Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Bunny Train

Here it comes! All aboard the Bunny Train! It will take you where you want to go, under the overpasses and through the tunnels and over the meadows, full of rabbity momentum. Chug Chug Chug goes the engine as it pulls the freight for the creatures in the cities. Let the Norfolk Southern use a rearing horse as its symbol, the Bunny Train just keeps hopping and munching. Wave to the engineer as it goes by.

Markers and white out with some Photoshop additional drawing on sketchbook page, 4" x 3", August 31, 2016.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Another gearbot

Here's more inspiration from my book of old mechanical drawing cut-ups. It's a gearbot, part of a now-common trend to turn our engineering past into art forms. It doesn't run like an engine though, it's more like a scrap sculpture that stands on a street corner inviting derision or laughter. But wait...there's more. There's plenty of antique geary gear for other little fantasies.

Black tech pen ink on sketchbook page with some white-out, 4" x 3 1/2", August 29, 2016.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Gameworld Mystic Valley Inn Ladies

The game I was illustrating was called "Haven, the Free City" and it had simulated neighborhoods and areas which ranged from the nasty to the elegant upscale. One of the more gentrified places was the "Mystic Valley Inn," a place which catered to the rich and gossipy ladies of the town. They would meet for tea in the "Golden Ducat" lounge and share their tidbits of information. Many of these ladies were in positions of power though you would not know it by looking at them. It's my kind of place.

Black ink on illustration board, 8 1/2" x 3", July 1984 for "Gamelords."

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Improbability Doodle

It's something, but I don't know just what. I am inspired by a collection of old industrial engraving images to put this mechanical jumble into a composition. Maybe it is the "Infinite Improbability Drive" from the famous "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." I need a new workstation if I'm going to continue to create little draws like this. You should see my dwelling. It is filled with a large amount of the stuff I brought back from the old Mildewed Family House and it still smells bad. I can barely see the floor. I don't even know what is in some of those bags, my helpers and I just stuffed material in there and took it out to the car. There may be something improbable in there, who knows. All of it is from the previous century, except the bags themselves.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 3 1/2" x 3 3/4", August 28, 2016.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Gameworld Family

Many of the game stories in the gaming world I worked with centered around one noble clan, named the "De La Riis" family. This was a pun on the name of the perennial performer Della Reese, active in showbiz for ages. The characters ranged through a selection of stereotypes, from the scheming cousins to the aged patriarch to the flirtatious babe, the street gang boys, devoted mother, and other rather Shakespearian types. I was asked to do an illustration of the main clan characters and put them all on one little strip of image. I used my comic book or "storybook" ink style to make it as clear as possible. This reproduction is poor as the original copy is badly preserved, stuck for eternity inside an old portfolio-book that has melted the plastic pocket together with the printing. Who knows, maybe the ink-drawn original is still extant, buried in my closet with other art works in a mind-numbing pile.

Black ink on illustration board, 11" x 4", spring 1984.

Friday, August 26, 2016

CBS Cone

I am at my usual spot in the front of Starbucks and have my sketchbook next to the coffee. I have to draw something. The road cone is mounted on the back of a service truck and looks interesting due to its geometric shape. I draw it quickly because I know that the service truck driver guy will be coming back soon to drive it away. Here he comes. I need to know something: What does the CBS  on the cone mean? I dash out the door leaving my coffee and catch him before he runs away: What do the initials stand for. He is baffled that anyone would want to know this. It stands for "Constellation Building Systems," which builds and works on air conditioners, heaters, plumbing, ventilation, and other infrastructure like that. I show the driver the drawing and he's impressed. Like most people who look at my sketches, they say they "can't draw, not even a straight line." I usually reply, that's why they have rulers.(Which I don't use drawing straight lines in sketches.) Then the driver escapes and drives away. I'm sure this was the most interesting thing which happened to him all day, that someone drew a picture of a ROAD CONE. 

There wasn't enough drawing on the page so I drew part of the car in back of the truck, a bright yellow Mustang with a nasty mean face.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 5" x 5", August 25, 2016.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Moosehead Tavern for RPG game

In the 1980s I did a lot of game illustrations for RPG games. I worked for a company called "Gamelords" (long since disappeared) who created a Renaissance-style world for the stories to play out in. The world was populated by the usual assortment of humanoids such as dwarves, elves, hobbits, and plenty of ordinary human beings of all classes. This scene is in a tavern where all species are welcome. Two dwarves and two men are eating at the table. The bar was called the "Moosehead Tavern" because of the mounted moose head. A portrait of the proprietor (standing behind the bar) is on the wall next to the moose head and a popular notion says that the proprietor resembles the moose. 

I liked using an old-fashioned pen and ink style for these game illustrations, though even then that look was not widely used. I'll still use it if I think it is appropriate.

Pen and ink on illustration board, 8" x 7", spring 1984.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Approaching Storm, Culpeper County

On the way home from central Virginia I saw spectacular huge clouds on the western horizon, bringing with them darkness and an abundance of rain. There was no place to stop and make a sketch so this rendering is from memory. Drawing from memory is less verboten than drawing from a photograph. Also when you're doing a scene from memory, you are the God of the image world so you can add or remove anything you want from it. I added a vineyard, naturally. The place I am remembering here is close to the "Old House" winery near Culpeper, which needs a visit from me as I missed it on my way past that area. 

From the look of it you'd think this was a watercolor but no, it's done with markers. The alcohol-based markers include Copic, Prismacolor, Pantone, "Touch," and Chartpak. They can blend on your page and look just like watercolors. They come in hundreds of delectable and natural-looking shades. The only problem with these markers is that their colors are all fadeable and so cannot be used for final art pieces. You have to scan anything you do in marker if you want a permanent image.

This is another piece for the upcoming second volume of my winery drawings, "Virginia Under Vine." I am hoping for a fall 2017 release date but that is tentative. Winery drawing is not as easy as it used to be for me though I take the opportunity to go when I can.

"Approaching Storm" is markers on sketchbook page, 11" x 7 1/2", August 24, 2016. Clicquez for larger view.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Kinkadian at Honah Lee

I am back from vacation now and back at work in the studio. This piece is the only winery drawing I did on my vacation days, at Honah Lee Winery near Orange, Virginia. I just didn't want to "work" while on holiday. Honah Lee started out as only a vineyard making no wine but this year they are licensed and putting out their own brand of wine which is quite nice both white and red. They have also built up their location to make a wedding venue complete with garden path and a gazebo, which makes it look like a painting by the unfortunate Thomas Kinkade. They have a big white event tent for the guests. "Honah Lee" is of course from the famous Peter, Paul, and Mary song "Puff the Magic Dragon," and their logo has a dragon and wineglass combination.

Brown tech pen ink and colored pencil on sketchbook page, 8" x 7", some color added in the studio, August 18, 2016. 

Blogging will resume now.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Cambridge Cornices 1984

I lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts for about 13 years, some of those times suffering in grad school dorms. The rest were spent in an 1890 vintage house only a few yards from Harvard Divinity School. During the 1980s I studied architectural drawing at Harvard's Graduate School of Design and did numerous studies of older Cambridge housing. My neighborhood was full of these wooden houses, many of them in poor repair. This one above was in better shape. I love the elaborate woodwork and cornices above the door and upstairs window. Houses like these exist all over America especially in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic (Pennsylvania and New York, for instance) states. Here in Northern Virginia most of the old houses have been whisked away to be replaced by nondescript apartment complexes, McMansions, and glassy office buildings.

Black ink on illustration board, about 8" x 10", summer 1984.

No blogging for the next few days, I'll be on vacation.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Gothic Utility Shed

I go by this building just about every day. It is a storage shed for utility and maintenance equipment. Many years ago when I moved into the apartment complex this space was a basketball court but it attracted gang activity and after an incident that nearly turned into a riot the court was removed and this building was placed there instead. It is made of modules of aluminum and its shape is referred to as "gothic," due to its pointed roof line. I love the idea of a gothic chapel of landscaping equipment.

While I was drawing this sketch (and sweating profusely in 90+ degrees heat) a young man came up to the step I was sitting on and admired the drawing. He didn't know any English and I know almost no Spanish but I got the idea from him that he wanted to take a picture of the drawing with his camera phone. So I displayed it to him and he got the picture. This happens a lot when I draw in public, now that everyone has a phone which is equipped with a camera.

Black tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 6 1/2" x 4", August 14, 2016.

I missed blogging yesterday, that is, August 14. I drew but did not blog. I blame the Olympics which I cannot resist watching, and it took up my time and made me forget about everything. I apologize even if you never noticed my little failure. 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Iron wheel

Back in the 19th century and early 20th century, work was really WORK. Dirt-covered men slaved in factories of grinding iron machinery, while stacks poured out billows of black smoke. It didn't matter whether you had an education or even whether you could read or write, as long as you could turn a wrench or wield a hammer. Yeah, those were the days of real MAN'S work, and you got paid well for it. None of this sissy stuff of modern times where you sit for 10 hours in front of a computer screen and someone pastes shit together with a three-dimensional printer, whatever the hell that is. Who will make the iron wheels turn again? I don't use the friggin' Internet. Who will bring back jobs for the strong and uneducated? Where will we go when the machines take over all our work? Will we sit with the old ladies and string beads and weave baskets? 

Black industrial smokestack tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 4" x 3 1/2", August 13, 2016.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Deryni Pageantry

I am a longtime fan of Katherine Kurtz's "Deryni" world and writing, as well as a good friend of Katherine herself. She packs her books with vivid descriptive scenes that inspire me as an illustrator. Many years ago when she published the first two series I did some experiments on how I could best present these books as illustrated work. These black and white images would be a cross between the work of H.J Ford in the various colorful fairy tale books, and the perennial favorite set in medieval times, "Prince Valiant." This illustration above was one of my experiments, mixing printed text with ink drawing. I went on to do other sample varieties including some "traditional" comic book pages, but didn't publish any of it except in fan zines.

Black ink and computer-printed text, 7 1/2" x 9", August-September 1993.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Starbucks Boy

He is Privileged and will never know prejudice, deprivation, and violence. He is studying to become something that will make him a lot of money. In a few years he will be a Washington consultant, providing curated information for his clients. There are other stories you could tell about him. Maybe he is studying engineering or law. He is not studying Latin. His briefcase/backpack is made out of real leather and his little computer is up to date. He may be the only white Anglo boy in his class, or he may be in a class composed of all white boys like him. Whatever he is, I will still be sitting drawing random dudes at Starbucks while he moves ahead in his career.

Black tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 3" x 4", blah blah blah.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Amber fan zine cover

Back in the 1970s and 1980s the swashbuckling fantasy tales of Roger Zelazny were quite popular at least in the USA. They were the stories of a prolific royal family who could wander through different dimensions where reality changed as you looked at it. The different realities or universes were all considered the "shadows" of a One True Reality which is where the royal palaces were established, on the peak of a mountain in a city called "Amber." I did a lot of fan art and private commissions done from the world of Amber and this is one of them. It shows the main character, Corwin, walking the magical labyrinth known as the "Pattern," from which all other reality designs emanate. This image was the cover of a fan magazine. I also did some interior illustrations for that zine. 

Black ink and plastic pre-applied "Zip-a-tone" on illustration board, 7 1/2" x 10", spring 1983.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Grinder

I'm back to doing those whimsical little draws in my sketchbook journal. If you look closely you can see a message in this one. I wouldn't want to be too, uh, violent about it. The design is adapted from a compendium of old engineering illustrations, published by the ever-wonderful art source of Dover Publications. I think we should be artistically correct, not politically incorrect. Make sure your architectural lines are perpendicular and your portraits have only one nose, things like that. There's more where this came from.

Black tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 4 1/2", August 9, 2016.

Monday, August 8, 2016


I haven't been to a fantasy/sf convention in years, not counting "Chessiecon" where I don't exhibit art but just see friends. Back in the 1990s I was guest of honor at some small cons and did a lot of art showing. Things have changed for me regarding conventions as I made less and less money at them. By the 2000s I could not justify going to conventions when I didn't make enough to cover my expenses. But back in those days I got to make interesting original covers for the convention program book and T-shirt. This one was "NotJustAnotherCon," a student-run convention held at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. It ran for about 8 years off and on, the last one being in 2002. I was guest at number 6, which was held in 1990, and I remember having a good time at it. My priorities are a lot different now so I haven't made the effort to keep up with conventions. 

Original cover art is black ink on illustration board, about 7 1/2" x 10",1990.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Breaux Vineyards interior

The Wine Team visited Breaux Vineyards in Purcellville, Virginia on "Wine Saturday" this weekend. They have a wonderful architectural setup which has European and New Orleans designs so artfully made they look like a movie set. Inside the golden stucco tasting hall are black-painted iron balconies and ornamental railings that are meant to re-create the 19th-century look of New Orleans' "French Quarter." Their offerings of charcuterie and cheese and fancy crackers are excellent and I tried to eat, drink, and draw at the same time which didn't work out too well for me. This drawing is my attempt to depict one of Breaux's interior designs in wrought iron. I wanted to have it architecturally perfect with all the railings and facings in the right place and order but did not manage it. You wouldn't know my failing unless you were there looking at the scenery. I need to go back to Breaux and do more drawings both indoors and outdoors because it is a majestic winery full of places to depict.

Sepia brown tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 7" x 5 1/2", August 6, 2016.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Natick Street Fair

During my stay at The Old Mildew House I went to a street fair in my hometown, Natick, Massachusetts. The "Art Walk" is held in mid-July and it features artists and crafters who set up their wares on tables on the sidewalks. There are also musicians and people from local restaurants selling food. Stores are open late and it is a very nice festival in general. I drew this little sketch while sitting at the food court. You can see that Mutual One Bank, a very local small bank, sponsored the Art Walk. 

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 7" x 4", some touching up with Photoshop, July 21, 2016.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Emptying Out the Old House

Most of the furniture in my family's house was finished by my father, who painted everything with wood stain. He sanded and polished and stained it again until it had the right look for faux-Swedish modern furniture of its time, namely the 1960s. You'd think that people would be lining up to grab these relics, but the home-interior world is overrun with this kind of woodwork now that the old generation is dying off and the houses with their contents are being dismantled. The emptying of the old house for me is being repeated all over the USA. I have no idea whether it is happening in other countries. A vast mountain of STUFF is being moved elsewhere. America is moving mountains!

Meanwhile, my father's hard work, some of it pervaded with mildew and must and mouse leavings, was taken to the junkyard, where I had to pay a fee for leaving it there. My helper who did the hauling said that junkyards sometimes allowed "pickers" to salvage things from the dump. So it may be that someone has taken my family's cabinets and bookshelves and home offices and folding tables and chests of drawers into their own households. Maybe they've purged the mildew and polished up the faded stainwork. I would like to think that's happening. They can have the cat-scratched cabinets and the sofas with the mouse seed caches and the chairs with the spindly metal legs I always tripped over and the fake Oriental rugs made in factories. Works for me, yes it does.

Black ink tech pen on sketchbook page, 5"x 5", July 26, 2016.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Removal of Furniture

My tireless helpers spent the last weeks of July removing furniture from the old house. This aggregation, including book cases, chests of drawers, cabinets, and an air fan, was less than one room's worth. Bookish readers would drool at the number of book cases that were taken out of the house but those same readers would not want their precious Terry Pratchetts or Mercedes Lackeys to be soaked in mildew, as these items were. The stink was awful, though not as epically bad as the fresh mouse pee of last winter. Honestly I don't think it could be remediated even if you wanted to keep the house and renovate it so the STARK FIST OF REMOVAL is coming soon. (One or two of you may actually know what that is. Bonus points for correct answer.) 

I was just too tired to post at my usual absurd time earlier today but I managed to get this in before the day changed to August 5. Yeah, August. The legal papers for the official and final transfer of the house to the developers who bought it and its site, have arrived. Closing date is August 17. Thanks Mike for leaving a kind comment, I am really glad someone cares about this Blogification.

Black tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 8" x 5", July 24, 2016.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Goodbye to the Old House

The paintings were gone from the walls. The furniture, reeking of mildew, was either dragged to the truck to be thrown out or given to neighbors who would clean and renew and use it. The only thing left in the living room was the massive old TV which I never watched in the three weeks I spent there. In winter, infested with foul-smelling mice, in summer, airless and stifling smelling of mildew and dust. My father, in his endless obsession with saving money, had blocked all the windows except a few small screened openings, to stop the heat from escaping in the winter. Massachusetts only has a few hot days all year, so why air condition the whole house? One room only had a working air conditioner, though it emitted a stink since its filter had never been cleaned. There were two air fans to move the dust around. The house was neglected because my parents would never pay for cleaning or repairs until it was unescapable. 

Closing date for realtor and buyers is August 17. Then this testament to unwholesomeness will be leveled and something better for someone else will arise where it was. Memories and echoes will fly off into the sky like squawking crows, hopefully never to criticize or complain or cut with sarcasm again. 

I drew this sketch to document the emptying of the old house. I am now back in Virginia attempting to keep up with what I've missed being in limbo throughout July.

Tech pen black ink on sketchbook page, 8" x 5", July 23, 2016. Blogging now resumes.