Something Closer to the Right Side….

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Something Closer to the RIght Side....

Even though the precision with which I make my cut-paper sculpts can readily lure me into Left Brain Land, I think I avoided that trap with this piece. It was originally done about ten years ago (close after the “long/skinny” I just posted) but I revised it this last year before giving it to my friend Hank Taylor upon his promotion to colonel.

The bright colors and near-whimsical rendering style are not an exact fit for the intensity and tone of the Normandy invasion but there is still a sense of strong emotion, that butterfly-on-steroids feeling you get in your stomach before making a night equipment jump.

When The Left Side of My Brain Takes Over

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When The Left Side of My Brain Takes Over

As a kid the first thing I would go after seeing a great movie or television show was to “play it.” Not being content to totally plop back into the real world I would make up imagination games centered on the film. After The Longest Day I pulled a crate out of the garage and used it for a landing craft at Omaha Beach. Classic Trek had me making props out of wood scraps and old Band-Aid tins as well as taping paper insignia to my green and blue T-shirts. The Fall of the Roman Empire? My mom’s wooden spoon became a gladius and the couch morphed into a horde of barbarians.

I still do the same thing, albeit in a slightly different way. If I get hyped about something I’ll use it as a theme in art–but it isn’t always totally successful art.

As a Steven Ambrose fan and former paratrooper it was not surprise that Band of Brothers was a hit with me; even so, it took me awhile to get something done reflecting that interest. This “long/skinny” was the first Easy Company piece I finished, but it lacks the strong emotion I felt in the miniseries, and there is a good reason why. If you look closely, you’ll see that this painting is almost more of a diagram than a painting. Every detail is exactly right–and it should be, considering the amount of research I did. The analytical left side of my brain usurped the right side and took over the project; consequently, it ended up feeling pretty stiff.

Dimensional Illustration: Mote Warrior

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Dimensional Illustration; Mote Warrior

Dimensional illustration was a niche specialty that saw most of its popularity in the ’80s and ’90s. The term referred to sculptural work that was photographed and used as illustration in lieu of flat work and it did well enough to warrant its own annual awards presentation (I won a Bronze Medal in 1993 for an interior I did for Amazing Stories).

I did several dimensional pieces for my friend Charlie Ryan at Aboriginal Science Fiction but the overwhelming influence of computer-generated imagery smothered the use of “real” dimensional work.

This is how I imagined the Mote Warriors from the SF classic The Mote in God’s Eye; the environment measures 16″ X 24″ X 8″ and is built of wood, Bondo, plastic, paper and paint. The figure is made of Super Scuply and Pro-Mat.

Photography by Roy Buckener of Kennesaw Creative.

From the collection of Jeff Barnes.

What Analog Artists Do When the Power Goes Out

I am an easy-going person and I get along with just about everyone, but occasionally I will run into someone who seems to feel that my face is a face born to slap. When I was younger it would cause me a lot of distress and it’s still not much fun at sixty, but the most stressful aspect did not know what the cause of this rancor was…then one day the last Lego snapped into place.

Art.

There are a lot of frustrated artists in the world, people who would like to be creative but lack the skill to do so. There are also people with talent that would like to be working with that talent full-time, but can’t quite make the jump to freelancing. In either case soon after they learn I am a freelancer illustrator I start getting red faces, clipped word and baleful stares aimed in my direction.

Unfortunately on one occasion I had one of these people as a client.  The minute I walked through the door the drive-by sarcastic quips started up, beginning with the “Computers are putting guys like you out of a job” and ended with the usual stale “you want fries with that” jokes shouted out the door as I walked out to my car. I wasn’t in much of a mood for the comments but when I did the math it turned out to be a very cushy assignment. The company made custom campers and trailers for the telephone and cable industry and they needed a dozen line drawings of their product. Between the great shot reference photos I shot in their yard and the fact that I can render hardware in my sleep it was going to work out into one of the better dollar-per-hour rates I had ever made, so I sped home and got ready to start work…but the minute I sat down at my studio desk there was a knock at the door.

It was a representative from electric company; because they had to replace some aging transformers or framistats or whatever in the neighborhood they were going to shut the power off from nine in the morning to three in the afternoon for the rest of the week. I chuckled for a minute, then took my drawings to a desk in another room, pushed the desk close to a window for better lighting, then continued working.

On Thursday I called the client and made arrangements to meet. He had heard about the power outage in my neighborhood and was very brusque, telling me that he was a business man with deadlines to meet and he couldn’t be expected to “carry someone else’s load”–which I assumed meant he thought I was going to be asking for more time on the project. The other shoe hadn’t dropped yet–he had been so caught up in being caustic that it didn’t occur to him that I didn’t need a computer to do the work.

I wished I’d had the proverbial camera with me when I brought in all the drawings, complete and a day early. His expression telegraphed his internal reaction so obviously that all I could think was how quickly I could pay off school loans if I ever got in a card game with with this guy. As I turned the illustrations in and the check was being written his face never ceased its ballet of disappointed twitches and tics …though he did get in a parting shot by rejecting one of the pieces as something he supposedly had “never asked for” and docking me a hundred bucks.

I had my own dilemma to solve as well.  The adult in me was urging a kinder attitude, but the teenager in me was hopping up and down in a celebration of reverse-schadenfreude, ready to trade some extra time in spirit prison in exchange for watching that face-tango for another 10 minutes. Yes, computers are the future, but for now I’m happy drawing with my pencils and pens as an “analog” artist, whether the lights are on or off.

HughesTruck

Sketchbook Drawings

After my fire-and-brimstone sketchbook post the other day I thought I would post most sketchbook drawings here on the blog. I don’t have dates for all of these–I know that they are all Clarksville work though.

Fae Trooper: Uniform design for a shared universe my son Conrad and I have worked on.

Fae Trooper

Brule: Another one for Conrad; I think he was going through a King Kull phase

Brule

Batgirl: While I applaud DC’s daring for their recent 52 relaunch, I was less than thrilled with the way storylines in so many books were just chopped off with the literary equivalent to a rusty machete.

2012-11-02 BatGirl

Slinky Girls: Lori and I have a deal. I can draw what I want in my sketchbook, but she gets to edit it….which means it stays PG-13. I am fine with that – leaving things to your imagination .

2011-05-03 Sketchbook MAY

I also want to point out  that while it is true some of these outfits look like they were made in a belt factory, none of these women are weak in any way. All the drawings were done on 5 1/2″ X 8″ sheets of paper using pencil, gel pen, design markers and a bit of paint. (The trooper was a little larger). The two slinky girls were done on a toned paper with white paper affixed at the appropriate points with spray adhesive. None of the drawings took me longer than an hour to complete.

Orcavalry

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Orcavalry

My signature piece during the late 1980s. Airbrush, acrylic and colored pencil on hot-press watercolor board. I don’t have the dimensions handy but I am thinking it’s about 24″H X 20″V.

Looking at this painting conjures up some very conflicting memories. I did it in the late summer of 1986: I was suffering through the initial onset flare of ankylosing spondylitis which brought with it chronic severe back pain interspersed with spasms in my chest and an elevated sedimentation level in my blood that had the doctors considering rheumatic fever at first. We were living in Orem, Utah so it was very hot – but I did have a second story studio over the garage which provided me with a nice cross breeze. I was listening to John LeCarre novels on books-on-tape and I was extremely homesick. I had been able to fly north for my sister Robin’s graduation the previous spring but the visit just wasn’t long enough for my taste

So, I look at this and think of homesick spies with back-aches sweating in 90 degree weather with 0% humidity….

HMS Aphid Aerial Gunboat

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HMS Aphid Aerial Gunboat

(I apologize in advance if you get this image twice. I’m still learning the ropes what gets forwarded where when I post something here)

I made this model while doing pre-production design for Space:1889. GDW handled visual aspects for the game series in the same way a movie would be designed out before any film rolled.

Why the model? I knew the ship would appear quite often and I wanted convenient, consistent reference. It began as a simple I-board mock-up hovering between 1:54 and 1:72 scale-wise and painted overall primer grey to aid photography…but when I saw how good it turned out I finished it off, giving it a full-color paint job, adding Ral Partha miniatures for crew and using period-correct ship fixtures purchased from Flying Dromedary Inc.

I was very selective about showing it for the first couple of years as it was part of the whole Space:1889 design package for which I had been paid a retainer – I was a little concerned that I’d have to give it to them. Luckily Frank was feeling gracious the day I asked about it and “gave” it to me.

Many fan-built ships differ slightly because the first published drawings of the Aphid show differences from mid-point aft to the propeller. I found that as I was making the model some aspects of my first design looked fine from just one angle – but appeared pretty clunk when viewed in the round.

Machine

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Machine

I tell people that I am the “Swiss Army knife of artists” because I work in so many types of media. You can’t teach in junior colleges for any length of time and end up the same way – if there are enough students who need/want a class you have to jump in the deep end do your best.

I’m also a bit of a heretic in that I like both representational AND abstract art, though I probably cheat a little bit in that the abstract work I do has recognizable aspects, just mixed up in a different way.

Done in 2010, this is entitled “Machine”. It’s between five and six feet long and is made of wood, foam-core (both regular and gator board flavors, styrene plastic with Bondo and paint to finish it off.

Thank You, Albert Jones (the Inventor of Cardboard!)

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Thank You, Albert Jones  (the inventor of cardboard!)

My children refuse to call me an artist. They tell me that I am a “maker” instead – which I can understand because the trappings of the art world have never meant as much to me as the down-and-dirty “making” part–hence things like large cardboard vehicles.

This was made just a little bit earlier than the Batmobile I showed the other day. History nerds that we are you will note that this is a specific tank–the M3 Grant with a gun in the turret and a larger one on the right side of the hull.

When it was built in the fall of 1991 there was room for me and both boys inside. By the following spring they had grown so much that it had become a single-seater.