Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Gardener's Bookshelf

I have lots of books about plants and gardening, which I took to my current residence which has only a dry sun-burnt balcony. I don't have a real dirt garden and haven't had one for thirty years. I put containers filled with potting soil on the balcony and occasionally have luck growing from seed. Other years the squirrels destroy anything I grow. Even the cacti don't do well on the balcony. The books remain with me, full of flower images and old seed catalogues and encyclopedias of things I probably will never need or grow again. I can always try, and pull out a book covered with dust.

Sepia tech pen with Photoshop coloring, 7" x 2", January 30, 2019.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

February Snowstorm 2003

I documented this big snowstorm in February of 2003. The Metro DC area is not snow-free. We get at least one large storm every winter, and during the famous winter of "Snowmageddon" in 2010, we got three of them. You can see the pile of snow near my balcony railing, also collected on the railing. Also note the small drawing of a snow form on a bench. If undisturbed by wind or other force, the snow makes a neat prism shape. The web-like collection at center is a bunch of wire mesh rolls. I built them in the hope of deterring squirrels from destroying my plants. The barrier didn't work and the squirrels came right in underneath it. 

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, February 16, 2003.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

K22 Aquaform

I created this piece on January 29, 2019. A day ago it did not exist. I am often dazzled by the work feats of technologists and athletes, but when it comes to art, I can hold my own with the workaholic crowd. This is a Photoshop sketch in the "K" series, inspired by 20th century artists like Klee and Kandinsky. I am using the same basic black square base as my "Colorforms" series, and layering the glowing colors over it. The original piece is small, at 5 inches square, but it can be enlarged if necessary. I use some "pre-fab" shapes and colors, but since I created and saved the pre-fabs, they're really "me-fab."

Photoshop, 5" x 5", January 29, 2019.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Warm Cup and Hands

I have a lot of old sketchbooks so it will be a while before I go through all the sketches as blog entries. Of course I will always be making more of them, I hope. This one comes from a sketchbook dated throughout the 1990s and this particular drawing is from 1991. I drew it at a friend's house in Massachusetts while I was visiting from my adopted Virginia home. It's a winter indoor scene, probably existing in your own home as well. Stay warm, folks.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 5" x 6", December 28, 1991.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Passing Storm at Pearmund Cellars

Back to "Virginia Under Vine." Summer in the dead of winter is my design for the Pearmund Cellars page. (There may be another one if I visit Pearmund again.) I have not been very productive, seems like the only thing I produce these days is laundry. But I have plenty more to do on "Under Vine" and you will see it when I create it. Claudia, if you're reading this, the leafy border you see here is my seasonal "Summer" border. My "Spring" and "Winter" borders already exist and they are somewhere in my "Under Vine" files.

Photoshop composite, 8 1/2" x 11", January 2019.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Mama Saudiya

I frequent a lot of coffee shops as you can tell, and I make drawings of the people in the shop, many of whom are from far-off lands. This particular coffee shop is a favorite gathering place for Middle Eastern folk and their families. The drawing above is of a Saudi Arabian grandma sitting at a table well-furnished with traditional snacks such as hummus, pita chips, stuffed grape leaves, and other Middle Eastern goodies. Another table near the window was occupied by a bevy of German ladies. I like living in a place where there are so many different nationalities.

Sepia brown tech pen on sketchbook page, 2 1/4" x 4", January 25, 2019.

Friday, January 25, 2019

20 Years Ago lost friends

These two were once some of my best friends, from my college days to the 2000s. They are father (left) and son (center) and we are eating dinner in an Asian restaurant. There is much more to the story than just friends. I am not naming any names or circumstances which would give more information. Any computer expert could find out who they are quickly, or know them  from my mediocre portrait likeness. Some other readers will know exactly who these are. I've waited and debated whether to post this, and I decided to go ahead.

I don't know the correct way to say this, but the father is no longer a father. He came out as transgender after 40 years of living life as a male. It was one of the biggest shocks in my life. In all the time I knew him, I never suspected. He was married to my best friend and fathered two children including the one depicted here. I helped raise the children. By the time I did this portrait, he was openly trans and going through the transition process. What I will never understand was that his wife lived with him for twenty years and bore his children, all the while knowing that her husband was transgender and really a woman. 

Things were never the same between me and that family. There could be any number of reasons for this: geographic separation, joining different communities, pursuing different hobbies, and I must admit, uneasiness which shows some level of transphobia on my part. I am old enough that this was something that was never ever talked about or even openly conceived. What do you call someone who begets children with a male body but is really a woman? I couldn't solve a lot of problems.

I don't have any more contact with the people I drew at the restaurant. I feel that anything I could say to them would be tactless and tasteless. But I greatly miss them and the good days we had, twenty years ago and more.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 8" x 6", December 31, 1998.

This is the last installment of my "Twenty Years Ago" sketch series. It's now 2019 so I have to draw new sketches. 

Thursday, January 24, 2019


You may have noticed roughly-built round messes of leaves high up in the leafless trees of winter. These are squirrel nests. A squirrel nest like these is called a "drey," a word that fascinates me in its shortness. When the weather is bad or extra cold, the squirrels retreat to their homes in these nests. They look poorly constructed but they do the job for the squirrels when it is needed. There's a lot of squirrels in my neighborhood, so I see a lot of dreys.

I like thinking about squirrels on short term hibernation. It must be cozy inside the nest, which
is lined with soft materials. A roof of discarded leaves keeps most of the rain out. For most of January I've been imitating my bushy little neighbors. And the squirrels don't have to go to Trader Joe's; their frozen dinners are already available buried in the ground.

Marker ink and colored pencil on sketchbook page, 4" x 5", January 23, 2019.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Three Brands

These items were on my kitchen table in February 2003. Two of them are still going strong, but one of them is no longer sold in my area. The wine tasting souvenir cup is from  Whole Foods. The bottle of wine, half empty or full, is Trader Joe's "Charles Shaw" table wine, once known as "Two-Buck Chuck." The bottle at right once contained Poland Spring sparkling mineral water, which in my opinion was the best American water sparkler. Trader Joe's once carried Poland Spring until they re-branded their own fizzy water, an excellent product I still consume today. Charles Shaw continues to appeal to the wine-chuggers since its debut in 2002. I didn't know when I drew this that 8 months later I would be working for Trader Joe's and making Charles Shaw advertising signs. And Whole Foods is just around the block from Trader Joe's.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 3 1/2" x 4", February 12, 2003.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Cacti Winter Garden

Here are some of my cacti kept indoors under a intense white grow light. Some of them are trying to escape, others have assumed rude forms in an attempt to amuse me (and you). There is also a disadvantaged geranium kept in what amounts to "bonsai" conditions. When summer comes these plants are moved out to my terrace, where conditions aren't much better due to dryness and blazing sun. I can buy cacti at the garden center in miniature pots and sometimes these introduced plants do just fine. But some of these I grew from seed. I hope to be working on these plants in the new year replacing what perishes and maybe growing more from seed. I am not spineless.

Black tech pen (Micron) on sketchbook page, 3 1/2" x 3", January 21, 2019.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Trigonometric Landscape

About a week ago you saw this design here in "wireframe" format. This is what it looks like with color added. It's made with landscape colors usually associated with spring, which is far away right now. We'll see when the groundhog appears, if he must. The design is from 2003, when I was studying trigonometry on my own self-education program. There's nothing like a right triangle to make you feel good about the world.

Black tech pen drawing, colored in Photoshop, 2" x 2 1/2", January 2003 - 2019.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Colorforms 3 Cell

The Colorforms are back with their classic shapes and colors, though I am not following the strict color/shape rule. I designate the three blue circles as bio-informational "cells" with nuclei. A bit of mid-century modern drawing is in the back, and the Leaf sits in a red triangle that is not equilateral though there is one as a nucleus. I cover all the basics I hope. 

Photoshop, 5" x 5", January 20, 2019.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Volcano Moon

I swear I've published this one here before, but I couldn't find it in the Blogger archive so here it is again. It's a thrill from my days of volcano obsession around the turn of the Millennium. The image is of Stromboli, a volcanic island near Sicily which has never stopped erupting for thousands of years. This is based on a real image from a Stromboli webcam which gave me loads of inspiring pictures until it was destroyed in an eruption in 2003. This image was particularly impressive because of the moon setting over the misty sea while lava fountained. 

Acrylic with airbrush on illustration board, 17" x 12", December 2002.

Friday, January 18, 2019

20 Years Ago Black Hole TV

Television has been a compulsion long before the Internet and social media. My parents were addicted to it and the tube was on night and day. I couldn't stand it but it dragged me in any time I passed by. It was like a black hole, a flickering light against the black windows of a New England winter. It didn't matter what was on, we would watch it.  As was the custom in those days, they had the remote in their hands and would constantly change the channel so anything I saw was seen only in mixed fragments rather than an understandable whole. It gave me a headache. My father spent the last few years of his life dozing in front of the TV. Don't let this happen to me? Too late, I squander hours of my precious time staring at Facebook. 

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 8" x 6", December 29, 1998. 

Note to Rachel and Jim: My many condolences on the loss of your cat.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

American Coffee Ceremony

The Japanese have their Tea Ceremony, and the Middle East its Spout Coffee Pouring; the British have their Cream Teas. What do the Americans have? They must honor their coffee too. And the American Coffee is: Drip. Are you a drip? Do you drink a drip? I do. It is simply simple: pour it through the filter into the cup underneath. The sacred instruments are depicted here: white cylindrical water boiler (hot water not depicted) clear Pyrex coffee receptacle, and porcelain filter cone with a filter and a coffee spoon. Pour and you are ready to imbibe the ceremonial drip.

Sepia brown tech pen, worked on in Photoshop, 3" x 5", January 16, 2019.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Esoteric Pac-Man

You remember "Pac-Man," the wildly popular arcade video game from the 1980s, right? I dropped countless quarters into the machine on summer afternoons at the amusement park or arcade. (Do they still have "amusement parks?) I played this harmless game in which no one was smashed, burned, or killed, though they could be eaten. Now thirty years later I am reviving the Pac-Man concept for a project I am working on involving my "Geometrika" and their colorforms. This will be an art book, not a video game.

Back in the '90s - the 1890s that is - Anglo and American esotericists and magical ritualists developed a system which used colors and shapes as markers for the four ancient elements, earth air fire and water. They borrowed some of the shapes from Tibetan or Indian symbolism which was then being documented by colonialist scholars. As an esotericist artist I am re-making this for a modern age in which information is almost all visual. These four shapes are elements: Yellow square = Earth, Blue Circle = Air, Red Triangle = Fire, Green Leaf = Water. 
They have "eyes" which is the simplest way of giving them life. These little figures will wander around my geometric world, if all goes well, and find themselves in many unexpected situations, and meet new ones. Friend or enemy? Food, fuel, or flight? Stay tuned....

Photoshop, 5" x 5", January 15, 2019.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Two Twisted Posts

And, here is the finished page of "Two Twisted Posts," with a drawing of the symbolic gate. In reality only one of the posts had a twist when I was there and so this is an "artist's conception." The twisters were some sort of vine, but not a grapevine. The Wine Team really enjoyed their visit to the Twisted Posts and the wine was excellent. As for the Masonic element,(see text on color page) I'm just guessing but Masonic symbology does have an open gateway with two pillars to go through, and a globe on top of each pillar. And the timing is right; Freemasonry was just getting its start in England and would inspire American ideas of freedom and equality all while drinking wine poured from a ceramic jug.

Photoshop composite, 8 1/2" x 11", January 2019.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Autumn Leaf Border

"Virginia Under Vine," like its predecessor "The Earthly Paradise," is organized by the seasons , usually according to when in the year I was at the winery drawing. I also make seasonal themed borders like this one here. I'll be incorporating a winery drawing and texts onto this border so you can see what time of year I was at this one, namely autumn. Just recently some snow finally came to the area and some of the winery folk photographed their scenery covered with lovely white icy fluff. But I have never done a snowy winery picture for the books, and I can't copy someone else's photograph for my own use without permission. I suppose I could ask next time I visit. Meanwhile I admire the classic loveliness of our little six-sided friends, who are not wine but just plain water.

Autumn Border is Photoshop, 8 1/2" x 11", January 13, 2019.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Geometrikon Trigonometric Fantasy

In 2003 I was in the middle of a self-education project in mathematics. I had started in 2001 with basic arithmetic, then high school and college algebra, geometry, and by 2003, trigonometry. I hated trigonometry especially the mathematical part with equations. This tiny diagram was inspired by my work with the standard trigonometric figures of the "30-60-90" triangle. Later on I would go onwards to first year calculus, which I worked on until 2006 when I ran out of energy doing my Trader Joe work at the same time. I no longer work at Trader Joe's though I still shop there. I wonder if I could return to my mathematics.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 2 1/2" x 2 1/4", January 21, 2003. I'll add color to this one soon.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Torrefazione at Caffe Amouri

"Torrefazione" means "Roasting" and this is what this machine does. It roasts coffee beans for the independent coffee shop "Caffe Amouri" in Vienna, Virginia. Coffee roasting is a fine art and especially in Italy it is a matter of national pride. In Italy machines like this are deployed in the windows of the shop and vented onto the street so that passers-by can enjoy the delicious smell of the roast (and come in to get some coffee). Raw beans are poured into the hopper above and are routed to the drum at bottom where the roasting goes on as the beans are stirred. I've never seen this one in action but it must make quite a show and aroma when it's running.

Sepia brown tech pen on sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 6 1/2", January 11, 2019.

Friday, January 11, 2019

20 Years Ago Composer Father in Studio

My father was a classical music composer, a rare breed that was supported only in the hot-house of academia. Composers before the 20th century, and most in that century, made their music on the piano or other natural instruments. But as the new millennium approached, the composer's craft was re-invented to work with computers and software. A number of programs such as "Finale" and "Sibelius" did transcribing work and score formatting that in the previous world was done by hand. My father gladly adopted this kind of computer work and equipped his studio with "Finale." Finale was great when it worked but it was also fiendishly complicated to use. My father was always on the phone to consultants to ask how this or that feature proceeded.

This sketch shows my dad in the studio, sitting in front of the computer (which isn't shown here) talking on a portable home phone. He is in the large music room which was built onto the original house in 1989. (This room is still extant; it was incorporated into the new house built on the site.) Father was 78 years old and still active musically. The real piano is to the left, and he hardly ever played it and it was in disrepair. There is a Yamaha midi keyboard in the foreground. Father is dressed in winter outdoors wear including a wool cap because it was cold in the music room. It was cold there because he was really cheap and didn't want to spend money heating the room. 

After my father's passing I had to dig through the mass of clutter in this room, including piles and piles of Finale scores, printouts, and floppy discs. With a detachable disc drive I was able to copy the mass of digital scores into my own storage. They were transcribed from an old version (2002) of Finale which I paid a professional musician to update for me. I still have the floppy 3 1/2" discs but there really isn't much to do with them and all the Finale material has been transcribed. I am still handling the archive some of which dates from this sketch from recent antiquity.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 8" x 6 1/2", December 28, 1998.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Sun Beams Wine Lodge

This "Under Vine" page is different than the usual. I've used mostly black and white monochrome with one bright pumpkin (the drawing was done right after Halloween). Sunset Hills is one of the biggest, richest, and most established wineries in Northern Virginia. Their wine is excellent. I wouldn't write this if the wine was bad. Every so often I find a winery whose output is, in my opinion, inferior. Most of the time these wineries are just starting out and need more time to refine their process. You don't have to worry about Sunset Hills though. Note my drawing of what seems a chaotic conglomeration of wood beams. This is Amish craftsmanship and it is fascinating how their building is all done by hand. No photoshop, CAD, artificial intelligence, or 3-D printing is used.

Photoshop composite, 8 1/2" x 11", January 2019.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Snowflake of Metatron

Winter is finally coming and I've brought out my 2003 sketchbook journal which has a lot of interesting images especially geometric and mathematical studies. 2003 was quite a year for me. I visited the Deep South and the wide-open Midwestern prairies. I also started work at Trader Joe's that fall. Some of the 2003 pictures you have already seen but some are as yet unreleased.

This one is a famous esoteric diagram called the "Cube of Metatron." There are many variations on it but they all feature an elaborate snowflake-style star. It could be a Jewish star but was used by non-Jews as well. The Angel Metatron, a personification of divine order and righteous rule, comes from Jewish Kabbalistic mysticism. I later used the Cube-Star of Metatron in a portrait of the Angel for a mystical art collector in 2012.

Upper image, black tech pen, 2 1/2" x 2 1/2", January 5, 2003. 
Lower image, Angel Metatron (cropped image) acrylic on hardboard, 2012. Click for larger views.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

That's My Bag

As promised, here's one of my Domestic Still Lifes, that is, one of my endless bags of laundry, laundry, laundry. The idea of the Still Life is that there is nothing too mundane or ordinary to sketch. This doesn't mean that I will only do these things, and I haven't decided about adding color yet. However this is what you get for a cooped-up winter evening. And it isn't even that cold and not a snowflake has fallen.

Sepia brown Pitt tech pen on sketchbook page, 3 3/4" x 3 1/2", January 7, 2019.

Monday, January 7, 2019

20 Years Ago Cluttered Back Room

For decades, I would make the journey back to my hometown of Natick, Mass. where my parents lived in an increasingly cluttered and even unlivable house in the forested suburbs of Boston. My original room was occupied by my mother and I stayed in what had once been my father's music studio. Now this room was filled with heavy furniture and stacks of my mother's art produced over 70 years. There was a small bed and another bed which was too decrepit to use.

I draw everything I see and this is the Cluttered Back Room. From left to right: work chair, broken. Art table built by my father, now covered with cluttery items. Against the wall, big paintings on hardboard panels by my mother. My backpack and a bench table covered with still-useful items. I spent many a difficult moment in this back room. When it was finally time to dismantle the old house and remove all the stuff in it, we found that the lower level of the bed that I had slept in for so many years was completely full of mouse nests.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 8" x 6", December 27, 1998.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Ox-Eye Vineyards Page

Back to "Virginia Under Vine." Here's the page for "Ox-Eye" Vineyards, in Staunton, a city in mid - Shenandoah - Valley Virginia. This arched passageway once was part of a railroad stop where freights were inspected. The wine tasting room is upstairs. Their vineyards are elsewhere, but not in an urban area. This yellow-painted office building is a historic relic of Staunton's mercantile and industrial heritage. The name of the town is pronounced "Stanton" rather than "Staunton" and no one knows why.

Photoshop composite, 8 1/2" x 11", December 2018 - January 2019.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

20 Years Ago Media Center

It looks rather like a city but it's not, it's the media center in my living room in December of 1998. You can see a panorama of 1990s media technology, from the chunky TV to the cassettes, CDs, and CD player and a few VHS video tapes. There are also two coffee makers, left of the TV, and a collection of vintage vinyl and a non-functioning turntable. The cat is not a real cat, it is a cloth toy as is the googly soft toy at left. 

This scene is no longer as it was. There is a tall bookcase now at the wall corner. The TV is still there but I never watch it except for important sporting events like the World Series. But also, this mediaplex was drawn just as What Changed Everything came into existence: Google, founded September 1998.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 8" x 6", December 23, 1998. 

Friday, January 4, 2019

Renaissance Synthesizer SynKet

This is another piece I did in my Roman summer of 1969. Look closely and you will see a gentleman from the "Renaissance" era playing a musical instrument from 500 years in the future. The sound maker is a synthesizer called a "SynKet" and it was invented in the late 1950s by a sound engineer and designer named Paul Ketoff, hence "Syn-thesizer" and "Ket-off." Ketoff was also active as a soundtrack designer for the Italian film factory of "Cinecitta" outside of Rome, and many movies from the 1960s have sounds made by the SynKet in their music. From recordings of what audio it produced, the Synket sounds rather like a "proto-Moog."

The Synket was one of the first modular American synthesizers, though it was created in Italy. It was never manufactured commercially and only a few were built. But Bob Moog himself worked with Ketoff and some of its technology made its way into the famous Moog synthesizer so the SynKet's sound lives on as the "proto-Moog." The original SynKet was built in the basement of the American Academy in Rome and when my father and I were introduced to it, its inventors were still working with it and gave us a demo. Part of our 1969 trip was to visit synthesizers and electronic music studios all around Western Europe so we had a great time. I got to meet Paul Ketoff and other pioneers who were making sounds and building synthesizers. You can read all about the SynKet at this excellent site.

My imagination took hold and I produced this little painting of time mash-ups in the music world. My portrait of the SynKet played by the Renaissance gentleman is quite accurate. There was a central box with three modules, and three mini-keyboards, one for each module. To the left is an amplifier, because like other electric instruments, it needed an amp to be heard. This set-up also had pedals for sound modification. You can also see wires lying on the floor, some of which go to a speaker barely visible near the central pillar. The small figure in red and black dancing away to proto-beats is "SynKetIno," perhaps the son or relative of our player having fun. There was a plan to produce a little SynKet which would be portable for live performances but as far as I know, "SynKetino" was never built. In the far distance is a lady with a tall pointed hat, and two men with a horse.

My family and I returned to Rome in 1970 and found that the SynKet had been abandoned in the basement and didn't work. But by that time my father and I were jamming away on the wonderful Buchla and countless others on Moog, so Paul Ketoff and the SynKet are obscure history.

Gouache on sketchbook page, 6 3/4" x 9", summer 1969.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Italian Doorway 1969

This doesn't look as slick and realistic as some of the other work I did in Europe or in college. I was only 16 and had not taken any formal training. This image was created in the same summer period when my family was staying at the pianist's home in suburban Rome. I was inspired by Italian scenes to do this, but I didn't pay much attention to perspective or painting technique. This picture was done in gouache (water-based opaque paint). I attempted to put a cat in the picture (see lower center) but I wasn't good at drawing cats yet. 

Gouache on sketchbook page, 6 3/4" x 9", summer 1969.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Knitting at the New Year's Party

Every year at year's end I go to a party hosted by my Metro-DC area science fiction fans. The food is great and I always enjoy seeing friends since I hardly ever have the opportunity to meet them face to face. This knitting lady was not someone I knew but since I had my sketchbook with me I drew her. You're allowed to knit at a party if you get bored by talk you don't recognize, just as I'm allowed to sketch. In the background a liquefied spotted cat dozes on the "cat tree." The basket below has been emptied of potato chips. The round discs are not  data CD's; they're coasters for drinks. Ringing in 2019 I sure hope it's better than 2018 but it's not worth it to me to look ahead.

Sepia brown tech pen on sketchbook page, 5" x 7", December 2018.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2019 The Year of Coffee

Happy New Year to my readers! You are invited to continue following the By-Product. The theme for this year, after 2018's "Clouds," is "Coffee." There will be many interpretations and domestic still lifes as well. The theme color for 2019 is "Espresso Brown," a deep warm reddish brown available as "Burnt Umber" or "Dark Umber." I am honoring all coffee beverages including the decaffeinated ones as I don't tolerate caffeine well. 

Coming up in 2019 - Inshallah (if God wills it) is not only still life drawings but the publication (privately financed without crowdsourcing) of "Virginia Under Vine," my second book of vineyard sketches. Later in the year I hope to work on and eventually publish "Geometrika," a book of my geometric abstract images, some of them with text.

And...there is always my epic graphic novel, "The Fiery Garden," starring Enlil the geo-wizard, which has been frozen for years. But Mount Etna is now erupting again, melting the ice, and I still know where the project is.

I would like my work to reach a wider audience. I am open to experimenting with social media (Instagram? I am already on Facebook) once I have a product at a reasonable size and price. 

Therefore let us proceed. Take a sip of the "Cosmic Cappuccino" and stay creative!

Photoshop digital composite, 9" x 4 1/2", December 2018.