Winter is knocking on my door here in Michigan and it seems the older I get, the less I like it. And this is what inspired me to take a little time to color Sunshine⏤the need for warm colors and plenty of greenery.
This design was originally created as a line art coloring page for the 2021 Creative Companion (available any minute now on Amazon) and it is also in my Etsy shop as a downloadable PDF you can color right away. I also included it in the brand new mini box collection on Etsy!
Since Sunshine was specifically designed for the Companion’s printed book page size (approximately 6 x 9.25″), you will probably want to expand the design using your printer’s settings if you have the PDF and print your own copy. My old Epson has a “fit to page” option, plus I can also enter a percentage to expand the design to better fit an 8.5 x 11″ piece of card stock. I chose Kraft card stock (which I get at Michaels) and printed page two of the PDF (the grey line version I include with all my PDFs on Etsy).
I started coloring Sunny at about 3 o’clock in the morning. Another sleepless night, and honestly, I have had so much on my plate the past few weeks, I really needed to do something more arty than staring at a computer screen. When people claim that coloring (or doing any sort of artwork) is cathartic and relaxing, I can certainly vouch for that. I also thought it would be fun to capture the steps I took and share them with anyone who might be interested in how I do what I do.
I decided to work with my Derwent Drawing pencils first since they are very soft (and release a lot of pigment on the paper), and I knew that would they would provide an excellent base layer on the Kraft card stock which is thick and fairly toothy. I first used Wheat for the areas I planned to highlight (like the cheeks and nose) and Brown Ochre for the darker areas or shadows around the edges of the sun’s face. From there, I continued to add very light layers of Yellow Ochre and Mars Orange, then put down a layer of white (Derwent Lightfast) inside the eyes and over the cheeks and nose to bring up the highlights a little more. I usually like to work with fairly sharp pencils and when I hand-sharpen them, I don’t waste as much pencil lead as I do when using the electric sharpener. I save that one for seriously blunt pencils only.
More colors added in very light layers: Sanguine, Venetian Red, Ruby Earth, and then for a little intensity (since the Drawing pencils are fairly muted colors) I worked in Lightfast Strawberry and Cherry Red which are far more vivid hues. I then started filling in the flower petals with a layer of Yellow Ochre. Olive Earth, Crag Green and Pale Cedar were the first layers of the leaves. You can scroll through the phots above to see those steps.
The color charts for my Derwent Drawing pencils came out of one of the author proof copies of the Big Book of Color Charts. I removed a few of the pages with a blade and now keep them in my zippered cases with my pencils for ease of use. (Over the past years years, I have bought a few Soucolor and BTSKY cases through Amazon and they are pretty great if you are looking for sturdy cases.)
I did the same thing with my Derwent Lightfast, Caran d’Ache Luminance, Irojiten and Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils. If you have The Big Book of Color Charts, you can make copies of the pages you need instead of taking them out of the book if you like. And you can copy them onto your favorite apper or card stock.
Since I started with three fairly muted greens, I got out my Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils, which by the way play very nicely with the Derwent Lightfast and Drawing pencils, and added Moss, Dark Phthalocyanine Green, and Dark Sap to give my leaves more variety, depth and saturation. Still applying gentle pressure and creating light layers, and if you look closely at the photo below, you can see that I am not too worried about blending just yet and you can see how toothy the Kraft paper is.
The next hour or so was spend fine-tuning my layers, adding greens and more orange, red and yellow as needed. And then I started refining some of my lines and smaller shapes with my Irojiten pencils. I like using these for finer details because they are pretty hard and I can get nice sharp lines. With Autumn Leaf, I drew small circles inside the swirls of flower petals for extra texture and interest, then added Smoke Blue and white little petals over the eyes and in a few other places. I also used Malachite Green to add veins to my leaves, and in some of the areas I wanted deeper shadows. Same with Carmine Lake for some of the areas I wanted deeper reds.
Once I was comfortable with the basic colors I had on paper, it was time to start doing some blending. First, I put down a layer of plastic to rest my hand on since I noticed some of my colors were starting to smudge a bit. This can happen with pencils that have soft leads some sort of protection can really help. If you have any of my handmade books, you can use the plastic protection sheet I included. I like using it better than using paper because I can see through it, but paper works perfectly fine, too.
I used the Prismacolor Colorless Blender over the face and larger areas moving the blender with medium pressure in small circles. It helps to move your blender pencils in multiple directions to really work those pigments together and fill in the tiny ‘holes’ where the pigments skipped on the toothy paper. “A Few Thoughts About Pencils, Blending and Burnishing” is a post I did a few months ago that talks a little more about some of my blending tools if you are interested.
Once in a while I brush crumbs off my paper with this really nifty Tim Holtz Retractable Blending Brush I found this summer. It is meant for applying Distress Ink and Distress Oxide while using stencils, but I thought it would be great for colored pencil work, too. And it is. And because it is retractable and has a cover, I can toss it in my bag and not have to worry about crushing or ruining the bristles.
Next, I used the Caran d’Ache Blender Bright in a few areas to bring up the color saturation, and make a smooth surface for the ink and gel pens I planned to use⏤primarily around the eyes. I have found that if I use the Blender Bright to essentially seal my coloring, I can get much sharper lines with my Pitt pens, and lessen the chance the ink will bleed or snag on the tooth of the paper and then ‘blob’ which is a huge pet peeve of mine (and very frustrating since I don’t usually ink anything until all of the coloring with pencils is done).
In the photo below, you can see the sheen that developed over the flower petal swirl in the top left corner after using the Blender Bright. When I am working with both types of blender pencils, I am very careful not to burnish with the Blender Bright in areas I plan to add more color, or blend with the Prismacolor Blender. Why? Once you burnish with the Blender Bright, it’s nearly impossible to add color or blend further because essentially the surface becomes sealed. The paper becomes crushed and compacted and there is no more tooth left to grab your pencil pigments. A workable spray fixative will allow you to add more color, but since I work in a very small studio space, I don’t like to spray anything.
Once all my blending and burnishing was nearly done, I used a Faber-Castell XS Pitt pen to redraw and refine the eyes and eyelashes so that they became more of a focal point of the art.
Have you tried the Arteza white gel pens yet?! I thought the Uni-Ball Signo’s were my go-to white pens, but after tripping across these, I am sold⏤they are great!! If you like working with gel pens to create highlights and embellish your colorings, I think the Arteza’s are a must-have. As long as you keep the tip of the pen clean, it rarely blobs or skips, even over more waxy surfaces. As with any gel pen, they take a little coaxing and fiddling, but I am very impressed with these. And the box I got has three tips sizes: 0.6, 0.8 and 1.0 (smallest to largest).
I also used a few more Irojiten pencils to add details and darken some lines, then started embellishing with white dots (with the Artezas) and also turquoise (Sakura Souffle gel pens) and a few sparkly blue and turquoise Gelly Roll Moonlight gel pens.
I can’t seem to stop myself when it comes to embellishing with dots. I feel it adds a little playfulness to my art and it can be a lot fun to do. Mostly fun⏤sometimes really tedious. A tip for using gel pens: do small sections at a time and make sure your ink is completely dry before working in or over a freshly inked area. I have had far too many whoopsie-smudges and now use a Chandler heat gun to speed up the drying process.
And finally, here is Sunny in all her glory!
Hope you found my notes and photos helpful, and that you have fun pushing your own coloring in new directions if you so choose. I am storing Sunny in my Pinchbook (more on those soon!) and will be making a few fun products with this design in the near future.
Cheers to the creative process, everyone!