Monday, March 31, 2014

The Athanor

What if alchemy actually worked, and you could scale up the process to make gold on an industrial level? This piece is about that idea. It depicts an "athanor," an alchemical furnace, built not for a Renaissance-era underground studio but a tall, industrial-size mill. I borrowed shapes and images from 20th century steel mills to build this, and added the alchemical upgrades. The golden sphere at the upper right is filled with particles of gold, which become "seeds" in the gold-making process and transform the base material into gold, multiplying the amount. The little green flare at the top is where a tiny bit of Philosopher's Stone is located, catalyzing the whole process. The birds flying about the furnace symbolize volatile gases given off by the apparatus. Even alchemical industry can cause pollution. 

The style of this piece is imitated from two of my favorite science fiction artists, the obscure and seriously under-rated Paul Alexander, and John Berkey, whose influence still dominates in illustrations of spaceships and "megastructures."

"The Athanor" is acrylic on illustration board, 9" x 12", February 1993. Click for larger view.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


I haven't done one of these in a while, so here it is. The original is on my sketchbook journal page, with empty space to put daily entries. I moved the red triangle by the magic of Photoshop so that I could put the elements together in one area. The design of these geometric pieces is improvised at first using only black lines and rulers and curve tools, and then I add the rest of it in, using a special algorithm I devised for geometric abstractions. Then I add the colors. I could paint more of these as "fine art" paintings if anyone were interested in buying them, but so far, only a very few people have bought any of my geometrics. I am not a very nice or inspired or "passionate" artist, I only want to show pictures that someone will buy. Otherwise it's a By-Product. 

Markers on sketchbook page, about 8" x 4 1/2", March 29, 2014.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Domes of Fire detail

I used to get commissions from collectors for large pieces. Many of these large pieces were my cityscapes filled with a mad amount of detail. They took me months to do, painted in acrylic using teeny weeny brushes. I did four of them during the 1990s and this is an excerpt from the third of the four, "Domes of Fire." "Domes" was based on a series called the "Tamuli" by David Eddings, the same guy who brought you Belgarath, Garion, Ce'Nedra, Barak, and all those other traditional fantasy players. In "Domes" you get to see another world (or another part of that same world) and travel to Fabulous Cathay where the capital city, Matherion, is coated with iridescent shell and mosaic fragments. My picture depicted the arrival of the Western Queen and her entourage at the domed city. This excerpt shows the Imperial Palace, all done in lustrous blue. This was quite a job I'll tell you. 

"Domes of Fire" is acrylic on Masonite, 30" x 20", spring and summer 1998. This is a repeat appearance of "Domes." I last featured it in 2010. Clickonthepic for a larger view.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Moorish Column

In the 19th century, "fine" artists produced fantasy art and mythic illustrations which nowadays would be confined to the commercial world. Then there were artists who managed to do well in both worlds. Gustave Dore' was one of them. He was hugely successful in his time. His work illustrating famous poems and national epics is still popular. The 19th century was also the time of "orientalism," where art from colonized "oriental" lands and peoples influenced European artists. This golden column detail is an example of that trend. It is "Moorish" in design but not authentically so; it is used as a fantasy backdrop. I borrowed it from a black and white engraved Dore' illustration of the Italian Renaissance epic "Orlando Furioso." I don't think he'd mind.

Ink and markers on sketchbook page, 3" x 6 1/2", March 28, 2014.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

"Silk," from Eddings

Among the archetypes that populate Eddings' series is this one, the Thief. In Eddings, he is nicknamed "Silk," and he is a renegade prince of one of the many kingdoms in that world. The Thief is always short and very athletic, able to climb buildings and enter upper story windows, or able to leap between rooftops and evade pursuers by hiding in small spaces. He knows lots of secrets and isn't afraid of anything. He is often paired with the Big Red-Bearded Guy such as in the famous pair "Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser" created by Fritz Leiber. (The Grey Mouser being the Thief character.) Even though stealing is a crime, this character is almost never really bad. In fact the Thief is often one of the most sympathetic of all the characters in the story. He often saves the day with his daggers when the big swordsmen or axemen fail. But he never gets the girl. In Eddings, "Silk" is forever in love with a married and unattainable princess.

Colored pencil and some ink on Bristol board, 8" x 10", November 1992.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mnadis, once more

I think I'm finally getting somewhere with my fantasy pin-up character portraits. This is another rendering of Lin Carter's Iridar character Mnadis, who accompanies the nefarious Sarkond the Enchanter. Mnadis, with her golden tan skin and blazing red hair (natural, of course, color required by fantasy formula) entered the story as a slave and exotic dancer owned by Sarkond, and later takes on magical powers of her own when she joins forces with a Dark Power. Her life story as she tells it is rather sad, and realistic too, as she was sold to Sarkond by her impoverished father to get money for the family. In the story she is probably not much older than twenty, if she is that old at all. Of course she comes to a bad end, her short life cut off by the good guys' sword, but I guess that's the risk when you sell out to the Dark Side. Still, Mnadis is one of the more sympathetic characters in the book, and I have more sympathy for fictional characters than I do for real people. 

My Photoshoppery rendering flesh and face and costume is getting better, I think. It took many days to do this. As for the figure, I will confess that I TRACED it from a swimsuit model, who is probably much slimmer than the character herself. I know, live models are best and freehand is more skillful, but I just couldn't get the figure right until I cheated. I suspect that there is a lot of this drawing skullduggery going on in the fantasy art and graphics world. I borrowed some of the skimpy costuming from bellydance costumes, though the dance stuff is much more substantial and there is more hanging beadwork. There are plenty of glitter bikinis out there, real ones worn by real burlesque babes and exotic dancers. My top ambition this year is to depict BEAUTIIFUL women. Not "character" or "interesting" or portraits of real women, but conventionally gorgeous sexy women with beautiful faces.

I will not rest, you understand. I could now depict the other members of our familiar Iridar crew with Photoshop, or I could move on to other, more modern fantasy venues where every character is unsympathetic. 

Mnadis is direct-to-digital Photoshop drawing, rendered in color, about 6" x 9", March 2014. Click on the image to see a closer view.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

We Tried It, We Liked It

I've been working on this one for Trader Joe's for some time. It is a mural which goes up near the ceiling above the manager's desk. It explains TJ's return policy. Most of the time, the returns are legitimate and people don't try to take advantage of it. The setting of the text is the futuristic, spectacular, and as yet unopened elevated railway going through and over Tysons Corner, Virginia, which is quickly transforming into a high-rise city. All our large graphics and wall decorations are supposed to have references to local scenery, history, and events, so I picked the most futuristic local scene, in fact something which has yet to be used. My lettering is inspired by the famous perspective "crawl text" at the beginning of "Star Wars." 

And out there in Tysonia, the grandiose pylons and swooping railway stand empty over the car-choked street below, like some sort of surrealistic urban temple, or the mysterious remains of a prehistoric stonehenge.

Original art is acrylic spray paint and markers on Masonite boards, 8 feet by about 30 inches, 2 panels fit together.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Barak, from Eddings

You've seen this guy before, in my illustrations for "The Flame of Iridar," where he shows up as "Bram," the hero's friend and mentor. Bram/Barak/Big Bob has nothing to do with another "Barack." But when it comes to fighting with the axe and the longsword, Barak is your man. He comes from a pseudo-Viking background where he is a nobleman, so to speak. In the Eddings tale he also has the option to go "berserk" and turn into a bear, and in this animal state he at one point saves the young king's life. 

In Eddings' "Belgariad" series and its sequel, the Prophecy (required in epic fantasy, please fill out all the asterisked spaces) specifies a set of archetypal characters which must come together to fulfill its needs. By the time you get into the second Belgariad series the number of required characters, each with an epithet, runs into the double digits. I was going to do a portrait for each one of them, but I ran out of time. 

This image was borrowed from an old pirate movie, there's no penalty for lifting images from older media as long as you change enough to make it your own work.

"Barak, the Dreadful Bear" is colored pencil and a bit of ink on Bristol board, 7 1/2" x 10", February 1993.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Fox Meadow blue hills

Fox Meadow Winery in Linden, Virginia is high up on a hill so you can see a beautiful panorama in any season. This "Wine Saturday" brought me and my friends back to Fox Meadow for the first outdoor sip of the year. It was actually sunny and not freezing cold. We sat at a table on the deck and sipped a delicious red blend while munching cheese and French bread. I broke out the iPad and managed to get this landscape sketched. The only trouble with good weather and iPaddery is that the sun and the sky reflect so brightly off the screen that you can't see what you are drawing. Some plein-iPad artists who work outdoors with it use a box, they just put the iPad inside a simple cardboard box to shield it from the light and keep it visible. I may try that. I did some color and texture corrections on the iPad when I got home. 

"Art Studio" on iPad, about 10" x 7", March 22, 2014.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Coffee Wyrm

There comes a time when you may have had too much coffee. That's when the Wyrm emerges from the Brew and stares at you. You are trying to be Productive, but things are not going well. You think of going back to the office urn and getting those charred dregs at the bottom of the pot but that is not a good idea. Do not summon the Wyrm from the Urn. Are you productive yet? Are you passionate? Are you transparent? Are you committed to excellence? Do you lean in? The Wyrm is watching. Don't let this happen to you.

Pitt black technical pen on sketchbook page, 5 1/2" x 5", March 22, 2014.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Pin-up Cringe

I just didn't know how it was going to turn out, it's another female nude art experiment. She looks like she is cringing from some bizarre or shocking weight loss trick. Or perhaps she learned the secret about Michelle Obama the liberal press is keeping from us. I have probably eaten too many acai berries. I'm still trying to depict female figures. I think the ink cross hatching was a bad idea. Where is my new sketch book? Why am I posting at this odd hour? I shouldn't be awake, or I should be just getting up. My productivity needs work. A hot career in health care or accounting awaits me, I need a degree from Internet U. More female nudes! Someday I'll get one right.

Ink on sketchbook page, colored in Photoshop, 4 1/2" x 4", March 21, 2014. Model really in that position from "Art Models 5" photo resource book.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Seedy Wizard and State of the Art

Belgarath the Sorcerer, in Eddings' series "The Belgariad," was the greatest sorcerer of the world disguised as a seedy, prank-loving old man. He drank too much, wore ragged, dirty clothes, and never showed his true nature until he absolutely had to. He was the keeper and mentor of Garion, the under-age king who had been hidden among the common folk until he reached maturity. The young man had to undergo many ordeals and find a world-famous magic talisman, and he had to work as a stock boy in a grocery store….oops, that part didn't happen, but you get my drift. 

This portrait of Belgarath is one of a series of Eddings character portraits I did many years ago. Each character is traceable as a common role in Diana Wynne Jones' "Tough Guide to Fantasyland." 

March 19th is a "blogiversary" for "Art By-Products." Believe it or not, this blog has been going more or less every day for six years! My art work is quite different from what it was in the 1990s when I did these Eddings character portraits. Since then, a huge revolution has taken place in the fantasy art world in which digital painting is now dominant. I am currently trying, with varying success, to learn digital painting, and some of my experiments and training pieces show up on this Blog. I have not given up my ambition to show work in exhibitions and sell work both to private collectors and to publishers. But the market is quite different, and my day job keeps me from committing a lot of time to illustrative work. I also branched out into pastoral and wine-related art rather than traditional fantasy, resulting in my art book "The Earthly Paradise," which has sold well as a collector's item. 

My first loves in art remain as they always have been for me: epic fantasy with wizards, dragons, young kings, beautiful maidens, wicked sorcerers, Space Marines, and fantastic creatures and environments, AND comic books. You have not seen much of my sequential art here because I don't have the time to make it right now but I have not given up on it. In fact my ink-and-marker style which I have been using on "Iridar" is an experiment that might lead to more sequential art and graphics in the future.

Meanwhile I'll keep publishing this despite having only about 10 regular readers. It will continue to be a mix of vintage art and freshly made art. If I run out of vintage art, I may have to change the schedule of how often I post here. I would like to maintain the every day offering though as it  keeps my hand in the work while I put in the time at the day job. So thanks to my little blog-reading circle for your friendship. And happy first day of Spring, NoRuz to my Persian friends, and Bach's Birthday to my musician friends. Stay tuned to this blog for quality art and art by-products.

Belgarath portrait is colored pencil on Bristol board, 7" x 10", spring 1993.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Shocking weird Obama weight loss scandal

Well that ought to get your attention plus get myself a couple of more views through Search Engine Optimization. By the way, your Nigerian uncle has just discovered a fifty million dollar account hidden away in a Swiss bank and all you need to do to claim it is take care of a few little fees. Do you need to lose weight? This weird old trick will help take those pounds off. My herbal formula will add inches to your Johnson, even if you are a female. Dr. Oz agrees! This is the formula the American Medical Association doesn't want you to see. Listen to these heartwarming dating tricks! You won't believe what this puppy and kitten do next. Visit the magical city of Iophar for the time of your life. 

Photoshop, 7" x 10", March Madness 2014.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Sarkond's Flying Ship

The savage world of Iridar has no modern technology as we know it. You don't see barbarian warriors checking their smartphones nor do you see hospitable courtesans warming up snacks in a microwave oven. But there is magic, which works by its own laws and gets things done. Sarkond the Enchanter wasn't the most pleasant person, but he was a great magical technologist. This floating airship was one of the most outstanding of his achievements. Sarkond frees the hero Chandar and his burly mentor companion Bram from prison and transports them on the airship to the ice wall surrounding the city of Iophar, where he plans to use the powers of Chandar's magical axe to chop through the barrier. 

The ship doesn't fly very high; as described in the book it floats over the sea or ground at about no more than a hundred feet. The green color around the hull is a sign of its mag-lev (magical levitation) technology. While its levitation is magical, it sails like a regular ship, using wind to propel it. In my conception, the sea-going ship is equipped with magical artificial bat-wings along its hull, which serve as steering and possibly extra speed when needed. The ship can withdraw the bat-wings into the hull and seal the entrances if it wants to float on the water like a conventional ship. Sarkond and his belly-dancing companion Mnadis occupy the captain's quarters which you can see at the stern of the ship. This amazing craft, alas, was destroyed when the ice walls crushed it.

Pitt technical pen in black ink with marker colors on sketchbook page, 6" x 5 1/2", March 17-18, 2014. I used a drawing reference for the ship from the excellent volume "The Book of Old Ships," by Henry B. Culver, illustrations by Gordon Grant.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Stylized Snow 1981

My illustrations and art and even sketches are full of detail and complexity. The clients and onlookers like it and I feel that I am giving them their money's worth if they see that a lot of work was done. But if it's just a sketchy panel in a notebook journal, I can do whatever I want, because no one will ever see it…until now. In early December of 1981 I was at my parents' house and there was a large snowstorm, which was unusual even for New England in December. (Most of the snow falls in January and February.) After the storm it was bright and clear with a brilliant blue sky, which inspired this abstract and simplified little scene. The tree branches are weighed down and the neighbor's house, in the background, is under a white blanket. I simplified everything in a line drawing with grey ink, then colored it in with watercolor with minimal texture. I'd never present this as a finished piece, but it's interesting as a concept.

Here in the DC area there has been yet another snowfall, just before spring, and so the winter without end continues. 

Grey ink and watercolor on sketchbook page, 8" x 3 1/2", December 6, 1981.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Starbucks sketches

I go there almost every day, but I haven't drawn anything there for quite a while. Here's some Starbucks action, little detail sketches scattered onto the page without any single unifying reference. A couple of girls sharing pictures on their smartphones, a bored customer waiting for a coffee drink, baskets of coffee, and three neatly lined-up canisters of milk or cream. In the center floats a decorative coffee cup. That's my world, folks.

Pitt black technical pen on sketchbook page, about 5" x  8", March 15, 2014. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Aspen Dale Cozy Tasting Room

Aspen Dale Winery in Delaplane, Virginia wins my prize for "Most Picturesque" of the wineries I frequent. Of course the wine is good, too! I did this ink drawing while sipping one of their excellent red blends. The wine lodge is filled with cozy corners and inviting areas, including the (gas) fireplace you see here. The lodge is also adorned with lots of antiques or near-antiques. I love the different weathered wood and stone textures in the rooms, too. 

This is the last drawing on the last page in my big color sketchbook (started in 2006) which contains all my wine and landscape color drawings. Soon I will ceremonially start a new sketchbook and I hope that I can keep it going for many more years.

Pitt sepia technical pen ink on sketchbook page, about 8" x 8", March 14, 2014. Tone added in Photoshop. Click on the image for a larger view.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Ce'Nedra, from Eddings

Ce'Nedra, one of the main list of characters in Eddings' series "The Belgariad," is a Dryad, a tree nymph, and she's also a Princess, spoiled and rebellious, who doesn't yet know her role in the Prophecy (standard fantasy business, there has to be a prophetic text). She is a sexy teen queen who is destined to pair up with our youthful hero-boy. Of course she has flame-red hair as you remember "IFRR", "In Fantasy, Redheads Rule." Every fantasy story has at least one redheaded person in it. (Just think of J.K. Rowling's entire Weasley family.) Fantasy redheads are all natural and bright ("bright-haired" is a standard fantasy epithet), Gods forbid anyone should use hair dye. Ce'Nedra eventually puts on armor and leads an army into battle, though she doesn't actually fight by herself. 

In order to fully appreciate the work of Eddings and just about anyone else's fantasy stories, you are invited and in fact implored to acquire and read THE TOUGH GUIDE TO FANTASYLAND by the late Diana Wynne Jones. I helped her write it and she dedicated the first edition to me. If you are a fantasy fan, or even a fantasy author, you will spend hours laughing your bright-haired (or bald) head off. Highly recommended. 

Ce'Nedra portrait is colored pencil on Bristol board, 7" x 10", spring 1993.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Cambridge 1987 marker drawing

I have been drawing with markers for most of my artistic life. I am always looking for new developments in art marker technology. When art markers first were invented, they were mostly in basic colors such as crayons might have, with no pastel shades or earth tones. By the 70s and 80s marker sets were made with a wider range of colors and marketed to people in the advertising business. You may remember my menu cards for Paco's Tacos which were done in 1979-1980. The markers I used, made by Pantone, included a wide array of more lifelike colors in lighter and more neutralized colors including greyscale. I recently found in my collection three of these old markers from 1979, that is, 35 years ago, and two of them were still usable! 

Later sets of markers were water-based, rather than alcohol or more toxic xylene based. Water-based markers are safer to use but do not blend or cover as nicely as the alcohol based ones. In the late 80s I invested in a big set of professional-grade markers called "StabiLayout," and I did a lot of on-site sketching with them. This is one sketch I did using them. They had the lighter colors and shades of brown and warm grey. This is the house across the street from where I lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I loved the way the late winter sunlight fell across the porch and the round turret to the right behind the tree. These markers had only chisel points, rather than the brush tips now available on the best markers.

Nowadays there are loads of markers  which have a great variety of colors and can be bought individually rather than in just the crayon colors. I continue to collect as many of the lighter colors as I can afford and hope to do some on-site sketching if it ever gets warm outside.

Marker sketch is 6 1/2" x 9" on sketchbook page, March 10, 1987.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Durnik the Smith, from Eddings

During the 1980s and 1990s the late author David Eddings wrote many series of entertaining fantasy books. The "Belgariad," one of his earlier sets, became quite popular and much art was created illustrating it, including my art. You've been seeing my current character portraits for "Iridar" but I've been doing character portraits all my life. This one, of the brave and good-natured blacksmith Durnik, is from the "Belgariad" which features, like so many texts of this kind, a line-up of stock fantasy characters who all must search for magical talismans, use magic wisely, and defeat evil characters. Eddings' work is somewhat dated ("Young king hidden among peasants") and possibly culturally insensitive in his portrayal of "Oriental"  and "African" characters and cultures. Nevertheless people still read them. It wouldn't be my first choice to re-read Eddings, although I compiled extensive notes on the books when I read them 20 (!) years ago.

Durnik the smith is colored pencil on Bristol board, 7" x 10", April 1993.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Another View of Iophar

Back in Iophar, the city of Magic from Lin Carter's "Iridar." If only Lin Carter were still alive, he'd be writing more heroic fantasy for me to depict. I miniaturized my "fantastic city" scene to fit Carter's description. That seems to be the only way I am making any art at all, to make it tiny. This one follows the heroic fantasy city specifications: towering spires of crystal, domes and walkways, palaces and temples, with open forums and squares and parks and lawns and statuary. In the background you can see the tall barrier of the wall of magical ice that protects the city from invaders. I did not depict the densely packed slum dwellings of the servant and artisan classes of this city. I'm using my fresh new markers on this one but I'd like to try something like it in Photoshop too.

Technical pens and markers on sketchbook page, about 7 1/3" x 3 1/2", March 10, 2014. Click for larger view.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Fantasy Synagogue

One of the great discoveries of the Renaissance was artistic perspective. Ancient artists used a kind of perspective but the lines did not converge, they were parallel so the illusion of reality was not complete. Renaissance perspective used the same "vanishing points" that architectural and computer graphics do nowadays. In order to demonstrate the magic of perspective, Renaissance artists would create imaginary cityscapes full of angles and towers and open squares and palaces. Some of these scenes inspired, or were inspired by, real architecture. This tiny scene shows one of those perspective-driven cityscapes, including a domed religious building whose Jewish-star upper windows reveal that it is a synagogue. Perspective, like science, works no matter what religion you believe in, or don't believe in.

Brown ink in technical pen on sketchbook page, 6 1/2" x 3 1/4", February 1977. Heavily restored in Photoshop. Click for larger view.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Cactus Re-Pot

It's that time of year again, time to re-pot the cacti which have been sitting indoors under artificial light for months. They grow, slowly, and get too big for their tiny pots. In the springtime, should springtime ever arrive, the cacti will go out onto the terrace. Usually the plants survive the re-pot job. I grow cacti and succulents because they are the plants that are adapted to the desert-like dryness of my apartment. I haven't had a real dirt garden in decades, I'm sorry to say. I made a drawing of the re-potted cacti to document the work. The one in the back is possibly some kind of Echinocereus, and the one in front with all the little offshoots is a Mammillaria Prolifera. It has been blooming for many weeks and you can just see a little flower at the top right of the plant. I acquired this as a single broken-off offshoot from a friend many years ago. 

Pitt technical pen on sketchbook page, about 4" x 7", March 8, 2014.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Late Winter Skies

I treated myself to a batch of new markers in sky and earth colors, as well as a caddy to carry them in. This caddy can hold more than 100 markers and I have far more than that. I could fill 3 of them, no problem. Right now I loaded the one I have with pale blue, more than fifty shades of grey, and many gold-tinged markers. I took the markers for a spin on the night of March 7, doing this little land and skyscape from memory. If summer ever comes, I could get another caddy box and load it with forty or more shades of green, whether vinery or Irish. Of course these boxes are big and heavy so I can't just take them with me to sit in the wine garden. But I could stock them in my car for "plein-tailgate" art sessions. I can't keep the markers in my car all the time because heat will damage them or dry them up. Also, marker colors fade so I would not be able to treat marker sketches like "real art." I would scan any marker sketch I liked to unfading digital format.

Evening clouds and sun glow are markers on sketchbook page, about 7" x 5", March 8, 2014.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Chandar and the Axe of Orm

I've been working for days on this thang, and I don't want to work on it any more. It's an attempt to do the heroic warrior portrait in all-digital format. This is Lin Carter's "Chandar" with the grandiose magical Axe of Orm, his kingdom's talisman. I will openly admit that my figure drawing and flesh modeling isn't great, but at least I'm trying. I should have depicted his lower legs, his left leg is actually lunging forward but you can't see that too well here. I also could have spent more time integrating the figure with the background, but I want to move on. This Chandar boy might look a little, uh, un-heroic, but the character is described as youthful and idealistic so he isn't (as yet) a brutal bad-ass like Conan, whom he was designed to physically resemble. Nevertheless Chandar gets his hacks in with that Axe, and gets the teen Queen for his bride. I want to do whole body character studies in digital painting for all of the fantasy cast of Iridar.   

Photoshop, 7" x 10", February-March 2014. Click on the pic to view larger.

Thursday, March 6, 2014


I have been on the Internet since 1993 - more than 20 years. Some of you vast crowd of readers have been on the Internet for longer than that, even 30 years if you count local "bulletin boards." I have also been doing digital art and graphics since 1991, when I got my first computer which was equipped with the CorelDraw graphics program. This illustration was done for a long-forgotten magazine called "Internet World," which as its title describes was for users of that exotic electronic telephone network where you could read each other's postings! The illustration was for an article about libel and gossip on the Net and what the laws were, if there were any. You can see the "flames" arising from the virtual tabloid where various tacky articles appear, as well as an ad for learning computer programming at home. (Which, if I had the time, I would like to do.) The person holding the tabloid is none other than Me, since I was the model for the sleazy reader. Not much has changed. I created the tabloid magazine in CorelDraw, and collaged the printed page into the drawing. Note the crude printing texture, the output of a very early ink-jet printer.

Watercolor and collaged print on illustration board, 6" x 8", August 1993. Some light blue Photoshop restoration in the sky area. Click on the pic to read the gossip.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Elric's mechanical bird

At some point during his adventures with "Stormbringer," Elric rides on a big mechanical bird. This long-forgotten drawing is my attempt at depicting it. In our world, so far ornithopters have not been big enough to carry the weight of a human rider, but you never know. I recall an attempt with a kind of bending wing glider some years ago. In magical worlds the physics and aerodynamics of such things are different. Elric can be seen, with his demonic sword, riding on the back of the contraption. Later on he also rides on a dragon. The reproduction of this faded drawing is not so good. I added a bit of sky blue before posting it. 1977 was a long time ago.

Ink and watercolor on sketchbook page, 5 1/2"" x 4 1/4", March 1977.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Meliander the exiled counselor

Meliander is another one of the classic characters in the tale of Iridar. He is the elder brother of an evil king, exiled from his rightful kingdom and serving as wise counselor to the youthful Queen of Iophar. He also gets to meet the Flame of Iridar along with his queen, the hero, and the villains. 

I enjoyed creating his costume. At first I figured he would be dressed in a grey wizard's robe and cowl but then I decided that he would be wearing something more like what a courtier from Shiangkor, his old home, would wear. The name "Shiangkor" is cobbled together from "Shia" or "Shangri-la" and "Angkor." I gave him a sort of Central Asian-looking outfit rather than South Asian or Cambodian. Ultimately Meliander and the main characters return to Shiangkor where the hero Chandar puts an end to the evil king.

I enjoy world-building and it is fun to reverse-engineer Lin Carter's sketched-out world. "Iridar" is, according to the author, the planet Mars when it still had oceans and was hospitable to life. Some cataclysmic thing wiped out all the civilizations and life on the planet, or more likely moved it all to Earth, and Mars became the red desert that we know today.

"Meliander" is ink and markers on sketchbook page, 3" x 5", March 3, 2014.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Blue Ape of Zamanga

Back in the savage world of Iridar, this is a creature owned by the nasty enchanter, Sarkond. It's a "Blue Ape of Zamanga" and Sarkond sets it upon our hero Chandar intending to have the animal slay him. Instead, Chandar wounds the ape and Sarkond calls it back. It is a pet of Sarkond's and the Enchanter heals its wounds. Later on, though, Chandar destroys the ape with a mighty blow from his magical axe. 

As described, the Blue Ape is not only blue, a non-mammalian color, but it has the horns of a non-ape species as well as claws which look reptilian. The beast also has green blood, according to the text. The creature has obviously been tampered with, using magical technology. Sarkond must have done many chimeric experiments on the Blue Ape as well as compelling it to do his bidding. The ape, whose name is "Ugor," probably lives a miserable life in captivity, adding to his aggressiveness.

I often sympathize more with the monsters in a tale than with the people. The people, whether good or evil or somewhere in between, often are tasked with slaying some grand or noble beast such as a dragon or a Wyrm or a lake monster like Grendel. Animals are often forced to fight our hero in an arena, where they suffer before the hero vanquishes them. I feel sorry for these beasts who are exploited by mythical humans and most of the time end up dead.

"Blue Ape of Zamanga" is ink on sketchbook page, 3 1/2" x 4", colored in Photoshop, March 2, 2014.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Casanel in Winter

"Wine Saturday" brought me back to Casanel Vineyards, one of the friendliest of all the Virginia vineyards I visit. I showed my "Earthly Paradise" wine picture book to the owners and some customers. Casanel has two pages in my book, one showing a summer scene of their old barn and one of the interior of their tasting room. I sipped Chardonnay from a Casanel glass in their wine cellar downstairs, while drawing a winter scene of woodwork and a leafless vineyard through a large window. Casanel is one of the vineyards I can visit again and again. Their wines are consistently good, the people are great and the landscape is lovely, except in winter when it is muddy.

Pitt technical pen sepia ink, some post-drawing work in Photoshop, March 1, 2014.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Meeting the Flame

Throughout February I've been doing experimental illustrations and character portraits from "The Flame of Iridar," a pulp fantasy text by Lin Carter. I chose it because the characters and backgrounds are so "traditional" and stereotypical. This is a somewhat less stereotypical moment in the story where the characters encounter the "Flame of Iridar." This is a cosmic being of pure energy that has been hiding deep under the City of Magic. The author throws in a bit of cosmological science fiction with this Flame, which was amusing, talking of atoms and subatomic particles in the course of an otherwise ordinary sword and sorcery tale.

I did this in about half an hour on the iPad while in the hair salon getting my hair done, waiting under the dryer dome. It isn't great but it is an attempt. I am not giving up my intention of doing fantasy digital art, though at the moment I am very frustrated with it.

"Art Studio" on iPad, February 28, 2014.