Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Shadow in the Coffee house

I sketched this gent in a coffee house where he was very intently reading a paper item on the table. I tried to capture his features when he put his hand down. In my imagination he looked like the pulp action hero "The  Shadow" without his mask or broad-brimmed black hat. I don't think he knew that I was drawing him. I try to make the drawing as simple as possible because I don't have time in the real world to work on realism. The imaginary world pervades the world of mundane reality. "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows....."

Sepia brown tech pen on sketchbook page, about 2 1/2" x 4 1/2", March 30, 2018.

Friday, March 30, 2018

In Just-Spring

It's been Marchy all March, which is only to be expected I suppose. The famous uncapitalized poet e.e.cummings wrote a Paganizing song to Spring in his "In Just-Spring" which was probably a lot more shocking in his days when being a Pagan was inconceivable. Meanwhile the winds blow the clouds of Holy Week across the greening lawns and soon-to-flower trees. I have depicted it again here complete with the red maple flowers that are so sneeze-able. In Just-Spring is made with the beautiful grey colored pencils I've been raving about recently. Soon I'll be rooting in my colored pencil sets for....azalea pink!

Colored pencils and brown ink on sketchbook page, around 4" x 4", March 30, 2018.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Castle Edelweiss

I really like depicting castles. I can improvise a castle out of my imagination or I can select one out of my collection of castle images. Fortunately, just about every fantasy book I've ever read has a castle in it somewhere, so it makes illustration easier. If by some chance the author missed the chance to put one in a book, the artist can always make it up and the readers will love it anyway. This castle is probably on Darkover, judging from the two moons, and I named it "Edelweiss" after the famous mountain flower of Switzerland. It's one of an edition of sketches I did for a show at the long gone DarkoverCon.

Ink and colored pencils on brown paper, 7" x 10", fall 1996.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Cozy Fireplace

Here's yet another image from the "Architectural Art's" portfolio. This one is all my work, no one collaborated on it though I may have already had the outline for the piece. I wanted to give the scene a "historic" look as if it were really in an old house rather than made out of resin in a house built new in the 1990s. There would be a fire in this fireplace but it would burn gas, not wood as modern houses are not allowed by law to have wood-burning fireplaces, which are thought to cause air pollution.

Pencil and watercolor, about 3 1/2" x 3 1/2", 1990. Printed on textured  paper.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Colorforms 2

Back to my favorite insta-art, "Colorforms." The formula today is four of each shape except one white star. Four of each color, square black background. Surprisingly, this took more than five minutes to do. I wanted each color and shape to be where I wanted it to be. Each color had its own Photoshop layer, which is difficult to manage. Back in the 1980s ancient of days, when the crickets were chirping in the sultry nights of Cambridge, Massachusetts, I cut up painted paper ("Color-aid") and stuck it with glue on the black background. I had no idea I'd be doing that with digital media. 

Photoshop, 5" x 5", March 27, 2018.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Woodsy Allegorical Magician

This little picture has been floating about my screen and archive for quite a while. It was originally a male allegorical figure for the Month of November but I didn't think it was seasonal enough. It ended up being fan art somewhere. As it is I used it as practice for coloring drawings in Photoshop. My first attempt at that didn't work out but this one's better. The ink lines are still too heavy in my opinion but hey, this was a long time ago. Oh, you're not supposed to say "hey," it's vulgar. Is it? Must get back to the inks I guess, even if they're digital.

"Mage of November" is originally black ink on illustration board, about 3 1/2" x 5", October 1984. Colored in Photoshop.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Neo-Classical Door

This is from the same "Architectural Art" portfolio that you've seen recently here. In Virginia and Maryland, and DC as well, you have to build new buildings that look exactly like the old ones. So the area is filled with neo-colonial residences that have a bit of the old look but are actually mass-produced. This door frame, for instance, would have been carved out of wood and painted white, but it is actually molded out of a plastic resin called "fypon." Fypon doesn't decay like wood and you don't have to paint it. The door itself may be real wood, or it might be a synthetic too. Is your house real or unreal? Classical or neo-classical? Historic or imitation? Only the garden plants are real.

Printed on textured paper, original in colored pencils, 2" x 3", 1990.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Giant Foods Fruit Section

It's difficult to make a drawing in a store, especially a supermarket. There is no place to sit or brace your sketchbook, and people are moving around you all the time so you can't draw them  or the displays easily. I somehow managed this one in the nearby Giant Foods many years ago. Notice the film developing kiosk, from before the era of digital photography. I must have blogged this drawing sometime in the past but I can't find it so I'll consider it another vintage image from sixteen years ago. If I drew it yesterday it wouldn't be too different, except for the Giant logo.

Sepia brown tech pen on sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 7", February 1, 2002. Click on image for a larger view.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Thirty-two Shades of Gray

Here is the chart of gray pencil color samples that I was writing about. It's kind of off kilter but the color reproduction is good enough. A lot of different brands are represented here, with the most being Prismacolors. I could get extensively geeky about describing the different qualities that go with each brand but I may have done this already. Anyway the two major ones are Prismacolors and their rivals from Blick Studio. These colors are rare and not easy to find. They are almost never included in basic color sets although Blick in its understanding of artists has created an all-grey set ready to go. You can find some of these colored pencils at retail art stores, which are an endangered breed. I have collected these over the years and some of them, like the wonderful "Fell Mist" produced by Derwent pencils, will never appear again. With Prismacolors you get three lines of grays, cool gray for seas and clouds, warm gray for stone and city, and brownish French Gray for earth and trees. (What's so French about brownish gray?) These pencils are perfect for landscapes. They are not opaque and only the thickest ones will cover over what you've drawn or are coloring in, so you can use them in all sorts of blends. And they are perfect for the equinox colors we have at the beginning of spring, just before the environment erupts with leaves in the brilliant pencil color of "green bice," which I have on order.

Colored pencils on sketchbook page, 9" x 12". March 2018. You are welcome to select and download this chart for your own coloring reference.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Winter On the Equinox

On the first day of Spring, the Persian New Year, it snowed here in my local area and over the American Northeast. Here there wasn't much snow, only a few inches, but it stuck to the tree branches and ground, confusing robins looking for worms. It was quite decorative as long as you didn't have to go out in it. 

This winter scene, which looks abstract, is viewed out my window. I used my rare and artistical-mystical grey colored pencils for most of this. I have spent quite a while making a sample color chart to give me a guide to the many shades of gray. I wanted to show this chart here on the By-Product but I got into some sort of file labeling problem and it wouldn't upload. I'll try again in a while.

"Winter Forest" is colored pencils, 4" x 4 1/2", March 21, 2018.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Ideal Room

Here's another example of the illustrations I did for "The Architectural Art" when I worked there. As I explained earlier, these pictures were group efforts and each person did a separate job. In this case, I was handed the line art design which was already on paper, and I copied it and did the color rendering. The furniture was already there but I chose the color schemes. I like the green quilt on the bed and the green curtains to match. I wanted a warm, inviting look for a room that could be in an upscale hotel or bed 'n' breakfast. It isn't perfect like a computer rendering, but I wanted a more "natural" look. This illustration was used as a sample and was not an image of an actual room.

Original image is watercolor over printed drawing, about 9" x 4", 1990. Printed on textured paper. Click on image for a larger view.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

10 years of By-Products!

Here we are, now blogging for 10 years and still going, after more than 3,000 posts. I don't want to compare myself to the "Iron Man" Cal Ripken, but I will say that very few blogs last for 10 years. There have been times when I have thought of quitting but decided against it. When I run out of vintage art to post, what happens then? If I go to a one-in-two days or one-in-three days posting schedule, will I just get lazier and drop it altogether? I can't predict. I like to keep drawing no matter how trivial so don't drop out folks. Thanks for your friendship and faithfulness.

Grayscale markers on sketchbook page, something by something, March something, 2008-2018 and more to come I hope. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

What I Saw: Modernist Laundry

A view of laundry resolves from randomness to expressive color, accented by an Oriental rug background. You can see Kandinsky in his underwear experiencing the process of color movement and changes in contrast. Interior views of domestic necessities work through the presence of a perplexing inhabitant whose taste in color resembles that of a child's playroom. Once the folding and sorting are done an idea of order reappears but only temporarily, as the  ritual impurity of unwashed clothing returns.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Winding Road Meadow

It looks like winter, feels cold like winter, and there seems to be no sign of Spring even though earlier this year there was a bit of unusually warm weather. At Winding Road Cellars you get both wine and weather. I sat drawing from inside and sipping their delicious Cabernet Franc. These gnarly trees and golden meadow are the view from the wine lodge. I did this on my iPad which I don't use very much these days. It works, sort of, but it is definitely obsolete after more than 4 years of service and I'm wondering, should I shell out the bucks and get a new one when all I do with it is draw. The drawings are OK and I like the portability so perhaps I should have a conversation with one of the perky young things at the Apple Store.

"ArtStudio" on iPad, about 6" x 7", March 17th, 2018.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Sea of Space

I have done countless space and astronomical pictures, usually in "editions" and series which I took to conventions and sold at low prices. I was inspired by the space art of those days, which was itself inspired by ground-based telescopes yielding blurry, poorly detailed images. This was, most importantly, pre-Hubble. 

Looking back at my thirty years of space art, sprayed on with an airbrush, I can see that it, like other space art of its day, is out of date. Once the space telescopes went up, and once the "adaptive optics" of ground-based telescopes were deployed, as well as digital photography, you got the most amazing fields of details never before seen. With all those almost biomorphic clouds of dust and gas, illuminated by bright young stars, who needed my old airbrush? 

Interestingly, my more abstract, "graphic"-looking space pieces survived better artistically. This one, a simplified dwarf planet or moon above a nebula, resembles some of the images of Saturn and its moons produced by the Cassini space probe. Artists are still producing space pictures, making realities out of digital information rather than acrylic paint.

"Sea of Space," acrylic on black illustration board, 7" x 10", October 1986.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Nineteenth Century Fan Concept Art

Here's another of my Darkover fan story title pages. This time I tried setting the story not in the faux-Renaissance of the Red Sun but in an equally faux late 19th century. It gave me the chance to render an 1880s-style big dress, and I also had fun with caricature faces such as the two gentlemen at right. I forget what this story was about but from my records this piece was done when I was about to quit doing fan art for pennies and try to make myself a "real" career, which had, looking back, mixed outcomes at best.

Original art is ink on illustration board, 8 1/2" x 11", April 1987.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Gray Outlook

I ordered new colored pencils and they arrived on March 14. The ones that I most anticipated were a collected set of grayscale values as well as different tints of gray, such as bluish "steel gray" or brownish warm gray. You could build a city with these colors, or you could tour through a forest which is still wintry twigs. I will make a color chart for these but this sketch above tries out all of the new colors in an urban-inspired patchwork pattern. The bright yellowish green at the center signifies the coming of spring which despite the snowy heaps and cold windy blasts is on its way.

Colored pencils on sketchbook page, 3 1/2" x 5 1/2", March 14, 2018.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Science Fantasy Bookstore Graphic

As I've mentioned many times in this Blog and elsewhere, my career as a fantasy and science fiction artist started here at the "Science Fantasy Bookstore" in Cambridge, Mass. My first real art patron was Bruce Robert "Spike" MacPhee, the owner and operator of the bookstore. As long as I lived in Cambridge, I knew I'd have friends - and patronage - at this place. I composed many graphics for Spike's store, designs for T-shirts, plastic book bags, and other branded material. This one, which has problems due to the small unreadable writing at the bottom right, features "our place in the Galaxy." Because of the type problem, this design was never used. Spike MacPhee is still alive and active especially in the virtual world of "Second Life," as "Paradox Olbers."

Original drawing in ink with photostat type glued in, about 8" x 10", July 1986.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Architectural Art Portfolio: Gable

In  my frenzy to survey my archival holdings, I found these portfolio samples from when I was working at "The Architectural Art." That was a commercial art company that produced renderings and house portraits for the real estate market. They employed "perspectivists", including me, to create these, using the blueprints as guide. Most of these drawings and paintings were for the upscale and luxury sector, as it was the era of "McMansions." The decorative gable that you see here was done in colored pencil which was not our usual medium. Also, the art here is not all mine. We worked as a team on the illustrations so someone did the windows, someone else did the roof and brick veneer, and another someone did the landscaping, which isn't seen here. I think I did the gable and the roof.

I worked with this group for two years, 1988-1990. I should have stayed but I was unhappy toiling on the same thing over and over again with the pressure to produce work quickly. I did freelance work for them after 1990. Nowadays all architectural illustration is done on a computer but I have never learned that super-realistic technique. Every so often I do a house or landscape portrait (as well as vineyard and wine lodge art) so I am still an old-fashioned perspectivist.

Colored pencils, about 3 1/2" x 4 1/2", 1990.

Monday, March 12, 2018

642 the moon

"642's" prompt was really basic: "The moon." As if no one had ever done a picture of our Moon before. "That's one small artwork for man, one 20-minute doodle for mankind." But I thought not of moon landings but a moon dog, a stubby-legged pooch of some sort whose job is to waddle around the house and garden and keep you company. Also, there was a famous eccentric composer who lived as a street person in New York, and he was "Moondog" as  well.  I'm a cat lover myself but I can make a few exceptions for dogmoons.

Black marker and tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 3 1/2" x 4 1/2", March 11, 2018.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Composer's Birthday

My father, composer Harold Shapero, celebrated his 87th birthday in 2007. It's already been a while, but he passed away in 2013. His birthday honors at 87 included a concert at which he performed some of his own music. This is a sketch from that concert. You can see my annotations on the sketch: where, when, and who. The bald guy at the keyboard is my father. I still have the sheet music of what he played that afternoon.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 8" x 5", April 29, 2007.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Pretty Castle

When I was still doing the convention circuit I would make an "edition" of small originals to sell there. They were no bigger than 7" x 10" and would be mostly watercolor and ink. Since I like to depict architecture, I would usually do an architectural theme although costumed people or horses and knights were another favorite. These little pix took only a small amount of time to do and always sold to collectors. I tried to make them as pretty as possible, especially castles, and I left the monsters and the fantasy pin-up babes to other artists. This, titled "Dawn Ramparts," is one that I did for a show called "Magic Carpet Con" in north Georgia (USA) where Marion Zimmer Bradley was the guest of honor. So I did "Darkover-ish" art and did well with the collectors down south. The convention faded away after the passing of Marion, but the images remain.

Watercolor on illustration board, 7" x 10", April 1995.

Friday, March 9, 2018

The Tube in the Room

I acquired this vacuum cleaner around year 2002 and it is still working fine. This is probably because I am so lazy I don't use it very much. Today I used it on the cobwebs but they were stronger than the tube and wouldn't relent, don't know why. What you see here is a drawing of the device as it is sitting in my cobwebbed room. I'll try again later. It's good on dust and particles. I'm supposed to work hard on house cleaning but all I really want to do is hire someone else to do it for me. The tube is not sucking up a hapless towel, it is just covered by it. Gotta find the plug, if you don't plug it in, it won't go. My housekeeping sucks worse than this machine.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, about 5 1/2" x 3 1/2", March 9, 2018.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Alaric Morgan Deryni portrait

Here's another portrait from the Deryni Portfolio of 1981. This blond stalwart is Alaric Morgan, author Katherine Kurtz's heroic knight and protector of the royal family. He swashbuckles his way through many a book, and in "Childe Morgan," the most recent Deryni tale published, shows his valor (and magical powers) even as a boy of fourteen. He appears in so many Deryni adventures that I sometimes think that he is the real hero of the books and not the young king he protects.

Original art is black ink on illustration board, just now colored in Photoshop, about 2" x 3", fall 1981.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

I want Colorforms

The set I wanted the most in my childhood life was the one my parents did not buy me: a set of Colorforms. Most of us at least in the USA remember these plastic film stickers which you could move around on a black background to make instant mid-century modern designs. Colorforms, as the site shows, expanded into countless ways of having fun with stickers but I still remember the original one, with its limited but pure repertoire of color and shape. With Photoshop you can re-design a digital version of the original and make it as simple or complex as you want. Maybe my folks didn't want to spend the money on the original Colorforms as it was kind of pricey for its time. But now I can use an expensive computer to do the same thing!
This design is done according to the concept of 3 colors plus black, 3 color-coded shapes, and 5 virtual sizes of each one. There were no lines available for Colorforms as I remember. This piece will be complexified with more graphic elements and added to the "K" series of Photoshop geometric abstractions.

Photoshop, about 5 1/2" x 5 1/2", March 7, 2018.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

I Was A Pre-Raphaelite Pollen Fan

This was created for the cover of a Darkover fan magazine in Australia. Yes, there are (or were) Darkover fans Down Under. "Kierestelli" is a Darkovan lady's name which means "Crystal." The title of this damsel's picture is "Waiting for the Ghost Wind." The "Ghost Wind," on Darkover, is the springtime event of the pollination of psychedelic "kireseth" flowers, where the air is filled with intoxicating and aphrodisiac plant material which also enhances your psychic abilities. A few whiffs of this and your Darkovans, even the chaste maidens like this one, are ready to engage in springtime orgies! Remember that Marion Zimmer Bradley dreamed up a lot of this stuff in Berkeley, California in the 1960s and 1970s, when times were high. I used the "Pre-Raphaelite" 19th century art style for many of my Darkover pieces, but this one's description in my catalogue says it was adapted from a silent film player, Marie Doro, in a movie from 1918.

The pollen may not be psychedelic here on Earth, but it's coming right along from those bright red maple blossoms now on the trees. I must endure Pre-Raphaelite sneezes patiently.

Original art is black ink on illustration board, 8 1/2" x 11", May 1985.

For everything Darkover and more than you would ever want, try this site which I recently encountered.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Suggestive Candle

Yes, that's what it looks like, uh huh. But it's only a candle. When the power goes out, we're all returned to the 19th century, running on candles, oil lamps, or anbaric-powered biocrystalline upper-echelon lanterns. Wait, what was that last bit of Steampunk? When the power goes out, you light a candle, which transforms from a bit of retro dinner table charm in a ceramic dish to a necessity in a darkened household. One of my candles looks more suggestive and dildo-ic than the others so I'll light that first so as to cause a meltdown for modesty. I don't think anyone wants a flaming dildo let alone a flaming male organ. But in fact I know that such items are sold behind the counter in botanicas (Latino magic and herb shops). I used to frequent a botanica which was next to my hair salon. One day (with no prompting from me!) they showed me their offerings of wax genitalia, formed into candles. The idea is that if you burned the pink penis candle or the red vagina candle, you'd have luck and success in your quest for, uh, satisfaction. The candle depicted here started out as a simple fragrant cylinder. If I burn it for enough time, its magic will droop and dissolve back into a wax puddle and I won't worry about "alternate lighting options" until the next power outage.

Marker inks on sketchbook page, colored in Photoshop, 3 1/2" x 4", March 4, 2018.

Sunday, March 4, 2018


I missed a By-Product due to a power failure on March 3. "Winter Storm Riley" sure made a lot of noise and wrecked a lot of trees, including one big one on a street near my dwelling. I watched it go down and it took a utility pole with it including a transformer which emitted a flash of light as it crashed. The repairmen were there all Saturday clearing the road and restoring power. I am so grateful that I live in a relatively well-cared-for place as I see online the degradation and disintegration of other areas. Lots of places in Puerto Rico wrecked by a hurricane still don't have power after months. But hey, this is an art blog and I am not going to get socially conscious here.

The image here depicts a flock of Altocumulus clouds drifting into a late winter sky. Spring, the shepherdess of clouds, is on her way.

Colored pencils and marker ink on sketchbook page, 5" x 3", March 4, 2018.

Friday, March 2, 2018

At the Hair Salon

When I get my hair done at my usual salon, I draw while I'm sitting there waiting for the  hair dye to work its spell and re-charge my magical energies. I also draw pictures in my sketchbook, which some people think is kind of magical as well. You see a scene of kindly ministration as hairdresser works on client. The hair-washing bowl is to the right. At lower left, one lady draped her bright pink jacket over the chair as an invitation for Spring to appear. And at lower right, a young damsel has fallen asleep as the transparent spherical hair dryer does its job.

Sepia brown tech pen on sketchbook page, 6" x 10", March 1, 2018.

Thursday, March 1, 2018


The baby has entered the vegetable world where nutritious colors surround her. The baby hated eating vegetables just like the grown-up me does. Little Me sits on the blanket in 1954. What is she thinking? Those thoughts are lost to history. I try to save as much information as possible, as long as it doesn't involve peas and carrots.

Photoshop and vintage photographic image, about 5" x 5", February 28, 2018.