Monday, April 30, 2018

Fifty West Vineyard View

"Wine Saturday" brought me and the Wine Team to "Fifty West Vineyards" near the picturesque town of Aldie, Virginia. The spring leaves are brightening up and soon the grapevines will leaf out as well. There is plenty of that radiant Spring yellow-green, even on a partly cloudy day. This is a view of one of their newly planted vineyard areas. In the front are old vine posts with party lights suspended from them. The reddish places on the ground are fresh dirt where vines are growing. That is the color of most of the dirt I've seen in Virginia, and I hope it continues to foster the Grape.

Ink and colored pencil on sketchbook page, 8" x 7 1/2". Started on site and finished in the studio. April 28-29, 2018.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Author Portrait

I don't often do portraits in simple tech pen, but this friend of mine was willing to stay still for enough time to do the work. She was a science fiction author who had recently moved to Washington, DC with her husband and I was visiting them in early 1982 during the holiday season. I have lots of author friends and this one and I enjoyed making stuff up together, some of which would later be incorporated in her writing. I learned the craft of "world-building" from this person, which would later enable me to create "authentic" graphic novel images and illustrations. After some mishaps in DC she and her husband decided to seek their fortune elsewhere and our ways diverged. One of the things I remember about her was her fashions, note the "zig-zag" glasses. I also designed some tattoos for her, which I guess are still there with her.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 4" x 4 1/2", January 2, 1982.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Upscale Coffee Shop

The "Ladies of Craft" met at the elegant Greenberry's Coffee Shop in affluent McLean, Virginia on Friday. I have drawn Greenberry's and its people over the years and it is always a pleasant place to go, with top quality snacks and pastries. I enjoy drawing the patterns made by furniture and windows. I'm glad to be upscale, at least for an hour or two.

Sepia tech pen on sketchbook page, color added in Photoshop, 4 1/2" x 4 1/2", April 27, 2018.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Spring Sky

You may remember that my art theme for 2018 is "Skies." When it's night time and rainy, the sky portrait is all black with street lights. Or all black nothing else, if you're out there in the wet countryside, and why would you go there at night anyway. This is a spring sky about 6 PM, with the bright yellow-green leaves under it just starting to open up. All of this is from memory, so I don't have to include the Taco Bell and Sunoco signs.

Markers, colored pencils on sketchbook page, and a bit of Photoshop, 6" x 4", April 27, 2018.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

642: a kebab

I haven't visited the prompt pages of "642" recently, so I took a draw. The prompt for this one was "a kebab" and you know I love my Persian food. But this kebab is made of roast planets, suitable for Marvel Comics' planet-eating cosmic giant, Galactus. I believe in Pluto but just for the scientific types I'm carefully labeling it "Dwarf Planet." Sizes of the planets are not to true scale. You can see Mars, Earth, Venus, and Mercury on a smaller kebab skewer. As the Persians say, "Nooshi jaan" or "Bon Appetit."

Black tech pen on sketchbook 642 page, 3 1/2" x 9", April 25, 2018.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Gang of Monks

Alexandria, Egypt in later Roman imperial times was not a quiet or safe city. The streets were filled with people of all ethnicities and classes, with crimes everywhere. Christian and Jewish and Pagan religious factions fought it out in the street, often with the most primitive weapons of sticks, clubs, stones, and roof tiles. Competing bishops commanded gangs of monks to protect them, and the monks were not above joining in the melee. Here we see a bishop, Theophilus, commanding his militia of monks who stand ready to fight those who do not agree with their version of Christ's teachings.

Sepia ink with watercolor and Photoshop touch up, 5 1/2" x 9", 1974. Illustration from my Roman historical fantasy. Click for larger view.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Alien Natives Orgy

This is one of the latest ones I did in the Gregg Press collector's item edition of Darkover books. The tale it illustrates is a familiar one: human re-colonizers arrive to re-settle Darkover for themselves, despite the resistance of native sentient species. This one spends a lot of time on the chieri, the seven-foot-tall hermaphroditic natives who can interbreed with humans and produce psychically gifted children. The, uh, climax of the book involves a mass orgy of humans and chieri, thus re-vitalizing the genetic heritage of both species. You can see the ecstatic chieri at the top of the pile.

The author Marion liked this picture so much that she reserved it for herself in the art show and took it home. I wonder what happened to all that art that MZB either bought for herself or received as gifts. I think they gave some pieces back to me and they are stashed in a closet with all the fan zines I illustrated.

Ink and photostat, 7" x 10", April 1979. Click for chieri view.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Red Geometrika

It's Mid-Century Modern time again! I drive my shiny bright-colored roadster around town, sit in my geometric living room and drink martinis from my cone-shaped martini glass. This is the life of a successful artist! Celebrities in Palm Springs buy and display my work. And I don't even have to dress up. I can wear unique designer clothes made just for me, and I can eat smoked salmon whenever I want to. I can spend my vacations in a sunny place with more celebrities, dealing to sell them more art product. I get my face in magazines which call me "influential" and "important...." WHAT WHAT WAKE UP YOU HAVE TO RETRIEVE THE LAUNDRY.

Markers, colored pencil, Celebrity Photoshop, 8" x 4", April 23, 2018.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Purple Dawn

The colors at dawn a week or so ago were unusually intense. The low-rising sun shone on the budding trees, turning them glowing orange, with brilliant purple clouds above. The effect only lasted a minute or two, as the clouds passed in front of the sun and extinguished the fiery colors. This study was done from memory but I did see the scene as I retired to my owl's den to hide.

Colored pencils, markers, and ink on sketchbook page, finished in Photoshop, about 3 1/2" x 3 1/2", April 22, 2018.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Coffee Sips for Crafters

Every week, usually on Friday, I meet with three other ladies of craft to sip coffee and talk about projects we are doing. I don't do anything three-dimensional so I refer to the sketchbook for an urban sketch. We alternate between independent coffee shops, except for Peet's which is a chain but it's acceptable anyway. This Friday we gathered (minus one Lady who was away on a business trip) at the hipster haven "Caffe Amouri," a college-style snackery and beanery in Vienna, Virginia. My drawing for today shows what was on the coffee table that afternoon. At these meetings we don't have to think or talk about current events or politics. We are there to be creative and share it.

Sepia brown tech pen on sketchbook page with Photoshop shading and alterations, 5" x 5 1/2", April 20, 2018.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Mediterranean Heaven in a New Jersey Motel

On my ways back and forth between the DC area and the Boston area I used to stop off in a "sketchy" motel in central New Jersey called the "Red Carpet Inn." This noisy, shabby place was near the Hightstown Ballroom I showed you earlier. There was a very good diner down the street from it, but the best view was in the rooms I stayed in. The rooms were enriched with prints of what looked either like the San Simeon Hearst Palace in California, or more likely a Jersey-ite's view of Heaven. This Paradise would arise from an imagination of Mediterranean heritage, with decorative urns and terraces. Here is a copy of one of these prints, showing urns, angelic Italian landscaping, and a gravity-defying gazebo on a winding, rail-less staircase. In Heaven there is no gravity so you don't have to worry about falling off. 

Sepia brown tech pen on sketchbook page, 3" x 6", June 2002.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Heliodorus the eunuch courtier

In 1975, while I was still a college student, I was working on a work of fiction (with a bit of fantasy) set in the Later Roman Empire. This  fascinating period, from about 250 AD to 650 AD, involved Christians, Jews, Pagans, Romans, hundreds of ethnicities, a complicated Byzantine court system, warfare against barbarian tribes, Persians, and rival factions. Christianity was made the state religion by the Emperor Constantine, and Christian philosophy and literature was at its peak with writer saints like Augustine and Jerome. I could write forever about this era. It was also a fabulous source of design and architecture, with elaborate classical motifs mixing with Asian and Egyptian sources.

The person in this portrait is one of the main characters in the story, Heliodorus. He was not only a main character, but a weird one too: he was a eunuch who had served at the imperial court and had made his way out of slavery to become the owner of a fleet of ships in the Eastern Mediterranean. Eunuchs (castrated males) were a major social group in the secular power structure. I remember doing research about eunuchs with a mixture of horror and fascination. They were useful because they couldn't reproduce and create sons to maintain power. They couldn't serve in the church hierarchy because eunuchs couldn't become priests. And yes, some of them guarded harems. In my story, the mysterious Heliodorus helps my female main character escape various perils, because she is rumored to have a copy of the Bible which has magic powers of prediction and healing.

Heliodorus was originally from a Central Asian tribe related to the Huns (a major enemy of the later Romans) and was sold into slavery and "fixed" in his childhood. I ended up being more fascinated by his character than the girl-on-the-run he rescued. In this portrait Heliodorus is wearing Byzantine court garb with Coptic embroidered designs.

Ink and watercolor on sketchbook page, 6" x 8", January 17-18, 1975.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Peets Table

Here I am at the coffeehouse again, drawing my unsuspecting neighbors. There is endless debate among me and my friends about which coffeehouse is better, Peet's, Amouri, Greenberry's, or the lavish "Cafe Expo." Starbucks, lowly but ubiquitous, gets no love from them. I will go anywhere in coffee-dom. I like Peet's because it has the walls of picture window glass through which I can watch the world. The world inside is good for people watching. This couple, who may be "in the family way," sip in front of the screen waiting for their new little app to be launched into the world.

Sepia brown tech pen on sketchbook page, 4" x 5", April 17, 2018.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Spring Buds at Brandeis

The buds are out at Brandeis University. Not that kind of bud, though there was plenty of wafting smoke to be had, and I never used a single wisp of it. These are tree buds, again done looking out my narrow tall neo-medieval dormitory window. They are all ready to leaf out and bloom. And behind the trees is the famous Castle, now demolished and intended for re-building. To think of all the things that didn't exist when I went to college...including the entire Harry Potter mythos and characters. When I did this image in my art/writing journal, I was already preparing to spend a year overseas for a traveling fellowship. I have it on good authority that Rome still exists, though I'm not sure about the rest of Europe or the British Isles.

Ink and watercolor on sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 5 1/2", early May 1975.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Spring Visit to Aspen Dale Winery

I made a return visit with my friends to the wine paradise of Aspen Dale in hilly Delaplane, Virginia. We enjoyed sipping their delicious creations as well as snacks to pair with them. After the wine, there is drawing and I did this study of their barn and farm buildings. Note the spring color just starting on the trees in the background. The grass was bright green, and the weather was unusually warm for the season. People and their dogs were posed all about the property celebrating (not the dogs) with glassfuls. Aspen Dale wins my "Most Picturesque" category in my appreciation of wineries.

Sepia brown tech pen and colored pencil, finished in the studio with a bit of photoshop, April 14-15, 2018.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Graphic Cherry Blossoms

I'm using the "graphic" approach to my blossom picture again this year. "Graphic" means building the image with simple forms and restricted colors rather than making it "realistic." Flowers, fireworks, and the Washington Monument can be depicted with repetitive elements without using artistic illusion to make it look real. I heard fireworks but didn't see them. The famous Cherry Blossom Festival closes this weekend. My neighborhood has blooming cherry, crabapple, and redbud trees so I can enjoy the color right here without going downtown and enduring "cherry blossom congestion."

Photoshop, 7" x 9", April 15, 2018.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Star of Danger

Here's one from the later sets of Darkover images that were published as frontispieces in the long-gone Gregg Press collector's item series. This one is for "Star of Danger," one of author Bradley's earliest Darkover books. In the story, which was aimed at younger readers, the son of an Earth civil servant sent to Darkover makes friends with a local boy. The illustration depicts some of the different characters who appear in the tale.

Ink and photostat on illustration board, 7" x 10", April 1979. Click on image for larger view.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Colorforms 3: Yuri's Night, Red Star in Space

I did this one while listening to a recording of a concert performed in 2009 by my prog-rock ambient friends in a planetarium. The occasion was the commemoration of "Yuri's Night," or the orbital voyage of Yuri Gagarin, the first person to be launched into space and return safely. I am using the mid-century graphic style of "Colorforms," which is easily adapted to digital media. Gagarin's flight was in 1961, during the height of mid-century modern design, and the playable graphics of Colorforms arose during that era. The red star stands for the Soviet space program, which set Earthmen on the way to the moon. But of course "we" got there first. 

Photoshop, about 5" x 5", April 12, 2018.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Brandeis Twigs 1975

I found my sketch/daybook journal from 1975. This was the year I graduated from Brandeis University. This twiggy scene is the view from my dorm room. It is mid-April and there are buds on the twigs but no leaves at all. Behind all the twigs is a crenellated stone wall which is part of the famous "Castle," one of the very few buildings left from before the university campus was built. The "Castle" has been a classroom building, a dormitory, the site of "Cholmondeley's Coffee Shop," and a landmark. A large controversy erupted because Brandeis wanted to remove part or all of the Castle claiming it didn't meet current building codes. The Castle is "iconic" and the last link to the individualists and arty culture of the "old" Brandeis rather than the slick corporate university it has become in the last decades

You can read about this project here. I didn't live in the Castle, but near it.

It's kind of frustrating to see my illustrations and sketches from 43 years ago and see that they are more or less as well done as the ones I do now. I keep going anyway. I only got to draw small portions of the Castle. Most of it is gone now.

Ink and watercolor on sketchbook page, 5 1/2" x 5", April 1975.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

More Coffee in April

Just sit there and sip, and the world will come to you. The upper image is Peet's with the picture windows and the outdoor tables. The temperature is still too cold to sit outdoors. The world will come to the computer users and the coffee drinkers and the creative types putting together their next project.

The red drawing is done with one of my new plastic flexible point pens. It shows the Coffee Corner in my kitchen, with equipment to prepare the mind-altering brew.

Page is 5 1/2" x 8", tech pen and marker, April 10-11, 2018.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Hightstown NJ Country Club Ballroom

I used to make trips from the Metro-DC area to the Boston area more than once every year. The journey was too difficult to drive in one day so I stopped over in central New Jersey. One of the landmarks of my trip was the Hightstown Country Club Ballroom, which could be seen from the New Jersey Turnpike. Originally built at the turn of the 20th century, it became a community haven for dancing and alcohol-free socializing. It lasted as a traditional dance hall until just past the turn of the 21st, when the community changed too much to keep it going. I stopped at it in 2002 just before it was to be removed. I drew its picture and photographed it as well. By that time it was empty most of the time though there was still dancing one or two days a week. The next time I passed by it, it was gone. The space is now occupied by a small convention center (with a ballroom) and a hotel.

Sepia brown tech pen on sketchbook page, 7" x 5", June 17, 2002.

Monday, April 9, 2018

April Skies

We are still waiting for Nature to do its thing and open up all those buds. Some flowers have bloomed and the famous Cherry Blossoms are more or less on display. If we get some warm days it will be pollen time whether we want it or not. I pay attention and keep my colored pencils on hand for sky portraits. The spectacular storm cumulus clouds have not formed yet but I will depict them when they do. I want to provide my viewer(s) with as much fresh art as possible day by day.

Colored pencils and marker ink, 4 1/2" x 4", April 8, 2018.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

What I Saw: Counter-clockwise Doom

The Doomsday Clock is in the laundry room. Doom comes counter-clockwise, unless Someone restores the life of the world by turning the clock back the other way. Ancient mystical relief carvings mark the spot where my laundry is washed clean of its iniquities.

April 8, 2018.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

A coffee person at Peets

The afternoon of April 6 was spent at a Peet's Coffee with a friend, and I also did this drawing as I had promised myself I would be Productive no matter what so there it is. The woman with her computer either was unaware of the sketcher or decided to ignore me. Peets has comfy chairs for sitting and sipping but the artist sacrificed comfy for a good view. Just think of how many artists have portrayed the population and environment of cafe's and bars. You can't go wrong.

Sepia brown tech pen (not one of the newly acquired ones) on sketchbook page, about 5 1/2" x 5", April 6, 2018.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Two Byzantine Characters

These two are from my college-years Byzantine adventure story, which is still buried somewhere in one of my cabinets. It's not something I want to resurrect, but the illustrations are still not bad. The character on the left is Demetrius, a member of a private band of guardsmen; the one on the right is Heliodorus, a eunuch who had been a member of the imperial court. Demetrius is not missing a hand; the imaginary model moved.

They are drawn in a medieval-retro style with sepia brown ink in a pointy liquid ink pen that was my standard back then. The pen, called the Pelikan Graphos, had a well full of ink that worked like a regular dip pen feeding a sharp metal point. The Graphos was inconvenient because you had to keep filling it, and ink fell out of it. But it was flexible, unlike the Rapidograph tech pen point. Eventually I stopped using the Graphos and switched to the Rapidograph, and then to the Pitt tech pens I use nowadays. The Graphos is no longer made. (Art materials nostalgia.) But...clever those Japanese...I just bought a set of plastic flexible point pre-fab drawing  pens from Pentel, in different colors. Let's see how this new set performs.

Sepia brown ink on sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 6", 1974.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Outraged Monks and Deryni Saint

Looking back into the 1980s again for me brings a flood of fan art. I drew a whole portfolio of Deryni fan art, some of them full page like this one. This illustration of a conclave of riled-up monks illustrates a moment in one of the "Camber" books when someone proposes the openly Deryni cleric for sainthood. Little do they know that the real live Camber is the tonsured priest at center right, in magical disguise. The other man with him is his son, the Deryni priest Joram.

Original drawing is ink on illustration board, 8 1/2" x 11", spring 1981. Click for a larger view.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Snow on Cherry Blossoms

This weather did not happen in my area, but it happened elsewhere. I have seen many an April snow in my earlier days. For imaginary weather, I present two faux-Japanese mini poems.

1.    Snow floating by cherry blossoms
            I cannot
       tell the difference

2.    Snow falling on cherry blossoms
            There is nothing unnatural
                  in Nature

Image is Photoshop, about 10" x 5", April 4, 2018.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Cape Cod Foliage

This may look like tropical foliage to you, but it's actually a sumac bush and other native flora on Massachusetts' Cape Cod. My family used to vacation "down the Cape," every summer in a different rental house. These houses were luxuriously maintained and had decks on which we could dine outdoors. The red railing is from one of those decks. I was able to spend some time with the folks during the '70s and '80s and enjoyed not only beaches and seafood dinners but lots of sketch and painting time. This is one of my leisurely views of just plain New England greenery in golden evening sunlight.

Watercolor, ink, and gouache on sketchbook page, 5" x 8", August 20, 1981. Click for a larger view.

Monday, April 2, 2018

K-20 Colorforms

Here I am returning to my virtual set of Colorforms this time with a network in the composition. This is in the "K" series of Photoshop improvisations, using the limits of color and shape from a basic "kit." The idea is to do your best using a limited amount of elements. Then you can add or subtract an item or change the algorithm used to create an effect. For instance the network of lines on this one will not appear on the next one. The colors and the shapes though will remain the same due to their esoteric symbolism. Modern Western esotericism connects these with mystical themes. For instance, a red triangle equals Fire, as it did in the alchemy of old. Air is Yellow, and Water is Blue, though these are not as often represented by circle and square. Wassily Kandinsky, my artistic inspiration in these "K" pieces, was seriously interested in esoteric culture and borrowed many ideas from it.

Photoshop, 10" x 7", April 2, 2018.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Fantasy Foursome

As you remember, I've done numerous pieces illustrating Marion Zimmer Bradley's tale of sex and magic, "The Forbidden Tower." This is not because I'm fond of the book, it's that other people are. This piece, in the ornate frame you recognize, is for the Gregg Press hardcover collector's item edition of the text, which was published in 1979. It illustrates the polyamorous consummation of the magical sex rite which empowered the participants to save their community with their magical abilities. An incense burner emits psychedelic vapors to enhance their perceptions and empathy. Above the romantic quartet is the crystalline tower and the cosmic vortex which symbolizes mystical attainment.

Black ink and printed frame on illustration board, 8 1/2" x 12", October 1978. Click for larger view.