Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Most Popular Digital Design: "The Orange Sail"

I was rummaging through the chaotic piles of papers that my mother had accumulated. She rarely filed anything, mostly keeping financial papers and check stubs going back more than 30 years. Other stuff, she threw in a pile. If I wanted Mother to see anything I had painted, I had to print it out for her because she never really learned to use a computer. I found this design in one of the piles. It is from 1991 and it comes from the first computer, printer, and graphics software I ever used. A cobbled-together PC, an HP PaintJet, and CorelDraw 2. I've upgraded a bit since I did this digital work. The HP PaintJet, as you can see, has a very rough, dot-matrix-style texture. 

I had forgotten that this design started out in these colors. It is much better known by my fans as the original design for "The Orange Sail," which is my most popular painting as measured by uses in graphic design, print editions, and sales. I re-colored the image and chose these summery, seaside colors:

And this digital version later became, in 2005, 14 years later, "The Orange Sail" painted in acrylic.

Everybody loves this picture. I had it nicely framed and I still own the original.

"The Orange Sail" is acrylic on illustration board, 22" x 18", October 2005.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Little Corner of Cambridge

There are plenty of nice things in New England, despite the decrepitude and infestation I have recently encountered. Older architecture of wood-frame houses is a sight I never get tired of. I love drawing these structures and they can be found in both city and suburbs. This little vertical pattern was in Cambridge, Mass. I especially liked the bits of daylily flower color against the white siding and grey shadows. I found this watercolor drawing in the chaotic piles of papers left in my parents' house. 

Ink and watercolor on watercolor paper,  3 1/2" x 6 1/2", early 1980s.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Returned from December tour of duty

The Blue Princess announces: Pyra is back. Back from my tour of duty in Massachusetts helping clear out the dismal house my parents lived in. By the time I and my helpers started unloading the hoarded clutter, the house was almost abandoned and infested with mice, spiders, insects, and mildew. The smell from mouse effluent and mildew was so bad it made me nauseated. With the help of a couple of tireless professional clearers, I started the job of cleaning this structure out so that it can be sold later next year. My mother's collected artworks remain in the house though I have given many of the smaller ones away. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts will take a few of them as donations. The rest need to find permanent homes. There are also shelves and shelves of books, only a few valuable, which need to be donated to library fund raising events or other charities. Weeks and weeks of work have still only cleared a couple of rooms, and there is more to come. Right now the work is on hold as my helpers are going to their winter residence in Florida next month until May. I don't have any sentimental or happy emotions about this house and I don't care what the next owners do to it, whether rebuilding or demolishing. 


I set up the Cintiq on the dining room table and poked away on it whenever I could. I must say that the "learning curve" (to use the biz-talk cliche for it) is quite difficult. It was harder than I thought. The drawing skills required by the stylus on screen are different from ink and pencil on paper. For instance, the cursor (the spot where the action on the screen is) is not directly under the stylus, but floats until you touch the stylus to the screen. And Windows draws a little circle round your stylus tip when you touch and press, which you need to do in your drawing. The circle blocks what is immediately at the point of drawing. Some of this is an advantage though as you can just press the "undo" button if you don't like what you drew. Other disadvantages come not from Cintiq or Windows but from Photoshop CC which is what I'm using here. Like so many big pieces of software upgrading, the designers never miss a chance to mess up what worked and add on what annoys. I looked for my usual "brush" controls for hours before finding that they had been re-named with inscrutable words and hidden behind panels and menus. The worst thing about Photoshop CC is the pop-up that appears when I am using the Brush Tools. Windows draws its little circle and then a large brush tool control pop-up shows, BLOCKING YOUR DRAWING. Grr is that annoying. I believe there is a way to disable this, or to draw around it. 

However the Cintiq is doing just what I bought it for, giving me a hand-to-screen instant image gratification in Photoshop not just a dinky iPad app. I get lots of drawing power with no delay, and I don't need to use any pencil or pen drawing to start an image. Once I figured out how to work Photoshop CC I just proceed using my previous experience. The Cintiq is lightweight though heavier than an iPad and I can set it up anywhere. The rubbery plastic stand provided for it, though, is unstable and you will want to get a portable desk easel for prolonged Cintiq use. I have one and it's just right. I expect to take the Cintiq out on the road for on-site work with my landscapes and wineries. It fits in my backpack. It can be used as a wi-fi connected laptop so you can read your gossip on Facebook, but you must switch in between web and art as there isn't enough room on the screen to show both.

The blue-clad princess you see above is my first character portrait done entirely on the Cintiq. I borrowed her image from a stock photograph which I imported to the Cintiq before I left for Massachusetts. Don't look too closely, it isn't that good and it's only a practice image but I finished it anyway. The lovely blonde Princess is based on a real person, a stunning young lady I met while she was working at the front desk of a hotel I stayed at on my previous journey north. I have the artist's vice, I look at everyone as if they were a model, or could be, with a beautiful fantasy costume and identity. 

So back to making art and art by-products, with and without the Cintiq. I am considering adding another program, the big-time "Painter 2016," for images that look more like "traditional" media, though it's wicked expensive as we say in Boston. I also will try to install my 2002 vintage CorelDraw though it may not run on the modern Windows. I don't know whether this machine will support Windows 10. There's a lot more to do.

"Blue Princess" is Photoshop on Cintiq, December 2015. Click for sort-of-larger view.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Traveling to Etna

It's almost winter and Etna is erupting again. Just recently my favorite volcano, the ever-erupting Etna, put forth a blast of fire that could be seen from the Italian mainland. You may remember that during the 2000s I worked on a graphic novel set on an alternative Earth where psychic powers and modern-technological classical civilization were the norm. This is one panel from it showing the red utility car of my geologist characters with them riding in an expedition to Etna to study its latest eruption. Due to many many circumstances I have not been able to work on this project and maybe some clever friend will come up with a scheme that would allow me to work on it again. The yellowish box at lower right contains narrative text in the original. 

Ink and watercolor with added text on illustration board, 10" x 4", about 2000. Click for larger view.

Note to readers: I am on my way back to the old family house to continue the job of clearing out the place. I'll have computers and connectivity there, I hope. I estimate I'll be spending about three weeks there and return for the New Year. I will try to blogify while I am there but not every day.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Swashbucklin' Social Comment

Marion Zimmer Bradley, despite her serious flaws as a person and a writer, played a very important part in the evolution of fantasy and science fiction in America and the English-speaking world. In the 1960s and 1970s, when other writers were writing mostly for entertainment in the genre fields, Bradley introduced serious social comment into the tales of humans and magic and swordplay set on her world of the red sun, Darkover. She was especially aware of social and class roles, sexism, and the prejudice and oppression suffered by gay people and gender-non-conforming women. Many gay fans felt that finally their story was being told in the context of the fantasy fiction that they loved. Nowadays it is common to see these fundamental issues being themed in fantasy and science fiction but even now there is resistance among conservative fans (who caused a major disruption in the community last year) to the inclusion of writers and stories about people of different races, sexual orientation, gender identification, and class. The conservatives would rather have their fiction only as swashbuckling entertainment rather than something with a social conscience. That battle is ongoing.

Lew Alton, the character depicted here, was not gay but played a part in a Bradley book, "The Heritage of Hastur," where the main character was gay and the plot centered around his awareness of his orientation and difference.

Darkover fan art. Black ink on illustration board, 3" x 6", summer 1983. The model reference for this was a "character dancer" in a ballet.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Berlin Dome

This is a study of details in the dome of Berlin Cathedral, a late 19th-early 20th century German pile that was built in the age of empires. It was designed to look like a Renaissance building and it does have the inspiration of earlier heroic edifices like St. Peter's dome in Rome. It also resembles Renaissance theater sets as there has always been a connection between imperial politics and theater. This building was severely damaged during World War II but is still standing, unlike the empires which built it.

Brown ink with a bit of Photoshoppery, about 4" x 3 1/2", December 4, 2015.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Industrial Patterns 15

I just can't get enough of these structures. Built purely for practical industrial uses, they are fabulous sculptural complexities which also are lit up at night. The refineries and mills are gleaming day and night and that intensifies the nest of shadows that surrounds them. I also love the catwalks and access walks whose railings provide an iron tracery to the bigger shapes in the background. Note the fanlike structure of metal beams radiating out from the center (although the fan-like shape is an illusion of perspective.) The architects of the "industrial modernist" buildings of the 1970s such as Paris' "Centre Pompidou" knew what they were doing but I would have dropped the colorful accents and kept it an aggressive factory grey. Maybe I would have added a "steam fountain" at the top illuminated in orange light, but that's just me. They don't build'em like they used to. This one is not a cultural center, but an oil refinery. Because you, the audience, are so culturally refined.

Industrial brown ink on sketchbook page, 3 1/2" x 3", December 2-3, 2015.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Treasure Boxes

This is quite an old picture but the things depicted in it are just now as they were then. The boxes you see against the wall are fine wood modular shelves in an Art Deco style, which are in my aunt's house. They are from the 1930s and belonged to her parents, my great-grandparents. In these boxes are treasures from all over the world, some rare books, and a candelabra you see at the top. My aunt and her husband were antique collectors and at one point specialty antique dealers so they had access to precious pieces, some of which found their way into my parents' house. My aunt is in her 90s now and hopefully she has designated where all the treasures should go or whether they will be sold. I will be dealing with this issue with my own parents' stuff later this month.

The beige-yellow background color you see here is faded sketchbook paper, but I think it looks nice. Black ink on sketchbook page, July 4, 1984.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Michael the Space Jesuit

A while back you saw my cover for the electronic edition of Christopher Stasheff's "The Warlock Heretical." I also do at least one character portrait for the edition so this is the one for "Heretical." It depicts Father McGee, a spacefaring Jesuit who is the head of the science-fictional religious order, "Saint Vidicon of Cathode." I used a real person as the model here. This is one of the Three Michaels who I know read this Blog. This Michael is a real Jesuit currently posted to the Boston area. He is a science fiction fan and would love to go into space as a Space Jesuit. At least I think so. Many years ago I made up a spacefaring religious order based on the Jesuits but their membership had both males and females. Here you see the Stasheff character pointing to the schismatics and bringing them back into the mainstream. He has the Engineer's Pocket Tools in his coverall pocket, and brings with him the Holy iPad with the Sacred Text Message.

Ink on illustration board, about 3 1/2" x 7", November 30, 2015. Stasheff Editors Please don't use this image in the book, it's too low resolution. I shalt e-maileth thee the proper depictment.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Industrial Patterns 14

Are you refined? I'm sort of refined, but have moments when I'm crude as well. This is my own private refinery, where I turn black goo into energy-rich flame. I want to stand there and watch all the oil-cracking and smoking and steaming and flaring going on. Heavy industry is full of glorious solid geometry that I love to draw. Cylindrical towers, sections and concentric circles in perspective. Networks and mesh of right-angled tubes and pipes. I admire it as an aesthetic view but somewhere there are technicians who could tell me exactly what each pipe or conduit is for. Does anyone else love the refinery world? It's like a hydrocarbon garden.

Brown ink on sketchbook page, 4" x 2 1/2", November 29, 2015.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Rowan the lovely singer

Back in my days as a hanger-on at the Society for Creative  Anachronism, I made the acquaintance of a young lady whose SCA name was "Rowan of Belchant," meaning "Rowan of beautiful song." Her real-life name was Joyce Baldwin and she was training to be an opera singer, or hoped to be an opera singer. Opera singers, actors, and other theatrical folk go perfectly with the SCA because of their love of dressing up and playing roles. I drew this portrait of Joyce/Rowan at a winter gathering. She was wearing what I would now refer to as "upscale peasant" attire. Rowan/Joyce had flaming red hair, just like a fantasy heroine, some of the brightest reddest tresses I've ever seen at least in the USA. I would have loved to paint her portrait. I never saw her again after I sketched her and I wonder whether she succeeded in becoming an opera singer, singing her way to tragic operatic death in so many soprano roles.

Pencil on sketchbook page, about 4 1/2" x 7 1/2", mid-1980s.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Cintiq first picture autumn leaves's my first color sketch on the Cintiq. Same view as my previous iPad sketch, fall leaves out my window. There were more of them when I did the iPad sketch. I gave up on "Gimp" although my photographer friends swear by it, for painting and illustration it just wasn't working at all. I now have "Photoshop CC" which is only available by subscription, so I paid it all at once for the year the way I do with music sites like "Live 365" and after one failed download it was ready to roll. I can be creative with clouds, yeah. This picture was done with Photoshop on the Cintiq and here is the iPad piece for comparison...

What, not that much difference! I suppose the difference is in the availability of textures and "brush" opportunities, and also some major features of Photoshop which the iPad simply cannot do, for instance ruler lines between two points (very important for architecture) or controllable line-widths with stylus pressure.There's also the easier screen view on the Cintiq, larger than an iPad and not mirror-shiny. I will continue to use both these devices of course. There's nothing like an iPad with a glass of wine at some vineyard paradise although I'm sure I'll be hauling the Cintiq to Wineworld too. But I'd better not spill anything on it! Gadget Management is a major skill.

Photoshop, about 6" x 9", Cintiq image November 27, 2015.

Friday, November 27, 2015

House of Success

You could live here! All you need to do is find your passion, work hard, and keep that entrepreneurial mentality going. Prepare to be nimble, agile, and engaged in a proactive business plan that turns non-existent real estate into gold. I did it, so can you. An eighteen-year-old kid is making six figures while living in his parents' basement. He can do it too. Are you too lazy to realize your dream? Are you still lying in your bed at 3 PM? Get up and out of bed and start networking at your computer. Success is just around the corner, no matter where you are right now.

I created this rendering of a McMansion for a private development company in 1996. Ink on illustration board. Printed on textured pale yellow paper with dollar-green ink. Click for larger view.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

More Unboxing

Here is a sketch of my new Cintiq graphics computer tablet and some disassembled boxing. The boxes are not from the Cintiq packaging, they are from a new router/cable modem, but they had that sculptural abstract feeling so I drew them. The tangled cables behind the Cintiq on the table do not lead to a hookah pipe. At this point I am using the device plugged into a regular wall socket. 

I just downloaded "The Gimp," a popular freeware graphics program. Gimp provides all the services of Photoshop and an even more difficult and hard-to-use user interface, if that is possible. Gimp therefore simulates the mighty Photoshop and amplifies its bad points. However that is all I have right now as my copies of Photoshop are for Mac only. I probably will have to bite the proverbial bullet and rent some version of Photoshop from the perpetually vaporous and unstable "Cloud." Only Photoshop will do! I have old versions of Painter and CorelDraw that I might try too, but can you load 10-year-old software on a new Windows machine? Will it work? Stay tuned, graphics fanatics. You know who you are. And Happy Thanksgiving! I'm thankful for digital graphics.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 8" x 5", November 25, 2015.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Kitchen Tablescape

Is your kitchen table cluttered? Mine is. You see only a part of it, too! Magazines in a mesh box, tissues for allergic nose, vitamins and remedies, a beer bottle (empty), a hand-blown glass potion vessel, and a lamp. After a while I have only a square foot of space in which to put my bowl of Campbell's soup. Must de-clutter! Must make neat! I got up almost at sunset today, which is totally shameful and I've got to find a way to be more of a daylight striver like most other people. Just because I'm working from home now making art doesn't mean that I should live like a lazy slob. Meanwhile I'm still questing for some meaningful art software that I can load on the Cintiq.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 5" x 7", November 25, 2015.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Golden Leaf Cascade

This golden cascade of leaves was in my back yard in Cambridge, Mass. back in 1984. As it is even now, parts of some cities, even where I am now, have bits of nature hidden behind houses and apartments. I used to go on wildflower walks and "field trips" in the city. Cambridge had all sorts of woodland creatures like raccoons, skunks, squirrels, and plenty of birds. And so it is in Northern Virginia's urban area where I have just heard some raccoons chittering and where Barred Owls hoot. This yard back in Cambridge is much different now. It is a garden and play area enclosed by a high wall so you can't see into it. The house was a duplex, later divided into 4 apartments one of them mine. Now it has been all transformed into a single-family house which must be valued in the millions given its Harvard location. Sunlight was lovely in the fall with bright city leaves.

Ink and watercolor on sketchbook page, 7 1/2" x 9 1/2", October 16, 1984.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Industrial Patterns 13

Here we see yet another of my "Industrial Patterns" series, in which I use industrial details to make abstract art drawings. This one isn't a real engine, I think, but rather a fanciful conglomeration of discarded debris which someone made into a 3-dimensional industrial pattern.The game-like challenge is to copy each angle, bar, wheel, or bulkhead just as it is in the photo or in real life, if you are lucky enough to be able to draw these on site.

Brown technical pen ink on sketchbook page, 4" x 2 1/4", November 23, 2015.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Aragorn Nametag Miniature

I rarely have illustrated anything from "Lord of the Rings" or other work by Tolkien, since other artists have done countless illustrations far better than mine. However in the late 70s I was friends with a family who loved all things Tolkien and they asked me to do miniature character portraits that they could wear at conventions as name tags.This is one I did of Aragorn, the king in exile who returns to claim his kingdom. Although Aragorn in the book and films was a younger man, I decided to make him greying and middle-aged, as a real exile for years would be. I was also experimenting with modern or mythic icons of Jesus and angels which influenced this portrait. The blank bar at the bottom was where the name would go.

"Aragorn" nametag miniature is mixed media on thick paper, 3 1/2" x 2 1/4", winter 1980.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Unboxing the Cintiq

I sleep by day and work by night, most days. My sleep/wake pattern resembles a cat or a fox rather than a human being. I have been lucky throughout my life that jobs I have had allowed for this type of schedule. Most people would only do this if they had to but I seem to do it naturally, as did my father before me. He would work on his music all night long until dawn. People think that my schedule is horrifying or at best LAZY and also creepy because in the winter I barely see daylight what with the sun setting at 4 PM. I am not a vampire fan. I was just born this way.

However, I get quite a lot of (art) work done and I expect that the use of the highly portable Cintiq will allow me to get even more done because I can use it anywhere, even on a pile of laundry. Here you see the interesting abstract patterns made by the unfolded cardboard supports from the Cintiq's box.

Black tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 7 1/2" x 4 1/2", November 21, 2015.

Friday, November 20, 2015

November Colors

I couldn't resist making this iPad study of colorful leaves as viewed from my window. Soon I will be making art on my new Cintiq graphics tablet and it will be interesting to compare the output of both devices. I recently went into the Apple Store and had the iPad Pro demonstrated to me. It seemed to work OK but its surface is very slick and reflective which means that it's hard to see the screen if you are outside under a bright sky. Which I often am if I do on-site work at wineries. Of course the best thing about all these gadgets is that you don't have to store the art you make anywhere except a hard drive which takes up minimal space. And you don't need messy art materials nor even a studio to work in, just hold the gadget on your lap like a real lap top and create. 

"ArtStudio" app on iPad, November 19, 2015.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

BoxScape 1999

I may have posted this image before, but after 7 years of mostly continuous bloggery, who knows. It shows the results of a flurry of material consumption by me in March of 1999. You see boxes for pieces of gear: a Dell computer, a Technics CD player, a Sears Kenmore vacuum cleaner, and other unidentifiable stuff. Of these things, the CD player and vacuum cleaner are still in operation, but the Dell computer is history. Note that I saved the beige hue of the faded sketchbook page rather than converting the whole image to grayscale.

Black technical pen on sketchbook page, 7" x 10", March 15, 1999.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

1980s Medieval Lady

As I have said before (when? who cares) I used to frequent "Society for Creative Anachronism" (SCA) events in order to draw the participants in their costumes. Much of this garb was simple and amateur-made, not like the fabulous "cosplay" of modern times. Because the garb was amateur-made, it looked more "authentic" than the operatic attire of nowadays. This young lady, who presented herself as "Lady Gwynedd of Owensrealm," wore a nice 12th-century outfit with plenty of drawing-friendly drapery. She was at an indoor event in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Just a bit of commentary here, folks....we are seeing a lot of atrocities on our screens these days, bloody barbarism and endless tribal and religious conflicts, beheaded bodies and heads on pikes, bandits and warlords and killers, and in other areas plagues that decimate villages and countryside alike. These were all features of the Middle Ages that our SCA players deliberately chose to ignore. 

Original pencil drawing on sketchbook page, 5" x 8", early 1980s.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Autumn Pastorale

All these lovely landscape scenes are nicer in memory than they were in real life. Except maybe this one. I could not be "realistic" enough to depict the brilliant trees, blue-purple hills, and cloud-adorned skies of eastern Pennsylvania in the fall. So this memory sketch is stylized and not "real." I sometimes wonder whether my art is "realistic" enough. The objective of the "realism" game is to make your art look as "accurately represented" as possible without the use of any photography. But hey, if I had had a passenger in my car as I drove up those roads, I'd have her snapping all sorts of pix full of picturesque everything.

"ArtStudio" on iPad, from memory, October 13, 2015.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Woodwork and Wine

You have to drive up a rugged hill to visit Arterra Wines, a new winery that opened only this year. Even though it's new, the wines are excellent, due to the experience and skill of the winemaker, Jason. I remember Jason from my visits to another more established winery nearby, so it was good to see him again and sip his specialty, red varieties. The newly built tasting room and lodge is also a showroom for grape leaf-themed ceramic art by Jason's wife, Sandy. 

I concentrated on sipping Petit Verdot and drawing the traditionally built but very new woodwork in the tasting lodge. The beams are held together by pegs rather than bolts or nails. The tables are surfaced in Sandy's grape-leaf pattern and the ceramic kiln for her work is in a display room right there among the drinkers and the barrels. Outside are many decks to enjoy the sight of just-planted baby vines.

Brown technical pen ink on sketchbook page, 6 1/2" x 8", November 15, 2015. Click for larger view.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Colorful Hills

The colorful fall foliage was at its peak mid-October in the hills of eastern Pennsylvania and New York State's Hudson Valley. Even as a driver I was able to enjoy the brilliance. And when out of the car, in a hotel room in Fishkill, NY, I set down my impressions from memory on the iPad. "Fishkill" has nothing to do with dead fish. It means, in the Dutch language of the early European settlers, "stream filled with fish."

"ArtStudio" app on iPad, October 2015.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Warlock is No Longer Heretical

The call to attend my mother after her fall caught me in the middle of my book cover assignment for the second of the Christopher Stasheff "Warlock" series, "The Warlock Heretical." I packed up my laptop and my mini-Wacom "Bamboo" tablet and brought them into the old family house where I set up my studio on the dining room table. Even during the sad days after my mom's passing I was able to work on it, one hour at a time, until I finished it and sent it off to the clients, brought to them by the Warlock-magic of Internet. 

Here is the cover as completed. The top half with the realistic clouds is blank because that is where the writing goes. I did a lot of research into fourteenth-century knights to get this looking suitably Medieval.

The story of the book, set on another world where magic works and civilization is preserved on a medieval level, is that a rogue Abbot, egged on by an evil outside agitator, declares himself an Archbishop of a schismatic church separated from the legitimate rule of the Pope. The hero, here on his black robotic horse, must stop the schism (or heresy) from happening, ultimately engaging in single combat with the Archbishop on the battlefield, as depicted here.

I have always wondered whether a situation like this is heresy or schism, or both. I thought that heresy involved a difference or wrongness of belief, while schism was a political sectarian breakaway from a rightful church authority. I suppose you don't get one without the other, that if you are a heretic you have automatically separated yourself from the mainstream church, and if you are a schismatic you already believe something different from the mainstream church's teaching. But I suppose "The Warlock Schismatic" doesn't sound so dramatic.

Photoshop over a pencil drawing, 12 1/2" x 16", October 2015. Clicquez for larger view.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Lovely Autumn and all that

Every time you think that Nature can't really be that bright-colored, Autumn arrives and for a fleeting week or two, breaks out all the crayons in the box. Even the pink and magenta ones, for all those chrysanthemum flowers. But this yellow foliage makes you into a kid again, using your yellow crayon all over the page. Is an iPad better than a sticky wax crayon? I think so because then you don't have to store your flaky paper drawing of those autumn leaves. Entire trees were childishly bright orange, yellow, or red in this intense fall of 2015. The wind blew at night, and the next day the leaves were on the ground and the tree was all twigs.

"ArtStudio" app on iPad, November 2015, drawn from memory.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Autumnal Green and Yellow

I dragged my orange wagon and myself back from increasingly gloomy Massachusetts and am back in my studio now doing art by-products. So it's time to resume posting here. Miss me, anyone? You don't have to answer. Here's a bit of iPaddery done somewhere in the Hudson Valley in New York State. It was just at sunset and the light was illuminating patches of trees and grass at a roadside rest stop. This sketch was drawn from MEMORY as I didn't have the time to set up and do it right there on-site. Most of what I remember from this trip up and down the Northeast USA is trying to find rest stops for a bathroom break. I must be a connoisseur by now. Some of them even come with their own graffiti art display. 

"ArtStudio" app on the iPad, October 13, 2015.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Goodbye Esther Geller

My mother, artist Esther Geller, passed away on October 22, 4 days before her 94th birthday. It was not unexpected, as she had broken her hip in a fall two weeks ago, and had undergone an operation to repair it despite her serious health problems and aged frailty. She was in constant pain after the operation. She was transferred to a rehab home but shortly after arriving there, she suffered a massive stroke, brought on by the stresses of the operation and transfer, and died almost immediately.

In a way, it was a relief as my mother's last year was marked by increasing deterioration both  physical and mental. I arranged for home care but that was difficult for her to accept. I visited as many times as I could, and was there for her last days. It was hard to watch her suffer and I am glad that she no longer has to endure pain and confusion.

Esther Geller was one of the pioneering modern artists in Boston's art history. She was a graduate of the Boston Museum School, where she studied with Karl Zerbe and learned the art of encaustic painting. She was a daring woman artist in the male-dominated world of "fine arts." Her 70-year career took her to Europe and back to the Boston area where she showed art at the long-gone Boris Mirski Gallery on Boston's artsy Newbury Street. She painted with no intent to market or sell, and didn't work to commission. She occupied a studio in an old office building in the historic center of Natick, Massachusetts for about 20 years.

The picture you see here was taken in July of this year, at a show of my mother's works at the Center for Arts in Natick. She was able to attend the opening and gave interviews. She also sold some paintings to art-lovers. 

After the show the paintings were returned to the family home, where most of my mother's output is currently stored. I am hoping to find good homes for all these paintings, whether in a museum or private collection. This is my mother's legacy and I want it to survive. Here is a selection of my mother's paintings as I featured them on Flickr. My mother taught me to do art, and that is her legacy too. 

Esther Geller,  October 26, 1921 - October 22, 2015.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Brilliant Autumn

It's been almost a week since I came up to Massachusetts to attend my 94-year-old mother, who fell and broke her hip a week ago. She is still in the hospital after undergoing an operation to repair the broken bone. She is in a lot of pain and can't move well. Also she has moderate dementia so she can't remember information and sometimes can't think well. The only helpful things I can really do are visit her in the hospital and keep the house safe and maintained. She is getting lots of good care, and friends and relatives visit. I visit mother every day. She will be in the hospital at least a few days more and then will go to rehab, probably in the same facility she was in this March, when she fell and broke her knee. The prospects for further ongoing care need to be worked out. I will have to stay for some weeks longer.

Meanwhile I am doing my art work digitally on my laptop. I've been able to put together a digital art workstation on the dining room table so I can continue progress on my current assignments. I also snap lots of photographs with my iPhone which has an excellent picture-taking function. This house with its glorious tree is what Natick, Massachusetts looks like right now. I love this house and would love to live there even though it is located on a main road. 

I will try to put more blog entries up if I can. I have my other art stuff with me as well including colored pencils, sketchbook, and my iPad. The modern artist is well-equipped.

Photograph taken on iPhone, October 16, 2015. Some Photoshoppery has been applied but the colors are not enhanced, this is exactly what it looks like.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

InkTober 10 Gazebo

"Wine Saturday" brought me to one of the nicest Virginia wineries I've visited for a while: Cana Vineyards and Winery. On a glorious October day people were sitting outside enjoying life with wine and food. As might be suspected from the vineyard's name, there was a wedding in progress, but I saw no signs of Messianic figures changing water into wine. This InkTober drawing was done on-site at Cana's impressive woodcrafted wine lodge. 

I regret that I will have to suspend my InkTober program because of a family emergency. My 94-year-old mother broke her hip in a fall at home and I must go up to the Boston area to take care of things. No blogging for a while, until I get a bit of time to communicate.

Pitt sepia tech pen on sketchbook page, 5" x 5", October 10, 2015.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

InkTober 9 Working Guys

Is art work? As you might say, "Sometimes." Here are images of some real workers. This is from the Gempler's industrial supply catalog, which is a fascinating compilation of things most of us never think about, let alone need or buy. The catalog offers many different varieties of coveralls and protective clothing, whose designs are directed not by fashion but by pure function. Their catalog models, almost all male, look like "real people" and not slick, thin, leisurely L.L. Bean or Lands End people. These guys work.

Can I say that I work? The definition of "work" for an artist is varied. There is the standard of "hours spent in studio with pen, brush, or stylus" which is easy to figure out. Then there are research hours. And then there are the less work-y things, like a trip to a winery in order to sip wine AND make a drawing. But can you call creative brainstorming work? As in, how do I put together the best illustration ideas before Mr. Client ever sees a sketch? Am I doing as much work as your proverbial tech guy working 80 to 100 hours a week? Is he doing a drawing every day? Is a drawing worth less money if I spent only an hour doing it? Unlike my previous job, with art work you don't usually punch a time clock coming and going.

Meanwhile, these little drawings were done for the "InkTober" challenge but they are also work-related, as they are studies done from an image on the computer screen. I will be drawing an illustration of a guy in a coverall for one of my assignments. And I don't have to wear a heavy coverall to work hard.

Pitt tech pen black ink on sketchbook page, 4" x 4 1/2", InkTober 9, October 10, 2015.

Friday, October 9, 2015

60s Pin-up InkTober 8

The 1960s was a great time for Pretty Girls. Many of the models in "laddie" girly pin-up magazines were amateurs, modeling for small change or no payment at all. All they needed was some make-up, some simple lingerie, and a willing photographer. Most of them were "natural," no plastic surgery, no boob jobs, no liposuction, and only a bit of photo-retouching. I have a book of British would-be glamor girl photos from that era, and some of them even look like they are having fun. I haven't drawn a pin-up girl figure for quite a while and here's one of those Brit birds. Just a bit 'o' nostalgia for those of us of a "certain age."

Pitt brush pen, originally sepia switched to greyscale, some white-out. 3 1/2" x 6 1/2" on sketchbook page, October 8, 2015.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

InkTober 7: Doctors Building

At first glance this building looks like yet another boxy boring office building. But take a closer look and you'll find it's a remarkable piece of architecture, sitting unnoticed (and mostly empty) in a heavy traffic area in urban Falls Church. It's at a notorious intersection called "Seven Corners." Built in 1965, it has that bleak and slightly futuristic look that characterizes Mid-Century Modern buildings. Note that the horizontal division of the windows on the sides is uneven, not just four blocks of glass. The large flat facade, in pale grey concrete, has a textured pattern of diagonals against horizontal strips. The lettering is a rather chilly squarish sans-serif, the descendant of that noble blocky Frank Lloyd Wright typeface.

On the right side which I haven't drawn in detail is another entrance which is angled out to form a triangle portico over the doorway. The building is actually quite long but you can't see it at this angle. At one point this building was said to be the tallest building in Falls Church but nowadays it is well-overshadowed by the new residential/commercial buildings going up quickly in the old historic center of the not-so-little-any-more "Little City." 

Pitt black tech pen on sketchbook page, about 5" x 5", InkTober 7, October 8, 2015.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Winding Road InkTober 6

Virginia's Appalachian and Piedmont areas are sometimes called the "Napa Valley of the East," or perhaps we wish that it was the Napa Valley of the East. There is certainly a burgeoning wine industry here in Virginia that attracts busloads of tourists and many happy revelers. As you know I often visit wineries and do drawings there. This is the bottle and glass of my "home base" winery, "Winding Road Cellars." Last year at this time I did a portrait of their woodsy wine lodge in autumn with colorful leaves. You can see it on their website. Here's a study for a black and white illustration for their ads. Winding Road now has a real wine cellar downstairs and party area so come on by with your friends no matter what the weather. 

InkTober inks: Pitt black brush pen, tech pen, and shocking use of Photoshop to touch it up a bit, sketchbook page drawing 4" x 6", October 7, 2015.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

InkTober 5: Industrial Pattern 12

It wouldn't be Ink Drawing Month if I didn't throw in at least one Industrial Pattern. This is yet another rusty abandoned blast furnace. In the original photograph it is covered with graffiti. I think it would be great to re-furbish the place as an avant-garde house. You could have greens and flowers growing in containers on all those balconies. You could add in water purifying systems and rain catchers and your own electric generator. I'm not sure of the feasibility, though, as ruins like this probably contain a lot of toxic residue. 

Sepia Pitt tech pen and marker on sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 4", October 5, 2015.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Kitchen Table Stuff InkTober 4

InkTober 4 is a jaw-dropping, iconic, sleek panorama of stuff on my kitchen table. From left to right: Vitamin C tablets, a clock, 2 handmade glass vessels (they are bright orange). One apple. One milky way bar. Hershey's chocolate bars. Box of "table water" crackers. Thick ceramic tile with the Japanese sign for "happiness" on it, also orange with black design. I omitted the messy parts and the crumbs.

Sepia tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 8" x 3", October 4, 2015.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sir Bopfinger InkTober 3

Continuing with my Medieval-era projects, here is an InkTober rendering of the funeral effigy of a German knight, Sir Walter Bopfinger, whose monument is dated 1359. I'm amazed at the variety and craftsmanship of the suits of armor I've been looking at. I'm also amazed that they were able to move, let alone fight in these metal spacesuits. The heraldic adornment is also fascinating and I guess they really did display the heraldry both in battle and in peacetime, so you wouldn't end up spearing your own guys.

Brown Pitt tech pen ink on sketchbook page, about 3.5" x 3.5", October 3, 2015.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Hair Salon abstraction InkTober 2

Fresh hair for me at the salon I have frequented for decades. There are such longstanding relationships in my life. I've written a daily journal for forty-seven years. Yes, since 1968. I've known some of my friends since the 1970s. I've been drawing with technical pens since the mid-1970s. Now it's time for "InkTober" a challenge among blogging artists to draw and post an ink drawing each day of the month. (InkTober 1 for me was the sea worm of the October 1 posting.)

InkTober is natural for me because I use ink for almost all of my sketching. This drawing was done while waiting for my hair dye to take effect. You can see the abstract patterns of the cleaning equipment and the folds on the customer's plastic protection robe. No iPhone or iPad was used in this image and the grey areas are artifacts of the scanning process, but I think they look kind of interesting so I'll keep them even if they are not ink.

Pitt black technical pen on sketchbook page, about 5 1/2" x 8", October 2, 2015.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Sea Worm (InkTober 1)

Here's a little sea creature drifting through the waves. I remember these fearsome-looking but small sea worms from my childhood when they were sold as bait. You cut them up and baited your hooks with them for shoreline salt water fishing, where you could catch a bluefish or even a striped bass if you were lucky. Sea worms could bite but I never saw that happen to anyone in our fishing expeditions. When I was a kid I never worried about whether worms or minnows or other live bait suffered or felt pain when they were cut up. Now I do think about it although I am told by references (online, fishing line) that these creatures don't have enough of a nervous system to feel pain. That goes for shrimp and lobsters too but when I see the doomed lobsters in the tank at the supermarket I feel sorry for them anyway. And that doesn't stop me from eating seafood. My sea worm above is not a biologically correct rendering and its head is fantasy. It's been a long time since I did any ocean or lake fishing, and now I would hesitate to do it in case it hurts fish. Nevertheless there are cans of tuna in my cupboard.

Original drawing with digitally inked additions, about 6" x 3 1/2", October 2, 2015.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Alaric, the Magical Youth

The young hero of this story is Alaric Morgan, Katherine's main character in many of her Deryni books. "The King's Deryni" features Morgan in almost every scene, as he grows up from a page to a squire, learning how to fight with swords and bows and lances, riding and jousting and doing all those medieval knight things. And he does everything well, he outdoes all the other boys in training. There's hardly anything he doesn't do well! Not to mention that he is tall and strong and flaxen-haired, with the brilliant grey eyes that are a characteristic of the magical Deryni. I am waiting to see what happens to him in the rest of the book.

In the sequence I illustrated for the graphic novel, Morgan is 14, and already expert as a youthful wizard. My portrayal of him might look a little young, now that I'm reading his story again. I am thinking of ways I could make more graphic sequences based on Katherine's work, perhaps taking a chunk out of one of the books and making a short graphic out of it. First let me finish the "King's Deryni" to see how the author changed the story I had to stop illustrating.

India ink and metal pen on illustration board, about 3" x 6", sometime in 2002.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Medievaloid World

This image of a castle-like building is an excerpt from the piece I am currently working on, a book cover for a digital edition of a fantasy book by Christopher Stasheff. Like Katherine Kurtz, Stasheff created a "medievaloid" world full of knights, ladies, wizards, villains, royalty, and magical children. But unlike Kurtz' more realistic world, Stasheff's world is (mostly) humorous, with wisecracking elves and snarky faeries and slapstick jokes and some seriously bad puns. There's also an amusing mixture of science fiction and Catholic church theology. The title I'm working on now features a self-styled "archbishop" on a power-grab, who must don knightly armor and fight in single combat with the hero of the book, who rides a robotic black stallion endowed with artificial intelligence. This building isn't large in the picture, it appears behind the figure of the "archbishop." 

Photoshop, about 6" x 6", September 29, 2015.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Deryni Graphic Panel

As I said before, I am currently immersed in the medieval world of Katherine Kurtz' Deryni, reading her book about the boyhood of her hero Alaric Morgan. Many years ago I did some sample pages for a possible graphic novel based on a story about Morgan and how he did magic to empower his King (the bearded guy at right) so that he could fight a magical battle. I drew my graphic pages in black and white inkwork, no color, which would be cheaper to reproduce. This is a panel from page 7. The teen-aged Deryni wizard, Alaric, is at the left.

I wanted to continue the graphic novel but the story seems to have changed as it is re-told in the new book, THE KING'S DERYNI. Katherine Kurtz is a good friend of mine and she said that since she had re-told the story with some other features not in my comic, it wouldn't be possible to finish it because it was obsolete. I guess when the author tells you the story changed, you had better accept it. She runs Deryni Reality, not me. I still have my own original graphic novel with Enlil the volcano wizard and the eruption of Mount Etna.

Old-fashioned india ink and pen on illustration board with computer-printed lettering, about 7" x 5 1/2", sometime in 2002.

Monday, September 28, 2015


This looks like a washed-up sea creature but it is really a decorative gourd. It's that time of year and the autumn harvest of fruits and vegetables is coming in. These little decorative gourds come in all sorts of gnarly shapes and sizes, mostly in combinations of green, white, and orange. This one was all orange so naturally I had to have it. I don't have room for a pumpkin, except perhaps a virtual one.

Image of gourd is brown tech pen ink on sketchbook page, colored in Photoshop, about 3" x 2 1/2", September 27, 2015.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Cloudscape for Fall

The clouds in late afternoon here were watchable; many layers of white and grey and gold playing against each other in the evening sky. Since I am doing the sky portion of my current  (digital) painting, I made this as a practice sketch from memory. In September, a time of weather transition from warm to cold, the clouds are often spectacular in my area. It is already too cool for me and other than for unusual weather events, it will continue to be too cold for me until next June. Where are my wings so I could fly south. Photoshop solves all problems but cures no ills.

Photoshop, about 10" x 7", September 26, 2015.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Lord Charles of the Dark Forest

I seem to be in a modern Medieval phase right now due to my work with Stasheff's "Gramarye" tales and Katherine Kurtz' "Deryni." Back in my Cambridge days I went to a few "Society for Creative Anachronism"  ("SCA") events, to draw people in costume. This modestly turned out fellow was named, in the SCA world, "Lord Charles of the Dark Forest." He was playing the role of a woodsman of some kind, though, not a Lord. I was dressed up too, in a simple black robe and hood imitating a religious devotee. I drew whoever would pose for me, and most of the people at the event were happy to pose. I chose the best outfits to draw. The SCA is still active after all these years.

Pencil on sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 7 1/2", early 1980s.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Your Mansion is Ready

Now that you've made your millions on Internet marketing and hedge fund investments, it's time to upgrade your dusty, dreary apartment to a dwelling that reflects your success. This mansion is one of countless examples built in the 1990s for people like you. It has everything you could possibly desire including a game room, a theater room with wall-size TV, and a splendid master bedroom with double walk-in closets to put your collection of science fiction and fantasy T-shirts. A unique feature is the huge sewing room where you can practice your crafts and store your collection of medieval garb. There is also a wood-paneled library with room for your thousands of books, and another auxiliary library room for the rest of them, bringing book capacity to at least 10,000. There is a three-car garage for your Priuses. And best of all, there's a huge kitchen where you can make all the dishes that your previous closet of a kitchen was too small to allow. Congratulations - you've arrived!

This rendering was made in the early 90s, a product of my professional work doing portraits of luxury real estate during the era of mansions. This mansion actually exists, somewhere in Great Falls, Virginia, still one of the most affluent towns in the entire USA.

Watercolor on thick paper, 14" x 11", about 1991.