Saturday, January 30, 2021

Gardendoodle 1


Join the "Ivy League" with my little page accent for Plantworld 2021! Drapery and a rag do the job of making things greenish. There's an infinite amount of gardening to be done in all those other universes. In fact, there's one exactly like yours, you just don't know where it is nor could you reach it if you tried. But don't worry, a devoted green alien is watering it for you.

Black tech pen and marker on journal page, 2 1/2" x 3 1/2", January 30, 2021.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Sam, the Jedi Baby 1985


Sam's mother was a huge STAR WARS fan and probably still is. Here is the Jedi Baby in his overalls and hood, sitting on his mother's lap gathering enough Force to trust. What, don't Jedi Knights wear little striped socks? Sure they do. His baby fingers move in hidden ways. Only 6 months old and he knows how to work the Force.

I think that Blogger is working today. Why don't they just make up their minds and either get it going right or scrap it for something else, or I should scrap my stuff instead, if the pandemic logistics weren't too horrible to contemplate. It tempts me to use Bad Language but we don't do that at the By-Product.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 5" x 7", January 15, 1985.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Leafy Border 2

I've been in domestic urban captivity for about 8 months now and I must admit I am getting weary. Yeah, that's the word. There must be many people just like me. I go out only to get food and supplies, I haven't ordered delivery because I am from another era where this is not done, and no one delivers stuff at 4 AM.

I've faithfully posted to the By-Product all through this dreary era in my life, and I'm working on my biographical project about my mother and her life and work, but both of these are based on Blogger, the blogging software you see now. I may have to put things on hold in order to continue. I also have to save my blog archive (which must be huge by now) because it is a masterpiece of western culture. (NOT)

I managed to retrieve the address for this posting from Facebook. I need to try another operating system, Firefox. What happens when your computer fails due to obsolescence while maintaining social distance rules? Why didn't I learn this stuff when I was a kid? Because there wasn't any of "that stuff" going on when I was a kid. I stuck with comic books and classic TV shows.

I better stop now. The leafy border above is in the "wine decoration" style and I sure wish I had some wine right now but I don't, so if you don't see the By-Product please excuse my technical difficulties.

Black tech pen and marker on sketchbook journal page, 4 1/2" x 6 1/2", January 27, 2021.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

More Sam


In these sketches, "Alien Basketball-Head Sam" is already a growing boy at five months. I pushed him through the streets of Cambridge in a stroller. I was his Auntie as he grew older. If he were your son, you'd do the same. I'd rather be an aunt than a mother, but since I can't be an aunt (no siblings) I'll be fine by being someone else's family memory.

Black tech pens on sketchbook page, 5 1/2" x 7 1/2", December 22, 1984.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Steve Client Sketch 1984


I made a few non-fantasy dollars at conventions drawing portraits. These were usually miniatures used as portrait ID's. If there was time, I would sit my client down and do a sketch like this one and then work it into a color portrait when I got home. Given the date of this picture it's likely that I drew him from life. The portraits had the wearer's name ("Steve") and were about the size of a credit card, though I only took cash.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 5" x 5", November 1984.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Leafy Border


This 2021 plant-image border is properly "de-worded" for public consumption. I  am still having technical difficulties here, simple operations are taking long minutes and I may have to resort to another operating system. This slowdown is frustrating. Meanwhile I am working on my mother's "biography." She sure did paint a lot!

Tech pens on sketchbook page, 8" x 3", January 23, 2021.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Esther Geller 1940s: Root People

 By 1939 Esther Geller was engaged to a military gentlemen named Chester Susskind. In 1940, Chester went off to war...and never came back...or so they thought. There were plenty of admirers and studio parties left in the Boston area. Harold Shapero had been declared unfit for military service ("4F") due to emotional instability. 

Meanwhile, Esther was not just having fun at the Museum School. She was a member of an elite group under the direction of Karl Zerbe, a German immigrant who was bringing back the thousands-year-old painting medium of encaustic. This medium had been used in memorial portraits due to its durability. Encaustic is pure pigment mixed with beeswax strengthened with natural resin. Zerbe used this highly technical means to create paintings with gloomy ethnic and surrealistic themes, influenced by the horrors of war. 

Esther continued to paint in encaustic and refine her work in the early 40s. She created floating waves and humanoid creatures whose limbs seemed made out of tangles or sheaves of plant roots. I call them her "Root People" and there are dozens and dozens of them, including watercolors as well. Zerbe's encaustics inspired black shadows and eerie moods which Esther would soon transcend.

Meanwhile, Harold, who graduated from Harvard in 1941, still was friendly with Esther. He wrote some of his best music when he was still at Harvard, such as his "Sonata for Piano Four Hands," or his "String Quartet." Esther painted Root People up until the mid-1940s.

"Dancing Family," encaustic, early 1940s

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Robert Himmelsbach at DarkoverCon 1984


Robert Himmelsbach, master costumer and craftsman, has been my good friend in fandom for decades. He was a stalwart supporter of the Darkover mythos and its creator Marion Zimmer Bradley. I've designed costumes for him and he has collected many art pieces from me as well as posed as a (clothed) portrait model. Here he is at one of our best historical Darkovercons, slightly dressed up.

The usual art tools, the usual art size 5" x 8". I would have loved to do a graphic novel version of a Darkover piece, but Marion strictly rejected it. "I HATE COMIC BOOKS!" she yowled. Probably copyright issues as well.

Friday, January 22, 2021

The Goblet Club


Those of us who were old enough to drink alcohol at conventions held Scotch sipping parties (called "Quiet Gatherings") where we brought out our fancy drinkware. This is the silver-plated goblet I learned to drink Scotch from, when I was living in an artists' colony in Rome. The bottle is a single malt, which we artists couldn't afford. Our little sip meetings were called the "Goblet Club." This was almost 50 years ago. 

I still have my 1971 goblet, as seen here, but I can't drink from it. During the Virginia earthquake of August 2011, it fell to the floor and a big crack opened down one side. At least that's what I think happened. I keep it as a memory.

Black tech pen, 5" x  5", November 1984.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Knitter at DarkoverCon


The fantasy, sci- fi, and medieval fan communities are almost the same when it comes to taste, culture, and pastimes. Almost all the fans I have met do something "crafty" such as needlework, wood carving, knitting and crocheting, beadwork, or brewing. I stick with sketching my fellow fans at conventions. This tranquil lady is knitting a patterned sweater. I have many lovely pieces created by my friends and fellow fans just for friendship.

Black tech pen on sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 6 1/2", November 24, 1984.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Potted Plant Border

It's the "Year of the Plants" for my theme this year, and in a few months it will be the "Damn 17-Year Cicadas" over again which I endured in 2004. I have dutifully de-worded the text so you can just look at the historic "Farmer's Almanac " design style. 

Brown inks on sketchbook journal page, 4 1/2 " x 6", January 2021.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Logan Airport on way to convention 1984


Here's a nice perspective study of the waiting room at Logan Airport in Boston. I am just about to get on a flight to end eventually in the Baltimore area for the venerable  "DarkoverCon" which started on Thanksgiving Day. That's why the room is empty. The people are all at home feasting with their families, so they're already where they need to go.

Black tech pen, 7 1/2" x 5 1/2", November 22,1984.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Logan Airport November 1984

November 1984, and I'm off to another convention. Even if it was not that far away, in Philadelphia or Baltimore, this year I took the plane. I think I had one of my art collector friends with me, but if it's as carefully drawn as this one, maybe not. As you know, I'll draw anything. It's been a long time since 1984.

Black Tech pen, 8" x 5", November 22, 1984.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Modernist Colorforms: Black Lighthouse


Time for a winter Colorforms, in a modernist homage to Rumanian artist Constantin Brancusi. He is well worth looking up as he revolutionized 3D modern art for us space fans. You'll find the hidden image of Brancusi all sorts of places and certainly he is a big deal with me. I have never worked in 3D (sculpture) but I do love looking at it.

This Colorforms fits the formula I have been using: black background, 4 basic geometric shapes in 4 basic colors, each a different size. One non-formula accent. No bottles of wine.

Photoshop, 5" x 4", January 17. 2021.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Sam and Dave, father and son 1984


Sam got a lot of sketch space from me back in those days. I included his parents when I could. Sam's father was a British expatriate who worked in the insurance industry, which was big in Boston. Note how large little Sam's head was. We used to make fun of it, even his family did it. "As big as a basketball!" "He'll catch up with it...sooner or later." 

Black tech pen, 4" x 7", November 9, 1984.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Esther Geller as (amateur) glamor photomodel 1930s


By her later teens Esther was already running with a lively and artistic crowd. Not only was she experimenting with painting, but she was dancing for a brief time with the modern dance group led by Anna Sokolow - and she was modeling for photoshoots with her brother, my uncle Irving, who was also involved in photography. The one you see above is a "pin-up" pose taken on the famous rocks of Rockport, Mass. by Irving Geller.

This moody sepia-tone (and mostly unretouched) portrait of Esther was taken by Irving as a practice shot around 1937, when she would have been 16. Esther was already working on art and signage at her high school. One afternoon at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts a mutual friend introduced Esther to a jazz pianist and teen-age bandleader in front of John Singer  Sargent's masterpiece, The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit. The musician was Harold Shapero, who was already composing music. That would be my father, but these young artists and musicians didn't know that. I owe my existence to John Singer Sargent and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

By 1938-39 Esther and Harold were dating. Esther entered the prestigious Boston Museum School, and Harold went to Harvard, where he would study with the best composers of his day.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Inside a Japanese Restaurant


Here's a sketch of some of the things inside the "Roka" restaurant in Cambridge, Mass. at the end of 1984. You see beer kegs, beer jugs, big beer bottle, a sushi and raw fish display, soy sauce dispensers on the table, little rice bowls, and a customer. All of this would look the same if Roka still existed, which it doesn't. We still exist, but we look different.

Black tech pen, 5" x 7", November 7, 1984.

I continue to have technical difficulties and I don't know how long this will last. Just accessing online stuff takes a long time. I'm trying to keep it going.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Baby Sam is upset


Even in the comfort and goodies of a favorite restaurant, a little baby can get frustrated and upset. During our meetings, which were mostly lunches, Sam's mother and I would eat and blab while Sam sat in his cradle on the floor. I don't know why he was upset this time, maybe he was just bored.

Black tech pen, 5" x 6", November 5, 1984.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Winter Sky 2021

 And here is the companion piece to January 11. I do one of these every year to record the winter light and clouds accurately in color. I think the inscribed structure at left is a chimney. Am I up to date? It must be nice with the fire burning slowly and the crows cawing outdoors in the evening light. 

Colored pencils and brown ink on sketchbook page, January 12, 2021, 8: x 2 1/2". Are we there yet? This heavy notebook paper is great with colored pencils.

Winter Datestamp 2021


No tiny monsters this time, at least now. This datestamp is a landscape full of trees, and plants are the Theme, so even if there's no green right now there's  plenty of biomass. Apologies to the reader who missed this day's entry due to technical difficulties. I will have January for you promptly.

Brown inks, cloud markers, and Photoshop addition at bottom, January 10, 2021.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Dining at the Wursthaus Cambridge 1984


The "Wursthaus" restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts was my favorite restaurant in that area. It was directly located in Harvard Square. They served heavy, filling German-style fare including different styles of sausages and beans and sauerbraten. They also had a beer list with dozens of different brands and types but often the beer you asked for was unavailable. Academic and creative celebrities dined there as well as the parents of Harvard students. As with many famous restaurants, signed photos decorate the walls.

I drew this while sitting in the Wursthaus with some people I can't easily identify. After all, it was 37 years ago. I thought the boyish figure in the left center was Sam as a boy but it's dated 1984 and he was only a baby then, too young to drink beer. I think that is his mother. Sam's father faces away from us.

The Wursthaus closed in 1996 due to changing tastes and lack of income. According to newer sources there is a brewpub there now. The world is so changed now that I crave bratwurst and beans. Beans and wursts someday soon.

Black tech pen, 5" x 8", November 4, 1984.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

The Star of Bethlehem recedes past Saturn


Having deposited the Three Kings back to their kingdoms, the alien spacecraft powers up and launches itself out of the Solar System on its way to its next assignment. They pass by Saturn and its moons, through nebula wisps, and just past Io and the Rings. Now we must wait till the next Incarnation, if indeed there is going to be another one for us at all.

Black tech pen, Photoshop, 5" x 5".

Friday, January 8, 2021

More Pile Driving 1984


Here's another exciting pile driver event, this one banging in Boston. The construction worker is awful close to the site but he's an expert and I am standing far back. The official nickname for a pile driver specialist is a "Pile Buck" and they are proud of their work. There is even an online magazine for these workers and their bosses, called (of course) "Pile Buck." They have lots of great pictures - (remember I love construction equipment.) Someday maybe I can take a turn with an earth mover.

Black tech pen, 5" x 7", November 7, 1984.

In 2021 I am having some Blogspot technical problems so please be patient if it doesn't load. Usually I can find it with Google, whose gentle leadership is like the poet Virgil's in Dante's Inferno.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Capitol Offense


Did you ever wonder what was inside the Capitol building in DC where a mob of hundreds of Trumpazoids broke in and caused the death of 4 people? I did, and on a sketch trip at the monuments in the city, I drew some familiar edifices. The Capitol is essentially hollow. It's a big empty cylinder capped by a Michelangelo-style RomeDome, obsessively decorated with Classical motifs. This is what you can expect from architects, artists, and political figures all trained in the nineteenth century's educational base of Greek and Latin literature and art. I bet most of the Turnip Army had little or no idea what they were violating.

Black tech pen on yellowed old sketchbook page (40 years!), December 31, 1981.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Pile Driver Action 1984


Bang! Bang! Bang! There are few things more, uh, arousing than the thrust and pounding of a pile driver. As you know, I love to draw construction sites and rarely have the chance to draw them on site. This one, created in 1984, has long become part of the Falls Church urban landscape. More are being built every day, multi-use mid-rises with expensive apartment residences and shops and restaurants (what's left of them) right up to the sidewalk, just like a real city.

Black tech pen with loud pounding on site, November 7, 1984.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Goodbye Cafe Pamplona


Just recently, in December 2020, the Cafe Pamplona closed its doors after more than fifty years of continuous service. The Spanish-style coffeehouse and small restaurant was a venerable relic of the old coffeehouse culture of Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was close to most Harvard features especially Widener Library which was across the street. I ate and drank there many times and discussed music, religion, art, and other things I don't get to discuss nowadays.

I have a mildly funny story about "performance art" which I did when I was visiting Pamplona one day. In those days I was studying the life of Saint Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits, who believed in symbolic prayer-performance actions. At the cafe they had prickly holly bushes out on the patio. I got the idea that I would do a mini-action at Cafe Pamplona. Saint Ignatius started his career as a soldier until he was wounded and unable to continue fighting. While convalescing from his wound  he found a prayerbook of the "Lives of the Saints" and it changed his life. He was Pamplona. At that point I was also reading the life of a saint so I decided to do an Ignatius memory action. I took one of the prickly holly leaves off the bush and poked my hand with the leaf spine, just enough to show a tiny droplet of blood. In this I was imitating the life of the saint, since I had now been wounded at Pamplona.

Now the site of my battle was closed, no more room for performance art under the Mediterranean canopy. It wasn't war that brought the Cafe down, it was plague. People were afraid to go in the restaurant. And so one of the last relics of historical Cambridge, Mass. leaves us with the memory of the saints who sipped there, saints not counting me.

Black tech pen, 5 1/2" x 8", November 1, 1984.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Illustrated Journal Frontispiece 2021


This is the frontispiece of my big new sketch journal. It's bigger than I've had for many years so I need to plan ahead when I draw. In the process I have sampled most of my green colored pencils on the thick cardstock of the book. I have "Many shades of green!" I plan some winter scenes as well as portraits and reality drawings and a creature or two, and whatever else comes to my mind. I must remember: vegetables are good. If you eat them, they're good for you. I'll be drawing and painting in other places and media too. But no dumpsters. 

Colored pencils and ink on big notebook, 8" x 4 1/2", January 4, 2021.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Random Heads

I like living in the city and being an "Urban Sketcher." The city is full of people and I can draw them without their knowing I'm drawing them. In the Before Times I could sit at a restaurant or coffee shop and make ink snapshots of my fellow eaters. I hope someday to sit there again. As you remember from earlier postings on this Blog, I like to do little portraits - in fact I almost made it the theme before I decided on plants. My ambition is to make the best likeness and the clearest image with the minimum of lines. This urban sketch is from 1984. It looks like I had recently replaced my tech pen with a fresh new one. Just because I did the same stuff 37 years ago doesn't mean I can't do it now. And, keeping with the plant theme, some of my portraits will have cabbage and broccoli heads.

Black tech pen, 4 1/2" x 7 1/2", fall 1984.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Baby Sam 1984


You saw Sam as a newborn, now it's a couple of months later and he's a well-wrapped baby. He and his mother visited me all the time, wandering around Cambridge and eating our favorite sushi in Harvard Square. They did a great job keeping me out of the art studio in those days. Babies for the new year 2021, my best wishes to Sam and his family! Sam may still be well-wrapped, but he's a grown man now, with a wife and a kid and a job and all that. I occasionally see him on the pages of Facebook.

Japanese baby food:  Mix an appropriate amount of golden miso (fermented soybean paste) with warm water in a small bowl till it is a thick liquid. Ad a few tablespoons of cooked white rice and some chunks of white tofu. Serve it to Sam.

Image is Black Tech Pen on sketchbook page, 4 1/2" x 5 1/2", October 23, 1984.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Esther Geller centenary 1921-2021

This serious toddler is artist Esther Geller, my mother, at about age 3. She was born in October 1921 and this is her centenary year. The photo would then date from about 1924. She taught me almost everything I know about art and painting skills and how to make a picture. She learned painting and art-making at the prestigious Boston Museum School of Fine Arts, now part of Tufts University near Boston and was one of the few female members of the "Boston School" abstract expressionist movement.

The archive that I brought back from Massachusetts documents Esther Geller's life and work from her teen years as a modern dancer and amateur art model, to her bohemian Museum School life, her marriage to my father Harold Shapero and their life together with musicians, other artists and creative types, and their journeys through Europe, with me or without me.

In 2021 I plan to post entries on Esther and her work throughout the year here on the By-Product. There will be plenty of my newer and older work, as well. This archive is exclusive to me but I hope you will look through it along with me. The theme of my sketch and improvisational art this year at "Art By-Products" for this year is "The Year of Plants" and the theme color is rich red. There are plenty of red plants and fruits and flowers and so forth...I won't run out.

I wish all 3 of my readers here (more? please?) a very happy, leafy, flowery New Year 2021!