Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blast from the Past #262: "Out to Lunch" sign

Back in the 1970's, when I had my "Little Used Book Shop" in Northampton, one of the nice features of it -- one of the nice features of self-employment, generally -- was that I made my own hours. Occasionally, during the day I had to run out to do errands or take a couple of hours for lunch or some such. To let customers know that I would be returning at some point, I made a variety of signs to hang on my store door. This is one of those signs.

I constructed it with a wheel in the back that I could turn to indicate in a little cut-out window when I would be open for business again. -- PL

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A little post-Christmas miracle (of sorts)

Christmas 2009 is "in the books", as they say, and we had a good time. Jeannine made great food for Christmas dinner, my sister Chris brought wonderful desserts, my brother Bruce and I went crazy making juice with my new Jack LaLanne juicer, and it's wonderful to have Emily home, if only for a short time.

The celebration was a little more subdued than usual, without the energy of our dear friend Pat, who passed away this spring. But I was glad that her husband Ed joined us for Christmas again, an almost twenty-year-long tradition I hope he keeps up.

The house is quieter now, even with Em's friend and roommate Colleen visiting. The Fugitree is not long for the world (we'll probably leave it up for another week or so before I hack it to bits). I plan to carefully repack all of those 'Toids in their original boxes, maybe to use another year, maybe to sell. Anyone interested in a relic of the first (and so far as I know, only) Fugitree?

It rained pretty heavily last night, and continued into this morning at a lesser pace. I was startled when the rain stopped and the sun came out around noon today... and a thought crept into my mind. I stepped outside to gauge the temperature -- not bad, about 43 degrees. That's CERTAINLY warm enough for a motorcycle ride.

So off I went, after first bundling up warmly. I took the latest addition to the stable, a new Honda NT700V (aka the "Deauville" in the UK and Europe). I got this bike about a month ago, and only had a chance to ride it once before the weather got too cold and snowy. It felt great to be out on a motorcycle, even though I only rode out to the Williamsburg General Store for a coffee and pastry. The roads were clear (except for one back road I took which had a few icy patches, though only a few and they were very visible and easily avoided). I stopped on the way home by a swamp to take this photo of the new bike in a winter landscape which felt -- at least today -- like spring.

I don't expect this weather to continue, but I was grateful to get this unusual chance to ride on December 27... not something that happens too often in this neck of the woods. -- PL

Friday, December 18, 2009

Blast from the Past #261: Moving to New Hampshire "Tag Sale" sign

This is a somewhat whimsical, quirky little piece whipped up in a hurry back in 1982, for a tag sale I was having in my apartment prior to moving to New Hampshire with then-girlfriend Jeannine. I can't really remember how successful it was, or how many people actually made the trek up to the third floor to go through my stuff.

But as light-hearted as this little sign is, it actually signified a very big and serious change in my life. I was leaving a comfortable life in Northampton -- a town I'd lived in pretty much since graduating from UMass in 1976. I had a great studio apartment right in the middle of downtown Northampton -- low rent, heat included. I wasn't making a lot of money with my illustrating, but I had the steady gig with the "Daily Hampshire Gazette", and my expenses were pretty low. And I had never lived out of state -- in fact, I'd always lived either in my home town of North Adams or no more than sixty miles away from it.

Yet here I was, ready to drop all of this to move to another state, away from family and friends and work, to live in a town I'd only visited once (on a trip to find a place to rent), with a woman I'd been dating only a few months. I can't stress enough how unusual this was for me -- I guess it is a pretty good indication of how head-over-heels in love with Jeannine I was.

The fact that this move would bring me geographically closer to my new friend Kevin Eastman, who I had met the previous year in Northampton before he headed back to Maine, was a minor detail, and one I didn't think too much about among all the preparations for the move. But, as students of TMNT history know, it would turn out to have hugely significant consequences for us. -- PL

Monday, December 14, 2009

Blast from the Past #260: Yoda and Taun-Taun Christmas card

Continuing with the theme of self-produced personal Christmas cards, here's one from the 1980's (the resolution of the image isn't good enough for me to read the date precisely). I always thought Yoda was the coolest character in the "Star Wars" movies, and the Taun-Taun one of the coolest creatures.

(On a technical note, I'm not sure why there are two rectangles drawn at different angles around Yoda and the sack of presents in this image. At first I thought they were paste-up lines, but on further inspection they appear to be drawn with pencil. Who knows? -- PL)

STAR WARS® characters ® and © 2009 Lucasfilm.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Blast from the Past #259: "Mouse Claus" card

Continuing with the theme of self-produced Christmas cards, here's a slightly odd one, probably from the late 1980's.

I really don't know what gave me the idea for this mouse version of Santa Claus, nor why I had him riding a bird. But I kind of like the drawing. -- PL

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Mouli help wanted

Back around the time the TMNT were created by me and Kevin Eastman in Dover, NH, I bought a relatively inexpensive low-end food processor called a "Mouli". It was a simple device with interchangeable blades, well-suited to slicing, shredding, or grinding small quantities of various food items quickly and easily. Here's a photo of the Mouli in closed position...

... and here it is in its open position.

Believe it or not, this is the same Mouli that once grated carrots for the salads that we used to eat in Dover. This thing has survived almost twenty-six years and four household moves. It's still working well, though it is showing its age -- the plastic, especially the part which gets near the blades, has chipped in places, and the steel cutting discs are rusting in spots.

The device has little on it to indicate where it originated, though it does have the words "Mouli Julienne" molded into the plastic on its underside.

I'd like to buy a replacement... but I can't find any! A few months ago I spent several hours on the Internet searching for a place which might sell this type of Mouli, but the only ones I could find were in France and I could not figure out how to order from those sites. And I have kept an eye out whenever I go into kitchen supply stores, and have yet to find another one just like this one (actually, I would not mind if it were a different color, as long as it was the same design).

There are many other Mouli-type devices, but the ones I have run into don't seem to have the same simplicity and ease of use as this one, nor do they cut/slice/chop in the same way.

If anyone out there knows where I could find and purchase this product, and could steer me in the right direction, I would be grateful. -- PL

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Blast from the Past #256: Pasta Claus

Seeing as how we have entered "Christmas Month" (hard to believe the holiday is little more than a mere three weeks away), I thought I would pull out some old Christmas-related artwork. First up is this drawing that I am sure I did for "Hampshire Life" back in the late 1970's or early 1980's, but I don't remember what the article it illustrated was about.

Maybe it had to do with serving spaghetti for Christmas dinner...? -- PL

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"New Moon"

After about two weeks of urging by my daughter, my wife and I went to see the second "Twilight" movie, "New Moon". Em asked me if I might blog about my thoughts on the movie, so -- at the risk of offending her, given that she is a big fan of the franchise (she's already seen "New Moon" half a dozen times) -- I will give it a shot.

To start out with, I should state up front that I am clearly not a member of the intended audience for this movie -- I think I'm about forty years too old… and I'm a guy.

One of my basic criteria for judging whether a movie is good or bad is whether I get bored during the viewing. I didn't get bored watching "New Moon", but I came close a few times, especially during those seemingly interminable close-ups of Bella and Edward or Bella and Jacob where they mumble dialogue about love and such. None of these conversations ever seem to really GO anywhere, with the possible exception of Edward's surprising offer to Bella at the end of the movie.

Now, in a movie featuring vampires and werewolves, especially in this day and age, one expects the creature effects to be of a high quality. I was initially pretty disappointed in the werewolves, and not just because of their design (I'll say more about that in a moment), but because in their first couple of appearances on screen they looked almost comical to me with the way their snouts bunched up. Eventually, though, the animators got it together and they looked a lot more polished and integrated into the scenery through the rest of the movie.

However, I have a big problem with werewolves that essentially look like wolves, even really BIG wolves. It's just not that interesting to me. During the big scene where Jacob in his werewolf form is battling another werewolf to protect Bella, it just looked like a big dog fight. Well-done, yes, but really too much like watching too big dogs battle each other. I would have preferred the much cooler and creepier man/wolf approach as exemplified by Rob Bottin's great work in the original "The Howling" movie. It would have made the vampire vs. werewolf fights in "New Moon" a lot more interesting, in my opinion.

And speaking of those fights -- at one point, Jacob says -- in response to Bella's comment that the vampires are really fast -- that the werewolves are even faster. Really? If what you see on the screen is any indication, that can't possibly be true. The vampires are so quick that they appear to be able to move across dozens of yards of distance instantaneously. The werewolves, on the other hand, appear to be able to run on all fours as fast as animals their size might be expected to, which is nowhere near "instantaneously" fast. If there had been something else to this -- like if Jacob had said something about how the werewolves can do the pack hunting thing better than the vampires, and it had actually been shown on the screen -- the whole werewolves chasing down and catching vampires thing would have worked a lot better. As it is, I didn't believe any of the werewolves seen in the movie could have caught any of the vampires except by sheer luck.

I also have to say that the "shirtless dude" look favored by the werewolves when in their human form got pretty silly after a while. It seemed to be something they did so that when they transformed into werewolves their clothes wouldn't be ruined… but the always left their pants on. I don't get it.

I also didn't get the rules of interaction between the vampires and the werewolves, which were very sketchily presented. This movie could have done with significantly more exposition, perhaps at the expense of a few of those scenes of Bella looking soulfully at Edward or Jacob.

Or maybe the point is that not only do you have to be a young person, and preferably female, but you also have to read the source novels to really get the most out of movies like "New Moon". I'm tempted to try, even though I have not heard great things about them, but I think for now I'll stick with Charles Dickens.

If I were to give this movie a letter grade, it would be a "C". Or maybe a "B-", because although I didn't care for the werewolves' designs that much, there were two very cool quick bits where all you see of them are looming black shapes in the underbrush with vapor coming out of their nostrils. That was pretty nifty.  -- PL

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Nice light through clouds from bike path in Hadley

A few weeks ago, I was pedaling back from Amherst on the bike path in the late afternoon, and stopped at a road crossing in Hadley to take a photo -- actually several photos -- of some clouds off to the west dramatically pierced with shafts of sunlight. I put them together into this partial panorama.

While the lighting in this image pretty much captures the scene as it was, and encapsulates that sense (at least for me) of too-early dusk and the feeling of approaching winter that one gets here in early to mid-November, I was also a bit disappointed that much of the landscape was rendered too darkly, obscuring a wealth of detail. So I decided to do a little "quick and dirty" Photoshop manipulation with a fast selection and use of the "Brightness/Contrast" image adjustment menu, which gave this result:

As I said, it's a "quick and dirty" effort, but it once again reminded me of what an incredible program Photoshop is... this effect took all of two minutes to accomplish. -- PL

Saturday, November 14, 2009

"Under the Dome"... into the recycling pile

I admire Stephen King greatly. I have read pretty much all of his novels, with the exception of the later "Dark Tower" books and "Lisey's Story" (which I started, got about ten pages into, and just couldn't continue). I think "The Stand" is one of the best post-apocalyptic stories ever, "'Salem's Lot" one of the best vampire stories ever, and "It" one of the best "weird monster terrorizing kids in the sewer" stories ever. I've really enjoyed the majority of the Stephen King books I've read, including the ones under his pseudonym, "Richard Bachman".

But yesterday I did something with a Stephen King novel that I'd never done before -- I skimmed it.

I'm referring to the huge (almost 1100 pages) new novel "Under the Dome", which came out a few days ago.

I picked up my copy at the Barnes and Noble in Hadley on Thursday, and eagerly dove into it, setting aside "David Copperfield", which I had just started reading (I'm on a bit of a Charles Dickens kick).

About thirty pages into the book, I started to feel uneasy. No, it wasn't because there was anything particularly scary or creepy in the story (something you very often run into with King's tales, and that's a good thing). No, the reason was… I was bored. There was a fascinating set-up -- a small town is suddenly and mysteriously covered by an impenetrable dome (actually, it's not REALLY shaped like a dome, regardless of what the cover art depicts, but that's a minor point). But as I read on, I discovered that the cast of characters, especially the bad ones, seemed plucked from other King works.

And from then on, the action became fairly predictable. I was disappointed -- I was looking forward to getting immersed in an interesting exploration of what might happen to the people of a town put into this bizarre predicament. But by this point I had completely lost interest in the book, except for one thing -- I wanted to find out if the dome ever went away. So, with close to a thousand pages left to go, I skimmed all the way to the end, and found out.

Why did I bother skimming, and not just go to the last few pages? Well, as I have almost always had good luck with Stephen King's novels, I thought that MAYBE as I skimmed along I might spot something which would pull me back into the story, and cause me to slow down and start reading normally again -- maybe even go back to where I started skimming and read from there. Alas, it was not to be. -- PL

Friday, November 13, 2009

Blast from the Past #253: My first Duo-Shade drawing (I think)

I'm pretty sure this was the first illustration I ever did using Graphix Duo-Shade board, the paper on which Kevin and I would later draw most of the early TMNT comics. The tones -- especially the light ones -- on this particular drawing have faded somewhat, as they sadly tend to do on Duo-Shade originals. I think it has something to do with the nature of the chemicals which combine to make the tones.

I think this was probably done in the late 1970's, and quite possibly for "Hampshire Life". -- PL

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Blast from the Past #251: "Vegetable Wheel" Hampshire Life cover

This is one of my favorites of the covers I did for Hampshire Life, and if memory serves it was one of my editor's favorite, too. I like it for the drawing, which I think came out well, but also for the fact that it was one of those rare times when the art was meant to be USED.

This was intended not only as a cover illustration, but as the front of a practical "wheel"-type guide for planting and harvesting vegetables. The black rectangles in the drawing, labeled "Type of Vegetable", "Time to Plant" and so on, were meant to be windows through which the appropriate information could be shown. The second part of the "wheel", containing that information positioned so it would appear behind the correct window, was printed inside Hampshire Life, as were the directions for making the "wheel". (Those were basically to mount the two pages on two sheets of stiff cardboard, then cut them out -- including the windows -- and join them together in the center with a paper fastener. In the printed version, I think a small dot was added in the exact center to make assembly easier. Note the small indent on the right hand side -- this was meant to be cut out, along the dotted line, so as to make turning the wheel with the instructions on it a bit easier.)

I've always wondered how many people actually put this thing together. -- PL

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Blast from the Past #250: Chickpeas and lentils

Here's another pen and ink stipple piece (with a little bit of white-out) from the late 1970's/early 1980's. It's one of a number of vegetable drawings I did back then for "Hampshire LIfe", some of which ended up being used on the menu of one of my favorite restaurants in Northampton, Paul and Elizabeth's.

This was drawn from life -- I bought some dried chickpeas and lentils for reference. I remember being amazed at how convoluted the surface shapes of the chickpeas were. -- PL

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Blast from the Past #249: Tea party

This is another piece I did for Hampshire Life, back in the late 1970's or early 1980's. -- PL

Friday, November 6, 2009

What lies beneath

Easthampton, MA is just a few miles south of Northampton. It's a nice little town. It has a lovely pond in the middle of the town, one I have enjoyed walking around and occasionally over (when it's frozen in the winter).

Recently, for reasons unknown to me, the pond was drained. It's been this way for several weeks, and a few days ago I happened to stop and take some shots of a view which I might never see again. I put them together into this little panorama, looking south across the pond from Cottage Street.

I've always found this kind of thing fascinating -- a glimpse of a secret world, revealed. -- PL

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fall is here...

As we enter the first week of November, we face the winding-down of the motorcycling season. The air is getting colder, the leaves have fallen from many of the trees and the wooded landscape is beginning to take on the somewhat skeletal appearance of late fall. But it hasn't snowed yet, and there are still a few times to get out and take a short ride.

Such an occasion was enjoyed by me last week, when unexpected warm temperatures and blue skies beckoned. I took the Victory out to Pittsfield and, on my way back on some roads I am only slightly familiar with, pulled over when I spotted this location.

It looked like a fine spot to stop and eat my lunch... and it was. -- PL

Monday, November 2, 2009

Blast from the Past #247: Fertility symbols

This is one of my favorite drawings from my freelance days. I'm pretty sure it was commissioned by and published in "The Real Paper", a somewhat short-lived "alternative" weekly paper out of Boston, MA.

I did this during my "stipple" period. -- PL

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Tricky treat

Hallowe'en is now officially over for 2009, and I hope everyone who celebrated it had a great time. While going through a batch of files today, I stumbled across this funny illustration relating to the holiday that I drew years ago (back in the 1970's) for the "Hampshire Life" weekly supplement to Northampton's newspaper, "The Daily Hampshire Gazette". This was probably drawn for one of several columns I regularly illustrated -- probably "Life Line".

The thing I like most about this piece is how the grimace on the cheap molded-plastic "Hulk" mask accurately captures the likely disappointed reaction of the kid wearing the mask, who is given carrots instead of candy on Hallowe'en. -- PL

P.S. -- Don't forget to set your clocks back one hour today! (For those of you in "daylight savings time" regions.)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Hallowe'en!

I was planning on digging up some old drawing I had done for a Hallowe'en card or some such, but while scanning some old photographs for my mother today, I came upon one of my favorite photos of Emily when she was tiny, and thought it appropriate for the occasion.

Jeannine made the little pumpkin "belly" part, and the hat/cap was a store-bought item. It all came together quite nicely for her first Hallowe'en. (And I still call her "Pumpkin" from time to time.) -- PL

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"Arngrim entrapped by Gorilon's monster" (early fanzine drawing)

This is another one of those fantasy fanzine drawings I did back in the late 1970's and early 1980's -- some of the actual FUN stuff I did as a freelancer. I can't remember which fanzine this was done for, but a penciled note at the bottom of this art refers to it as an image of "Arngrim entrapped by Gorilon's monster". I vaguely remember some Conan-like barbarian character named Arngrim in a story I was hired to illustrate. I like the lighting effect in this drawing. -- PL

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A morning visitor

I had just finished my second waffle this morning when our dog Parker jumped up, paws on the window sill to my left, and started barking. I looked out the window and saw at the edge of our lawn... a coyote.

Although I have seen these critters a few times on our property or in the neighborhood, usually briefly as they slip into the trees and brush, this was the first time I'd seen one that close to the house. I guess this means I have to keep a closer eye on little Louis when I let him out. -- PL

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fall colors

Taking a break from thinking and writing about the sale of the TMNT property, I thought I'd share this image from a bicycle ride I took with friends yesterday. It was a gorgeous, color-drenched sunny New England autumn day, about as perfect weather-wise as one could hope for.

There were a lot of trees exhibiting spectacular color, but I was particularly taken with this large one in Look Park. As usual, a mere photograph does not do justice to the glorious, almost incandescent glow of a specimen like this in the bright sunlight.

By the way, to answer one of the questions recently posed in the comments sections of my last two posts -- yes, I intend to continue doing this blog. -- PL

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ask PL #4

I haven't done one of these in a while, and it seems like an appropriate moment to do so. -- PL

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blast from the Past #243: "John Morrell's Meats" goodbye card

Sometimes, when you are a struggling freelance illustrator, you get some odd gigs. You have to pay the rent and put food on the table, so you take these jobs and try to do your best.

This was one of those, done in 1980. I can't recall much about how I got this job, but I do remember that it was meant to be a custom "goodbye" card for an employee of John Morrell's Meats.

The words in the word balloons here were written by the person who commissioned the card, and as I recall they supposedly reflected the different personalities of people working at this company at that time. I believe I was specifically directed to depict all of the people as pigs (I guess because the company did a lot of business in pig meat).

It was a weird gig, but actually kind of fun. I've always like this drawing -- it's probably my best "anthropomorphic pigs sitting around a table" illustration ever. -- PL

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Blast from the Past #241: Videogame controller illustration, two versions

I believe these were done in the early 1980's, but I'm not sure if I did them for fun or for a job. It was probably the former.

Another example of adaptive reuse, I first used the basic drawing as an experiment with my airbrush, in gray tones.

Later on, I thought it might be fun to try doing a color version of the piece. It's possible that I intended these to be portfolio samples. -- PL

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Blast from the Past #240: "Proliferation"

This is another piece of art from the flipchart I illustrated for the Nuclear Freeze group I worked with in the early 1980's. The glare on this art at the top and bottom comes from the fact that some of the lettering was done on an acetate overlay, and that reflected the lights I was using to take the photo of this art.

The text on this piece is a little dated, as I'm pretty sure several of these countries now have nukes.

I always liked this one -- especially the pose of the sower of the nuclear seeds. -- PL

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Blast from the Past #239: Dragon's Dentist (two versions)

(Once again, I have the feeling that I have posted an image before, but a quick search of my blog indicates that I am mistaken.)

This is a drawing I did back in 1983. I was inspired to write a children's book story based on this, but never did anything with it.

Here are two versions of the drawing. I probably have a third or fourth somewhere, but these are the only ones I could find right now.

This first one is all black and white inking, using a variety of hatching, cross-hatching and stippling techniques to achieve the desired texture and lighting effects.

The second one is one of my early experiments with airbrushing, and not a very successful one. (That, sadly, was typical of most of my attempts at airbrushing.)

You may note that I must have made copies of the basic inked version prior to doing all of the hatching, cross-hatching ad stippling, so that I would have an "open" version of the drawing on which to try airbrushing. I believe that there is a color variation done over the same "open" inked art. Maybe I'll come across that at some point and add it to this post. -- PL

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Blast from the Past #238: Fantasy castle

There is no date on this piece, but I think it's probably from the late 1970's, and done just for fun. It was one of those rare times when I played around with watercolor. -- PL

Monday, October 5, 2009

Blast from the Past #237: sample comic book page

This one puzzles me. I don't think it is one of the pages I did as samples to try to get work doing comics. I do have a vague memory of drawing it as the first page to a story which I never finished, but that's about all I remember.

In any event, I kind of like it. -- PL

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Blast from the Past #234: Sample comic pages

I have the feeling that I've posted these before, but I can't find them when I search my blog, so what the heck...

These two pages were done by me back in 1979, when I was trying to break into comics. These were samples that I planned to show to publishers to demonstrate what I could do. I designed these two pages as if they were part of a continuing sequence. -- PL

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Blast from the Past #233: "A World Beyond: A Happening" poster

Back in 1981, I did this drawing which ended up being used on the poster for a science fiction event -- or "happening", in the parlance of the day -- at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA. My memory is a bit fuzzy about some of the details, but I think there was some kind of contest to see what art would be used for the poster, and my entry was picked. I can't recall if there was any prize for this, but it was cool to have my drawing on the posters. I also got to meet the author Joan Vinge at this event, and she was very cool (and a really good writer, as I was later to find out by reading most -- if not all -- of her published work).

Unfortunately, I didn't save a good copy of the drawing, and the original seems to have disappeared, so this image is from a photo of one of the posters.

And while going through some old files tonight, I found this piece -- the rough sketch for the finished poster art. -- PL

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Blast from the Past #232: Amherst College campus map

This is the drawing that started my freelance illustration career, right after I graduated from UMass. I just realized that I can't even remember HOW I got this job, but it was a good way to start out as an illustrator -- it was challenging, paid pretty well, and taught me a lot.

As I recall it, in 1976 Amherst College was looking to update the map of their campus. Like many colleges, things change over the years -- new buildings are added, old ones sometimes demolished, and so on. I was tasked with the job of drawing the entire campus, including all relevant buildings, roads and paths (and trees), using a kind of aerial perspective.

(As you have probably guessed, this is a photograph of an actual printed copy of the map -- hence the folds and wrinkles. I don't know where the original art is -- perhaps in a drawer in some filing cabinet somewhere at Amherst College.)

To get all the details correct, I spent a number of hours walking around the campus and making notes, getting a sense of what was where. But the real key to getting this thing done was having access to the official school photographer's archive of aerial photos of the campus. There were none that encompassed the whole area, so it was a matter of picking and choosing the right ones, then using those to create a map of the entire campus.

It was not an easy drawing to do, and I think it took me about three weeks to complete. But the folks at Amherst College seemed happy with the result, and used it as their official map for many years. A few years after I had completed this piece, they asked me to come back and draw -- in the same style I had used for the original -- two or three buildings that had been added to the campus in those intervening years. I was happy to do it. I don't think this art is still used for the campus map -- there have been so many changes to Amherst College over the last thirty-two years that I am almost certain they've had a new one created.

The one hundred and seventy-five dollars I was paid for drawing the original map was put to good use (at least I thought so) -- I went out and promptly purchased an awesome stereo system at Radio Shack that I used for a long time -- a Realistic brand turntable with built-in amplifier and radio, and two speakers. I think I still have it, though I have not used it in quite some time.

Because this was my first real paying job as an artist, and it came at the right time, and it was such an educational experience for me, I still have great fondness for this piece. And there's another nice memory that goes along with the work I did on this map -- one that involves the Amherst College photographer and a Hallowe'en costume I made around that time. Maybe I'll post something about that in the future. -- PL

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Blast from the Past #230: Poster for Nuclear Freeze benefit concert *UPDATED 09-27-09*

Back in the 1970's, I was involved with a local branch of the "Nuclear Freeze" movement, an organization whose basic message -- eminently sensible, I thought -- was that there were already enough nuclear weapons on Earth to kill everyone thousands of times over, so why not -- as a first step -- just stop making any more new ones?

We were not well-funded, and were often looking for ways to raise money to continue the work of the group. One of our member suggested having a concert featuring two well-known (at least in our neck of the woods, or so I was told) folk singers, Molly Scott and Court Dorsey. Plans were made, a hall was secured, and I volunteered to do the artwork for the poster, which you see below. (My apologies for the horrible lighting on this image.)

I liked the way the drawing came out, with the nuclear weapon gradually rusting away under the layer of soil, mushrooms, and various plants. I think I even managed to capture the singers' likenesses in an okay fashion.

Sadly, the concert was a total bust, as I recall. I think about thirty people came. If memory serves, we lost money on it. But our hearts were in the right place. -- PL

*UPDATE 09-27-09! While going through some old stuff tonight, I found the following roughs for the Scott-Dorsey benefit concert. The top one is my first REALLY rough thumbnail, and the bottom one is a slightly more detailed rough. -- PL

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Blast from the Past #229: "Unicorn Skull Encounter"

This is a drawing I did, just for fun, back in 1983. It's one of my favorites from that time -- I think I like it because it's one of those "story in a picture" drawings. I like to imagine the various scenarios which might have led up to this one tense moment.

I also tried to do a color version of this piece, but it didn't come out so well.

I think Kevin may have also tried his hand at coloring this one, but I'm not sure. I can't find it in the files I have on this computer. -- PL

Monday, September 21, 2009

Blast from the Past #228: "Spherical car pursued by robot drones"

There's no date on this piece, but my guess would be that it's from the mid- to late 1970's, possibly the early 1980's. It's one of my rare all-color pieces.

If memory serves, this one was inspired by photos of a cool "spherical car" I saw in either POPULAR MECHANICS or POPULAR SCIENCE. I just thought it looked totally "sci-fi". My apologies for the poor quality of the photo. -- PL

Thursday, September 17, 2009

My bicycling misadventure

This past Saturday, I had decided to go for a bicycle ride, even though the weather wasn't that great -- a slight mist in the air, overcast, but actually not too cold (about 65 degrees). I got the recumbent out and headed out toward the dirt road loop I've been doing past the bird sanctuary on Old Springfield Road. I went a little further and headed up towards the Audubon Center, taking the right hand of the fork in the road just past their entrance drive. I took that road to the end, then headed back.

I stopped to look at an old, unpaved trail that crosses the road I was on, heading north and south, the north end going into the Audubon Center. I'd wondered about this path before, but today it looked more appealing than usual to try to ride on -- like somebody had been clearing it up a little, taking out sticks and maybe chopping back some brush. I decided to take the southern route of the path. Along this path on its left side ran a line of trees. To the left of this line of trees was a small field, with what looked like a well-worn track (probably made by farm tractors or other vehicles driving through it) immediately abutting the tree line. This is an important detail, to which I will later come back.

At first, the riding was fine... a little rough, with some roots and mud, but not too bad. Then, after pedaling in a few tenths of a mile, I saw an appealing path heading off to the left into some pretty fields, and I took it.

For a while, it was fun -- beautiful trees and bushes, small meadows, and the path was more or less clear, though in places it had long grass growing in it. Then the grass and weeds started to grow taller, and the path disappeared.

I continued on, trusting in my sense of direction (which is generally pretty good, or so I thought) to lead me back out to either the original path I had taken or to that track into the field just to the left of the trailhead I had started down originally. I figured I would just make a gentle arc back in that direction, and I would in due time come out in that general vicinity. But the weeds just kept getting taller, and I couldn't see the path. Eventually I couldn't pedal through the weeds any more and I got off and started pushing my bike. That was only slightly easier, as the weeds and grass -- which by this point were easily three or four feet high and dense -- would get caught in the various parts of the bike, making pushing a real chore. Even walking through them was a chore, as they would wrap around my feet, getting me tangled up and making me stumble. I kept going, and thought I saw a way out near the edge of some woods... but although the weeds got thinner there, I was faced with a brook which I had not expected to see. I realized then that I had no real idea where I was -- I was lost. I didn't know where the original path was. I had gotten completely turned around. Looking about me, I could see no recognizable landmarks.

So I decided that the best thing to do was to head back the way I had come in, and retrace my steps back to the original path. I was not looking forward to this, as it meant fighting my way back through the high grass and weeds, and going UPHILL for the most part. I did think that at least I had already been through that stuff, so my path would be a little bit clearer than just bushwhacking through untouched growth. Well, that plan fell apart when I realized I couldn't find my previous path -- I just could not see where I had come through. So this meant I did have to bushwhack.

Around this time I started to realize that my heart rate had gone up quite a bit -- this was the kind of aerobic exercise that I don't generally get, and I could feel my heart pounding very fast. It was then that I think I started to panic. I knew that although I could not be TOO far away from either the path or the paved road -- probably no more than a mile at most -- I had no real idea which way I should head to get to either one of them most quickly. What concerned me was that if I started off in what seemed like a likely direction, I could -- given how completely off-course I was at the moment -- just start walking in circles, getting even more exhausted as I tried to force my way through the tall weeds. I started to worry that I might have a heart attack as I fought my way through the dense growth. I also started to worry that I might run into bears (I know, unlikely... but not impossible... they're pretty common around this area). I looked around and I could see no houses, no roads... just tall weeds and grass and trees. If at that moment I had been asked to point to where the paved road was, the one on which I had ridden to the trailhead, I know now that I could not have done it correctly except by sheer chance. By this time, it was almost impossible to push the bike through the grass and weeds, so dense had they become, so for the most part I had to lift it up and CARRY it, which got my heart rate going even more (it's a long, fairly heavy bike).

I was starting to freak out. No one knew I was out there. If I keeled over from a coronary, I probably wouldn't be found for weeks. The grass and weeds were so high that I don't think the bike could be seen even from a short distance. I actually yelled "Help!" a few times, but got no reply. I came about a minute or two away from calling my friend Rob, who lives in nearby Easthampton, to see if he could come and find me -- maybe park out on the road and beep his horn so I could get my bearings or something. Every couple of minutes I would stop and try to let my rapidly beating heart slow down. Of course, when I'd do that the mosquitos would start to gather.

The one manmade thing I could see about three hundred feet away were some power lines under which I had passed when I was crossing this field of tall grass and weeds previously, before I decided I had to turn around and retrace my steps. But they were an old style of power lines with wooden poles and I couldn't recognize them as something that led to the road I was looking for -- for all I knew, they went off through the surrounding woods and fields until they crossed Route 10, and that was much further than I cared to go (or, perhaps, even COULD go -- my strength might not hold out). But I figured I should try to make my way back to them, and see if there might be an old track that led alongside them. So I fought my way through the tall stuff, and there WAS kind of an almost invisible track -- like it had been cut or crushed down months ago and had almost (but not quite) grown back up as tall as the other weeds and grass. So I started following this.

In spots, I could actually pedal, so I rode a little bit. But for the most part, I got off and pushed. I had to cross a small stream along the way, but that wasn't too bad. Oh, and at some point during this, I noticed that my chain had come off the sprocket, which made me groan -- would I have to fix the bike while simultaneously trying to find my way out of this predicament? Fortunately, I was able to quickly get the chain back onto the sprocket with judicious use of the twist shifter and backpedaling.

My heart was still pounding pretty hard, so I forced myself to take it easy, stopping every so often. But I really wanted to get out of there! Eventually, I came out from behind some trees and saw a house I recognized about a quarter of a mile away. Then I realized where I was... and I was stunned to see that it wasn't anywhere near where I thought I should be. (It was actually at the intersection of the roads near the entrance to the Audubon Center, which is about half a mile back from where I picked up the trail originally.) The field I had to cross to get to the road was, thankfully, recently mowed, so the grass was only about a foot high. I was able to ride about half of the way. Finally I made it to the paved road. What a relief!

A few days later, I went back with my friend Rick to show him the site of my misadventure. I didn't want to have to struggle thorough that high, tangly stuff -- it still gave me the creeps to even think about getting back into that -- so we stuck to the edges of the fields and only went far enough so that I could point out to him where I'd screwed up. Rick had brought with him a few satellite photos he'd printed out from Google Earth, so we were able to use though to get our bearings. And it's a good thing, too, as we rapidly lost track of where we were. At one point, we were standing at the edge of the last field, the one where I had started to panic, and Rick asked me where, from our perspective, the road up to East Street in Easthampton was. I looked around and pointed over to our right. "No," Rick said, and pointed straight ahead. "It's over there." I couldn't believe it, but looking at the Google Earth photos, it was clear that he was right and I was wrong. It was a sobering moment.

Here's a panoramic view of the area in question...

So what's the point of this post? I guess it's just to say that I learned a lesson that day about the dangers of solely depending on my sense of direction, which -- prior to this -- I'd always felt was pretty accurate. It's funny -- about a month or so ago, I was listening to a piece on the radio about a study that was recently done testing people out in the woods, to see if they could find their way without compasses or other sorts of navigation aids. Almost everyone tested -- I think it might have been over ninety percent -- ended up walking in circles. Very few people could walk for any significant distance in a straight line.

And that's what made my little misadventure scary... the idea that while I was really no more than a mile or two from "civilization", I might have continued to walk in circles, all the while thinking that I was heading in a straight line... getting more and more exhausted and panicky as I went. -- PL

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Blast from the Past #225: Moxie® Hundredth Anniversary artwork

I can't remember HOW I got this job, but somehow I made the connection with the Moxie® bottling company. Moxie®, as you may know, is a distinctively-flavored soda, sold mostly in New England.

When we were living in Dover, New Hampshire, I was struggling to find work as an illustrator, and I was fortunate to get this job doing some illustrations for the local Moxie® plant (I believe it was in Rochester, NH). I think I did about half a dozen drawings, some of which were used in newspaper advertisements. Moxie® was celebrating its one-hundredth year in 1984.

I can't recall exactly what this one was used for, though I think it might have found its way onto t-shirts. I recall that the guy who hired me to do this work gave me a small paperback book about the history of the Moxie® brand to use as reference -- it had quite a few photos, including some of this cool promotional vehicle Moxie® made great use of during their heyday, the "Moxeimobile". Apparently, this was one of those old open touring cars, and it had a life-size fiberglass horse standing up inside it. A person could sit on the horse and actually drive the car. I was told that the bottling company had one of these in storage, but sadly I never got to see it. -- PL

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Blast from the Past #224: Finhead guy fights tentacled monster

This is another piece from back in my college days -- my last year of college, in fact, which was 1976. I'm not sure what inspired this drawing, although I have a vague memory of doing several different drawings featuring this guy with the fin on his head -- it's possible that I intended to do a story with him as a protagonist, but I don't think it ever happened.

I think I was trying to play with ink washes in this piece (not terribly successfully, in my opinion). -- PL

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Blast from the Past #222: Ninja archer lithograph

Here's a bit of evidence that my interest in things ninja goes back a ways before the Turtles. This is a lithograph I did while at UMass, sometime between 1972 and 1976. I based this drawing on a photo in a book I had at the time.

This piece is kind of unusual for me in that I am typically not comfortable with the kind of semi-abstract blobs and shapes I used in it. I can't remember WHY I did it this way -- it could have been a desire to make it look significantly different from the photo in the book. Or maybe I was playing around with how the inks, mixed with water in varying amounts, would work on the litho stone. Who knows? But I like the end result. -- PL

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Moon and clouds

Kind of lonely here at the old homestead -- my wife is away for a few days visiting friends on Cape Cod. I do have the dogs for company, but as you might guess, it's not quite the same.

Late last night I stepped outside for a few minutes to get some air, and let the dogs run around, and was greeted by a very dramatic view of the moon partly hidden behind some ominous clouds. As I gazed at this scene, I wondered if Jeannine was seeing something similar down at the Cape. Probably not, as she tends to go to turn in before I do, but maybe she'd stayed up that night and was down on the beach right at that moment, staring up at the moon as she listened to the waves massaging the shore.

I don't know enough about photography to really try to capture these sublime moments, but I did know enough to realize that the minute shaking of my hands as I pressed the shutter button would probably ruin this shot, so I grabbed my TrekPod and set the camera on it. I also set the self-timer for ten seconds, which I figured would give the camera time eough to stop whatever small oscillations had begun when I pressed the shutter button and released the camera. And I think it worked pretty well.

The final result, while okay, doesn't come close to capturing exactly how moody this scene was. -- PL

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Blast from the Past #219: Bruce Lee screen print

Here's another piece from the 1970's, when I was a little obsessed with Bruce Lee. I did this one at college, in one of my printmaking classes where we covered screen printing.

I never got very good at this technique, but I remember being fascinated with the process.

Note: The purple tones around the edges of the image were not in the original print -- they're just some weird artifact of the digital photography.-- PL

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Water crossing 2

I don't have any photographs or video to document this wet excursion, but yesterday I got caught in a fierce downpour while returning home on my motorcycle du jour (Honda DN-01).

I had gone down to the Mirage offices late in the morning to grab a bicycle and go for a ride. It was a hot, muggy day, and while the weather widget on my iPhone was predicting thunderstorms, there was not much in the way of heavy cloud cover to support that prediction. I finished my ride, ate a late lunch, took a little nap in my office, and around 5:30 decided to head home. It was already raining when I got outside, so I dragged out my rain gear and got suited up. In the few minutes that it took to do this, the rain increased greatly -- I hesitate to say exponentially, because I don't think that is literally true, but it sort of felt that way. Within minutes of taking off on the bike, I had to ride through the first of several semi-flooded areas, this one a dip in a road which went under a railroad bridge. The water there was pretty deep -- it came up over my footpegs -- and I had a few moments of trepidation, worrying that it might be deep enough to cause the bike to shut down. But the Honda plowed right through. It's always weird to produce a visible WAKE when riding a motorcycle on the street.

The next mile or so up King Street was somewhat nightmarish, as the traffic was fairly heavy and there were at least three long sections in which deep water had pooled. The storm -- which was still continuing -- had dumped enough water in such a short amount of time that the drainage systems had been temporarily overwhelmed, leaving standing water several inches deep all over the road, and giant puddles eight to ten inches deep in places. Under different circumstances (i.e. no other traffic, and on a different bike like my new dual-sport BMW 650), it might have been fun. But just then it was the classic "white knuckle" ride, made even more so by a number of clueless cage drivers who were acting like it was a normal day and not slowing down at all.

Fortunately, the bike performed admirably and made it through each flooded section, and although I did get wetter than I planned, I did make it home with no damage. -- PL

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Night toad

Last night, just before bed, I decided it would be a good idea to have a cup of calming mint tea out on the front porch, and enjoy a little night air, the insect sounds, and some stargazing. There had been a bit of a rainfall a little while earlier -- not much, not even enough to hear it inside the house. But it was still enough to help to bring out the toads... or frogs... I'm not exactly sure which they are, though I think they are toads. They seem to appear under these circumstances.

I let the dogs out while I was sipping my tea, and they basically ignored the amphibians (except for one cursory glance/sniff by little Louis). I thought it might be fun to try to get a closeup shot of one of these nocturnal visitors, and, using the indirect light from my flashlight for illumination, I managed this one:

The beast was pretty amenable to getting its picture taken, not moving a muscle while I snapped this shot from about six inches away.

The end result is just slightly creepy, I think. -- PL

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Blast from the past #215: Fathers and sons

I've always liked this drawing. It was done sometime in the early 1980's, and I believe Kevin and I may have printed it in one of the first "Gobbledygooks". The drawing was inspired by a photograph of family friend Len carrying his (then) young son Jesse on his shoulders.

This is one of several drawings I inked with a "Flair" felt-tip pen -- never my favorite inking tool, but hey... they were cheap and convenient. -- PL