Mechanism Revised

Mechanism Revision

… at least I think the title is “Mechanism”. For some long-forgotten reason I’ve titled all my abstract sculptures with names that start with the letter “M”. Unfortunately records of those titles are sparse – I lost  a lot of “stuff” during our 2007 and 2015 moves ( three moves = one fire )… and at 65  my short-term memory leaves something to be desired.

Maxim

Up until about a week ago this is what it looked like.

My original concept six years ago was to create a comment on ambiguous technology –  something that looks like it could have a function, but a function that isn’t readily identifiable. We’ve kept a running tally of interpretations and so far there’s been a 50/50 split between “gun” and “train” – though my mother-in-law insists it looks like a bomb.

The barrel-like extension on the right was never meant to literally be a gun-barrel but rather a way to allow the sculpt to control space with a minimum “effort”…then when we were surveying the front room pursuant to hanging more work I noticed that the “barrel” was starting to droop. The only positive aspect of that development seemed to be  providing grist for middle-school humor so I did some trimming week before last.

 

Stumble Fairy

2018-05-02 Stumble Fairy

…actually I did consider naming her “Stumblina” but the concept is already a few degrees to the side of the core Informal Fairy concept:  impish little ladies garbed in formal attire causing mayhem. With this young lady it was easier to see her doing the stumbling than try to portray her with implements she could use to cause a regular person to trip and fall.

A unforeseen time crunch kept me from finishing this drawing to the same degree as the Vision Fairy but I think the marker work establishes volume well enough.

I think I am going to have all the Informal Fairies in white gowns to be watching for a revised Vision Fairy

Vargyr

2018-05-01 Vargyr

The  rich variety in alien races populating Marc Miller’s Traveller science fiction role-playing game is a major factor in its popularity for the last thirty years. I was lucky enough to illustrate a series of booklets detailing each one of the major alien races – the only down-side being that it happened early in my career so the quality was inconsistent. Unfortunately it was the Vargyr cover in that series that didn’t work out very well.

On the surface that makes no sense as I am very much a “dog” person so you’d assume I’d do an A-1  job envisioning a canine race, however  I was involved in some very intense training with the National Guard at the same time and something had to give.,,,but the cover  was so bad that I  wasn’t able to look my Samoyed,  Sasha in the eye when the printed version hit the stores.  Since that time I’ve made sure to come up with better-than-average renderings when  Vargyr are in the manuscript.

This image will be used in the slowly percolating Traveller “Man At Arms” project.

Vision Fairy

2018-04-03 Vision Fairy

Last Christmas I shared a collection of watercolor paintings I’d created in the mid 1990s as part of a proposal for a line of collectible figurines and as all the paintings were produced in a two month period, Myrmaids ended up a strong,  cohesive body of work. Unfortunately the follow-up project ended up spread across a nine year period and didn’t turn out as well,   so my goal for 2018 was to rework Informal Fairies into something just as nice as my first concept.

That’s when my  wonderful idea was savagely struck down by cold, cruel reality. I’m twenty years older than the David that painted those undersea ladies , and I can’t handle a brush as well. I’ve developed a tremor that periodically quiets down but the truth is I cannot consistently handle a paint brush anymore. I can use a pencil, pen, marker, X-acto knife – anything that can make  contact with the working surface and steady my hand but when I paint there’s a 50/50 chance I’ll end up with something that could have been done by Monet.

…so I have to change my creative gears

This Vision Fairy is the source of all your broken glasses and  lost contacts. She was first  rendered on an 11″X17″ sheet of white paper using various ink pens – Flairs, gel pens, Micron-Pigmas and Sharpies. I had the image copied onto salmon-colored paper which was then colored/embellished with a pencil like a drawing done on a toned ground. I used  colored pencil, Micron-Pigma pens, Prismacolor designers’ markers, and acrylic paint – but the more intensely white/light colored areas are pieces of white paper cut to shape and mounted with spray adhesive – gives it a nice POP that works a lot better when you see the actual artwork.

The marbilized paper used in the background graphic device is also David-made.. Every couple of months I barricade myself in the shop and spend a day making a supply of the stuff to draw on later.

Music: Reassuring Voices

Consider the topic of tastes and most people think sweet, sour, salty and bitter. The Japanese add one more category called umami which literally translates as “delicious” but is often interpreted to mean savory. I’ve always thought of umami more as of a mellow happy almost-after taste, the kind of flavor that comes with a piece of provolone cheese on an onion bagel, preferably washed down with hot (dark) cocoa the way it was served in Milan, Italy.

There is a group of vocalists that for me sound the way umami tastes – mellow, happy and unobtrusive.  I call them the Reassuring Voices: Musicians/vocalists with a pure tenor that can be aural Xanax for me. I’m not sure why but the sound of their voices just seems …well, reassuring. When I listen to them I am wrapped with the feeling that even if my life currently feels like a train wreck in slow motion everything is going to work out/everything is going to be OK.

The musicians attached to these wonderful vocals are

 

James Taylor: Unlike others on this list, Taylor’s work has been influential to me over most of my adult life and not just one phase. In particular his work has been the background music for three very pivotal times in my life:

  • Mud Slide Slim – University of Alaska
  • In the Pocket – Fall of 1976 when I was courting my beautiful Saxon Princess, Lori
  • Never Die Young – 1987-89 when my young family and I were “house-sitters” at my parent’s home in Sterling, Alaska

 

 

Paul McCartney: Choosing both Rubber Soul and Ram as favorites can be expected but I get mixed response when I tell people I love the soundtrack to Give My Regards to Broad Street.  It was the background music for that time in my career when I realized I was going to survive as an illustrator and that our next address wouldn’t be “221B I-15 Underpass” It was like having a childhood friend say “Hey, you’re going to make it mate!”

 

 

Sting: If “reassuring voices” are like provolone on an onion bagel, Sting has some Dijon mustard added on the top – just a tad bit edgier. The Dream of the Blue Turtle, Nothing Like the Sun and to a lesser extent Soul Cages and Ten Summoner’s Tales were the soundtrack to the “Elvis Years” of 1985 to 1991 when my cover illustrations appeared in gaming & hobby shops all over the world and I was so busy I had to farm out work to friends. It was also when I first started considering my mortality; I still looked good, but I could no longer do sixty pushups in 2:00 or run two miles in 14:15.

Lance Nelson: You can stop scratching your head because no, you probably haven’t heard of him. Lance is a consummate musician and (as John Lennon said of Paul McCartney) “a truly inspired bass player”.  He’s also one of my best friends. He set his musical aspirations aside for a season to pursue a distinguished career as an assistant attorney general for the state of Alaska, but he’s resumed his music and I expect wonderful results.

I date my appreciation for his soothing tenor to a specific event in the late winter of 1972 while I was at the University of Alaska (Fairbanks). It was not a good time for me – one of the rare unhappy periods during my time at UA, mainly because of the following:

  • I was flunking Algebra II and World History.
  • I’d been propositioned by my history teacher – my “attentions” for a passing grade.
  • The other residents in my dorm floor thought I was a narc.

My Best Friend and I spent one evening listening to Lance and his girlfriend play through a selection of songs and when they got to Teach Your Children I just lost it. His high tenor melody against her alto harmony was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever heard and feeling of elemental peace draped over me like a quilt on a cold night.

All these voices are just as reassuring to me now. That issue of mortality that troubled me in the late 80s figures even more prominently now – and I must wonder if I have a pull-date stamped on my fourth-point-of-contact. On days that I can’t walk very well, or it seems like I am chained to a nebulizer, popping “In the Pocket” into my CD player brings a lot of comfort.

…and for the record, I wasn’t a narc, I just didn’t smoke weed.  I also did not take up on my history teacher’s proposition; I thanked him for the compliment, told him I was dead butch and took the F.

Zhodani Soldier

2018-04-02 Zhodani Soldier

This is actually a rejected drawing for Marc Miller’s  project that I mentioned in my last post – the pose is a little too loose to be cut & copied into a large unit of soldiers. However, I liked the pose and initial sketch enough to take it into a polished pen & ink in an 11″X17″ format that could be included in a later project.

It’s always a challenge to envision the future because it’s coming at us so quickly.  It’s  easy to be quickly overcome by progress – if you look at episodes of the 1995 SF series “Space: Above & Beyond” you can see how  close the ground combat uniforms resemble current infantry equipment. It’s also difficult to come up with something for an alien race like Traveller’s psionic Zhodani without resorting to the wildly organic motif and goo so popular in entertainment today.

…then there’s the requirement  to  conform to pre-existing designs which limits me to minor detail changes. Since I am a firm believer in the dictum “form follows function”  I rarely end up with the excessively detailed baroque exteriors that also seem to be the style.

One more thing – some of the elements in this suit’s design I borrowed from Bryan Gibson, a friend and incredibly talented artist who passed away a couple of years ago. I miss him so I included those features as a mini-memorial.

Off-World Dragoon

2018-04-01 MillerDragoonNo, that isn’t a typo – I meant to “dragoon” instead of “dragon”.

Dragoon is a dated term for a mounted infantryman – a soldier who rides to battle but dismounts to fight. During the 19th century  the term was slowly changed to refer to any kind of horse-bound solider, a trend that was spurred* on by economy. Per man true cavalrymen cost the Crown more so by calling them dragoons the Horse Guards could get away with paying a lower rate to regimental commanders.

All of which comes perilously close to the wilderness of Non Sequitur…

One of my on-going projects is a group of generic troop figures  Marc Miller is going to be using in an up-coming project – and by definition they are not too terribly exciting so I render them on 8 1/2″ X 11″ paper. Every now and then I luck into something that a) is a little more interesting and b) usable for a book project of my own. I produce those images  in a larger (11″X17″) more detail-friendly format.  That was the case with this drawing.

Drawn with Pigma Micron felt-tip pens of varying weights. I usually come back in with Prismacolor markers but it’s nice sometime to see just the line work  for the same reason I like dimensional work in one color: it lets me soak in the detail.


  • yes, I know. Terrible, terrible pun.

Sketchbook Superman

Big Blue

I’m fascinated by the wonderful yet economical way superheroes are portrayed in cartoons. I have been enjoying Warner’s latest treatment of the DC slate of heroes in  Justice League Action and it  amazes me how such evocative figures  images can be made with such a paucity of line. I try to duplicate the effect in my sketchbook but I inevitably get caught up in extra detail, as in this sketch of a young Superman with an articulated suit like the one Jim Lee came up with for the New 52 DC reboot a couple of years back.

Truth be told I am frustrated by just about anything I try to create anymore. I had big plans for doing airbrush work again, but my age betrays me. It’s bad enough that I’ve forgotten a lot but now I have an intermittent tremor to battle that seems to kick in right when I need the most control.  .

The Car-key Fairy

FinishedKeyFairy

Sometime after putting together the Myrmaids concept I came up with a second line of figures called (In)Formal Fairies, a mish-mash reimagining of the traditional gremlin concept but based on female fairies dressed in formal gowns rather than ugly critters that you can’t feed or get wet. I wasn’t able to put nearly as much time and energy into this second concept, so production of the concept paintings ended up spread over several years.

Long story short:  quality is very inconsistent so I’m going back to the drawing board for a new set of images on which to base my copyright application.

However…

I produced sculpts for two of the fairies that have held up well. Occasionally I will sell a casting, but I haven’t sold very many because:

  1. A) I’d like to get the entire set of images finished and under registered copyright first
  2. B) I have to put a pretty hefty price tag on them – there’s a LOT of clean-up work required after casting, not to mention the time involved in quality painting.

Now, do you ever wonder where those car keys went? The ones that you just had in your pocket yesterday? Well, look no further than the young lady imp pictured today. Done up in a shimmering formal gown complete with cocktail gloves, she is getting ready to drop the aforementioned get of keys down a heating vent, where you’ll never, ever  think to look for them…