Sunday, May 31, 2015

Marterella Winery

"Wine Saturday" resumed at the end of May in lovely weather as the Winers visited Marterella Winery in Warrenton, Virginia. We sampled a long list of white and red wines and settled on a bottle of Merlot accompanied by home-made pizza baked in the brick oven you see in the drawing. Sunlight and Wine go together nicely, with no deluge as with the Wine and Craft Festival a couple of weeks ago. 

Marterella image is brown ink and colored pencil, 8 1/2" x 11", May 30, 2015. Click for larger view.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Yellow Warbler

Just thought I'd do a little Photoshop doodle with a bird theme. The Yellow Warblers have left my area on their way north, but I can always do a graphic for them. They are bolder than other warblers and will perch on visible branches and sing loudly. I heard them in my back yard but didn't go searching for a visual contact because it was 1. well before dawn and still twilight dark 2. rich in bugs 3. in someone else's trees that I couldn't approach due to protective fences. The controversy, if it is one, is just what counts as "seeing" or sighting a bird. If it is identified only by sound, have you really "seen" it? I say, being an old-time birdwatcher, that you have to both hear and have a sure visual sighting and identification of the bird. With warblers all that is harder because they are so elusive, and their songs are very squeaky, though loud. A really good birdwatcher can identify migrating warblers by song alone. I can identify some of them, like the Yellow, but not others. 

Photoshop, 7" x 7", May 30, 2015.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Sunoco Station 1987

It was a warm day in Cambridge, Mass. in March 1987, warm enough so that I could go outside and draw. I was using water-based markers this time. They had a lot of bright colors so I chose something that was colorful: a Sunoco gas station. I could use these basic-color markers on the cheerful hues of orange and blue. I put the drawing in the same book that three years earlier I had filled with drawings of houses, gardens and flowers, street trees, and my neighbors. Most of this sketchbook is still blank, but I hesitate to bring a precious old sketchbook outside into the dangers of the city.

These markers had chunky chisel tips and so were not so good for drawing fine lines. You had to use a corner to get any line at all. I had some fine line markers too. I was not satisfied with the lack of precision of these markers and after a few more drawings, retired them from outdoor sketching and used them for temporary signage at restaurants, or roughs for future work. I don't think they're being made any more.

It's outdoor drawing season again and perhaps I should draw romantically portrayed gas stations, something that might bore my readers even more than abstractions from steel mills or Starbucks coffee cups. It all depends on my getting a place to sit and draw where I will not be run over by a car.

Stabilayout watercolor markers on sketchbook page, 9" x 5 1/2", March 24, 1987.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Starbucks again

Starbucks is my home away from home, and I'm not home alone. When all else fails regarding sketching subjects, the coffee house awaits. Everyone has a digital gadget, including me, but these sketches were done with a good old technical pen on paper. The young woman on the top sketch bent her arm back at a peculiar angle, you might think there was something wrong with it but she was just holding onto the seat.

Technical pen black ink on sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 8", May 27, 2015.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Stover Engine 1925

I had never heard of a "steam show" nor of the hobby of keeping antique engines, until I stumbled across it in rural North Carolina, the "Old Threshers' Reunion." By now you faithful readers (all three of you) know that I love old industrial equipment, sites, and designs. This show was filled with nostalgic American machinery. There is another annual "steam show" closer to me in Berryville, Virginia, and I made this drawing during a visit to the one in 2003.

Steam shows have more than noisy hardware. They have vendors, live music, food, games, and historical displays. The show lasts all weekend and people camp there in RVs and trailers, or tents they brought in the car or even on a motorcycle. They set up their sites with most of the comforts of home, including little sitting rooms under an awning with a barbecue grill and a cooler and the whole family and the dog. And many of them, in a reserved section, bring along an antique engine that they have restored, which is set up in front of their space for visitors to admire. 

This is one of these hobbyists' pride and joys. It is a Stover farm engine from 1925. It runs on gasoline and was originally used to power a cement mixer. When I saw it and drew its  picture, it was running (note the spinning flywheels) but slowly, about one "chug" every few seconds. The wheeled stand supporting it is modern, so that the engine can easily be moved. The owners were only too happy to explain all about how the thing worked and how they restored it. I ended up drawing a number of engines and equipment, as well as draft horses which were also on display at the show. 

The Berryville steam show is on July 25 this year and I hope I can get to it, sketchbook in hand.

"Stover Engine" is brown technical pen ink and colored pencil, some restoration in Photoshop, 9" x 5 1/4", July 26, 2003.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Extraterrestrial RV

Take a road trip on another planet with the "Pillbuggy," a spacecraft/RV designed to travel in extreme or even outer space environments. It is an independent, self-contained haven for travelers. Its shape is inspired by the common armored "pill bug," with ground-hugging stability. The front end is a hyperglass bubble which shows panoramic views to the driver and a companion. A maximum of four people can inhabit the Pillbuggy, though two or three are probably optimum. The "dino-scales" at the roof are actually variable form solar collectors which move and change shape according to how much energy is collected from the sun. The Pillbuggy can explore Earth environments too, such as remote deserts or islands. It is not meant to be driven on highways or in cities, and does not go very fast; it's for exploration, not speed.

This design is inspired by this "extreme RV" built for Earth travelers, though I'm not sure that the vehicle really exists. The truck looks unstable, as if a driving mistake or a storm would tip it over quickly. My recreational vehicle fantasies are fueled by my memories of growing up and camping in my family's red Volkswagen "Campmobile," which was hardly extreme but braved muddy campsites in the suburbs of Brussels and Paris.

Drawing of "Pillbuggy" is brown ink on sketchbook page, shaded in Photoshop, 3 1/2" x 3", May 26, 2015.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Industrial Patterns 8: Crane Bridge

If I were an engineer, I would know exactly what pattern this ironwork would make if I depicted it. There are many layers of girders and beams in this bridge. The pattern is made by one layer of built bridge in front of another, from this vantage point. Some of it is made up as I didn't have enough material to fill out the picture. The bridge is actually a long box made up of openwork iron lattice. It's a crane bridge because the box you see hanging from it on the right moves things along a track on the bridge. I'd love to visit a steel mill. There aren't very many still operating in the USA. Most of the steel making has gone overseas to China, India, and other places where labor is cheap. So cherish every bit of real steel you can, sooner or later you will have to make do with wood and bamboo.

Marker ink on sketchbook page, added to with Photoshop, 7" x 2 1/2", May 25, 2015.

Sunday, May 24, 2015


You'd like to have a sentient creature which is not humanoid, just not at all. So many aliens are like the usual Star Trek aliens, that is, people with odd bumps on their faces. It's what your makeup and costume people could afford. Or you could have your human actors interacting with something unseen in a box. But can you make something like a crab or a jellyfish look intelligent? Some authors have done it, such as the author of the famous old "Lensmen" series, or his more modern imitators such as Julian May, or the academically interesting C.J. Cherryh. Can you have a conversation with something that has six eyestalks and a crab shell? Maybe at a science fiction convention.

6 Eye Crabboid is brown technical pen ink on sketchbook page, 4" x 2 1/2", May 24, 2015.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

More Popcorn the cat

Here's another page of sketches of Popcorn the cat, or parts of Popcorn the cat. He liked to sit in the windows of my art room and look out at the world. I still wonder at the illusion that life in my home and in the general world was more peaceful in the 1980s when it really wasn't. Note the magazine on the shelf in front of the cat in the window: "Inside Kung Fu." The window on the right is the same one I drew in color in this post from 2014, plus the rear end of a cat.

Black technical pen ink on sketchbook page, 11" x 8", July 1984.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Popcorn the cat

As I've said, I am pretty good at drawing cats. I love cats and visit them often, though I can't have one of my own because I'm allergic to them. The cat depicted here is "Popcorn," who lived with me in the summer of 1984 while his people, my cousins, traveled in Canada and the U.S. Popcorn was a big cat. When he stretched out on the floor he measured 3 feet from the front paws to the tip of his tail. He used to hide behind the oven in my kitchen, emerging covered with fifty-year-old dust. I don't know why people name their cats after foods, but he did like to be in the kitchen. 

Black technical pen ink on sketchbook page, about 10" x 8", July 1984.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Industrial Patterns 7: Fabulous Belgians

I have been surrounding myself with images from my favorite artists, not only the snowy Swede Stalenhag but the steampunk art-nouveau stylings of the awesome Francois Schuiten. Schuiten, along with his writer collaborator Benoit Peeters has created the "Obscure World," an imaginary universe parallel to our own, where occasionally people or things pass through portals from one world to another. Schuiten's work is incredibly designed with gravity-defying perspectives and psychedelic scenarios, all set at what might be the turn of the 20th century, in the 1890s. Schuiten is yet another wonderful European artist whose works I follow, along the lines of the famous "Moebius," the Italian Vittorio Giardino, and the duo Adamov and Cothias, authors of the horrific but beautiful "Waters of Deadmoon." They are all drawn in the "clear line" style of European comics, but the content is not cartoony or manga-like at all. If I ever get back to doing graphic story this is the style I practice, along with industrial fantasies of steel mills and oil refineries and other cosmic metallic altars.

Brown ink on sketchbook page, 3 3/4" x 4 1/4", May 20, 2015.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Deryni Healing My Friend

Some of my friends are, or were so devoted to the imaginary worlds of their favorite fantasy authors that they wanted to live there, or at least be depicted as living there, so they could live the adventurous life as well as meet their favorite characters in "real life." This drawing is the result of a commission by a friend who had herself placed in Katherine Kurtz's "Deryni" world so that she could encounter her much-loved Dr. Rhys Thuryn, a psychic healer. I had to depict her as ailing but of course not dying. This friend/client is often sick with colds and flu since she works in elementary school with germ-laden children, so being healed of the flu is something much to be desired. 

Psychic healing is a big theme in fantasy fandom and most stories have some variant of it. I have observed that the fantasy fan community has a lot of ill-health and chronic disorders so perhaps that's behind the strong "healing" element in fantasy. 

I did the original piece in black and white as you see it here but it was on absorbent watercolor paper so I could color it in later. Here's the color version.

Image is ink and watercolor, 10" x 7", December 1982.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Hippies from the 1980s

I found and drew these two guys at the annual "Cambridge River Festival," an outdoor event just around the summer solstice. This is still being held even now! It features music and dance and other performances, as well as lots of vendors and crafters and food stands. Festivals are great places to draw people and things (unless a violent storm drowns it out with a deluge). I sketched up a storm at the 1984 River Festival including these two hippie guys. The one on the left was a very blond guy named Scott, or "White Eagle." The one on the right called himself "Khaliq," and was working at a vendor's stand selling fragrant oils. "Khaliq" was devoted to the memory of Jimi Hendrix and believed that he was Jimi's reincarnation, except that Khaliq couldn't play guitar. 

"2 Hippies 1984" is black technical pen ink on sketchbook page, about 7" x 8 1/2", June 23, 1984.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Cambridge Cat and Neighbor

The only animal that I can draw well is a cat. And this is mostly when I have a real cat in front of me to draw. I'm the same way with drawing people, I can draw someone all right as long as they are actually there in front of me. These two folks are my neighbor across the street in Cambridge, Massachusetts and her cat, "Red." I lived in Cambridge from 1977 to 1988 when I moved away to the Metro DC area. My neighborhood in Cambridge was kind of urban-idyllic as I remember back through the mist of time. In reality, it was a high crime area in which my apartment was broken into and I stopped more than one crime just by being there to chase the would-be perpetrator away. The lady is probably long gone but I remember spending many visits with her just "shooting the breeze." She ran a boarding house for students who lived on the upper floors of her large old house. She also was required by some peculiar arrangement to house people who were moving out of mental hospitals back into the general population and this did not always go well. When the lady retired from this caretaker job, she went into elder housing (along with her cat, though not the one depicted here) and the house became a "halfway house" entirely rather than a boarding house for students. All the people I used to know there are gone and Harvard has transformed a large area there into their new science center. 

Technical pen black ink on sketchbook page, about 8" x 4 1/2", June 1984. More than 30 years ago.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Drenched Wine Festival

The Virginia Wine and Craft Festival is held every May in Front Royal, a mountain town about 50 miles west of Washington, DC. I've been to this festival year after year since 1991. I missed the last two, in 2013 and 2014, due to family obligations in Massachusetts but I was determined to make it to the 2015 festival. As I arrived I saw ominous grey clouds moving in but went on wine-tasting as I usually do. In all those years of wine festing it has never rained on my visit. Well, I was wrong this time. In between wine sips the sky opened up with a violent deluge with high winds and thunder and lightning. The exhibitors either folded their awnings and fled or held on frantically to keep them from blowing away. I huddled under an awning which gave little or no protection from the torrents and despite having an umbrella I was soaked. Even so, people were buying and drinking wine in the rain! Many vendors must have taken some losses though. I was able to buy a very wet bottle of Mattaponi Vineyards Chambourcin red which I loaded into my soaked backpack.

Black technical pen ink on sketchbook page, about 4 1/2" x 6", May 17, 2015.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Rust Belt Industrial Patterns 6

Here I am again, back at the abandoned steel mill with Photoshop on my desktop. Or in my hand. I want the Cintiq drawing tablet, which can go anywhere with the quality of a desktop drawing. The iPad doesn't have the drawing power that the Cintiq has. But I don't have $1800 for the mid-range Cintiq either. My Swedish art idol Simon Stalenhag does all his surrealistic scenes on one of these techno-slabs. OK, if someone commissions me to do a digital piece with enough money to afford a Cintiq I would go for it. At the moment I'm working in "traditional" paint, that is, wet acrylic slime.

Brown technical pen ink on sketchbook page, 5" x 4", colored in PhotoRust, May 16, 2015. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Hawkmistress Frontispiece

I still have lots of black and white vintage art you haven't seen. This is the frontispiece for the DAW Books edition of Marion Zimmer Bradley's HAWKMISTRESS, published in 1982. In those days the title of the book had a cheesy exclamation point added to it. That's my art on the cover. I wonder if anyone remembers this. The frontispiece depicts main character Romilly, a girl who has psychic abilities to communicate with animals, and her hawk, "Preciosa." 

Black ink on illustration board, 6" x 10", summer 1982.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Dreary hospital building

Hospital and clinic buildings, in my experience, are always dreary and devoid of character. Here in the USA the modern ones are built of brick, concrete, and glass, like an office building with no business going on. Well, health care is a business but you want to pretend it's there to heal you. I accompanied my mother for an MRI in this building, which is in Concord, Massachusetts. It was a Saturday and the building was almost completely deserted, as if no one were sick or injured on Saturday. I got lost in the building looking for the cafe that was supposed to be there. After finding the eatery, which was surprisingly open and staffed, I got lost on the way back. I did this drawing while waiting for the wheelchair wagon that would take us back to the rehab facility where Mother was lodged. Mother has had 5 hospital stays in 2 years, due to falls and broken bones, gastric problems, and heart problems. This is "par for the course," as the saying goes, for upper-middle-class elder care in the USA. 

Black technical pen ink on sketchbook page, about 5" x 7", April 11, 2015. The dreariness of the building was alleviated by the unintentional rudeness of the patron's name, "John Cuming."

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Industrial Patterns 5

This complexity of iron I-beams and other metalwork is from an early 20th century German steel mill, long since de-commissioned and designated a "historic site." The iron framework supported a monorail train which brought raw materials to the blast furnaces. I would have loved to see this whole complex in action, especially by night when the furnaces would glow from within like volcanic craters.

Brown technical pen ink on sketchbook page, 8" x 3", May 13, 2015. Darker areas added in Photoshop. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Industrial Patterns 4

I've been so distracted and drained by the family needs these days that I have not managed to produce drawings or doodles on the pages of my sketchbook. Right now my dwelling is strewn about with things that I brought back from my stay in Massachusetts and dropped on the floor. What kind of things, as my mother would say. She has a way of "interrogating" me for specific details on any generalizing statement I make. Well, there's dirty clothes, books, reel to reel tapes, hotel swag such as coffee packets, soaps, shampoo and conditioner bottles. There are palette trays, overnight and tote bags, magazines, toys, shoes and boots, and piles of collected mail and bills. 

Nevertheless I insist that art be made in this mess and so I am processing all this stuff bit by bit, while resuming working on the projects that were interrupted for a month and more for the parent care mission. And the parent care mission is not by any means done. I have to explain to an increasingly senile mother that she needs a live-in caretaker lest she forget to take her pills or have a fall or forget to eat. Just because thousands, perhaps millions of offspring all over the developed world face these challenges taking care of aging parents, does not mean that my own attempts are any less difficult. 

So I'm back to the studio for the moment, and I'm filling in my sketchbook with illustrations. I left places on the pages to put a drawing while I added my journal entries. The subject of the illustrations has nothing to do with what is going on in my journal, so I can put anything there. The 2015 theme is "Industrial Patterns," so here's another one.

Brown tech pen ink on sketchbook page, about 4" x 4", May 11, 2015. Blue color added in Photoshop.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Pill Bug War Wagon

On the battlefields of the far future the war materiel will be biomorphic. This armored personnel carrier is based on a segmented "pill bug" with caterpillar legs. The wagon can move over rough terrain that would give wheeled vehicles trouble. In the near air space above are anti-gravity drone spheres and a small three-vaned attack aircraft. No one in these vehicles knows what the war is about but they keep fighting nevertheless.

It'll take some time for me to rev up the By-Product again so apologies for missing a day or two. I need to draw up some more sketches and put them in the image queue for quality.

Original drawing in brown tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 3" x 3", April 25, 2015.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Back from Limbo

I am back from the chill world of Massachusetts in one piece. I ended up staying a month in the old parental home doing a world of tasks to keep my aged mother alive if not well. She is now attended by 24-hour/7 days home care, to maintain her life support and routines. I wrote at length about this difficult month on Facebook, and almost all of you handful of readers have at least noticed these postings, so I won't repeat any of it here. 

I brought my art stuff with me as well as my laptop computer, but I just couldn't get much art done. As soon as I had some time to work on it, something else went wrong with the medical case management or the house, or I was needed for more service. If I was away from the house more than an hour or two, Mother got worried. There are a lot of nice old buildings in our neighborhood that I'd love to draw, but I didn't have the time to stop, find a place to draw, and make a drawing. This one you see above is at the crossroads of the towns of Natick and Wayland, a place called Cochituate. This place has everything you need: banks, post office, grocery store, pet supply shop, drugstore, restaurant, and, of course, a Starbucks Coffee shop. I did this drawing sitting in my car's driver seat, parked in the grocery store's parking lot. It's a handsome late 19th/early 20th century edifice which has had many different commercial occupants. Currently it houses a shop for wedding gowns but it is for sale. I don't have enough money to buy it.

The parental house is in disrepair and I tried to have as much fixed as possible, using hired help. My father didn't do anything to fix the house unless it was dire necessity, since he would never spend any money. Most of the time my mother lies on her bed or couch, silent and motionless. The silence of this limbo was oppressive, but I must accept it for what it is. 

So, back to art blogging. I hope one or two of you missed the By-Product. I'll try to get some bloggable art done now that I am home - in Virginia.

House drawing is black technical pen ink on sketchbook page, about 4 1/2" x 4 1/2", April 18, 2015.