Thursday, April 25, 2013

Daily Report

The latest book illustration has been completed. That makes seven thus far. Yeah! Next up was to organize my thoughts on the rest of the illustrations. I did that this morning, making sure I had the right amount of illustrations planned out evenly throughout the book. I’ll also be adding a few spot illustrations and small decorations to the book, these will be used to illustrate front matter, end of the book, scene breaks, etc.. Of course, there will also be a book cover illustration, or at least a design, but frankly I have no idea what they will be yet.

Tonight, I’m off to a local Meet-up event about E-Publishing. That should be interesting and fun. :-)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Daily Report

This newest illustration is by far the most complex of any thus far. It’s been a bigger process to lay out the gradation of tones in this one as the background is so elaborate. I decided to do a complete pencil mock-up of illustration, being very careful to show clear gradations from 1 (pure white) to 4 (pure black). I don’t usually use such complex pre-drawings (many times I balance it all out in my head after the rough pencil drawing) but this time a guide proved quite helpful to me. I’ve been following this “plan” and the actual ink drawing is progressing well. I’d say I'm about 4/5 done with the drawing right now. After taking a break, I might be able to finish it tonight.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Daily Report: How I do things

Here’s a look at my drawing board tonight.

Contrast studies to make "color."
At the moment I’m trying to create just the right level of contrast in my newest drawing. My inspirations for this illustration are the beautiful details in Art Nouveau design. There are a lot of midtones in Art Nouveau colors and that can prove a bit challenging in pen & ink. But, not impossible. By studying the high contrast black and white photos I've posted around my drawing (thank you, Photoshop), I should be able to get pretty close to what I want in the illustration…at least I hope so.  

For me this is the best way to get the contrast where I want it.
I’d say the illustration is about half done at this point. Drawings always look kind of messy at this stage but this will change as the contrast comes up. Although pen & ink drawing is a very fluid process for me, sometimes I find it’s wise to pause and contemplate your path, especially when the piece is complex, as this one is. That pause can be just the thing to make sure you’re going in the right direction.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Daily Report: Art Nouveau and the starship

Section of pen & ink book illustration (incomplete)
Copyright, Sara Light-Waller 2013

Sounds a bit wonky doesn’t it? Shouldn’t starships be utilitarian and about as decorative as a Star Wars storm trooper’s white armor? NOT! At least, not in my world. Why shouldn’t a starship be beautifully furnished in exotic woods, carvings, and rich fabrics? I see absolutely no reason why not.

My newest illustration shows an important confrontation between the hero and the heroine’s brother. It takes place in the hero’s starship. I describe the ship as being very ornate and when it came time to draw a section of the interior I referred back to Art Nouveau for my inspiration. A bit feminine maybe (there’s actually a reason for this in the story) but also very grand.

In the early stages of pen and ink work (as seen in the incomplete drawing shown above) all you will see are the ink outlines. Everything in the picture has the same line “weight.” As you work further you can resolve the image by adding appropriate levels of contrast and texture to highlight certain areas of the scene. By the time I’m done with this piece, much of the heavy decorations in the background will drop back, leaving the characters much more front and center.

Sometimes, it’s really hard designing what I see in my head. In the case of this picture there’s a door visible which is not the external hatch to the outside. At first, I thought it was but then I realized that it was the door leading to the ship’s bridge. The actual external hatch door is out of view in this picture, to the left side, just off camera. Once I recalled that, the whole picture fit better with my internal vision of the ship.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Daily Report: Designing a Starship Interior

Airstream interior
Matt reminded me tonight that when we were doing the webcomic of “Privateer Princess” I was being pretty miserable about designing starships, high-tech weapons, etc. That’s true, I was. Aren’t we always at least a little bit miserable when we feel we can’t translate the visions in our heads onto paper? I am, anyway. It’s also quite possible that I didn’t have enough visions in my head at the time, to translate. This is also quite possible. ;-)

But now, while illustrating my novel, I’m taking great care to think through the pictures to go with my words. Throughout the next two books (and maybe the next four) we’ll be seeing a lot of starship interiors. This time I’m quite inspired to make them look wonderful and magical.

Next up on my plate is the first illustration showing the interior of the hero’s ship. As I was doing some web research last night I got some wonderful design inspirations from refitted Airstream and Spartan trailers. There’s some wonderful stuff out there about them and, guess what? These trailers are tidy and cozy, perfect thought-modeling for the hero’s small starship. I just love it!

Anyway, here’s a few of my favorites, made into black and white pictures in order to see the pure design elements more clearly.

Makes me want to own one myself. *tee hee*

Friday, April 12, 2013

Daily Report

Frontispieces are hard. Especially for the first book in the series. You don’t want to give too much away, certainly nothing the reader won’t find anyway early in the book.

I want the frontispiece for each of my books to show a particular character. The frontispiece for Book I will show the heroine of the story. The hero gets his turn in Book II, which is named after him.

Because the frontispiece doesn’t have to illustrate a scene, it’s kind of tough to design. You don’t want your character to look too static (in other words, just stand there.) You do want to give the readers some idea of their personality. This is a bit tough when your heroine is wearing an Eskimo Winter parka.

Thank heavens for my experiences drawing manga. Manga is all about character attitude, even in fur.

I think I’ve got it now though. So far the initial pencil drawing is looking pretty cute. We’ll see if it carries through well to the final pencils later this weekend.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Daily Report

A quick update – just finished the next book illustration this morning. Yeah! Now on to the next one.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Geeking Out - Anthropology Style

Illustration from "The Chief's Daughter" by HJ Ford

Franz Boas (1858 – 1942) is considered the "the Father of Modern Anthropology." He collected a great deal of cultural materials and folklore from Alaskan native groups, like those on Baffin Island. Of course, he did much more than that during his career, but the cultural materials he collected were quite significant. My undergraduate studies owed much to the study of Tlingit groups in Alaska and while in college I read quite a bit of Boas’ materials.

Imagine my surprise, while surfing through books on Project Gutenberg, to run across “The Strange Story Book,” by Mrs. Andrew Lang  (edited by Andrew Lang) and illustrated by HJ Ford (my current fave illustrator.) This book has several stories collected by Franz Boas and illustrated by HJ Ford! What could be better, I ask you? I was in total geek heaven! (Unfortunately, the book pretty far out of print so even more cheers for Project Gutenberg.  I just love that site!)

I have to admit to having a soft spot for Eskimo mythological stories (all groups) ever since studying Boas’ work in college. In fact, I tried my hand at writing an Eskimo myth for a scene in my novel. When I read the story to Matt he asked me if it was a real myth. I smiled and said, “no,” it was one of mine. One of the stories in The Strange Story Book, “The Chief’s Daughter,” is remarkably similar to the one I wrote for my own novel AND it has a lovely HJ Ford illustration to go along with it.

Be still my geeky heart. :-D

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Girl and the Eagle

Yesterday on Facebook I was posting that my next book illustration has something to do with a girl and an eagle. In the illustration I’m showing a very petite young woman and a rather large bird. Needless to say, the eagle looks even larger when placed near the girl.

The illustration style I've chosen for my books owes a lot to Golden Age fairy tale illustrations. Fairy tales and myths have visual conventions associated with eagles. Eagles in fairy tales are always large (see the giant eagles in the "Lord of the Rings" movies) and frequently magical. The eagle in my books is a rather major character and the illustrations that include him have to show him as being visually important. This adds another layer to getting the size differential between the two characters just right. At the moment, I’ve got something in final pencils I think works pretty well. Of course I won’t know for sure until I’m done with the final inks. ;-)

Several years ago I did a sketch of these two characters for one of the chapter covers of Privateer Princess that we never got to. It'll give you an idea of the two characters.
Privateer Princess Mile Cover Sketch
The eagle belongs to the man the girl loves and in this sketch she's crying because she thinks her love has died. Looking at it now, I can well imagine doing the final drawing over again in a more dramatic way. No times for that now though...back to the book illustrations.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

When we no longer remember why we do things

Arthur Rackham illustration- pen & ink and watercolor
Last night I heard a story. Let me tell it to you. Back in the day (by which I mean back in the first decade of the 20th Century) a new printing technology was coming in. This new tech (four-color separations) made it much more economical to print color book plates.

The old color process required paintings to have ink lines bounding images to “hold” the color and hide the effects of misregistration of the color plates. The new process was much more accurate did not require ink lines.   

This means that the pen & ink and watercolor images we find so charming today were originally created as a necessary requirement to hide printing misalignment errors!

*shocked look*

How could this be?

After the new process was in regular use book illustrators were free to create watercolor illustrations without bounding ink lines.

We see this transition from the old to new printing process in Arthur Rackham’s work. He worked right through the transition, keeping his bounding lines throughout. On the other hand, Edmund Dulac began his illustration career after the new process was established and his early watercolors don’t have any ink lines. Although you can see some ink lines in Dulac's later works, at that point it was because of reader expectation and not technical limitations.

Edmund Dulac - Look Ma, no ink lines!
Back around to the current day. Our printing processes are SO far beyond the ones I’ve been describing as to not hold any bearing on them at all. Except for one thing. We still like pen & ink and watercolor. I know I do. It’s charming and old-timey and reminds us of halcyon days. But… it was also originally a remedy for a dodgy printing process. Pretty sweet, huh? Somehow that takes all the charm out of it for me…or does it? Does it really even matter anymore?

I’ll still continue on with pen & ink and watercolor because I like it, not because I have to. Maybe I'll even like it more now that I know it's real origins. *lol*

Thanks to the Lines and Colors blog for the wonderful post I’m referencing here today.