Thursday, November 30, 2017

Mid-Century Moodle: Exploding Garden Shed

I love garden sheds.They come in an infinite variety, and are built all over the world. There is a  social-architectural movement exploring and building tiny houses but a garden shed is not meant to be a house. It is a microshelter and could be transformed into a refuge cabin. My father built me a playhouse out of a garden shed design and I enjoyed it through many a summer (it was not heated, so was not good in winter). Though the old family house may be gone, the "Little House" is still standing as of summer 2017, and the new owners and their builders were planning to refurbish it as a miniature of the main house with matching color and details. Microshelters continue to fascinate me as I lived with my folks in a Volkswagen camping bus as we drove and camped through Europe, many years ago. Tiny trailers, mini RV's, tents of all variety, woodsy or beach cabins, all fascinate me though I don't think it would be too comfortable inside one, at least for more than a day or two.

This Mid-Century Moodle (doodle) was produced in very dim light while listening to ambient electronic music. This is a surrealistic portrait, an "exploded view" of a garden shed in many dimensions.

Black tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 4 1/2", November 29, 2017. Click image for a larger view.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Darkovan Musician

One of the nicest things about Chessiecon was that there was live music to listen to, which sounded great in the big echoing atrium. Most of this was folk and Celtic-inspired, with guitars, mandolins, fiddle, flute, bass, and hand percussion. The underlying ethnic culture of Darkover was Celtic, and that ethnicity, so essential to science fiction fans, medieval re-enactors, and Renaissance faires, was everywhere. That's what this little panel is about: a bit of bluegrass in Renaissance re-enactor space. 

This is done in the classic late-nineteenth-century pen and ink style of children's book illustration exemplified by H.J. Ford. I like it in black and white but I could easily tint it using the magic of Photoshop.

Black ink on illustration board, 4" x 9", April 1999.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Geometrikon Vertical Angles

I'm back from Chessiecon, just as I returned from this convention since 1981. Despite not having an art show, I had a good time with my friends and held my legendary room party, "Salon Pyracantha." I served and tasted delicious wine, and ate well at local restaurants too. The hotel, though, is in serious need of upgrades. There were four separate failures impacting me and the other guests. 1. The electronic door lock on my room failed to go and an engineer had to remove and replace the battery and its programming. 2. While getting some ice from the ice machine, I knocked off the steel facing cap and it crashed loudly to the floor at 3 AM, revealing a mildew-ridden freezer unit. 3. The heater in my room was so worn out it started up with a chunking and roaring noise every half hour or so, making it impossible for me to sleep. 4. The central elevator in the vast hangar-like building failed and the engineers were unable to fix it. 

This building which was rather avant-garde in 1988 complete with an indoor swimming pool atrium, has now outlived its usefulness and I say it should be demolished and replaced with a fresh new hotel. Otherwise in my imagination it would collapse of its own decrepitude.

This Geometrikon has nothing to do with a decaying hotel. I don't think it depicts anything but it does sort of look like reflective glass on a skyscraper. The design is based on "vertical angles" which is something you learn early in your geometry classes. Vertical angles are X's, two intersecting lines that divide a place into four quarters. Each quarter has an angle which is equal in degrees to its opposite in the X. "Vertical angles are equal" gives you a lot of opportunities to do proofs in geometry.

Ink drawing on sketchbook page, colored in Photoshop, 3 1/2" x 3", November 28, 2017.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Spiritual Harvest

I think of Thanksgiving as a harvest festival, thus avoiding the horrific stories of colonization, massacres, plagues, hunger, and universal dread. Very few of us actually have a harvest but photos and art of harvests make us feel good in some primal vegetable way. And I remember that this year took away two beloved friends, and one grande dame just a few days ago.

This design is one of many that I made for the Pagan/New Age convention "Sacred Space." The theme of these shirt designs was yearly festivals, so we celebrated the Autumn Harvest festival even though the convention was held in the summer. I was instructed to create a harvest collection, as well as an image of a "corn dolly." I had no idea what a corn dolly was but the Anglophile management explained it to me. You see her just above the pumpkin. We had a big printing budget so we were able to print the T-shirts in 6 colors on a beige shirt. I still have mine but I don't know whether "Sacred Space" still exists.

Original art is black ink on illustration board, 11" x 14", April 1999.

I wish all my friends in the (Northern Hemisphere) global neighborhood a happy harvest feast and some sort of thanksgiving. No blogging over the weekend, see you next week.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Natick Back Alley

My original home town Natick isn't a rough town, but it has back alleys anyway. This is an alleyway between the historic 1850s firehouse (now an arts center) and office and retail buildings on Main Street. There are parking spaces in the alley for the people who work in those buildings. I guess you could call me an "Ashcan School" artist, finding interesting visual material in the back alleys of the world.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 5 1/2" x 8", May 5, 1999. Click for a larger view.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Two Twisted Posts concept art

Just a while ago I visited the "Two Twisted Posts" winery in Purcellville, Virginia. The wine was   excellent and so was the wine lodge and woodsy site. The title of the twisted posts comes from a wine bottle emblem on an antique jug. It was too cold to sit oudoors and draw but I did get a photograph of the simple birch stick trellis in their yard. From this shot I could create an artist's concept of a real pair of twisted posts which would be a good display piece for visitors to pose with. Someone had already tried this with a burlap rag but it had lost its solidity in weather. There are other things to twist around a tree branch so I am offering this concept sketch to the folks at Two Twisted Posts. They are already building a fire pit for their chilled customers to sit by, so why not posts.

Ink and colored pencils on sketchbook page, 5 1/2" x 5", November 20, 2017.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Antique Darkover Program Cover

There are some grizzled, aged fantasy fans who remember this cover I did for DarkoverCon 1981. This was when Darkover was a big thing and Marion Zimmer Bradley was more than an author, she was a lifestyle. The image in the central block depicts a meeting between two characters on the Astral Plane, with a medieval cathedral in the background. I copied the lettering and the very elaborate border from the "Kelmscott Chaucer" illustrated book by William Morris, published in 1896. The border was printed on green paper and the image was on white paper which I trimmed and glued onto the green background. Then I colored it in to make an illustration. This was not the actual program; the real thing was printed on light grey paper. It was the most lavish program cover ever done for DarkoverCon. The pale successor to DarkoverCon, ChessieCon, will take place this Thanksgiving weekend. They have no art show.

Print and watercolor, 8 1/2" x 11", fall 1981. Click for a bit larger view.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Off Season

This is one of my favorite little sketches ever, believe it or not. It was done during one of the family trips to Cape Cod, in 1974. It's late summer, and the New England weather is already cold, but there are still some people on the beach with their umbrellas looking for a last moment of sunlight. It looks somewhat like my geometric pieces, even though it is a seascape. 

Ink and watercolor pencil on sketchbook page, 5 1/2" x 2 1/2", August 1974.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Natick Steeple

Here's your posting for November 18, just under the clock wire to preserve the Daily Post Protocol. I may have posted this drawing before but I am not gonna go looking for it. The drawing is of the high steeple of the First Congregational Church of my home town, Natick, Massachusetts. The church was finished in 1880 and you can read about the church's history in this well-made web page. I drew this study through the window of my mother's art studio which was just about a block away from the church. Natick has numerous historic buildings and dates back as a town to the 17th century (1650s). It's a quiet, affluent, well-kept suburb of Boston and looks just like something Norman Rockwell would paint, including a village green and a gazebo bandstand. For another more elaborate view, please click here. 

Black tech pen on sketcbook page, 5 1/2" x 8 1/2", January 2, 1999.

Friday, November 17, 2017

November geometrikon landscape

These are my favorite landscape colors, faded greens and golds either in early spring or late fall, under a cerulean sky. There may be a landform here, and the green gold leaves have probably been shed from grapevines. California, maybe, though I've never seen wine country first hand. Virginia is too hilly to be this fantasy. Except for the sounds of nature such as birds or crickets, it is silent. Pick up your cup of Sauvignon Blanc and enjoy.

Marker linework, colored and leafed in Photoshop, about 6" x 2 1/2", November 17, 2017.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

"Tralg," game character

The game world of "Powers that Be" was populated by a number of different humanoid species, most of them taken from well-known fantasy series such as Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings." Hobbits were re-named "Halflings" and re-settled in urban areas or estates, usually working in lower-class occupations such as kitchen work, gardening, or cleaning. This Halfling is "Tralg," who is responsible for a section of a noble's garden where the magical "Orethail" plant is raised and harvested. Orethail is difficult to cultivate and is very valuable so Tralg has much more social status than a typical Halfling. Halflings may be tiny (average from 2 1/2 feet to 3 feet tall) but they are not stupid and should you need some Orethail, Tralg and his associates will drive, or dig, a hard bargain.

Black ink on illustration board, 5" x 6", early 2003.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Cape Cod Forest

My family used to rent a house on Cape Cod, a different one every summer, for a few weeks so that we could enjoy the seaside and have guests.In 1978 I was one of the guests and of course I brought my art materials. I used ink, watercolor pencil, and watercolor. I wrote about my process on this older post from the By-Product. The house for 1978 was surrounded by the scrub evergreen forest typical of the Cape and there was a deck in the back of the house where I could draw, hence this study of the forest. 

Looking at my old color sketchbook journal I see that it has faded quite a bit even though it is piled up with other sketchbooks and never sees the light. I noticed even when I made the drawings that the pencils were fade-able. I've restored color and contrast in this scan so it can live a long enhanced life in digital luxury.

Ink, watercolor pencil, and watercolor, 4 1/2" x 6", August 1978.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Lord Magistrate Pellicuro, game character

Lord Magistrate Pellicuro has presided over the City's law courts for more than thirty years. During that time he has been renowned for his judicial expertise and insightful verdicts. But of late there are rumors that he may be losing his intellectual power after all these years, since he recently ruled in favor of an allegedly abused woman of "questionable" status. As a player in this game, you can enter the case and hear the details that Pellicuro did, and uphold or reject the determination in a dramatic courtroom scene.

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

Monday, November 13, 2017

"Mother and Daughter" Lamp

I finally got a new floor lamp for my studio, replacing the expensive one that broke down a few weeks ago. It is a Home Depot stock item, and it is touchingly called the "Mother and Daughter Lamp," inspired by the larger and smaller lights on the same pole. Assembling Mother and Daughter was quite a difficult job, but after two hours I had my two-generational housemates standing up and beaming. This drawing commemorates the work, the light, and the packing materials strewn about the studio floor. The books are everywhere but the smallest case in the back contains jars of signmaking paint. In the lower right is the glowering styrofoam eye that once kept the mother and daughter safe. Light's on, folks!

Black tech pen ink and marker, 5" x 7", November 13, 2017. This is the last drawing in my 2015-2017 sketchbook. Another one is already in use. 

"Texchanchan:" The Philosopher is a minor character in the text. I've taken the mid-70s original text and buried it in a cabinet somewhere. I'd rather not show something from that far back in my creative life. I have plenty more texts and stories to read. Please contact me privately if you are interested.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

"Two Twisted Posts"

"Wine Saturday" took me and the Wine Team to a relatively new (started 2013) winery and vineyard in the foothills, "Two Twisted Posts." This is a small, exclusive, "boutique" winery and their wine was especially good. Virginia winemakers are finally learning to make good Cabernets, both Franc and Sauvignon. It is too cold to sit outdoors on my folding royal seat, so I drew this view of the interior of the tasting room. The tasting master was a very entertaining character named "Kosko," who recited and repeated the story of the vineyard for the guests. The "twisted posts" refer to an early 18th century tavern in England, and the heraldic seal on a wine bottle of that era. I suspect that the motif of the two pillars refers to a Masonic symbol of the Pillars of Earth and Heaven. Freemasonry got its start, some believe, in gentlemen's drinking parties during the same 18th century era as the wine bottle.

Sepia brown tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 7" x 6", November 11, 2017.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Philosopher

I have written before about my novel set in ancient Rome about 400 AD. Christianity was dominant by then but there were still Pagan believers and practitioners. The upper-class and intellectual Pagan folk believed in a non-mythical philosophy somewhat like Neo-Platonism. I have numerous character portraits from the book which I mostly forgot about till now. This gentleman is named Timotheus Macrobius, a believer and teacher of the "old school" of philosophy, written on the scrolls he holds in his right hand. Much of this philosophy got adapted and absorbed by Christian thinkers in the early Byzantine period, but Timotheus held out for the rest of his Pagan philosophical life. The character was based on my Latin professor at Brandeis University, the long-departed Professor David Wiesen.

Ink and watercolor on sketchbook page, 5" x 8 1/2", later 1974. Click for more detailed view.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Ron Miller's Pavilion

On my way back from my southern tour I visited the home of artist Ron Miller and his wife Judith. They lived on a very remote patch of Virginia bay shore near Fredericksburg. It took me two and a half hours blundering around on forest roads to get to their home. Once there, though, it was a beautiful idyllic place where I enjoyed a truly peaceful stay. Despite the remoteness they had delicious food and their main house was full of books and career materials from Ron's work. Ron Miller is in my opinion America's greatest living space artist and he showed me some of his ongoing work in his digital studio. All his art is done on the computer which is an inspiration to me who still uses a tech pen and colored pencil. This building is the "Pavilion," a screened cabin where Ron and Judith enjoyed cooling breezes and nice dinners in the summer. To the right is a drawing of Ron's "Hugo" rocket trophy and his elderly cat, "Wally." Ron and Judith don't live here any more; they moved to an equally idyllic but landlocked place in south central Virginia.

Tech pen on sketchbook page, 8" x 4 1/2", July 6, 2003.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Summer Hill Baptist Church

On my Deep South road trip I made a stopover in Georgia at a medium-sized town southwest of Atlanta called Newnan. My journal says that I identified a number of birds and also observed the local folk in the McDonalds parking lot. I made a drawing of this little church with its mismatched turrets - after all, the Cathedral of Chartres also has mismatched steeples - and wondered who worshipped there. Friendly Google shows me their website, and tells the story of the African-American congregation at Summer Hill. This church is no longer in use and may have been demolished during road construction. They have a bigger, neater church to use now but it doesn't have mismatched steeples.

Tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 7 1/2" x 4 1/2", July 2, 2003.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Courtesan and Agent

"Alya" is a non-player character in one of the games I illustrated many years ago. She is a famous courtesan, still plying her trade even into her middle years. She has had a long career of entertaining the wealthy, noble, and powerful - and of extracting secret information from them with her brilliant wiles. The courtesan, in other words, is a spy. And she is so clever that no one can figure out where the information came from. The rumors are that she is the illegitimate offspring of a high noble, or possibly even royalty. Oppose or accuse Alya at your own risk...she has many friends in high places.

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

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Autumn Color Study

We waited a long time for the autumn colors and now here they are.The blustery winds are scattering the leaves. The bright orange and yellow flares for just a few days before they fly off into the winds. The Floating Cats have left the Virginia skies to migrate south, and the streets of Massachusetts are adorned with smashed pumpkins.

Markers on sketchbook page, 8" x 3 1/2", November 6, 2017.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Big Bookcase

Do you like books as much as I do? Of course you do! You have hundreds, maybe even thousands, of volumes that you couldn't resist, or that you love, or inherited, or even made yourself. Anybody reading this blog is most probably a bibliophile. So what do you do with all these books? I bought this magnum bookcase in 2002 to hold my art and architecture books, the ones I use frequently. It is in my studio so I can get whatever reference I want right away. The smaller case to the left is currently filled with colorful paint. There are small papercraft solid geometry forms on top of the case. 15 years later (now) this bookcase looks just the way it did then.

Original drawing is sepia brown tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 6 1/2", August 14, 2002.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Collage Glitz

My crafter and "Maker" friends invited me to work in their open work space so I brought this project that I have been saving material for. I have been spending literally years collecting beautiful glitzy printed material from tissue and toothpaste boxes as well as metallic craft papers. Finally with the help of scissors and hot glue I was able to cut my glittering papers to a design and adhere them firmly to a pre-painted board. To think that people who buy the products just throw away these fabulous textures and shining surfaces! Also note the mystical inspiration of the graphic text and type on the boxes. Luminous! Revitalizing! Clean! Yes, from my mouth to God's design studio! 

What you see here is not finished. I need a few more bitz o' glitz for accents, and I need a border color, which I have not decided on yet. I'm not sure whether any of these paper elements is permanent. This may fade away in time, but I'll have fun completing this piece.

Found commercial textures, craft papers, pre-painted black board, 16" x 12", November 2017. Please klik for larger view.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Hampton Beach, NH, September 2001

This little sketch comes from a moment in my life which is now part of every American's memory. It was done on September 6, 2001, less than a week before the terrorist cataclysm which changed everything. I was up in New England with my folks after Philcon, and we took a day trip to the little-known resort town of Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. This state has seacoast, though not a lot of it, and a large number of 50s-and 60s vintage hotels along the sea road, which is what you see here. 

Black tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 7" x 3", September 6, 2001.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Remembering Arts Wayland

Wayland is an affluent, woodsy far suburb of Boston. There are many such towns around Beantown and most of them have an arts association, just like my own area has "Falls Church Arts" and "Vienna Arts Society." My family lived near Wayland and as an artist my mother participated in many events, exhibitions, and social gatherings at Arts Wayland. The artists' studios were in a re-purposed school. When the town of Wayland needed the school again for children, the artists had to move out. My mother joined a new arts association in our home town of Natick (next to Wayland) called "The Center for Arts in Natick," known as "TCAN," which is still going strong thirty years later. Arts groups like these exist all over the country and probably in other countries as well.

I have innumerable tote bags and some of them I keep as mementos and souvenirs. In the drawing, back of the larger set of bags is the Arts Wayland tote bag I got as part of their fund-raising activities. It's thirty years old too! Below is a shot of my mother (at center) at an Arts Wayland group art show and gala in 1978.

Drawing, black tech pen on sketchbook page, colored a little in Photoshop, 4" x 7", November 3, 2017.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Thieves' Guild: Tailing the Mark

In a role-playing game, you have the option to be a morally bad person. In the old game "Thieves' Guild," which I spent so much time illustrating, this is the whole point of it. "Thou Shalt Not Steal." Most of the gamers playing this would not actually steal anything, let alone track someone down and mug them. Here in this scene you have a chance to follow a rich-looking gentleman through the Italianate streets, slowly approaching him until you have the right moment. Yes, but why hasn't the man got at least one bodyguard? Are you and your thieving friend about to pounce on someone who is much better protected than he looks? There are many immoral possibilities for our gamer who is so harmless in real life.

Black ink on illustration board, 5" x 7", spring 1984. For a "Gamelords" publication.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Bengal Cat

As you know, I am a cat lover though allergies prevent me from keeping one myself. I like visiting my friends who have cats so I can adore their felines. The spotted cat on the top is a "Bengal," the result of interbreeding with the Asian leopard cat. The breeders wanted a cat with a spotted coat like a wild cat but the temperament and tameness of a domestic one. As generations progressed the "Bengal" breed emerged and is now a very popular cat for feline fanatics. The cat in the lower area is a long-haired Maine Coon sticking its hips in the air. These cats belong to my friends Michael and Elektra, professional cat judges and breeders, who sometimes have up to 20 cats in their house.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 5 1/2" x 6", December 18, 1999.