Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Warm Day in December 1984

On December 29, 1984, an odd thing happened in eastern Massachusetts. The usual winter weather was replaced with balmy temperatures in the 70s. Winter turned into early summer, just for one day. The high of 73 degrees that day is still a record. Naturally, I took advantage of this anomaly to go out drawing on the sidewalks again, as I had been doing throughout the year. This is one of the drawings I did on that day. It is an excellent porch (note the wavy shingle work on the lower roof) done in the late afternoon as the sun was setting. The drawing is in a reddish-brown ink which I used in a Rapidograph technical pen. As with most of these color sketches, I added color notes in water-soluble colored pencils and finished the piece in the studio.

Ink and watercolor on sketchbook page, some color restoration in the sky with Photoshop, about 7 1/2" x 9 1/2", December 29, 1984.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Noantri Lantern

This may look a bit Chinese, or more likely Art Nouveau, but it's a ceremonial lantern from my world of the Noantri. These lanterns, in many different shapes and sizes, are used in night festivals and as astral beacons to guide "soul travelers" during the year. The framework is metal, with glass set into it, and it opens at the widest part for re-installation of the psychic (or conventional electric) lighting device. The lanterns can also be adapted for traditional candles and oil lamps. This one is fairly large, about 12 inches high, and would be the heirloom of a family over many generations.

Drawing is technical pen ink on sketchbook page, colored in Photoshop, 4" x 3", December 30, 2014.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Sime-Gen Street Violence

During my association with Sime-Gen fandom I did a number of illustrations for fan-written stories. This is one of them and is also one of my rare attempts at an action scene. In the story the hero, who is homeless and hungry, is caught stealing an apple from one of the vendors at a marketplace. As he is alone and unprotected, a mob of children and teenagers attack him. Their only weapons are pieces of wood or rocks that they pick up. The leader of the children's' gang is a large red-headed girl, who you see in the center. In the Sime-Gen storyline, children are neither Sime nor Gen until they hit puberty and then they either sprout tentacles as a Sime, or become generators of the bioenergy that Simes live on. The young hero, who becomes a Gen, manages to escape.

The Sime-Gen chronology is elaborate, though one group of fans has published a fairly detailed chart of it along with references to works by originator Jacqueline Lichtenberg and her collaborators and fans. As I am very fond of world-building I naturally want to know what happened in the first place to turn humanity into Simes and Gens. According to Lichtenberg, she will not provide an account of the originating events and no one else should, either. No matter what happened, it had to be an enormous catastrophe resulting in the deaths of billions. The world of the earlier chronology is a post-apocalyptic Earth population attempting to adapt into the new human forms, and using what they can salvage from a destroyed past. Interestingly, the later chronology becomes more science-fictional as well as introducing elements of psychic powers, which is one of my favorite fantasy/s.f. themes.

This illustration as well as two others for a short story, were published in a Sime-Gen fan magazine. I still have it somewhere. But Lo! the text is available online if you wish to read it. The author (not Lichtenberg, but a fan writer) bought the whole set for her collection.

Black ink drawing, colored with watercolor on illustration board,  8 1/2" x 6 1/2", December 2000.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Zephaniah Winery Return Visit

A clear winter's day with no rain or snow, and it's time to wine again. Our destination was Zephaniah Farm Vineyard near Leesburg, Virginia, and as before, the wine was excellent and the hospitality warm and inviting. The antique-filled historic house is full of interesting things to draw. This is only one of many draw-able corners. I'll just have to keep visiting to have the opportunity to depict the many Zephaniah rooms.

Brown technical pen ink on sketchbook page, with colored pencil, 6" x 9 1/2", December 27, 2014. Click for larger view.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Holiday Roomscape

If you have a holiday display, you will also have an increase in clutter in your home. Even if your display is a wonder of sweet order, you have not changed the amount of disorder in your dwelling. You have simply moved it somewhere else. All those pretty things need to be protected and kept in boxes, right? Here they are. After decades of storage and removal and re-packing, the boxes look a little worn. But there's always room for more. Remember to save a sample of especially nice wrapping paper or a lavish christmas card. Try to recycle the rest. In the old days when I was growing up, we had a real fireplace that burned wood and paper. We would throw the colorful wrapping paper into the fire and watch as the ink burned in flames of unusual colors: pink, green, blue fire! Some of the ornaments of my childhood holidays are still packed away in a box, waiting until I live in a more spacious place with a real full size tree to adorn. Thinking about that possible future makes me too nervous to even speak so I will stop now.

I hope you all had a good holiday, no matter what you did to celebrate. 

What's in this picture anyway? Ornament box, which also stores the miniature tree. Somewhat twisted plastic clothes rack, with two very fuzzy knitted scarves draped over it. A black seat pillow. A bookcase. On top of the bookcase, a cheesy porcelain "Goddess" statuette and some ceramic cat mini sculptures. Vertical lines drawn with a ruler, so sue me for use of technology.

This is the last drawing in my Moleskine sketchbook. Pages are all occupied now. I will be starting two new sketchbooks for 2015 and I hope I get to fill them up with good and bloggable drawings.

"Roomscape" is technical pen ink on sketchbook page, 5" x 8", December 26, 2014.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Deryni Grail Maiden

This is an experimental piece in which I discarded the usual rectangular border and used picture elements as the edge of the artwork. I started with a pen drawing and then colored it in with watercolor. The character is inspired by the "Deryni" people and medieval world of Katherine Kurtz, who has just released another book installment, "The King's Deryni," after a long wait. This image also recalls the Arthurian legend of the "Grail Maiden." It was a sketch and an experiment to see whether this ink and watercolor style would work for a possible Deryni graphic novel. I did try some graphic illustrated pages but since the plot I was working with no longer exists (and has been re-told in "The King's Deryni") I am no longer doing that project.

Ink and watercolor on Fabriano board, 7" x 10", November 2002.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Cambridge Architectural Details

As you have seen from other architectural drawings I've posted here, Cambridge, Massachusetts is full of beautifully wrought woodwork and house details. This facade has a handsome mansard roof and woodcarved cornices on all the floors. The porch with its archways is especially impressive. I did dozens of studies of these buildings on site but I believe this one was done from a photograph as it is just too precise to be done outdoors sitting on a shaky stool. Also the branches are bare which means the image was taken in wintertime, when it would be too cold to draw outdoors.

The trim was painted a lovely mint green though you can't see it from this image. I rescued this photograph from a very faded poor image in my files. I never get tired of drawing these old houses and I wish more of them had survived in Northern Virginia.

Brown ink and watercolor on illustration board, about 8" x 11", November 1980.

Mildly sorry for the lack of seasonal references and best regards, but I'm just not that into it. Instead, I wish you strength to get through the next three months of winter.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Holiday Barista

In a job where eccentricity is appreciated, barista "Meyer" in my local Peet's Coffee stands out. He is a big, burly blacksmith with a bald head, a beard topiary, and a wild Dali-style "longhorn" mustache. When he is not hammering on the red-hot iron, he is handing out cups of hot coffee. I drew him during my coffee break as he stood behind the bar. This is not a "snapshot" but rather an impression as he moves about a lot. Winter is a good time for coffeehouse drawings as it's too cold and wet outside to do my neighborhood walk.

Pitt technical pen black ink on sketchbook page, 4" x 6", December 23, 2014.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Wavy Toilet Paper

Every so often you find familiar household objects morphing into gargoyle-like forms, most likely in the dark hours of winter solstice nights. A pile of papers takes on a sinister slither. A neglected water glass has specks of doom on its clear flank. Ghostly vermin that are not there crawl in kitchen shadows. And there is no intoxicant involved, simply one's mind getting messed up at the darkest time of year. 

This time it was the toilet paper, which for reasons unknown, probably involving moisture, took on a wavy texture as it unrolled to the center endpoint (and toilet paper is, like a labyrinth, a spiral with its end point in the center). Pull on it more and the labyrinth disappears, along with any enlightenment it might have brought you.

Pitt technical pen on sketchbook page, toned with Photoshop, December 23, 2014.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Sunreturn Design for Sacred Space

I used to be associated with a Pagan and New Age convention called "Sacred Space," which met in the Baltimore area every summer. One year I was even their treasurer, which was an interesting experience. Most of what I did for them was design work. I designed the logo, T-shirt design, and the front cover for the program book each year, from 1995 to 2004. Each "Sacred  Space" had a theme, usually taken from either the Pagan year calendar or from common esoteric or Pagan religious figures such as "Goddess," "Trickster," or fertility personifications. 

The one you see here, from millennial 2000, honors the Winter Solstice, called rather poetically "The Vigil of Sunreturn." This has been the longest night of the year, and though it won't be noticeable for a while, the days will be getting longer. It was odd to have winter-related programming in the middle of the summer, but that was when the convention was held.

I'm not sure "Sacred Space" is still going. The last I knew, it had morphed into another name under different management. I haven't been to a Pagan or New Age event in a long time. But I still have the T-shirts.

The original design for this was built from clip art,  patterns, and type done on CorelDraw, the program I used before I switched to Macintoshes and the much more prevalent Photoshop. The T-shirt was dark blue, but I've re-colored it here to make a better-looking composition. Time of design, about spring 2000.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sime Character and Magic Rose

One of the more bizarre imaginary worlds I've illustrated is the "Sime-Gen" concept from the works of Jacqueline Lichtenberg. Rather than run through its description again, I invite you to re-visit my other Sime-Gen posts such as this one. Lichtenberg, who is still writing though advanced in years, maintains a little fan club for these works even after decades of obscurity. At Chessiecon I met a few of them who still remember and even cherish these tales of vampire-like tentacled mutants and psychic powers. This character, Ercy Farris, is a Sime - one of the tentacled morphology - who works with psychoactive flowers in the hope that the plants will contain essences which free the Simes and Gens from the difficulties of having to draw or provide energy from other sentient beings. She holds one of these magic flowers, a "Mahogany Trinrose," in her tentacles.

"Mahogany Trinrose" is ink, colored pencil, and gouache on brown paper, 7" x 10", November 1996.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Seen at Starbucks

There's a very nice atmosphere at one of my local Starbuckses where the neighborhood comes to sit and sip. My urban sketchery records the things you see at Starbucks. Christmas decorations. An easily recognizable, you could even call it "iconic" covered cup of coffee. A coffee maker, a pile of bananas, and stacks of cups. The elegantly dressed gent with his book is a regular there, he sits and studies economics, reading a real paper book. For me, one espresso = one page of drawing.  

Pitt technical pen black ink on sketchbook page, 5" x 8", December 19, 2014.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Goodbye, Sam's Farm

"Sam's Farm" was a garden shop in Fairfax County, about a mile from my house. It had a plastic greenhouse, an open display area, a shed for selling garden ceramic items and gifts, and an old cottage, even 20 years ago past its expiration date. It was seasonally appropriate throughout the year, though it closed from January to late March. In the spring they sold plants and flowers in containers, in summer and fall they sold flowers and local produce, and  in November and December they sold Christmas trees. The decrepit cottage was used to show ornamented Christmas trees and shiny stuff, and all over the property concrete and plaster garden fixtures sat like large white mushrooms in the dirt. It was a friendly piece of rurality in the city. Now it is all gone.

I knew it had to happen someday, and that someday is now. Yesterday I saw the bulldozers taking down the shed and the cottage. Combined with other properties which have recently been cleared, the strip of land will be built up with expensive town houses and single family houses. 

This is the only sketch of "Sam's Farm" I have, because it was next to a major highway and there was no place to sit for drawing. I managed to draw part of the shed while parked in their parking lot. The sign at the top says "No Trespassing." I would really like to know how the "Urban Sketchers" manage to find a place in their cities to do their sketch work.

Brown ink, water-based markers, and colored pencils on sketchbook page, from my lavishly illustrated 1998 journal. April 12, 1998. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Old Virginia Christmas

Ten years ago I made a winter journey down the Shenandoah Valley to visit friends and see the beautiful countryside off-season. One day I stayed at the house of one of my friends' parents. At that point the lady of the house had passed away and her husband maintained it himself. The house was full of handmade treasures, and was decorated for the Christmas season with home-made paintings and crafts. In the parlor and dining room, there was an old black iron stove which once had provided heat but was now decommissioned. On top of the old stove was a miniature artificial Christmas tree just like the one I have displayed for more than 25 years in my own home.

I am told that this family actually behaved decently during the holidays. From what I remember of them, I believe it. Imagine a warm and welcoming Christmas where commercialized illusions and cliche's were transcended by reality. The people are gone and the house is in other hands now, but I remember their hospitality with this little drawing which I did on site many winters ago.

Brown ink and colored pencil on sketchbook page, 5" x 9", December 15, 2004.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dot Doodle

When you've got a nice set of grayscale Copic markers, you might as well use 'em. So here's a retro doodle made from dots and lines and shading. I put a bunch of dots on the page and connected them with lines in various ways. Then I took a ruler to it (yes, a ruler) and one of my antique plastic curve rulers. Invited the drawing into Photoshop and added some gradated tones and there you go. Forgettable I suppose, but it is in my sketchbook journal forever now, as long as "forever" lasts. 

My use of alcohol based markers such as Copics in my sketchbook journal has proven to be not so artistic, because the dye from the markers sinks through the paper and shows up on the other side, making a messy view when you turn the page. 2015's sketchbook journal will be less ambitious, and if I use color it will be colored pencil similar to my winery drawings. Not sure I will use color, as I like the look of my ink line drawings. So artsy, you know.

Markers on sketchbook page, 7" x 5", December 17, 2014.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Astral Pavilions

Here's another visionary landscape with dream architecture. This is only somewhat inspired by esoteric literature. My inspiration here is the fantastic architecture of Renaissance and early modern stage sets. These Baroque designs were used in theater, opera, and elaborate entertainments staged by royalty or nobility to impress guests and show off the king's power. Some of this fantasy architecture featured conical pavilions or temples which were covered with elaborate ornament and flaming points of light.

Many of the visionary 19th and 20th century texts used the seven spectrum colors as a theme so that angelic stations or temples of sacred flames appeared in these rainbow colors. In my visionary landscape, there are seven temples in the complex, each of them in one of the traditional colors. The largest one here is the Temple of the Violet Ray, and further in the distance you see the Light Blue and the Green Ray Temples. If you were in this scene, the other colored temples would be behind you. All of this is visible to the dreamer, dressed in a black and purple robe, who appears under a little gazebo to the right. I designed all the ground architecture which is meant to guide astral pilgrims along the pathways to and from the temples. Note the half-moon which is unusual in lunar representations. 

I have not shown this before on the By-Product because my photo of this piece was poor. This is the best image I could get, and some of it is still out of focus. However, it's pretty, and it's one of my favorite of my "astral world" or "New Age" paintings. 

"Astral Pavilions" is acrylic on illustration board (with airbrush), 25" x 20", August 2001. Click on the image to sort of get a better view.

Dreamy colors and rainbow rays…painted in August 2001. The very next month, things went to hell. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Celestial City in the Sun

I collect visionary texts, as you may remember. These are narratives, usually by a female mystic, of journeys to other worlds where she meets beings from heavenly dimensions. There is almost always a spiritual, esoteric Christian element to these narratives. And they are presented not as fantasy writing but as truth experienced by the seer.

These fantastic (if not fantasy) narratives often contain lavish descriptions of cities, fashions, transportation, and architecture, which inspire me as an illustrator. This image you see comes from just such a text. The story is called "My Visit to the Sun" and it is by Phoebe Marie Holmes. It was first published in 1933, which is quite late for this kind of writing as these texts were most popular in the later 1800s and early 1900s. Interestingly, there are some visionary texts currently produced in the fundamentalist Christian communities, where they are presented as true visions of heaven and hell. But the esoteric element is absent.

This is not the sun of the scientists, of course, not a giant ball of glowing gas. Phoebe's sun world is another dimension where the solar sphere is hollow and populated by countless angelic and spirit beings who live in huge vertical, multi-level cities set in parklands freshened by fountains of light energy. This image illustrates one of those cities. The architecture is inspired by Indian temples. The golden tint of the whole piece is meant to evoke the yellow of sunlight. 

Phoebe's book, a rare edition, was reprinted by an esoteric reprint house many years ago and even the reprint is a rarity now. I still have my copy though I don't know where it is in my cluttered library. If I find it I might be inspired to go solar again.

"The Celestial City in the Sun" is acrylic on illustration board, 11" x 14", November 1996. Click on the pic for larger view.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Miss December

As the producer of "Art By-Products" I feel the obligation to bring all five of you loyal readers quality fresh product at least half the time. I have not been doing that recently because I've had an unpleasant cold that kept me from exerting the energy to make even little pictures. I'm sure you don't mind vintage art from me but there is eventually a limited supply of it and I will run out of it, and then what will I do to entertain you? So as my cold has gotten a bit better (cough, hack, sniff) I managed to draw a girl. I haven't drawn a human figure or face for months and since I'm about to end my 2014 sketchbook and move to 2015, I'd better draw one. She's a bit of a pin-up but much simpler. I found the model in "Art Models 5," that extra helpful series of photo model books made for artists like me who don't have easy access to life drawing sessions.

Miss December is ink on sketchbook page, 3 1/8" x 3 1/2", December 14, 2014.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Sword of Amber

In the 1970s and early 80s, Roger Zelazny's "Amber" series was very popular. Zelazny's writing was filled with swashbuckling action, hard-boiled macho fantasy, and illustrator-friendly big set pieces. The hero of the series was Corwin, a combination of fantasy messiah, "noir" rebel, and cowboy. He wore black and silver, had a red horse, and was an expert with a sword. His personal symbol was a silver rose. In this early picture done at the height of Zelazny's popularity, I depict Corwin riding away from the City of Amber, seen in the distance. The sunlight fades and roiling storm clouds and creepy chaotic invasions await him on his journey. To my knowledge no one has done a graphic novel adaptation of the "Chronicles of Amber" and I think it would be a great subject for a project, but not by me.

"A Farewell to Amber" (title of the painting) is acrylic on Masonite, 22" x 15", August 1980.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Solstice Sunset

Around this time of year the skies are full of blazing color at sunset, as the sun's angle is low and there are ice crystal clouds in the atmosphere. This intensely colored scene appeared for just a few minutes on the evening of December 11. It's the view out my apartment's windows facing west. I popped out onto my balcony in the cold air to photograph it. 

There is minimum manipulation on this shot, no color enhancement, though maybe some contrast enhancement. I'm posting it even though it is a photograph which I usually leave out of the By-Product. Because if I depicted this scene in watercolor or acrylic or, uh, digital, you'd think I was making it up and doing a cliche. Yeah, Nature. More or less, real.

Photographed with my Canon S90, December 11, 2014.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Vinca the archer

Back in the late 1980s I hung out with a bunch of Philadelphia-based fans and role-playing gamers. I didn't play any games, but I was often asked to create portraits of their game characters. This is one of them. A teenage princess who was a crack shot with a bow, she starred in a long-playing game. The "owner" of the character requested that she be shown in a "silly" costume worthy of a fun-loving teenager. Her name was "Vinca" which is the Latin name for the violet periwinkle flower. In order to match the flower color to the character, I made her outfit purple. You can see periwinkle flowers in the background. Vinca's bow and arrows had some magic to them and I added a glow to the point of the arrow she is carrying. 

It's not a very good photograph of the art, I did my best to restore it but the sky and castle have mostly faded away. 

"Vinca the Violet Archer" is acrylic on illustration board, 9" x 11", April 1989.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Forest Triptych

This is one of the largest free-standing paintings I've ever done, excluding commercial work for Trader Joe's and restaurants. It was a commission from a person in Maryland who was very active in the Pagan and costuming community. She wanted a painting that would realistically depict a forest scene in the local area. The forest scene would go in her bedroom so that she could feel calm looking at it. She specified that there should be two animals visible in the painting. One was a bear, and represented her father. The other was an otter, which embodied the spirit of her mother. Both her parents were deceased by that time, but her form of Paganism believed in the transmigration, or at least persistence, of souls. 

The painting was on three large pre-stretched canvases, each one two feet by three feet (24" x 36"), which fit together to make a single image six feet by three feet. It was difficult to do this in my studio, which is too small to accommodate a 2 by 3 foot panel. I balanced each panel on top of a low bookcase and bought extra floor lamps to light it while I painted it. Then I worked hard to fit the whole thing together. You can see the two vertical black lines where the paintings join together. The bear is entering the stream on the left panel, and the otter is on a rock to the right. In my painting I gave each animal's face a "humanoid" intelligent look so that it is not just a wildlife and scenery picture. The scene depicted is more or less a real place, in an urban park in northern Virginia where I sometimes birdwatch. I took a lot of photo references of the park and the stream, and collected pictures of bears and otters. But it's not like a portrait of the forest; I made up most of the branches and foliage so that they would fit into the composition.

I had the painting professionally photographed but this was in the era before digital photography. The image presented here is a digital scan of a 10" x 8" color transparency, which is in my archives. I haven't seen my Pagan patron in many years so I don't know what became of her, or my painting.

"Forest Triptych" is acrylic on 3 stretched canvas panels, 6 feet by 3 feet all together, 1996-1997. Click for a larger leafier view.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Internet 1993

In 1993 I was introduced, through a series of illustration jobs for a tech magazine, to something called The Internet. It was this new thing which would unite all the computers we were already using to a giant bulletin board where we would share all sorts of friendships and conversations and we would be able to look up anything we wanted to learn about. This sounded like science fiction or even magic to me but they were paying me to illustrate it so I did the art. I envisioned the "Internet" as the magical dimensions that the Marvel character "Doctor Strange" entered, first envisioned by the amazing graphic artist Steve Ditko. My imitation (just far enough away from copyright) sorcerer types (or casts spells) on a keyboard as he emerges into the Internet World. In this psychedelic unreality are the things already found on the 1993 internet: WAIS, FTP, and Archie, which I believe were original information search and acquisition engines, as well as e-mail and "Usenet," which featured readable online chat and primal journal postings. The "Gophers" made connections between computers that were melting like Dali's limp watches. 

This is just before the explosion of the "World Wide Web," which had already been invented and was on its way to changing the "real" world. Also, I was already using digital art to enhance my illustrations. The limp computers and typeface words in this image were done on CorelDraw, and printed on a primitive color printer known as a "PaintJet." I still remember the thrill I experienced when I printed out my first full-color digital illustration image. My, how far we've come. Or maybe not.

"Astral Net" is watercolor and computer-printout collage on illustration board, 8 12" x 11", August 1993.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Cambridge Portico 1987

Here's a handsome piece of Cambridge, Massachusetts residential architecture. These majestic carved-wood porticos were produced in the 19th and 20th centuries but you will never see them built nowadays. It just takes too much time and skill to produce them. You will also note the different medium I used for this drawing. This was drawn entirely in markers with no pen and ink used. The markers I used are no longer produced, just like the porticos. They were "Stabilayout" markers from Stabilo of Germany, and they had chisel points, not brush points like the current Copics. The colors were water-based. The markers were short and squarish in shape and fitted into a big plastic folder. The only trouble with them was that as with most marker sets you didn't get pastel, neutralized or earth colors. Those had to be ordered separately. I also used some pen markers for the brown lines.

This drawing was done outdoors, street view on a chilly day in March. The lighter colors in the drawing were those extra colors I ordered for architectural work. I used those Stabilo markers for many years before they dried out. Street drawing isn't what it used to be. I could sit and draw undisturbed in Cambridge back in 1987 but if I tried it nowadays or attempted to draw a residential building in Northern Virginia I would be chased away, maybe even attended to by police so no thanks. There are still ways to do street drawing as long as you go into a public space like a parking lot and ask permission to remain there for a while.

Markers on sketchbook page, 7 1/2" x 10", March 8, 1987. Click for larger view.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Grumpy Cat

There isn't just one Grumpy Cat in the world. Lots of cats are grumpy and have a bad cat attitude. This overstuffed fuzzball would be cute if he didn't hate everything. But cute doesn't cut it. Don't you just love the Holiday Season.

Ink on sketchbook page, about 3 1/2" x 2 1/2", December 2014.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Debden Control Tower

Debden, England was the location of an air base which was active before and during World War II. Both the British and the American air forces used the base during the war. It continued in military usage until the mid-1970s. I collect photos of unusual architecture and this airbase control tower appealed to me in a kind of Bauhaus - Deco way. Even military architecture is subject to style.

This is a bit of an experiment, using an ink drawing as a base and coloring it in with Photoshop. That process is commonly used for coloring comics and graphic novels.

Original drawing is gel pen ink on sketchbook page, 3 1/2" x 3 1/4", December 6, 2014.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Cambridge Street View 1984

This is the view out my old Cambridge studio window, that is, the window in the front, not the side view of the previous post. It's in autumn, obviously, and that bright red area is the shining leafage of a small red maple tree which is one of the many street trees in the area. Also note the blue mailbox which was always convenient for me (and the other residents of the neighborhood.). The granite blocks which form the curb have been there for a long, long time and one of them was still mounted with an iron ring which was where you tied up your horse when you stopped here. 

Looking back on these color sketches of Cambridge in 1984, it seems to me that I lived in a kind of peaceful nostalgic place of quiet Americana where I spent my time doing art and taking naps and talking to the neighbors. But while that was sometimes true, it's an illusion that it was always that way, as my journals of the time reveal. As an artist I can create the memory that leads you back to the peaceful quiet city neighborhood where you could still write and mail a letter on an autumn afternoon.

Brown technical pen ink and watercolor on sketchbook page, 7" x 7 1/2", November 8, 1984. Clickonthepic for a somewhat larger view. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Cambridge Studio Window 1984

My dwelling in Cambridge, Mass. was on the first floor of an old wooden duplex house just outside the borders of Harvard University, and the house was owned by Harvard too. The original living room, dining room, and kitchen were in this apartment, but the second floor had been re-built into another apartment. There was a majestic porch on the house which I used anytime it was warm enough to go outside. The porch wrapped around the main body of the house but the wraparound railing, for space reasons, was merely decorative on one side and didn't allow me to actually walk or sit there. 

The original living room behind the porch, which faced the street, was my bedroom and art studio combined. There was a bay window with two tall narrow side windows. The window you see here is one of them, through which you can see the decorative railing of the porch and some vegetation. I did a careful study of one of the side windows. There are multiple levels of wood and glass in this old sash window and due to overpainting and age, it was very difficult to open so I didn't try it very often. Also, my art table was near the window and there wasn't a lot of space to move around in. Underneath the windows was an old metal radiator, which made apocalyptic steampunk clanking noises  when it started up. The gas furnace for the whole house's heating system was directly under my bed and when it started up (which it often didn't due to the pilot light going out) there was a great whoosh and an earthquake-like bang rattle which woke me up. It's a wonder the house didn't blow up with me in it. Nowadays the entire house has been re-done as a multi-million-dollar single family home.

I am bemused by the amount of time I had back then to do art. Not only was I preparing full-scale acrylic fantasy art for the 1984 Worldcon in Los Angeles/Anaheim, but I did an ink and color sketch of local buildings and scenes almost every day. There was no Facebook or Google or Blogspot or the abominations of click bait to fragmentize and wreck the continuity of time and work. And of course no day job either. 

Brown technical pen ink and watercolor on sketchbook page, about 4" x 7 1/2", July 13, 1984. Please click to see a larger view. Thank you for tolerating my reminiscences.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Coffeehouse Goods

Anything is worth drawing, that is the motto of the "urban sketcher" artistic movement. But should I draw just anything? This jumbly little drawing was done in a nearby coffee shop while I sipped my brew and waited out my work break. I could have drawn the people in the shop but they wouldn't stay still. These shelves and uprights and baskets are full of coffee-based holiday gifts. Why isn't there an art supply store near my work place or residence instead. There's already a Starbucks within walking distance which supplies my coffee needs. I drew too many things in this drawing so if you can't tell what's going on here neither can I.

Technical pen ink on sketchbook page, finished in Photoshop, about 4" x 5", December 1, 2014.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Urban Cabin

In the next chapter of my "Urban Woods Dump Saga," the property owners have reached the old wood cabin in the back acre and are emptying it of hoarded stuff. I have not seen whether there really was a library in the cabin. But if I put myself into an awkward and uncomfortable position in my computer room, I have a moderately obstructed but visible view of the cabin. Here it is. Some details are not drawn correctly because I can't see them, even with binoculars. The building is set on a slope which is why there are two levels, that is, a main floor and a basement. There is a porch as you can see which is set in to the basic rectangle of the cabin's plan. What I don't quite get, because I can't see it very well, is how the stairs to the porch and door work. They are not central and direct to the door, but are side-entry and apparently built out to the side so you can walk up them. This may be because of the slope of the terrain.

Tonight the cabin was all lit up from within with warm golden Kinkade-like light. Workmen were going in and out of it and were sawing wood with a power saw. It's possible that the owners are renovating this place! (Or they could be getting ready to demolish it.) The cabin has no chimney, so there probably isn't a fireplace, but there must be some way to heat it. Does it have a bathroom? A kitchen? A bedroom? Is it for sale, or maybe even rent? Stay tuned for further developments.

Ink drawing on sketchbook page, 3 1/2" x 3 1/2", December 2014.

Monday, December 1, 2014


I didn't do much sketching at Chessiecon. The convention was sparsely attended and not very picturesque. The hotel was undergoing renovation even as we were wandering about. Some folks (including me) were rudely awakened by the noise of workers removing the old roof, and outside my window roof debris accumulated in bins as it shot through a huge construction tube. The hotel looked shabby and the floors of the rooms (including mine) were unvacuumed and covered with unsavory crud. I have seen this hotel go through many changes and I hope that the renovations will make it a better and cleaner place to stay. 

I didn't have any art in the art show, either. The Chessiecon art show was full of tacky pictures of dragons, kittens, furries, pin-up girls, and bad digital prints, although Tristan's art was a relief from the general mediocrity. I sold four of my winery art books. I did hold my "salon" and despite some exhaustion (from non-convention stresses) on my part, I hosted my friends in my room with wine and snacks. If I had a house with any space in it, I'd  host my "Salon Pyracantha" more often. 

In these drawings you can see a fan reading in public seated in one of the hotel's better amenities, big overstuffed lobby chairs and sofas. I have always been amused by the fannish  habit of reading in public as  people swirl around them. The larger drawing shows some of the hangar-like lobby with lanterns and rectangular panels of reddish fabric hanging from the ceiling. The easel advertises events or workshops at the convention.

Pitt black technical pen on sketchbook page, 5" x 8", November 29, 2014.