Monday, December 23, 2013

One of the Best Ghost Stories
Scrooge's Door Knocker. Mixed media on wood, private collection.

"One of the most enduring Christmas traditions is the telling of ghost stories and the most famous of all frightening festive tales is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol originally published on the 19th December 1843. It tells the story of miserly business man Ebeneezer Scrooge and his life-changing encounter with the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future one creepy Christmas Eve night and has been filmed many times over the years. Perhaps the most creepy of all the adaptations is the 1971 animated ABC-TV special starring Michael Redgrave as the narrator and Alastair Sim as Scrooge. Indeed, this version was held in such high regard that it was eventually released to cinemas and won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short in 1972. With its emphasis on death, gloom, ghosts and horror this short film is a real treat for classic horror fans particularly during the festive season." *

Quoted the above because I couldn't have said it better.

I loved it then, I love it now. Here's the film in its entirety:

I'm sure the movie's version of Marley's Ghost influenced me as a youngster, and I attempted this version a few years later, in art school.

But the film's artwork--in fact the whole film--is amazing!

Thank you for following my blog. I hope you enjoy this Holiday Season, and my best wishes for a contented New Year!



Thursday, December 19, 2013

Saint Elmo (Saint Erasmus) Prelims
Preliminary head study for St. Elmo, 9" x 12", graphite and prismacolor on toned paper.
I am working on a commission for Saint Elmo, the patron saint of sailors.
 Legend has it that when a bluish light--an electrical discharge--appeared on mastheads or riggings before and after a storm, seamen took it as a sign of Saint Elmo's (or Saint Erasmus's) protection. Thus, it became known as "St. Elmo's fire".
Before I do anything, I like to put down at least 8 - 10 thumbnails. Here's a sketchbook page, with some early thumbnails and some 18th century traveler's clothing studies. (Which I decided suited him, as the painting was requested as a companion piece to a Saint Cecilia, whom I costumed in that same era several years ago.)
Who could not appreciate Howard Pyle's amazing Flying Dutchman?
Therefore, my work will be a bit of a tribute to that great illustrator. Hope he doesn't mind.
Sketch of Saint Erasmus on the stern.
In developing the costume, a few sketches like this prepare me for the larger work, except in this case I got carried away with the pen and ink. Still, I don't consider studies like this time wasted; I learned a lot about this type of clothing, and revisited some great pen and ink artists too. Among my favorites; Joseph Clement Coll, Heath Robinson, and A.B. Frost.
And there will be a Raven on board, because one legend describes Saint Erasmus starving in prison, kept alive by a raven which brought him food (and also because I love those birds).
An early, messed-up prelim.
 I find straight-on head studies a challenge--even more than three-quarter views. A mistake I tend to repeat: Drawing the features way to big for the size of the head. (Maybe I oughta quit sketching on the couch, and get serious at the drawing table.)
Redrawing the head to the correct proportion was a wise choice, resulting in the sketch at the top of this post. He's looking pretty Nordic instead of Italian, though.
(As final ghoulish note: If you look up images on the internet, you'll find many paintings of Erasmus being martyred by having his intestines wound up on a spit. They had me wincing. The lives and deaths of the saints often make for some gripping reads!)
Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Objects, and the Thingness of Them, etc.
Special Rum. Mixed media.

Two, related subjects: The importance of being bushwhacked, and the importance of a "thing".

First subject: I'm constantly sucker-punched by new art discoveries. I admit to then getting easily sidetracked. But it's a wonderful thing! This past year I was blindsided by some amazing still-life works by French artist Guillaume Mongenet*.

But as I wrote in my previous post, I've not been one to happily draw objects myself until recently. Mongenet's approach to objects is an example of what a creative person can do with them--taking them far beyond mundane studies.

An example: Lantern (used in Mongenet's catalogue above) now hangs in my studio. I was thankful it was still available. It is beyond visual; it is tactile, filled with spirit, and it inspires me to try harder.

Look at this detail of Mongenet's Lantern--gorgeously haunting. What use of mixed media, and what a cool treatment of Object!

Now I've also been recently blindsided by object art digitally created for video games. Many of those artworks are wonderfully rich, with the same appeal as the objects drawn for classic Disney animated films many years ago. Between Guillaume Mongenet's objects, and game-artist's objects, I'm hooked on making a bunch of my own.

Here is Special Rum, prior to the addition of color. I am enjoying drawing objects immensely.

Second subject: I thrive on actual objects. One-of-a-kind things; vintage objects with wear and tear and age have always attracted me, and art objects have the same attraction. Both types are things, but special things that enrich my living space and my life. For me, neither objects nor art need to be expensive or large--they simply have to have a soul.

Now I am not one to dismiss digital art, and never will. Art is art, period. I admire and am intrigued by so many great people who create amazing artworks via digital media.  But I will always want the "thing"--the one and only, made-by-hand, piece of art. So while I'm incredibly inspired and in awe of digital art, it could only sit there on my computer screen, or come to me as a print. And a print hasn't got that "thingness" that will breathe its spirit into me.
This view of Mongenet's Lantern gives you an idea; the achingly-marvelous, tactile surface of the original. No print can affect me like this--the real, handcrafted thing.
 You can accuse me of being elitist or a materialist. I don't think I am. Art is art--it doesn't need labels or corrals in order to be legitimate. But for me, the unique piece with the hand of the artist or craftsman stamped on it is essential.

*And check out more works of Guillaume Mongenet!

Thanks for the visit!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Snow Scenes--A Couple Favorites

Bird Trapper. Jean-Francois Millet
A few subjects really stick me hard in the gut. Some snow scenes seem to do it, and this is one of them.
 Sometimes I'm not sure if it's because of a memory or a dream, but whichever, the feeling stirred is deep and profound. Is it really only the light--the verisimilitude?
Snow, Real Snow. Honore Daumier
Here is another work that hits my sweet spot. In this case, the light again is perfect and stirring, and that goofy fellow in the nightcap? He's Everyman.
I know it's not officially winter, but it is snowing hard right now in Denver. It's quiet and still, but the view out my window just doesn't measure up to those masterpieces.
Nonetheless, a peaceful day to you--and thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Automatic Writing

The Kobold's House (work in progress). Mixed media on wood. Private collection.

Certainly, there's much to be said about careful planning. And I honestly do that for many of my works--especially commissions and illustrations. Lack of planning--especially in the form of thumbnails, generally leads to lackluster pictures.

That being said, I am not a natural planner, and I indulge in much "Automatic Drawing" for the simple joy and mystery of it. I liken it to Automatic Writing . Even though my first and so far, only exposure to that phenomenon was through the hideous Mrs. Montague in Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House, the unconscious act of letting my pencil do what it will seems very like a paranormal activity. (And unlike the ridiculous night-vision-ghost-hunter shows, I actually get to see a satisfying result.)

For this piece, the only thought in my head was working with an orange light at night. I had a pre-primed wood circle in the drawer and late one night, I drew the picture directly onto the wood. It felt like meditation--very few conscious  thoughts were present, and while I know there are imperfections, I loved the drawing and relished the process.

I inked it with a small brush and added the cross-hatching the next morning. Application of the colored inks and acrylics followed. The best thing, by suspending any "perfection goal", I learned a lot. There is very little I like better--at least art-related.

I am a great subscriber to Jung's theories about archetypes and inspiration--in this case his archetype of the home. The upper floor represents the conscious personality, the ground floor is the personal unconscious, and the deeper level is the collective unconscious – the primitive, shared aspect of psychic life.
The Kobold is a faery denizen often living deep in mines. This fellow's conscious personality likes comfort though, and lives on his own snug main floor. To access the mine, he heads down to the pantry--his personal unconscious mind. The trap door in his pantry leads down the creaky wooden steps to the collective unconscious.

To access the mine, sometimes all I have to do is have a clean surface for drawing.

Thanks for the visit!

Ps. It'll be available for purchase at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities in a few short weeks.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Fragment File
To toss or not to toss?
The Fish Hook Mix pic above is in my fragment file. It's an echo from my teaching days, during which my lifelines to new music were my students. They kept me updated on tune-essentials with mix discs, and in turn I supplied them with my favorites. Often they'd decorate the disc cases, so I started doing the same. This one never got finished, but I found it in the fragment file.
I am not a hoarder, but I keep unfinished bits in the fragment file. It's just a box on the top shelf in the studio closet, and it's nearly busting open with undeveloped bits done recently, and long ago.
Like a sketchbook, the box is a bit of a journal. The only problem--I don't know how old many are or even the initial impetus for some... this smeary little photographer on tracing paper.
But I hang onto them, mostly because I know the "dry-days"--those absolutely uncreative times when nothing stimulates--will occur. And when leafing through books or gazing at Pinterest doesn't frack something loose, I can ink and watercolor something from the box--a piece once begun but yet unfinished.
This unfinished Humpty Dumpty maybe...
...or the portly-man out for a walk, drawn onto a thick piece of watercolor paper.
Pretty sure that it's a good idea to keep most everything I draw-- even if it's incomplete-- for now. And when I'm on my deathbed, I'll order the fragment file into the fire.
Thanks for checking in!

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Victorian Collector
Entomologist (detail), mixed media on panel.

Clothing of the past, especially that of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, has compelled me since childhood--primarily because of my exposure to the Victorian illustrators of Dickens' works.

Captain Cuttle tries to escape Mrs. Mac Stinger in this illustration by Phiz (Hablot Knight Browne)
from Dombey and Son, by Charles Dickens.

 Most are engravings after the drawings, and all are in black and white, but the energy and atmosphere of them blows me away.

This old photo of a Victorian worker in sack coat and vest is one of the resources I used for the Entomologist's vest...

...but my drawings seldom bear much resemblance to the resource.

Entomologist. Mixed media on panel, 4" x 4". Private collection.

I'm working on a series of small works for an upcoming show, and have been trying my hand at new (for me) spins on familiar techniques.

For this painting, I used a warm mixture of sepia and india inks over a pencil drawing. A warm wash of raw umber followed, and then watercolor and acrylic ink colors came next. When the figures were done, I masked them with paper and spattered the piece using an atomizer. White gouache and a bit of white gesso provided the highlights. I sealed the painting with UV-blocking gloss varnish. It'll be mounted on wood and varnished one more time before the show.

Feel free to check out my Victorian/Edwardian resource board on Pinterest and
Thanks for checking out this post!


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Interactive Inspiration

Witch sketch (detail), mixed media

In the dark about most things having to do with gaming or other things interactive, I still managed to fall in love with an exhibit/art experience called Shadow Monsters, by Philip Worthington. 

Maybe it was the fact that I was in Seattle; maybe it was the total pleasure I get every time I visit the EMP Museum, but I was enthralled by Shadow Monsters, to the point of suspending my usual self-consciousness to become a shadow-hog, oblivious to any audience I may have had. Gyrating, hunching, and otherwise indulging in a variety of poses, a few photos below give you the idea:

I'm there on the right, turning into a creature threatening my daughter.

And me transforming along with my backpack.

A collaborative creature featuring my daughter and me.

There are more photos, there were many more creatures. I couldn't tear myself away! Luckily, the museum was quiet that day so I wasn't putting anyone out. Well, not many anyway.

Back at the hotel that evening, I was compelled to try a few sketches inspired by Worthington's masterpiece. The witch detail at the top is one.

Here's the complete witch...

and a creature sketch.
A tip of my hat to Philip Worthington!
Big screen TV? Meh. Video games? Yawn...
But if a home version of Shadow Monsters ever goes on sale, I'd be camping out in line to get one!
If you haven't experienced this amazing interactive art, you are missing an art masterpiece.
Check out more info at
Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Passenger. Mixed media.

Am all in my head, suddenly thinking hard about what I do, why I do it, and what I am gonna do about it.
(And I wonder why artists are so often accused of being navel-gazers.)

Still, if art motivation (or any other motivation) isn't examined once in awhile, the result could be tedium, or much worse.

But thinking about where I want my pictures to go next has never been a preoccupation until recently. Finished this little fellow after a workshop about characters.
Now I need to take everything I 've learned from the past six months of self-imposed study and everything I learned from the workshop (which was a lot) and move ahead.


When I figure it out, it'll show up here I guess.

Anyway, thanks for the visit!

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Great Pumpkin Workshop
A detail of a Work in Progress. I'm hoping to finish it tonight.
Last Sunday I got the chance to teach a four hour mini-workshop about Drawing 3D Jack O'Lanterns.
Teaching is particularly satisfying when the group is fearless or cheerful, and fortunately, this group was both.
I covered quite a bit of information in a short time, and using their drawn notes and a goofy plastic pumpkin for reference, the class jumped into their drawings!
 I apologize for my poor photo skills. Still, you can see some of the class' WIPs below:
An emerging sketch by an artist who specializes in graffiti-style works.
Another by a young lady of about ten years old;
This one by the young lady's Mom.
 A page of notes and the resulting WIP.
This one was by a student who told me this was her second attempt at art--her first being a wine and paint experience.
Hope they all were as pleased with their results as I was!

The class took place at Willow: An Artisans Market
The owner, Helen Rice, is warm and hospitable, and it's a wonderful gallery to explore. In addition, a variety of classes run there on Sunday afternoons. Take advantage of them if you can.
Thanks for checking this out!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Inspirations, Coveted Things, and Some Old Drawings

Very little of my childhood stuff remains, but this magazine somehow survived. The classic horror films were (probably still are) a major influence. Afflicted with nightmares as a kid, I still couldn't  resist this magazine. Year after year my parents would hesitantly buy me a copy when we'd go on a road trip. That probably kept me fairly quiet--at least during the day.
Each issue was full of corny text and terrible puns, but I ate up the black and white photos of the filmland creatures, and yearned for all the offers advertised in the back.
This fantastic model kit for only .98 plus .27 for shipping? I wanted this so bad--hard to believe I didn't have a dollar and a quarter for it.
But this really kills me--only one buck for a lifetime membership, a full color pin, and an 8" x 10" full color print of Frazetta's Uncle Creepy!
Couldn't scrape up a dollar for this either, but in one way it was a good thing--it forced me to draw my own monster versions, which my parents carefully saved in a folder.
Frankenstein's Creature
The Phantom of the Opera
Renfield (from Dracula)
More than any of the monsters, this guy scared the heck out of me. Dwight Frye's portrayal spawned more than a few night terrors. Maybe drawing him helped a bit. (I obviously had little patience with color back then.)
But they all have pinholes in the tops, which means they hung as my bedroom décor.
Thanks for checking this out!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fall Season Stuff
Evil Jack (detail of black and white version). Pen and ink with gouache, private collection.
Good old October. Usually unprepared, this year lots of my works have centered around witches and pumpkins, etc. Evil Jack was first sketched out on a recent plane ride to Seattle. And the expression?  It was on the face of a sales clerk I saw at JoAnn--no kidding! (Very glad she wasn't holding scissors.)
I try to be aware of and remember lots of faces and expressions for use later in drawings, and if I see a good one well, a quick sketch of the memory once I'm home usually cements into my brain. In this case, the expression was unforgettable. Put me in mind of a good horror flick it did!.
Evil Jack II (detail of color version). Pen, inks, and gouache, private collection.
The stuff nightmares are made of, right?
But it is Halloween season, and I'm going to be teaching an illustration-techniques workshop--featuring Jack O' Lanterns at Willow, one of the galleries that represents my work.
Not quite as malevolent-looking as Evil Jack. Probably because the expression didn't come from anything I'd recently seen, and it was a quick sketch. Still, this is the one Willow used for the class promo.
I'm looking forward to the workshop, and have always been partial to drawing 3-d pumpkins. 

And if you're in town and want to join me for the workshop, just email the gallery and they will reserve your space:
Thanks for checking out the work!

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