Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sultana Lena's Gift

Sultana Lena's Gift
Size: 10x14 inches
Medium: Watercolor

Illustration for a story of the same title by Shweta Narayan to be published be Realms of Fantasy Magazine.

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Parallel to my own blog entries on this latest painting, it's interesting to read some of the art director's process as well, which you can see in Douglas Cohen's blog over here.

Part 1: Concepts
Part 2: Final pencil sketch

Once I have the initial sketch, I procrastinated a bit on starting the actual painting. I've been locked in the mindset I had for the zodiac in the last twelve paintings where I didn't have to really think too much about color themes since they were already set by the symbolism needed for the pieces.

I say color "themes" instead of "scheme" because I did still have to plot a little bit about the details of the colors and to determine how to bring the main colors to focus. On this painting though, having complete color freedom once again temporarily stalled me.

I dug out my Maxfield Parrish book because I remembered images where he had huge bowers of roses dotting a verdant background, and decided I wanted something similar for the lower left corner of the piece. Glowing white gardenias to dot the surroundings. And to set that off and to really emphasize the viewpoint of the bird in the foreground and the more distant lovers, a velvet and lush green surrounding. The bird itself to be coppery-gold.

I started out with a wide flat brush laying down the greens in the background, fading a bit to yellows as I approach the lower left corner. The yellows to tie the composition together with the gold planned for the bird.

After that dries, I continue to build up the layers of various greens in the upper parts. It's much darker and more intense color than I usually use, but I really wanted to push that depth into it. Many many layers here. In a few places I went back with a white gel pen to dot in some bright highlights, but for the most part I try to avoid working lights back because you lose some of the luminous quality of watercolors when you do that. I reserve it for really sharp bits of light.

And speaking of white gel pens, not all gel pens are created equal! Some tend to clog very quickly, or else the white is not quite opaque. After trying many different brands over the years, my current favorite is Uni-ball Signo.

After fleshing out all the leaves, moving down into the lower left corner. The gardenias get picked out with mixtures of rosy tones and yellows. Purposely letting them fade into the light that suffuses the area. This glow, that contrasts nicely with the secretive dark shadows of the upper parts of the painting, along with the way the bird looks down into this pocket of light and flowers serves compositionally to bring the the viewers eyes down into this area.

Keeping this flow of the viewer's eye in mind, the thick trunk to the right of the lovers then serves to pull the eye back up to the bird, creating a circle of interest that keeps the eye moving around the painting.

Done with background elements, and now working my way forward into the tree branches. I use the same techniques here that I described in my walkthrough of the painting Moonbathing. Though in this piece it's more of an orange hue to contrast with the greens and tie in the golds.

And then finishing up with the bird and the lovers.


  1. I love the dark greens in the top left corner and the leaves. The design of the ( giant ?? ) mechanical bird is really nice and clever too.

  2. I love the perspective. I'm up in the tree with the bird peering down at the couple. Very nicely done!
    Love, love, LOVE the mechanical bird!! Very steampunk. ;)

  3. Bird was fun to do! That was my favorite part to work on.

  4. Toda su obra El bellisima, paso horas y horas mirandolas y admirando lo bello que la venta de sus manos Dios te bendice un abrazo ya la luz esta contigo

    lena escobar