Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Dragons, and some dungeons

Dragons were kind of where everything started when I began painting in 1986 just before I turned 13. Although they weren't the absolute first thing I ever painted, they were definitely one of the main subjects along with unicorns and would-be D&D characters. Well, after about four years of that, by the end of high school my interest in surrealism and color and more abstract art took over for a long time and I mainly painted surreal alien landscapes.  But one thing I really miss from being 16 or so was the way that I used to do relatively large paintings, and patiently work on them for a long time, getting lots of details in as I figured out exactly how I wanted to paint.  After having a dream last night about a bunch of large-ish paintings that my dream-self forgot that I did, I thought I'd get a few larger canvases and revisit that old style.

"Opal Dragon's Eyrie" is my first dragon painting in many years, though not too big, at 14 x 18 inches. It's too big for a regular scanner so I had to take a photo (above) and a series of scans (example below) but I'm very happy that I was able to snap back to 1989 and indulge in my old subject matter, with a little less clumsiness of brushstroke. I still don't technically know what I'm doing, but I'm glad that I'm still 16 at heart somewhere.

My mom has been kind enough to take some photos of paintings that I still have around her house, so here are a couple from 1989, which I consider my "peak" year for doing 16 x 20 fantasy paintings with intense detail. I don't know that I really named paintings back then (I barely do now...) but I am really terribly fond of this one of cave adventurers. There's something very satisfying about working on the details of a big pile of treasure, or on a dragon's scales.  These were inspired by my childhood loved of first edition D&D (or AD&D) which I almost never played with other people but certainly collected a lot of books and accessories. Poring over them and creating characters and storylines was very satisfying even without actually playing the game.

Here is another dragon that I have a soft spot for! I was very happy with the way I did the crystals, at the time. This might have been 1990 or still 1989.  These frames were all made by my late grandfather...I wish I had learned to make them myself too, it would be incredibly handy! I did do a little woodworking as a young thing, but nothing practical, I'm afraid.

Below is a golden dragon in a snowy landscape that I am also very attached to. I would like to have the patience to do a forest like this again!

Finally, for laughs, here is a much earlier attempt when I was trying to work out exactly how to use a paintbrush.  I think that I came a long way from those early attempts to the ones you see above from around 1989.
More nostalgia on the way, I have dozens more paintings to share - including some that are no longer in my collection...alas, I should have just held onto them all, I'll never be 14 again!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Rabbits I have known

"Carrot Cottage" 8 x 10 acrylic on canvas board.

I realized recently when my friend who maintains the blog Painted Lady Fingers got a little pet bunny, that I haven't painted rabbits in a long time.  I used to do quite a few paintings with rabbits in them though they were usually focused around spring time, as I posted earlier this year at Easter time.

Most of us have a lot of bunnies in life early on if we ever came across Peter Rabbit, Brer Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh, the Velveteen Rabbit, uh...the Trix Bunny...it goes on and on!  But they also have been wonderful silent mysterious moon creatures to me, inspiring things like Kenneth Anger's Rabbit Moon:

Or haunted the book that delighted my childhood with the promise of gold and jeweled riches, "Masquerade" by Kit Williams (I still have positively no idea how anyone ever solved that puzzle). (...and here is a nice blog post about rabbits, below, I found in my search for an image for that book).

Or, perhaps most significantly, in "Watership Down" by Richard Adams, the unforgettable novel that introduced us to Fiver, Hazel and the other rabbits who spoke their own language (yes, I memorized snippets of it in sixth grade) and had epic struggles and battles in the English countryside. 

This book was so emotional for me around the age of 10-14 that although I read it at least three times then, I haven't been able to go back and read it again because I know I'd cry too much.  The same thing happened with the Duncton Woods books about moles.  I drew pictures of each of the rabbits for a little project in school around sixth grade, but of course they all pretty much looked the same...still, I think that is where my basic idea of how to draw a rabbit came about.

So in realized that I have been gravely short on rabbits in my art lately, I'm going to start trying to incorporate more of them, as evidenced by my little Halloween rabbit painting up above, "Carrot Cottage."  Some will be naturalistic like thee little bunny you see above and some will be anthropomorphic and cartoonish but I will try to include them more often than Easter time as I remember how important they have been to me throughout my life.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Higgs Boson Excitement

I've been excited about the LHC (Large Hadron collider) for years, as an armchair physics nerd (i.e. I like to read the wild and crazy stuff but I wouldn't know what to do with an actual formula) so I was beside myself with joy when I heard the announcement yesterday that they are pretty darn sure that they can confirm the discovery of the Higgs boson.  Now, rather than have me explain what this is if you're not familiar, let me just recommend you to this video to do the hard stuff.  Got it? Okay!  So basically this opens up a whole new world for physicists in understanding the universe.  The fact that they built this enormous $10 billion 17-mile-long machine to discovery something that is invisible and undetectable by any other means, is pretty amazing, and to have it basically confirmed, is tremendous.  And it's wonderful to think that its namesake, Dr. Peter Higgs, is still alive to see all of this happen.

Several years ago when they were getting ready to start the experiment I did this little drawing to illustrate my enthusiasm:

I also did some sciencey art, such is this concept of a hydrogen atom (the deuterium isotope, with one proton and one neutron) -- the human-like figures represent quarks.  I made prints of this available on Etsy today:

I'm not the only one excited though, a perfume company I enjoy, ZOMG Smells, which has a lot of science and nerd-inspired scents, also made their Higgs Boson scent a permanent part of their catalog yesterday. I have two bottles of it and it is one of my favorite scents ever!!!  Dark, deep rich tea and smooth, glossy woods.  It's a masculine fragrance by most standards but it's totally me and I highly recommend it and their other fragrances!

I'm reading a book by physicist Dr. Lisa Randall to continue my little personal celebration, since it was her book "Warped Passages" that got me interested in all of this in a big way a few years ago.  I want to make sure I don't forget all this complicated stuff so I want to refresh myself on it a little bit.  It's not exactly information I need in day to day life, but more information and knowledge is not a bad thing!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Summer flames

It's been almost three months since my last update since things have been very busy and most of the creative work I've been doing has been for personal use, but I have a lot of things brewing so it's time to say hello to the outside world again!

I am working on a wildlife painting for a fundraiser for the Houston Zoo this fall and I am in the process of finishing that, plus I will have some paintings in the art portion of the Dead Audio Music Festival. More on that as it develops!  In the meantime here is a new painting with a bit of Halloween in the air, because the Fourth of July is generally around when I start looking at my Halloween stuff and trying to figure out how to add to it for the autumn season.  I mean, I do that all year....but it becomes especially important around now. :)

It's been so long since I posted that Blogger has changed its layout a little so in case I didn't link that properly, you can see this item listed on my Etsy shop.

More soon...as in, tomorrow, most likely, as I have some things to say about my excitement over the Higgs Boson!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Psychedelic prints and their inspiration

Several years ago i did a number of paintings for my own enjoyment, with very colorful, psychedelic themes, inspired (as usual) by thoughts of psychedelic horror movies, strange early 70s conspiracy/occult books, album covers, and other things that I find visually interesting.

But I was so attached to them that I kept them, even though I wanted to share these with like-minded folks who like the same sort of things. It finally occurred to me though, that I could offer them as prints -- 8 x 10, since they were at least that large themselves, but I've finally started on this project.

The above painting, "Paisley Priestess" is probably an idealized image of how I see myself! She has long hair, a bright orange paisley dress, and is amidst a background of secondary colors (green, purple, and her own orange) swirling with strange globules and snake or tentacle-textured webbing. I threw in a few magic sigils which represent the planet Venus. The planetary symbols are a nod to the alchemical surrealism of the film "The Holy Mountain" though the idea of a psychedelic knife-wielding woman probably comes a bit more from the cheesy movie "Mantis in Lace."

"Keeper of the Moon Pool" is inspired by the same sources, with moon sigils this time, and a fire-winged, star-eyed goddess swirling her divination pool in deep outer space. I was thinking in particular of a book called "The Moon Pool" (A. Merritt) for the title of this, though the imagery is just a subconscious meandering on my part. I hadn't seen this particular cover (below) for that book when I painted this but there are a few thematic similarities. Psychedelic outer space horror, though, is something that I could pretty much swim around in on a full-time, permanent basis.

"Earth Welcomes You" is a painting that I previously sold, but I was inspired by thoughts of UFO/Conspiracy books like the ones published by Adventures Unlimited Press, and the strange "educational" films of the Unarius Academy of Science such as this one. My goal was just to create a colorful image that captured a collection of unrelated occult, New Age religion, UFO and hippie ideas, in such a way that it might actually accurately represent someone's theory, somewhere, of mysterious doings being afoot. There are some Tarot and Qabalistic references, a UFO alien obviously, some mysterious little people (a gnome), and various astrological and Masonic references. I'm sure it all ties together somehow. I also had thoughts of one of my favorite hippie cult bands, Ya Ho Wha 13, while I was painting this -- i think I was listening to them while I did, actually. One of the things that all of these different worlds have in common though are the use of striking images -- eyes, pyramids, wings, alchemical or astrological symbols, and lots and lots of color.

I also have several dream images that I've kept in my personal collection that are meant simply to be exercises in color and creativity. This piece, "The Key to Dreams," is just a visual representation of inspiration -- that feeling that you've unlocked a whole realm of things that are going to overwhelm and excite you. the main figure is blank and featureless, open to possibility. I did quite a lot of paintings with a "blank" character that represents both the artist and the viewer, who are just along for the ride in a colorful or alien landscape.

This painting I've always just referred to, psychedelically enough, as "Trip Lord" in my own notes, but I gave it a proper title now that it's available as a print, "Adrift in the Primary Sea." I was thinking of someone sitting back and listening to, oh, I don't know, let's say Hawkwind, and feeling carried away by groovy sounds.

Finally as a postscript, I have made prints of my "Poe Toaster" painting that I blogged about previously, slightly adjusted for aspect ratio in a print form.

I have a few more paintings from my personal collection or which I have previously sold, that I'm going to add to my print offerings in time, but it's just nice to be able to share them and tell the story of how they came to be.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Firefly squid, pulp horror and surreal landscapes

I can't promise a cohesive theme, but I thought I would collect three of my most recent paintings here with a little bit of explanation, since they come from very different places.

"Sunset in the Valley of Shapes" is a little something I painted the other night with perhaps too vague a title, because when I painted this I was thinking of an alien planet populated by the strange and colorful remains of oddly biomorphic monuments.

Maybe it is robot gravemarkers on a psychedelic future landscape. I just knew that I wanted every color to be represented, and I like the idea of these inhuman forms poised among rolling hills with just a touch of biological shapeliness. They teeter and totter like discarded children's toys but give the impression of something scattered along a quiet landscape. This is a 6 x 8 painting. I used to do much larger "alien landscape" paintings -- that was probably most of what I painted in the '90s, come to think of it.

"Night of the Firefly Squid" is another 6 x 8 that I had to sit down and paint immediately after seeing some pictures of the little bioluminescent critters recently. Glow in the dark animals (and plants, and rocks, and anything) have always been close to my heart since a childhood spend watching and catching fireflies. There is nothing quite as amazing as the variety of life in the ocean, and these bizarre alien lifeforms truly seem to come from another universe. I can't do anything but marvel at them. I realize that it all serves a purpose -- attracting food or as part of a mating ritual -- but it's a lot better than anything humans have come up with.

Finally in this week's grouping, "The Dark Procession" is another painting (8 x 10 this time) born of my omnipresent interest in pulp horror -- whether it's the covers of magazines like Weird Tales, or B-movie posters, I love the garish colors, and the grimaces of horror. I recently read "Phantom Perfumes," the Ash-Tree Press collection of stories from the Ghost Stories magazines of 1926-1930, which has a lot of covers of things like this.

It all links back to the gothic novels of the late 1700s through the early 1800s that I love so much. This painting is inspired in equal parts by books like Matthew Lewis' "The Monk," Ann Radcliffe's "The Italian; or the Confessional of the Black Penitents," and by Weird Tales style magazine covers; as well as my beloved 1960s and 1970s movie posters and images. Any time I put in a movie and it starts with a bunch of guys in hooded robes or capes carrying torches, candles or lanterns, I'm pretty much there.

So that's where I've been lately. Alien worlds, the deep ocean and gothic castles, as usual. Still working on some other topics too, some outer space, a couple of witchy storybook repaints, and perhaps some more nature-inspired art.

I also have six new 8 x 10 prints to list very soon, made from previously sold paintings or things I kept in my personal collection.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Easter bunnies, spring flowers

"Alice's Tea Party"

I realized in looking through my listings that I don't have any art with bunnies in it for sale right now! Which is kind of insane, because they've always been a favorite topic for me to include in my paintings.

So I thought for Easter weekend I would include a little gallery here of some spring, Easter, egg and rabbit-themed art that I've done over the years. I seem to have a lot more cephalopods and badgers in recent years, but I still love bunnies, so I will look to maybe re-doing some of these or similar paintings in the future!

And yes, I think a jack o' lantern is appropriate even for the Easter time tea party you can see above in my favorite "tea party" painting!

As creatures of the moon, rabbits seem to go naturally with night themes, but also have a silence about them that adds a touch of serenity and surrealism to any piece of art. Although wild animals at heart they seem naturally domestic -- gentle, quiet, unobtrusive, in a strange place where they are at once symbolic of the wild natural world and the home hearth. Yet at the same time, isn't there something just terrifying about the Easter Bunny?

The images I've collected here were all painted before I had access to a scanner with a high enough resolution to make prints from the scans, and unfortunately they are all long since sold -- except "Rabbot" (the rabbit with rainbow wings) which I do have high resolution scans of, for print-making purposes.

I have some of these images in my little online art gallery, http://www.artbysarada.com, and as always I can repaint any image in any size, with any variations -- I would love to do some more colorful spring and summer art, when I'm not busy with my gothic castles!

And yes these are all copyright Sarada, etc., so please do not use the images without permission. :)

"April Shower"

The title for this one is lost to time but let's call it "Easter Egg Tree" for now!

This also I don't have a title for bit let's call it "Night in the Springtime"

And a third without a surviving title, that I may have just called "Easter Fairy" at the time.

Ah one more without a title! "Mistress of Spring" sounds good!

Detail of custom art I did for someone a few years ago

"Kingdom of Wings"


"Summer Garden"

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Haunted Spring

My friends in the Halloween Artist Bazaar group on Etsy have some items tagged for spring, so please check it out -- if you like weird, cute and gothic Halloweeny things but need a little something springish at this time of year.

I tagged a couple of items like my ghost wielding flowers in a haunted hallway:

Or my Alice in Wonderland in the garden print:

Please remember that in my shop only (Art by Sarada) the coupon code TAXDAY will get you 15% off through the end of the day April 15 (or whenever I remember to take it down).

Happy April and Happy Spring!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Loch Ness Monster and coupon code!

I did this painting several weeks ago and neglected to post about it!

"Legend of the Lost Loch" is an original 8 x 10 acrylic painting on flat canvas board - another loosely inspired by my gothic novel covers, but I had to add in a sea serpent because, well, I haven't painted one in awhile. Actually I can only think of one other sea serpent I've painted in this "looking out of the water" kind of way, and I never offered it for sale -- I painted it directly from a dream.

But the real meat of this post is that I have a 15% off coupon code good for more than the next month -- I'll leave it up until the end of the day April 15th (probably longer, I am a night person and I'm not going to be sitting at the computer at exactly midnight with my finger on a button). This helps me remember that tax day is coming (whee) and it helps you if you want a little discount when you're looking to spend your refund! :)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Gothic heroines in distress

One of the categories I've started on my Pinterest page is Gothic Romance Book Covers -- I've started just by scanning the ones that I have acquired myself, but these things are hard to come by, as every used book store I've visited in several time zones has said "No, we just don't have much call for those." I can't believe this incredible category of vintage novel has completely vanished from second-hand stores, except for the odd lot on eBay now and then.

I haven't even read any of the ones I've acquired yet (my tastes run more to the 19th century anyway, and these are more recent tales) but I actually like the sound of them and enjoy a good pulp novel, so I suspect I eventually will read at least some of them, for they seem steeped in Dark Shadowsy atmosphere of mystery, family secrets and hidden rooms. Although marketed as "romances" they have all of the key elements that I look for in my old-fashioned tales of terror.

Even before reading them, these covers have started to form some of the inspiration for a series of paintings I've been doing over the past year and change. I just love the image of ladies escaping from castles in nightgowns by moonlight. Sometimes it's a mansion, sometimes a castle, a burning tower, a mill, or a country cottage even. They are invariably wearing a long gown though and it is always night.

"The Peril of the Crimson Manor" was the first deliberate attempt I made to come up with a title for a gothic romance paperback that might or might not actually exist, and then design a cover showing a woman fleeing in the night from a building with mysteries lights in the windows. I think it's important that the protagonist have a light source like a torch, candle or lantern, whenever possible, or an artifact of some sort like an amulet. She has both!

"Terror on the Cliff" was the second painting, and although it can be difficult to capture the colors when there is a lot of white and pale grey in a painting, given my limited photographic experience, I think she scanned pretty well. Everyone needs a mist-shrouded cliff to loom over, right?

"Trouble at the Mill" sold in 2010 right after I listed it - I loved the image of a mill and the intimations of what horrors might lurk in the chamber of the mill stone. I guess movies like "The Mill of the Stone Women" (1963) must be an influence as well. There is something sinister about these structures which now mainly exist in ruins. (though there was one in New Jersey that housed a great German restaurant, for years, that I worked nearby for awhile...).


"Terror in the Crimson Castle" is a classic image from gothic horror, of course -- every single 1960s-ish film I watch seems to have a scene like this, though they are usually in black and white. I can't watch a movie without a candelabra, a diaphanous gown and a staircase (preferably spiral). Well, I can, but I always wind up back in the castle. And yes I used the word "crimson" in two of my five paintings here, but can you blame me?

"The Moonstone (I)" is thus titled because I intend to do several illustrations for some of my favorite books, such as -- well, The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins. I have a bunch of J. Sheridan Le Fanu ideas as well. But I will get back to those, as I have a pile of other things to finish...

"Escape to Subterranean Horrors" is my newest painting in this line of inspiration -- after reading even more ghost stories (thank you, Ash Tree Press, for your affordable line of ebooks!), and watching even more gothic horror films (thank you, Mario Bava) I can't seem to get away from candelabras!

At any rate I'll continue with these for as long as I can think up variations on the theme. Since the contemporary idea of horror bears no resemblance to mine, with a few exceptions, I will just have to keep creating my own haunted atmosphere.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The haunted hands of Countess Regenbogen

It is a fairly well-known fact that I am rather fond of 1960s/1970s psychedelic horror movies. They don't have to be in color, but I like color a lot. And by "psychedelic" I really just mean weird and visually interesting. And mostly from Europe. And I love the movie posters, even if they have little or nothing to do with the movie. I just like how visually free and experimental they were -- the colors, the composition, the typefaces, all bear signature flourishes, with a little Art Nouveau, a little surrealism, some decadence, and a splash of je ne sais quoi. There's also a bit of garish comic book art and a good dose of pulp magazine or book cover.

I have always had a secret longing to do pulp book or magazine covers, but my style is a bit different...so I try to translate these things through my own little filter, and that's what I did with the painting above, ridiculously named for an imaginary pulp short story or low-budget film.

Some of my inspirations from the world of film are Jean Rollin, Czech fantasy films and Coffin Joe, which I'll show you below. I'm not exactly trying to recreate the movie poster aesthetic but I want to use similar elements, motifs and color schemes.

I've talked about Jean Rollin before, and he pretty much is what I have in mind when I throw around phrases like "psychedelic horror." People in masks, strange lighting, vampires walking out of clocks and fireplaces (Shiver of the Vampires), prog rock soundtracks to romps through night-lit graveyards, and wild costumes and colors. And candelabras, lots of candelabras.

This isn't a movie poster, above, but Coffin Joe (Zé do Caixão,) of Brazil also uses some wild and crazy visuals, most of which (like Rollin) aren't exactly safe for work. But the color scheme in this little graphic, and the hands, are the kind of thing that I had in the back of my mind with my little painting.

And perhaps most of all, one of the most perfect movies for my aesthetic, more of a surrealist fantasy film than a horror film, is Valerie and her Week of Wonders, or Valerie a týden divů, by Jaromil Jireš. This poster image, with that shade of green and the menacing, ominous figure in black, is something that creeps through whenever I think about painting a fantasy-horror image with a feeling of psychedelic menace. Which is something I think about a lot, believe me.

My favorite elements in film which have a tendency to also show up in paintings, are probably:

Contrasts of very colorful images against a very dark or bleak setting (a psychedelic gown in a dark castle).

Candles, candelabras, torches and lanterns.

Staircases, particularly circular ones.

Masks or painted faces.

Garish spot lighting in shades of red, green or sometimes blue and gold (Dario Argento, Mario Bava, et. al. do this very well)

Lushly decorated interiors infused with decay and decadence -- brocade wallpapers in dark green, red or purple; statuary, suits of armor, mirrors, gauzy draperies, etc.

Flowing diaphanous gowns, either in white or pale colors; also gauzy black drapings or robes.

Jean Rollin hits all of these notes, as do movies like "The Girl Slaves of Morgana le Fay" and many others. For black and white movies, the Italian gothics pretty much are what it's all about for me.

And then of course there are giallos but I'll save that for another day!

Incidentally if anyone reading this is on Pinterest I'm trying to start compiling some albums of interesting images there, including a board for my own paintings. Please feel free to follow and I'll do the same for you: