Sometimes inspiration comes from things in our own backyard and the trio of designs for this coloring bundle was no exception. Our last hen to survive a fox massacre about a month or so ago has decided that she prefers hanging out on our back patio near me, my daughter, and our dogs. She still wanders the yard looking for bugs, but seems to like the protection of the trees and roof over part of the patio, and even sleeps on a small table close to the house at night. Chickens are notoriously pea-brained, but Chiquitita might be an exception. This is her coming around to see if I have any snacks:
Like the rooster and the baby chick designs, I sketched Chiquitita (and the beet leaves behind her) on my iPad, then used a new layer to create a clean black line drawing. Each design took about 8 hours from sketch to final line art, and then I had to convert them into vector files and then into PDFs. It is a process, but one I truly enjoy. A little worried about running out of space on my computer though … still chugging along on an old laptop with my fingers crossed it won’t lock up.
After the designs were done, I sent them along to my coloring team and was so excited to see what Lora King did with the rooster using Holbein, Irojiten and a mix of vintage pencils she found online. Lora typically sticks to softer colors, but she went bold with the roster and he’s gorgeous! Betty Hung colored Chiquitita with assorted colored pencils plus Stabilo Carbothello pastel pencils for the soft beet leaves in the background. Stunning, yes?
Now that the chicken bundle is on Etsy and I’ve had a chance to do a little color-testing of the designs, too, I thought I would share a few tips.
My original thought was to stick with only Caran d’Ache Museum watercolor pencils, but as I progressed and became obsessed with the possibility of finishing Chiquitita, I broke out the micas. Yes, the micas! If you have not seen Karen Spencer’s watercolors on Etsy yet, check them out—worth every cent as they are gorgeous, fun to work with, and they really seem to last a long time. I use mine a lot but have barely put a dent in the pans!
My first step was to color a base layer with the Museum pencils (Brown Ochre and Plum for the neck feathers, and Violet and Sepia) for the body. I do like using a watercolor base layer when I have time because it makes a really nice surface for my colored pencils. I try to apply medium pressure with the pencils and overlap the colors a bit so that when I grab my waterbrush, they are a bit easier to blend. I do not use a lot of water and just keep the brush moving while focusing on the smaller spaces. I also pay attention to where I pull the brush tip up because that usually leaves a little blop of pigment. Good for areas I want a little darker.
Remember to try different color combinations on a scrap piece of paper. It may not seem like Brown Ochre and Plum would go together, for example, but they create an unusual and striking blend. For those in the Ruby Charm Colors Facebook group (to join, just find us off the main RubyCharmColors page), you can print out the freebie I included in our Files folder to experiment with the feathers. And there’s a cute chick in a nest with eggs for coloring, too!
Sometimes experimenting does not always turn out the way we imagine but there is usually a fix. I used the wrong yellow (too harsh and bright, wrong tone) for the petal-feathers above Chiquitita’s face (yuck!) but later went back and painted over them with a mix of red and violet mica paints (below). I also used the micas to paint the edges of the feathers and started filling in more feathers with the Museum watercolor pencils.
Because I don’t use a lot of water while working, the watercolors dry fairly quickly. I usually bounce back and forth between areas during the whole process, too. For example, while the belly feathers were drying, I started coloring the section of yellowish-green feathers near the tail. Then the blue feathers, then the tail feathers, all the time keeping my colors fairly muted. Fun fact about the mica paints: once your brush has a little mica in it, even while using plain water to blend watercolor pencils, a subtle, lovely shimmer will show up in your coloring.
I used metallic gel pens for some of the embellishments on the feathers, then sharp Irojiten pencils to add some of the sharper lines. Instead of black, I often pick dark reds, blues and greens to give the lines a little more color interest.
I may go back over parts of the hen to add more detail and shading with my pencils and gel pens, but this is where I have left off with Chiquitita for now.
Once the watercolors dried, I used a mix of regular colored pencils to work in more shading and detail. It takes me forever to complete a piece because I can’t help working it—adding more layers and details until I get it where I want it. But I do enjoy the process so even if I don’t finish a coloring (I have stacks and stacks of them) it still feels good.
Another note about mica paints … sometimes it is difficult to capture the shimmer in photos! You;ll notice in the Chiquitita photos above that some show the shimmer, others do not. You need to get the angle just right if you want to micas to show up in photos. You can also try different lighting situations as well. Goose-neck style lights work pretty well because you can adjust the angle of the light.
The final design in the trio bundle, baby chicks, is a bit challenging because of the wheel in the background. Even drawing the lines was a little tough (time-consuming) due to all the overlapping shapes. I did a fairly quick coloring of this one in hopes of helping colorists see how the design works, though there’s nothing wrong with coloring it any way one likes when it comes to the wood, metal bits, and open spaces.
Last pic of the day before I get going on my next project—I just stepped outside for a break from the computer and said hello to Chiquitita who is hanging out in the crate we set up for her on the patio next to the house. I have a feeling she’s going to start laying her eggs here instead of random places in the grass. Thanks for the inspiration, my pretty friend!