Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Stormqueen frontispiece

The earliest Darkover novels and stories were aimed at a younger, teen-age audience, when teen-oriented writing was not as sophisticated as it is now. STORMQUEEN is one of those books where the storyline is becoming more complicated. I have cited the story in other By-Products: briefly, it's about a girl who is endowed with the awesome psychic power to control the weather. But she's out of control, and rebellious, and an easy target for exploitation yet needed as a weapon for her noble family's defense. If left alone, she could destroy her family; if trained, she could also become deliberately deadly. What do you do? This illustration, one of a series I did for a collector's-item edition, shows the teen-age Stormqueen flinging her Gothic nightgown into the air as she calls the clouds and lightning to do her bidding.

Black ink and photostat on illustration board, 8" x 10", April 1979. Click for a larger view.

A note to viewers: My word and photograph postings will mostly appear on my word blog, "Electron Blue 3." The By-Product will continue to carry suitable visuals with a smaller and more tolerable text portion.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Kite Meadow

During my childhood I got used to yearly outbreaks of what our family called "August Madness." There was nothing harmful or really crazy about it. It was simply an excess of boredom because there was no school or university to attend or teach in August. So my father would get really involved in a short-lived hobby or pastime. The Madness for 1960 was building and flying kites. Kites were always available in "variety" stores, narrow colorful paper and sticks tightly rolled along with a ball of string. You assembled the crackly paper rhomboid (or geometrical "kite form") bent into a bow, added a tail of fabric scraps, and sent it to the wind. These paper and twig kites usually didn't last more than one outing, since the construction was delicate and could not withstand gusty winds.

So my father decided to build the Mighty Kite, an aerial sail that could rise into the heavens. He built a wood framework and a cloth swath to catch the wind. Then he built a cube-shaped wooden open box winder to hold the kite string. My father was a musician and composer but he was also good at working with wood and furniture. The kite string caddy looked like an old-style camera but it was just wood and string. When the Mighty Kite (that wasn't its real name, but I'll call it that since I don't remember the real one) was ready, we tried it out in our back yard. The kite failed to fly but we attributed that to lack of wind.

We put it to sail in what I think was late August, just before the New England climate sank into autumn. Our air trial took place on an empty, grass-covered lot on a nearby hill, not too far away from the site of the destroyed Moore House. The personnel were my father, myself, a neighbor boy named Robert Dunlay, and possibly my mother to take the photographs. In the image above you see Robert, my father holding the kite, and me in the meadow, holding the fabric-scrap tail of the kite. It is still warm enough so that we don't need coats. The grass was probably summer-gold; unfortunately I don't have any color memories of this. There is a kind of Wyeth look to this little scene; a sunny but faded meadow of long grass, New England trees and people, with one little girl looking directly at a viewer 60 years later.

We had a good wind and launched the Mighty Kite into it. The cloth contraption rose slowly into the air as we pulled frantically at the string. It fluttered and was not stable. The kite couldn't fly, no matter what we did. It would rise to about a height of ten or twenty feet, and then stall there, keeping the line parallel to the ground, and then it would drop back into the grass. All of us were terribly disappointed, as we tried and tried to get our project off the ground. Finally we had to admit failure. The structure of the Mighty Kite was just too heavy to sustain the lift of the wind.

The remains of the kite and its line-winder stayed in our endlessly cluttered garage for years afterward. New kite designs appeared in the stores which were of lightweight plastic, in the forms of bats and birds and fantasy creatures. I flew one of those black bat kites with great success. Our access to the air now is more complex with drones and remote cameras. Soon afterwards the meadow was replaced with large houses which are still there, enjoying the view from the hill.

Original image is 2" x 3", about 1960. Click for a larger view.

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Swing Set

My folks bought me a swing set. They set it up inside a wooden stockade which enclosed me and a play area in back of the house. The earth was still raw from ranch house construction and some of my toys were pieces of building debris. The swing set had abstract "horsies" on it  hanging from the industrial-looking steel frame. I am depicted here sitting in my sandbox. You can tell how cold it is by the ice in the bucket at the lower left corner.

Do I remember any of this? I have to say, not this particular era or space. I do remember it later on when we planted flowers and grass to look less like a pioneer encampment. It is too easy for me to imagine myself into the scene and give myself the illusion that I remember riding on that particular set, or playing in that yard. But maybe I do. Most people have what you call "first memories" and I have them too. They are just fragments, though, like building debris.

If you look closely at Little Me in the sandbox you can see me brandishing in my right hand, a toy pistol for little cowboys. Nowadays things are quite different. We aren't pioneers any more.

Photograph from early 1956, 3" x 4 1/2". Click for a larger view.

This is a post for Monday February 26, 2018.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Burning of the Old Moore House

As the By-Product nears its tenth anniversary, it is time to explore new visual and verbal elements in its construction. As you readers know, I have been working for the last few years to digitize and process thousands of photo images relating to myself, my personal and family history, and my environment and neighborhood. Some of the stories, facts, and personalities are known and remembered only by me, and I think it is my duty to set them down in old and new media so that they will not be forgotten.

One of these things is the burning of the old Moore House on Pine Street at the border of Natick and Wayland, Massachusetts. Most of my stories take place either in eastern Massachusetts where I grew up, or in various European settings as my family lived abroad and did a lot of traveling. This fiery event happened on a freezing winter day sometime in either 1957 or 1958. 

The old Moore House was an abandoned and decrepit barn and farmhouse in an area which was slated for clearing and building new houses. It was supposed to be taken down by wreckers but instead, it was declared a "training burn" or "controlled demolition burn" for firemen and police. They would set the structure ablaze and then practice on it. The public was invited to attend and my parents and I were among the spectators. My father had his camera and we local folk passed around thermoses of hot coffee (and probably other warming liquids too). 

The old barn burned first; you can see its blackened timbers to the left. This shot shows the cottage that went with it burning down. Police and firemen are standing by with fire hoses to make sure the demolition stays under control. Another house across the street is untouched by the fire.

Looking at these small pictures I wonder whether anyone but me remembers the burning of the old Moore House. It was certainly a big deal for our neighborhood and people talked about it for quite a while afterwards. Are there any elders near my old home who would remember this? Is it listed on Natick/Wayland town records? Are there other archives of police and fire events? Almost everyone who was at that fire is now gone, except for the younger ones. Something that would bring the residents of a whole neighborhood out in frozen weather should be remembered. And now that it's placed in digital memory, it may just last a bit longer.

Original photographic print is 3" x 2", about 1958. Click for larger view.

Return to Barrel Oak

We Wine, Rain or Shine. Yesterday, "Wine Saturday," was a rainy day but that didn't stop the Wine Team from visiting one of Northern Virginia's most popular wineries, "Barrel Oak." This is actually a dog show masquerading as a winery, as the theme of the place is canine and the management encourages the patrons to bring their (well-behaved) dogs with them. It was delightful to see so many breeds of pooch and the creatures were friendly. I have not been to this place in years and it has grown remarkably, with new rooms, event areas, and tasting areas. They also have a brewery now so you can choose your booze. It was crowded in the main area but we were able to find a place upstairs to sip wine and munch cheese. I drew this monochrome drawing of the hand-cut structural woodwork and the wine-lovers next to us.

Sepia brown tech pen on sketchbook page, about 5" x 8", February 24, 2018. Click for a larger view.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

"The Planet Savers" frontispiece

World of Darkover again, but this time it's art for a reprint of one of MZB's earliest works, "The Planet Savers." In this 1958-dated tale, an Earthman doctor must venture deep within the Darkovan biosphere to find a cure for a plague that is afflicting the returning settlers. He must deal with one of the sentient semi-humanoid races native to the environment, the "Trailmen," as well as his own multiple personality disorder. Instead of character portraits for this one, I drew an alien jungle and forest with glowing eyes peering from the darkness.

Drawing is ink and glued-on photostat, about 7" x 10", October 1978. Click for larger view.

Friday, February 23, 2018

642: a seashell

The 642 prompt was "a seashell" so my concept was an enormous conch shell in which a tiny village would nestle. I based the idea not only on my mother's art (the lines and shapes) but on the work of sculptor Judith Brown. My aunt Edith was a connoisseur of Brown's art and had a small bronze by her in a display. The bronze depicted a great cloud or wave arcing over a tiny city underneath. I always loved that piece; it was large and epic even though it was only about two cubic feet in size.

Tech pen and marker on sketchbook page, 7" x 4 1/2", February 23, 2018. Freshly made art.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Cambridge Cat and Turret

There are lots of ornate old houses in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They were built in what was known as the "Queen Anne" style, with lots of decorated woodwork and little towers or turrets. Many of these have been divided up into student quarters but others are being  "gentrified" by rich re-modelers back into single-family houses. The student houses are usually in disrepair, until the historic developers move in. This turret is typical of the style, and often you'll find the resident's cat in the window surveying the Cambridge scene.

Black ink on illustration board, 5" x 7", November 1980.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Beach Gent 1974

This little portrait is from my 1974 sketchbook, where I documented family visits to the beach on Cape Cod. The gentleman depicted is not connected to my family; he is just there in my view. I was trying different media in my sketchbook, types I have not used again since. This one is drawn with a thin sepia brown tech pen, over a drawing in watercolor pencil. After I finished the drawing, I wet down the watercolor pencil and made it look like watercolor. When it was all dry, I added details back in with more tech pen and colored pencil. Quite a complex multi-stage process for just a sketchbook bit, which is why I didn't use a lot of watercolor in my later sketches.

Tech pen brown, watercolor pencils, colored pencil on sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 4", August 1974.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Capitol Dome Interior

Ever wondered what was actually inside the big dome of the Capitol in Washington, DC? Yes, it's filled with worthless talk and hot air, but the building itself is a massive stack of neo-classical ornament and decorative art. What you see here is only part of the pile of layers which are derived from classical Roman buildings such as the Pantheon. Back in the 18th and 19th centuries when they were conceiving these edifices, most educated men had a classical education with emphasis on Greek and Roman artistic and political literature and ideals. They tried to imbue our Republic with the spirit of those toga-clad, heroic Romans who took their political work very seriously, to the point of having their portraits done in Roman garb.

We've got a different type of Rome in Washington today, an Imperial Rome full of madness and excess, and we had better watch carefully while Caligula and Commodus cavort in their pleasure palaces. The old decor, though, still rules under the white dome.

I did this drawing on site a long time ago. It's as good as any architectural drawing I've done since. 

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 5 1/2" x 8 1/2", December 31,1981. I wasn't living in the DC area yet, just visiting.

Monday, February 19, 2018


I'm back in Kandinsky territory again with another digital sketch. Those Modernist artists would have a field day with Photoshop. (What's a "field day" anyway?) I try to keep these stylistically coherent, you never know whether I will start treating them like, you know, real art, and compile them. I seem to have a thing for purple and blue with orange accents. It sure is useful to have a gradient blend feature. I don't have to make an awful mess with paint. I stopped just before I made this one too complicated. The "real thing" as much as digital could ever be "real" is tiny, only about 5 1/2" x 3 1/2". And it has no Darkovan aliens or baby pictures of me!

"K-19" is Photoshop, February 19, 2018. Click for a larger view.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

More Chieri

What, more Darkovan-elfish Chieri? Why not? They're pretty, psychically gifted, non-violent, and even better, hermaphroditic! This piece of illustration comes from the same fanzine sequence for which I did innumerable bits and pieces. My vague recollections from the story tell me that it is about a Terran officer who shows signs of hybridization with these "native aliens." He eventually finds a gathering of Chieri who can give him the information about his origins that he desperately needs to do his work on Darkover. He then becomes a secret agent concentrating on human and alien interactions.

Black ink on illustration board, 8 1/2" x 11", October 1984.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Archival Workspace Abstraction

There are three workspaces in my digital studio. The first is the one I am typing this on, an iMac surrounded by reference books, CDs and DVD's, and memory sticks, as well as an old printer. The second one is a MIDI keyboard hidden under a wool wrap and at this time not in use. The third workspace is the one depicted here: slides, paper photographic prints, a transcriber, boxes of slides, and graphic supplies such as an air squirter, a flashlight, and white graphics tape. The level of clutter frustrates me intensely but I need all of these things. At least I can make an interesting design out of it.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 3 1/2" x 6", February 17, 2018. Shaded panel in front done with Photoshop.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Cosmic Baby

Since I have so many, I thought I'd fool around with one of my innumerable baby pictures. This one was taken in the fall of 1953, when I was but a wee infant. But you can tell I still have the square puffy cheeks. There are so many more pictures to scan and process, I'm sure to get cosmic again sometime.

Original photo is monochrome, 2" x 3", fall 1953.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Journey to New Skye conclusion

As he sits grieving over his grandfather's body, not knowing what to do next, the young man sees strange lights in the forest which manifest in the darkness as a group of attenuated, very tall glowing humanoids, clad only in translucent silk. They are the Chieri, perhaps even the ones which intermingled with the humans of New Skye, as Chieri, like Elves, are very long-lived. They levitate Grandfather's body and wrap him in one of their silk swaths. They explain that they will take care of his remains among his kin. As for the young man, the Chieri designate one of their number to accompany him to the town to see more of his kin. As the journey continues, the Chieri companion is already turning into a beautiful girl who will partner the young man and continue the hybridization.

I recently met Mary Frey, the author of this tale or rather its original. Mary and I shared old-time memories as fan artist and fan author. I have no idea whether I've told the original story, but this makes sense of my illustrations. The original story, as with so many others, is buried in my dusty closet.

Black ink on illustration board, 8 1/2" x 11", May 1987.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Journey to New Skye

The original Earth settlers of Darkover were mostly from Celtic lands and were characterized by their red hair (of course), warlike tendencies, and psychic powers. Their original settlement town was called "New Skye," after Scotland's Isle of Skye. It was there that they re-made their original Earthling ways into mystical neo-Celtic tribalism. It was also in New Skye that they encountered the main alien race still living on Darkover. These were the "chieri," elf-like eerie humanoids who were much taller than ordinary humans (more than 7 feet tall) and who wore only delicate flowing spider-silk wraps even in freezing weather. The chieri were also highly endowed with psychic abilities, and what's more, they were hermaphroditic. They had organs for both sexes and could morph into whatever gender their partner desired. This sounds like a good reproductive strategy, but on Darkover they were dying out - till they found that the chieri could interbreed with humans. New Skye was the first place where hybridization occurred.

In the story, which I don't remember much of, a young man travels with his grandfather to the original settlement of New Skye. Grandpa is unusually tall, has a lot of psychic gift, and has other hybrid characteristics. He wants to find his alien relatives. Unfortunately, the grandfather dies on his way to the town, and the young man is left alone not knowing what to do....
Conclusion will follow on the next posting.

Original title page art is black ink on illustration board, 8 1/2" x 11", spring 1987.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


It's not lava or cave formations or melted plastic; it's a drapescape. I drew the forms of a jacket and a fleece cloak draped over my studio chair. It makes a nice abstraction and was a popular exercise in drawing skills in the old days of classical art. I will color this digitally sometime soon.

Black gel pen and tech pen on sketchbook page, 4" x 4 1/2" , February 12, 2018.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Sunburst 1974

Here is another sky, but this one dates from 1974. I have always loved to look at cloudscapes and skyscapes and I "Keep Looking Up!" This unusual and somewhat phallic cloud is a cumulus on a warm summer day, somewhere in my native Massachusetts. I didn't draw it on site, I remembered it, complete with sunburst - a moment of seconds until the cloud drifted away. Then I painted it in the studio.

Watercolor on sketchbook page, 5 1/2" x 8", July 7, 1974.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Dark February

The 2018 theme is "Skies" and that includes the dreary ones as well as the colorful or cloud-decked. The weather has been rainy and dark for a few days and I don't mind at all, I find that rainy weather improves my mood and calms me down. In this little sketch I tried to match the color of the solid overcast in late afternoon, blending with colored pencils. Within a few minutes the light in this scene (not here on the screen, outside) will turn purplish blue. These are Nimbostratus clouds, for those cloudspotters among my blogfolks.

Colored pencil and tech pen on sketchbook page, 7 1/2" x 2 1/2", February 10, 2018.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Deryni Duel

This piece is from my "Deryni Portfolio of 1981." It illustrates one of the action-packed scenes of Katherine Kurtz's DERYNI RISING, where Alaric Morgan, the King's Champion, must fight out a duel with Ian, the champion chosen by the villainous contenders for the throne. The duel takes place in the cathedral where the young king Kelson is about to be crowned. I admit that I wasn't a great action artist. I took a lot more time and attention doing the background than the figures. I know this is probably a "re-blog" repeating an old entry but after more than 3000 posts I just get lost in the repertoire. This would be fun to color in, if I had the time or energy. Just think how I am sparing you from my baby pictures. 

Black ink on illustration board, 8 1/2" x 11", mid to late 1981.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Tapes of Yesteryear

What is this? It's a pile of 7 inch diameter reel to reel tapes in their boxes, preserved since the 1960s and still playable. This and many many other piles are in my apartment, the legacy of my parents and myself. I have not played these tapes for uncountable years but at some  point I must, either to re-record their contents onto digital format or to leave them or throw them out. I have a working reel to reel tape set-up, rare as that is. There are probably almost a  hundred tapes, salvaged from the old family home.

The Archive has just about eaten my life. There is always more to do, especially with photos and negatives and documents. I sit and wonder, why do this? I have no descendants to leave all this to, and there's no guarantee that any of my cousins has any interest at all in it. But then I got an insight in one of those brain-stalled moments which happen to me every so often (and possibly you, too). I've placed some of these pictures with caption and writing on Facebook. Why not add them to the By-Product as well? They aren't exactly art, but they are a By-product of ages of amateur snapshots. This blog is going to need more content as I run out of old art. Why not add these to the mix? Not every day of course but when I get one with image and story value. I'll still be drawing new stuff and adding older art. My Blogefforts will be getting upgrades, at least the Other Electron Blue. I gotta keep busy you know, and all ten of you have my highest esteem for staying with me to visit my blogs. 

Sepia brown ink on sketchbook page, 4" x 4 1/2", February 9, 2018.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Portrait of Annie


I did this portrait of Annie on her twelfth birthday, in early 2001. She and her mother Honorine were at a friend's house where I was visiting. Honorine was a radical feminist scholar of contemporary literature. She would later (2006) publish a dissertation on the science fiction author Octavia Butler. Annie was an excellent model and I was able to do a well-controlled sketch of her without too much moving about, one of my better portraits. Annie is 29 now. I wonder what ever became of her.

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

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Darkover Spell Sword Fights Catmen

Darkover again! But this is not fan art, it is professional art that I did as frontispiece illustrations for a collector's item edition of some of Marion Z. Bradley's older Darkover works. I designed an ornate archway for the series, which I copied in photostat (an ancient but durable medium) and then dropped the ink drawing into the arch space. This one is from THE SPELL SWORD, one or Marion's earliest Darkover tales. In the story, a young man must protect his family against the onslaught of the Cat-men, lion-like, sentient and fierce creatures.
He knows nothing of swordsmanship but that's all the weaponry he has. In order to defeat the foe, a magic user forms a psychic link between the young man and an elder hero who was once one of the greatest swordfighters of the realm. The old man directs the younger man's sword and movements by psychic remote control until the battle is won.

Original drawing was ink and photostat, 6" x 8", October 1978. Re-blogged from February 11, 2015. Why? Because I forgot to check whether I had already blogged it. Eh.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

642 sound wave

Back in the world of "642 things to draw" the suggestion is "a sound wave." Well there's plenty of that. "642" asks for no premeditation or as little as possible so I start it without knowing what I will be drawing. The "sound wave" becomes an abstraction that breaks into water waves at the right of the image. But what really came out of my wandering tech pen was an homage to my mother Esther's abstract work in the 40s and 50s, art I grew up with and am now revisiting because of the archive digitalization project. The left half looks especially like an Esther. Mother used to say proudly to me that she had never used a straight line in any of her work. She left those things to me. 

Black tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 7" x 4", February 6, 2018.

Monday, February 5, 2018

New England Woodwork

Before I lived in Turnipstan Beltwayville, I lived in Cambridge, Mass., a town full of old wood buildings with plenty of nicely crafted roof and porch work. This place here was only a block away from my residence. You can see it's autumn as the trees are turning gold and orange. I drew a number of these buildings in my sketchbook. I set up my outdoor sketch station while it was still warm enough to draw and paint outdoors. When the snow came, I could only draw through the window.

Many of these buildings are protected by law as "historical" including the one I lived in. Any rebuilding or re-modeling must leave the exterior and original design intact. The house I lived in was originally a duplex, divided into four apartment residences but after I left, the new buyers who were filthy rich gutted the whole place and made it into one big house. But you couldn't see that from the outside. Peculiar that all the 10 years I lived there I never drew any sketches of the place. Probably I was deterred by all the bad memories which still remain with me.

Sepia brown tech pen and watercolor, 5" x 8", about 1979.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Return of the Electron Blue Car

The return of the Electron Blue Car! I spent most of the day at the Honda dealership going through pounds of paperwork. I am now the owner of a Honda Civic hatchback. It is...NOT ORANGE. It is a brilliant shade of blue, "Aegean Blue," similar to the "Electron Blue" of my 
old Honda CRV. It is named, justly, "Electron Blue 2."

This car is originally of Japanese design and it looks like an anime character. This trend in car design is incredibly popular these days, you see it everywhere especially on SUV's and sporty cars. The shapes are made of "bent" triangles with curved sides, with flashy grill work and sculpted flanks. I went for the bright colors and the brilliant blue. The only current Honda which comes in orange is the "sport" model of the "Fit," which is the size of a bean and way too small to carry my usual cargo of art boards, groceries, and recycling. Beneath the styling of my new Civic is the original utilitarian Civic like the one I drove for 10 years back in the 1990s.

Now all I have to do is drive safely and hope I have a long partnership with my new Electron.

Photo of "Little Me" from the family archive, colored in Photoshop, about 1957.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Groundhog moment

It happens every year and you get the feeling like in that movie that I never saw, that you're trapped in a time loop that never ends. For some reason every magazine I read these days talks about our world falling apart and how awful it's going to be if it isn't already awful for most people. I am about to release yet another vehicle onto the roads with me in it and I'd rather be sitting by the fire with a cup of coffee reading about dystopia or the traffic version of it, "autodystopia." It's a weird mixture of comfort and terror, that's our world. 

Black tech pen ink and grayscale marker on sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 2 1/2", February 3, 2018.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Dawn Branches

Dawn and twilight show the same colors. This one is dawn, in case one needed to know. It's almost abstract, but not geometric. Nature obliged and I finally got to use one of my many pink colored pencils.

Marker inking and colored pencils on sketchbook page, 4" x 4", February 2, 2018. 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Geometrikon Winter Trees re-mix

And here's the "remix" of the winter trees experimental piece. The remix moved the colors around and dropped the bare branches from the composition. Also used textures with colored pencil. Here comes February, with more winter scenes coming up. 

Marker and colored pencils, about 4" x 2", January 31, 2018.