Monday, January 31, 2011

Blast from the Past #344: Falling Robot

I have already posted two versions of this "falling robot" drawing, back in September of 2008 (my first blogging year), but when I ran across this version today, I thought it might be worthy of posting. It's not terribly different from the black and white version I posted a few years ago -- the main difference is that there is no grey tone on the robot.

The other difference is that it is upside down, and that's how I saw it this morning when looking through some digital files. I actually think this orientation works better than the originally intended one. -- PL

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Feed the birds part 2

In the winter, one of my morning duties -- if Jeannine hasn't already taken care of it  (and I am doing it quite often this winter, being the first one in a long time when I am getting up at the same time as her) -- is to restock the bird feeder. We both enjoy seeing the birds flying in to chow down on the sunflower seeds and the suet, though Jeannine has the better view (I sit with my back to the window through which the feeder is visible, though I often see the birds reflected in the screen of my laptop computer).

A few days ago, when I went out to pour the seeds into the feeder, there were quite a few hungry birds already clustered around it, hopping about in the branches of the tree next to it. They seemed pretty bold -- none of them actually flew away when I got there, though they moved off a few feet. And it gave me an idea -- I wanted to see if one of these wild birds would eat out of my hand.

So I grabbed a small handful of seeds, and held my hand out, palm up, with seeds spread in it, trying to keep as still as I could. I heard the busy flutter of little wings near my head as some of the birds flew around me, perhaps trying to figure out what to do with this odd new feeder.

After only a couple of minutes of this, one of them -- a chickadee -- actually settled on my fingertips, paused, then snatched a seed in its beak and flew off. As you might imagine, at that moment I had a big grin on my face.

I went in to ask Jeannine if she had seen it, but unfortunately she had not been looking out at that moment. I tried it again the following day, but had no luck.

Today, I decided that I would give it another shot, and this time -- just in case it happened again -- I set up a camera at the window, and set it to take a movie as I went outside to try to coax a bird into eating from my hand.

And -- after a few minutes -- a chickadee flew down and perched on my fingertips. It paused, pecked once at my hand as if to make sure this new bird feeder was stable, then grabbed a sunflower seed, paused again, and flew off. And, as before, I had a big grin on my face (which you can't see see in these photographs -- actually frame grabs from the movie -- because I was trying to keep myself immobile while the bird was landing and eating, and that included my face -- the grin came right after the bird flew off).

And this time, I had photographic evidence of the encounter to show Jeannine. -- PL

Friday, January 28, 2011

Blast from the Past #343: Fantasy illustration

This is another one of those drawings from the early 1980's for which I cannot recall too many salient facts.

I am not even sure if it was drawn to be published, though the specificity of some of the details -- like the look of the monster -- leads me to believe it was a commission for a fanzine. -- PL

Thursday, January 27, 2011

"Hexapod" step three: Color

Here's the color version of my "Hexapod" drawing.

I may try another version, but I kind of like the combination of the watercolor and the photo background. -- PL

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"Hexapod" step two

When I began to ink the "Hexapod: drawing (with a #6 Sakura Pigma Sensei pen), it started to gel, to come together. Curiously, I think it was figuring out what I was going to do with its mouth that made it work for me. I was stuck on that -- should it have sharp, pointy teeth? Flat herbivore teeth? No teeth at all?

What I finally decided on was an odd sort of "baleen" type thing, similar to what some whales have -- more of a rough, bristly strainer than teeth per se. And when I drew that in, the creature suddenly became real for me (well, as REAL as something like this can get!). And the inking progressed from there.

Here's the inked version as it stands now. I was going to say "the final inked version", but I may play around with it a little more.

Next up -- the color version. -- PL

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Hexapod" step one

This is one of those drawings that came out of left field. I don't really know what inspired it -- just that as I sat staring at the next blank page in my sketchbook, I had this vision of some kind of multi-legged creature climbing through tangled branches… and looking up, as if seeing some sight unusual to its eyes.

I still don't know what the scale is -- the creature could be the size of a large beetle, or the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. I don't think it's necessary to know how large or small it is (or is supposed to be).

As I was penciling this, I kind of got stuck about halfway through. I'd drawn the basic shape of the creature, and roughed in the branches that it was climbing on… but then it just started to seem really silly and awkward, and I put my pencil down, disheartened.

It was probably a week or so later that I returned to it, determined not to let it be stalled at that point. There was something about it that made me want to finish it, even if it came out looking as goofy as I feared it might. So I kept at it, and got it to a point where I was pretty happy with it. And it was near the end of the pencilling that I added a small detail which turned out to be one of the things that made the whole piece work for me -- the thorns in the branches. Suddenly, the creature took on a life it hadn't possessed before, as I imagined that it would take some special climbing skills and toughness to be able to walk around on a plant or tree or whatever it is which was liberally studded with nasty, sharp spikes.

(Here's the penciled drawing as it looked just before I started to ink it.)

In "Hexapod: step two", I'll post the inked version. -- PL

Monday, January 24, 2011

Blast from the Past #342: "Hampshire Life" garden chart cover, printed color version

Some years ago -- I can't remember if it was while we lived in Sharon, CT or when we moved back to the Northampton, MA area -- I decided that it would be a good idea to get more organized with the clippings of my published work. This was mostly the stuff I did for "Hampshire Life", with some other work mixed in.

So I made a folder. It measured about 15 inches by 20 inches, and I used cardboard cushioned with some kind of material the nature of which I cannot at this time recall, and covered it with fabric. I glued a somewhat fancy foil-type paper on the inside.

Then I took large sheets of some fairly heavy paper -- I think they came from a cheap sketchbook -- and proceeded to cut out, trim, and glue down all of the printed samples of my work that I had saved, ending up with about 80 pages like this. Then I stuck it in a cabinet and rarely looked at it. I think the last time I took it out was when Emily was somewhat younger and I was trying to show her what her Dad did before the Turtles took over his life. (As I recall, she wasn't that interested.)

Recently, though, I had call to pull it out again, when I was trying to find the image of Dr. Martin Luther King and Archie Bunker's stuffed chair for this blog post. I knew I had done that drawing, and I knew I had seen it recently. I thought that was when I was going through some of the photographs I'd take in my old studio last year when I started (but still have not finished) my "digital art archive" project… but I was wrong. I went through all those files and could not find the image. But I thought it was very likely that I had a printed version in my pasted-up clipping files, and so I did, and that's what I used for the blog post on MLK, Jr. day.

(Curiously, two days later I found the original for the drawing sitting on top of a pile of stuff in my very messy room… I guess that's where I'd seen it recently and then forgotten about it.)

Anyway, when I went into that old folder to look for the Dr. King drawing, I was pleasant surprised to see that at least for some of the pages, I had actually taken the time to write down next to each piece where and when it had been printed. And as I went through the folder, I saw quite a few things I'd forgotten I'd drawn.

A few days ago, I spent a couple of hours taking photos of each of these pages. It is not the greatest quality for a digital archive, but it's something. And the way these clippings are yellowing (they were almost all printed on newsprint), I think it is better to have even a low-quality set of images of this stuff than let it go to the point where they will have changed so much that it would require huge efforts in Photoshop to bring them back to a reasonable facsimile of how they originally looked.

So now that I have this new group of images, I may be pulling stuff out for this blog, and if they look a little funky, that will most likely be because of the aforementioned process of slow decay of the medium on which they were printed. But it's kind of fun to look back and see how some of these things were actually printed -- I'd forgotten some stuff, especially with covers I did for "Hampshire Life", where someone in their in-house art department would add mechanically-separated colors to the art. I never had a hand in this, and I think for the most part whoever did the colors did it well.

One of my favorite "Hampshire Life" covers was the "garden chart", which I have already posted in its black and white form here. And now, the art as it appeared when printed.

-- PL

Sunday, January 23, 2011

"Monument", color version

Back on January 10, I posted this image (to which I have now given the title "Monument"), and said that "I may do a color version." Well, it took a couple of weeks, but for what it's worth, I made good on that threat, and here it is.

I have not yet gotten up the courage to try Stan Sakai's technique for doing backgrounds using the frisket film, so for this one I scanned the watercolored art and used Photoshop to drop in a background -- actually a filtered sky photo I took a few years ago. I like it all right, but I'm not totally happy with it -- I may go back and mess around with it some more. -- PL

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Blast from the Past #341: Fanzine drawing: Goblins with pig

I don't remember much -- okay, ANYTHING, really -- about the story for which this fanzine illustration was done, but it was obviously an image specific to the tale. I like this one. The pig is cute, and the goblins are goblin-y. -- PL

Friday, January 21, 2011

Blast from the Past #340: Man with Tarot card (fanzine drawing)

fanThis is another one of those drawings I did for fanzines in the 1980's, in this case 1983. I drew this one on coquille board, and I think it was a good technique choice, because it allowed me to fairly easily do those crazy "magic vibe" designs around the character holding the tarot card.

I have no distinct memory of the story that this piece was meant to illustrate, but the details in this drawing are so specific, I suspect I paid pretty close attention to what had been written to get all the bits right. 

At least, I hope I did! -- PL

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Blast from the Past #339: fanzine drawing

I am pretty sure this was drawn in the early 1980's, very likely for one of the fantasy fanzines I occasionally did stuff for. It's interesting for me to look at now because it may be the ONLY existing example of my work using a shading technique I experimented with back then.

It was a derivative of presstype -- you know, those sheets of letters which you could lay down over a layout and rub with some kind of burnishing tool to transfer the letter you chose to the surface you were working on. Hmmm... does anyone still use that stuff? What with the ubiquity of computers and graphics programs which make doing text a breeze, it may be that presstype has gone the way of the dodo. Maybe not -- I just haven't seen any in stores lately. (Of course, I haven't been LOOKING for it, either.)

Anyway, this stuff used the same technology as presstype, only instead of letters or numbers, it had tones. In this case, it was a middle-range grey tone made up of dots. As you can see, I used it to give some tonal value to the rocks in the drawing.

As I recall, it was fun to try, but I quickly realized that it wasn't for me -- and if memory serves, one of the reasons for that was its cost. I think it was more expensive than the shading films I used at the time. In any event, I think this was the only time I used it for an illustration job. -- PL

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

After the ice storm

We got more snow yesterday -- not too much, probably about three or four inches, but it was followed by something we all dread in these parts -- freezing rain. What happens when freezing rain hits snow?


Ice everywhere, on the snow, on the trees, on your car, your driveway, your sidewalk... everywhere.

It's not much fun to deal with. Sand helps. Fortunately, it seems to be warming up -- the thermometer outside our kitchen window is registering about thirty-five degrees -- so hopefully much of our icy coating will melt and fewer of us will fall on our butts or skid off roads.

There is one good (or at least not BAD) thing about these storms -- their residue can be very pretty. I stepped outside before breakfast to shake/knock some ice from the perilously-close-to-snapping slender branches of the birch tree in our front yard, and also to take a few shots of the glistening ice which coated everything outside with about a quarter-inch thick coating of ice, which was glistening in the sunlight struggling to break through the morning mist.

Here's one closeup of the tip of one of the branches of that birch tree...

... I must say I kind of like the dinosaur-claw look the coat of ice gives these branches. But I'll be glad when it's gone.  -- PL

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Blast from the Past #338: "Atomic Bingo" rough

No, I don't think this was intended for use with a game of any sort (though as a title it DOES have a kind of ring to it). I believe it was something I doodled during my involvement with the Nuclear Freeze folks back in the late 1970's/early 1980's.

Although I have engaged in some lengthy head-scratching trying to remember exactly WHY I drew this, my gut feeling is that it was probably some idea of mine intended to illustrate the terrible randomness of our possible annihilation by nuclear weapons. And I think "Bingo" is a game predicated upon randomness.

Come to think of it, I guess most games are… right? -- PL

Monday, January 17, 2011

Blast from the Past #337: Martin Luther King, Jr. ... and Archie Bunker's chair?

In honor of the great man for whom today's holiday is named, I dug out -- not without some difficulty -- this drawing I remembered that I had done years ago for the Daily Hampshire Gazette. It ran on the editorial page of the paper (NOT in "Hampshire Life", as I'd thought while I was searching for it) on January 16, 1980.

Unfortunately, although I had made a note about when and where the drawing was published, I did not save the editorial. But my somewhat sketchy memory tells me that it had something to do with both the discussions of the then-possibility of a "Martin Luther King, Jr. Day" and the installation of Archie Bunker's stuffed chair in the Smithsonian Institution. (Archie Bunker, as people of a certain age will recall, was the "lovable bigot" played by Carroll O'Connor in the tv series "All in the Family".)

And in the "You learn something new every day" department -- did you know that Martin Luther King, Jr.'s original name was Michael King, Jr.? I didn't, until I saw it mentioned online today. -- PL

Friday, January 14, 2011

Blast from the Past #336: Design for "Press Run" road race t-shirt

This is another one of those "I can't remember the details of how I got the job, but I remember the drawing" drawings. And this is one I've always particularly liked -- I think because it was one of those times that the drawing just WORKED, and turned out exactly the way I wanted it. (Whether or not it turned out the way the CLIENT wanted it, well, that's another story... though my admittedly shaky memory on this issue is that they liked it, too.) The "Press Run" referred to in the design (in that hand-lettering which must have taken me laborious hours to do, and which could now be done -- and done better! -- in minutes using Adobe Illustrator) was, I believe, a local race sponsored by the Rochester Courier newspaper in Rochester, NH, which was just north of Dover.

Here's the front of the shirt...

... and here's the back.

Please excuse the slightly rough images -- I had to clean up the badly-lit photograph of this art, and it didn't work perfectly, I'm afraid.

I have done a few of these "front and back view" pieces before, and this is probably my favorite.

And looking at this art again as I proof this entry, and noting the date of the race, I realize it is altogether possible -- in fact highly probable -- that I drew this thing shortly before Jeannine and I got married in our little back yard in Dover. Maybe what I made from this gig was enough to pay for our wedding rings. (They weren't too fancy or expensive -- simple thin gold bands bought at a local "Service Merchandise" store -- but to me, they are priceless.) -- PL

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Feed the birds

Jeannine likes to watch the birds that flock to her bird feeder in the winter, said feeder being situated just outside the windows of the "breakfast nook" in our kitchen. I help her out with refilling the feeder every so often, and I also like to see the birds, especially the occasional bright red male cardinal… or the less dramatically-hued female cardinal. Both are infrequent visitors to the feeder, but today, with my new Pentax Optio WS80 camera on its "Interval" setting (taking one photo every ten seconds) and set up on my TrekPod by a window, I managed to get two not great, but not so bad photos of the elusive female.

I also captured myself slogging through today's snowstorm (which dumped about a foot or more of snow -- our first big, annoying snowstorm of the season) doing the refilling thing. Later on, I snow-blowed a path to the feeder so it wouldn't be so much of a pain in the butt to get to.

But for all I know, we'll get more snow tonight and I'll have to do it all over again. Ah, life in New England. -- PL

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Blast from the Past #335: Artwork for Spitfire simulator

This is a true blast from the past -- from my own past as an illustrator and from the dark, primitive past of computer graphics and software. It is also one of only a handful of illustrations I ever did with an airbrush -- I never had great skills with it, though I greatly admired people who did.

As I recall, I got this job through a local independent advertising agency whose offices were in a house on Bridge Street in Northampton, thankfully not too far form downtown, so I could ride my bicycle or walk there. The woman who ran the agency gave me this job quite possibly not knowing that I was not that great with the airbrush... or maybe I was good enough for this job in her eyes -- I don't know.

But I do remember that this one was hard to do, and taxed my frisket-cutting skills to the max. I think I had some photo reference or maybe even a model to use to get the rear perspective on the Spitfire airplane. The art was used in advertisements for the Spitfire flight simulator software.

It's interesting to see what passed for "state of the art" in consumer computer graphics back then (this was sometime in the late 1970's or early 1980's). I wonder if that company survived and went on to do bigger things? I have no idea. -- PL

UPDATE 4:46PM 01-11-11: Thanks to commenters FF and Adam Riches, I now know more about this game than I did when I did posted this blog entry this morning... including the fact that, as you can see from this image I plucked from eBay (via the link Adam supplied)...

...the artwork I did was used not only in advertising for the game but on the game's owner's manual as well. Thanks, dudes! -- PL

Monday, January 10, 2011


I posted the unfinished version of this drawing back on November 29, 2010... and just five minutes ago I finished it... finished inking it, anyway. I may do a color version.

One of the reasons it had remained uncompleted for that long was that I had not penciled it fully enough when I'd started inking it. As I was explaining it to Jeannine this morning as we sat in the sunroom, she writing, me drawing, there are times when I can do a REALLY rough, loose sketch, and feel confident that even with those barest of bones to build on, I can grab an inking tool and go to work.

But then there are other times, like with the sketch that this started out as, where that confidence is not totally there, and the inking is hesitant and uncertain. It's usually because although the concept of the piece might be firm in my mind, the actual shapes and shades aren't. In all honesty, I'm still not sure this one came out as I originally wanted it to, but that being said, I do like it, and consider it done (at least for the black and white version). PL

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Blast from the Past #334: Superhero idea for "Big Y" advertisements

As you may know if you've followed this blog long enough, early in my illustration career I was fortunate to get several illustrating jobs for a local chain of supermarkets called "Big Y". As I remember, the work wasn't terribly interesting (drawing platters of fruit or cheese or cold meats), but it paid pretty well.

I'm not sure why I did the following conceptual drawing back in 1981 -- I doubt I was asked to do it -- but perhaps I had developed enough of a relationship with my contact at Big Y to feel comfortable making this kind of suggestion. And it was a true comic book geek-type suggestion: Use a superhero to sell groceries!


As you might expect, it didn't go over that well. Too bad -- it might have been fun to work on a campaign like that. -- PL

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Blast from the Past #333: Cover art for Smith College Alumni magazine

I think this one was drawn in the late 1970's… possibly 1980 or 1981. It was a job I got through a woman I'd met while she was working at the Daily Hampshire Gazette, and when she moved over to Smith College to be the editor (I think) of their alumni magazine, she remembered me and hired me to do a few gigs for the alumni magazine. Several of the drawings were pretty straightforward, illustrating various stories or articles in the magazine. I only got one job doing a cover for the magazine, and this was it.

And it was kind of odd, especially for a publication from Smith College -- a spectral woman walking through an ivy-covered brick wall. I know that I drew this to symbolize something in the magazine, perhaps the theme of that particular issue -- I don't recall. I do remember that it was fun to draw.

Here's the (very rough) rough drawing I did for the piece.

I have a vague -- and quite possibly flawed -- memory that the woman who gave me the job was shortly thereafter let go from that position, and I always felt a little guilty that maybe this slightly strange drawing had something to do with it. If I am remembering correctly, and that did indeed happen… I'm sorry! -- PL

Friday, January 7, 2011

Enter the blogger...

It was on December 26, 2009, that my brother Bruce put up his first blog post. He followed that up with about half a dozen more, then stopped.

Time passed.

Then, almost two years later to the day from that first post, he posted again -- and now he's started to do it regularly. I couldn't be happier, as it appears that the last two years spent haranguing my brother to get serious about his blog have paid off.

(I haven't really gotten on his case too much… I think. I've just been, uh, encouraging him to post more. Yeah, that's the ticket.)

Seriously, I am really looking forward to seeing what he does with this thing. We live quite a distance apart from each other, and don't get to hang out nearly as much as I'd like to, so this could turn out to be a great way to keep up on a regular basis with what he's up to, especially in the development of his art projects (painting and photography, mostly). I hope he puts up lots of stuff about his process, and shots of work in progress.

Bruce's willingness to try new things and produce lots of stuff has always impressed me. I am proud to be the owner of four of his paintings, all of which hang in our house. No, wait, make that five (I forgot the awesome "Mr. Spock" one he did for me two Christmases ago… how illogical!).

Please join me in welcoming my brother Bruce Laird into the blogging realm. His life will never be quite the same again! -- PL

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Blast from the Past #332: Drawing for Artisan Outlet Market Square Day 10K Road Race

Sometimes these days, when I am going through some old stuff looking for something interesting to post, I come across something that I sort of remember drawing… but that's about it. I don't remember exactly WHY, or WHEN, or WHERE, or for WHOM… but the drawing was clearly done by me, and clearly done for SOME reason.

So it is with this piece, with the integral "Artisan Outlet Market Square Day 10K Road Race" logo. I drew it in 1984, and I am pretty certain that it was while we were living in Dover, NH. To add to that certainty, I did a Google search for "Market Square Day" and Portsmouth (because I also had a vague memory of a Portsmouth, NH connection) and, sure enough, I got 37,800 hits. I only looked at a few of the results on the first page, but apparently there is a long-running (no pun intended) tradition of a road race in Portsmouth, held each June.

So it is very likely that I drew this thing in or around May or June of 1984, just a few months before Jeannine and I packed up our bags and boxes and moved down to Sharon, CT. But…

… WHY did I draw it? It has the look of a piece of art designed to be used on a t-shirt, but I don't recall ever owning a t-shirt with this drawing on it (and if t-shirts had been made with my artwork on them, I would have been sure to get at least one of them). I don't recall being commissioned to draw it, and I can't think of WHO I would have been hired by to do it.

Was it something I did totally on spec, and sent it in to the organizers of the event, hoping it would be used? Possibly. At this point, unless I can find mention of it in my copies of letters and such from that period, it's all conjecture.

But the main reason I am posting this is that the Fugitoid appears in it, and I find that kind of amusing. I can't imagine that anyone outside of me and Kevin and some close friends and family members even knew who or what the Fugitoid was back then. Certainly none of the road race organizers would have. Why did I include him in this design? I have no idea… just like I have no idea why I also included the small and slightly demented-looking Tyrannosaurus.

In any event, whatever the original purpose of this piece, I like it. -- PL

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

So this was Christmas...

… and what have I done? I've taken down the Christmas tree, that's what.

We typically leave the tree up until the first day or two of January. This time, Jeannine liked having it so much that she rechristened the sun room the "Christmas tree room". But all holidays come to an end, and the tree was beginning to drop lots of dried needles, so it was time for it to go.

Yesterday I'd taken all the ornaments off the tree… or at least I thought I had. While taking down the tree, I found four ornaments that had escaped my searching gaze.

I got out my loppers, or pruning shears I guess is what they are really called, and set to work. It usually only takes about ten minutes or so to cut all the branches off the tree. Here it is about three-quarters done…

… and here, totally shorn of branches.

At my request, Jeannine took a few shots of me wielding the loppers (I don't usually wear my hat backwards, but I had been sitting near a window and the sun was right on my neck, so I threw my hat on like that).

And then once the tree was stripped of its verdant finery, it joined the last few years' collection of Christmas tree trunks in the garage…

… waiting for me to someday make good on my idea of turning them into walking sticks or something. Maybe that would be a good New Year's resolution. -- PL

Sunday, January 2, 2011


I would prefer to see the sun today, and it's possible that I will as the day goes on, but when I got up this morning and stepped out on our back deck, this is what I saw:

This kind of fog from sublimation of the snow (passing from a solid state to a vaporous state without first going through a liquid state) usually only happens in the spring, but today's temperature is a relatively (for Massachusetts on the second day of January) balmy forty degrees. I am not going to get my hopes up for a REALLY early spring, though... I know this is an anomaly. -- PL

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Entering the new year

I looked through a bunch of my old artwork, hoping to find something specifically "New Years"-related, but I only found a few, and I'm pretty sure I've already posted them. So I decided to use this one -- it is a drawing I did in the early 1980's, I believe, when I was involved with a local "Nuclear Freeze" group.

I've always liked the idea here, that of a robot doing the classic "hammering swords into plowshares" thing (based on the Biblical text from the book of Isaiah):

"They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore."

I am not certain if this art was ever used for anything. But I did feel that it is appropriate as we enter a new year with hopes for peace… because that's an essential element for the true path to a "Happy New Year".

Have a great (and peaceful) one, everybody! -- PL