Thursday, April 30, 2020

Phaces of Phrolicon

Phrolicon was always a small convention, no more than 100 people. If you were there the whole weekend, you'd probably meet most of them and sometimes make new friends. I enjoyed my social activity at the con and of course drew sketches of some of the attendees. The guy at upper left is Ozzie Fontecchio, famous in Philadelphia fandom for organizing and running conventions and science fiction meetings. He's still going strong since the 1980s, and has added an apostrophic flourish to his name so that his name is now    'Osvaldo.
At the bottom is Mark the origami master who we saw a few days ago. Two of the other faces have names but I don't remember them. I guess I wasn't social enough.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 5" x 8", August 2, 1997.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Phil Phans at Phrolicon 1997

The science fiction community used to be a lot livelier than it is now. Every city in the USA had a convention, even if it was only a small one. This sketch is from "Phrolicon," which I have mentioned earlier here. The guys represented here are from the elite of the convention world, responsible for not only making appearances but for running the conventions. They devoted a large amount of their personal time to making these gatherings happen. Some of them were semi-pro or even professional writers and artists, whose work would be on display or discussed at talk panels and the art show. 

This community still exists though especially now it has been put on hiatus and major events have been suspended. But the fans march on, aging and less in number, but still going using remote video technology and old-fashioned phone calls and even mail. I think that Phrolicon, fun as it was, is a thing of the past. Keep their spirit and names alive! Left to right: Darrell Schweitzer, professional s.f. writer and convention runner, Lee Weinstein, convention runner, Jerry Crossan, and "Rikk" Jacobs lower level, art show runner. Most of them were based in the Philadelphia area.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 5" x 8", August 2, 1997.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Graphic Azaleas

Screaming pink! The azaleas are in bloom! This is the only time of year when I can use this  color right out of the tube (or marker, etc.) That also goes for red and flame colors, which stand out well against basic black. Instead of the rounded petals of azalea flowers, I use the straight-line geometric variations provided by Photoshop, where you can throw color and shape around easily and stack your elements one by one in Photoshop's "layering" system. This design incorporates the esoteric red triangle of Fire, along with a flame-like accent where the Eye in the Triangle will go.

Photoshop, 5" x 5", April 28, 2020.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Mark Kennedy, Origami Master at Phrolicon 1997

A "relaxacon" is fannish slang for a small convention which is mainly for social rather than commercial purposes. It's an excuse to party and drink and sing and sit around talking. There may or may not be an art show but there's usually a writer guest of honor, along with crafts workshops. There used to be a relaxacon outside of Philadelphia in the summer, named "Phrolicon," which I attended. Phrolicon had an emphasis on comedy and satire, and it was always good for laughs.

This fuzzy gentleman in his fantasy vest is the late Mark Kennedy, a master of origami, the famous Japanese paper folding craft. He spent his days going to origami conventions (yes, they have them, all over the world and not just Japan.) He also went to science fiction conventions and gave demonstrations and workshops. He could fold any paper as long as it was bendable. I sketched Mark during one of his informal workshops. I have to confess that I have never succeeded in doing even the simplest origami so I just watched Mark.

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

Sunday, April 26, 2020

More April Border

The greens of April are especially vivid. You can even use the "grass green" marker or pencil without toning it down. I continue to create mini-borders for the date-stamp using simple design elements. The green study is a view out my window where a neighbor planted bamboo. Just as with the wide variety of "adult coloring books" I can draw my own and color them with my Arteza markers, except that I ran out of "grass green."

Markers, 7 1/2" x 2 1/2", April 24, 2020.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

April Border

Here's a bit of experimentation with color and shape. Each date on the page has a journal entry scribbled next to it, which I have removed with Photoshop. The mini-logistics of scanning and processing this were difficult because the design is close to the spine of the book and hard to scan. But I gave it the old college try. (Does anyone still use that phrase?) Most of the image is OK but I missed April 18 and messed up April 19. Thrilling art details!

Markers on sketchbook page, 3" x 7", April 23, 2020.

Friday, April 24, 2020

More Little Walkers July 1997

Well, here I was again, sipping Starbucks Coffee and drawing my fellow mall-goers. This sketch is from July 1997, more than 20 years ago, but the people would look the same as now, (adjusted for the season), except they aren't in the mall right now, they are huddling trying to evade the entity that has transformed our world into a great big biohazard. I have nothing more to say that someone else hasn't already said, so I'll just take a few more sips of wine and listen to mind-numbing ambient electronic music.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 5" x 8", July 16, 1997.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Helen at Peets Coffee

This is my good friend Helen. She's an artist, craftsman, activist, and mother. She and I had a regular appointment every Tuesday afternoon at Peet's Coffee, where we discussed Matters of Importance, the Arts, and Nature. My sketch doesn't look very much like her but it has her "gesture" as it were. This is one of the last meeting we had before the isolation and "social distancing" regulations were enacted. Peets is now closed to casual traffic although I think you can have coffee handed to you outside the shop, but that's not the same as our face to face meetings, or face to face drawings. We are adaptable and somehow we'll find ways to discuss and draw those Matters of Importance in a controlled environment.

Sepia brown tech pen on sketchbook page, 3" x 2 1/2", February 2020.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Colorforms 19 Lights of Spring

The leaves are coming in and they still are that special shade of brilliant yellow-green. This Photoshop graphic is inspired by purplish fluorescent street lights illuminating the trees at night. It's not a "classic" Colorform with the four colors and shapes, but it is one of my experiments in making a Photoshop doodle as simple as possible in color, shape, and squareness.

Photoshop, 5" x 5", April 21, 2020.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Grocery Border

It's not a "border," that is, it's a decorative framed space, in honor of the groceries which are so difficult to get these days. The blank areas in the drawing are for words written in. I buy a lot of cheese, it seems, and also featured is a bottle of Chardonnay wine. There's an apple, crackers, and a bell pepper to go with all that cheese. A couple of tubs of yogurt or other dip round it off. There is one mistake in this document: I did not buy a banana on April 17, nor on any other day. I don't like bananas.

Black tech pen ink on sketchbook page, 6" x 5", April 17, 2020.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Harwood House 2004

As late as 2004 the McMansion business was still going strong, and the builders I worked for still used hand-done renderings to show to their clients. This house sketch was a preliminary to show the builders what their art would look like. I don't remember exactly what was being done but this drawing was made on site of an existing structure which was being modified. They built a lot of pseudo-French chateaux with parking courtyards, and this one had a four-car garage. The crash of 2008 destroyed the luxury house business, and now empty McMansions sit on desolate lots all over the Northern Virginia suburbs.

Pencil on sketchbook page, 7 1/2" x 7", March 20, 2004.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Roomscape April 18

The view from my kitchen reveals an array of mid-90s media and consumer electronics. The TV is a Sony from about 1992. It still works fine. Stacks of cassettes and books and cables, they all work fine too. Orange backpack, mid 2010's, loaded with art supplies. The only modern things in this view are the boots and, uh, the cloth face mask sewn for me by a friend which is unfortunately well up to date as a symbolic if not functional application.

Black tech pens and Photoshop colors on sketchbook page, 5" x 8 1/2", April 18, 2020.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Young Techno-Wizard 1993

This serious young man is Tanheu, a techno-wizard character from my imaginary world of the Noantri. He started his career as a mathematician and moved into physics, where he eventually achieved the feat of re-discovering the origin of his wizard powers. He's eighteen years old in this sketch, not yet come into the full extent of his techno-magic. Here's what he looks like in his older years. The star designs are for a medallion given for achievement in mathematics.

Pencil on sketchbook page, 8" x 10", 1993.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Misty Summer Afternoon August 1992

As you know, Summer is my favorite season, and right now it's a long way away. This study comes from my old landscape sketchbook from the early 1990s. I drew it when the air was thick with vapor and humidity, my favorite weather. It's often before or after a thunderstorm. The green leaves as seen through the mist are seen as blue-green, even aqua, as the clouds and fog dissipate. After dark I watch for flickers of lightning in the warm night mist.

Colored pencils on sketchbook page, 7" x 7", August 27, 1992, 5:19 PM.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Sketchy Fans 1993

I sketch mall people and I also sketched convention attendees and fantasy fans when I had the chance. These sketchy fans at a Balticon look somewhat like Deadheads but I didn't observe a lot of crossover between fans and Deadheads. The bushy bearded guy on the left with a funky headpiece looks somewhat like a Dead fan, enough to attract my tech pen. But as I remember the Deadheads (featured here recently) were more into dancing, music, and drugs than the SF fans who read books obsessively from waking until collapsing. I crossed between the two because I could draw them and artists can go anywhere.

Sepia brown on sketchbook page, 5" x 8", May 28, 1993.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020


As if three Biblical plagues were not enough, the Plague of Locusts now engulfs entire countries in east Africa, devouring crops and vegetation and depriving humans and animals of food. I saw these swarms of insects on TV news. My grotesque imaginings unleashed a humanoid locust whose four human limbs morphed into insect limbs. No real insect looks like this but we are in the world of tiny monsters. Coming to the Mid-Atlantic region in 2021: 17-year cicadas!

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 2", April 15, 2020.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Autumn Backyard October 1991

Well, yes, it's the wrong season for this picture, but it's one of my favorites. It was done while I was staying with an old friend of my family. He was an architect and a landscape designer and I loved talking about design with him. As with most architects, he created his own house and landscape with his own designs. This is his back yard, complete with white wooden divider wall and an old-style New England stone fence. The house was in Rhode Island near the seacoast. Wildlife and migrating birds visited the area year round. The architect and his estate are now gone but I did a nice drawing in good memory.

Colored pencils on sketchbook page, 8" x 10 1/2", October 23, 1991. Click on the image for a larger view.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Karl Ehrlich Portrait 1993

I draw portraits in ink, with no preliminary pencil sketch. I am proud of myself that I can do this without making a caricature or losing the likeness. Also, ink portraits go faster and give me and the subject instant gratification. People at conventions ask for portraits. I keep the original drawing and send them a good copy. This is a typical sample of my portraitizing. It was done at Disclave 1993, a Washington DC-Maryland convention. Karl Ehrlich was one of my "patrons," someone who liked my work and bought many original pieces of mine. I get to talk to my clients too and find out things about them. Karl was a "military systems engineer," working on missile launchers. To put it simply, he was a rocket scientist. The logo on his shirt shows that he went to Arizona State University, or was currently based there. With portraits I also got to modify whatever the subject wished to change. Karl was a portly gentleman, and at his request I was able to decrease his payload while not altering his basic image.

Sepia brown tech pen on sketchbook page, 5" x 6", May 28,1993.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

A Can of Worms

When I was young I lived near a lake, where my aunt and her family had a little bit of open shore. We spent our summers boating and fishing in the lake. Our fishing gear was simple, a pole, hook, bobber, and bait. The bait was worms, either dug up from our gardens as "red wigglers" or bought as "farmed" worms called "nightcrawlers." Before this sounds too idyllic, I managed the bait supply which involved cutting up nightcrawlers while they were still alive. As a kid, I didn't think that these creatures could feel pain and suffer. And I didn't think that a hooked fish could suffer, either. The fish in the lake were not good to eat so our catch-and-release was purely for sport. The red wigglers went into a tin can which was shown among the youngsters in my school in an attempt to disgust the more ladylike of our classroom types. Nowadays I probably would not use live bait considering that worms and fish suffer too.

Black tech pens on sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 4", April 10 - 11, 2020.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Historic Iris 1992

This magnificent blue iris flower came from the Thomas garden farm in Fairfax, Virginia. Margaret Thomas, the "Iris Lady," owned and managed the farm. In May, the farm was a fabulous sight beloved by gardeners and artists alike. You can read about the Thomas farm in this vintage article from the Fairfax Times. 

I visited the garden many times and took dozens of photographs which I used as inspiration for my mid-90s flower pictures. This image was done from the real thing. One May I was sketching blooms at the farm and Mrs. Thomas came up to me to see my art in progress. I told her I loved the blue flowers the most, and she snapped this full blossom off the plant and gave it to me. I was astonished at her generosity - you're not supposed to remove any of the irises until Mrs. Thomas sells them to you for your garden! In her honor I did this study of her gift.

Colored pencils on sketchbook page, 6" x 8", May 18, 1992.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Shaky Metro 1993

This sketch was drawn while I was riding on the Metro, Washington's shaky, unrepaired public transportation system. That's why it doesn't have the precision of my other drawings. But if you look closely you can see recognizable things. From left to right: two seats under the map of the Washington Metro. Center: a panel and a pole for stand-up riders. Right: part of the image of a rider who is carrying a portfolio. The Metro was so neglected that by 2018 it was almost unusable and "they" had to shut down large portions of the system for repairs, annoying commuters and tourists alike.

Brown tech pen on sketchbook page, 5 1/2" x 7", spring 1993.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Monster Voter

Did you know that elections in America are chosen by tube worms in the depths of the ocean? I bet you didn't, and neither did I until I showed up to vote and found a great emptiness, an opaque vastness of Joseph Biden representing the primordial life of Democreatures. I tried my best, Joe, I voted as hard as I could to raise the total, and smiling Joe Biden thanks me. But he is up against a great geological sulphurous hole that receives adoration no matter how much it spews, so I don't expect much.

Black ink with sticker on sketchbook page, 5" x 8", March 3-5, 2020. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

More Little Mall People May 1993

When I go into the mall, I draw the people strolling by as well as the environment, architecture, and food resources. Here is a selection of little sitters and walkers. It's 1993, so it's not quite the era where every one of them has a smartphone stuck in their hand. I sit at Starbucks which is a rich area full of views.

Just under the proverbial wire I get this Blog entry on April 8 rather than missing a day.

Brown ink on sketchbook page, 5" x 8", May 14, 1993.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Roomscape Isolation

If you're stuck inside trying to help the world, any random room view can get interesting. Here is what would be the living/dining room in some normal person's apartment. Like most of my friends, I have way too many books. And like most artists I can't resist collecting more art materials. Identifying a few of the things in the room: The suitcases contain family memorabilia, which I hope to get to someday. So far I haven't, not even when hiding away. The upright shape in the center is the deteriorated remains of a camp cot, used by a guest. The small bookcase at upper right contains small jars of paint, some of which has probably dried up. I haven't used "real" paint for years, now that I work with digital art so much. 

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 5 1/2" x 8", April 6, 2020.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Coffeehouse of the Sith

In those days not so long ago you could walk into a coffee shop dressed as whatever you wished. You could walk into a coffee shop anywhere! Here you see at the top three guys just gabbing, and on the bottom a young man bearing the logo of the Dark Side of the Force, and the Smartphone of the Sith. I hope for a return to coffee-sipping normalcy, even if it means serving the dark side.

Sepia brown tech pen on sketchbook page, 4" x 7", February 14-15, 2020.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Hostile Biosphere

It's not hostile, it has no feelings, but it is against you nevertheless. They are creatures of the biosphere. There may be two or more here, or perhaps the slime stalactites are each a single creature, joined together. I'm not a biologist nor am I a philosopher. I'm just a designer.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 3" x 3 1/2", April 5, 2020.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Peaceful Pond 1991

From the same sketching trip as the previous "Early Evening Landscape" comes this "Peaceful Pond." These locations are somewhere in Northern Virginia; after almost thirty years I just don't remember. But I used some of the same colors and colored pencil techniques then that I use now, with wine barrels added. 

Colored pencils on illustration board, 9" x 8", September 1991.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Coffee Arm

Before the war, dahling...I was coffee house chic before the virus came. I didn't post here in February, but I still drew, the way I always do. These are other frequenters of the over-filled "Pastry Expo" sweets and coffee house where my friends and I used to indulge. I wonder if it's still going. Note the outstretched arm of the guy in the upper half. Does he miss his schedule? Is he confined at home? This is civilization now.

Sepia brown tech pen on sketchbook page, 3 1/2" x 6 1/2", February 7, 2020.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Little Walkers 4 - 27 -1993

If I draw a mall scene, it's only right to draw the people in it. Tysons Mall in better days was populated by a nicely mixed crowd of people of all races, classes, ages, and nationalities. Here is one of my pages of mall walkers with their purchases, fashions, and families. There are women in work clothes, youths in baggy shorts, children and babies. The larger drawing is of a man in office work clothes with a baby stroller, feeding his offspring while the mother goes shopping. Necessary current event mention: I hope someday this now-deserted mall will be full of these little walkers again.

Brown ink on sketchbook page, 5 1/4" x 8 1/2", April 27, 1993.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Another Chaotic Creature

There are more bizarre creatures in the depths of the dark sea than we can imagine. This vaguely phallic being lives in places where he doesn't need to do anything but grab on to some eminence of coral or rock and wait for dinner to float by. He's a tube worm near a volcanic ocean floor oven so his dinner is already cooked when it arrives. His chaotic appearance is actually well-designed for freedom of motion if he must reach out to get dinner delivered. The delivery fish escapes before he becomes dinner himself.

Inks on sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 3", March 31, 2020.