Something’s bugging me …

It is Monday, right? Is anyone else losing track of time? Are you all staying safe and healthy and practicing isolation? Strange days, indeed. I am so thankful for our coloring community, and though I have not been on social media much, please know I am thinking of you all and am so appreciative of your support through your beautiful colorings of my line art, your social media posts, purchases, and well wishes!

I have been trying to work on new art but find it happens in just bits and pieces these days. More often than not, I fall victim to watching the news or reading stories from my Twitter feed obsessively and that’s not healthy. So, the other night, in an attempt to turn off the Corona noise, I flipped open my 2020 Creative Companion to page 15 and started coloring my crazy Praying mantis. Then I moved on to the Ozara beetle on page 14, then the chubby Behati on page 16. It was a night (and good chunk of the next morning) of coloring bliss, and I enjoyed unplugging and trying something a little new.


Since the inverted art in the 2020 Creative Companion consists of designs with white lines on a black background, I played with watercolors to bring bring those lines to life and add interest. I had, in the back of my mind, a coloring done by Karen Zaback (you may know her as Zucchini Kitty and her You Tube channel has a lovely flip-through of both the Creative Companion and my Oceanimaginary book) in which she colored three fish. Of course I fell in love with her bubbles (so cool), but what really caught my eye was how the colors she used filled in some of the white lines around her fish and gave her coloring a batik look.


So with Karen for inspiration, I pulled out my set of watercolors from Karen Spencer. You all probably know by now how much I adore her mica watercolors, but her traditional watercolors (also available on Etsy)  are just as lovely and a joy to work with.


Knowing what I know about colored pencils and how they have the ability to resist water to a degree, I used my Faber-Castell Polychromos colored pencils to fill in most of the larger areas in the designs. And since I deconstructed my book, I was able to take out the pages and work on them separately on a flat surface.

I use a “Maid for Art” rotating design board which I picked up on sale at Joann Fabric last summer (I LOVE IT) and you can find it here if you are interested.


What I like about the board (mine is 9″ x 11.5″) is that it stays put on my desk because of the little rubbery feet on the bottom, it rotates, of course, I can tape stuff to it, and the surfaces can be cleaned. I use the bottom board to mix and dab watercolors. Sometimes I have to swivel the top board to get to them, but it is super handy.

But back to the coloring. Here is a closer pic of the spaces being filled in with the Polychromos. For the most part, I tried to avoid coloring over the white lines and focused on getting the pencils to adequately cover my shapes to create the “resist” areas. Since the waxy pencils resist water (to a degree) the watercolor should soak into the white lines and resist what’s already been colored.



Unfortunately, I didn’t take a bunch of “process pics” as I was working on these three bugs, so I put together a quick video of what it looks like when I paint the lines using another black page (280 from the Companion).

The finer the brush tip the better (this one is a Marvy waterbrush I picked up at Michaels) and be sure your paint is not too thick. It should be fairly watery but with enough pigment to stain the white paper. You may have to experiment a little to get your best mix.

You can see how the paint resists the colored pencil (for the most part) and gravitates into the bare paper—the white lines. It also helps that during the printing process of the book itself, the black ink coats the paper so it, too, more or less resists the watercolor. If you get a little too much paint on the paper, just use a tissue to quickly blot it dry. Easy.

Note that I used a little mica paint for this video. It tends to stick to the pencil and black ink a little more that traditional watercolor does because of the mica flecks. Pure watercolor resists more readily, but if you have a steady hand, the micas can be a lot of fun, too.

Once the line painting was done, I let my page sit for a bit beneath a little (and pretty darn hot) halogen goose-neck lamp on my desk. It drys things out fairly quickly. I like to embellish with gels pens, but if the paper is damp, gel pens can be a bleeding disaster.


My pages didn’t curl or warp too badly but I did get some of my oily fingerprints on the black paper (thanks chips and brownies). They should fade away eventually, right?

Oh, if you are not into watercolors or simply don’t have them, you can also use markers to add pigment to your white lines. I have a bunch of Staedtler Triplus pens I use to write in my Creative Companion and they seem to work well, but there is a little bleed-through on the back of the page with some of them. Unless the back is black. My guess is that the finer the pen tip the better. Permanent markers probably not so great. But experiment to see what works best for you.


Below is the final Behati beetle complete with gel pen embellishments.  I rather like the look of the colored lines as they don’t seem as harsh as plain white lines, but still provide stylistic definition.


All in all, coloring these bugs was a good stress-break and I enjoyed the process.

If you need a little something to do … a way to track your days, jot down notes, relieve some stress, think about adopting a 2020 Creative Companion and make it your own. Here’s a peek at how my own personal copy (which I use to track all my creative projects) is shaping up so far this year.

In the meantime, happy coloring, painting, and being creative—stay safe and healthy, everyone!