Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Blast from the Past #179: The Thinker (apologies to Rodin)

Back in the late 1970's and early 1980's, I was involved for a while with a local anti-nuke group which was working for what was being called the "Nuclear Freeze" -- basically, a pretty common sense proposition which said that we had enough nuclear weapons (I think it was something like 20,000 at that time) -- how 'bout we just don't make any more? I offered my illustrative skills to the group and actually did a fair amount of work for them.

This illustration was done around that time, but I'm not sure if it was ever used for anything. It's one of my favorites -- I obviously copped the pose from Rodin's famous sculpture, but so have hundreds of other artists. -- PL

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Timing is everything

We had two great days of riding weather in a row this weekend -- yesterday was sunny and 90º (!), while today was almost as sunny but a few degrees cooler. I got out both days, yesterday exploring some areas of northeast Connecticut I had never been in before, and today doing one of my favorite rides up the Mohawk Trail to Williamstown (and gazpacho at Desperados).

On my way back home I was surprised to see a rainbow -- surprised because as far as I could tell, it had not rained at all. It took me a few minutes to find a place to safely pull over, one with a good field of view of the area in which I had seen the rainbow. Alas, this optical phenomenon was as ephemeral as it was beautiful -- by the time I got my camera out, it had almost vanished. I did manage to catch a tiny bit of it in this panorama -- can you see it? -- PL

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Blast from the Past #178: fantasy castle

I think this piece is from the late 1970's... one of the rare times I played around with watercolors over inks. I did this one just for fun. -- PL

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Blast from the Past #177: Man fighting dragon

Here's another one of my drawings of dragons, from some time in the early 1980's, I think. I'm pretty sure Kevin Eastman did a colored version of this one back in the early days of Mirage Studios, but I can't lay my hands on it right now.

Check out the crazed look in this dude's eyes! I guess he's really into this dragon-clubbing thing. -- PL

Monday, April 20, 2009

Blast from the Past #176: "Childhood's End" alien

I can't recall exactly when I did this piece, but it was probably in the late 1970's or early 1980's. This is my imagining of what the aliens from Arthur C. Clarke's "Childhood's End" (one of my favorite science fiction tales) might look like.

This is one of the few times that I have worked with color without doing any inking first. -- PL

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Today I went out on the Victory for an exploratory ride -- instead of taking one of my usual favorite routes, I decided I would scope out the roads in northeast Connecticut leading to a roadside restaurant -- the Vanilla Bean -- that I've been wanting to try after seeing a write-up of it in a motorcycle magazine. I wanted to see if I could find a good route now, so that when my wife decides it's warm enough to ride with me, I can take her there without getting lost.

Which is what I ended up doing today. I screwed up two turns and ended up getting turned around and heading WEST instead of EAST. Although I didn't get to the Vanilla Bean, it wasn't a total loss -- I had a nice ride and saw some interesting roads, and learned a little bit more about that part of Connecticut.

So I decided to head back home on some roads with which I was familiar. Route 190 would take me west to Enfield, CT, and from there I could just blast up Route 91. I decided to stop at a video store along the way to see if the DVD of the movie "The Wrestler" had come out yet (it hasn't). Coming out of the store and putting my helmet on, my eye was caught by something odd on my rear tire -- it looked like a stick caught in the tread. On closer exmination -- as you can see from these photos -- it was no stick.

Nope, it as a long, rusty nail in my rear tire -- just the thing you want to see when you're forty miles from home. Looking at it some more, I couldn't tell if it had actually punctured the tire (which would let air out) or just poked through the sidewall. I decided to take a chance on it, based on my observation of it and the fact that the tire seemed to be completely fine, pressure-wise. But it was a slightly white-knuckle ride home, and I was glad to roll into my garage. The tire still seems to be as firm as before, and I didn't notice any odd squirmy behavior during the ride... but it's going to have to be replaced. The weird thing is that this nail COULD have been in the tire for days, weeks, mabe even months without me noticing it.

Oh, and the town where I stopped to go into the video store? Hazardville, CT. -- PL

Two bike trips

With the warm weather finally, grudgingly arriving, it's been fun getting out on the bicycle again, without having to bundle up so much that it makes pedaling a pain. I usually do my rides on the paved bike path between Northampton and Florence or Northampton and Amherst, but this week I got off the path.

Thursday I rode with my friends Rick and Rob out to a new lunch place called Barstow's on Route 47 heading towards South Hadley. It's a nice joint with great sandwiches and fresh-baked goodies. Here's a view (incorporating Rob) from their outdoor dining area, looking west toward the Connecticut River (which I don't think you can see in this image, but it's really just about a half mile away).

Then on Friday I took another ride with Rick, this time from Northampton over to Easthampton (coincidentally, to have lunch with Rob again). We took the back way on the dirt road which runs past the bird sanctuary. It can be a beautiful ride, with great scenery, even now when the trees are still pretty much bare of foliage. Unfortunately, there are a number of idiots who think it's a good idea to drive down this road and dump some of their trash along the way. I've see stuffed chairs, mattresses, couches -- even a DVD player. On this ride, I counted five different discarded Christmas trees (one of which you can see in this panorama). This is a swampy area along the way which doesn't fully dry up until later in the summer, and even then will sometimes get filled up again if we have heavy rains. We stopped here so Rick could check his email on his iPhone. -- PL

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"Thanks!" (UPDATED 04-18-09)

Last month Mirage was visited by a group of students from the Center for Cartoon Studies, accompanied by the man who created that school, acclaimed artist/writer James Sturm. They had come down from the wilds of upper Vermont to see the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, and after that, take a tour of Mirage in Northampton, and do a half-hour meet and greet with me, followed by another session with Kendall Clark, director of the Xeric Foundation.

They were a nice group, and I wish I'd scheduled more time to speak with them, as it seemed we just got going and it was time to stop. Before I left the room and Kendall took over, I gave them each a set of the NECA TMNT figures and a TMNT spiral-bound sketchbook.

Well, yesterday I got this cool "Thank you" card in the mail, from James and the students who came for that visit.

James mentioned in an email that he was the one who drew the color Turtle in the middle of the piece, using one of the NECA figures as a model. Nice!

Also included with the card were these books by a few of the CCS students -- I hope to get to read them this week. -- PL

For more information about CCS, check out their website at:

P.S. I just realized I was remiss in not mentioning the following -- two young women who sat next to me during this event gave me copies of their work. Here's the cover to and first page of "Pair It" by Jen Vaughn...

It's an intriguing story which I think may be part of a larger work (I'm making that assumption based on the fact that Jen wrote "(a sample)" under the title on the cover.)

The other comic was "25¢ AND OTHER TALES" by Katherine Roy. Here's the front cover.

I especially like her drawing style. -- PL


I am a fan of the author Dan Simmons. A couple of years ago, he came out with a huge novel titled "The Terror", a fictionalized account of what happened to the ill-fated Franklin expedition. I loved it. I even got my wife to read it, and she really liked it. I lent it to several friends and they all dug it.

So I was excited to see "Drood" in Barnes and Noble a few months ago.

Although -- given Simmons' skill as a writer -- I expected a "good read" with "Drood", I did not expect at all to be so drawn into his evocation of Victorian England and the story of the relationship between the famous writer Charles Dickens and his friend/collaborator/rival Wilkie Collins. Like many, I had read some Dickens (in school), and had seen a number of different TV and movie adaptations of perhaps his most famous work, "A Christmas Carol". But beyond that, I'd never had any interest in knowing anything more about Charles Dickens.

"Drood" has changed all that. In the very near future, I will be searching out and reading at least one biography of Dickens (Simmons helpfully lists his reference works in the back of "Drood", so I think I'll start there)... and maybe try to track down more information about Wilkie Collins, an author I had heard of but whose work I've never read. Simmons has written "Drood" in the first person, from Wilkie Collins' perspective. And, as Simmons has written him, Collins is quite an amazing character.

It took me about two weeks to read the 784 pages of "Drood", and I was sorry to see it end. I think I may have to go back and read it again. -- PL

Monday, April 13, 2009

Blast from the Past #174: More gag cartoons

I found a few more of my attempts at single-panel "gag" cartoons from back in the late 1970's/early 1980's. These both have a "caveman" theme, which I guess I found pretty funny. Or maybe it's just easier to draw cavemen than people in contemporary dress.

As you can see, I figured out a way to draw my favorite dinosaur into one of them. -- PL

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Hoppy Easter!

This is an Easter card I made for our family some years ago. Here's the front of the card...

... and here's the inside.

We're having seventeen people over for Easter dinner today, including my parents, my brother Bruce, his son Ben and Ben's wife Kelly, and assorted friends (Dan Berger and his wife Jess among them). Jeannine has made lots of great food -- fresh baked bread, ham, Easter cookies, and more. I think we have just enough chairs. Should be crowded but fun! -- PL

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Blast from the Past #173: Alien reaching for spaceman

I apologize for the poor quality of this image -- I lit it badly when I took the photograph.

This is something I must have done in the mid to late 1980's. I'm a big admirer of the H. R. Giger designs for the title character in the "Alien" movies, and used to sketch variations on it quite often. Here I have some version of the critter menacing a hapless spaceman in the setting of a blasted section of a derelict spacecraft. -- PL

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Eric's first day

After having to delay the event for several days due to inclement weather and scheduling difficulties. Eric Talbot finally got to take his first road ride on a motorcycle. Eric, Jim Lawson and I gathered at my house at 11AM to plan our ride.

From left to right: Eric with the Honda Big Ruckus, Jim with the Piaggio MP3 500, and me with the Piaggio MP3 250.

We decided to ride out to the Huntington Country Store, where we could take a break, grab a coffee, and discuss how the ride had gone up to that point. This allowed us to stick to mostly back roads, so that Eric could get his feet wet before tackling busier roads and highways. It turned out to be a great day, weather-wise -- about 58° and sunny. Jim took the lead, Eric followed Jim, and I rode behind Eric. That position gave me the opportunity to watch Eric to see how he was riding on his first time out.

And I was impressed! Except for being a little tentative at first, especially in corners, Eric did really well. He rode at his own pace, avoided sand on the road, and in general did everything he needed to do to ride safely. Here's a shot I took while riding to Huntington -- that's Eric on the Ruckus, with Jim further off in the distance.

I look forward to many such rides in the future. Welcome to the club, Eric! -- PL

Monday, April 6, 2009

Three Mohawk Trail views

This Sunday was supposed to be Eric Talbot's first day of road riding on a motorcycle, but the scheduling didn't work out. Hopefully we'll get to it this week. I did manage to get out on Sunday, though, and took a ride up the Mohawk Trail, one of my favorite riding roads, and stopped a few times to take photos with which I could make panoramas. Actually, only two of these qualify as views from along the Mohawk Trail -- this first one is from Shelburne Falls, at the glacial potholes, which is about a half mile off the Trail.

As you can see, there was a lot of water coming over the damn that day. It was quite an impressive sight (and sound).

Somewhere past Charlemont, I pulled over to take a break and look at this river.

I'm fascinated by rushing water, and in the spring there is quite a bit of snow melt feeding the rivers in this area. There's something about the color of the water that I find quite beautiful.

Further up the Trail, just below the "Eastern Summit", I stopped near a now-closed gift shop to take shots of this vista.

If you look closely, you can see off in the distance the Bear Swamp Generating Station.

The only visible part of this project is the body of water on top of the mountain, which is regularly drained and refilled to generate electrical power.

Here's a closer view of that area. -- PL

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Light and fog

The more photos I take, the more I realize that chance and timing play a large part in capturing desirable images. So it was back on an unseasonably warm day in December of 2001, when I was walking by the pond at Smith College near sunset. The air was full of moisture, and there was quite a bit of ground fog.

I thought that the light at this moment, coupled with the fog, gave this scene an ethereal quality. (This image is made from two photographs, stitched together in Panorama Maker4.) -- PL

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

More motorcycle fun

There were two motorcycle-related "firsts" here in the last twenty-four hours. First, I took delivery of -- and went for my first ride on -- the new Honda DN-01 (seen here posing near a beaver pond).

The DN-01 is Honda's first motorcycle with their new HFT ("Human Friendly Transmission"). Essentially, it is a fully automatic transmission, and from what I could tell from my first ride on it, the system works very well. I could see a future world of clutchless motorcycling.

Second, Eric Talbot got his motorcycle learner's permit! Woohoo!

Schedules permitting, within a few days he should be on the road. Congratulations, Eric! -- PL