Monday, July 31, 2017

Rappahannock Cellars vine branch

The "Wine Team" didn't expect sunny weather, since the day before had featured deluges and floods all over Northern Virginia. But by the time we got to Rappahannock Cellars, the skies were clearing and the vines were shining. We sipped Rapahannock's excellent selection in the  "members'" beautiful room. Most wineries have a "members club" where if you promise to buy a specified amount of wine per year, you get privileges, like the nice room. This view is through a big picture window in that room and there is a gnarly discarded vine branch sitting as an ornament on the windowsill. 

Colored pencil and markers on sketchbook page, 7" x 6", July 29-31, 2017, finished in studio. Click for winy view.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

American Academy in Rome courtyard

The American Academy in Rome is a place where chosen American scholars and creative artists can spend a year or more in the Eternal City doing special projects and studies. I was a guest there in 1975-1976 using family connections to stay there. While at the Academy, I did numerous works of art including this one, a portrait of one of the inner walls of the open courtyard. The Academy building was designed by the famous American architects McKim, Mead, and White, but it was done in a classical Roman style and looks like the ideal world of Rome as interpreted by early 20th-century American architects.

Watercolor over light pencil drawing, 9" x 11", 1976. Click on image for a larger view.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Patriotic Abstraction

I found a spot in my sketchbook journal which I left empty for image drop-ins. This page contained the entry for July 4 so even though this is retrospective from the 29th I'll do something appropriate for July 4. Many times this year I have been ashamed of some of the people who are supposed to lead our country but when it comes to color, image, and abstraction I don't have to be explicit. 

Markers on sketchbook page with Photoshop background, 5" x 4", July 29, 2017.

Friday, July 28, 2017


It's a pop-in doodle in the sketchbook journal for a space I didn't fill while on the road. The background is adapted from "Mister Mourao's" architectural visual-jazz while the demon is copied from a handbook of pre-drawn fantasy characters and creatures. I feel like this demon right now as my apartment's brand new replaced air conditioner is still not working.

Black tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 3 1/2" x 3", July 27, 2017.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

What I Saw

Bright banners hung out to dry in the twilight.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Kids of Kallitechnia

One or more of you might remember my illustration work for a Utopian fantasy called "Kallitechnia." This is one of my later pieces, from the last set I did concentrating on the people and costumes of the place. The author asked me for examples of costumes that children and teenagers might wear. He also asked for a racially diverse group as membership in Kallitechnia was not hereditary or uniform. These young Kallitechnians range in age from 10 to 18. As for the older ones, my client said, "Make 'em showy and sexy. They are in prime mating form and want to impress potential partners."

Black ink on illustration board, about 7" x 10", spring 1998.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Mourao inspiration

I have recently "discovered" the fantastic art of a contemporary Portuguese artist who goes by the name "Mister Mourao." He creates large, incredibly complicated architectural fantasies (he was trained as an architect). Their size ranges from tiny to gigantic, and he has also done illustrations and design for prestigious publications like the "New Yorker" and the New York Times, as well as Apple Corporation. I found a book of his drawings edited to make an "adult coloring book" and I had to have it, not to color but to learn from. Mourao's work is definitely in the "I wish I had drawn this" category.

So naturally, I tried to draw like Mourao. I got through a few inches and realized that Mourao's work is not random or chaotic. Everything in his wild surrealistic world makes sense!  The windows and doors and walls and archways are drawn by an architect who knows how they are built and why they stand up. Since I also have architectural (drawing) training, I can look at a wild and wacky Mourao and figure out just what he's doing. I can't help wondering how long it takes to do one of these detail explosions and also whether he draws a sketch and perspective lines before he goes for the final.

Above is my first attempt at Mourao inspiration. Mine is more chaotic and unreal than his. What looks like an awning is my depiction of a pattern on the paper towels in a roll of Bounty. A bit of Photoshoppage and it looks like 3-D.

Black and brown tech pen inks on sketchbook page, Photoshop added, 8" x 3", July 24, 2017.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Pine Grove Gazebo

Many hotels have gazebos like this somewhere on their property. They are used as a decorative background for wedding photographs. Sometimes they are just ornamental, and people sit in them just to be outside and have a mobile phone conversation, or a smoke. This one belongs to the Hampton Inn in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, one of the inns I stayed at on my recent Northeastern journey. Pine Grove is sort of near Harrisburg, and the hotel's location has a nice view of wooded hills.There's also a small shopping center, a diner, and a truck stop. I was told when I asked the hotel desk clerk that the gazebo was built by Mennonites. Both the Amish and the Mennonites, with a large presence in eastern Pennsylvania, make plenty of money building wooden structures of all sizes, from gazebos to wine lodges at wineries. 

I had an interesting view of this gazebo from the hotel window. I was looking down on it so I was able to depict the roof and the small cupola at the top. The whole structure was a reddish brown in color.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, about 5" x 8", July 20, 2017.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Returned from Massachusetts

I only did two drawings during my time in Massachusetts. One of them is this one, done in the waiting area of "Direct Tire" while the two back tires of my Orange Element were being replaced. Massachusetts road conditions were not just the usual rubble and bumpy roads but construction on every major intersection. The digging machines and jackhammers and piles of dirt and ripped apart pavement added to the peaceful summer atmosphere. When they were done the edges of the road were lined with sharp rectangles of granite that can take out your tire in an instant. But I lost a tire to a metal screw (yeah screwed haha not) and had to replace it due to the unfixable puncture along with its matching partner on the car. Thankfully "Direct Tire" was right near my hotel site so they did the work.

The surprisingly brutal Direct Tire slogan displayed here in the main lobby describes my ten days in Massachusetts attending to the family archives and making necessary relative visits. This trip for various reasons was one of the most difficult of my recent drags back and forth. I'm glad I don't have to do this drive again. Blogging will now resume.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 7" x 5", July 7, 2017.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Magic Carpet Con '95

Been there, done that, designed the T-shirt. In 1995 I was Art Guest of Honor at "Magic Carpet Con" in Dalton, Georgia, in the hills northwest of Atlanta. Dalton is a center for carpet manufacturing, hence the name of the convention and my design. I depicted a patterned carpet unrolling from a galaxy, while a fanciful spaceship dashes by. Marion Zimmer Bradley was Guest of Honor at this convention. The back of the shirt says something like "In Honor of Marion Zimmer Bradley." By that time MZB was in poor health and she died in 1999. The shirt design was printed in black on a white T-shirt but I always thought it should have been printed in light ink on a dark background.

Black ink on illustration board, with computer lettering added, 8 1/2" x 10", October 1995.

A note to my handful of readers: "Art By-Products" will be on break for the next two weeks as I do dutiful things in Pennsylvania and the old home place in Massachusetts.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Nipplecon 1994

I debated whether or not to show this image but eh, why not. I used to do the program cover and T-shirt image for various conventions, especially Pagan and New Age gatherings in my area. There was one called "Ecumenicon," and one called "Sacred Space" which had once been "Ecumenicon," and various others in the fantasy fan category. For "Ecumenicon" 1994, the theme was sacred sexuality and the spring Pagan holiday of "Beltane" celebrating fertility. For my model, I used the heterosexual lovers from the "Lovers" Tarot card. This pleasant pair is holding a copy of a Hindu "Lingam" and "Yoni," symbols of sacred sex. "Mysterium Coniunctionis" is Latin for "The Mystery of Joining," used in Alchemical symbolism. She's wearing roses, he's wearing leaves. As was pointed out to me by other fans, the archway behind them looks kind of like a breast. 

The man and woman in this design are real people, a married couple active in the local Pagan community. When I submitted the design, the directors of the convention thought that I had gotten a bit too explicit with nudity, even though the models' names were never identified. The management had to crop the image to hide the nipples, and move the writing up to fill the space. So much for daring social experiments. Some fans called this "Nipplecon."

Original drawing is black ink and computer-printed graphics on illustration board, 9" x 11", September 1993.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Pope with Legs

I spent a lot of time in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, in the various years I lived in Rome. I got to know the monuments and images in the grand barn almost as if they were real people. And I continued to do drawings. This drawing is from a different session than the lantern and  saint. After a Pope died in the early modern to modern era (say, 1500s to early 1900s) the cardinals raised by him took up a collection and commissioned a monument to him. This one is one of my favorites, from 1769. The Pope depicted here is Benedict XVI, who reigned from 1740-1758. He's wearing the beehive-shaped papal tiara crown and is blessing the crowd with his stone arm. In those days it was a big thing to carve stone so precisely that it could be mistaken for real textile or cloud or flesh. The sculptor here gave Benedict a flowing gown which outlines his legs rather like the skirts of a Greek goddess. I suppose Benedict must have had shapely legs. The effect is harder to see if you go around to the other side of the statue. You can read more than you would ever want to know about this monument by visiting this site. There are monuments in St. Peter's to more recent popes including the terrifying one of Pius 12, the pope during World War II.

Here's an atmospheric, rather grainy photo of the interior of St. Peter's and the grand altar, taken by me in 1969. I wonder whether this building and interior, with its evocation of Empire, inspires genuine religious faith, or just awe of human workmanship.

Pope Benedict monument drawing is pencil on sketchbook page, 5" x 7", July 18, 1975. For both images, please click for larger view.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Amazon Adventure Darkover

This is an old relic of a Darkover piece that I did as an extra for a published book cover. DAW Books, M.Z. Bradley's publisher, hired me for four covers along with a black and white ink drawing as a frontispiece. (I've continued that for the six Stasheff covers I've done.) The second Darkover cover I did was for "Sword of Chaos," which was an anthology of short stories written by Marion's fans and one by the author herself. This drawing illustrates one of the stories but not the cover story. In the tale, a young "Free Amazon" and a hardened older male Ranger must work together on a mission though they mutually distrust each other. Darkover's "Amazons" were not Wonder Women nor online merchants, they were groups of women who organized themselves outside conventional society to make their way without the constraints of marriage. At one point the "Free Amazons" were on their way to becoming a real-world group of social experimentalist women but with the passing of Marion the groups disappeared, to my disappointment.

Black ink on illustration board, 7" x 11", September 1981.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Roman Ornamentation

In Saint Peter's Basilica, the grand central space of the Catholic Church in Europe, no expense was spared to make it as ornate as possible. After all, the more stuff you add on, the more praiseworthy it is and the more exalted it is in a place of worship. The proliferation of ornament on the walls and domes is directly inherited from the secular buildings of imperial Rome, but here, it is a way to praise God as well as impress the followers.

This drawing of ornamental cornices and wall textures is unusually precise even for me and I wondered whether I had finished it in the studio but since it is drawn on the same page and with the same pencil as the other July 11 drawings, I guess I really did sit there for the hour it must have taken to jot this little study. I must have had a lot of patience back then. Not so much nowadays. 

Pencil on sketchbook page, 4" x 4 1/2", July 11, 1975.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Baby Screams

I must admit that I didn't do this picture out of my revolutionary spirit. A friend of mine challenged me to do it and I came up with the idea and a coffee house of all places. She risks her reputation and possibly even her health and life going into Trumpistan, D.C. to participate in protest marches. She has a whole library of protest signs, some of which I calligraphed in nice block letters. Some of them, worded by family and friends, are funny, some clever, and others are too intellectually complex for a street parade.

But here's the question. Do I really believe that this cartoon Presidential character should be mocked and even removed? Do I share the same contempt for him that so many of my friends and fellow Americans do? This is harder for me to answer than you might think. Sure, in many ways he is loathsome and worthy of disgust. But as a world-builder and fantasy artist I also think of the Turnip as a "mythical" figure, created by some collective imagination that has made a hero out of a con man. If you've read Ayn Rand, you know what I'm talking about. Turnip is someone who has deliberately created his own version of Randian sainthood. She used to complain that businessmen were never portrayed as positive, heroic figures. Now, finally, the "successful businessman" (despite the bankruptcies) has grabbed the soft center of imagination. The mercantile messiah has finally achieved his golden goal. Rand's heroes are beyond good and evil. They can bribe, threaten, even do violence to advance their towering self-interest, and they will succeed. Can we readers do that? I want to be a success! I want to win!

There is a problem though, and that's because this Ayn Rand hero is a twit. Rand is grandiose, but Turnip is petty and small. The celebrity insult games don't give me that Randian rush. Therefore I feel justified putting the Baby-in-Chief in his crib for someone in a milling protest march to hold up high.

Markers on construction paper, worked on with Photoshop, 20" x 16", June 30, 2017.