Life, Liberty and The Pursuit of Rock & Roll

Life, Liberty and The Pursuit of Rock And Roll

People become illustrators when they develop an affinity for a certain type of art. When I first started teaching thirty years ago everyone wanted to illustrate movie marquee posters but by the dawn of the new millennium all my students wanted to work in the computer gaming field. Tattoo art was the big thing two years ago as I was winding up my academic career but for me the magic genre  was music…

…as in album covers.  When I first started out I jumped into the role-playing came market as a way to work into doing comics and book covers, but my Holy Grail was the 33 1/3 r.p.m. record album cover. Covers measured twelve inches by twelve inches and uniformly presented 144 square inches of the most dynamic art on the planet. Roger Dean, Phillip Travers , Kim Whitesides and Patrick Woodruffe were my favorites as was (unknown to me at the time) Phil Hartmann of SNL fame and I worked as hard as I could to break into that market and rub creative shoulders with those guys.

I was delighted when asked to create this cover in the fall of 1983 and hoped for many more such assignments but little did I know that before long the cassette, then the CD would conspire to eliminate this wonderful genre. I got a second similar assignment for an album entitled “Runaway Heart’ which was followed by a flock of forgettable kiddie records but by the middle of the Eighties the LP market was all but gone. I wanted to grouse about the situation but to be honest I was (still) delighted to have the small part of the market that I did.

Production notes: I don’t remember what happened to the original so it may be stashed in a box somewhere in the house or garage.  Airbrush, pen, colored pencil and gouache on hot-press watercolor board. It was rendered as a wrap-around illustration measuring 16″ X 32″ so this front cover would be 16″X16” square

Mayday Cover Art

Mayday

I produced this illustration in and around the kiddie Traveller box art, with both projects getting sent to press just prior to my deployment via C-130 for JRX BRIM FROST 1983. I was glad to have the work but more than a little stressed as I was responsible for both getting the battalion ready to go as well as the running the airfield control group for the entire exercise once we got to the area of operations.

I also wondered why GDW was opting for a second cover so soon after the first printing. Say what you want about style but the original cover art by Rodger MacGowan is definitely an iconic piece in the Traveller mythos.

I have no idea where the original art ended up but I do remember it as measuring about 18″X24″ and was rendered with airbrush, colored pencil, marker and marbilized enamel on cold-press illustration board.

Cathaphract

Cathaphract

…when is a cut-paper sculpture not a cut-paper sculpture?

 That’s a question I answered during the spring of 1989 while teaching an introductory illustration course at Kenai Peninsula College (KPC) in Soldotna, Alaska. One of the last assignments I had the class do illustrate an historical event using cut-paper sculpture. I had fully intended on working alongside the class members  and illustrating a cathaphract (armored horseman) from the Romano-British period  of the 5th century but got stalled on the concept and finished it off in my regular airbrush/paint/pencil illustration technique.

 This painting is the result. It measures 9″X12″ and was rendered on illustration board, I still wince a little when I see it – I had this great idea about using plastic window screen mesh for the chain mail but it would be another fifteen years before my cut-paper skills would be up to the task.

Aboriginal Science Fiction Magazine Part 2

To Save An Auk 1988

Second of the illustrations I did for Charlie Ryan at Aboriginal Science Fiction magazine. Again, I cannot remember the title/author of the story this image accompanied but I do recall the plot had to do with researchers in inflatable watercraft “imprinting” migration patterns on a group of auks. It was a near-future story and I think the auks in question were an extinct breed that had been restored in a Jurassic Park-type process.

This was a transition piece for me. I am hard-wired to work in a graphic manner so painterly rendering does not come easy for me. While the sky/background and raft were produced in my regular airbrush method the figure, ocean and birds were all done with a brush.

Aboriginal Science Fiction Magazine

AboSF Police Dog

Charlie Ryan has spent a lifetime as an old-school journalist, but I know him best from the two science fiction magazines he published in the last quarter of the 20th century. I read every copy of his first book Galileo but I was lucky enough to produce illustrations for his sophomore effort Aboriginal Science Fiction. At the time I was trying to break out of the role-playing game market but I soon found that working for Charlies involved a lot more than just switching venues.  Illustrating a story is a little different than creating a game cover and it took some mental stretching on my part, but Charlie was always willing to work with me. He was also one of the first publishers to use my sculptural work in print when I made the change to dimensional illustration in the mid-Nineties.

This was the first illustration I did for him – it was also one of the first pieces I produced after we moved to Sterling, Alaska in 1987. I can’t remember the title of the story – the original was sold years ago and I’ve lost the magazine it appeared in during one of the four moves we’ve made in the last thirty years.

 

2019: Found Words

Art Appreciation was the class I was least interested in teaching when I first took on college art instruction in the fall of 1988, but as luck would have it was the class I taught most often and eventually my favorite subject to teach. Looking back it should have been no surprise as the course combined two of my academic loves (history and art) but I also enjoyed it for all the new information I picked up on technique and philosophy.

One concept especially interesting to me was the use of found objects – everyday consumer goods, packaging and cast-off items – in work by creators such as proto-Pop artist Joseph C. Cornel. I adapted a modified version of this idea in my own work by recreating combinations of everyday objects from wood, paper and resin and the general idea continues in my work to this day, but since I am more prone now to word-crunching than paint-sloshing I look for found words instead of found objects to use in artistic expression.

Many of these found words I’ve borrowed from foreign languages. While my two sons have been blessed with the gift of tongues, my own foray into linguistics has been tentative at best. I started with German in fifth grade after listening to Wehrmacht troops growl their Teutonic lines on Combat!  and college entrance requirements herded me into Spanish and Spanish II classes in high school. In 1974 my pride earned me a borderline B- in a university Japanese class but for the most part my use of other languages was an occasional word or phrase that added emphasis or humor when needed.

As a teenager and young adult most of those individual words were swear words, and not surprisingly many of them were bogus words that someone had invented1 then passed off as part of another culture’s lexicon. However in the last few years through the debatable miracle of FaceBook I have learned a couple of colorful terms so useful that if not actually part of another language should be declared to be so.

One is kintsukuroi,  a Japanese term that translates as “to repair with gold” and refers to the art or repairing pottery with precious metals with the understanding that the piece is more beautiful for being broken and repaired.  Growing up on a frontier meant using things until they wore out and fixing them when they broke and that mindset has stayed with me throughout my life. When we were first married My Beautiful Saxon Princess could never understand why I prized my patched Levi 501’s over my $502 designer Hash jeans with the star embroidered on the butt pocket. It wasn’t until we went through lean times of our own that she began to understand the concept when she saw how I treasured the cut-off jeans I wore every summer in the late 1990s, shorts that I wore not for comfort but for economy  when I took the money I would have otherwise spent on new trousers and used it in getting our sons launched in life.

Hiraeth is a term I’ve just recently discovered and as I understand it comes from the Welsh or one of the other Celtic tongues. It refers to homesickness for a place that you cannot return to, a place that no longer exists or perhaps never was. As we cope with a heat wave that is excessive even for Tennessee while our current society  warps more and more into a condition that I struggle to understand, this word comes to mind quite often, and I long for a place and time that is much cooler in both temperature and temperament.

As for crapulent; yes it is an English word, but is has a Latin root so I include it with my list of found words. I first heard it years ago on a Simpsons episode and while technically it refers to physical suffering from excessive eating or drinking it’s much too useful in describing a general dissatisfaction with daily life – when I wake up to find the last bit of milk left for my Trix has gone sour, my shoelace breaks when tying my shoes and there is a tax audit notice in the mail nothing describes my situation better than to say I’m having a perfectly crapulent day.

Unfortunately one found word that I wish I could un-find is cultural appropriation, a term used in a pejorative manner when referring to the use of words of items normally associated with another group, as in “only a Japanese person should wear a kimono”  or “only a Native American should do voice-over work for an animated Comanche warrior.” While I understand the importance for respect for all cultures I came of an age when more effort was put into being inclusive  rather than divisive – if certain current social trends continue I wonder if there will come a day when I’m judged too melatonin-deficient to love old school R& B or in possession of one too many Y chromosomes to be a true Joni Mitchell fan.

Whatever.

Until that day comes I will continue to borrow and tailor words from all sources to better communicate with and sometimes bring a smile to those around me.

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Notes:

  1. When I was in fifth grade I was convinced that my sister Robin had invented the word “barf” while my best friend Mark was convinced his older brother had coined the word.

 

  1. …which was serious money in 1977

Standing In The Creative Door.

There’s a point in airborne operations where the operation itself takes over reality and you become an element instead of an individual. It happens when:

  • The aircraft is orbiting the drop-zone
  • The jumpmaster has opened the door
  • Jumpers have hooked up
  • Equipment is checked and the sound-off made.

At that point you’ve become a round in belt of machine-gun ammunition and you are going out the door. Oh, you’ve been taught the procedure for refusing to jump but believe me – you’re going out that door…but it’s OK.

…that’s because it has transformed into a Zen feeling/experience – it’s out of your hands.

I’m hitting that point with Midnight Son. We’ve gone through the final edit and the cover art is done, needing just a bit of digital juju to get it ready for the press, so I figured I’d give you all a  sneak peak of that art:

Midnnight Son Cover Art

An Old Favorite…

CobraUpdate

As a bullet-proof twenty-six-year-old it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t continue on flight status throughout my entire career so the transition from UH-1 helicopter to M35A2 truck was a little rough. It took almost as long to adjust to the grounding as it took me to work through the loss of my father twenty-three years later, but my grounding would have been much more difficult had there not been some powerful compensations in play

One such compensation was working at the U.S. Army Aviation Digest. Shortly after arriving at FT Rucker I had made contact with the editor Dick and made arrangements to contribute – I knew that I’d eventually end up in the illustration market it seemed prudent to round out my student portfolio with actual printed work. When I was grounded I was able to wangle a staff assignment there which was infinitely better than being assigned to hand out socks at the gym.

The experience and printed work I gained at the Digest was the compensation I needed to help me cope with my vocational loss. Out of the dozen or so pieces I did there this illustration for an article on the AH1 Cobra Up-date program was my favorite. The original is much nicer looking than this printed version – the range of blues and greys just wasn’t reproduced adequately by the two-color system the digest used. The fact that the original hangs in our sitting room is a minor miracle; the Byzantine network of regulations governing pay and compensation for commissioned officers is such that any work I created for the magazine technically belonged to the Army, but as the editor was lecturing me on that matter the staff designer whisked the original out of the office and into my car.

Technical Notes: 21”X28”   Airbrush, pen and Prismacolor pencil on illustration board

Note: There is a significant technical error with this work of art that I was totally oblivious to before a friend and long-time gunship pilot pointed it out to me.

Feel free to comment.

A Different Perspective

Jayden gets the lion’s share of write-ups but I do have other grandchildren that can lay equal claim to my heart. Last week I received a packet in the mail from my older son and his family in Maryland, a packet full of letters and pictures that were all equally wonderful…but there was one image that really fascinates me.

Henrys Airship

It was created by a grandson I call  “Hank the Tank”. It would be natural to assume that I favor him because he bears the strongest resemblance to me as a child, but he also has a slightly tilted outlook on life that I love. He brings to mind another square peg in a round hole from decades ago.

Some of the imagery is recognizable but there is an element of the surreal that is very intriging.  I see whales, submarines, Zeppelins and rockets …and I have to wonder about the story behind it all.