Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Report From The Field

I spent some quality time sketching horses this afternoon at Brenda Jacroux's farm in Carnation, WA. The weather was perfect for sketching and the bugs not bad.

Below are, in order, Percy, Sweet Pea, and Winnie. Along with a few clover flowers. All were done with pen and brush, some with watercolor, and all in my Moleskin journal.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Learning to Draw Cartoons

Although I have been a cartoonist since I was a little girl, I have always been a “shy” cartoonist, keeping most of my cartoons to myself. That is until recently when I decided to risk showing off my cartooning skills in an arena that I knew pretty darn well – horses and ponies. Thus “Horse Life” was born.

Today, I thought I’d give you a backstage look at the development of some of my “Horse Life” characters. My sketchbooks are full of drawings like these, although many are less finished. Some characters seem quite chatty as sketches and always have something to say to me (usually in the margins!) When I was drawing “Privateer Princess” I had dialogs with my characters all the time, with various chatty characters frequently complaining about how I was drawing their hair, or about their lack of stage time, etc.. 

I think a lot of illustrators do this. It’s a great way of developing your ideas while staying in your characters' heads. It’s also pretty darn fun! 

The following sketches are from my most current sketchbook.

Horse and rider sizes and shapes.
Image copyright Sara Light-Waller, 2012

Horse and rider sizes and shapes.
Image copyright Sara Light-Waller, 2012.

Bucking sketches.
Image copyright Sara Light-Waller, 2012

Artists never stop drawing. Our fingers get too itchy if we try. It's a great thing when you can draw something near and dear to your heart, which is how I feel about drawing horses and riders. Perhaps one day I'll be famous for my cartoons, one never knows...but in the meantime, I can happily report that I improve with every sketch and am totally thrilled with the journey!

Friday, May 25, 2012

I’m going to be in pictures!

Or at least one of my sketches will be. I was approached by a fellow who’s making a movie about Seattle’s Fremont Troll (which had its 20th anniversary in 2010) who wants to use one of my sketches in his movie. Hurrah! I’ve seen the trailer and it looks like it’ll be a fun and interesting film. The film, called “Hall of the Giant,” debuts in the Fall of 2012. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see it as part of SIFF 2013 either. Wouldn’t that be something? :-D

This is my sketch that will be used in the movie.
More news of “Hall of the Giant” as it comes up!

This is not the first time that I’ve bumbled into an extraordinary art installation. The first time was in the 1990’s in Tucson when the a major photographic group (The Society for Creative Intentions) included two of my photographic prints in their permanent collection - “Big Vision.” At the gala event they projected all the included photos against the wall of a downtown building! It was quite literally, massive! Both photographs remain in the Big Vision Permanent Collection in Tucson to this day.

It’s so much fun having wild and wacky events like this show up in your life. I am very grateful.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Horse Life 16

Horse Life 16 is now up on my website!

This one was fun. Who knows what horses dream about after a long day at the horse show. Do they wonder what might have been? Do they relive their classes and/or their previous successes?

I guess only they know…

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Making Black Horses Look Black

"Madison" - pen & ink, watercolor, and watersoluble crayon 
White and black objects are hard to show in art works. Why? Simply because white is not white and black is not black. White on white paper is a blank field, flat and undifferentiated. It’s literally, nothing,

Black on the other hand is just that, a flat color like India ink. Although this is fine for things like cartoons and shadow shapes, it is not as useful when you are trying to imply a color.

Last week one of the racehorses I worked with was a filly who was, according to Hoyle, was a dark brown roan. I recognized this unusual color because we had a mare of this color when I was growing up. She was a dark bay/brown horse with tiny, white hairs scattered throughout her coat. I had never seen a color like that before her. Unlike other roan mixtures she did not get more gray as she got older. Instead, she remained the same color, a brown with a small dusting of white hairs. Most of the time this horse looked dark enough to be almost black. She wasn’t black though, having a brown muzzle and a yellowish-cast to her coat when bleached out. Clearly a brown-bay.

The filly I worked with last week, was also very dark, nearly black, unless you looked at her very closely. For her sketch, I added a palette of colors including several middle blues, blue-violet, turquoise. and a hint of yellow-ochre. The overall effect “reads’ as black. In fact, there is some actual black in this sketch, as the ink I used for the base was black. But the colors you see are not. If I had used black watercolor exclusively, the piece would have looked very “flat.” Certain combinations of colors can trick the eye into “appearing” black even when they aren’t.

Isn’t that strange and wonderful?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Another Racehorse

"Mark" - watercolor and pen & ink sketch
in a Stillman & Birn Gamma sketchbook.

This gentleman’s barn name is “Mark.” He is a big, handsome, 3-year-old Thoroughbred colt. Mark is a dark chestnut color and I decided to prepare the paper in shades of color that would simply suggest his color. I added the drawing in sepia ink after the initial color was dry. As the ink (Diamine Sepia) was not waterproof, after inking I only added a wee bit more color on top in dry watercolor pencil.

I’m pretty pleased with this one. The overall color is light but still suggests Mark’s color. :-)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Horse Life 15

Somehow it seems significant to be putting up Horse Life #15 on May 15th. Funny! Hopefully it’ll be a good one and worth the wait.

Today’s comic features the introduction of my heroine, Cynthia, and her pony, Basil. Although Cynthia isn’t introduced in this comic by name, she is the little girl I always intended to use as my main storyteller. Horse Life #1 also features Cynthia and Basil, but I wasn’t yet feeling confident enough to claim them as more than just generic “folks.” In the future, I will build up a cast of characters to support Cynthia and Basil’s world. I’m not sure who they will all be yet but it’ll be fun figuring that out. (Although Terrence and his owner are in the running - See Horse Life #12) I hope you'll all stick around long enough to discover it with me. Cheers! :-)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

American Road: Stories and Music

David reading about his bear encounter
Last night Matt and I went to an author-sponsored event at the EnlightenCafe in Ballard. It was an evening of music and stories on the subject of the American Road. An eclectic series of performances, the evening included banjo music, interpretive dance and readings by authors.

Of course, it gave me the perfect opportunity to sketch. I was experimenting with a series of waterbrushes filled with (1. Higgins Black Magic ink, 2. Noodler’s Blue Nose Bear, 3. plain water), a graphite pencil, and Inktense black pencil.

I was also wearing my new tan pants!

As David was reading about his experiences with a bear encounter while on a motorcycle trip, I managed to spill a few drops of Blue Nose Bear from the cap of my waterbrush onto my pants. Yikes! Funny thing as he had been repeating the word “bear” several times just before the spill. Subliminal suggestion? I wonder… ;-)

Maureen performed interpretive dance. She was dressed as a demon-girl.
The next semi-disaster appeared a few minutes later when I realized that my Ahab ink pen had leaked (!!! – bad pen!!) in my pen case! While cleaning it up I got Platinum Carbon Black ink all over my hands. (Fortunately not my clothes!) For a few minutes my hands looked like a coal miner’s! Carbon Black is harder to remove from your hands than many other inks. I still have some stains on my fingers this morning (the next day) to prove it. Argh!! Once cleaned up, my Ahab worked fine though. I have no idea why it leaked. It never has before.

The bonzai sketch in the right upper corner of the sketch above was a pen test to see how it was working after the spill. Oddly - fine.
So, overall, I would rate the evening as “so-so.”

Saturday, May 12, 2012


More sketching of the racetrack crowd. This is another one of the horses I regularly massage. Her barn name is Josie. She is the sweetest filly, very classy. That's "barn speak" for a horse whose temperament and manners are beyond reproach. She also is a good racehorse. You can see her quality and "heart" right away from her behavior. She makes me grateful to be working with her.

I did this sketch from a snapshot I took after her massage. She was looking very relaxed at that point, bless her.

Watercolor pencils and Neocolor II crayons in a Stillman and Birn Gamma. I couldn't resist adding the little cartoon at the bottom. That's in pen and ink with a splash of color.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Konrad Flex Pen and “Rome Burning” Ink – A Preliminary Review

Noodler's "Rome Burning" ink and Konrad Flex pen
As mentioned in my last blog entry, I recently won a brand new ink and pen as prizes in the Noodler’s Ink 2011-2012 International Art Contest.

As I unwrapped the package and looked over my prizes I thought, “hmmm, I wonder how the pen will write?” The ink was less of a question for me. “Rome Burning” is a brown ink with a couple of tricks to it. I LOVE the theme behind the ink – as Noodler’s CEO Nathan Tardiff describes it – “ ‘Rome Burning’ has a bulletproof patrician core color of Caesar’s purple with the colors of the inferno that wash away from it with excess liquidity.” So it’s a brassy-brown with a golden-yellow halo (similar to the halos seen in “Swan in English Roses” which is red, or in “Blue Nose Bear” which is blue) which when washed turns into a bulletproof purple color. Very cool! Since the purple part of the ink is bulletproof it would be superior to use as a writing ink for secure documents like checks. (I currently use Noodler’s Bulletproof Black or Kung Te-Cheng for check writing.) But as I always evaluate my inks for drawing first and writing second, “Rome Burring” doesn’t really do it for me.
Golden Browns are not my favorite browns to draw with, I much prefer reddish-browns like Diamime Sepia (see The Search for the Perfect Brown.)  The fact that the initial color washes out to another color is interesting but not as valuable for my uses. Despite that, “Rome Burning” is a welcome addition to my ink collection and will most likely be relegated to the category of writing (and not drawing) inks. No shame there.

Meanwhile, what about the Konrad Flex pen? The one I received as prize is the “Red Mesa” color which is a lovely red tortoise-shell.

First impressions

The Konrad is a lovely feeling pen. The weight and balance are very good. It also looks very professional and sharp. It certainly looks like it costs more than its $20-$24.00 price. The Konrad has a lovely feature of a safety cap that screws on the back of the pen which prevents you from accidently twisting the barrel and letting out ink when you don’t intend to. When filling the pen you remove that little screw-on cap and can then twist the barrel to fill the pen. The filling mechanism is a slide piston fill converter that works very easily. 

Writing (ahem, Drawing…) -

This is a very smooth writing pen. One of the things I loved about the Ahab was the nib, which has a wonderful feel to it. It’s springy and well-constructed and makes a line with what I think of as “character.” The Konrad nib has a similar feel to it, but with the added bonus of being packaged in a medium-sized body. One of the things I like least about the Ahab is the size, which is really too big and heavy for my hands, especially posted. The Konrad is still a bit heavy for me posted but when unposted is a bit short.

Konrad pen tests
My biggest problem with the Konrad is the width of the nib. I much prefer a fine/medium width nib for drawing. My Konrad is most definitely a medium width nib. Although I prefer a medium nib for writing I find it a bit thick for drawing. Interestingly, the Ahab has a good nib width for me for drawing, as it runs thinner than my Konrad’s nib. I say “my Konrad” as I have no certainty yet that all the Konrads have exactly the same width nib. It’s quite possible that there is some variation in the nib width between pens. If there is, there could be a fine/medium width Konrad nib out there that I would find just perfect.

The nib flexes wonderfully and will produce a fine line with a very light touch. Perhaps that was my problem with the line width, I was applying too much baseline pressure. I suppose time and more experimentation will tell.
Summing up

So what do I think of the new Konrad Flex pen? Overall, I like it. It’s a lovely, smooth writing pen with a wonderful nib. It seems quite well-made and is very attractive. It’s a good starter even after a few days off. The line, though a bit thick for my tastes, might be made thinner with a lighter touch.

Will I use it for drawing? Absolutely! (Although I think I’ll switch back to another ink…maybe good-old Bulletproof black.) Am I happy to have it? Yes! Would I recommend it to other artists? Yes!

I am a complete pen snob when it comes to drawing pens. As a pen & ink artist, I have to be. So I am very picky about my pens. But I would certainly recommend this pen to both artists and writers. I think it might be the best flex pen that Noodler’s has yet produced. If you’re looking for only one affordable flex pen then I would recommend this one, especially if you’re a gal with medium/small-sized hands like me. It seems perfectly made for us!

Cheers everyone and I hope you enjoyed these reviews. :-)