Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Eat your Greens

This doesn't count as "Art;" it is certainly a By-Product. But some of you may find it useful, especially if you are working with colored pencils. These are the "natural" green colors offered by four different makers: Prismacolor, Derwent Colorsoft, Faber-Castell, and "Irojiten." I sorted them out by color and make, and then drew a swatch blending from heavy coating to light dusting. All these pencils have a wax lead base and are very pleasant to use. If you blend them together on your page, it can even imitate watercolor. I am not sure whether they fade; I haven't done a fading test under sunlight. These are the pencils I use to make my winery drawings. With this chart I am able to pick out just the pencil I want. There are other brands available and I have a few, but these are my favorites. The "Irojiten" series are especially lovely and their colors are very close to the exact natural shade of green plants or spring grass or autumn leaves. I have another page of blue skies and clouds. I also did a set of color charts using watercolors but I am not actively using them right now. I suppose I'll do a winter set of greys and browns sometime.

Colored pencils with ink notes on sketchbook page, October 31, 2017. Click for more green.

Monday, October 30, 2017


The Griffin, sometimes spelled "Gryphon," is one of my favorite mythical creatures. It is built from a combination of many different animals. This Gryphon appears to be built of both bird, moth, and mammalian elements. Gryphons are fierce and brave which is why J.K. Rowling created House Griffindor, that is "Griffin d'Or" or in French "Golden Griffin." Let me say right now that I am a Harry Potter fan and I am determinedly of House Ravenclaw. No fantasy test has ever placed me anywhere else. One thing I have noticed in the "Potter" tales is that I haven't seen any art or music at Hogwarts. It must be there, though.

Black tech pens inks on sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 5", October 30, 2017.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Lythande Performs

Oh Gawd, here's Lythande again. This one comes from a story where at one point Lythande, who sometimes works as a traveling bard as a cover occupation, must perform for an audience of petty aristocrats in a small desolate town. She must keep them entertained and not let them think about magic. This story and all the Bradley ones I illustrated are packed into a closet. If I ever move out of my current residence there will be hell to pay.

Black ink on illustration board, 8" x 7", May 1999.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Paper Bag Abstraction

When it's grocery shopping time, my purchases are handed to me in these classic brown paper bags with handles, whether they come from Whole Foods or Trader Joe's. Sometimes when the load is heavier, the bags are doubled up one inside another. When I get them home, I empty them and stash the bags on the kitchen floor for eventual recycling. This is the bag stash on the floor. I looked at it and suddenly it became an abstract 3-D work of art instead of a mundane food and drink carrier. My challenge in drawing this was to keep the individual bags distinct while rendering the many handles randomly fitting together. I left the printed logos off the bags to reduce confusion.

Black tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 5" x 7 1/2", October 27, 2017.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Great Athena of Nashville

On my road trip to the American South I visited Nashville, Tennessee. I have friends in the city who were happy to take me around and show me the sights (and feed me the cuisine!). The most spectacular sight I viewed there was this giant statue of the Greek goddess Athena, holding Nike, spirit of victory, in her hand. The making of this statue, inside a replica of the Parthenon temple, is written about here, and it is quite a wonder. I had enough time and space inside the temple to draw a sketch of this awesome icon. There was a park around the temple, and in the park was a little food stand serving some very good Tennessee barbecue. 

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, about 9" x 8", June 26, 2003.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Conspirators in the Theater

Among the upper middle classes of Haven, a conspiracy is brewing. Two gentlemen whisper to each other of plots and schemes, while down on the stage a tear-jerking melodrama plays out. In the dark it's hard to tell who is doing the plotting....or who is a secret informer for the other side. I used a looser, more scratchy drawing style for this illustration, like the style found in pulp magazines or lurid novels.

Original drawing is black ink on illustration board, 9" x 2", spring 1984.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Autumn Geometrikon

These are the tree colors I'm seeing at this moment in the season. The maples in my backyard have an early manifestation of red with more to come. The rectangular panel at center left depicts the red leaves with the green. I embellished the composition with a digital "wash" and drifting autumn leaves. Hundreds of colored pencils entice me to make more color studies.

Colored pencil, marker lines, Photoshop. Original art 8" x 2", October 25, 2017.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

"Blue Thoroughfare" larger version

This picture, called "Blue Thoroughfare," depicts a bunch of asteroids surrounding a "dwarf planet" with nebulas in the background. I did a small version first as a sketch, and then completed this one some weeks later. It's painted with airbrush spray paint, and then with hand-done acrylic with a brush. When I first migrated to the Metro DC area, I thought that I might break into the "fine" art gallery type of art career, using my space and geometric pictures. I joined the "Art League" in Alexandria, Virginia and submitted this one, with another nebula picture in light blue the same size, to a juried show there. The jury rejected both my pieces and when I saw what they did choose, I realized that they just didn't like this type of space art. Evidently not many other folk did either. I showed it at a science fiction convention where it would seem to be right at home, and someone bought it for a much lower price than it deserved. The airbrush is gone, replaced by spaceworthy Photoshop.

Claudia: Thanks for your nice words about my little golden autumn piece. I like to show my art whether it is in a gallery or a high school art room.

"Blue Thoroughfare" is acrylic on black illustration board, 16" x 20", February 1990.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Golden Autumn Sunset

This scene is a little ahead of time with leafless trees, but I wanted to use these colors, some of them from my new pencil acquisition. Some of the colored pencil makers have beautiful "natural" colors such as "green gold" and "white grey" and even Irojiten's appropriate title "Autumn Leaf." I like to sort them by seasons and so I have the Autumn set at hand now. These little color studies are from memory. Seems like Winter is just around the corner, wasn't it just here? Along the winding road the winemakers are saving the last of the summer wine.

Colored pencil with marker line frame, 4" x 2 1/2", October 23, 2017.  

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Postcards from the Multiverse Original

I recently found some art that I thought had either been posted before or had been lost in a couple of computer destructions. This one, in acrylic and watercolor, was meant to be the sketch for another painting in digital media. The digital version, available here, went to the By-Product in 2008 leaving this one published in an earlier version of this art blog, and all other images of it were lost. (I'm so confused.) Looking again at this 2006 image I don't mind it as much as I did before. The idea is that all these rectangles are portals to multiple worlds and landscapes, which emerge from a transuniversal source up at the top right. This piece was bought by a friend of mine, and she has just moved house so it will be a while before it sees the light of day, or even this universe, again.

Acrylic and watercolor on watercolor paper, 12" x 20", June 2006.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Union Monument in the South

Early on my 2003 road trip through the South I visited Chattanooga, Tennessee, where a good friend of mine lived. Just about anyplace in that area was historic and we only needed a short walk to get to Missionary Ridge, where a deadly battle had taken place. This monument marks the spot where dozens of men on both sides died. The monument itself notes the soldiers from Ohio who fought and died there: "The 124th Ohio Infantry, Hazen's Brigade, Wood's Division, 4th Corps, Lt. Col. James Pickands. November 25, 1863." Ohio, that is, Union. This is a Union monument placed on what had been Southern territory. With all the controversy about the placement or removal of Confederate monuments, few comment that Union monuments stand all over the old Confederate territories. The sharp obelisk and warriors bearing arms, all of them Union, are a reminder to the Southerners just who won that war. Interestingly, many of these statues, made out of bronze or zinc or other metals, were mass-produced during the period of their deployment in public squares, with little difference in detail between North and South.

Drawing is black tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 4" x 10", June 30, 2003.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Lythande and Goblin

Uh huh, another "Lythande" illustration. Am I scraping the bottom of the Bradley barrel? Marion is still dead. This one was from a story published in "Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine," about her cross-dressing female-to-male wizard. This one had to do with goblin capitalists, I try to remember. Note the cigar in the goblin's hand. I illustrated all the Lythande stories for that magazine until it closed after the author's demise. I actually enjoyed doing these pen and ink drawings and wouldn't mind doing more, though I would probably simulate it with digital inking nowadays. Knocking about the web looking for Bradley texts I found a vast organized collection of titles (but not texts) which lists everything that MZB ever ever wrote including this one. I will not inflict this on you.

Black ink on illustration board, 9" x 8", May 1999.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

What I Saw: Return of the Laundry Monster

It wants my Oriental rugs. And it just keeps growing, and growing.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Sunny Geometrikon Re-mix

Now that's more like it. What are all those blue pencils for anyway? The irregular shape is designed to fit into my sketchbook journal but the words are removed. I suppose I could have done this in digital media but it sometimes looks too precise that way. The lovely wax colored pencils can look like paint if you work with it. These are the blues that aren't sad.

Colored pencil with some white marker, 5" x 4", October 18, 2017.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Street Urchin Game Character

During the course of a role-playing game, you, that is, your character, will need further information. You can find it in a medium like a book or an inscription, or you could use a gadget paid for or found in play, or you could just ask someone. Here, your character engages a street urchin girl to tell him where the next opportunity or contact is. She is from the lowest level of society yet she has native uneducated intelligence. She also may be lying or giving wrong directions. Either way you will want to reward her with a few coins for her information. She doesn't have much of a future; without someone to care for her, she will be snapped up by slavers or pimps or any number of nasty folk. Your character is considering helping her, but he also knows that she may already be part of a vicious gang. Haven is a dangerous place.

Black ink on illustration board, about 5" x 5", spring 1984.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Task Light

I love industrial lighting. I'm especially fond of lanterns and desk lamps, if they're old or visually interesting. I like the old-fashioned enclosed hurricane lamps used in pre-electric houses or in railroads. Just a few years ago there was a decorating fad which used reproductions of old incandescent bulbs inside metal grids, like old factory lights. This didn't last long although Starbucks still has them. 

This is a task lamp, a modern version of what workmen used to give a high intensity light to a job close at hand. The bulb is enclosed so that dust and debris won't get in. This particular light has an LED bulb, rather than a very hot metal halide bulb. LED's have revolutionized the lighting world. They are not burning hot which is much better for safety. Similar bulbs are now in automotive headlights. The style of this light does not have that "antique-industrial" look though.

Black tech pen ink on sketchbook page, colored in marker and Photoshop. 5" x 4 1/2", October 15, 2017.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sunny Geometrikon

Even though I work at night, I made a sunny picture. This little Geometrikon visits the Mid-20th Century once again, telling us that the 1950s and '60s were a wonderful time of peace and cheerfulness. Well if you were a designer, or an upper middle-class kid, that was kind of how it worked. Don't worry about those Commies or those marchers with the signs.

I drew the lines and shapes for this in blue pencil and forgot that it doesn't show up well on the scanner. So I colored it digitally by hand with stylus and it looks like I used crayons. I think I'll re-mix it with colored pencils.

Colored pencil lines tinted digitally, 5" x 4", October 15, 2017.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Castle and Spaceport

Here's a rather late addition to my endless stream of Darkover fan art. It depicts in symbolic-architectural terms the re-imposition of technological colonialism on the settled world of Darkover. After Marion Zimmer Bradley's passing in 1999, fan enthusiasm for Darkover waned. I haven't done a Darkover picture in many many years. As I see it the whole culture of fandom has changed from a print and traditional media society to a video-driven world inhabited by pre-fabricated characters from movies, TV, and best sellers. Where is the "slow" "farm-to-table" movement in fandom, where a less frantic and more original-based culture can be cultivated? You can't buy it online, though you might be able to share it online. The fact that I was barely able to sell this picture for only a few dollars alerted me to these changes, just after the turn of Marion's millennium.

Mixed media (ink, watercolor, colored pencil) on blue paper, 10" x 7", November 2003.

A note to Claudia: Your insights about gaming as the inheritor to the men's fraternal orders is really worth making into an article for publication. These orders fascinate me, they are declining quickly in membership with mostly older members. One difference is that most of these orders were founded and continue with a charitable mission. They have banded together to do good works, whereas gamer groups don't usually have a charitable quality. If you could find such a thing (Warcrafters for hurricane relief!) that would also be very interesting.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Macho Guardsman

This burly type is an illustration for a Renaissance-styled game I worked on in the early 2000s. I adapted him from an old engraving from that European era. I don't know how the guardsman fits into the game, but it would be sad to have him show up and fight just once before he succumbs to the deadly force of our players. "What if the guardsmen win and they slay most of our party leaving but a couple of survivors running away without the treasure...?" That would be a crappy game if that's all that happened. So this poor soul can look great but has to go down in a minor melee. Artist's confession: I've never played any game that I have illustrated.

Black ink on illustration board, 5 1/2" x 7", early 2003.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Horton Wine Castle

The wineries of Virginia have some unusual buildings. This "castle" is one of the more entertaining of them. I had wanted to get a drawing of the Horton Winery's edifice for a while and finally was able to visit for enough time to do the art. As I recounted in an earlier posting, I drew the building while sitting in my new folding outdoor chair.

The first drawing I did was incomplete because there were parked cars blocking my view of the doorway and wall. I had recourse to a few snapshots I took there and have now finished the drawing. This is a "hybrid" drawing. Some of it was done in pen and ink on site. I transferred it into a digital file and worked on it a bit with the Cintiq (remember that?). Then I printed the results onto paper and finished it again with the tech pen. For a drawing like this I decided that "traditional" pen and ink would be easiest so here you are.

Horton Vineyards is one of the largest wineries in Virginia and they are able to place their wines in big stores like Trader Joe's or Total Wine. They have 48 different varieties to choose from including a line of "country" fruit wine called humorously "Chateau Le Cabin." I wonder whether that tower had once been a silo.

Black tech pen ink and digital, 10" x 4 1/2", fall 2017.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Thieves' Guild: The Fence

In "Haven's" game world, as mostly in our world as well, economics has nothing to do with morality. Stolen goods still have value, and the economic system depends not on whether the goods have been acquired lawfully, but whether they are "real" or "fake." The young thief and the buyer of goods both know this, and so the question is, (as the boy crosses his fingers), will the fence pay anything, or throw him out to try again. The outcome may determine whether the guild boss punishes or pays his operative. 

Black ink on illustration board, 4" x 6 1/2", January 1983.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Unity Temple New Orleans

New Orleans is full of wonderful architecture and this is one of the most unusual sites there. It is the "Unity Temple," a gathering place, school, and worship space for an eclectic, "New Thought" spiritual group simply called "Unity." They respect all religions and invite teachers from many different traditions to speak there. "Unity Temple" was right down the street from where I was staying in the affluent "Garden District" so I had to go see it. I visited with the current leader of the group and she took me on a short tour of the place. The architecture is based on overlapping circles, a symbolic motif, although it looked like a stack of dinner plates to me. The architect, Leonard Spangenberg, was a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright and had studied with him at Wright's famous architecture school, "Taliesin West." The Temple was finished in 1961, at the height of mid-century modern curved geometric modern style. I was told that the conservative neighbors hated the design for being out of place stylistically, but couldn't stop it from being built. 

Original drawing is black tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 6" x 3 1/2", July 1, 2003. This was drawn from a postcard photograph as I didn't have the time to do a proper drawing on site. Click image for a larger view.

Monday, October 9, 2017

New Orleans in the Storm

In the summer of 2003 I did a long road trip through the states of the Deep South: Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama,Georgia, and South and North Carolina. I wasn't trying to prove any political point, I was just curious about a part of my country that I had never visited before. I had a lot of fun looking at the landscape, eating local food, and drawing a lot of pictures. I used the same ink-and-colored pencil technique I would later use for my winery drawings. 

New Orleans was one of my important destinations but what I didn't know, since I was not connected to Internet and not watching TV, was that a tropical storm named "Bill" was also about to visit New Orleans. Just after I landed in New Orleans the rains came. I didn't mind the deluge, and toured the town anyway. I had a late lunch at a restaurant in the French Quarter called "Pere Antoine's" (not the famous "Antoine's") where I had a mediocre submarine sandwich and drew this picture of the street under the pouring rain. I tried to suggest the torrent through vertical pencil strokes. I was sitting at a table under a sidewalk porch roof and the restaurant staff were agitating me to move back into the restaurant so they could close up the outside panels against the wind and rain. I finally complied once I had hurriedly finished my drawing. There were some flooded areas from this storm and I now call it the "rehearsal for Katrina." I wonder if I'll ever get back there.

Tech pen black and brown inks with colored pencil, 6 1/2" x 9 1/2", June 30, 2003. Click for larger view. I'm sure I've published this picture somewhere online but if I don't remember where, you probably don't either.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Archival Pumpkin Spice

It's Pumpkin Spice Time again, which I admit is not my favorite flavor nor my favorite time of year. This is what my commercial art used to look like when I was not doing it for Trader Joe's. I used to decorate advertising panels for local Starbuckses. I didn't get paid but I could get any coffee drink I wanted for free. This one is based on Indian and Persian paisley designs. The elaborate design attracted many customers and compliments. Trader Joe's wanted a much simpler style as can be seen on the earlier years of this Blog.

I just realized that many of my best commercial and fine pieces were never published on "Art By-Products." They were published on "Electron Blue," my original blog, which is now replaced by the not-very-active "Electron Blue 3." The  Electron ran from 2004 to 2008. If you are interested in studying mathematics and science, you may be amused or even encouraged by my accounts of my self-teaching struggles. I replaced it by the By-Product which does not usually deal with mathematics and science. The By-Product, as advertised, started in 2008 and here we still are. Seems like no time at all. Rather than grub about in my archives, there are plenty of saved images in the blogs of the past for you to enjoy here on the By-Product.

Liquid chalk sign markers on metallic panel, about 24" square, September 2006.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Raccoon-ish Critter

It may be a raccoon, or some other creature related to it in this world. The critter's expression is rather like how I'm feeling these days. You can find real raccoons guarding and plundering the neighborhood dumpsters all year round. In the winter you can see the prints of their tiny human-like hands in the snow. 

Black tech pen ink with Photoshop corrections, 3 1/2" x 4", October 6, 2017.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Roman roof features

Most older Roman buildings aren't very tall. They top out at around 3 or 4 stories, just like the imperial Roman apartment buildings whose foundations they are built over. If you're on a higher floor,  you get a view over the roofs of the adjacent buildings, with interesting architectural features. This view has the typical clay roof tiles of the Eternal City, along with chimneys and an old TV antenna. The church steeple in the background probably belongs to a foreign congregation such as Germans or French, as the Romans don't build things like that for their own. They preferred the more ancient dome form. 

Watercolor on Fabriano paper, 7" x 5", 1976.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Internetville 1993

In 1993 the Internet was just getting started, and was mostly in the hands of scientists, military, and tech-minded bulletin board users and science fiction fans. That year I was commissioned by a client who ran a tech magazine to illustrate his upcoming book, "The Internet Guide for New Users." This was one of the full-page pieces I did for the series (other smaller ones have been published here on this Blog). I was instructed to list and depict all the possible uses for this upcoming world-changer: university teaching, high-speed communications, entertainment, information sharing. It was a happy utopian vision which, like others, did not foresee some of the most important consequences of "Internetville." What really came to Internetville? The infinite Mall of Cyberspace Shopping, the tyranny of Big Data, the destruction of the recorded music industry, outsourcing of technical and other labor, the degradation of information into "fake news" and sinister propaganda, and of course, porn.

Original art is black ink with computer graphics stuck on, 8 1/4" x 10 1/4", May 1993. Please click on image for a larger view.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Elric on the Road

I know little or nothing about motorcycles, other than that they make a lot of noise and look great and shiny when well-maintained. I know more about Elric, the albino fantasy king who loses his kingdom and wanders through the world having dreadful adventures. Elric's author, Michael Moorcock, set his Elric fantasy in an elaborate Gothic-late medieval world populated with alternate human races and plenty of monsters, but what if Elric had lived in our modern world? Instead of riding a horse, he'd ride a big bike like this one. I don't know what part of a motorcycle does which, but I can copy from a photograph, no problem. Some bike enthusiast could tell me just where I went wrong on the machine, but Elric, with sunglasses, demon-sword, and smoking joint, is all mine to design.

I have no idea why I did this piece. I think I drew it purely to attract buyers at a convention. And I also don't remember when I did it or which convention I did it for. If I ever find out I will be glad to tell you.

Original is black ink on illustration board, around 8" x 8", possibly 1980s.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

K-17 Cerulean Crystal Sky

Digital art allows me to make any sort of shape and color and layer it over other colors which would melt if I were using real paint. I can take a whole "page" full of my favorite cerulean blue and overlay it with crystalline planes in whatever color I want, even pink. This is a color experiment sketch restricting my color choices to light pastels over the bright blue. The "K" designation is for a series of geometric abstractions done in digital media, most of which have been published on this By-Product. "K" stands for "Kandinsky," a 20th century pioneer in geometric abstract art. 

Photoshop, October 3, 2017. Click for larger view.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Character in a Cluttered Room

Here's another one from my game illustration days. The description of the non-player character says, "A courtesan in a cluttered room." The courtesan business in the city of Haven is perennially profitable but this practitioner seems rather demure, even spinsterish in her room full of cluttery things. You never know, maybe that sort of character would appeal to the milder, older but lonely customer, who might pay her just for the pleasantry of an afternoon without the effort of bedding her. It's a game, it's up to you.

Black ink on illustration board, 5 1/2" x 6 1/2", July 1984.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Return to Rappahannock Cellars

Autumn is just beginning, and "Wine Saturday" took me again to Rappahannock Cellars, where the leaves of trees and vines are turning that special green-gold of the season. Here's another view from the salon window over one of their many vineyards. Evening sunlight washes the scene in fall color. On the viewing and sipping deck outside, a sunshade sails in the breeze.

Sepia brown tech pen ink and colored pencil on sketchbook page, about 5" x 8". Click on image for larger view.