Tuesday, April 30, 2013


He may be Infinite, but his picture is tiny. I wanted to paint character portraits of superheroes in "realistic" acrylic renderings, and I wanted one with a complicated costume with lots of detail. "Infinity-Man" was a Jack Kirby creation, so that takes care of the costume design. This godlike extraterrestrial but humanoid character had an elaborate storyline and background which read like the scriptures of a mythological religion yet to be believed in. He could do practically anything including holding his own in a fight against Superman. Gods and humans die and are re-born, and Infinity-Man himself eventually dies (perhaps) in a titanic superhero battle.

I liked Infinity-Man because of the theology but also because he had golden (or brown) skin and African features. Superhero godlings are predominately white with red or blonde hair so to see one with a non-white ethnicity is a welcome event in comics.

"Infinity-Man" is acrylic on illustration board, 4" x 8", February 1986. I'm trying to do some of these in digital format, so far with unsatisfying results.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Dragon Gallop

Dragons can move quickly while still on the ground. They also need to get up some speed to take off into the air from level ground rather than leaping off a cliff. The type of dragon depicted here is adapted to run swiftly in a kind of gallop before it has enough airspeed under its wings to get airborne. The bigger, heavier dragons need higher ground or psychic powers to take to the skies. 

Galloping dragon is drawn in brush pen with some textures in white ink, 8" x 3", April 28, 2013.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Spring window still life

Here ya go, a spring window and still life thing, real art-like and all, despite being done on the iPad during a few minutes at my friends' house. I love blue glass anyway. The wire at the top is a fairy light wire and some silver ornaments hang from it. Some additional work was done in Photoshop when this was brought into the main computer. I suppose I should have added a lemon or a potato or something still-lifey in there. Some artists spend their whole career doing stuff like this. 

Art Studio and Photoshop, April 27, 2013.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Seven Rings of Raggador

Some of you who are comics fans will remember Doctor Strange, the "Sorcerer Supreme." He is my favorite Marvel character and I have many Doctor Strange comic books in my collection. He is one of the few outright magic user heroes, using his magic powers for good rather than evil. In this colorful sketch I depict Doctor Strange invoking one of his spells, the "Seven Rings of Raggador." I figured that these rings would be in rainbow colors since there are seven of them but I did not put them in rainbow order. My artistic/scientific mistake. It is almost always tacky to put rainbow colors in a picture, anyway. Dr. Strange is borne into space with his big red Cloak of Levitation, with a golden brocade border (GREAT costume and Marvel has tinkered with it far too much over the years) and his yellow leopard spotted spellcasting gloves. Now where is the big budget CGI-packed movie for this Marvel character?

Doctor Strange and the Seven Rings are acrylic on black illustration board, 7" x 10", January 1987. Heavily restored in Photosorcery; the original slide was in bad shape.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Grotesque Bird Helmet

I've always loved helmets. I wanted one badly when I was a kid, but never got one. I should have made one for myself out of papier mache and a balloon, but I never thought of it. Now I have dozens of books and image files of armor and helmets and other fanciful wearable metalwork, and I do pen and ink studies of grotesque and fantastic armor. This head and shoulder piece is based on an engraving of real Renaissance parade armor, which as its title suggests was never meant for warfare, only for display. Though the beak face looks like it has eyes, the actual openings to see through are in the "forehead" of the piece, two rectangular slits. Maybe I'll do the rest of the set sometime, with some equally artistic weaponry and a touch of secret science fiction technology.

Fantastic armor is black ink on sketchbook page, 5" x 3 1/2", April 26, 2013. Colored in Photoshop.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Fiery Hairy Dragon

I guess I've always been doing pictures of dragons, of varying quality. This one combines my love of volcanoes with dragons. Note that the lava flow from the top of the cone in the background becomes the tail of the dragon. Also the dragon is hairy rather than scaly, which my dragon books tell me is acceptable. The dragon hair must be made of something unburnable though, perhaps mineral or glass fibers. 

After receiving comments from four of my faithful readers, I have decided to go with version "D" of my dragon and refinery concept. Most of them liked this one, though there was a vote for "A" as well. "D" seems to fit the idea the best and allow for an interaction between the dragon and the refinery flare. I am very thankful to my artblog friends for being the Art Director. I will now work up a preliminary drawing for the piece.

The Lava Dragon here was originally titled "Call of the Dragon" and is (was?) colored pencil and opaque watercolor on brown paper, 7" x 10", fall 1998. I have no idea where this piece is now, or whether it even exists any more. That's what happened to many of the small originals I sold at conventions.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Little Spring Meadow

Outdoor art on the iPad is back. During my half hour work break I sat on a concrete step and depicted this little patch of meadow in front of an urban cottage, with a big tree trunk at left. The purple flowers are grape hyacinths. The pixel-applicators ("brushes") are great for adding leaf texture. The iPad surface is very reflective so I use the cover of the plastic iPad case as a shade so I can see the screen. While I was drawing, a big fat bumblebee flew by on its way to the flowers. Stereotypical Spring is depictable in authentic Plein Air bright green.

ArtStudio app on iPad, about 25 minutes, April 23, 2013.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Fat Bustard

The "Fat Bustard" is a creature who has both bird and mammal qualities. Its heavy build makes it a slow and clumsy flyer, but it can run fast and catch up with its prey, usually rodents. It has jaws instead of a beak. Most interestingly, it has hand-like claws on the edge of its wings which can grab like mammalian arms. Depicted here is a Bustard in breeding plumage, including its showy head crest feathers. The creature is usually about three feet (one meter) tall. Bustards are highly intelligent and in time may evolve into sentience.

This image was done entirely in digital "inking." I started it on ArtStudio on the iPad and finished it in Photoshop. This time all gadgets behaved properly. April 22-23, 2013.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Knight at Twilight

Twilight doesn't have to mean silly teen vampire stories. It's romantic and Celtic and neo-medieval, like most of fantasy fandom. I used to toss off "generic" fantasy pieces to sell to people at conventions. This is one of them although it is not completely generic, it is inspired by the fantasy series of David Eddings, set in the usual medievaloid era. Behold, ye readers, how I wasteth my precious art time creating little pictures to sell at convegntiouns while I wouldst rather have created ye larger pieces for ye non-existent portfolio. Hopeth I that there mayst still be time for me to atone for my lazy ways so I might render unto Heaven the likes of art by Donato Giancola or Thom Tenery. Would that I could, oh mighty Photoshoppe, in which the whole world is bounded in a nutshell and yet is a kingdom of infinite space. Have a bit of wyne, it shall let me sleep without bad dreams.

"Twilight Knight" is ink and opaque watercolor on blue paper, 7" x 10", spring 1998.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

You are the art director!

I'm planning a larger dragon picture. It will be in digital format and I hope it will be a worthy portfolio piece. The title will be "Dragon and Refinery" and it will depict a dragon looking with admiration and perhaps hunger, at an oil refinery with a flaming gas flare. I have drawn four small sketches, "thumbnails," of designs for this painting. This is what I would show an art director in the first round of design approval for a book cover.

Since I don't have a real art director for this piece, I've decided to make YOU the art director for this project, at least at this stage. Which one of these sketches do you think would make the best artwork? I've increased the resolution so you can click on the picture to see larger more visible designs.

So, is it "A" or "B" which show the dragon in full figure from the back, with the oil refinery and flare at night or twilight in the top half? Or "C" which shows a dark or black dragon by daylight, with the refinery in the background? Or "D" which has a closer view of the dragon, with only its head and parts of its wings showing? The colors can be chosen later, you need only to choose the composition. Remember that I will have to add extra space at the top for the title and other words.

I know that there are only 17 or 18 of you so if only one person chooses, I'll go with that choice. If there is a disagreement between two or more, I'll decide myself which one makes the most sense. Here's your chance to participate in one of my projects.

Sketches are about 2 1/4" tall, greyscale markers on sketchbook page.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Apparition in the Crypt

I don't usually do stuff that is spooky or scary but this piece is one of my rare attempts. Inspired by the "Deryni" medieval fantasy books of Katherine Kurtz, this shiny ghost floats in one of her magical crypts. It may or may not be a human ghost. Katherine doesn't write scary stuff either, but she does add a heaping helping of mysticism to her tales of swords, magic, and courtly intrigue. It's fun to illustrate and I'd love to do more. 

"Apparition in the Crypt" is ink and opaque watercolor on brown paper, 7" x 10", fall 1998.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Beaked Dragon

Dragons can have different types of scales on different parts of their bodies. I learned this from the excellent dragon-drawing book, "Dragonart: Evolution" by J. "Neondragon" Peffer. This is the sequel to her original dragon book, "Dragonart," which I used as a model to educate myself in dragon drawing. "Evolution" is full of dragon drawing builds that I can follow to learn more. I'm also learning more about digital inking, which is commonly used in comic book art these days. One thing I just learned is that drawing too many small lines (for cross hatching, pen shading, etc.) confuses Photoshop and your computer so badly that your computer, no matter how powerful, fails and seizes up and you lose the part of your drawing that you didn't save. I guess that is a win for the old fashioned hand penmanship. There is no law that says you can't do both kinds of drawing. This image here is a hybrid, containing both pen and digital drawing. Until the computer seized, you couldn't tell the difference.

Ink drawing on sketchbook page, augmented by digital inking in Photoshop, 6" x 5", April 19, 2013.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


This is more of a "concept" piece than an actual final artwork. I wanted to put a super-hero and a nebula and some geometric abstraction together to see if I could make something that was heroic and whimsical at the same time. So here's "Art-Man," in the traditional circus tights and cape, painting geometry into space. I started out with acrylic and then glued silvery Mylar plastic foil on it in a rare use of "collage" technique. I also was experimenting with a human figure in space. Flying superheroes and spacemen are a chance to do human figures in perspectives that do not exist on earth (at least without tricks like hanging on a trapeze or being underwater). Baroque artists in the seventeenth century loved to do these seen-from-below perspectives when they painted angels and saints in Heaven on the inside of church domes. Now we have super-heroes instead of saints and angels. 

"Art-Man" is acrylic on black illustration board, 10" x 7", January 1987. 

A note on my current family situation: My father's condition continues to be unpredictable. At this point I am not yet on my way to Boston and may not be until next month. So I'll continue my work schedule and blogging as usual, until further developments. Thanks to MKS for her kind and caring comment.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Primeval Flight

Well before I applied myself to my dragon-drawing program last year, I was attempting, with varying success, to depict dragons doing dragonish things, such as flying and burning things with their fiery breath. This one seems somewhat clunky, like a flying plesiosaur or something like that. It is amateurish compared to the draconic level of excellence seen in current game, movie, and fantasy illustrative art. And the composition is totally boring. Oh well, it was a millennium ago. 

I may have to put the By-product on hold for the next few weeks, as there will probably be a death in my family (my aged father) and I will have to go to the home place in Massachusetts, well away from terror-stricken Boston. It's possible I'll have blogability from my laptop, but I don't know. I don't know how long things will take. Until I go away from my studio, I'll keep posting. 

"Primeval Flight" is acrylic on illustration board, 9" x 11", November 1998.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Mini actions

I got the idea to do these tiny concept sketches from a posting on deviantArt. These can be done with a brush pen or a digital tablet. They start with a brush-painted black doodle and then with an overlay of only 2 other values, grey with white accents. These tiny drawings can depict anything from critters to robots or full human characters. Since they're so small, I can do them really quickly, such as on the iPad during my work break. Each one is another idea which could eventually become a larger art piece, if I wanted it to. Unsuccessful ones can either be deleted or erased or archived. Most of these are no more than an inch and a half wide or tall.

Ink brush pen and ArtStudio and Photoshop, April 16-17, 2013.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Crystal Comet Castle

I experimented with using white ink on a brown paper to see what kind of detail and contrast I could get. I drew a castle which is mostly a conglomeration of stylized architectural elements. It wasn't meant to be a realistic castle, more like a greeting-card or children's fantasy style of castle. The nice thing about drawing with white is that once the ink is dry you can go over it with color and it will show off the transparency of the color. This little piece was done with layers of ink and transparent or semi-transparent acrylic. I took advantage of the semi-transparency of acrylic to shade the magenta and pink at the base. The comet was also done in ink and acrylic. 

This piece was one of a set of small paintings that I did for the yearly show at Balticon. I used to resign myself to doing these little efforts because they were the only ones I could sell at the show. Anything bigger and more expensive wouldn't sell except perhaps to one or two collectors. At this point in my artistic life I find this process pointless, since I rarely got more than $30 for any piece and that has not changed, which is why I am not showing art at Balticon this year. I know that for some artists, especially younger ones, $30 is a big price, but as a professional I couldn't justify the expenses of the show and lodging at the show if I couldn't earn enough with art sales to pay for it. In this case, a repeat client who owns many works of mine, many years ago, got a nice original painting for a bargain price.

"Crystal Comet Castle" is white ink and acrylic on brown paper, 7" x 10", spring 1998.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Early Spring landscape, Molon Lave winery

"Wine Saturday" was at Molon Lave Vineyards and Winery, near Warrenton, VA. I've been there a number of times to taste and sip. Today I sipped their excellent Chardonnay and bought a bottle of their Chambourcin, a light, spicy red. Molon Lave is run by a Greek family and they also run a sister winery, "Mediterranean Cellars," at which you can drink retsina, the famous Greek style wine tinged with pine resin. The day was glorious, perfect early spring weather, and the lawns were turning green though the vines had no leaf buds yet. I wanted to draw my usual winery landscape but I found that I had forgotten my iPad stylus. I tried to fill in some colors with my finger but I needed more precision than that so I left the rough drawing unfinished and then finished it in Photoshop with some reference help from a photo I took of the scene. Yeah, Armand Cabrera, outdoor painting master, wouldn't have done it that way. Next time I better have that stylus with me.

iPad Art Studio and Photoshop, April 13, 2013.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

"Multifarious" the little dragon

His name is "Multifarious." He crawls like a lizard, feeds like an iguana, can leap like a frog, has the beak of a bird, and a deadly stinger in his tail. He also has sensitive whiskers on his face and the sensor tongue of a snake. But this little fellow isn't over-mixed, he's just the product of imaginative evolution. He's about three feet long and that seems to be his mature size. He's a dragon but he doesn't have wings. On land, he's agile enough not to need them, and he's an excellent underwater swimmer as well. In the world of creatures, I'm the designer. So he's a creature made by a creature.

"Multifarious" is ink and greyscale markers on sketchbook page, 8" x 3", April 13, 2013.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Visiting Ray and Grace: repost from 2010

By special request, I am re-posting an entry from the now-discontinued "Electron Blue 2."

FRIDAY, MARCH 19, 2010
Meeting Ray Solomonoff

I have been desperately shuffling things around my art studio trying to make some kind of order. I hate disorder and clutter and that's what I have right now. My math book and worksheets are buried under random papers. I worked on "Neutron Starlight" and then I had to mount and mat fourteen prints for a dealer who wants to sell them at Persian gatherings this weekend. This Saturday is the long-awaited first day of spring, which is also NoRuz, the Persian New Year. Happy NoRuz, if anyone Persian is reading this.

I have sheafs of old newspapers in the studio which I use as background to spraying paint. I was attempting to lay down some matte black backgrounds yesterday, which was the first decent sunny day in weeks. I pulled out the New York Times from January 13, 2010 and found an obituary for Ray Solomonoff. He had died in December 2009 at the age of 83.

This brought back some vivid memories from my life in Cambridge. Ray Solomonoff was a pioneer in the theory and development of artificial intelligence, or how machines can solve mathematical and other problems. I lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts for many years. The first two of those years, from 1976-78, were spent being a graduate student in classics at Harvard. I didn't do well in academia and those years were miserable. But I also moved in science fiction fan circles and met a lot of interesting people who were not just fans, but real scientists and space travel promoters. Ray was part of that community. One night in winter 1977, I went to dinner at the dwelling of Ray and his wife Grace, who was a writer and poet.

They lived in one of the strangest hideaways I've ever visited. Tucked away behind retail buildings right in the center of Harvard Square were ramshackle apartments, some of them windowless and probably illegal. Their rents were low and living in them was not too different from "squatting." Ray and Grace lived in one of these. I thought it was amazing. They were the archetypal old hippies, except that Ray was a world-renowned scientist. Their hidden rabbit hole was book-lined, cluttered and filled with odd artifacts, just like my digs, but without the art studio. This was 1977, the last years of the Old World before the Internet. Ray knew that the NetWorld was coming. I had no clue. What did I know back then, struggling with Greek grammar and Late Roman rhetoric? Math was hostile alien territory to me. So even though I dined at his house, I had no idea what Ray Solomonoff was really an expert in. I had heard the words "artificial intelligence" but that was about it. It would take me another 23 years to discover mathematics for myself.

I brought my sketchbook to that dinner, and drew portraits of both Ray and Grace. Here's my rendition of Ray, along with some kitchen utensils and a mug from the dinner table. Rest in peace, Ray, there at the Infinity Point you envisioned.

Posted by Pyracantha. Drawings done in brown ink with Rapidograph technical pen.

Here's a portrait of Grace, done that same evening.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Morgaine costume miniature

The prolific and endlessly creative author C.J. Cherryh wrote a series of books in the 1970s and 1980s about a female action hero, Morgaine, and her quest to close time/space gateways that are destroying the fabric of the universe. Morgaine, kind of like an elf, is well over 6 feet tall and has naturally white hair and grey eyes. She and her male companion go through all sorts of perilous adventures in worlds which have reverted to medieval levels of civilization. The series blends fantasy elements with s.f. notions such as a magical (ultra high tech) sword carried by Morgaine. She also carries a blaster pistol.

I designed a costume for Morgaine although it would be difficult and costly to actually build and wear. She's wearing chain mail and leather and has a cape made from the pelt of a polar bear. Cosplayers may have their chance at Morgaine as I have just read that the series has been optioned for film production, perhaps influenced by the huge success of George R.R. Martin's "Game of Thrones."

Morgaine is ink and watercolor on Strathmore watercolor paper, 5" x 7", fall 1985.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Are my markers dried out

I have a lot of markers. I have more markers than any sane person should have. There are hundreds and hundreds of them, both water and dye based, or alcohol and dye based, or pigment based. I have so many that some of them sit in storage for a long time and I hardly ever use them. Then when I finally open up the case and try to use a set, I find that they have dried up. I opened up a bright, colorful set tonight and tested the markers to see whether they were still good. These markers are for kids and are all bright dye colors, like crayons, rather than the sophisticated mixed colors of Copic or Prismacolor markers. Most of this set of markers were still good, so I made this doodle with the oranges and purples, with some blue. I added background color with my other more professional markers. Almost no Photoshop was used in this effort. I used it just to touch one shape up. The purple ovals are inspired by grapes.

"Essay in Orange and Purple" is markers on sketchbook page, 5 3/4" x 5", April 10, 2013.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Mon-El in Space

Mon-El, whose real name is "Lar Gand," is a character in DC Comics' Superman universe. He has also been a member of the "Legion of Super-Heroes" and later on, the "Justice League." This character started off as a possible older brother to Superman, and later was re-introduced as a possible relative of Superboy. But the character was revealed to come not from Superboy's Krypton, but another planet called "Daxam." He had superpowers like Superboy, but unfortunately he was vulnerable to lead poisoning and couldn't survive on Earth without taking a special serum for it.  Mon-El, who wore a spiffy red and blue military-style tunic, boots, and cape, went through a dizzying series of changes over the years, including dying a number of times. I've always liked Mon-El, since he didn't have the messianic image or world-saving burden of Superboy or Superman. I depicted him here enjoying a flight through space, unbothered by lead or super-villains. Superheroes gotta have fun sometimes, too.

"Mon-El in Space" is acrylic on illustration board, 5" x 8 3/4",  February 1986.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Red Haired Heroes Everywhere

Redheads, redheads, everywhere in fantasy and S.F., the redheads rule. I've noticed it from my earliest beginnings in fandom. The hero, or more likely heroine, of the story has flaming red hair. Even Howard Roark in Ayn Rand's notorious FOUNTAINHEAD has fiery red hair. Not just in fantasy fiction, but in comics too...the famous and powerful Jean Grey in the X-Men, or Batgirl, or Natasha the Black Widow, or Red Sonja the swordswoman. If a woman is powerful and aggressive and bad-ass, she's probably red-haired too. If a woman is the only woman on an otherwise all-male team, she's almost surely a redhead. In classic science fiction, the female "Lensman" had red hair, as did the fantasy female knight Jirel of Joiry. I could cite other examples all night long. And with fantasy art as well, just look at any compilation of current fantasy females and you'll find red hair everywhere.

It really started getting overwhelming with Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series, where the psionically empowered characters, mostly in major roles, all had flaming red hair. The brighter the color, the more powerful they were. Just pick up a fantasy tale, and you're bound to find red haired persons. But gosh, why? There just aren't that many true (undyed) redheads in real life, so why so many in fantasy? It got to be such a cliche that I started to compile examples from fantasy/s.f. books I read. I used to ask authors, why did you make your hero/heroine red-haired? They said, well, I didn't think too much about it, I wanted my heroine to stand out. Huh? Like they had never read any number of books with red-haired heroes already? And they just went with the cliche. 

I finally wrote an article about this phenomenon, called "Red-haired Heroes, Brown-haired Losers." I published it in "Science Fiction Review" in 1985, where in those pre-Internet days you actually had to read something printed on paper. This article still exists somewhere, now online of course. In the article I described a "hair color hierarchy" in which the color of a character's hair determines what  happens to him/her in the book's plot. Black hair is for macho male heroes, like Conan the Barbarian; blonde hair for desirable princesses who need to be rescued. Red hair, as I've described it, is a sign of singular gifts and magic powers. And brown hair is never the leader or the hero. Brown hair, like the proverbial Star Trek red shirt wearer, dies early in the story, often protecting the hero.

Of course none of these color themes is absolute. You can find brown haired heroes if you look for them. But here I am again, posting a fabulous redhead from the lineage of Amber, Fiona. I almost didn't post it, but it was quite a popular painting in its day, so why not. When I was in Ireland I saw people whose natural red hair was so bright it was neon-fluorescent, described by Arthur Conan Doyle in his famous Sherlock Holmes story "The Red-Headed League." This flame color fades as the person gets older but you can still find them in Ireland somewhere. The rest of us, including myself, must have recourse to the dye bottle to make ourselves into superpowered heroes.

"Fiona of Amber" is gouache (opaque watercolor) on illlustration board, 4" x 7", spring 1982.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Village Wood

Today was bright and sunny and almost mild. "Wine Saturday" took me once again to the lovable and serene Village Winery near Waterford, Virginia. I did this iPad drawing, sepia monochrome, while sipping from a glass of Village's Merlot. The drawing depicts the old barn with its missing boards, and the barrel room in front. The Village red wines were especially good this time around. But I came there for the nectar-like golden Apple Wine. I bought a box of it which should last a while. Then I'll go back for more.

"Art Studio" on the iPad, April 6, 2013. Some touch-up in Photoshop.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Pseudo-Intellectual Pod

I'm a deep thinker, because I live, and think, at the bottom of the sea. I spend my time waiting for good things to come along, with only my eyeballs above the layers of debris and sand on the seafloor. Then when the time is right I grab my goodie with a sudden reach of extendable pseudopods and wolf it down with my big smiling mouth. Maybe my grabbers are tentacles and not pseudopods, but I am definitely an Idea Consumer and may produce a podcast. Hence as a Creature I qualify as a pseudo-intellectual.

"Pseudo-Intellectual Creature" is ink and grayscale markers on sketchbook page, 4" x 3 1/2", April 6, 2013.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Princess of the Ginger Star

When I cut pieces of Strathmore illustration board to make larger paintings, I was left with card-sized pieces which were too good to throw out, so I painted miniatures on them. Usually these were character portraits. This one here is one of my more successful. As you know, I always struggle with human figures so if I do one that is half decent I am ahead of the game. Even more if it's a sexy female. Sexy females (and males) are essential to fantasy art and I have tried many many times to create them with not much success. Artistic types tell me, just keep drawing from life, do more life drawing, and more life drawing. But I will tell you an artistic secret, at least from my own experience: there is nothing less sexy than a bored art model sacked out on a couch while 14 artists in a circle around her scribble away trying to get her butt or neck drawn right. Fantasy women are, uh, fantasy. And it's not the drawing I have trouble with, it's the fantasy exaggerations and fabulous posing which makes the female (or male) character sexy. Like, this picture isn't too bad, if it's a picture of a model standing there showing off her costume. Costume study is fine, but could we have more action, more "engagement" of the viewer, more movement? I'll never give up trying to create better fantasy character images. Otherwise I might as well paint the flowers and teapots which are the usual fare of a lady artist of my age. 

This character is from Leigh Brackett's "The Ginger Star," a 1970s-era Burroughs pastiche on a freezing planet (hence the fur trim on her plunging neckline). 

"Princess of the Ginger Star" is acrylic on illustration board, 5" x 9", July 1987. Click on the pic if you must.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Amber to Chaos

After reading through most of the "Amber" books, I finally came to the conclusion that author Roger Zelazny was making it all up as he went along, and he just wrote one scene after another without too much thought about how it would all turn out. In this image from the last book in the first series, THE COURTS OF CHAOS, Corwin, prince of Amber, must escape from a huge unnatural storm by running from Amber on a black road in a multidimensional wasteland towards the "Courts of Chaos." The raven and the staff are part of Zelazny's mythological mashup.

Zelazny's philosophy in these books was typical of its time. Instead of the traditional "good versus bad" storyline, he pitted Order against Chaos. Neither was good or bad, and the "heroes" of the books behaved almost as badly as the villains. Moral relativism was the main philosophy in this era, and this style has persisted in fantasy fiction to this day. Fantasy fiction is now supposed to be dark, brutal, and "gritty," full of blood, guts, sex, and betrayal. Yeah, y'know, like the old myths and tales, and like "real life." I don't know about you, but I enjoy fantasy because it's an escape from real life. But at the same time I enjoy violent and horrific fantasy sometimes. Can't quite figure that out. 

"Corwin on the Road to Chaos" is acrylic on illustration board, 9" x 7", August 1982.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Tysons Corner Not so long ago

Tysons Corner is a big city attached to another big city. It grew up along the edge of Washington, DC, just over the Potomac in Virginia, where there was plenty of space for government offices, government-related businesses, high tech outfits, and other types once known as "Beltway bandits." Tysons Corner, the archetypal "Edge City," wasn't always a city. In the first half of the 20th century, it was a typical rural Virginia crossroads, two dirt roads with a couple of corner stores. You can still find some of these crossroads deeper into rural Virginia, but usually the corner store is gone, wiped out by a Walmart or a nearby strip mall. 

Tysons Corner is undergoing a frantic building boom as the Metro is now just about to arrive, on a futuristic elevated trainway. A 27-floor residential skyscraper is being built near one of the stations, and each condo in it will cost over a million dollars. And a full-size Walmart is under construction right on the opposite side of the station. That's progress!

This picture for Trader Joe's loosely follows one of the few photos of the original Tysons Corner with its corner stores and gas station. The photo dates from the 1930s. It is the intersection of Route 7, Leesburg PIke, going roughly east-west, with Route 123, going roughly north-south towards McLean. Nowadays, this intersection looks like this, which is the other panel in this Trader Joe's "then and now" display."

"Tysons Corner Then" is acrylic on Masonite, 4 feet x 3 feet, March-April 2013.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Maples in Spring

The famous Cherry Blossoms have not opened yet, but the red maple tree flowers are everywhere, annoying people including me with their pollen output. But they are flowers and they show that spring, however delayed, is here. I did this Virginia landscape from memory while sipping coffee in the usual coffee house during my work break. 

"Art Studio" app on iPad, April 1, 2013.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Shaylon, Prince of Thieves

I was commissioned to do a portrait of a handsome thief character made up by a fan friend of mine. Her world and characters had some inspiration from Zelazny's "Amber" series (note the magic Tarot card) which is why I'm grouping this picture in an Amber retrospective. My friend gave me photos of a TV player, Peter Deuel (or "Duel") who she said looked like the character. I also used a photo of then-well-known rocker "Adam Ant" as a reference. Note that his left hand has only three fingers. This was requested as part of the character's history: in that world, there are elves who naturally only have three fingers on their hands (along with an opposable thumb). "Shaylon," the character, is half-elven so one of his hands has only three fingers. Elven heredity doesn't necessarily follow human rules. "Adam Ant" is still performing and wearing fantasy costumes. Peter Deuel, though, lives on only through long-forgotten TV shows; he killed himself in 1971, long before he was a favorite of my friend. 

This character portrait looks better to me now than it did when I first  painted it, as I remember having a lot of problems with it. I'd like to do more of this kind of work. 

"Shaylon, Prince of Thieves," is acrylic on illustration board, 9" x 11", November 1986.