Thursday, January 31, 2013

Turning lemons into lemonade

"Woodland Stream" 9"x 7", watercolor
Here is my newest painting and boy does this one have a story to go with it! This painting was part of a series of watercolor painting exercises I’ve been doing to sharpen up my watercolor skills. Although I do know better, the complexity of this scene had me crossing my eyes in frustration fairly quickly after starting it. Now I do know better, I truly do. But somehow this piece was going nowhere fast and I was at the verge of tearing it up and tossing it away when a little voice in the back of my head said, “don’t give up on it quite yet…”

I listened. Pulling out an appropriate palette of Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils and some white gouache, I turned both the reference photo and my painting upside down and got back to work. I’m pleased to say that a few hours later I had this painting completed.

I don’t know exactly how I did it, except that I stopped fussing over the technique and just created it like I know how to do. That’s all. A pretty much a miraculous occurrence, but one that leaves me eager to do another painting.

So here’s my take away from this experience…

  1. Remember that turning a photo or painting upside down tricks your mind into seeing the image as shapes only without the added burden of trying to understand them as things. This makes it much easier to interpret complex images like you see in this scene.
  2. Don’t be such a purist that you turn away from other tools, if needed. I feel much more confident rendering complexity with a pencil than I do with a brush. That’s a fact. This image was pretty detailed and I intended to render it, not interpret it as a loose watercolor. Therefore, when I could not create the level of detail I wanted with my relatively unskilled brush, I turned to watercolor pencils which seemed to fit the bill better, at least for me.
  3. It’s still a watercolor! It just was created with both tube paint and watercolor pencils. So ultimately, no harm no foul.

Cheers everyone!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Horse Life 21

I recently happened upon a very old copy of The Ladies Home Journal in a used bookstore I know. It seems that in 1913 there was still a rather heated debate going on about whether or not it was healthful and proper for women to ride astride in “men’s” saddles.

This debate made me consider the changes in riding apparel over the subsequent years – from side-saddle “habits” to the baggy-thighed breeches of the 1920’s, all the way up to the modern paraphernalia we’ve developed for riders today.

It’s to this long progression of equestrienne fashions that I dedicate Horse Life 21– we’ve come a long way baby!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Today, a story…

Queen Talesha of the Tanrese
Over the weekend while doodling some costume design ideas for my new novel, I ended up with a drawing that wasn’t anything like what I needed for the new book. That happens sometimes, you end up with illustrations far afield from your original plans. So, I ended up with an illustration for a story I wrote quite some time ago, part of a story cycle featuring the exploits of a young priestess/heroine named Mathilde Tira Roass. I've written more than a dozen "Mathilde" stories but this story has the distinction of being the only one not written from Mathilde's point of view. This one was written from the perspective of her companion, a Tanrese man named Caucx.

Below is the introduction to, “Caucx and the Priestess,” which tells the tale of Mathilde's adventure searching for the missing queen of the Tanrese, Talesha Teragorgan.

"Heroes and Monsters of the Land"
From the tellings of Toral Terafin, Master of the Blue-Red School
It is well known my children that the dry land has had its share of heroes. These land heroes are of little importance to us except to demonstrate that the land above the waves is a very dangerous place, well in need of heroes.

One of the best known land heroes was a spirit priestess by the name of Mathilde Tira Roass. Priestess Mathilde lived long ago, in the time of my father's grandfather. She, along with the brave Tanrese hero, Caucx Corgorgan, once saved the life of wise and beautiful Queen Talesha Teragorgan, in a grand adventure ON THE LAND.

Ah, I see in your shining eyes that you doubt that such a thing could have been. Well I assure you that it was and now you shall hear the tale yourselves. Drift closer children and I'll tell you the tale.

In the fifteenth year of Queen Talesha's reign she decided to find a mate...

Of course there's more to the story. If enough people want to hear it, I'll tell you the whole thing. ;-)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Still on silhouettes but currently looking for a change

My watercolor exercises are proceeding nicely. As I’ve been working on essentially the same subject for the past few weeks now – sunrise or sunset colored skies with foreground objects in silhouette - I've decided it's now time to move on to some other exercises. Although I've still got tons of good exercises left to do in my current watercolor book, I also have a few new watercolor books waiting for me at the library (including some by watercolorist David Bellamy!!!) that have me pretty excited.

I’ve chosen to use two spiral-bound Stillman and Birn Delta sketchbooks (9”x12” and 6”x7”) for this series of painting exercises. By keeping my paintings in bound books I’m finding it much easier to keep track of any sequential improvements to my painting. It's also kind of like keeping a watercolor painting journal that will be fun to refere back to later one. ;-)

Here are my most recent paintings.

"Peaceful Evening," watercolor 6"x7"
"Willow Weeps at Night," watercolor 9"x12"

This last painting is a little bit different. I missed pen and ink and one night started doodling a tree. I've been experimenting with brush marks and had some fun adding color to my little drawing after the ink was dry.  

"Tree," pen and ink and watercolor
(This last one is just because I like trees.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Been in Maryland for the past few days

I just returned from a very busy trip to the East Coast assisting my aging father with a house move. The trip was a lot of work but in between sorting, packing, and other errands, I was able to get in a little bit of sketching. Here are some of the sketches I did while on the trip, all done in graphite and black Prismacolor pencil in a gridded ledger.

This is "Chaz." He belongs to my Dad's best friend, Myron.

This East Indian sculpture is of Brahma riding his peacock.

These sketches were done in the waiting room of the
VA hospital in Baltimore. The man on the right was a
lovely priest by the name of "Angel."
P.S. I ran into watercolorist Susie Short at Daniel Smith's in Bellevue a few short (no pun intended) hours before leaving for Maryland. Susie was kind enough to show me some watercolor tricks for smoothing out my washes in the few minutes I spent with her. Now that I'm back I'm looking forward to trying out her suggestions in my next watercolor piece. Thanks Susie! :-)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

While waiting for my haircut appointment

Not unexpectedly, it was raining in Seattle today when I arrived for my haircut appointment. I was a few minutes early and decided to spend the extra time sketching in the car before going into the salon. I'd brought my little pencil sketch kit with me today, it's very easy to carry in my purse and works well in wet weather.

"Outside Brown Hair" - graphite in a ruled journal
Graphite sketch kit
The picture above shows what I've got in my graphite sketching kit (from left to right): Lyra 9B
water-soluble graphite crayon, General's sketching pencil, 6" ruler, white eraser, 2 Prismacolor colored pencils - steel & black, 2 Design Ebony pencils, 2 2B graphite pencils, stump, Pentalic woodless pencil (I think it's a 2B), and a sharpener. It's all fits very well into a Nomadic PE-06 Side Zipper Pencil Case.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Bright Sunset

“Bright Sunset,” © Sara Light-Waller
7.5” x 10.5” watercolor in a Stillman & Birn Delta sketchbook.
Here is my most recent watercolor painting, “Bright Sunset,” an exploration of graded-color washes applied in slow glazes. I took my time with this painting, waiting until each wash was quite dry before applying the next one. This slow application of color allowed me to get the washes quite bright and fairly smooth, just the ticket for this particular piece. I’m pretty happy with this painting, feeling that it shows a definite improvement in technique over my last two pieces. My only complaint comes from the masking fluid I used to mask out the sun. It proved rather hard on the paper surface as you can plainly see in the top left portion of the sun. Ah well, onwards and upwards!

P.S. The new palette colors are working beautifully for me.