There are some ideas that take my mind by storm, blowing it and wrecking all the plans I have already set up. These are ideas that demand to be written now, and usually I acquiesce purely in order to get some peace of mind (literally). Then there are the ideas that start slowly, like seeds tentatively putting up delicate green shoots and buds, slowly growing in the nooks and crannies of my mind—safe from the raging winds of stormy inspiration.
Star Walker was one such idea. Though the concept of a space odyssey set in a magical universe came about fairly quickly and easily, the design of the ship itself (or himself, in this case) remained elusive. I didn’t want him to look like he came from the same world as the Millennium Falcon or the Enterprise (any version) or even to look like a real spaceship humans might build in this world.
So it was that I began writing the first chapter of his story last year, without even knowing what he looked like beyond some scaffolding and a huge, hooked profile like the horn of a crescent moon. I knew he had sails (gravity sails) and two appendages that stuck out at the bottom (appropriate for the name Star Walker) but beyond that my designs changed every time I drew him.
The painting below marks the first time I’ve rendered him with any sort of finality. It’s been almost ten years since I first conceived of a spaceship that sailed on gravity through a magic-infused universe, but I’m glad I waited. The idea that began as a seed has sprouted and grown, and now I can say with confidence that this is the FRA Star Walker, and these are his first steps out of my imagination and into our world.
“Star Walker’s First Steps” – Watercolor and ink on 11″x14″ cold press watercolor paper, © 2014. Click the image for a bigger view!
Star Walker is a 24-gun astroship of the Federation of Reänen. An experimental gravity-manipulating ship, he was built off the hull and core of a decommissioned airship of the same name, which in turn was built off the keel of a sailing ship of the same name. Star Walker has walked oceans and air, but now, 130 years after his first incarnation appeared, he takes his first steps out among the stars.
The original will be for sale at LonCon3 this August!
Some notes about the painting. This was the first time I ever painted a starscape (though I have drawn them before), and I was deathly nervous of messing it all up. Armed with reference pictures from the Hubble Telescope site I set about crafting a nebula that incorporated all the elements most easily rendered with watercolors, while the star field was done using white gouache and acrylic ink, mixed with watercolors for pigments. Along the way, I took progress pictures to help document the process.
How the painting appeared after the first pass of blacks and colors. It should be noted that Star Walker himself is the only object that was penciled in—the nebula was painted entirely in freehand. Click image for full-view.
Here I have done a second pass of colors over the nebula, trying to get that multi-layered look of jets of gas at different distances. I used a combination of washes and “lifting” pigment off with water, and in a few cases white gouache highlights. You can also just see the orange base marks I’m beginning to lay down for the star field. Since this was done white on black paint, I knew I needed to build up the stars in layers, to get them as bright as possible. Click for full-view.
More progress with the stars. Here I have laid down a lighter orange over my original dots, adding the “sparkle rays” which really make them look like stars. Click for full-view.
Here the starfield is complete; I’ve added the final white blobs and highlights, completing the gradient from orange to white. Star Walker has also got his first pass of watercolors, and his sails have been shaded. Click for full view.
Finally, the finished piece: I’ve changed the shadows on the sails and added white highlights to Star Walker’s body and rigging. Click for full view.
Altogether I’m intensely pleased with how it came out, and I look forward to doing more space paintings in the future. In the mean time, you can purchase prints of this one here, and once again the original will be for sale at LonCon3!
Star Walker himself will be introduced in the novel of the same name which I hope write over the course of the next year. He (and his crew) will also make a guest appearance in the Professor Odd series.
Goldeen Ogawa is a writer, illustrator and cartoonist. To keep tabs on what she is doing you can follow her on twitter @GrimbyTweets, and on Tumblr. You can also send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.