Thursday, October 31, 2013

Vampire in the Doorway

I don't usually do "scary" pictures, especially not explicit horror. It seems that I don't resonate with the darker side, preferring to make bright and comforting pictures full of wine and flowers and misty blue hills. But every so often I get a chance to do something a bit less sweet. The impulse for creating this little scene was the architecture and the shadows in the original reference image. It looked ominous without being outright spooky. I was also inspired by the vampire stories of Anne Rice, which took place in architecturally fascinating New Orleans. I used the brick rendering watercolor technique that I had done for years as a professional architectural illustrator. The lady in the doorway is a vampire but I didn't need to put fangs and blood to get the idea across. 

You never know, I might do some scary or horror pictures again but I would want them to be cliche'-free and genuinely frightening or disturbing, not the usual standard creepy procedures. This one's for Halloween, after all.

“Vampire in the Doorway” is watercolor on illustration board, 7” x 10”,  September 1990.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Back Yard Landscape

I did a lot of traveling in the USA in 2003 and I sketched everywhere I went. I did sketches in colored pencils as I later did for my winery drawings, but in some places I had a large kit of markers with me which I could use to get almost a watercolor effect. This is one of the marker color drawings that I did at my parents' house in August of 2003. It's the back yard of their house, which even 10 years ago was becoming neglected and overgrown. My challenge was to make some sort of orderly portrayal of all this vegetation. You can see one of my father's canna flowers as a small splash of red to center left.

Just last night I talked to my mother about the back yard. After my father's passing she is finally getting someone to cut back the jungle brush (yes, there is jungle in Massachusetts), weeds, and small weed trees which have taken over the back yard I used to play in. 

I have thought of putting together another marker kit to take with me to vineyards and other sketch destinations. So far it is difficult because markers are larger than colored pencils and take up a lot of space when carried to a site. But the drawings look so good that I might just want to use portable markers again.

Ink and markers on sketchbook page, 6" x 9 1/2", August 16, 2003. Click for larger view.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Palace Grounds

I did this little picture just after leaving my job doing architectural rendering. I had spent two years doing pictures of upscale houses for the real estate market. When I painted the renderings I also depicted the leafy trees and landscaping that surrounded your luxury domicile. So when I did this modest Renaissance fantasy, I used the same tree and grass painting techniques that I had used on the house portraits. I still use those watercolor painting skills to create greenery for my landscapes and winery views. 

"On the Palace Grounds" is watercolor on illustration board, 10" x 7", September 1990.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Deoris of Atlantis

Deoris is the sister of red-haired Domaris, in Marion Zimmer Bradley's "Fall of Atlantis" series. As I said before, Domaris and Deoris were probably half-sisters, since they had such different coloring. Deoris grew up to be a sexy babe while her elder sister got pregnant by a fellow Atlantean priest. I read through this whole series and waited patiently for the cataclysmic ending. I was hoping that the island and its bunch of tiresome characters would sink beneath the waves but it didn't happen, at least in the book's time frame. 

I miss doing fantasy character portraits, I'm so busy with vineyards and giant robots. What a combination. It gives me absurd ideas, that's the best kind.

"Deoris of Atlantis" is ink and watercolor on thick Fabriano paper, 5 1/2" x 9", fall 1988. It's one of the first paintings I did in my new location near Washington, DC.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Zephaniah Winery

I've tried to find this winery a few times and this is the first time I've succeeded. Zephaniah Farm Vineyard has been around for years, hidden away in the estate country near Leesburg. It is in a farmhouse which is also the home of the family which owns and operates it, so basically, you're tasting wine in their living room. The house is filled with 19th century antiques and decor, all comfortable and elegant too. The wine was superior, especially their Chardonnay. I drew this scene while wine drinkers were looking on. The purple color scheme of red wine, dahlia flowers, and curtains prompted me to leave it as a two-color composition rather than multi-colored. 

Ink and colored pencil on sketchbook page, about 7" x 7", October 26, 2013.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Goddess Chapel

I had a friend whose religious life was an interesting mix of Christianity and Neo-Paganism, not uncommon in the 1980s. She had beautiful fluffy blonde hair and sky-blue eyes, like a fantasy faerie goddess. She also had a big blue dress that she used to wear to medieval and renaissance events. I set up a modeling session with her and the dress and she posed for me in her and her husband's little apartment in Queens. I did many paintings from this set of poses and this was one of them. The Goddess (or a goddess) appears in a chapel which may be Christian. She isn't the Virgin Mary, though, despite the blue.

"Goddess Chapel" is ink and watercolor on illustration board, 8" x 10", May 1988. Click for larger view.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Industrial Household

I spent another fine evening at the home of longtime friends. These are people who are constantly busy with art and design and craft and building and making and inventing and wiring and cooking and so many other works. Their house is filled with what in old days would be cottage industries. This sewing machine and loom is in what would be their living room. The odd-looking roughly oval object in front of the loom is a large costume hat. 

Brown ink Pitt technical pen on sketchbook page, about 5" x 8", October 24, 2013.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Blue Crustacean Technocreature

It's some kind of critter, I guess. I crossed a walking robot with a blue lobster and came up with this. I'm enjoying doing creature design but I have to work on the "threatening" part. This one isn't vicious, spiny, and weaponized enough. Although, if he wanted some dinner, it would be a good idea to run away. This is just a doodle, a concept sketch that could later be turned into a final design if required by a client, which isn't gonna happen, so the blue lobster technocreature will just pass you by.

Photoshop, about 4 1/2" x 5 1/2", October 23-24, 2013.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Domaris of Atlantis

Marion Zimmer Bradley didn't just write Darkover or Mists of Avalon books. She cranked out a large amount of verbiage, some of it because she wanted to and much more of it because she needed the money. Her Atlantis series, which was originally published in 1983, seems to be a bit of both. It is essentially a fantasy soap opera about the travails of a pair of noble sisters in the days just before Atlantis sank beneath the waves. Domaris, the elder sister, has the requisite flame-red hair of a fantasy heroine (remember, "IFRR," or "In Fantasy, Redheads Rule"). Deoris, her younger sister, has black curly hair, which probably means they had different fathers, something which was common in ancient Atlantis, according to author Bradley.

I read this book in the late 1980s when I was moving to the Washington DC Metro area. My character portraits from Bradley's Atlantis were among the first art pieces that I produced in my new home, now 25 years ago. 

"Domaris" is ink and watercolor on Fabriano paper, 5 1/2" x 9", fall 1988.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Running Armor

"Power armor," or mechanized battle suits with exoskeletal enhancement, should be as nimble as an athlete or an insect. The wearers should be able to run, leap, crouch, and turn quickly, to get as much freedom of movement on the battlefield as possible. Weapons are often built into the armor, as well as carried. Sometimes it's hard to tell whether the unit is an organic human or humanoid being inside a suit, or a purely mechanical robot.

Ink and greyscale marker on sketchbook page, about 8 1/2" x 2 1/2", October 22, 2013.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Castle Draco

Seems to me that I must have posted this one sometime before now, but I don't have any record of it. So here's my take on a basic fantasy cliche, the castle inhabited or protected by dragons. It's as "goth" as I would ever do, which is, not very. I used an unusual color scheme, at least for me, of purple and grey. 

"Castle Draco" is ink and watercolor on illustration board, 7" x 10", September 1990.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Another Mecha Sketch

Mecha robots share some design themes with Baroque armor sets and costumes. They are overloaded with detail. If the mecha was an actual fighting machine, all these details would have a purpose and significance. The blocky armor must also fit together in ways that would allow the battle robot to move quickly on the field. This sketch is again adapted from David White's book "MechaZone." He's been drawing these things all his life and he would know what purpose every detail would have. Some of his creations are barely humanoid, but ones like this have articulated arms and legs and can walk as well as wield a giant electric sword. The challenge is to portray the robot clearly enough so you can tell where its limbs are. As with most of these armored rock 'em - sock'ems, their heads, or headpieces, are rather small compared with the size of the body. 

Even I can identify some of the parts of this fighter robot. The two barrel-shaped things on its back are power sources, mini-fusion plants to make the laser guns blast. The red spots are sensors and infra-red blasters as well. The right hand holds a large gun with multiple barrels. The left hand holds a huge electric sword, and there are also some smaller weapons imbedded in the armor. Altogether the robot is about twenty feet tall.

Ink on sketchbook page, shaded and colored in Photoshop, 3 1/2" x 4", October 20, 2013.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Horses of Heaven

The owner of this picture loves my fantasy architectural scenes. He missed out on getting one of these at a convention, so his friends ordered another similar picture from me to give to him. I borrowed fanciful towers from French and German Renaissance castles, and then set the whole thing in Mercedes Lackey's world of "Valdemar," where magical Heralds dressed in white ride magical horse-beings called Companions. The Heralds and their Companions, who speak with them telepathically, travel around their kingdom righting wrongs and doing good, or at least trying to do good. The Companions are always white, with blue eyes, and they wear beautiful trappings which look like parade or carousel decorations. I designed this picture not as an explicit illustration of a Lackey text, but as a Heavenly echo of Renaissance fantasy.

"The Horses of Heaven" is watercolor and gouache on illustration board, 10" x 13", December 1992.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Mecha Portrait

Warrior robots often have someone inside them, so that they are really powered armor or walking tanks rather than just a mechanical battle robot. I am learning how to draw these essential characters from books by David White, who enthusiastically fills pages with these elaborate, detail-filled armored figures. And if I copy White's illustrations and instructions, I can draw them too. Just as I did with dragons a couple of years ago. Even though mecha are a Japanese import, they are part of our own culture now, just like Toyotas, sushi, and Copic markers. I would be interested to know if White and other mecha artists know exactly what purpose all these interlocking parts and planes and plates have, or do they just make 'em up as they go along. This one here has got a bit of "Warhammer 40K" influence on it, with the ribbons and the winged insignia. I still think these would be a little impractical in a real war, but what do I know about real warfare? Nothing. 

Ink and greyscale markers on sketchbook page, 3 1/2" x 3 1/2", October 18, 2013.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Chardonnay wine sign

White wine, please. This is one of my current series of "Dream Vineyards" wine boards for Trader Joe's. The lettering is done by hand, so it doesn't have the perfection of a typeset or computer text. The "Dream Vineyards" have been quite a job, especially since they were done during a major renovation of the store's interior. Now they can go up in the renovated wine department and look warm and dreamy. I will guide the tired and overworked wine customers to their virtual place of pastoral peace, just as I hope to with my upcoming vineyard picture book.

Acrylic and acrylic markers on Masonite, about 18" x  8", September-October 2013.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Darkover: The Ways of Avarra

And now we return to the forgotten realm of Darkover fan fiction and art. Long ago, it was a thriving cottage industry and I did dozens of illustrations for these publications. This one illustrates a story by the equally forgotten author Patricia G. Cirone. Darkover, Marion Zimmer Bradley's  world of the Red Sun, had many native sentient races, both humanoid and non-humanoid. The human colonists, in a familiar story, subjugated most of them and turned them into servants. The girl in the picture belongs to one of these races. She works in a pharmacy or botanica and is a secret devotee of Avarra, the Darkovan native Goddess of Darkness. It doesn't sound like it will end well. Somewhere in my archives I still have all the zines I illustrated, including this one.

A Blognote: Patricia B. Cirone (not Patricia G. Cirone as I put on the title page) is still active as a writer and was last published, in a "Sword and Sorceress" anthology, as late as 2012.

Original illustration is ink on illustration board, about 8" x 10", January 1987.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Wine Book Just About Done

Have a sip of virtual wine! My wine art book is just about done. I have created title page and picture contents and pattern pages that don't have an artwork on them, to serve as back pages and in-between pages. I don't have a traditional table of contents, you just leaf through  the book any old way you want. I've written my texts, trying to keep it as simple and short as possible. And then there's this pic: "About the Author." This was taken at Winding Road Cellars a few weeks ago. I look quite jolly which is the result of my imbibing the contents of the wine glass you see there. 

Soon I will be sending the digital files off to a printer who specializes in art books. I haven't decided how many to print yet. A lot of people want them and I also hope to market them at other wineries, wine shops, inns, and a few restaurants. There's lots more to do. 

Yes, it's a photograph. Have another tipple.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Karrakaz and Vazkor

Ya gotta love Tanith Lee. Or what she wrote back in the '70s. This charming couple is the alien masked "goddess" (whose name is revealed to be "Karrakaz") from "The Birthgrave," paired with her Conan the Barbarian lookalike lover, Vazkor. I love those names. It's not Jake and Sophie, or Fred and Ethel. I had a great time depicting their jewelry. The guy's face and hairdo was borrowed from a comic book version of Conan the Barbarian. There's a little shining star with a trail in the upper half of the picture. That's a spaceship which is orbiting this barbaric planet observing the benighted inhabitants. Another great thing about Tanith Lee, she didn't worry about crossing genres. 

Man, I wish I did stuff like this nowadays. Barbarians and fantasy women with bloody knives and elaborate gold jewelry. Orientalist cities in the sunset. Maybe I have more, uh, good taste now? 

"Karrakaz and Vazkor" is acrylic on illustration board, 11" x 18", February 1981. Klikonthepic for a larger view.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Warhammer Mecha

The world of Warhammer 40K is filled with fantastic mechanical contraptions including giant battle robots, or "mecha." Some of these are true robots, entirely machines, but more commonly, there's a person or a team of people inside it directing it. The cockpit of the humanoid battle robot is where the head would be. Here's a quick sketch of something inspired by my recent reading of a Warhammer novelization. The black area at its "head" is the cockpit where the "rider" or robot commander sits. 

Warfare in Warhammer-land is not much like warfare as we know it here. Giant battle robots can do a whole lot of damage but could be brought down by one well-placed air strike, let alone a couple of missiles using 40K's advanced technology. But giant battle robots are cool and fun to play with. It is still...only a game.

Warhammer battle mecha sketch is pen and ink with brush marker on sketchbook page, about 4" x 5", October 13, 2013.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Cardinal in the Chapel

Cardinal Giovanni Aniello Andreas Acquaviva was born in 1908 in Cremona, Italia, though his father was actually from Napoli and his mother from Florence. The family was of minor nobility with a title of Count. Giovanni Aniello grew up in his mother's mansion in Florence. His father, Gianbattista, was an architect who designed mostly residences for aristocratic and high-placed patrons, though some commercial buildings of his survive. Gianbattista was closely connected with the Fascist government of Mussolini. There is a persistent rumor that young Aniello was actually the natural son of famous Italian writer Gabriele D'Annunzio, who had a brief affair with Aniello's mother. 

Aniello originally intended to pursue an academic career in Italian literature, aesthetics, and art history, but at some point decided to go into Church service instead. He wanted to be a Dominican but was convinced by his family not to be a penniless mendicant but a secular priest in order to handle family finances. Aniello continued his academic career as a priest but also was recruited as a diplomat, eventually studying at the Vatican's diplomatic school in Rome.

Over the years he was posted to many countries where the Vatican either had a diplomatic mission or had ambitions to increase the influence of the Catholic Church. After World War II and the fall of Fascism, Aniello's architect father fled the anti-Fascists and Allies and took refuge with Francisco Franco and his regime in Spain. 

Aniello was posted to Japan in the 1960s where he became a devotee of Japanese culture and learned the language. In the mid-1960s he became the Apostolic Nuncio (Vatican ambassador) to Spain, where his father's many contacts in the Franco government were very useful. After a term of office as Nuncio, Aniello returned to Rome where he was placed in the Roman Curia. Since ex Spanish Nuncios are usually elevated to the rank of Cardinal, Aniello was created Cardinal in 1969.

I met Cardinal Acquaviva in 1971 at the American Academy in Rome, where he had been invited by the Director to give a lecture on the aesthetic and atheistic/Catholic philosophy of American George Santayana. In those days I was already seriously interested in the Catholic Church and had done a lot of study and drawing on Catholic subjects, using the library of the American Academy, where I was living with my parents. The Cardinal became a symbol of my Catholic quest, which naturally he encouraged. 

I did this drawing in his honor. The Cardinal beckons the viewer into an elaborate small chapel. The Cardinal's name and the date (1971), along with a theme-word ("Harmonia") are inscribed on the pediment and the Cardinal's red, black, and green coat-of-arms appears in the center, surmounted by a symbolic Cardinal's hat.

The drawing is done all in pen work with colored inks. In those days (I was 18) I had a lot more time on my hands. The drawing has faded a lot from those days but the magic of Photoshop has retrieved some of it.

Read all this so far? Sounds real doesn't it...But "Cardinal Acquaviva" is a FICTIONAL CHARACTER and I made all of this up. The only thing "real" about it is my affiliation with the Catholic Church, and this little drawing which had languished in a dust-covered frame in my mother's house for more than 40 years. 

"Cardinal Acquaviva in the Chapel" is inks on Canson paper, 8" x 12", 1971. Click on the image to see my obsessive pen work.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Tanith Lee Goddess at Court

More Tanith Lee. This one's from her epic fantasy "The Birthgrave." The heroine of the story wanders around her primitive fantasy planet with a mask on because she is really an alien with amnesia and her face doesn't look human enough to pass for human, so she has to keep the mask on even if she doesn't remember why. This "big scene" (on a little panel) depicts the heroine received as a Goddess by a royal court somewhere. The setting is taken wholesale from Piranesi with only a few things changed to match the book's details. The Goddess is the tiny figure in light green at the top of the stairs in the center. Click on the pic to see more detail. 

Ink and watercolor on illustration board, 8" x 11", Spring 1981.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

World of Warhammer: Mars

I am a big "Warhammer 40,000" fan. I'm also a big worldbuilding fan. I don't play the "40K" tabletop game or videogame, but I read a lot of the novelization books and the worldbuilding in the game manuals. I have written before about what appeals to me in this very elaborate built world: the historical tropes and references to the Later Roman and Byzantine empires, the richness of symbolism, the alchemical and occult themes, and the lavish visual descriptions of battles, armor, spaceships, creatures, and especially cities and other built environments.

This Photoshop doodle (despite its defined look, it is only a sketch) depicts a scene in the industrial complexes of Mars, where the Red Planet is nearly totally covered with mines, factories, transportation, worker cities, etc. As usual with any Warhammer city, it is always destroyed by endless warfare by the end of the book. That's another thing I like about the Warhammer 40K world: its pessimism. Warhammer was originally created by a team of British and Scottish game makers and it is pervaded by the unrelenting theme of an ancient once-glorious Empire disintegrating into apocalyptic destruction. I am told that the tabletop game is popular among our American troops stationed in Afghanistan.

"Industrial Complex of Mars" is Photoshop, 7" x 10", October 2013.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Small wine logo

I created this small wine logo in a few minutes, to use as a spot illustration in my upcoming winery picture book. I drew it with a new Pentel Stylo sketching pen, which has a slightly flexible plastic nib that simulates an old-fashioned fountain or dip pen. The wine is a Trader Joe's Chilean Chardonnay, which I decided looked better in red. Wine experts will immediately recognize this color as false since red wine is not usually bottled in this shape of bottle.

I won't have any color on it when I incorporate it into the book. Another wine expert might question whether the amount of wine in the glass matches the amount of wine missing from the bottle.

Pentel Stylo ink on Bristol board, about 4" x 4", October 8, 2013. Color added in Photowineshop.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tanith Lee romance cover pastiche

I copied a romance novel cover for this one, adding elements from the Tanith Lee fantasy to make it illustrate the book. These are characters from Lee's "The Storm Lord." Note that even in the 1970s when the book was written, the template for the Fantasy Woman is already buxom and red-haired. Repeat after Lee and me: Buxom and red-haired. This type of art is called a "pastiche." "Pastiche" is an artwork which openly copies the style and subject of another artwork from a different period or genre. So there you go. I still have this book somewhere on my shelves, all covered with dust. Tanith Lee rocked. I wish she was still writing stuff like this. Maybe she is. I suppose I could look. You never get enough buxom red-haired babes or many-armed snake goddesses.

Acrylic on Strathmore illustration board, 5" x 8", February 1986.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Dragon Lord of Dorthar

This costume portrait illustrates a character from Tanith Lee's "The Storm Lord." Tanith Lee in the 1970s wrote juicy, description-filled fantasy tales of conventional ancient-world battles and intrigues. This suit of elaborate parade armor belongs to a disguised prince who must fight his way to the throne which is rightfully his. 

I designed this to be fantastical but I was hugely impressed to see that someone had created a similar design as a wearable costume. This happened in 1987 when the late great costuming genius Adrian Butterfield presented her "Elric of Melnibone" parade armor costume at the Brighton Worldcon that year. I was able to inspect the outfit at close distance including the scale-mail made out of plastic chips. This was not inspired by this drawing of mine, it was far better than I could have done.

"Dragon Lord of Dorthar" is ink and watercolor on illustration board, about 9" x 14", November 1985. Clikonthepic for a larger view.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Winding Road Wine Flowers

My wine destination this Saturday, "Winding Road Cellars," is only a month or so old, though their preparations and vineyards have been going on for years. Their beautiful new wine lodge is painted in a wine-dark red and the flowers on their porch are also in winey purple colors. This is a family-run place, as are most of Virginia's wineries, and they make you feel at home. The wine list was good, especially their Chambourcin. I sat on the porch with my art stuff and attracted a lot of attention from wine-sippers. I definitely want to go back to this place which is a haven of agricultural peacefulness. 

Brown technical pen and colored pencils on sketchbook page, 8" x 10", October 5, 2013. Click on the image for a larger version.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Old Fords

Back at "First Friday" with the vintage cars. I set up some portable tables showing prints and cards, and I draw in my sketchbook whatever I see. The cars of interest on Friday were this curvy, plump 1949 Ford and a much-loved 1965 Mustang. The 1949 vehicle was painted a rich winey shade of red. The weather was summerlike and warm although it is really October with autumn leaves and all. This is the last outdoor First Friday and for the next season it will be held indoors without the cars, until May when it goes outside again.

Pitt black technical pen on Moleskine page, 5" x 8", October 4, 2013.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Santa Fosca Temple

This handsome piece of medieval architecture is the Santa Fosca chapel on the island of Torcello, near Venice, Italy. It's octagonal with a central conical dome and four upper-story skylights. I copied this out of a beautifully printed book of photographs of European antiquities that I found in my parents' house. Sometime when I have time I will make an artistic adaptation and turn this into an occult temple worthy of the magical Deryni of Katherine Kurtz. 

Ink and marker on sketchbook page, about  4 1/2" x 4 1/2", September 2013.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Try Me Monster

Try me, why don't you...No risk involved! The colorful sticker comes from the packaging of a flashlight that I recently bought. You could see the light go on before you bought it. Once you brought it home, you discarded the "try me" function and the light would then stay on rather than going off in a few seconds. But will a few shiny LED's keep away the encroaching autumnal darkness? Is the monster lurking just beyond your bedroom window? Are your batteries in good shape? Anything in the mildest household has its dark side, if you are of a certain anxious temperament.

"Try me" is about 4" x 3", tech pen on sketchbook page, September 2013.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Back from Massachusetts

I'm back from my old home state, after a very stressful week. The memorial concert for my father went very well. I have never seen so many of my cousins in one place. I revisited the places where I made electronic music with my father, and even saw the Buchla synthesizer that I used, which is still working and in use forty years later.

I didn't get to draw very much but I managed to do this one while on a trip to downtown Natick for family finances at the bank. I was rather uncomfortably balanced in the driver's seat of my car while parked in the bank's back lot. These rather Germanic structures are on the main street in Natick. The tower and arched windows are the old firehouse and firehouse tower, which is now used as an arts and performance center. Many years ago, when the place was still a firehouse, I was told that the tower was a practical necessity because wet fire hoses were hung vertically in the tower to dry after use on a fire. 

Massachusetts has a lot of attractive vernacular architecture especially wood-frame houses with porches which I always love. Since Natick is not on the ocean, we are spared the obligatory lighthouse which defines New England art. 

Pitt black ink technical pen on Moleskine page, 4" x 5", September 27, 2013.