“Echoing Moran”

“Echoing Moran”

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“Echoing Moran” – Graphite – 5.8×7.7″/14.8×19.5 cm

I’ve got another chance coming up to do some plein air work, so I’ve been preparing my kit for travel. I used to keep a small (1/4 letter size, or A6) spiral-bound sketchbook with me in my pocket, but good ones are getting harder to find these days. This time, I’m going to try using my usual sketch clipboard for drawing on the fly. It’s twice as big as the sketchbook, but the paper will be far superior. I’m hoping I can still do the quick 2-to-5-minute sketches I did when I could just whip out the sketchbook. We’ll see!

Just to practice with this particular paper and pencil combination, I started what was going to be a rough sketch. Not surprisingly, I got caught up in the craggy details (who, me??). This was from a photo taken in China some years back. I’ve been studying Thomas Moran’s work again recently and I think I had those images somewhere in my subconscious while I drew this.

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Stay Happy or Die

Stay Happy or Die

One of the fun things about writing a novel is exploring ideas. Fantasy settings like the one in The Valenblade allow all kinds of room for that. Here’s an interesting question:

What if every minute must be a party…or you all die?

Magic comes at a cost. The architects of a great spell put something at risk to make the magic work. That risk was mitigated by another spell, but that spell endangered something else. That risk had to be balanced by yet another spell that endangered something different. In time, everything became dependent on everything else, and the element that keeps all this in balance is happiness.

For the magic to continue working, everyone involved has to join the party. Happiness is mandatory. There can be no confusion, no questions, no sorrow or grief. Any departure from the revelry risks the collapse of the entire structure and the end of everything. So it has been for centuries.

Imagine what happens when someone shows up whom the spell does not ensnare. What if this person doesn’t join the party like everyone else? The whole house of cards could collapse. Now what?

To find out, read THE VALENBLADE by Mark Ivan Cole (me!), available worldwide as an e-book or in paperback on amazon.com.

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Cloud Studies

Cloud Studies

I was going to be on my own for an hour while waiting for an event. I didn’t know what I’d find in this recently opened park but I was prepared to paint plein air, even though the weather seemed iffy. The park itself is essentially a series of city-block-sized, flat-topped artificial “hills” on whose cambered sides is planted what they’re calling a “sea of flowers.” On top are a few bits of sports-themed topiary and some cartoon characters. The current blooms were muted, and the square hills looked more like bunkers to me. I walked the perimeter. I climbed up top again and looked around. Really? Was my imagination so dull that I could find nothing to paint?

Ten kilometers away, however, winds from the northeast were driving heavy clouds across the Tatun Group, a cluster of volcanic peaks that tops out at 1,120 meters (3,675 feet). Glad to be in the rain shadow, I sat on the grass and watched great curls of mist roll down from the summits. After awhile, I pulled out my DIY Inktense Plein Air kit for a couple of small studies. The Arches rough  watercolor paper doesn’t like to be scrubbed, so I worked it as little as possible. Quick though they were, these are among my more successful attempts at painting this kind of weather with the Derwent Inktense ink blocks.

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