Thursday, June 27, 2013

Dulles airport sketch

I was at Dulles Airport today picking up a friend arriving from the American heartland. Since the heartland had lots of storms, her plane was delayed for two hours. I spent a portion of one of those hours doing this quick iPad sketch of Dulles Airport's famous main hall. Note the swooping ceiling of Eero Saarinen's mid-century masterpiece. There were lots of people milling around whom I indicated with quick shadows. The two uprights in the right center were advertising poster kiosks. 

I'm away from the studio this weekend so blogification will resume on Monday or Tuesday of next week.

Autodesk Sketchbook Pro on iPad, June 26, 2013.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Severian on his way

I can't believe I haven't posted this image before. It's one of my best paintings ever and is a perennial favorite at my deviantART account. Like the character portrait of Severian the executioner and torturer a few days ago, this image is from Gene Wolfe's "Book of the New Sun." It shows Severian, wrapped in his black cape in the lower center of the image, wandering through fantastic ruins. 

The fantastic ruins are borrowed from the famous architectural artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi, whose engraved views of Roman antiquities have inspired countless artists and romantics over the ages. I am a huge Piranesi fan and found his images of ancient ruins to be a perfect background to Wolfe's story. I added in details from Wolfe's books: the terraformed moon, technological ruins, grotesque stone sculptures, and two towers made from abandoned rocket ships. Those are specifically described by Wolfe. The orange light is from the sun, which has lost a large proportion of its energy. Severian will eventually attempt to bring it back to light.

"Severian on his way" is acrylic and ink on illustration board, 11" x 14", summer 1982. Click on the image for a larger view.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Second try at background for client

As I suspected, the first image wasn't what my client wanted at all. Here's my second try at a "cosmic" background for his PowerPoint presentation, going on what he asked for. He wanted a dark background with mathematical shapes. The type would be in white over the design. I didn't want to make anything too contrasty or bright so that it would not conflict with the type. I was glad to find spiral and grid shapes in Photoshop "brushes" free to download. I have just set up Photoshop on the restored main system and I am trying to reconstruct my working environment. 

Photoshop CS4, about 11" x 8 1/2", June 25, 2013.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Pale Psychedelia

An old client returned to commission me to do some design work for him. He needed a background for a Powerpoint presentation on some very esoteric physics speculation. He wanted something with a spiral in it and a sort of "fractal" look. This is my first draft for the background. It has to be pale and low-contrast so that the type in the foreground will be readable. I'm not sure whether this is what he wants; it got a bit psychedelic or even eerie-creature-ish. I can always do another with the infinitely generous resources of Photoshop. 

Design is in Photoshop, about 11" x 8 1/2", June 23, 2013. This design was done on my laptop with Photoshop and a Wacom "Bamboo" tablet and stylus.

My main computer is back in action but it has to be re-stocked with Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and the other programs I need to do my computer work. And then I'll put back all the images and documents that used to be there. Right now it's like working with a whole new computer.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Carrots of Summer

Dinner outside on the patio with friends is a splendid way to start the summer. Part of the good life is vegetables fresh from the farmers' market. Here are the carrots which go with the grilled steaks. The green tops have been detached but not removed yet. The wine is Delaplane Cellars' Cabernet Franc. I hope the rest of the summer is as good as this. 

iPad drawing on ArtStudio app, June 22, 2013.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Severian the Executioner

Gene Wolfe is one of my favorite fantasy authors. He fills his writing with classical, Byzantine, and Catholic references, many of them obscure. As an old classicist, Byzantine fan, and eccentric Catholic, I really appreciate this. I've only read one series by him, the "Book of the New Sun," and since then he has written a number of series following that world and its characters into new stories. I ought to return to Wolfe and read the rest of it. In the  1980s, when the "New Sun" was new, I read them with wonder and devotion, savoring the mystical Christianity hidden under the fantasy-adventure goings-on. I also enjoyed the horror elements of the books, including revenant drowned dead people and monsters that devour people and then imitate their voices to draw the loved ones in for their next meal. There were also satirical passages such as the true North Korea-like true believers who can only speak using quotes from their Great Leader. Brilliant stuff. I just had to illustrate it.

The "Urth" of the unrenewed sun is lit by a fitful, dying Sun, so far in the future that the remains of our civilization are flattened into sedimentary rock. The Moon appears to have been terraformed and is covered in green vegetation and blue water, but at least in the first series, you don't get to visit it. Severian, the renegade torturer and executioner, wanders through the decadent lands, armed with his blunt-tipped executioner's sword "Terminus Est," named in Latin after a famous Doors song ("This is the end...."). Severian goes through all sorts of adventures until he gets involved with the nobility and ends up as an Emperor. But he promptly abdicates, in order to somehow renew the sputtering Sun's energy. 

This is my portrait of Severian, in the red-lit, devastated landscape of Urth. The woman behind him is the spectre of Thecla, his beloved lady who dies in a particularly horrible way early on in the story. I have had conversations with Gene Wolfe in the distant past, and he gave me valuable authorial material on what his characters and world looked like. Now that I'm finding these old Wolfe illustrations of mine, it's reminding me again of the illustrative potential of Wolfe's books.

"Severian" is acrylic on illustration board, 14" x 20",  August 1983.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Neoclassical Chaos Monster

One of the nice things about the Warhammer 40K universe is that anyone, anywhere, can suddenly be taken over by the powers of Chaos and turned into a monster. The high tech which can send starships through hyperspace to their destinations is bought at the cost of contacting a malevolent other universe that is populated with Chaotic evil beings filled with madness. Any contact brings chaotic corruption from that universe into ours. So a lady of virtue could be standing in the neoclassical Temple of Reason, worshipping the holiness of order and intelligence, and suddenly morph into an insectoid monster because she had made a space voyage and inadvertently met up with a wandering Chaos connection. She might never have noticed it, until the last moment many months later, when the Chaos seeds left within her finally bloomed into horrific reality. The only way to stop Chaos is to destroy whatever is corrupted by it, so the lady, fully aware that she was doomed, would have to be put down by the Space Marines, destroying the majestic Temple of Reason in the process.

Ink and gel pens on sketchbook page, about 3 1/2" square, June 20, 2013.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

K-Series Abstraction 12

Finally...back to rationalist modernism and the mid-20th century dream of Progress. Before computers and their shenanigans made our lives ridiculously complex, the good old geometric abstraction could ennoble your art and take a long time to paint. Now, with modern digital means, you can crank out a Constructivist bonbon in an hour or so. This one's in my "K-series" of digital abstract improvisations, properly alphanumerically titled to appropriate standards of techno-art. Progress for the masses, and striving for the future! Space imagery for the space age! 

"K12" is done in Photoshop, about 5 1/2" x 5 1/2", June 20, 2013. Click on the pic for a larger view.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Jesus the Undead

This is probably one of the worst pictures I have ever painted. I'm only showing it so that you, too, can see this epic religious tackiness and be embarrassed along with me. 

The picture was a commission from an eccentric elderly Presbyterian minister, (now among the peasants in the heavenly fields) enthralled with Christian left-wing doctrine, who was also fascinated with the physical resurrection of Jesus. How had Jesus actually been resurrected? What did it feel like? And could you, like, catch Him in the act? 

This brought me to levels of blasphemy that would have gotten me a visit from the Inquisition back in the middle ages. But in Cambridge, Mass., where I was then living, any sort of thought twists were entertainable. So here is the genesis of tacky religion: a science fiction and fantasy fan encounters the Gospel! You can be resurrected in a fantasy book or a role-playing game, no problem. So how was it for Jesus? Did he just, uh, wake up all by himself in a tomb? The Gospel says he had magic powers after he was resurrected, too, more than he had when he was still among the living. What was His consciousness like as the process of astralization happened? Supposedly the burial shroud (whether it was the Turin shroud or not) kept its shape around a vanished body, so did Jesus turn into a cloud of photons or a neutrino flux, something that could pass through cloth and even stone? And this doesn't even cover His adventures during the 2 1/2 days he was lying in the tomb, when the legends say he visited Hell and saved the souls of Biblical figures from eternal punishment. When He appeared on Resurrection Sunday, that is, Easter, in the garden where Mary Magdalene couldn't identify him, was he wearing astral gardener clothes?

I posed one of my pale, spindly male friends as Jesus. I wrapped this poor soul in a wet sheet, in the chill of a November evening. It was a miserable session and he was lucky not to catch his death (or resurrection) of cold. Then I painted Jesus as the Playgirl model of religious exaltation, complete with hints of chest hair and omigod pubic hair....Jesus with body hair...with the sheet strategically over His sacred business. He's awakening to a freezing spring dawn of God's light, shining through the stigmata like a liberated proton beam. I used my Airbrush of Holiness to crank up the divinity. And then I released this abomination to my minister friend for thirty pieces of, it was 250 dollars as my record shows. 

The minister loved it. In fact, he loved it so much he showed it to his friends. One of them, an Air Force chaplain, wrote back to me to tell me how inspiring it was for him. When I read that, all I could think of was, there is no bottom to people's taste. None at all. And I served it up. Lord have mercy.

"Christ, the New Adam" (official title of the picture) is acrylic on illustration board, 14" x 11",  April 1987.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Cauliflower Cloud

Summer weather is here. What other people find stifling, I find heavenly. The sky was full of the giant cumulus clouds which are sometimes called "cauliflower clouds" because they look like the familiar vegetable. Under the cauliflower cloud is a thunderstorm, but not a big one because only a few miles away you are in sunlight, looking at the weather action from the side. I did this picture from memory, because I was not able to sit down with my iPad and do the image on site. But my visual memory's pretty good, so here's your vegetable storm.

Photoshop with Wacom "Bamboo" tablet, about 7 1/2" x 3", June 17, 2013.

Monday, June 17, 2013

So You Want to be a Wizard Portrait

This is a fantasy portrait commissioned by a Boston-area fan. I've done a lot of these portraits with varying success. My portraitee suggested the theme of a "student wizard" which was a more original idea before the Harry Potter series took over the theme. The title of the book, "So You Want to be a Wizard," refers to the influential young-adult fantasy by Diane Duane. As I remember, the portraitee didn't think my portrait looked like him and wasn't satisfied. I wonder what he looks like now.

"So You Want to be a Wizard" is ink and watercolor on illustration board, 8 1/2" x 11", November 1990.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Baroque Space Marines

These two drawings fill spaces in between text blocks in my graphic-heavy journal book. The top one is more Baroque architecture details and the bottom is roughly sketched silhouettes of Space Marines. The general rule in the Warhammer 40K world is that if you see some glorious palace or beautiful city or lovely natural area, it is guaranteed to be destroyed by the end of the book. I suppose the authors, gameplayers, and fans enjoy this type of thing, somewhat like boys knocking down sand castles or virtually nuking SimCity. I doubt whether any girls play Warhammer but some girls torture and dismember their Barbie dolls, too. I just feel bad for all the annihilated fictional beauty and uncounted fictional people massacred to fulfill the Emperor's destiny-bound commands. I'm just too soft, I guess. Just don't ask me to get really soft and do pink "My Little Pony" cartoons. If you do want me to draw My Little Pony, you'd better have a lot of cash. Me, I'd rather go for baroque. 

Ink and Copic brush marker on sketchbook page, about 4 1/2" x 4", June 16, 2013.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Elric versus the Theocrat

I have always been a big fan of Michael Moorcock's Elric, the exiled albino sorcerer king of Melnibone'. Elric's world was wildly creative and colorful with a heaping helping of destruction and angst. He bore with him the demon sword "Stormbringer" which sucked the souls out of the beings he killed. I encountered the Elric series in the 1970s and just couldn't get enough. During the mid to late 1970s I did dozens of Elric pictures, usually quite small, since for some of those years I was a graduate student in a dorm room. 

I've often wondered what would happen if I went back to Moorcock's Elric after all these years. What kind of fantasy art would I do now, with modern tools and skills? I find myself overwhelmed by current fantasy and science fiction, not knowing what to choose or read. And modern fantasy doesn't seem to be as "fantastic" as Moorcock's, for instance the immense "Game of Thrones" series which replicates the brutality of the late Middle Ages with a bit of fantasy added in. I don't want irony or parody either. I like the old style High Fantasy full of magic and color and special effects and even some old-fashioned morality. Am I just out of touch? Should my creative efforts be "brutal" and "gritty" which seem to be the standard nowadays. Should fantasy be like real life, complete with terrorists and vicious gang warfare and mass murder? I want my fantasy to be escapist!  I can see that other stuff on TV. But I am still struggling to create anything more than a small sketch anyway these days. 

"Elric Versus the Theocrat" is watercolor on Fabriano paper, 14" x 10", November 1976.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Rationalist Neoclassicism

The use of Classical motifs and decoration, whether Greek or Roman, is often associated with rationalist ideals and the idea of stability. Rationalism steers away from supernatural or religious explanations for the phenomena of the world, and supports science, skepticism, and the experimental method. It tends towards materialism and a non-metaphysical worldview. The classical style is often used in traditional bank and government buildings such as those in Washington, DC, to give an aura not only of stability, but of Empire.

Neoclassicism is the use of these Roman and Greek forms and images long after the age of Greece and Rome. In the "Enlightenment" era of the 18th century in Europe, neoclassical design was popular. This architectural study depicts archways and elaborate cornices in the church of St. Genevieve in Paris, which was built in the later third of the 18th century. Interestingly, rationalist forms here support a religious building.

I am interested in the Neoclassical style for non-rational reasons. I find this style compatible with various fantasy universes which feature galaxy-spanning star empires imitating ancient Rome or Byzantium, such as the "Warhammer 40,000" gaming world. Eventually I'll be pairing Neoclassical forms and ornament with space-suited super-warriors, as the authors meant it to be. That is, if I ever get my main computer back in action, and if I ever make larger artworks any more.

Pitt drawing pen and greyscale markers on sketchbook page, 3 1/2" x 4", June 14, 2013.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Deconstructed Bird

I activated the hand-held scanner. This is a peculiar piece of gear, very useful in limited situations. It can scan the pages of a book which will not sit (or be crushed) flat on the flat bed of a conventional scanner. You set it to scan and roll it across the page till you've covered what you want to copy. It sends the scan to a mini SD tiny card and then through a USB cable to your computer. The scans are quite good but they are small so if you were scanning a larger page you'd have to do a number of them and then "stitch" them together in Photoshop. There is one major problem with this device and that is the power source. It runs on AA batteries but if you leave the batteries in the device when you are not using it, it drains the power out of them (even when the scanner is turned off) so when you pick it up to use it after a few months, the batteries are dead. I solve this by simply removing the batteries after each use and keeping them near the disassembled device. So there.

This is a shape and texture doodle I did in my sketchbook journal, with both birdlike and wood-scrap-like elements. It's kind of like what my blogging buddy "Emikk" does with plumbing.

Pitt drawing pen on sketchbook page, 4" x 4", June 2013.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Still non functional

A note to my devoted handful of readers: My main computer is still non functional and my scanner won't work with the laptop I'm currently using. So until I do some digital work or activate my hand-held scanner I cannot post here daily the way I used to. I'll try to get some By-Product for you as soon as I can. I have dozens of gadgets and most of them work fine, but only if I have the organization and time management to use them. Until then, posting will be sporadic.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Failure in the blog spot and WinePaddery

The By-Product missed two days due to the failure of my main studio computer, an iMac nicknamed "Bizmac." I have no idea why the thing won't start up but up until then it had been doing fine. I must have done something to it...too much byte-heavy graphics and photo-processing work? A corrupt file somewhere? Too much wine? When a computer fails, it's always the user's fault. When a Macintosh fails, it is not only the user's fault but the user must do penance to the enshrined spirit of Stephen Jobs. I'm hoping that one of my expert friends will help me get Bizmac back on track, or at least help me haul it to the Apple Store at the nearby mall. I am currently posting from my laptop, "WineMac," which is hooked up to the cable system and studio setup.

The day Bizmac conked out, I went to Casanel Vineyards outside of Leesburg, where I did this bright-colored bit of iPaddery while sipping Casanel's Pinot Gris and munching on crackers and blue cheese. A moment of ideal pleasure in my life which hasn't had much of that these days. The leaves and vines were that special brilliant green of a well-watered early June, before things get baked by summer heat and turn yellower.

"Art Studio" app on iPad, June 8, 2013. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Brown-Haired Sword Girl

Leigh Brackett was a female traditional science fiction/fantasy writer in a profession which can still be very unfriendly to women. She wrote a lot of action/adventure stories including the "Ginger Star" series, which is sort of an Edgar Rice Burroughs pastiche, but what otherworld fantasy isn't? (The stuff that is Tolkien or Conan Doyle pastiche, of course.) Brackett's work, as I remember, contains portrayals of effective and not wimpy women warriors. I did this tiny character portrait inspired by the "Ginger Star" stories.

Note that in this character portrait the costume is not skimpy and doesn't have deep-cut cleavage (although the bare arms are not so practical for a sword fighter). She doesn't have high heeled boots. Her sword is wieldable with two hands, like a claymore (but why did I put that crossbar on it? Is it made from a T-square, so she's a graphic design warrior?) And finally, she has BROWN hair. Remember that every female warrior in art or writing has red hair! This character is not a victim...of fantasy stereotypes.

"Princess of the Ginger Star" is acrylic on illustration board, 5" x 9", July 1987.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Pyramids and cat

Here's an Egypto-illogical doodle for us cat lovers. The ancient Egyptians were perfectly right in considering cats sacred animals. Cats can defy gravity and make pyramids float. Under the sign of the Pawprint and the Eye, worshippers serve their household gods with treats and toys. In reality the Cat's Toy is our own Universe, complete with the cat-changeable laws of physics.

Ink on sketchbook page, 3 1/2" x 4", May 2013.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Grotesque armor

The metalsmiths of the Renaissance could create some amazing work, such as armor that mimicked all the details of the clothes the noble knight would wear at court. The finest-wrought armor was for parades and display rather than fighting. The creative armorers added  a wealth of detail to the suits whether they were meant for battle or not. The battle-armor was meant to be scary and grotesque and fierce-looking. This armored figure, who may not be entirely human, was inspired by Renaissance grotesque armor. There are myriad fantasy armies of these figures, fighting out their virtual existence in games all over the world.

Pitt technical pen, brush pen, and grayscale markers on sketchbook page, finished with digital inking. 3 1/2" x 5", June 5, 2013.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Yet another rock vampire

There's no escape.You must be subjected to yet another rendition of "The Vampire Lestat" as a rock performer. This time, the model is Jani Lane, the long-forgotten (and dead by alcohol overdose) lead singer for the long-forgotten hair metal band "Warrant." In this case, the forgetting is a good strategy. I did my best though, giving him goth-y jewelry, a metallic-printed T shirt with the type from the cover of Rice's "The Vampire Lestat," and a puffy leather jacket. There is also the discreet but well-placed blood droplet on his lip. OK, what can I say, it was the '80s, but even that isn't a good excuse. And this picture was not done in the '80s. And our own era isn't devoid of tastelessness. Justin Bieber as a teenage vampire? There are things humankind must not be allowed to conceive of.

Vampire Lestat is watercolor on illustration board, 11" x 14", October 1990. Plenty of restoration in Photoshop.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Julia in Pink

A Brazilian cleaning lady comes in to work on my mother's house every two weeks. She is a lovely person and she recently had a baby girl named Julia. As soon as she was able, the mother took her little girl with her while she cleaned houses. I was able to see Julia while I was at the parental home recently, and I drew this drawing in my Moleskine sketchbook. Julia sits in an elaborate tabletop cradle, with a pacifier in her mouth. She's 5 months old at this point. She's wearing that specific shade of hot pink which seems to be the uniform for little girls all over the USA and even overseas. Everywhere I look, when I see little girls they are dressed in this shade. Does this mean that when Mom goes to a store looking for clothes for her girl, there is only this pink shade available? Is this a way to identify girls as girls and make sure they are "feminine?" As far as I can see, there is no corresponding color (blue or Army green or whatever) for boys. 

Pitt drawing pen on yellow Moleskine page, pink added in with colored pencil, about 4" x 5", May 2013.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Vintage Ridge

"Wine Saturday" brought me and my friends to the "Vintage Ridge" winery in Delaplane, VA. The Vintage Ridge tasting room is multi-leveled and also houses the big stainless steel vats they use to craft their wines. I drew their vats and a barrel row and a few plants. Our server for the premium tasting was a young man who will soon move to New York City to seek his career as a photographer. The wines at Vintage Ridge were excellent and I intend to go back there soon, to do more sipping and drawing.

Pitt technical pen on nasty yellow Moleskine sketchbook page, 5" x 8", color cleared in Photoshop. June 1, 2013.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Baroque Sicilian

Sicily is full of Baroque architecture. You can detail yourself silly doing studies of the multiple columns, many-leveled cornices, sculptures, and windows on these buildings. Much of the Baroque creativity was lavished on churches such as this one in Ragusa, Sicilia, Italia. But theater sets of the era looked just like churches. Religion has always been good theater in Italy. This is only one little section of a church facade covered in dazzling carved details.

Gel pen and grayscale markers on sketchbook page, 4" x 3 1/2", June 1, 2013.