As some of you know, I spent a little time out west this summer and am easing myself back into all things Ruby Charm Colors. While the trip was inspirational (and I had lots of fun with my sister), I came home to a big, old pile of stress and am still working my way through it all trying to get my creative mojo back (and finish my charts book which has just about sent me to the funny farm). And that’s where the dragon comes in.
I was invited to the Smaugust coloring event by the Serendipity Colouring Group (Inspired by Nature) on Facebook (thanks my friends!) and that’s what started me thinking about dragons. So later that evening, I pulled out my iPad and started sketching. I had a Chinese dragon in my mind’s eye partly because I have always been attracted to the stylized lines, but also because I felt I needed a little stroke of luck to help get me drawing again and get that book done. More on that soon.
The Lucky Dragon was as much fun to color as it was to draw, so I thought I would share a few of the steps and materials I took to complete it.
I printed the design using the grey line version I now include as a bonus in all my PDFs on Etsy on a medium/dark bluish-grey, 65# card stock by Recollections (you can get it at Michaels craft stores). Since I had just received a few piston waterbrushes from Blue Heron Arts (thanks to a great recommendation from Susan at The Gossamer Web) and wanted to take them for a spin, I choose two blues from my box of Caran d’Ache Neocolor IIs (Night and Indigo). I shaved a little pigment from each into two small pans and used my mica water to mix them.
Mica water? Whenever I rinse my brushes containing pigments from my favorite watercolors (Karen Spencer‘s gorgeous micas, specifically), I use a particular cup. The color of the water itself is a bit muddy, but it also has flecks of mica floating in it and these flecks add a subtle sparkle to my regular watercolors. If you want to try this yourself, just be sure to stir the water thoroughly so you kick up the mica before filling your waterbrush. Aside from the new Blue Heron brushes, I also have a growing collection of Sakura, Pentel Tombow, Kurtake, etc. waterbrushes and they all work fine with mica water, too … just be sure to occasionally shake your waterbrush while using it to keep those mica flecks suspended in the water.
The piston waterbrushes from Blue Heron Arts are quite lovely. I have the more compact A10 and A20 (I’ll probably use the A10 the most because it has a fine tip), as well as a few of the larger brushes (and they are ginormous). For the dragon design, I stuck with the compact waterbrushes.
Once I had my paint colors mixed ready to go, I used Derwent Lightfast White, Fossil and Wild Lavender pencils to add some designs to the background that would resist the water color.
I don’t always start coloring in a background first, but I am glad I did this time, and I think the Lightfast pencils seemed to resist water a little better than the Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils. I took my time adding pigment and kept gently “scrubbing” the surface of the pencil lines and circles so that I had enough blue coverage, yet allowed the pencil to show through the painted surface. I probably should have taken more time drawing … some of my circles are more oval and a little sloppy, but that’s fine.
Once the background had thoroughly dried, I used a mix of Derwent Lightfast, Derwent Drawing and Caran d’Ache Luminance colored pencils to start coloring in the wings. These three pencil brands play very nicely together. The gorgeous Derwent Drawing pencils are super soft and put down a lot of pigment, but because they are so soft, they are not idea for tiny details (at least for me). The Lightfast and Luminance pencils work well to refine and layer over the Drawing pencils. The Drawing pencils are a bit limited in color options (they come in 24 different earthy, rich hues) so the Lightfast and Luminance help bring up the color vibrancy I am looking for. I love all three dearly.
I used Karen Spencer’s mica watercolors straight out of the pan to paint the moon and the frames of the dragon’s wings. The green is not this bright in normal lighting – it is more turquoise. I think I just happened to catch it at the perfect angle to get this intense glow.
Adding more layers of color using the Derwents and Caran d’Ache, but also starting to further refine some areas and lines using the Tombow Irojiten pencils. They can be sharpened to a very fine point (which is great for carving in fine detailed lines), and are fairly hard so they work well to blend and burnish over some of the softer pencils when the tip is a little more rounded (and not super sharp).
Here are a few close-ups of this process, plus the addition of gel pens.
I should also mention that I use a Prismacolor Colorless Blender and the Caran d’Ache Blender Bright to blend and burnish my colors. I especially like using the Blender Bright on areas I know I’ll be adding fine gel pen details to because the waxy-sealed layer helps keep the gel pen pigments from soaking into the paper and expanding (or bleeding). The ink sort of floats on top of the surface. Just be sure to let it dry thoroughly … I have smudged my fair share of ink. Sometimes I pull out my heat gun to speed up the process.
Below is the finished work. I think. It took about 10 hours to color (not all at once of course) and overall I am pretty happy with it.
If you want to take this design for a spin, it’s in my Etsy shop. The color combinations (and types of media) you can use for this lucky dragon are limitless, and if you do color one, be sure to tag me on social media so I can see it (#RubyCharmColors)!
Happy coloring, and stay healthy, my friends!