts, the bony skull seems to be a characteristic of many fantasy fighting figures.

Ink and grayscale markers on sketchbook page, about 3 1/2" x 4 1/2", November 18, 2013.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Queen of the Planets

Inspired by a fantasy costume from an old film, this was meant as a costume design for a large or "plus-size" woman. The ultramarine blue is one of my favorite colors, especially paired with a black velvet dress and purple ribbons. At one point a costumer in the Baltimore area was planning to make this costume for herself to wear at a convention masquerade but nothing came of it. I thought I had never depicted a lady with "cleavage" but I guess I have at least once.

"Queen of the Planets" is watercolor and ink on illustration board, 7" x 10", May 2002.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Green dancer 1972

This composition is from my 1972 journal, while I was at Brandeis University. It sums up a lot of my interests then and now. I have more of those golden treasures you saw in a recent post, and some pseudo-medieval calligraphy saying "Deo Gratias" or "Thanks be to God." That whole journal was filled with my calligraphy, both medieval and Roman. Then there's the green and gold figure in the center, a dancer who is wearing a bodysuit of green and gold, designed by me, which looks more like a superhero's costume than a dance outfit. The action figure of the dancer comes from Eadweard Muybridge's famous stop-motion photographs. I remember that at that time I went to dance recitals at Brandeis' theater. In the bottom rows are a portrait of Saint Augustine the bishop, whose "Confessions" I read at Brandeis. His work was very influential on me and my religious life back then. The portrait is imaginary as no one knows what Saint Augustine looked like. The bishop's miter and vestments are from the middle ages, not Augustine's time. To the lower right is a sketchy portrait of Jesus. Those were my interests at Brandeis at that time.

Colored pencil and some ink on a sketchbook page, March 1972.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Elevated Railway

It's taken years to build this futuristic elevated railway over Route 7 in Vienna, Virginia. Sixty years ago this heavily built-up urban area was a simple crossroads among farm fields. Now it is about to connect directly with Washington, DC by rail, for the first time since the 1940s. The grandeur of its engineering is impressive, especially the curved swoop of the railway, two or three stories high, turning onto the new rail lane in the middle of the Dulles access road. Ultimately the rail will go all the way from DC to Dulles Airport, so you could go directly to your important business trip without using a car at all. Underneath the railway (these were there first) are office buildings, business-oriented hotels, shopping malls, big stores, an urban WalMart with a big garage, car dealerships, and other basic American necessities. There is also a 28-story luxury apartment building at one of the Metro stops, still under construction, in which each apartment will sell for more than a million dollars. 

I drew this in the freezing cold at the still-unfinished Metro station. I sat on a metal bench to do my drawing. They were testing out the pre-recorded announcements which would direct walking traffic at the station. "Please stand away from the door." "Doors closing." But there was no one there, yet, which gave a slightly eerie feeling to the scene. They were also running the first trains over the high rail, to test it all out, and they were empty too.

Brown Pitt technical pen ink on sketchbook page, about 8" x 5", November 14, 2013. I don't want to live here any more.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Classics are full of Treasures: 1972

I studied Classics as an undergraduate. That means Greek and Latin, and ancient history, and ancient art history, and all sorts of stuff relating to Western civilization before about the year 650, when the Islamic conquests changed the world radically. Reading all these texts about the ancient world I was struck by how much gold and metallic treasures mattered then, even more than now. If you go into major museums such as Boston's Museum of Fine Arts or  New York's Metropolitan Museum you will see these things arrayed on display, long removed from any kind of practical value or use. My intention in this drawing was not only to render gold and metal accurately as an illustration, but to heap treasures together as they would have been piled up as spoils of a conquest. And I used the treasure metaphor to allude to the classical texts themselves. 

Colored pencil and some ink on sketchbook page, about 7 1/2" x 6", February 1972.