Bright Note in A Dark Symphony

I haven’t been writing much lately – on top of the pandemic I’ve been struggling with serious mobility issues, the combination leaving me with an ill-defined feeling of dread similar to that brought on by those ominous usually-written-a-minor-key passages in a movie’s soundtrack that precedes something really scary…

..,but amidst all this ominous foreboding we had a wonderful respite in the form of my daughter’s wedding. It was a very small and informal event, with just enough structure and content to launch a young family into this journey called life.

E62AB79E-8A68-4A20-AB23-3DD373C85B46

“…let’s give him a big hand!”

Living with an autoimmune disease like ankylosing spondylitis has meant living with chronic pain and impaired mobility, but I was surprised, yea alarmed when the muscles in my hand and forearm started to uncontrollably spasm and twist into a claw-like flex. Dark thoughts of tetanus came to mind and at one less-than-lucid moment I wondered if I’d become mind-controlled by the Skeksis from Dark Crystal but good sense returned and I began to research for a solution to my manual woes. It turns out that the flexing and arching and “owwing” is a real thing – it’s known as a carpal spasm and can be brought on by overwork and/or the lack of sufficient calcium or magnesium in my diet. By limiting my time at the drawing board and knocking back an extra yogurt each day I’ve been able to curtail the attacks to a large extent.

…which is just as well.

Since my childhood there has been a dramatic increase in the use of hand gestures as part of human communication far beyond the sign language between cowboy and Commanche that I witnessed each week on television. Simple movements such as an index finger drawn sharply across a larynx (“killed”) or a hand cupped to an ear (“listening”) have been joined by American Sign Language for use by the deaf, gang signs adopted into general street use, and other communicative gestures borrowed from sports and military. The use of nonverbal communication has increased to the point that it is no longer safe to just idly wave your hands. For example while coming to grips with these carpal spasms I have:

  • Been slapped by a deaf lady for signing an indecent proposal
  • Accidentally called out  a gang member
  • …and I may have inadvertently flipped off ET

The one time I did try to respond to communicating via hand signals it turned out that the lady in question was just trying to dry her nail polish…which is why despite years of conditioning via the military I now walk about with my hands in my pockets.

Fireball Junior Re-work

2020-05-01 Fireball Junior Rework

While wading my way though my XL5 reboot it has come to me that with all the attention Fireball Junior gets during the series would need it a separate drawing, especially when the nose area in the main ship rendering didn’t work out as well as wanted. If you’ll check the drawing on my XL5 reboot page you’ll see that I went for NASA-style inset windows much like those on the Space:1999 Eagles but at length I’ve concluded that they would give a claustrophobic feel to  the control cabin,

…so I compromised between the old and the new, using a bug-like look similar to that on the Navy’s A-6 Intruder

More Musings From A Would-be Bat

When my sleep cycle gets inverted like this it can often be a week or more before it gets corrected and it becomes easy to slip into depression. I mean it’s already a challenge dealing with the double-barreled contradictory stress of “social distancing” vs. “shelter in place “ without the additional isolation brought on by my inverted rest patterns…

…but then I got to thinking: if I have to adopt the Dracula model of rest and activity I’m in the best situation to do so. I have a comfy bed, good snacks to gnosh (when I AM awake) and my Beautiful Saxon Princess will make sure there are no splinters in my coffin and all the wooden stakes are safely packed away.

Nocturnal Soundtrack

It was a sound that brought tears to my eyes.

After tossing and turning for most of the night I struck my colors and made a hasty retreat to the studio with the faint hope that my Beautiful Saxon Princess would get some decent rest once I was gone. I curled up on the old loveseat next to my desk and fired up my MP3 player (yes, they still exist) hoping the companionship of my old musical friends would take the edge off the physical and emotional discomforts depriving me of sleep.

That relief came but not through the music but rather through the sound of the room itself. Without the background accompaniment of CD player, computer, room fans and my grandson’s Hot Wheels re-enactments of NASCAR events my studio manifests a very subtle soundtrack of its own: wind rustling through the trees, the low almost inaudible rumble-hum of the clothes dryer and the moan of the wind through power and phone lines. It’s beautiful sound that I very rarely hear now, a sound that would lull to sleep every night I spent in my attic loft back in Sterling…

…and for just a few minutes I was free of the pain and anxiety that I joust with nightly as I near my sixty-seventh birthday…

Parley LaMoine Howell (1933-2020)

1980

“That’s some book-case you’re making David”

 “Thanks”

 “Are you sure you don’t want to add another support on the front:

 “Yes Dad”

(tap/tap/tap)

“You may want to consider adding that support to the front. Conrad is starting to walk, and he may grab onto it and – “

A reply of ultimate snarkiness was on the tip of my tongue but as luck would have it my Beautiful Saxon Princess chose that moment to step in and inform us the coals were just right for barbecue and took her father by the arm to start grilling. I shot a dark look at my father-in-law’s receding form: It was bad enough that in two days I’d be facing a medical board ruling my flight status without getting a critique on every second nail I drove into MY bookshelf…but then he was a civilian paper shuffler and hadn’t a clue about my situation, or ( I suspected) a care.

1991

David, are you sure you don’t want to go with us?’

“Yes, I’m sure”

(pause)

“ Did I tell you that we got a new engine for the boat and new upholstery for the seats?

 “Yes”          

 “Did you see the forecast? It’s going to be perfect weather”

 “I know”

(pause)

“ David are you sure –“ at which point my Beautiful Saxon Princess (well aware of the signs of an impending eruption of Mount David) stepped in with a Bundt cake to distract her father from his efforts to persuade me to join in a water-skiing expedition that afternoon.

I sat back and reached for an unbroken pencil and fresh sheet of paper. He didn’t have a clue – I was hanging on by my fingertips to an MFA program with an open hostility towards middle-aged professionals who also happened to hold reserve commissions in the military. My young family thought of the trip to my in-laws as a vacation but I definitely needed time to work on a research paper on Tlingit raven rattles, a topic that was both politically correct enough to get me through the semester as well as obscure enough to discourage thorough examination.

1997

“David, are you sure you want to measure out the stud lines from that wall”

 “Yes Dad”

(hammer/hammer/hammer)

“David, don’t you think we should measure out from this end”

 “No Dad. Measuring from this end puts most of them under floor joists”

(hammer/hammer/hammer)

“David are you – “ at which point Fate in the shape of My Beautiful Saxon Princess intervened with a tray of sandwiches and drinks prompting me to drop the hammer that I’d been gripping hard enough to emboss fingerprints.

2020

Parley LaMoine Howell passed away a few days ago, joining his wife and sweetheart Velma who’d made her own exit from the earthly stage a little over a year ago. Despite the Huntsville (AL) venue we were able to participate in the funeral via a Facebook Live broadcast (take that mean old Mister Coronavirus) and as we sat in the studio listening to the services several conclusions came to mind:

  • This guy was the bomb! He started college at Gonzaga University on a basketball scholarship, was a pivotal designer for the Lunar Rover used in Apollo program and in three different states was a major factor in the growth and leadership of our faith.
  • This guy was good. In the forty-two years I’d been married to his eldest daughter I’d never once seen him lose his temper or speak sharply to anyone in general but to me in particular when I was acting like a fourth-point-of-contact. He was sincerely Christ-like, and I had no doubt that if he was handed a glass of buttermilk it would revert back to grade A whole milk just because of his proximity.
  • I had sadly misinterpreted his intent those times he had been so insistent. What he’d really been saying in 1980 was “I know your medical grounding is difficult to deal with but you’re still valuable to me”. In 1991 he was saying the same thing about the challenges for graduate school I was facing, and in 1997 he just wanted to make sure our home was snug and well built.

…and lastly:

  • If I was ever going to be serious about weight loss we had to come up with a different way to defuse interpersonal conflict.

XL5 Re-boot: Roberta’s Jetcycle

2020-03-10 Robertas Jetcycle

I’ve personally had to battle severe mobility issues lately so it should be no surprise that the subject would manifest itself in my work as I was going back through my XL5 designs. In the original series Robert would use a regular jet-bike just like the rest of the crew but after I replaced legs with the “uni-ball” that option is – well – no longer  an option.

,,,then it occurred to me that given her modular construction Roberta could be plugged into the jet-bike rather than riding it which would save weight/mass/maintenance. I’m not sure where the unplugged parts would be stored while she’s flying around – there would be plenty of room on Xl5 and possibly room for internal storage on this vehicle.

 

LibertyCon X Program Book Cover

LibertyCon 10 Program Book Cover

Dimensional illustration ( or sculptural work photographed and used as editorial illustration) was a fairly short-lived discipline in the commercial arts. Used occasionally more as novelty it came into its own in the “80s and ‘90s and even had its own annual awards competition1 but by the turn of the millennium it had been thoroughly supplanted by computer graphics.

It was during that brief period of popularity that My Beautiful Saxon Princess and I were invited to be the Artist Guest of Honor at LibertyCon X, a regional relaxacon chaired seemingly forever by the late SMOF2 Uncle Timmy Bolgeo; given my interests at the time it was a no-brainer that I’d come up with something sculptural for the program book cover. As a subtle tip-of-the-hat to Sir Gerry Anderson’s work it has always been one of my favorites but at the same time it has been the source of frustration to me over the last 22 years, mostly because I’ve never had a decent image for my portfolio.

It was used for the convention program book and T-shirt – and while the shirt turned out pretty good the book cover was terrible, being printed black line on a dark-colored background. The original sold in the art show and while I was happy to have at least one month of my mortgage paid as a result of the sale the purchaser soon moved far away and all I had was a fuzzy ink-jet print to show in my book.

…then my good friend and digital ace Kent Gardener stepped in and did his magic smoothing out backgrounds and generally making the image presentable.

Production notes: The original measured approximately 24”X12”X5” and was constructed from Super-Sculpey, styrene plastic, wood, illustration board and paint.


Notes:

  1. Go ahead and ask me: “ David – did YOU ever win an award for your dimensional work?” to which I humbly answer : “Aw shucks folks I did win me a Bronze medal in 1993”

 

  1. SMOF: Secret Master of Fandom

1986: Road to Moscow

Road to Moscow Art

As I’ve written before when I first started free-lancing  I was just as interested in historical work as science fiction and fantasy, but you go to where the money goes…and as clients tend to order what they see in your portfolio I ended up specializing in genre work. I can’t complain – I could have ended up stranded in romance novels…

Most of my military work happened early on which made this project a real treat when it came about in 11986. It’s a good example of my work at the time, though it would have been nice had it not been so abruptly cropped – the original is almost twice the size and contains a Russian BT7 tank and the barrel to the Panzergrenadier’s submachine gun.

Airbrush, paint & colored pencil on  12″X16″ hot-press water-color board

“…you made me laugh!”

“You made me laugh!”

In the latter half of my sixties I find that I reminisce much more than I plan ahead, and during one of those “glances back” with my Beautiful Saxon Princess I found the real reason she allowed me to chase her until she caught me. She started the game by asking me which her attributes first caught my attention and I promptly rolled out my stock response: “The gentle cascade of light brown hair caught my eye first, but the water-color blue eyes with the slightly sad tilt and a hint of a Southern accent sealed the deal…”

…but when the tables were turned her reply was quite different. It wasn’t a choice of:

  • Broad shoulders
  • Chiseled features
  • Artistic talent

No, it was the way I could act the buffoon and get a giggle out of her. I felt a bit delated for all of fifteen seconds then called it a win, and it turns out that was the best strategy as:

  • My shoulders are not so broad and joint inflammation has me slouching a lot.
  • Age, the elements and a short visit with Mr. Basal Cell Carcinoma have modified my features into something no so chiseled as pushed into shape like so much Play-Doh.
  • Stiffness and tremor has made expressing what talent I have left problematic at best.

The conversation slowly morphed into reminiscing about the Seventies and inevitably such discussions quickly devolve to subject of (then) comedian Steve Martin which in turn  led to a discussion of the legendary comedy routine starring Martin and SNL regular Dan Ackroyd as Czechoslovakian brothers Georg and Yortuk Festrunk and their clueless search for “foxes”. I drew a slight chuckle when I went into the dialog (“ We are two wild and crazy guys!”) but when I launched into the walk it became obvious that I was laughing much louder than my Beautiful Saxon Princess who’d failed to realize that the joke was actually on her.

I wasn’t putting on an act. While it was true that in 1978 that Festrunk shake-and-wobble gait Festrunk gait took a little practice to get right, in 2020 that’s the way I walk all the time!