Winter solstice and good riddance to 2021

I don’t know about you, but I am ready to start fresh for 2022. I am done with 2021 and counting the days until it is over. Back in August and September, I had plans to push myself and my little business for the holidays, but just before Halloween even hit, a glut of red and green things started appearing in the stores. My stomach turned and I hit the brakes. It’s not all about consuming and accumulating more junk. It’s not about the frantic sales and the money to be made during Christmas, and it’s not about any religious sentiments or beliefs for me either. It’s about slowing down⏤my natural instinct to hibernate and rest. Time to reflect and take stock by appreciating the here and now and what we have (which is what we should be doing each and every day, yes?). And so I have been doing some artwork because that is my sanctuary⏤the place where things make sense to me.

In addition to a drawing a new design for coloring (more on the Winter Wolves below) I have been taking pages out of my newest Creative Companion (2022) and coloring them. The first one I completed was Juno (an arty nod to the newest member of my family). I used a blade to cut the image out of the book (which is printed on what many know as “Create Space” paper) and used mostly Tombow Irojiten pencils. I also used a Caran d’Ache Buff Titanium pencil (801 to be precise) to blend my colors and give the image a softer, almost timeworn, vintage look. A Caran d’Ache Blender Bright stick was also used to bring up some of the colors a notch (saturate them). If you use the colorless Blender Bright, be sure it is your final layer because it does have a tendency to crush what’s left of your paper tooth. The good news is that while the Blender Bright mixes and unifies your colors, it also burnishes them with a somewhat glossy finish that “locks” them in and can make the treated areas of your art water-resistant. It also increases lightfastness so even if your colored pencils are not highly rated, the Blender Bright will protect them from fading a bit.

Another tool I use when coloring is, of course, my color charts. I started charting my pencils in the original Big Book of Color Charts (on Amazon) last year, but once I had my own spiral-bound copy of the Artists Edition of the book that came out this year, I cut pages out of the original book and folded them to fit inside my zippered pencil cases for quick reference. It works really well, especially when my desk starts to get a little crowded, and I don’t feel like the time I put into charting my favorite brands in the original book has gone to waste. I use the heck out of my charts!

The second piece I colored was a fancy little bird using the same Irojiten pencils and Caran d’Ache blenders. I grabbed a little video of the process (layers of Irojiten, blending with the Buff Titanium and the Blender Bright) so you can see what I am talking about.

Here is the finished bird. The original line art for this design in the 2022 Creative Companion does not have much in the background, so I added the cloud shapes and used sharp Irojitens to draw designs (mostly vines, dots and flowers) over two light layers of background color. From there, I used the Buff Titanium (and the white Luminance pencil) to soften and blend. For the brown branch, used the Blender Bright so my colors were more saturated and intense (instead of soft and muted).

Next, I colored a cat and then a horse from the Creative Companion using the same technique⏤same materials, same paper. It’s a technique that I usually seem to gravitate toward⏤my style maybe? It’s something I have been thinking about lately as I watch other colorists foster their owns styles whether they realize they are developing them or not. Are there any colorists you know who, when seeing their work, you know it’s theirs right away?

I also hate to admit this since I can be a big paper snob, but sometimes I really, really enjoy working on the “Create Space” paper. It has nice tooth and is pretty tough even though it is definitely on the thin side, and for this particular technique I use, it works great⏤better than some of the smoother card stocks I typically use. For what it’s worth … you can buy the best of the best (paper and pencils and paints) but they all have their own personalities and some play together better than others. It’s all in the combo so never be afraid to experiment to see what works best for you and the art supplies, paper and books you have available.

So the Winter Wolves … if you made it this far, I have something exciting to share. This new design is available on Etsy and here on my website, but if you belong to the Ruby Charm Colors Facebook community, I am offering it as a free download as a special thank you to everyone who has stuck with me through 2021–all my tragedies and milestones . I truly appreciate each and every one of you!

In the meantime, enjoy these two colorings of the Winter Wolves by Paula Stone Leach (left) and Betty Hung (right)⏤I am so blessed to have such wonderful friends who are willing to color my lines!

Have a wonderful holiday season everyone⏤stay healthy and stay creative!

Big love from the hermit of 2021!