Sunday, October 30, 2011

Inner Workings

Size: 15x19 inches
Medium: Watercolors
Closeup detail views -here-
Prints and original available -here-

The strange and beautiful tie of the rules of mathematics and physics, to the organic wonder and growth of life and nature.

Some of the in progress shots:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Inner Workings Finalized Sketch

In response to those who have objected to my integrating steampunk elements into this piece, I want to address a bit. While there is just steampunk for steampunk's sake (Claire's halloween costume for example. :) ), I feel that this piece is not in that category. At a glance it is swiftly slotted into what we all conceive of as "steampunk" these days because ANYTHING with clockwork is automatically put into that genre now.

What this piece is about, and what I hoped the title would convey, was not simply just jumping on the steampunk-wagon. It's a juxtaposition of man-made vs. natural and how the two flow in and out of each other (a common theme in my other works as well). It is the imposition of human conception of time parceled out into cycles of seconds and minutes, with the natural diurnal rhythms that exist regardless of our recording and observation of. The pendulum arc of the girl on the swing is an echo of this rhythm as well.

But also, however random nature seems to be, when you come down to the building blocks, at its heart nature is a vast, fantastic, incredible machine which manifests itself over and over in geometric and mathematical ways. There is a strange tie of such hard physical science to subjective beauty and life. When that becomes most evident is at that juncture where we meet the natural world.

Our bodies are aware of time on a level that our minds have more difficulty grasping. We have internal biological rhythms that coincide with the moon each month, and with the flow of day and night. I mentioned a month ago about Claire's first recognition of the moon in the sky, and it was a comment that Dana made that night about how she seemed to know it already that gave an initial spark to this concept. Even barely knowing the word "moon" and never having laid eyes on it, her physical body was already attuned to it and the cycles of time.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Inner Workings Sketch

A sneak peak at a piece in progress (partial scan of the full size).

I had so much fun with the sketches and designing for Claire's halloween wings, that I got inspired to do a painting along those lines. I've been in a bit of an idea-rut lately, so I'm pretty excited about this because it sprang to mind as a full-fledged concept, along composition, colors and title, which will be "The Inner Workings of Life".

I think I'll be trying some fixative layering on this too, on a larger scale now than the experimental pieces I've been toying with in the past couple months. It will be interesting to see how it works for a more ambitiously sized piece.

The sketch is taking forever though, on the illustration board. All the little gears and cogs are making my drawing hand ache!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

More Steampunkaliciousness!

All done! Now to chase down that kidlet and see if she'll wear it.... The top pops off so that I can drop one of those LED pumpkin tea-lights into the canister. The entire thing is made of foam (and a chopped up old contact lens saline solution bottle). The only actual metal is in the D-rings I used to secure the shoulder straps.

Dana thinks this little detail is excessively silly:

Spirits of the Wind

Medium: Ink
Size: 9x14 inches
Detail closeups -here-
Prints and original available -here-

Very roughly based on this photo I took last year. A live oak tree out in a grassy field, with the swirl of clouds spilling out above it. When I posted it on deviant art, people were commenting that the clouds looked like a dragon.

Playing around with the idea a little bit, and planning to eventually do a painting along these lines.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I'm getting super-caught-up in making Claire's Halloween costume. I don't even know if she'll tolerate WEARING half the stuff I'm making. I figure if she doesn't, I'll use it all for myself at a convention someday. :)

Steampunk wings. Thus far made completely from these foamie sheets I bought a while back for some other project, then spray painted coppery colored. So it's super-light. Which it will have to be if I'm to get Claire to wear it (and then once there, she'll hopefully forget that it's on her back). I'm having a blast. And actually getting some painting ideas with this too that I think I'll have to tackle once this current October obsession is past.

The stuff on the bottom right is Dana's poor dissected chess clock. He broke it the other day and was about to just toss the whole thing in the trash when I cried out, "WAIT!" He was completely bewildered as to why I would want clock guts. Why wouldn't I want clock guts?!?!!? Anyway, still mulling ideas on integrating some of that stuff in as well.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Learning to Paint Bamboo

Sifting through my stockpile of pens and brushes, and I am reminded of the lessons I took when I was in grade school in the afternoons with a lady who taught me the basics of Chinese painting. I went to her house with my brother and a couple of other neighborhood kids after school. For some of them, the time spent in her kitchen was not much removed from glorified babysitting. My brother liked to draw, copying some of the cartoon characters from the stacks of how-to books she had on hand. She noticed at one point that I was interested in some of the traditional Chinese art books. I wonder if something clicked inside her when she saw that; if it made her delve into something she obviously loved.

She gave my parents a list of materials. That weekend we went to San Francisco's Chinatown. We entered a store that on the outside was just like the dozens of others that catered to the tourist ideal of imported Asian goods. Past the twin kierun that guarded the gilded exterior. Past racks of polyester brocade dresses, earthen tea kettles, porcelain cups and bowls, paper lanterns and umbrellas, chopsticks, incense. The basement of the store was filled with prosaic and practical goods, and more like a thrift store than the jade and glittery upstairs.

At a glass counter, my mother handed the list to the clerk, who began pulling out various brushes, and describing the providence of their hair: goat, squirrel, wolf, horse. Brushes, ink stick and stone, and translucent rice paper.

After that, my time at my teacher's house changed. No more cartoon how-to books. The other kids still doodled with pencil and googly-eyed creatures. But she showed me how to mix the ink stick with water and grind it against the stone, releasing a mellow scent like old leaves and earth, and thick black ink. The ink stick itself was cast with the relief of a dragon on it, twining down the length that lay in my hand, melting slowly in to a pool of rich darkness.

The grinding of the ink, the smell, the tactile roughness of the rice paper, the entire process becomes a part of the art-making. It is a ritual where everything and nothing happens, before the brush is even lifted.

She showed me to hold the brush straight upright, and to not let my drawing hand rest on the paper, in order to facilitate sweeping gestures. A single brush stroke was like the choreographed movement of a dance. She made it look so easy. Her hand was just an extension of arm and body and mind - graceful, elegant. It was one of the most difficult things I ever tried - creating the illusion of looseness, simplicity, and freedom with careful forethought and planning. For weeks, she made me practice dozens of pages of bamboo: graceful, stark, in black and white. Grind the ink, lay out the paper, and dance the brush across the pages.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Queen Bee

7x10 inches
Prints and original available -here-
Detail closeup -here-

Another fun little piece. It seems that summer is finally making (delayed) way for autumn. The sweltering days have passed, as it started raining here last week. But during one of the brief intermissions in the precipitation, when the sun had warmed my terrace, the bumblebees were out in force. They were quite busy amongst my lavender. Taking advantage of those last sunny gaps in the days.

On a more technical note, I was playing around a bit more with fixative on this one. It wasn't the main purpose for the piece, as for the previous, but I did want to try some more.

I mainly used the fixative for helping to build up the background color's intensity, much quicker than it normally would take me to do such seamless graded washes. Usually it requires many more layers to achieve the full darkness of a color, but by doing a very light spray (I just did a quick pass of the fixative over the page) I managed to get the cerulean blue to it's full intensity with only two washes, while still being able to blend smoothly.