Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Geometrikon Winter Trees

This one's a mix between conventional marker lines and Photoshoppery. I'd like to do something new and spectacular but I just don't have the motivation or the energy. Today was two weeks after the car accident and I have been shopping, mostly online, for cars. I have three choices picked out and I hope I can still drive, the emotional shock hasn't gone away yet. I continue to digitize and restore hundreds of old photos from the family archive, I suppose that's where my energy gets used up.

Markers and Photoshop, about 4" x 2", January 31, 2018.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Deryni Teen-age Witch

In Katherine Kurtz's "Camber" series, these are the bad guys. From left to right, the evil old King, deposed from his throne and wanting power back intensely. Warriors and warlords, including in center, leader villain Wencit of Torenth. In the center is the 14-year-old Charissa, the youngest remaining member of the dynasty and a powerful witch even in her youth. In the shadows is one of their Saracen allies. Charissa sets up a magic goblet filled with reflective fluid, in which she can remotely see by the mystic art of scrying, a single combat battle between their dynasty's champion and the newer, Haldane ruler, who by these folks' avowal, is an usurper. This is an out-take, or a vignette, from a longer full-size book and it appeared as a special feature in the 1981 DarkoverCon program book.

Black ink on illustration board, 7" x 4", fall 1981.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Eternal Starbucks

There's always something to sketch at Starbucks. The ubiquitous coffee-shop offers not only warm coffee solace but an ever-changing passage of people of all types, nationalities, races, creeds. This drawing is from early 2001, that's 17 years ago if you can believe it. The displays and the bags of coffee and the graphics are more or less the same, with the same coffee-brown color scheme. These days I don't draw pictures of people often, but perhaps I should get into people-drawing again, with a few sips to back it up.

Sepia tech pen on sketchbook page, 5" x 7", January 15, 2001.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Naked Glassware

The wine flowed freely at Naked Mountain Winery over the hearty and delicious lasagna. Every year during the winter months Naked offers lasagna along with its wines. There is no green in the mountain landscape and the vine twigs are, uh, naked. There is still a lot of winter to get through, but wine and lasagna help us endure it.

Sepia brown tech pen on sketchbook page, some Photoshoppage, 4 1/2" x 6", January 27, 2018.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Princess Herald Knight

There's another fantasy author who has a status almost as fan-pleasing as Bradley or Kurtz, and by now she may have written more than the other ones. That is Mercedes Lackey, who writes about many different magical universes some of which are medieval style and others who have modern "urban" settings. Valdemar, Lackey's most prolific imaginary world, existed in a perpetual Renaissance which featured palace intrigues, tragic heroes, bardic magic, psychic powers, a bit of swashbuckling, romance both gay and straight, and last but not least, magical white horses which bond to psychically endowed humans called Heralds. These chosen folk dress all in white and go around the world doing good and fighting evil.

In one of them a Princess is called to be a Herald and to accompany one of the magical horses, known simply as Companions. I illustrated this small piece in a shameless attempt to attract collectors who loved Lackey, princesses, and horses. The attempt worked as I sold the original and at least one print of it. I wonder if the Lackey books I have are worth a re-read.  

Ink and colored pencil on light brown paper, 7" x 10", April 1995.

By the way she isn't missing her right hand, it's just hidden behind the horse's nose. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Deryni Unwilling King

For those of you who are heartily tired of Darkover fan art, let it be known among the mighty handful of By-Productives that I also did heaps of Deryni fan art. The Deryni were a race of psychically powered humans who lived in an alternate Middle Ages around 1300, much outnumbered, and hated, by mundane non-powered humans. The author of these books is Katherine Kurtz who is still writing them nowadays and she's a good friend of mine I'm happy to say. Many times the learned author transfers episodes and themes from our own medieval history to her stories. The miserable-looking fellow in the red cloak is Cinhil ("Kin-hill"), the last member of a royal dynasty who has hidden himself in a monastery to live a life of prayer. The supporters of the dynasty must remove him from his chapel and force him to be King. Cinhil doesn't like the idea but has to do it anyway. There was a real English historical story about this, my learned historian friends will know.

The ink drawing here was done in 1981, and I doubt I could do any better nowadays. If you're a creative type, do you feel despair when you realize that your earliest works are better than what you are doing now? I do, though I tell myself I shouldn't, and then I think, I didn't have the Internet in 1981 and maybe had more time to make art and less time on the keyboard typing out drivel. Anyway I've taken this 1981 effort of mine and colored it in with Photoshop as practice, and at least that came out OK, there's lots more coloring to do. And if I could ever get my studio in decent order that would help.

Black ink on illustration board, about 2" x 2 1/2", colored in Photoshop, 1981.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Fabbioli Cellars winter landscape

You may have noticed a lack of winery art on the By-Product this winter. Well, some of it is due to winter logistics avoiding ice and bad weather. Other factors are my Wine Team members moving house, and the accident that destroyed my Orangemobile. This serene scene was started in December at a winery visit to Fabbioli Cellars near Leesburg, VA. It was too cold to draw outdoors so I did only a line drawing of the view for coloring later. This is "later" and I finally got a chance to add in the colors and textures. There are vines in this view and they are all winter brown. However there are already early birds considering nesting, and I saw a family of bluebirds there. Fabbioli is especially good for bird watching. You can't beat birds and wine, although the winter can for a while.

Tech pen sepia brown ink and colored pencils on sketchbook page, 7" x 6", December 2017 - January 2018. Click for larger view.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


These exotic shapes are on the kitchen sink. The perforated disk was a recent acquisition, to keep debris from entering the disposer grinder. The central aerator tower is still shiny from its debut in my renovated kitchen. The black stopper is for when I want to use the sink as a wash tub. I'm supposed to take joy in mundane things like this but sorry, I don't. At least I can draw them without leaving the house. 

Markers on sketchbook page and a little Photosink adjusting, 4 1/2" x 4", January 24, 2018.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Erotic Darkover

Darkover, under its passionate red sun, has always had an erotic element in it. This is certainly the intent of the author herself, who was immersed for much of her life in hippie culture and "experimental" relationships, including polyamory. In those fragrant '60s, they took group grope seriously, and ultimately, in a simplification of Freud, regarded all sexual repression as bad. Sex, of various kinds, was considered a form of salvation, where a miserable lost repressed person could be bedded into happiness.

This is what's going on in the illustration above. Bradley created a form of magic based on esoteric sexual energy, perhaps inspired by the Indian tantra or the magick of Aleister Crowley. In order to make it work and keep it working, you had to abstain from sex or in the case of high-powered magic users, take a vow of celibacy. But if sex was salvation, then celibacy was a form of sin, and needed removing.

This is what the characters did in Bradley's "The Forbidden Tower," a melodramatic tale of a magical vestal virgin type who needed to break free of the old rules and let the magic fly. Under the influence of mind-expanding drugs (Marion lived in Berkeley, California during the '60s) the four main characters have a polyamorous play date awash in psychic energies. I don't know whether this whole thing is, uh, "dated," but it gave me the opportunity to draw nudes.

Black ink on illustration board, 8 1/2" x 11", fall 1983. This is a fan magazine cover. "Jumeaux" means "Twins" or "Gemini," as the Red Star of Darkover was supposed to be seen from Earth in the constellation Gemini.

Monday, January 22, 2018

642: A Seagull

I might as well draw a 642, it's better than drawing a picture of our current President as an enormous rutabaga, which would be too unsightly for your sensitive souls to endure. The prompt is for a Seagull, here dressed elegantly complete with cufflinks and a gentleman's cigar. Ornithologically he is a Great Black-backed Gull, who is a common sight on the Northern Hemisphere shores.

Technical pen and marker ink on sketchbook page, 3 1/2" x 4 1/2", January 22, 2018.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Starbucks Mom and Bored Kid

I  have been drawing Starbucks coffee drinkers for ages it seems and here's one from 12 years ago (!). A cold day in February '06, and a mom is keeping warm with a puffy down jacket and a large coffee drink. Her son sits at the table seriously bored. In winter the people move less and I can get more details of my subjects.

Black tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 7", February 10, 2006.

Saturday, January 20, 2018


I haven't done much botanical art over the years, but that doesn't mean I don't like it. This older piece is one of my plant and flower attempts. I did it because I love the blue flowers and the plant is a common weed and easy to find. Its scientific name is Commelina communis, the Asiatic dayflower. The tiny, iris-like flowers are a wonderful pure shade of cobalt blue with no tinge of purple but a touch of white. They only last one day, hence "Dayflower." Gardeners pull them up and throw them out! They think it is invasive. I wish I could grow them indoors but I've never succeeded. Hence I had to depict it in art.

Brown tech pen ink and watercolor on sketchbook page, 4" x 4 1/2", late summer 1978.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Christmas is Over

The dead christmas tree was lying out in the street covered with a picturesque dusting of snow. All the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future have now fled, along with the soul of a crushed Element and all the "traditional" motifs none of which are part of our present life. You haven't ridden in a one-horse sleigh and neither have I. (If you actually have ridden in a one-horse sleigh, then that's kinda cool.) People don't have to treat each other nicely any more, we can get back to our profanities and insults on Facebook, which is not a Christmas carol about a baby lying tenderly in its crib. Soon enough we'll be seeing that damn groundhog, whose shadow darkens my path, and I'm feeling cold anyway.   

Black ink and white-out on sketchbook page, 3" x 2 1/2", January 19, 2018.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

R.I.P. Element

As I suspected, the Element has been pronounced a total loss, so this is the end of the road for my beloved Honda. If cars have consciousness, which they may just have, this one gave up its life for me that I could survive with minimal or even no injuries. I now have to visit the car graveyard and  retrieve my art and traveling equipment from the cargo bay. The search for a new car will begin soon.

"Narenji" was the word on my Virginia "vanity" license plates. It means "Orange" in Persian - the color, not the fruit. The drawing above was done in 2007, shortly after acquiring the Element.

Markers on my 2007 sketchbook journal page, 7" x 3", January 2007.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Goodbye Element

An interruption to this Blog happened. This text was published in Facebook. Yes, I'm still here, but my Honda probably gone. 

Around 7 PM this evening (Jan. 16) I was in a moderately severe car accident. I was driving my usual route and speed on Route 7 in Tysons Corner when a car suddenly appeared to my left on a perpendicular trajectory going across the big road. This is an unlit crossroads with no sign markers. I had no time to stop and I smashed my car into theirs, my left front fender against their right front fender. My orange Element was severely damaged and may not be repairable. Unusually and thankfully, I had only minor injuries, bruised knees and nothing else so far. The police were on the scene immediately and did all the information gathering and reports in a very professional way. The policeman even let me sit in the back of his car to stay warm. I called my friend Helen with whom I had been sipping coffee and shopping and she came to pick me up. This was a very scary event and I am still shaken up by it, also giving thanks for my luck that I was not hurt more - the airbag did not inflate. I regret and mourn the loss of my trusty orange Honda Element which has served me so diligently for the last 11 years. As for the other drivers, the policeman judged them at fault for the accident and the insurance will settle things appropriately. Now safe at home I am sipping some of Tommy Lee's excellent Scotch and thinking about what car will come next. Many thanks to the help of the professionals, civilized people doing their jobs.

Photograph from 2015.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Pen and the Sword

I did this logo in the distant past as an end-piece for a Darkover fan story. Someone saw my title page for the same story in this By-Product entry a while ago. The warrior's sword hand wears a studded vambrace, while the writer's Pen hand in a soft shirt cuff draws a line which breaks the Sword. We've got a lot of pens, and a lot of swords, but we must hope that the pen is also mightier than the gun.

Black ink on illustration board, about 6" x 2", summer 1985.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Old School Illustration

These knights are from one of the games I illustrated. They are done in a style I love, the old-fashioned ink drawings of the late 19th century illustrator H.J. Ford. This is the illustrator of the fairy tale books many of us grew up with, designated by different colors such as the "Blue Fairy Book" and the "Red Fairy Book," etc. I've done a somewhat good imitation of Ford, but maybe these old-school drawings aren't the right style for the action-oriented role-players of our modern age.

Black ink on illustration board, 4" x 5", September 1983.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Coffee and Yarn Balls

What is this? A weird junk sculpture of a dog? A badly designed ad for Twitter? The bottom of someone's knitting basket? None of the above, it's a holiday season store display from Starbucks. My favorite coffee universe used to deck their stores with lavish and often beautiful displays on a yearly theme. One year (2008) their theme was balls of yarn and knitted patterns, and they populated their coffee interiors with conglomerations like this. You also see a cut-out of a bird shape which is actually made from recycled Starbucks coffee boxes. All of these were in a red and green color scheme; the large yarn ball is a dark green and its neighbor is red. I could only wonder, as I sipped the brew, how many of these had been made (all in China, of course) to go into the many thousands of Starbuckses around the globe. And they would all be thrown out after the winter holiday season! What a shame! As soon as the season was over I went to my favorite Starbucks and asked to take some of the displays home. After some hesitation, they let me have this one, which is now part of my own seasonal set-up. I may have the only one left! You never know though. In later years Starbucks realized they were spending too much on seasonal displays and made them less lavish, and perhaps less collectible.

Sepia brown tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 4" x 3 1/2", January 13, 2018.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Refurbishing Darkover's Star

Some of this text was originally published here in 2016. Since it describes the same storyline I didn't need to write it again. 

"Stormqueen," whose given name was Dorilys, was a Darkovan girl with the ability to control, or at least unleash violent weather. Dorilys could also vaporize people if they provoked her. She was eventually put into suspended animation, rather than be killed because she was too dangerous to live. This fan fiction tells a story based on the Stormqueen tale. A group of psychic adepts has learned that Darkover's red sun, which is unstable at best, is about to go nova. They decide that they must free the Stormqueen so that she can use her cosmic weather power to stop the solar storm and nova. To do this they hold a seance and bring her spirit out of suspended animation. Dorilys succeeds in stopping the nova explosion but she does not get to live physically since her power is still a challenge to the planet's existence. This is one of my illustrations for the story, when the Stormqueen appears at the seance wreathed in lightning, and restores the safety and integrity of Darkover's sun. 

Black ink and white-out on illustration board, about 9" x 7", June 1986.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Socialist Revolutionaries of Darkover

Most fantasy settings have a medieval-style, feudalistic government based on royalty and aristocracy. Darkover was one of these, where a lost expedition of long ago devolved from spacefarers to knights and ladies. You could tell a hero or a ruler from their appearance, especially their red or blonde hair, a timeless trope. Well, what if the characters in the lower levels or peasantry of the kingdom decided they had had enough? What if some Darkovan Marx or Lenin set a revolution in motion, inciting the powerless, brown-haired proletariat to rise up against their oppressors? Here are the "Socialist Revolutionaries of Darkover," standing at the dawn of a new era. The red flag features the Communist central star surrounded by four crescents, representing the four moons of Darkover. I exhibited my "Soviet" image at DarkoverCon in 1984 and was told privately that Author M. Z. Bradley was not amused.

Acrylic on illustration board, 7" x 10", October 1984.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Winter Sky Tinted Gold

As you can see from my recent sketch postings, the theme I have chosen for 2018 is "Skies." I am always observing the sky, clouds, weather, and the changing color and light. Skies are always in motion and any depiction of a cloudscape is by necessity partly from memory, unless you are copying a photograph, which I don't want to do with these sketches. I am usually not in a position to sit and sketch a fleeting sky moment so all of these are from memory. I will be doing these sketches with markers, in the sketchbook designed for marker work. Some of these markers can flow and blend like watercolor, so it can look really artsy if you want it to. I can always throw in some colored pencil which is mostly transparent. Here's an evening flock of Altocumulus clouds, tinted with the gold of the setting winter sun.

Markers with a bit of colored pencil, 5" x 4", January 10, 2018.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Winter Moon

I found to my surprise that colored pencil would not stick to the smooth pages of my new 2018 sketchbook journal. It isn't a total loss but it isn't a rich color outcome either. The notebook was advertised as and designed for marker use, so I can adjust my media choices anyway. This is a winter color study, partly in markers, partly in colored pencil, with tree branches overlaid in Photoshop.

Mixed media on sketchbook page, 3" x 2 1/2", January 10, 2018.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Dyan Ardais puts the moves on pretty Regis

Lordy, not again. Yep, here they are again, the pretty boy and the nobleman who desires him as well as abuses him. Regis, at left, doesn't look so happy about the movin' hands of his boss. But later in the story Regis realizes, through much trial and suffering, that he really is That Way but he finds a much better and younger lover than the sinister aristocrat. This is from Marion Zimmer Bradley's book THE  HERITAGE OF HASTUR which was read avidly by the fans who also commissioned and bought my art. This one was chosen by Marion herself and she put extra money down in the art show so it would be reserved for her. 

Black ink on illustration board, about 5 1/2" x 7", spring 1982. That sure was a long time ago.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Sister Justice

In May of 1976 I was in Rome and I acquired a fine-tip Koh-i-noor Rapidograph technical pen. This pen was good for making drawings anywhere and I did a lot of street drawings with it, while sitting on a camp stool. Curious folk sometimes gathered around me to see what I was drawing. This drawing is a rendering of a sculpture mounted on the facade of a government building in Rome, the "Ministry of Justice." It looks like a Roman goddess but is probably from the 20th century Fascist era. I love the helmet with wings at the front as well as the chainmail shirt. I liked the figure so much that I turned her into a superhero, "Sister Justice," as seen below.

The original drawings are quite small, so look closely if you want. 

Reddish-brown tech pen ink and watercolor on sketchbook page, each image about 3" x 5", spring 1976. Click on images for a larger view.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

K-18: A Tomato in Winter

Well, I haven't made one of these for a while so here's a "K" series improvisation. The "K" series is based on the idea of visual improvisation on the model of modernist artist Paul Klee. These are done in purely digital media, which is a lot of fun to play with, like an infinite set of "Colorforms." You may remember these enchanting visual toys where you put the colorful plastic shapes on a shiny black background. If I had to do this design with paint it would be a big job even for a small art piece. There is an image of a tomato in the picture which was my original inspiration, a red square the color of a tomato.

Photoshop, about 6 1/2" x 6 1/2", January 6, 2018.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

A Jewish Detective on Darkover : More

Here's Dr. Levich, PhD in ExoSociology, still occupying his office at the Darkover Recontact Terran Agency. This illustration was never used in a magazine, but I think it makes a fair character portrait. I went to college with any number of guys who looked like this, but they didn't go on to be space detectives.

Original art is black ink on illustration board, 6" x 8", Spring 1983.

Friday, January 5, 2018

642: Prism Prison

This prompt from "642" was "a prism." I immediately re-read it as "prison." So I knew what to draw, a prison in the shape of a prism. It looks like there are five cells in this block and that there are many more prism prisons in this remote, rugged area. What crime do you commit to be sentenced to do time here? I would say, the use of "it's" as the possessive, but that is so common that there would be not enough space to put the offenders. 

Black tech pen ink on 642 sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 7", January 5, 2018.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Overcast Twilight, Maryland August

Colored pencils, as I tell my friends, are instant gratification. You can be on site or at an event and as long as you have a place to put your pencils and sketchbook, you can capture the subject in painting-like accuracy. In August of 2006 I took a road and sketch trip through Pennsylvania and Maryland and encountered many different scenes of color and light. I did this landscape in central Maryland late in the day, with rain approaching. With that natural deadline I drew as much as I could, matching the darkening, muted colors of trees that were almost black in the oncoming cloud light. Though I struggled with the color balance on this one, I was able to catch enough of it to make a landscape moment.

Colored pencils on sketchbook page, 7 1/2" x 5 1/2", August 10, 2006.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Alpine Castle of Darkover

I dismantled one of my Darkover frontispieces for this piece, which I found in the family archive. I cut off the decorative border with an X-acto knife and glued the image to a little sheet of black matboard. The scene is inspired by the Alps and if I colored it in, it would look like imitation Maxfield Parrish. Which would look kind a good, maybe I should try it with the magic of Photoshop. I need to find the rest of these designs, even now many of them have not  been shown here.

Black ink and copier paper, 4" x 7", 1978.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

They do NOT rot my brain!

As you would suspect, this is me, in the middle to late 60s, doing my favorite thing, namely reading comic books. (Note the ugly "cat-eye" glasses I wore at the time.) I had quite a collection in my high school years, of both DC and Marvel. My favorite characters were Dr. Strange and the X-men from Marvel, and Legion of Super-Heroes and Hawkman from DC. I often drew legions of my own invented super-heroes as well. My parents weren't pleased that I read comics, since they were not intellectual elite literature, but they didn't actively oppose my comics habit.

The usual outcome is that my parents threw the comic books out, but that wasn't really what happened. I did lose most of them, some due to reading it so much it fell apart, and others I just gave away to whoever wanted them. I returned to reading and collecting in the 1970s and I still have some of the great issues from that era such as Conan the Barbarian and the X-men saga of Phoenix. These are in bad shape unfortunately so I cannot make huge bucks selling them off.

I am now collecting comics again though not very many. I've watched different styles come and go and sometimes I "de-accession" (museum talk for "get rid of") them to other fans. But I never stop and I still have my own graphic projects waiting for me to continue my comics life.

Black ink on illustration board, 6" x 3", 1980.

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Cat of Amber

This piece was a commission from a Washington area fan, to be given to her brother, whose cat had just passed away. The elaborate setting is the City of Amber, my madly-detailed rendering of Roger Zelazny's enchanted built-up mountain. I published an excerpt of the City painting on this By-product in 2014. I think this picture is one of the best black and white pieces I ever did.

Black ink on Strathmore board, 7” x 10",  November 2001. Click on image for a larger view.

And with this Cat I let Year 2018 in the door. I do this with some trepidation given the deaths. disasters, and chaos of the past two years. I wearily say to myself and my friends and relatives, if we want to bring change or defend our way of life, the only way it will happen is if we make the effort ourselves, even if that effort is cultural rather than political or social. 2018
will also mark the 10th year of this Blog.