Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Random Stuff in my World

The creativity consultants say, draw (or write) what you know. OK, I know this stuff. From left to right, backpack, paper towels, Honeycrisp apple, coffee ad board at Cafe Amouri, and a Trader Joe's shopping bag. This is why my literary friends write about faeries and elves; could you stand depicting shopping bags and napkins for the rest of your writing life? Make a world of wonder! At least I'm not  depicting little girls with kittens, dogs playing cards, Star Trek characters, or buxom Renaissance babes holding steins of beer.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 5 1/2" x 6", late December 2019. Happy New Year everyone!

Monday, December 30, 2019

Zoroastrian Urn and Flowers 1997

Here is the fire urn when not in use, along with some flower stems which are also held for ceremonial purposes. The fire is set on a metal plate which is placed on top of the urn. When the fire is over and safely extinguished, the ashes are collected and saved in the urn. The metal furnishings for the altar, including the urn, are made of a copper-nickel-zinc alloy called "German silver," widely used in India.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 8", March 16, 1997.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

DC Preps on Metro subway 1997

If you live in Metro DC for any length of time, and you ride the Metro subway, you will see characters like these. One of my friends calls them "Washington ingenues," that is, young, pretty boys and girls from very privileged backgrounds, on their way up to attaching him or herself to a source of power. You saw the dark side of this culture during the Kavanaugh confimation, but it would be wrong to think of them all as rapists or ruthless young power-grabbing operators. After all, your life consists of kissing up and ingratiating yourself with well-spoken words and gestures, so you'll probably be likable and even sweet. I see them at wineries too on the weekend, mixing it up with others of their kind. I am as privileged as they are, but I just keep drawing.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 5" x 8", March 6, 1997.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Zoroastrian Worship Service 1997

This sketch depicts a Zoroastrian jashan, or worship service. This ceremony is not held in a temple but in a household or small hall. It is placed on a decorative floor covering as you see here. Also on the floor are metal vessels containing fruit, sacred symbolic items, the books of the Zoroastrian scriptures, called the Avesta, and the big urn on which the Sacred Fire burns. The monotheistic Zoroastrian faith uses a flame as the symbol of the One God.The man in white robes is a Zoroastrian priest clad in his ceremonial attire. I chose not to depict the Sacred Fire here but in other sketches I did draw it. 

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 5" x 8", February 1, 1997.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Behind the Garage

I got my car inspected just under the wire (literally, note wires in picture) at a local Sunoco garage. I found something interesting to draw and did it while the inspection was going on. The weather was unusually warm and bright so I was able to draw outside the door on a bench. When I finished and the car was ready, I noticed that the young guy running the shop was drawing an intricate map on a paper at the counter. I correctly identified him as a role-playing gamer. He said he used to run a game but his players had all moved away so he was left with only the game world illustrated by his maps. He enjoyed world-building for its own sake, no inspections needed.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 5" x 4 1/2", December 26-27 some work done in studio.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Colorforms 18 Flame City

This Colorforms experiment more or less follows the rules of the color game: four shapes in different colors with some non-game elements, here represented by the clouds of little squares and the crescent. I am inspired by Persian and Tibetan art and architecture here. The green cedar trees are sacred to the Persians, the four shapes are derived from Tibetan Buddhist shrines, and the orange flame in the center is the sacred fire of the Zoroastrian religion. I studied this religion for many years and I will be showing you some of the drawings I made during my time with the Indian and Iranian Zoroastrian people of the USA and Canada.

Photoshop, 5" x 5", December 26, 2019.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Another Roomscape

Here's what I refer to as a "roomscape," an interior of a room carefully and accurately prepared. I certainly didn't invent the genre; one of my first was done as an assignment in architectural drawing class where every object had its own perspective. You see here my studio with stacks of newly printed "Under Vine" books, numerous bags of archival papers, trash papers, recycle stuff, and furniture. The density of clutter in my studio drives me nuts but at this point I don't have the energy to evaluate and remove stuff. Next year I hope. Merry Christmas, folks!

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 6" x 5", December 24, 2019.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Renee the cat 1996

After the Worldcon I spent a few days with my fan friends, including this cat who was named "Renee." We made friends and she put her paw on me to show that. She stood still enough to get a nice view for me. The scribbling above is a short demo I did on drawing and perspective for my hosts. Whenever someone sees me doing sketchy things, they want to know how I do it so I do a mini-demonstration. I drew a simulation of 3-D drawing. For a can or cylinder, if you see it straight on it's a rectangle, but if you see it tilted it's a pair of ovals, one at the top and one at the bottom. The jumble in the middle is a pile of crumpled laundry.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, September 2, 1996. Drawn somewhere in the Los Angeles area.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Conventional Deadhead Anaheim 1996

This is one of those times when Deadheads and science fiction fans converge, at least in their fashion choices. This literate lady wears an outfit that could easily fit into a Deadshow parking lot or dance hall. She's got the beaded hair ornaments, a fluffy boa neckpiece, long fringes, "palazzo" baggy pants, and flat sandals. Well, it is California after all. But there are some major differences, the most important being, she's READING. Now it's not that Deadheads don't read, they just don't read AT A SHOW. This gal is sitting with her book waiting for a program item to begin. Fans will read anywhere. At conventions I often see fans reading in the middle of the crowded lobby with people swirling all around them, sometimes wearing wild costumes. Nowadays the book is replaced with a smartphone (on which they are probably reading.). Drawn at the Anaheim Convention Center.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 5" x 8", August 31, 1996.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Long-lost fan friends 2003

These folks were friends of mine who I used to meet at every Balticon, whether it was in the suburbs or downtown Baltimore. Don and Nancy Fairhurst worked for a Secret Agency in the Metro DC area and were very knowledgeable about history, politics, and fantasy and SF authors. At the conventions they wore "ritual" garb, with elements of fantasy, such as Don's pseudo-military attire and Scottish beret. They were perennial program listeners, enjoying the more academic activities at conventions. They are both gone to the convention of heaven.

Sepia tech pen on sketchbook page, 5" x 7", May 25, 2003.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Colorforms Seasonal Poinsettias

These bright red (or pink, or white) plants are the familiar Poinsettia of the Holiday Season, made into graphics Colorforms. As you all know, the colorful "flowers" are not really flowers but adapted leaves called "bracts." I like the sound of that word. Bract, bract, bract....Brexit Brexit Brexit! If you look you can see my four Elemental Colorforms and one sensitive little snowflake. I'm sounding like some sort of dumb editorial here and that's intended (Crisis! Crisis! Crisis!) I have been ripping apart begging letters from charities as well as reading texts written by Professional Commentary Writers from the New York Times. Trying to find any meaning at all when pondering one politician or another. Don't let this happen to you.

Photoshop, 5" x 6", December 21, 2019.

                     Each book is $35 plus $5 postage and handling. (Need to figure out international orders...I need to revive my PayPal account).
                   Send notification of order to volcannah@yahoo.com.

Check or money order for $40, addressed to "Pyracantha Hannah Shapero"

Send check to:

Pyracantha Hannah Shapero
2224 Pimmit Run Lane # 203
Falls Church, Virginia 22043

Friday, December 20, 2019

Christmas Rush 2001

See them, the gifts of 2001. People are loading boxes into the mail at the post office. The woman in front seems to be in a dismal mood and probably was. This is an America changing like ours. The event of our lifetime - not World War II but the attacks of 9/11, is still weighing on everything since then. Instead of a fiery disaster killing thousands at once we have a war that kills and lasts forever. And a swirling gaggle of prune-faced old white men in blue suits, all toadying to the Yellow Face.

I am not mailing anything out just yet - I just can't stand the crowds and city driving. 100 copies of "Virginia Under Vine" are about to arrive and I will announce when it's ready. I will have to miss Christmas with cards and gifts due to all sorts of delays but I can make something up around it. We are coming to that awful dark turning point of the last two weeks of the year. Sometimes this Blog is the only method of communication I trust, because I know who is reading it, all five of you. Happy Solstice Rachel, Jim, Mike, Claudia, Diana, and anyone else I have no idea about.

Sepia brown ink on sketchbook page, 5" x 7", December 17, 2001.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Worldcon Anaheim 1996

And here we are in 1996, at another gathering of the unusual, the costumed, the dreamers, and the altered of consciousness, though the alteration was due to books rather than music or substances. This is the front of the Anaheim Hilton, near Los Angeles, California, where the convention was held. I came to this convention with a stack of art, hoping to continue building a career in illustration. I sold some pieces and prints but the Big Career never materialized. The science fiction world is quite different now and though Worldcons are still held, I don't go to them any more. I can go on about how different it is and how much has changed but right now 23 years later I am not willing to put in the effort. I still make art as you can see from this Blog but there are no bikini-clad warrior women, or men on space-bikes, or elves, or robots in my art these days. Unless someone wants to pay for it but I don't think so.

Black ink on sketchbook page, 8" x 5", August 27, 1996.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Photoshop Design Elements

There are a lot of painting simulation programs which can be used on a Macintosh or an iPad, and I would eventually like to experiment with them. For now I continue to use an outmoded but still just fine edition of Photoshop CS4. This program is more "graphic" that is hard edged and flat tones but if I really wanted to make something look like a painting I suppose I could. This Photoshop doodle could be replicated in gouache or acrylic, but it would take hours, perhaps days, and involve messy spray paint or even airbrush. This lazy artist pressed for blog time sez: ain't technology grand....when it works.

Photoshop, 4 1/2" x 6". December 18, 2019.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Rachel from 1991

The portrait face above the center is someone named "Rachel." I've known a lot of Rachels in my time. She was a friend of "Laura," pictured at lower right, and I was hanging out with my friend Laura in her New England house. Retrieving all these characters from my life a while ago has caused me to struggle through a room full of dust, memories I can pick up with only modest effort. But who was this Rachel? I think she was married to someone named "Scott." I did my best with Google but it revealed almost nothing. I could go further but I haven't seen or heard of these people since the mid - 90s so I think it's better to let the dust go. 

Black ink on sketchbook page, 5 1/2" x 8 1/2", December 27, 1991.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Winter Wining at Creeks Edge

My wine-loving friends and I last visited Creek's Edge Winery in the autumn of 2016, which for some reason feels like a century ago. Creek's Edge wins my prize for lavish wooden construction, most of it traditional Amish work. Carved and fitted wood is everywhere. The wine wasn't bad, either, especially their white samples. The only problem with our visit was the  noise generated by a rock music-playing duo which was much too loud for the environment.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 5" x 5", December 15, 2019. 

Sunday, December 15, 2019


Winter comes to the By-Product and the cat is warm. I am re-blogging this sketch because I love cats, and I love the happy expression I managed to capture in it. I was over a friend's house and as always had my sketchbook with me. I first posted the drawing in September 2008. The cat-patter is wearing her heart on her sleeve, as you can tell if you look closely.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 4" x 6", December 1991. 

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Family Talk at Peet's Coffee

Two Indian gentlemen had a conversation at Peet's Coffee on a dark wet day. The man on the left holds his toddler son in his arms as the little one nodded off to sleep. The "Year of Coffee" sketches and the "Domestic Still Life" theme are almost over, and the new theme for 2020 is "Fantasy Creatures." Some of them are already there in a small sketchbook from 2012 which I found while trying to de-clutter. Still making no progress in de-cluttering, I guess I need a fantasy creature to help me.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, about 4" x 3", December 13, 2019.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Deadhead Couple June 1991

As I have said before somewhere, whenever I am sketching in public there is always someone (or someones) who ask me to draw their portrait. I don't mind, as long as there is enough light and space to draw in. These lovely young people were Ron and Kendra from Central Pennsylvania. They had driven all the way to DC for the show, as had other Deadheads. But I don't think these were "lifer" devotees, they were just having fun in mid-June. I would be surprised if they still were together in any way; but there have been instances of Deadheads marrying and having little fuzzy Grateful Babies. I sent them a copy of this sketch which they kept as a souvenir.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 7 1/2" x 9 1/2", June 14, 1991.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

What, more Grateful Dead?

Grateful Dead Talmudists, I have FAILED you. There are people (and I know at least one of them) who can tell you not only where the Dead played at any point or place in their career, but can tell you which songs they played. My own Deadshow memories are not that clear or comprehensive but if I had risked my life by pulling my journal books for 1991 off the upper closet shelf, I could have supplied CORRECT information for you. The lack of information made me do it. I pulled 1991 down and found out that the first Deadshow that I lavishly illustrated was held in a DC-area sports arena called the "Capital Centre," in Landover, Maryland. The moist weather and the playing of "Dark Star" also was at the Capital Centre, but the concert was in June, not March. I found more "Cap Centre" sketches from that June concert too and here are some of them.

The dancing girl at upper center is holding her index finger up - not in a rude gesture nor as a statement of supremacy ("We're Number One!") but to say that this fan is asking for tickets to the show, either legal or illegal. There was a tradition among Deadheads that some generous souls would buy extra tickets not to sell but to give away to worthy souls at the parking lot scene. Of course there were always scalpers as well but were their tickets legitimate? The Dead had a humorous song called "I Need a Miracle," and ticketless fans sought the grace of the ticket-givers, going to the arena just in case they could get a free one. They held their finger up to say, "I need one ticket!" Other fans would hold signs asking for tickets, with "I Need a Miracle" written on them. I don't think the Dead worried too much about this practice but it was technically wrong.

The Cap Centre was decommissioned in the later 1990s and a re-built version was demolished in 2002. By then I had moved on to other things, with only fond memories and a lot of dusty cassette tapes.

Black tech pen on sketchbook pages, 7 1/2" x 9", June 14, 1991.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Snow Galaxies

It snowed last night after the rains, and I thought about the colors in the darkness. If I had the ambition I could make winter holiday cards out of this but I don't have a printer and am not quite sure that this is what I want. I will probably use the spray and hand painted style. I've done hand painted cards for more than thirty years, before I moved to the DC area. My miniature artificial Christmas tree has seen better days. It's a different world with all the gadgets and social media. I refuse to be on Twitter. I am not an "influencer." But I am on Facebook somewhere.  A light coating of white outside, made out of uncounted galaxies, each one different, will melt in the morning.

Photoshop, 7" x 10", December 11, 2019.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Re-enactors memories

The folks on the right side are, or were, good friends of mine from the science fiction and fantasy community. Their interests were wide-ranging, so much I can't begin to list them. I used to visit them often and we would talk about theology, comic books, esotericism, history, and historical re-enactment. At the top was Jim, the husband, whose genealogical research went all the way to the Middle Ages. They had a constantly changing roster of cats who were mostly friendly. Center lower is the re-enactor herself, Sharon, who passed away recently. She used to tell me stories  about re-enacting Civil War skirmishes in Massachusetts, in the role of a Confederate cavalry officer, which I bet went real well in that state. She's dressed here in part of her old uniform. She didn't re-enact in the real South, one reason being that women were not allowed to play cross-dressed. The young man on lower right is Brian, their son, who loved trains - hence the engineer's cap. On upper left was a tiny logo, inspired by the designs of Picasso, which I drew from a Grateful Dead song, "Picasso Moon."

As I said earlier, Sharon died this fall and I will remember this fascinating if eccentric family as long as I live.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 6" x 9", May 9, 1991.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Color Study 1: Kandinsky gets an iMac for Christmas

This is what happens when you mash up High Art with our trivial culture. You get Vassily tapping out colors and light on that famous screen, shiny with red and green bits to suggest the corruption-racked Holiday Season. I'm not feeling that jolly with someone fit to impeach. Well if you want nutjobs you can always go to Trader Joe's for a crunchy mix.

This was created in a hybrid way, just like a Toyota Prius. Red and green off the screen is scanned in markers, and on the screen are Kandy shapes of the same color. It's not a Colorform, it's not a doodle, not a Geometrikon, not a "K-series"....it's an abstract tryout that the 20th century artistic types worked on without too much humor. So put this in your pipe and
smoke it, Kandy-man.

Markers and Photoshop, 5" x 5 1/2", December 9, 2019.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Deadheads 10: Dance with the Dead 1991

And here they are, dancing to the music, in the parking lot or in the arena. Some of them, like me, wrote down the song list as it was being played! This show featured some of their very best, including a revival of their spaciest song, "Dark Star." The weather was misty and the stands were full. My Deadhead models are now immortal (relatively so, I guess) as is "Matt" at lower right, who trucked all the way from Wisconsin to hear the band in DC. I will always remember this concert as well as all the fun stuff around it. Thank you for helping me reminisce to 28 years in the past and the dance of a faded but not forgotten tribe.

Black tech pen on sketchbook pages, 10 1/2" x 7 1/2", March 20, 1991. 

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Deadheads 9: Random fans 1991

Sometimes all you saw of a Deadhead was an amorphous cloth-wrapped bundle, huddling away from the chill. Other times it was like an old-time campground, where people proudly wore their uniforms. Here you see a sampling of both types. To the lower center right, you see fans working with fiber crafts: spinning, knitting and weaving and braiding. And at the top right is a girl showing off "Butch," her pet white rat.

Black ink on sketchbook page, 10 1/2" x 8", March 20,1991.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Tiny Tuscan

This is why I don't sell or trade away my architecture and art books. I've collected them over years and years and they keep giving me information and inspiration to work with. I open to a page and I remember how I worked with it creating a fantasy-Italian scene of stone and stucco. This is a tiny picture in my journal, a little experiment in graphic page design, and all my books will still be there to help me.

Brown tech pen (Micron) on sketchbook page, 4" x 2", November 2019.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Deadheads 8: Nitrous 1991

Back at the parking lot scene, the Deadheads are wandering about waiting for the show to begin. They brought colorful cloths and pillows to make sitting on the asphalt easier. Fortunately, it was not raining though the weather that day was rather moist. I'm not sure what they did if it was really pouring. I think they all migrated into the arena in the rain and you see the open gate of RFK Stadium in this selection of sketches. To lower left is a Deadhead holding a balloon. This was not just a toy. It was filled with nitrous oxide, also known as "laughing gas." It was usually used as an anesthetic in dentists' offices, but the Deadheads smuggled tanks of it in and dispensed it in balloons which you (not me) would inhale from. I guess I could say it was a Deadhead appetizer.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 7 1/2", March 20, 1991.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Deadheads 7: Horse Police 1991

In those days of the Wild West and the Dead singing cowboy tunes, police kept order in a crowd by riding real live horses around the grounds. No one expected a sedated bunch like this to riot or even to move about, but a horse trained to manage unrest had an easy time of it. The police horsemen also counted on the Deadheads' gentle fondness for creatures real and fantastic. The Deadhead on top of the page was not a victim of any violence; he was just lying peacefully on the ground. I wonder whether the DC cops or cops anywhere still use horses in crowd control situations. According to Wikipedia, they still exist and still perform their work at  events where cars and bikes might not fit.

Black ink on sketchbook page, 5" x 7 1/2", March 20, 1991.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019


If you know modern European art, then you know the work of Wassily Kandinsky, a Russian Modernist from the early 20th century who is one of my favorite artists. I have made lots of sketches and doodles inspired by his work. This one is a postcard-sized homage to Kandinsky. Not my greatest sketch but I like to try out colors. My "geometrika" style is based on K's work. 

"Kandinskified" is markers on sketchbook page with a little Photoshop, 4 1/2" x 3", December 1, 2019.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Deadheads 6: Hair Weaving 1991

Deadhead women had lovely long hair and they enjoyed braiding and weaving their tresses and looking good at shows. This pair shows the process of beautifying girl Deadheads who also wore face paint and artistic make-up. In 1991 the gender explorations we see in the 2000s were just beginning and Deadhead boys and girls danced within more or less traditional gender roles and appearance. These folk are probably in their 50s or even 60s now and I hope their memories of a more innocent time remain.

Black tech pen on Deadshow arena parking lot, 4 1/2" x 6", March 20, 1991.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Air Sphere Exoplanet

The blue sphere means "Air" in the modern esoteric symbol system. Here is a mythical exoplanet made entirely of gas, rather like the gas giants of our own solar system. There is weather on the exoplanet though it is not very violent as it is distant from its star so there isn't a lot of temperature variance to start storms. All this air scatters blue light on the planet. It is a 360-degree sky, no land in sight. 

Photoshop, about 5" x 7.45", December 1, 2019.