Monday, December 31, 2012

Concept Art in Watercolor

"The Lonely Tower"
© Sara Light-Waller, 2012
Some of the watercolor paintings I'm doing right now are also serving as concept art for my book. Although I'm not planning on illustrating the book as such, I am planning on doing some spot illustrations for it.

In this painting a strange, half-abandoned tower in seen the frigid wastelands of the north. My thought is that it's an abandoned alien lightning tower from about thirty years ago. Times have changed and technology advances, but such relics can still be found on conquered Earth. Perhaps my heroine chanced upon this place during one of her long hunting trips in the wilds of Alaska. If she did, she would have given it a wide berth, wanting nothing to do with Ciodali things, at least before the book begins....

Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Watercolor Palette

As I'm considering doing a watercolor painting for my novel cover, I've taken stock and realized that my watercolor skills are a bit stiff and rusty. Horrors! I have several books on my shelf with watercolor painting practice exercises in them  and I've decided to get on with it and start practicing. As I began, I realized right away that I didn’t have a palette made up with many of the “standard” colors being suggested for the exercises. The palette I'd been using has some lovely colors in it, but many are non-standard mixed colors that weren’t reacting as the exercises had led me to expect.

Last night at about 10 pm, I cleaned out an old palette and prepared a new one, a hybrid of tube paints and some partial DS watercolor sticks. I had to do it this way as I only have some of the colors I needed, like Alizarin Crimson, in stick form.

For those who might be interested, here’s a picture of my new palette, with the names of the colors listed beneath. (NB: all are Daniel Smith watercolors except for the Davy’s Gray which is Winsor Newton.)

Lemon Yellow, New Gamboge, Nickel Azo, Cadmium Yellow Deep Hue,
Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Orange Hue, Cadmium Red Medium Hue,
Cobalt Blue Violet, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Venetian Red,
Fired Gold Ochre, Burnt Umber, Sepia, Payne’s Gray, Davy’s Gray,
French Ultramarine, Indanthrone Blue, Mayan Blue Genuine,
Cerulean Blue, Cascade Green, Sap Green,
Rich Green Gold,
and White Gouache.
I also added a few “extra” colors to play with: Lapis Lazuli Genuine (24), Rose Madder Genuine (25), and Natural Sleeping Beauty Turquoise (26).

As a note of these three last colors, they are all kind of problematic and I’ve really put them in here just for fun. Rose Madder Genuine is one of my favorite mixing colors, producing some of the best neutrals I have ever seen when mixed with a clean yellow and a clean blue. However, the downside is that it's a highly fugitive color with almost no lightfastness. So, unfortunately, it’ll fade in light quite quickly. I've tried before to replace it in my palette with Potter's Pink, which is much more lightfast, but I just don't like it nearly as much as a mixing color.

Lapis Lazuli Genuine is new color to me, a very delicate cool blue, perhaps too delicate to be of any real use, we’ll see. It may work well as a tint for cool white objects or snow, so that's probably where I'll try it at first.

New palette and color key
I’ve tried several times to use Natural Sleeping Beauty Turquoise in palettes and never end up using it. I’m not sure why. When looking for a Turquoise I tend to reach for either Ultramarine or Phthalo Turquoise before this one. But as the Sleeping Beauty is a very clean, transparent Turquoise it will likely create some harmonious neutrals when mixed with Alizarin Crimson…so I’m hopeful I can put it to some good use in this palette.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Painting - “Ferns and Tree”

"Ferns and Tree" by Sara Light-Waller, watercolor 9"x12", 2012

Yesterday was Christmas and I decided to do a painting. We have a lot of ferns growing in the northwestern US where I live and being able to paint them can really come in handy when you’re out sketching. Today’s painting was watercolor enhanced with watercolor pencils in a 9”x12” Stillman and Birn Delta sketchbook. This was my first time using the Delta and I was much impressed. It took the paint quite well with relatively little buckling and withstood a moderate amount of scratching with ease. I did almost no scrubbing in this piece but what I did do it handled quite well. Thanks to Stillman and Birn for making such lovely and useful sketchbooks for us artists. :-)

Here’s my sequence for the painting:

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Rodney’s Saga Blog Illustrations - When I Was a Colt I Served a Term

“When I Was a Colt I Served a Term”

Tis the season for delight! Katherine Walcott just posted another of my cartoons in her blog, Rodney’s Saga,  in concert with a most delightful poem called, “When I Was a Colt I Served a Term.” This poem is a horsey-tribute to the "Sir Joseph Porter's Song" ("When I was a Lad I served a Term") from H. M. S. Pinafore written by Sir William Schwenck Gilbert.

The poem/song is so charming I’m going to re-post it here in its entirety but please do check out her blog, it’s a fabulous look at barn and horse-life from a real horse person.

I am the monarch of the field,
The ruler of the barn’s possee,
Whose praise all horsedom loudly chants.

When on sunny days I stroll,
My bosom swells with pride,
And I swish my tail hairs at the fillies’s taunts;
But when the breezes blow,
I generally go inside,
And seek the seclusion that the indoors grants;

When I was a colt I served a term
As pony boy to an racehorse barn.
I lead the stallions and I led the mares,
And I polished off the carrots that they handed me.
I polished off the carrots so carefullee
That now I am the ruler of the barn’s possee!

As pony horse I made such a mark
That they gave me the post of a lesson horse.
I walked the ring with a smile so bland,
And I vaulted all the poles with a big round trot —
I vaulted all the poles in a trot so free,
That now I am the ruler of the barn’s possee!

In carrying the kids I made such a name
That an Pony Club horse I soon became;
I wore clean sox and a brand-new saddle
For the pass examination at the academy,
And that pass examination did so well for me,
That now I am the ruler of the barn’s possee!

Of equine knowledge I acquired such a grip
That they took me into the show horse barn.
And those show horse classes, I ween,
Were the biggest jumps that I ever had seen.
But that kind of jump so suited me,
That now I am the ruler of the barn’s possee!

I won so much that I was sent
By a bunch of ribbons into championships.
I always jumped at my rider’s call,
And I never thought of stopping at the fence at all.
I jumped so high, they rewarded me
By making me the ruler of the barn’s possee!

Now horses all, whoever you may be,
If you want to rise to the top of the tree,
If your soul isn’t fettered to the pasture life,
Be careful to be guided by this golden rule —
Stick close to the rail and never run away,
And you all may be rulers of the of barn’s possee!
-Katherine Walcott, 12/16/12

Friday, December 21, 2012

Illustrations for "Tetong in the Land of the Unknown"

"The Thimble King" from Tetong and the Land of the Unknown

I have recently completed a series of interior illustrations for a delightful new adventure story called Tetong in the Land of the Unknown written by Ludvimin Reyna. It is now available on Amazon and you can find it here. I thought it might be fun to preview a few of the illustrations in my blog today. Above is one of the hero's magical mentors, The Thimble King, and below is the villain from the story, Odon.  


Tetong and the Land of the Unknown is the story of a young man’s passage to manhood as he and his two brothers struggle to save their father from the curse of an evil sorcerer. It will take you to far away magical places where anything might happen.

Congratulations to Ludvimin for her wonderful new book!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Editing Break

I’m currently working on edits for the third draft of Book 1 of my new Sci-Fi/ Romance series. This afternoon I found that my brain was getting kind of mushy and I decided to do some drawing to give myself a break.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am also contemplating the book’s cover art right now. When contemplating a book cover there are many questions you need to ask yourself. Of course, you want the cover to be germane to the book (although this isn’t always followed) and you also want it to be appealing to prospective readers. But that’s just where you start. A lot of consideration goes into book cover design and many times it takes a while before you get the right idea lodged in the right part of your brain. I’m at the stage now where I’m taking a look at some of my favorite contemporary illustrators for inspiration.

Charles Vess is a prolific fantasy and comic book artist who’s been around for quite a while. He’s also a particular favorite of mine. Today, I decided to copy one of his pieces in order to better understand both the construction of his people (or centaurs in this case) and his use of color.

Here’s the result next to the original image.

I suspect that I'll be continuing to look at Vess' work for some time to come. I can tell that he has much to teach me. :-)

After finishing the copy of Vess’ centaur, I decided to have a bit of fun and do it again in a more Thelwell-like style. The result is below. I like her, what she lacks in elegance she certainly makes up for in "go-to-itness."
"Centaur pony girl" - pen & ink and colored pencil

Friday, December 14, 2012

As unbelivable as this sounds...

I've just posted a Horse Life comic for the first time in MONTHS!! Horse Life 19 is now live on my website.

I had no idea that this was going to happen today, at all! I had put together my first gouache palette to experiment with and decided to do a pony drawing and there, well, there we are...Horse Life 19!

You can go to the new page here: HORSE LIFE 19
or just find it at

Happy (early) Holidays to all!

Working on book cover design today

Notan - looking at the harmony between lights and darks in design

Of course I plan to do my own cover design for my novel, well why not? In preparation, I have taken some time studying the covers of current novels to get a feel for what people expect to be seeing. I have to say, I’m not much impressed. Too much photography and too little actual good design. I’ve also taken a look back at older book covers (going all the way back to the 1890's) to see if anything strikes my fancy. During this process I have been reminded once again that although good design is not always seen, when it is it’s always noteworthy.

So where does that leave me? That means no laziness for me. No simple photographic image on the cover slapped up as a background for title words pasted haphazardly on top. Nope. It means a carefully designed whole taking into account the entire composition of the cover as if it were a painting.

Above and below are images I've been considering as tools when thinking about the composition of the cover. These refer to the Japanese concept of "Notan"  - which looks at the harmonious relationships between light and dark masses in a piece of art. This must be accounted for before color is added in order to assure a strong compositional flow throughout the piece. It also is to be worked out before the final images are decided upon, at least it's that way for me.

So, here we go on that, further reports to follow...

The same artwork showing differing harmonies of
black & white shapes used to create varying effects.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Retro Rocket Ships and The Future of Romance

Starship Sketches, 12/12/12

If you had asked me several years ago what sort of fiction I would like to write I would have said, “fantasy.” Or perhaps “urban fantasy.” The fact that I chose to place my romantic story in a science fiction tale did come as something as a surprise to me, I must admit.

However, having ventured into space, I realized I needed a conceptual model for my alien culture’s style. Would they be ultra-high tech? Would they be colorless and efficient? Superheroes like in “The Avengers?” Nah! Nothing like that for me!

Although this book is not Steampunk, as many of you know, I do lean in that direction. Ornamentation has all but disappeared in our world today and I feel this is a true crime. I decided to bring ornamentation back in a big way in my book(s).

There are primarily two alien cultures mentioned in the book. I have decided they dress in clothes reminiscent of our 18th century with starships that look like something out of a Jules Verne fantasy. In the forthcoming novel (whose title Matt and I are still sparring over) you will see quite a bit of a small starship, the hero’s “gig.” Although I have described it in the book, I thought it might be good do some drawings to try to get the feel of the sorts of ships the Tazegans might use.

I’ve been taking a look at retro rocket ships for the past few days to see what I can use. Apparently, something happened in the late 1960’s (NASA’s space program perhaps?) that turned all the previously colorful “Buck Rodgers” type spaceships into either enormous battle ships in space (all gun metal grey) or hunks of junk (Millennium Falcon - style). Now please don’t get me wrong, I love the Millennium Falcon and I grew up with Space Battleship Yamato, but in my world…well that’s just not going to work. I much prefer something more romantic with bright colors and rounder lines. I mean, why not add a little bit of color to your space adventure? Tonight I was asking myself questions like "why can’t a starship have a figurehead?" and "why not add stained glass to the viewing ports?" So there you go. My thoughts on spaceships. Expect something pretty colorful in my version of science fiction. That’s all I’m saying.