For those waiting for the official announcement – Insectimaginary is here and just waiting for you to fill up with color!
And I am SO pleased to share this lovely page-by-page flip through and review of the book by Steph Johnston, also known as Red_tifa Colors on YouTube. Take a look and give her channel a follow while you are there! Thank you, Steph!
While waiting for the book to go through the review stages, I was able to pick up my art supplies and do a little coloring for a new mini-project, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to put together a tutorial demonstrating some of the tips I talked about on pages 12-13 of the book.
We all have our own style of coloring, so the tips here may or may not be of use to you, but at the very least, they will show you how I do what I do. And it’s not always perfect and I am still experimenting and trying to refine my own coloring style when I am not busy drawing the lines for the coloring pages.
I originally printed this image (which is featured as one of the decorative opening and closing pages in Insectimaginary) on 110 lb Recollections grey-tinted card stock (from Michaels) and, since I wasn’t paying attention to my printer settings, it came out too enlarged. No worries. I used it as a test page and got out my Caran d’Ache Museum watercolor pencils and my mica paints made by Karen Spencer to play around with some color combo ideas. I colored with the Museums in small circles and overlapped a few areas of cool colors, then did the same with warm colors.
My messy test page
I also used my watercolor pencils to draw a few leaves, and then used a mister to spray water on my page. The watercolor pencils blurred nicely, and I used a waterbrush to add some of the mica paints in places, and used more watercolor pencils to add some squiggle designs. Just playing and experimenting. And once bone dry, I added some gel pen embellishments.
Once I had an idea where I wanted the final piece to go (though I rarely stick to set plans when it comes to art), I reprinted the design and made sure it fit my paper this time, and taped it down to my art board since I planned to use water and didn’t want it to warp too much.
I spent about an hour filling in the background (using small, fairly light circular motions with my Museums—lots of greens, blues and a little violet—and I varied my colors within different areas of the background to give it color variation and interest.
Caran d’Ache Museum watercolor pencils used for the background
Maybe it took more like an hour and half to fill the entire background in. I easily lose track of time when I am working.
Page filled with background colors
Once I had the page filled with my overlapping layers of color, I drew leafy vines with a sharpened Moss Museum watercolor pencil, and filled them in with a little Light Olive.
Added leafy vines to the bottom half of the page
Once I was content with the vines and leaves, it was time to mist the page (and bite my nails). I started with small sections at first. And then disaster struck. My colors were not blending as easily as they had before on the test page—and the paper was soaking up too much water and getting all blotchy.
I realized I had printed on the wrong card stock!
Water soaking into the paper too fast caused these dark splotches
While not a bad stock to color on, the 65lb Recollections paper has just enough difference in texture and weight to affect how the watercolors work. I could still see my small circles even after using a waterbrush to blend and add in some mica paints. Happy with the violet mica paints, disappointed in the paper. I was careful not to overwork it with my brush because I didn’t want to cause “pills” (those little globs of paper mush that pull off the paper when the fibers are too lose) or holes in my art.
This is why I stress the importance of knowing your paper—each type will cause your media to react differently. I just wasn’t paying attention as I fed more card stock into my printer.
Slow down, mama.
Gah! This looks really awful!
I did what I could and set it aside for a day or so to dry. I even considered junking it and reprinting the art on the heavier card stock.
A few days later it was bone dry and I weighed my options: use this piece so I could avoid losing time on the new mini-project (I’ll tell you what it is soon, promise) or start completely over.
Paper is dry, fairly flat and salvageable. All the splotches are gone.
I decided to keep going figuring I could use light layers of colored pencils to help smooth over the rough areas that hadn’t blended properly, and it seemed to be working.
Side note: I really like the hard, melamine surface art board I bought back in college long ago. In addition to having a really smooth surface, I can mix watercolors on it off to the side if needed. And scribble notes in pencil. It all wipes off with a damp cloth.
Once I had enough pencil pigment on the paper (mostly a mix of Luminance, Polychromos and Prismacolor Premier pencils), I used a Derwent blender (and my Prisma blender, too) to smooth everything out, section by section, for the bottom half of the background. I also used my Irojiten pencils (with nice sharp points) to add a little definition and more color to my leafy vines. I then used the Caran d’Ache Blender Bright to do a final blend and smoothing, but just for the areas I knew were finished. I only worked on the bottom part of the coloring so far.
I could not wait to start coloring the bugs and started with the bee. Luminance and Polychromos pencils for the body (blended with the Blender Bright) and then, the shimmery mica paints! And Sakura Souffle gel pens for the embellishments, of course.
You know I love my dots.
Instead of using just black and yellow for the bee, I used a mix of Yellow and Burnt Ochre and a few different browns. I used Blanco as my base mica with a little touch of the brush in a few other colors to tint the silvery-white.
The next video demonstrates my point on page 12 of Insectimaginary about coloring symmetrical designs. Bug wings are balanced for the most part, and so when you are working with colors, you’ll want to move back and forth from wing section to wing section. For example, color one area on the left, then move to that same area on the right with your same color to keep everything balanced. This is especially important when working with multiple colors and blending. If you have to take a break, it will be a lot easier to pick up where you left off and remember which colors you need to keep the balance or symmetry going. You do not have to keep your insect wings balanced, of course, but if that is your goal, it can help to work this way.
Also, since Insectimaginary is formatted in the art journal style, you can easily write down your color combos if needed on the journal pages facing the main plates.
In addition to pencil, I used mica paints on the wings and burnished what I could (pencil areas only) with the Blender bright. (And yep, that’s my first healing blister on the inside of my thumb from raking leaves).
I had to stop working for a day or so and when I came back to it, I only had time for something small. The ladybug was perfect.
I used a blend of Luminance Crimson Alzarin, Permanent Red and Perylene Brown (which looks more like a deep rich red than brown), blended my layers with the Derwent blender, then the Blender Bright to lock it all in. I’ve found I really like using the more “scratchy” Derwent and Prismacolor blender pencils to move my colors around initially, then when I follow up with the Caran d”ache Blender Bright stick, my colors become more saturated and the waxy surface provides a better seal. Black Irojiten for the spots, then the XS black Pitt pen to darken the spots and add details in the face and legs. I also used a white Gellyroll for the eye and nose dots.
Here’s a shot of my messy space and where I am so far overall. That odd-looking contraption at the top center of the photo is my iphone clip on a beandable arm. I use it to lock in my phone so I can take videos. It is not ideal (half of the time it’s so close to my face I have to lean around it to see what I am doing. And I have a few small goose-neck lamps on my desk, but the lighting is still not ideal for filming.
A day or so later, I was able to work on the Suvi beetle in the top right corner (also Plate 20 in the book) and started with a mix of purples. This next video shows more back and forth symmetrical coloring with blues and purples.
And here is the Suvi beetle almost done. I added mica paints for the flowers and gold stripes on the legs, and a few gel pen embellishments so far. I’ll probably go back and add more.
Next up is the wing of the beetle on the far left edge of the piece. Here, I lightly colored a mix of blues and greens over the little patterns I drew with the Indigo Irojiten pencil.
After my light layers were down, I used the Caran d’Ache Buff Titanium Luminance pencil to (with quite a bit of pressure) to move those colors around and soften them up up. I’m not sure that it really looks like fabric, but that’s what I’ve been calling in in past tutorials and in my books.
I really love how the Buff lifts the colors. Once I had this part of the wing blended, I used the Blender Bright again to lock it all in.
I never used to understand what all the fuss was about regarding gel pens until I got my hands on the Sakura Souffles. I used them along with Gellyroll Moonlight and metallic UBRANDS gel pens to add decorations to the wings.
Having that coat of wax from the Blender Bright underneath helps to keep the ink from spreading. Instead, it “floats” on top of the surface and mostly stays where you want it. When I am working with gel pens, I keep a scrap of cardboard nearby to wipe the tips of the pens off when needed. They do have a tendency to pick up wax and pigments if you press too hard, so getting that gunk off the rollerball frequently (and using light pressure while drawing and dotting) is key. Brushing the crud off your coloring before using pens is important, too.
Dots are easy. I’ve yet to master perfect lines with gel pens.
And I haven’t mastered being patient enough to let my ink fully dry before coloring nearby. I really need to try the blow-dryer trick someday and keep one in my studio.
This is where I have to leave off for now.
Aside from finishing the last few insects (the dragonfly will be a doozie with all those details), I need to address the top half of the background. Not sure yet but it will likely be a little darker—a night sky with a peppering of dots for stars, perhaps?
I’ll be using the same techniques I described above, and once it is done, I will scan it into Photoshop so I can use it for a little upcoming project. More details on that to come!
In the meantime, happy coloring and never be afraid to experiment!
Many moons in the making, Insectimaginary is almost ready for Amazon! It is a 118 page adult coloring book featuring 26 full coloring plates in addition to the signature Ruby Charm Colors art journal pages found in previous RCC coloring books. The journal pages give colorists plenty of room to experiment, swatch and track colors, and just play around. There are multiple smaller illustrations to color as well, including some interesting buggy pattern designs.
Front and back cover of Insectimaginary in final layout form for print
Also, like in the other Ruby Charm Colors books, each one-sided full plate is backed by a black page so your colors don’t show through. Insectimaginary has a few specimen plates as well, so there is a balance between more-complicated and less-complicated designs to color, plus, each specimen plate is reproduced as a white-line illustration on a black background—fun for those who want to make their colors really pop!
Sample pages from Insectimaginary showing a journal page, a full plate, and a black back of the plate
Sample pages from Insectimaginary showing an introduction to a plate, and a specimen bug on white and on black
While the book has been in production, my coloring team tested out the designs with their colored pencils, and, since I have a few of these designs in my Etsy shop, there are a few other colorings as well. Each one is lovely in its own way, and I feel so blessed people enjoy coloring my line art. Below are seven of the nine colorings featured in the gallery on the back cover of Insectimaginary.
This first piece, Orchid Bumbles (Plate 18 in the book), was colored by Ruby Charm Colors (RCC) team member Betty Hung. You can find her on Instagram at @colorartbybettyhung and she has a wonderful website and blog as well.
This next piece, A Few More Streamers (Plate 15), was colored by Lisa Duggan (@duggan.lisatide on Instagram). This illustration is currently available on Etsy as a pre-released design.
RCC coloring team member Lora King (@dukewife on Instgram) colored Cosmic Ziggy Mantis (Plate 5). Any David Bowie fans out there?
RCC team member Paula Stone Leach (@pstonecolors on Instagram) used tan card stock to print out the Noctuid Treasureattica Moths (Plate 6). To learn more about these imaginary moths, you’ll need the book!
If the above colorings are any indication of the beauty and enjoyment that can come out of this book, I think we are in for a real treat. I am so excited for the book to finally launch on Amazon (bookmark my author page if you’d like) and I can’t wait for Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest to start filling up with more lovely bugs. They can be so much fun to color because you can let your imagination run a little wild … and I left creepy bugs out of the book so you don’t have to worry about hornets, centipedes or spiders. Though I do like spiders. As long as they are not in my bedroom or bathroom. 😉
If you wish to join the private RubyCharmColors Facebook group, you can find us off the main RCC FB business page—just click the “visit group” button, answer a few questions so we know you are not a bot, and you are in!
I’ll post an update when the book is officially available (should be May 15!) … and until then, happy coloring!
I’m so pleased to have had the opportunity to spend time with Isabell Vestermark, also known as Passionista Colorista, at the end of April to talk about Ruby Charm Colors. Isabell, a journalist who lives in Umeå, Sweden, was such an engaging host with lots of great questions for me. I am so happy we were able to chat about art and coloring—thank you, Isabell!
Please visit Isabell’s website which has links to her blog and social media accounts, as well as her podcast series—so many wonderful voices with a passion for art, coloring, colored pencils, and more.
Art has the power to bring people together from all over the world, and since starting the Ruby Charm Colors project, I’ve met a few that have made my world a better place. Someone who has inspired me recently is Karen Spencer, also known as @indigoartgb on Instagram.
Karen hand-crafts absolutely gorgeous watercolors that have comfortably nestled their way into my collection of art supplies and I just adore them. Not only are they high-quality and an absolute dream to use, but I love knowing they are made by a real person—an independent artist who struggles and finds joy in art just like me.
Originally from Carlisle, Cumbria, Karen was adopted and brought to Blackpool where she has lived her whole life. Blackpool is on the Lancashire coast in northwest England, and is a lively seaside resort town with piers, amusement parks, and casinos. It also hosts the annual Punk rock Rebellion Festival and one of the most famous light shows on earth, Blackpool Illuminations.
Growing up in such a vibrant and colorful place likely had some influence on Karen’s artistic nature. As a child, she was drawn to music and the arts and dreamed of illustrating books for children. She went to art collage but money was tight at the age of 18, so she worked nights at a rest home and started making her own acrylic paints to help pay the rent on her first flat.
Holding down several jobs while trying to get through classes took it’s toll and Karen had to leave college before she got her degree. But, she worked at a number of jobs that allowed her to keep honing her artistic skills. Since the promenade along Blackpool always has room for artisans, she worked as a glass engraver and as a candle carver, and was an acrylic nail artist, too—for 20 years!
Following a few life-altering experiences, Karen took stock of what she really wanted to do. After noticing artists in the YouTube videos she watched were making a living, she opened her Etsy shop, KJDesignByKaren, in 2016 to sell handmade earrings and hand-printed totes (which she also sold on eBay). Around that same time, she noticed handmade watercolors appearing on the market. Since she had already been collecting a variety of pigments over the years to make acrylic, oil paint, and egg tempura gouache paints, she decided to give it a try.
Karen’s beautiful paints started selling, and as she attracted more customers and followers, her business gained traction. She introduced mica paints to her lineup, and her rich, shimmery tones caught the attention of artists and adult coloring books fans who craved unique, high-quality paint, and who wanted something extra with her new mica paints to spice up their work.
I was introduced to Karen through a dear friend who sent me a set of Karen’s micas. They were a surprise gift, and as I opened each carefully wax-paper wrapped rectangular pan, I felt like I was opening the world’s most special piece of candy. Seriously. Little pans of delicious jewel tones. Not runny like honey or molasses, but viscous enough to easily leave a fingerprint when pressed. Each pan made me gasp and ooooh and ahhh (just ask my daughter) and I couldn’t wait to grab my brushes. I was immediately struck by the creamy texture of the paints and I am now hooked.
And Karen has been coloring and painting my illustrations! In addition to being a skilled paint-maker, she is also a very talented artist. The first coloring she posted on Instagram took my breath away. Against a gold background, she worked some major magic on my “Cicadas” line art using a mix of Faber-Castell Polychromos colored pencils and her handmade watercolors:
She also colored (and painted) “Mice in Freesia” and blew people away with her blending skills and color choices using the Polychromos pencils again with her watercolors. Just look at those rich orange hues of the flowers against the deep blue ground and the delicate greens tinged with yellows and purples—lovely:
So what about Karen’s paints? Why are they so special?
Paints generally contain a basic mix of superfine pigment particles (which gives the paint its color) along with a liquid “vehicle” that suspends and binds the pigment in such a way we can use it as paint. Different paint makers use different combinations of pigments from natural and synthetic sources and vehicles (like humectants which attract and hold moisture) in their mixtures, and many are kept under lock and key.
Karen’s paint-making is a labor of love. She told me that single-pigment, artist quality paints take longer to make, and that every pigment she uses for her colors reacts differently with the special humectant she uses.
Her top-secret humectant is what makes her paint exceptional. It is a recipe she got from a friend a long time ago when she was making gouache paints. As far as she knows, nobody else is using this recipe, and it’s why her paints re-wet so effortlessly. One of the first things I noticed about Karen’s paints was that one touch of my wet brush instantly brought the paint to life. Compared to traditional dry pans of watercolor that require a good bit of “scrubbing” with a brush before the pigment lets loose, the difference was immediately noticeable.
Once she blends her pigments with her special humectant, she waits a few days until most of the water evaporates. Some of her pigments take several weeks. And then she pours them again.
“My paints contain no fillers whatsoever—they are pure pigments and humectant, unlike the bigger commercial brands.”
The mica watercolors are a lot quicker in comparison, although some of the colors “shrink back” during the evaporation process and she has to top them up.
The pigments Karen uses are all high quality, artist grade from a nearly 200 year old shop in London. (For a good primer on pigments, click here). Aside from Alizarin crimson (which was originally made from the madder plant and likely to fade over time), Karen’s pigments have the highest light-fastness rating so they should stand the test of time and not fade in the light.
“I have no idea how lightfast the mica paints are, as they are a new thing” she told me. “I don’t use cosmetic grade micas—only art and crafts micas (so the sellers tell me)” and she sources them from all over the world.
My understanding is that iridescent or pearlescent mica paints are pretty stable since they are made from mica which is a mineral that reflects light and gives paints that shimmery look. My guess is that the pigments used with the mica is what affects the lightfast quality of the end product, so if you are using high quality pigments and humectants, the mica paints should be high quality (and lightfast) as well.
Karen’s secret laboratory and workspace
Karen said she wants to continue doing what she does. “It’s very hard work and sometimes I’m up till 4 in the morning, but I don’t mind—I love it. I’d like to employ a couple of like minded people maybe in the future. I don’t want to be rich, I just want to be able to support myself without having to slog it out for someone else.”
That sounds very familiar.
In our back and forth notes the past few weeks, I realized I found a kindred spirit in Karen. Like me, she surrounds herself with color and said that her house looks like a mad woman decorated it. “I believe colours can affect your mood,” and I agree.
“When I start a piece I can see the end result in my mind’s eye, so I just start with a colour then pick up the next colour I think will compliment it. I do try to limit myself to 5 colours though (you can have as many shades of that colour you like, in my 5 colour rule).”
And have you seen the pic I posted on Instagram of the gorgeous red mica paint she sent along? She labeled it “Ruby Charm.” Be still my heart!
In addition to art having the ability to bring people together, it also has healing powers. “I’m a great believer in the healing that comes from art and being able to express yourself when words fail,” said Karen. And she knows from experience. She volunteered doing art therapy classes at a drop-in center for the homeless and drug and alcohol addicts, and will be returning this year to volunteer again. Blackpool “has a massive drug and alcohol problem here (like many places) with a lot of hurting and broken people.” If art can play a role in helping people refocus and heal, that’s a very good thing.
I am looking forward to seeing what Karen does in the future, and am excited to try out her single-pigment paints when I add them to my collection of micas. Keep your eyes on her: check out her Etsy shop and give her a follow on Instagram, and if you try her paints, I’d love to hear what you think in the comments.
Cheers to art and the artists who make our world a better place, and thank you, Karen, for sharing your craft and artistry with us!
UPDATE! To see a full review of these mica paints by the talented Colour with Claire, check out this helpful review on YouTube:
You can also see Karen’s paints in action in this great review by Hungry for Paint on YouTube:
If you want to see what this adult coloring art journal is all about and how to use it, take a look. In addition to being able to track your days and your creative ideas, there are colored pencil (and watercolor pencil) charts you can use to keep track of your coveted coloring supplies. And there are plenty of illustrations to color.
Cheers to creativity! And please be sure to like and subscribe to Steph’s channel for book reviews, coloring tips and more!
The holidays always seem to creep up faster than I’d like and then, of course, in a moment they are gone and I’m left wondering where the time went.
One relaxing way to truly slow down and enjoy the holidays is to do something creative and mindful. Plant yourself in a comfy chair, pick up your colored pencils and whatever other art supplies you have on hand, and do some coloring or painting.
I’ve been trying to do a bit of art each day to chase away the Michigan winter blahs, give myself time to breathe, and allow my mind to focus on something other than the stresses that holidays always seem to bring. Just slow down.
I recently added three new illustrations to my Etsy shop and they are looking for good homes. All they need is some color and a little time. All three are downloadable PDFs and include complimentary grey-line versions of the designs, and the swan illustration includes a bonus image. And guess what? All PDFs in my Etsy shop are on sale through the end of December so it’s a great time to add to your RubyCharmColors collection!
Works in progress with a mix of pearlescent paint, colored pencils and gel pens.
Original colored pencil art for the book cover, and the proof copy of the Creative Companion.
This unique 209 page book, which conveniently fits in most bags since it’s a little smaller than the Volume 1 & 2 Adult Coloring Art Journals, was designed especially for adult coloring book fans who need a place to keep all their notes and supply lists organized. While there is no right or wrong way to use the book, it is a place for you to explore (and keep track of) your creative ideas throughout the year through writing, coloring and even sketching.
A big thank you goes out to the RubyCharmColors Facebook coloring community for helping me out with the “pencil poll”—the coloring experiences and knowledge you all shared with me has been very helpful!
The Holbein colored pencil chart – ready to be filled in with your own pencils
The Caran d’Ache Luminance pencil chart. I drew sloppy stars next to a few colors I need to order when I have a chance, and I also plan to mark which pencils I have more than one of. This will be super handy when it comes time to order more.
For each of the brands in the book, I included information about how the pencils are packaged in sets and how many total colors there are. There are also plenty of empty charts to fill in with additional pencil brands, and those charts include “space counts” on each page to help you take some of the guess work out of deciding how many pages you need to add your other brands. You can use these pages for swatches, but you can also (if you purchase your pencils individually or a few at a time like I do) use the charts to keep track of the pencils you have and what you still need or want.
I have accidentally ordered duplicates of some of my pencils, so I plan to use the charts to keep track of them so I don’t do it again—especially since I am on a budget. And I plan to jot down prices and other notes about my pencils. Keep this book handy at your desk, or take it along while shopping in your favorite art supply stores if needed.
As mentioned earlier, the book also has a section dedicated to charting popular watercolor pencil and pastel brands (Inktense, Albrecht Durer, Museum, and Neocolor II), a few blank charts, and room for charting out your gel pens. There are even black pages included throughout the book for swatching and charting your lighter colored pencils and pens.
I used a mix of colored pencils, some pearlescent paint, and lots of gels pens to color this fish. There are a number of illustrations on black to experiment with in the book, so don’t be afraid to tackle them and make your colors leap off the page!
I like to use small self-stick / removable tabs to mark the pages I use most often in my books. They can be found at most stores that carry office supplies.
In addition to all the charts, there is plenty of room to make lists, jot down ideas and techniques you want to try, tally up the coloring books you have (and want to get your hands on), or even make lists of your favorite YouTube colorists to follow. If you are addicted to social media, you can keep track of your favorite arty accounts. Or you can list your coloring or art projects and use the book to set goals for yourself.
You can even set it up like a bullet journal if you would like. If you are not yet familiar with bullet journals, you can check them out here and here for helpful overviews, and there are numerous websites dedicated to getting you started—just do a quick search. Some of the common features in a bullet journal are already done for you (like the index and calendars) in this book, but there should be enough free space to design the book the way you want.
The Creative Companion includes a yearly calendar overview for 2018 – 2020 (so you can easily look back or look ahead), plus 12 monthly calendars printed on black pages. You can write on them with pencils or gel pens, or simply use them as a reference and write down your important dates and events on the monthly highlight page next to it.
Like many of you, I use the calendar on my cell phone to set important reminders and keep myself organized day-to-day, but there are some things I wouldn’t (or simply can’t) put on my smart phone. It doesn’t let me be messy. I still like to write things down and love the feel of a book in my hands. The tactile nature of messing about with pens and pencils just can’t be replaced by electronics.
Opaque gel pens, metallic gel pens and light colored pencils work best when writing or drawing on black. The back side of each month includes a full page illustration for coloring and the black page helps prevent the design from showing through.
Each month in the book has a highlights page, plus lined pages for notes.
Oh gosh—I nearly forgot: there are lots of illustrations to color. Over 70! Some are small for those times you just want to play for a bit. Maybe while stuck on the phone, or when relaxing at a coffee shop, or while waiting for an appointment. Take it on vacation if you’d like because it can be a great little travel companion, too. Other illustrations fill up an entire page and allow for more sustained coloring sessions.
I started coloring one of the leopards with a little watercolor and glittery gels pens. While the paper can handle some water, always use a protective sheet underneath. Same with markers as bleed-through can occur—better safe than sorry!
This book is meant to be used and get messy!
Don’t be too concerned if your book gets a little dog-earred and scruffy because it means you are exercising your creative side. The illustrations in the book are meant for playing with color and inspiring ideas so you can take things a step further if you wish.
Adult coloring has been popular for quite some time now, and I think it is exciting to see how many of you are taking your colorings to the next level by exploring patterns, texture, new techniques and new media to incorporate with your colored pencil work. It is healthy and satisfying to take part in the creative process, even if the bare bones are the simple lines of another artist like me. You have the ability to bring your own vision to a piece and fill it with your own magic.
Cheers to creativity, everyone! And if you have questions, comments (or even suggestions for my 2020 Creative Companion), please leave a note below!