Friday, November 27, 2015

Thursday, November 26, 2015

1174 - Venetian Mask II

The lady's mask has a graduated underpainting.  I'll next add some decorations and filigree to make it more festive.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

1173 - Our Lady In Throne VII

The seventh pass at this icon fixed a few things and made a few other things more complicated.  I smoothed out some of the rough details in the throne and in the gilding.  Christ's halo looks less like a "deflate-gate" football.  

I added detail to the faces, but they sure do look strange.  Mary is contrary, and here eyeless mask looks disturbing.  Jesus looks like a Klingon trying to imitate Justin Bieber in a karaoke bar.  I don't have the skill yet to keep the bits and pieces of the face from floating around unpredictably.  I suppose if I painted more slowly, I would not run into this problem.   Next week, I will fix it as best as I can.  There's still many coats of paint that need to be applied.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

1172 - The Cookie Nurses

A pair of Muppet-style nurses gaze upon a pile of cookies.  The cookie came from my sketchbook.

Monday, November 23, 2015

1171 - Venetian Masks I

Rolling the dice against the odds of the Universe, I have somehow been invited to a masquerade ball.  It's a true masquerade, where gents wear tuxedos and the ladies wear gowns and all wear masks!  I know there will be some gorgeous people  attending, and so will I.  What artist would not want to go to one of these, even an antisocial introvert like me?  Behind my mask, I can pretend to be rich and worldly and nobody will be the wiser.  Regardless if my tomfoolery manages to flutter coquettish hearts - or not, as my tomfoolery is definitely in need of an overhaul... does anyone even use tomfoolery anymore?  - I have the opportunity to astound and astonish all with my hand-made masks!

There are still today master mask makers, and I am not one of them.  I've never made a mask since probably grade school.  But I do have several painting techniques gleaned from iconography, so I am confident in my approach. 

The first stage to making a mask is the most daunting one.  I managed to sidestep the manufacturing of a mask by purchasing blank paper masks from our local dollar store.  This was truly lucky, since the quality of the papier-mâché was surprisingly good.  It's not strong papier-mâché like you would get from the mask makers in Venice, but it should hold up for one night of revelry.  

Despite the decent quality of the masks, they both fit very poorly. They both had sealed mouths and noses, which would make eating at the banquet difficult, let alone breathing, which is also important.  I cut and reshaped the masks.  They still fit shabbily, but an insert on the inside will make them comfortable.  In comparison, Venetian masks fit beautifully and are extremely comfortable to wear for long durations.  That's likely the hallmark of a Venetian mask master.  

To make the paint bind properly to the mask, I primed them both with several coats of acrylic gesso. This is what you see in the picture above.  I should have used soy-based gesso, since the acrylic stuff has a smell to it.  I figure the masks will air out by the night of the party.  In subsequent JSVB posts, I'll be sure to update my progress on these masks!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

1170 - Our Lady In Throne VI

Some days, my fate is not to be able to paint in straight lines.  Those are the days I end up painting the straight lines, adding detail into the throne.  The colours are correct, the lines are sloppy.  That can be fixed, as always.  

Friday, November 20, 2015

1169 - Futuristic Panamax III

I'm presenting another iteration of my futuristic Panamax freighter.  This one is based on a liquid natural gas carrier, a common enough sight around here.  It's also pretty close to the final design I'd like to achieve.  

Saturday, November 14, 2015

1168 - "Interstate 10"

I cannot believe I am finally holding this book!

I was expecting a package from Amazon yesterday.   Instead, I found a package sent to me by my Uncle Thad.  Breaking open the seal, I found some old used books he'd thought to send me.   Most of them were art reference books, the kind of volumes I like to collect for my personal research.  A couple were novels, cheap, pulpy, yet well-read. 

Then, I had to sit down.  I was holding a copy of Interstate 10 by E.J. Enalerty.  I've been searching for this book for I have no idea how long anymore.  It's been out of print since the 1970's, and it can't be found online or in bookstores.  I mostly believed it was a figment of my imagination. 

Nobody has heard of this book.  From what little I recall about it, it isn't supposed to be very good.   The only reason that people want a copy is that E.J. Enalerty was the alter-ego of Steve Kaiser, who penned a few pulp action novels before he turned to writing horror and became an international celebrity for it.  Interstate 10 is a collectible book for Kaiser completists.   I will place it on my bookshelf in a place of honour. 

"I know you like that Kaiser fellow.  What you don't know was that Phil Dick was the direct inspiration for I-10.  This was Kaiser's first full-length novel.  I thought you'd like it since you love all that scary stuff.   It's not scary, though.  Maybe you'll like it enough to read some PKD for once."

The yellow note fell from hiding under the paper cover of the book.  Way back when, Philip K. Dick wrote a bunch of long-hair science fiction fables that Uncle Thad appreciated.   A lot of drugs, hallucinations, and the fog of San Francisco Bay at night.  A pointed, repeated question turned over and over in all of his books on what it was that made human beings really human.  That was what I took away from my talks with Uncle Thad on the subject. 

I read Interstate 10 in one sitting.  it wasn't a complicated story, but it was a lot different from what I was expecting.  It's one of a hundred thousand novels that were published in the 70's that prove the law where you shouldn't judge a book by its cover.

Everything in the lurid, exploitative cover illustration does happen in the book.  There's urban cowboys, kung-fu fighters, a supercharged Volkswagen Beetle, a deadly ninja lady warrior, and yes, even a silverback gorilla wielding an AK-47 assault rifle plated in gold.  But all of that happens within the context of maybe five pages out of the entire novel.

Most of Interstate 10 is just a long road trip across (you guessed it) Interstate 10, the southernmost transcontinental highway in the United States.  The full and proper title of the book is Interstate 10: A Jake California Novel.  Jake California is the urban cowboy on the front cover.  His real name is Johnny Culliford, but everybody calls him Jake California.  He's set up as a Hollywood stunt man who specializes in fast cars. 

That's where most of the action comes into play on the front cover.  The introduction of the book is a big, provocative fight scene where Jake performs stunts in a massive movie set piece featuring - wait for it - kung-fu fighters, a deadly ninja lady warrior, and yes, even a silverback gorilla wielding an AK-47 assault rifle plated in gold.  After Jake gets paid out for his work on the film, he's set loose on Los Angeles in the late 1970's.

Interestingly, it's quite far from our own 1970's, as Interstate 10 takes place in a fictional alternate universe.  America won the Viet Nam war.  A younger Jake was a conscript who saw action overseas and then was discharged back into civilian life.  However, victory in Viet Nam has not translated into prosperity for the United States.  The government has become increasingly reclusive and dictatorial.  Massive funding is required for an eventual assault on Communist Russia, so Americans are working harder than ever yet seeing less of their pay coming home.  Congress repealed the Twenty-Second Amendment to the Constitution, removing term limits for Presidency.  Richard Nixon was assassinated by John Hinkley III at Berkeley.  Nixon was replaced by Mallett M. Milton, who is serving his third term and is campaigning to be re-elected for a fourth.

Science in Jake's world is well in advance of ours.  The space shuttle is common enough that citizens can book a flight to an orbital space hotel.  The Americans have a military base on the Moon, and are pushing for a flight to Mars.  Computers are similar to what we enjoy after the year 2000, but their miniaturization has not been improved. The people are actively wiretapped through their comlinc phones and interactive televisions.  It's speculated that Mallett M. Milton may even be a clone, that the original may have died in a helicopter crash some years ago. 

In this dystopian world where the American government tries to rule the world with an iron fist, Jake is the farthest he can be from the cold, echoing marble corridors of power in Washington.  He's happy as long as he can drive cars fast.   Out of work from the movies, he answers a want-ad in the paper for a test driver needed in Daytona Beach.   This requires a road trip across the United States, the route being Interstate 10. 

Not far into the trip, Jake runs into a girlfriend of his with whom he had lost touch some years ago.  Named only Dolby, she's sullen and mysterious company for Jake; she comes along for the ride to Daytona Beach.  In fact, most of the chapters in the book go into the uneasy relationship between Jake and Dolby, turning the story from a simple adventure into something else.  It's the picture of blue Dolby that dominates the front cover of the paperback novel.

Dolby is attracted to Jake, but not in any way that could be described as  romantic.  Likewise, Jake comes to realize he needs Dolby, but she's too detached and emotionally broken to be his partner.  The efforts of the government to win world domination have left the American people disenfranchised and suspicious of each other.  As a result, the dialogue between Jake and Dolby is either evasive or abrasive as they relive their previous break-up. 

Still, and this I find interesting, there's an undercurrent of deeply-felt empathy in the relationship between Jake and Dolby.  Not only between the characters themselves, but also empathy coming from the author E.J. Enalerty.  I got the sense that Jake was hiding from the horrors of wartime by living high and fast.  Dolby was attracted to Jake's intensity, but was also easily burnt by it.  She's too sensitive to survive in post-Viet Nam America.  However, she does possess a profound bough of strength within her that keeps them both from becoming as feral as the rest of the nation.  E.J. Enalerty probes into this relationship very deliberately and carefully as the road trip progresses.

Eventually, Jake and Dolby reach Daytona Beach where they fall in with the enigmatic quasi-military operation known as FIST.  The nature of FIST is left as a mystery, but it seems like at the end of Interstate 10, E.J. Enalerty simply ran out of ideas to explore with Jake and Dolby, and decided to write his finale as an espionage military thriller.  It's powerfully campy.  It is kind of fun, though.  Jake, as test driver,  takes possession of the OS-CAR, which is the first automobile to be fitted with a fully-functioning artificial intelligence, and it can talk!  A strange choice in make and model, the car is a supercharged shiny black Volkswagen Beetle, just as promised on the front cover of the book.  

Dolby is outed by OS-CAR as a FIST operative hired to make sure that Jake makes the trip to Daytona.  Jake holds no grudge against Dolby, but she is unhappy with herself and her duplicitous deal with FIST, which she believes is a secret military go-squad working directly for President Mallett M. Milton. 

Jake and OS-CAR become fast friends.  The book promises that they will have some incredible adventures together.  However, this never really happens in Interstate 10, which just sets up the sequel Runway Man written by E.J. Enalerty a few years later. That's the one that got made into the movie by Schwarzenegger.  That book is nothing like the movie, and Runway Man has little to do with Interstate 10.  I've heard that editorial arguments with the publisher were the source of problems with Runway Man, which in turn caused E.J. Enalerty to abandon his nom-de-plume and adopt his true name, Steve Kaiser.

Runway Man was a cheesy action film that skirted the bleak, dystopian outlook of that book.  Interstate 10 would be very difficult to film along the same lines.  The long relationship-based passages in Interstate 10 just don't lend themselves well to film narrative.  I thought it was a good albeit irregular attempt by E.J. Enalerty to explore what could happen to a man and a woman cooped together in a stressful situation.  The resolution is far from the typical sentimental ending.  Nonetheless, both Jake and Dolby discover within themselves the measure of what it is to be fully realized individuals in a world where your worth is measured only by what you earn in government-issued banknotes. 

The author's notes at the very end of the book are short and not very enlightening.  E.J. Enalerty does mention spending time on the West Coast gathering research for his book, of purchasing and listening to a complete collection of Linda Ronstadt record albums which he used as a "soundtrack" for his writing (and I have to admit: Ms. Ronstadt has a phenomenal  singing voice!) ,and very briefly of spending an afternoon with PKD.  I would have loved to find out more about that meeting, but Lorrence Soutin, Steve Kaiser's biographer and likely the leading expert on all things Kaiser, says nothing at all about E.J. Enalerty getting together with Phil Dick.  A  true shame.  Now that I've read Interstate 10, I think I'll try e-mailing Mr. Soutin to see what he has to say.  

Friday, November 13, 2015

1167 - Our Lady In Throne V

Unthinkable, yes, but then here we are.  One of my religious icons makes an appearance on Ungood Art Day, traditionally the thirteenth of every month on JSVB.

What happened?  Well, I managed to spill a pot of black paint directly onto my icon.  If that isn't Ungood, I don't know what is.

Well, it was an accident, and not a designed move, like most of my Ungood Art.  This image is just a simulation of the event, though.  I wasn't so dense as to go for my camera after I spilled black on everything.  

Painting is about chemistry and physics as much as it is about art.  It turns out that black acrylic, when it sits for a while, tends to separate out into a heavy pigment layer and a lighter layer of liquid binder.  The binder mostly spilled on the icon and the pigment flew out onto the woman who sat next  to me.  I was able to scrub off the black acrylic binder fluid from the icon using wet towels right away.  If I had stopped to take a picture, the stuff would have stuck to the icon and I really would have been in trouble.  As it was, I did manage to remove some of the gold, so I hope I can fix that later. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

1166 - Three Kung-Fu Kings

I found a source of very handy martial arts poses.  The reference pictures were all silhouettes, so I took the opportunity to freehand sketch in colours and a few details.  I know I have a use for these guys somewhere.


Thursday, November 5, 2015

1165 - Martial Arts Lady

From a Freudian perspective, I think it's a bad idea for a woman to wield a sword.  As far as practicality goes, if she wants or needs to carry a blade I'm not going to be the one to stop her.  However, women and swords make an uneasy combination if you are planning on objectifying both for the purposes of cheap thrills. 

I rotoscoped a composite image to create this fake lady ninja.  It's going to be a very small part in a larger piece I will finish later.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

1164 - Our Lady In Throne IV

The weird, mask-like underpainting fills the faces on the icon.  Some iconographers stop there, since it makes the subject filled with the sorrows of our sins.  You end up with very dark icons.