Very happy to announce that my newest adult coloring book, Oceanimaginary, is now available on Amazon! It’s been a long road drawing all the images and working on the art journal style book layout, but it is finally done and ready to be filled with your own colors. There are 34 full plates in the book plus over 100 smaller bits and pieces of my illustrations you can use for color palette experimentation, or just to fiddle around with when you don’t have a lot of time to color but have the itch pick up your pencils and play. As with my other art journal coloring books like Insectimaginary, there’s also plenty of room to jot down notes, and there are 10 plates that allow you to push your creativity by coloring on black!
No time for a break—I’ve got to get cracking on finishing up the layout for the 2020 Creative Companion in addition to another special book I hope to release before the holidays! Oh, and more Black Magics on the way!
The rumors are true! A new ocean-themed coloring book is officially in the works and Oceanimaginary will be be published in / November (final date TBD)!
The book will feature creatures from the ocean and will be structured similarly to Insectimaginary and the other Ruby Charm Colors Art Journals with plenty of room to chart out your colors and experiment till your heart is content.All Ruby Charm Colors books are designed for adult coloring fans, but they are also terrific for younger coloring enthusiasts as well.
Give RubyCharmColors a follow on Instagram, and if you are a coloring addict and want to join the private RCC coloring community, come find us on Facebook and join! Meet our fabulous Coloring Team members including Paula Stone Leach (who color-tested the octopus above), Stephanie Johnston, and Lora King and Betty Hung (who colored the octopuses below), keep up-to-date on the latest RCC news, talk about art supplies and coloring techniques, see gorgeous colorings from our community for inspiration, and even pick up a few freebies to color now and then!
An octopus WIP (work in progress) by Coloring Team member Betty Hung
It’s been really cold here the past few days in Michigan, and combined with new, heavy snowfall, I have cabin-fever and am craving Spring more than ever. And that’s what inspired the Verdigris Rabbit—I need some greenery!
This little fellow is a single illustration on page 23 of the Ruby Charm Colors Creative Companion for 2019. I won’t go through the tedious step-by-step process of the whole coloring, but will point out a few things that might help you explore (or avoid!) in your own colorings with a little mixed media including the wax-resist technique in some small areas.
I started out with several light layers and shades of Caran d’Ache Luminance and Pablo colored pencils for the base greens of the body. Most all of the greens were in the Olive family, though I also used Moss, Titanium Buff (one of my “can’t live without” pencils), and Ocher Brown 10%. I used a few blues as well—Luminance Steel Grey (which has blue overtones) and Prussian blue, plus Pablo Bluish Grey. Lots of light layers, and once I got my colors where I wanted them, I burnished those areas with the Caran d’Ache Blender Bright and a Prismacolor colorless blender.
For the left ear, I used the Indigo Irojiten pencil to outline the stars and draw small circles. I like the Irojiten pencils for detail work because they are fairly hard and I can get the points nice and sharp. I also used a little Titanium Buff inside the stars, then blended with the Blender Bright to soften the Irojiten lines.
For the blue areas (the stripes, inside of the ear, and parts of the flower design, I used the wax resist technique. The Prismacolor Sky Blue light was used for the circle shapes first. Once I had them all drawn, I used the Indigo mica paint (handmade by Karen Spencer) with a Caran d’Ache water brush to paint over the areas. The paint soaked into the paper leaving the waxy Sky Blue circles exposed. I had to swipe over them a little with a semi-dry brush in areas where the paint was a little too thick and stuck to the wax.
I have noticed that mica (and metallic or pearlescent) paints are a little less inclined to “break away” from the wax than solid (non-mica or metallic) watercolors. My guess is that the actual mica fragments are naturally “sticky” because they are composed of tiny bits of mineral. But, if you give the paint a chance to soak into the paper for a few seconds, it’s fairly easy to gently brush it off your designs with a damp (even almost dry) brush. Once the Indigo was nearly dry, I dabbed a little gold mica paint into the center of each circle. Once these areas were bone dry, I then used an extra fine black Pitt pen to give the circles a little more definition.
Another note about the wax-resist method … the wax from the pencils has to be thick enough to truly resist the liquid (paint) you brush over it. It works fairly well on the paper in my books on Amazon, but even better on card stock if you print copies of the designs at home on your own paper. Experiment on different different paper types if you want to explore this technique. Also, try going over your pencil lines a few times (pretty hard) so you get good wax buildup, and choose the right pencil. In my experience, the Prismacolors, Pablos and Holbeins seem to work the best. Your wax designs must be impermeable enough to push the water away.
I used a white Sakura Souffle gel pen for all my dots. What I like about the Souffle pens is that once dry they puff up a little bit, and they dry with a somewhat matte surface. When my white dots dried, I used a darker blue metallic UBRANDS gel pen to dab in the middle of a number of the white dots. The UBRANDS gel pens took forever to dry!
I had to go over my blue dots again in the morning because I left a piece of scrap paper between my pages while it dried overnight. When I color something in my art journal, I close the book and keep it under my laptop so the pages flatten out a bit. It usually works pretty well, but this morning when I pulled the scrap paper off my bunny, a few of the blue dots went with it! And I smudged a few of the coppery colored dots I put down in places.
Up close and personal, things look a little sloppy, but from a distance it looks pretty okay. Aside from the terrible lighting in my studio today.
The UBRANDS gel pens are fairly inexpensive (I got a pack of 30 at Target for under $15) and I like them, but they do take a while to completely dry—especially the metallics. Also, they don’t have the best reviews due to leakage. I haven’t had that happen yet but I store mine in their case, horizontally. There is a nice mix of metallic, clear and opaque pens, and so far they seem to work fairly well. The opaque pens are great on the black pages of the Creative Companion (like the calendars) and are fun to use on the black art pages as embellishments. A little blobbing and skipping now and then, but that’s to be expected with nearly all gel pens in my experience. Be aware of how you store them, keep the tips clean, and the caps on for longer life.
Below is a pic of the primary pencils I used for the rabbit. Far left is the Caran d’Ache Blender Bright (and the dark one next to it is a Polychromos Sepia). And my Prismacolor blender is getting too short to comfortably work with.
I may have mentioned this about the Caran d’Ache Luminance before, but I really do love them. They are expensive, yes, but I only buy the colors I need/want from Blick through open-stock. I can’t afford the full set yet, but they will always be a coveted part of my coloring toolbox. Same with the Pablos and the Polychromos which are more affordable but perform so beautifully.
That’s all for now! I am going back to my line drawings for the rest of the weekend. More fanciful insects in the works for an upcoming book, and a little surprise in the Ruby Charm Colors Etsy shop to celebrate the upcoming Chinese New Year starting Feb. 5. More on that later!
Happy coloring! And if you have questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments!
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!
If there were a space for a subtitle, it would read: The Making of a Book – How I Nearly Lost my Marbles
The past few months, I have been diligently working on producing a two-volume collection of the art I created especially for coloring over the past year or so, and I can finally hold the fruits of my labor in my hands—the very first proof copy of Volume 1.
It is equally exciting and terrifying.
Exciting to feel the velvety, matte black cover and finally be able to flip through a professionally bound version of my book instead of the messy draft I cobbled together in a 3-ring binder. Terrified because my work is headed out into the world, and what if I missed a stupid typo, or what if there is a quality problem with Print-on-Demand I can’t control? What if people hate the paper? So many what-if’s, yet an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment holds me steady and keeps me moving forward. I finally did what I set out to do, and I can now offer my art on Amazon to a wider audience as a less-expensive version of the locally-printed, hand-made books I currently sell on Etsy.
Mapping out the draft of the book took a lot of time and loads of paper and printer ink. My poor old Epson was put to the test this summer and it’s tired. And I used an awful lot of tape. In addition to each of the 22 plates (full illustrations), I recreated isolated parts of the plates to build the art journal pages. I could have used simple boxes or circles colorists could use as swatches to test out their colors, but thought it would be even more useful if people could experiment with the actual parts of each illustration before working on the plates if they wanted. In the video below, you can see how I built mock-ups of the pages. The ring-binder and tape method worked pretty well because it allowed me to move things around as needed.
Once the draft was in good shape and I knew the final page count would be at about 140, I used Adobe InDesign to build the file I would need to submit the book to the publisher. I had to keep Illustrator and Photoshop open on my computer (and keep my iPad with all my illustrations on it handy) since I was adding in so many smaller designs to my pages and they all needed a little fussing and nudging. I work on a small MacBook Air I’ve had for ages and it’s plugged into a second monitor, but it’s not very big either. I think this is partly why I felt I needed a physical copy to work with so I could see whole pages at their actual size.
The cover design went through a few different iterations and I finally settled on a black cover with a circle of colorful art in the center. I also spent a ton of time searching for the perfect title font and found it through Emily Spadoni. And then once I committed to and paid for it, decided to go back into the interior of the book and change all my headings to that playful font, too. Seemingly little changes can sometimes take hours of work.
Once the interior and cover were done, I submitted my files to CreateSpace and held my breath. The digital proof came back with errors. So many errors. A bunch of my graphics had somehow converted to a lower ppi between Photoshop and Illustrator before making it into InDesign, and the margins and bleeds were mucked up in spots. I had to redo a bunch of graphics and fiddle with the margins and bleeds which was tricky for some of the graphics since they overlapped and purposely fell off the pages in areas. And I intentionally rotated some of the images so that caused even more chaos during the review process. It was a lot of excruciating nit-picking to get it all right. When the proverbial light turned green after a few more rounds of submissions (days and days of back-and-forth), I ordered physical proofs with expedited shipping. Whoo-hoo!
As soon as I got the proofs in the mail, I sent copies to my trusty coloring team so they could take their own book for a test drive and help me with a little feedback. Their comments were incredibly useful and reassuring, and I’ll be forever grateful to them. Paula, Lora, and Lucia—you are a dream team—thank you!
Since July, I have put in an average of 8 to 10 hours a day planning the layout, writing text for the introduction and “coloring tips” pages, creating smaller versions of my illustrations to build the art journal pages, and designing the cover. It’s been a long process and I’ve learned so much along the way. Not only about how to create a book, but about what makes me tick and how dedication and hard work can turn into something tangible—something to be proud of seeing through from inception to reality, start to finish.
Notes and binders during the planning stages of the Ruby Charm Colors Adult Coloring Art Journal (with Starbucks – coffee was a critical part of the work process)
This book is a little different from other coloring books. A lot of thought went into the concept and layout. I didn’t want the book to be a simple collection of drawings to color, I wanted it to be an art journal—a place where colorists could play and experiment and exercise their creative muscles. I am fairly new to coloring (I really only started when I began creating line art specifically for coloring last year) and admittedly have very few coloring books.
What I noticed about my coloring habits, though, is that I always needed a few scraps of paper nearby to test my colors. I would jot down notes about which pencils I was using, and had lots of scribbles and color swatches. A lot of times, those swatches and notes would get lost, so if I went back to finish a piece days or weeks later, I’d have to try to retrace where I started and what I used. I knew that others had the same issue and this is where the idea of a coloring art journal came into play.
My marked up proof of the Ruby Charm Colors book showing the art journal page on the left and the full plate for coloring on the right.
I want colorists to have a place to keep their ideas together—all those little notes and blended color swatches. A go-to journal that can store ideas and coloring discoveries that can be applied not only to my art in this book, but to other pieces of art in other books as well. Each art journal (or worksheet) page is a little different from the others and directly relates to the illustration from the full plate. And colorists can fill these pages out however they see fit. There are no rules for how something is colored, what is tracked or what is scribbled—it’s all up to the colorist.
Since I knew going into this project using CreateSpace meant the book’s paper would not be ideal for everyone (some love it, some hate it) I decided to back each plate with a black page to help obscure color bleed-through. It’s not an issue with colored pencils at all, but some markers (especially Copics and Sharpies) can make a huge mess. I had my daughter try her Copics in the book, and though the effect of the bleed looked pretty cool through the black back, it’s probably not ideal.
So fair warning: I do not recommend heavy markers for this book at all. Watercolors can be used sparingly. It’s thin paper, and there is not much independent coloring book artists can do about it until CreateSpace hears our pleas for thicker paper, perforated pages and spiral-binding (which in my opinion would be ideal).
Here is a sample of Caran d’Ache Muesum and Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils using a Kurtake waterbrush (easy on the water). The paper warped a little, but not terrible. And while it was damp, a little of the black from the page behind it showed through. But once it completely dried, it was fine. Coloring over it with regular colored pencils helped flatten it back out. I wouldn’t recommend washing an entire page with water, but in small doses, it seems to be fine. This is partly why I encourage colorists to copy plates from the book onto their favorite type of paper or card stock if they would like. It also saves them a clean version to copy again if needed.
Each plate has a dark background on the reverse side and includes the name of the plate and room for you to add your name if you like to give your art away, or if you like to cut it out of the book and store it in a binder.
I also tried coloring a fiddlehead fern design on the back of one plate and yes, coloring on black works pretty well and is a lot of fun. Don’t be surprised to see a Black Magic Art Journal before too long.
I couldn’t resist coloring on the black page
The final book proof should arrive in the mail any day and I am anxious to go through it one last time before bringing it to life on Amazon. In the meantime, I am working my way through Volume 2 (same format but with 24 full illustration plates to complete the collection, and new, more advanced advanced coloring tips) as well as ideas for a Journal, a “Just the Plates” companion (with all 46 plates), and a Black Magic volume. Will I make it for the holidays? Only time will tell!
Below is a quick flip-through of my first proof if you want to take a peek. It shows the color charts at the end of the book, the plates and art journal pages, the tips pages and the front matter. I may have skipped a few pages—I am not the best flipper. 😉
Give my blog a follow for updates, and I promise I won’t fill your inbox up with spam. You can also find me on Instagram and Facebook @RubyCharmColors and, pssst! My coloring team is hosting a Color-Along from September 7 to October 7 if you want to get your hands on an excerpt from the book to color … Autumn Cat! Join the RubyCharmColors FB group, look for the Color-Along event, download the file, and happy coloring!
Last year, I painted a collection of 6 fruits and vegetables in acrylics on 24″ square canvases, and I’ve been wanting to convert them into line drawings especially for coloring. I finally had a chance to do this over the past few weeks and am happy to announce they are ready and listed in the RubyCharmColors Etsy shop. If you enjoy coloring, gardening or cooking (or know someone who does) these illustrations might be a perfect way to while away a rainy day!
There are six designs in this first collection: pears, peppers, pumpkins, beets, tomatoes and garlic. The beets illustration below was tested out by two members on my coloring team, Paula Leach and Lora King (thank you, ladies!). To see the full collection, take a look at the samples included in my Etsy listing.
Here is a close-up of the pumpkin illustration I started coloring. I used a mix of colored pencils including Caran d’Ache Luminance and Pablo, Faber-Castell Polychromos, Prismacolors, Verithins, Derwent ProColor and Irojiten. In the drawing above, you can see where I used the Irojiten pencils to blend and burnish the other layers (many, many light layers) of pencil. The burnished areas are much more blended and saturated.
My latest illustration for coloring, the Lion, Hare & Moon, was a learning lesson once I starting filling it with color, so I thought it might be useful to share my mistakes with those of you who use (or want to try) watercolor pencils in conjunction with regular colored pencils.
The illustration itself was inspired by wondering about our perceptions of strength and weakness, the fierce and the tame. And do we always know which is which?
I wasn’t thinking ahead about doing a blog post about this piece until I was nearly done, but I usually try to snap a few pics of my work in progress. The lighting is a little off in the pic above (my apologies) but you can see how pale the first layer is on the moon.
Once the basic colors were down in a few light layers, I used Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils (Brown Ochre and Yellow Ochre) to blend in the body. For the mane, I used one of my favorite pencils, a Derwent Studio (Rexel Cumberland) Burnt Carmine, which has deep wine undertones. I also used a Luminance Buff Titanium pencil to work in highlights under the eyes and cheeks. I then used a Crimson Irojiten pencil (which I order individually as needed through Blick) to work in the reds I put down in the mane and the sun ray lines with Prismacolor Tuscan Red and the Derwent Burnt Carmine (see below). I probably grabbed a few other similar colors during this process as well.
The colored pencils went down quite smoothly over the Faber-Castell Bistre watercolor once it dried. Per usual, it gave my colored pencils a nice “tooth” to grab onto.
Next: the grass. No watercolor pencils, but a variety of Prismacolor (Kelp, Prussian, Artichoke, Moss and Olive), Luminance (Moss, Olive Yellow and Olive Brown 50%) and Polychromos (Permanent Green Olive and Chromium Green Opaque) were used in multiple layers and then I burnished the colors using Irojitens (Cactus, Lettuce, Verdi and Forest).
Because the Irojitens are harder than other pencils, they work well for burnishing since they push the pigments around and, depending on how hard you press, deeper into the fiber of the paper. This helps to get rid of the small white dots that can appear in the coloring.
I try to work in small circle to avoid streaks, but sometimes my fingers get cramped and I get anxious and more concerned about finishing an area than making sure my colors are smooth. I am sure this happens to a lot of colorists. Sometimes time is running out and you just want to finish. Or move on to the next thing.
I also get a little sloppy (especially with watercolor layers) but that’s okay. I am constantly going back to areas that need a little more work and yep, sometimes I need a break from the larger, more monotonous parts of a page (like when I was coloring the grass).
Here’s when one of the biggest issues came in with this piece. Once I started working on the moon with regular colored pencils, I noticed that the turquoise Derwent watercolor pencil started flaking off in spots. It was most noticeable with the darker blues. The painted pigment would come up and leave small white flecks that were really difficult to color over, blend back in, and burnish.
My fix? I used small dabs of watercolor to help fill in the white spots in the dark areas, and I also realized that once I added my gel pen embellishments at the very end, the white flecks probably wouldn’t stand out as much. And I figured small dabs of ink would work too, so I tried not to panic and overwork those darker areas. With all of the pressure I had already used, I didn’t want to risk damaging the paper.
I used Titanium Buff again (Luminance) to work in the highlighted areas and blend my lighter blues and greens together. The flaking was not as noticeable with the lighter colors, thankfully.
The lesson here is that it really does pay to test out your ideas and tools before working on a final piece–especially if you are using a brand or color combo you haven’t tried before.
In this case, I used my Derwent Watercolour which is a fairly old pencil (15 years?) and got unexpected results. It could be the age of the pencil, or it could be the pigment in this particular pencil that doesn’t like being colored over with regular colored pencils. Hard to say. I have used lots of Derwents and have not noticed this issue until now. I have an even older collection of Staedtler Aquarelle pencils that all seem to behave beautifully.
But again, the point it … unless you are certain you’ll get the results you want with whichever tools you are using (paper included), try it out first on a scrap page of the same paper. There have been many times a design colored beautifully on one type of paper, but then total crud on another.
As I was working on the moon, I decided to try something a little new (for me, at least). I didn’t want the the rays coming off the moon to be a solid color, or just use a gradient, so I grabbed an Indigo Irojiten and drew a paisley-like pattern in that space after very lightly coloring a layer of Prismacolor Black and Indigo closest to the edge of the moon.
I then used Holbein Ice Green (aren’t they just the most dreamy pencils!?!) to add small dabs of color to the shapes I drew. I didn’t take my time drawing the paisley shapes or coloring them in perfectly because I thought that if everything went as planned, it really wouldn’t matter….
Here’s where the fun part comes in–blending these simple little lines and shapes with the Luminance Buff Titanium pencil. I colored with lots of small, fairly hard, circular strokes to push the color around and soften up the paisley lines and shapes. I also followed up with Irojiten Eggshell and Cascade (a light aqua hue) for more blending and burnishing after this pic was taken to smooth things out even more. The overall effect looks like fabric or even batik in spots.
My wheels are turning and I’d like to experiment with this technique even more in the future.
Here’s where we are at so far (below and about 6 or 7 hours into it). I also added some rainbow colors to the rays, and somewhere along the way I colored in the hare. I forgot to mention that little guy! Same pencil brands, same technique using the Irojitens to burnish.
Here I go again saving the background for last! A few colorists on Facebook and Instagram have been chatting about this dilemma, and I really don’t know what the answer is. Sometimes I can picture the color scheme of the entire piece in my mind when I start–other times I just grab pencils and start working on a focal point.
I considered a black background for the contrast it would provide, but then thought that would be too harsh and might even obscure the lion’s mane and tips of the grass if it was too dark. So I settled on a combination of Black, Indigo and Grey. The Prismacolor Black was used in the U-shapes closest to the moon. Just a few light layers but progressively darker as I worked toward the center…
Then I added a few layers of Prismacolor Indigo (again layering progressively deeper toward the center and blending into the Black).
The layers started looking a little streaky as my fingers were cramping up again and I just wanted to get all of the blue filled. I am sure many of you can relate!
To avoid streaks, it does help to keep turning your paper so that you are not always coloring in the same direction. For this piece, though, I planned to burnish these areas and go back over them a few times so I didn’t worry about the streaks too much.
And that’s what I did–first with the Irojiten Indigo pencil pushing the Black and Indigo Prismacolor layers around and blending them together …
… and then with Irojiten Taupe. I also went over all the sky areas yet again with Pigeon Grey, which is a little lighter than Taupe, toward the outside areas.
Using Irojiten shades close to the original layers of colored pencil you put down can provide rich saturation levels and also slightly change the tint of your original layers depending on what you choose.
The Pigeon Grey gives the Indigo a nice smokey look, for example, while using Eggshell will inject a slight yellow tint into your original colors. Don’t be afraid to experiment with this if you decide to use the Irojitens the way I do. And remember that I am not a colored pencil expert–I am still learning as I go and still making mistakes!
Here is a quick video of blending and burnishing with the grey Irojiten over part of the sky. You can see how it really adds depth to the existing light layer of Indigo:
Once I finished the sky, I was left with the mostly blank white circle inside the moon shape. Another dilemma. I settled on trying out the soft paisley-effect again, but with a few slightly different colors including Faber-Castell Permanent Green Olive. I kept the tip of my Luminance Buff Titanium pencil fairly blunt, but again, used lots and lots of circular blending as you can see in the video below:
I did a few touch-ups in spots, but once all the colored pencil work was complete, I added a bunch of dots using Sakura Souffle gel pens (and a darker Turquoise Moolight pen). It can be tricky to work with these pens because they take a few minutes to dry and can smudge easily until then, so I usually work on a small few sections at a time and let it dry under my hot little Halogen desk lamp before moving on.
And here you go … the finished piece! Except that I just realized I never colored the stars … hmmm. For another day! I think they should be dark Indigo, yes?
I’ve probably colored this horse illustration (which I designed as a coloring page) at least three times now, though I’ve finished none. Yet. I get sidetracked with new projects and once set aside, a colored illustration might not see the light of day for months. But I do like to experiment with different color schemes and I use the partially colored pieces in various marketing efforts, so the work is never wasted. This one might end up on a tote bag or some other product if it turns out the way I am hoping.
I printed this horse on charcoal tinted card stock (not quite as dark) so I could play with some warm colors. I am still patiently waiting for warmer weather, green grass and yard work in a t-shirt. April has been especially cold so far and I am feeling it.
My first step for this piece was to use my Holbein Naples Yellow pencil to lightly fill in the body areas of the horse. Just one layer to help define the spaces around the flowers, leaves and mane before using a little Holbein Salmon Pink to build up my base (video below). After that, I grabbed a Caran d’Ache Luminance Yellow Ochre to add a little more pigment to these areas.
Once I had the body a little more defined, I started adding more Luminance Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna and Orange to the horse’s face using small, light circular motions and feathered strokes. In some ways, taking pics of this process with my iPhone can be helpful because the lens catches all of the pencils marks so you can see how “rough” the coloring looks at this point.
I didn’t do it in this video (because I was afraid I end up with a chaotic recording) but I move my page around. A lot. When I rotate my page, it helps me color at slightly different and over-lapping angles and this, ultimately, helps to not only blend but also fill in some of the black spots that appear under the pencil layers. Not sure how you work, but I find taping my art to a board is too constrictive.
You can see, in the photo below, the difference between my first layer of Holbein and the face where I am starting to build my layers. I used Luminance Alizarin Crimson along the inside edge of the swirl on the cheek and worked some of it up into the areas under the mane, then started blending with more Orange as well as Yellow Ochre and Raw Sienna. Luminance Buff Titanium was used at the tips of the ears, along the lightest edge of the cheek swirl, around the eye, and also in the lighter areas of the nose. I like the Luminance Titanium Buff over the White pencil since it seems to naturally blend better, but when I really want a white to stand out, it’s hard to beat Luminance White.
One note about the paper. It is Recollections brand from Michael’s and I pick up packages of 50 sheets when they go on sale. They offer both solid color packs as well as mixed collections. The charcoal grey I am using is from the Architecture collection. It handles most of my pencils fairly well, though I have noticed differences in tooth between different Recollections color collections. Mostly consistent, but not always–just an FYI.
The good news is that this paper is acid and lignin free meaning there are no chemicals that will eventually cause the paper (and consequently your artwork) to deteriorate. If you are coloring just for fun, using paper that is acidic or contains lignen is probably not a big deal … but if you want your work to last over the years, always look for “archival” quality paper or stock (meaning it is acid and lignen free).
After I warmed up the horse’s face with about six or seven light layers of yellows, orange and red Luminance, I worked with Polychromos Dark Chrome Yellow, Cadmium Orange, Orange Glaze and Middle Cadmium Red is small light circles “pushing” the Luminance pigments deeper into the paper. Oh, and a Derwent Studio Burnt Carmine pencil for the darkest edges. It is a brownish-purple-red tone that really helps to add depth in the more shadowed areas.
Funny how we all seem to have a collection of serious go-to pencils … I love all my pencils but my “can’t live without” and “worn to a nub quickest” pencils are as follows:
Polychromos Chrome Oxide Green, Olive Green Yellowish, Cobalt Turquoise, Dark Red, Bistre (I get these through Blick, open stock as well)
There are probably a few more I am forgetting, but these pencils get used a lot due to their colors, but more because of their ability to blend and define the way I need them to.
One interesting thing I have noticed about colored pencils is that after a period of “rest” (and I know this sounds crazy), it is easier to add new layers. My theory is that after a few hours or so, the waxes and oils from the pencils on the paper somehow relax (or more fully attach to the paper) and it becomes a little easier to apply new colors. I tried to find out if there is something to this, but didn’t spend much time searching on Google. Has anyone else noticed this phenomenon?
I then started working on the leaves and mane (below) using mostly greens: Luminance Olive Yellow, Olive Brown 50%, Olive Brown, Moss and Dark Sap Green. I also used a little Spring Green at the tips. Again, very light layers and not a lot of concern about “perfection” yet. My layers are starting to blend a little (see photo below), but you can still see a lot of strokes and where I started using the Luminance Prussian blue in the darkest areas. I used Prussian blue instead of black (or Dark Sap Green) because it adds a more rich and varied tone to the piece overall. It also contrasts nicely with the warm hues. Using the Irojiten Indigo pencil in the deepest areas adds a little more definition, and I plan to go back to those areas before the piece is finished.I used my black Verithin pencil to start adding some definition to the eyes, swirl, nose and mouth features. I’ll likely go back to those lines at a later time, too.
I couldn’t resist adding a little Prismacolor Light Aqua into the small circles on the mane because I love the way it looks with green–a nice little accent of color. The next step was to start filling in the flowers. I knew I wanted to work in some purples and almost went with a purple and blue combination, but decided to stay true to the warmer hues (aside from the turquoise accents). I tested a few colors on the back of my paper and fell in love with how Prismacolor Black Cherry, Tuscan Red, Crimson Lake and Pumpkin Orange worked together.
I put down a light layer of Black Cherry (which has a purple tone) and then graduated layers of the other three colors to the tips of the petals. Still not blended yet and that’s especially apparent in the harsh light of the iPhone. To really bring out the purple and give the innermost parts of the petals more depth, I used Irojiten Mulberry and Iris Violet pencils to start pushing my colors together. At this point, I try not to apply too much pressure with the Irojiten pencils. They are pretty hard, and if I use too much pressure, burnishing occurs. This is fine in the final steps of my coloring process, but since I may come back to the flowers with more layers, I am not yet ready to burnish (which can really lock in a layer and make it almost impossible to color over unless you use a fixative which I don’t do).
Now that I’ve got the basic colors of the flowers colored, I go back to the yellows in the body. Basically, I just refine the yellows with more layers and add a little more orange so these areas don’t end up looking too flat.
I also used my black Verithin to add filament lines, and Luminance Olive Brown to add a quick layer around the center circle of the flowers. Prismacolor Pumpkin was used for the centers. It may not see like it makes much of a difference, but a little squiggle of Irojiten Crimson along a few edges of the Pumpkin add a little depth and interest. And to balance out my accent color, I used the Prismacolor Light Aqua again for the flower anthers. Here is a close up:
The video clip below shows how I use the black Irojiten pencil to define the leaves a bit (the Verithin black works too). I never realized, until I started recording myself coloring, how I continually spin my pencil as I color. For certain areas, it’s important to have a sharp point, so I think I do this subconsciously in order to avoid dulling my pencil tips. In addition to defining the leaves, I used Sepia and a little Prussian Blu (both Luminance) to create more shadow around the belly and legs. And a little black Irojiten to further blend.
When people talk about the Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils being creamy, I don’t see it. These oil pencils are highly pigmented and fabulous, but I feel they are more gritty than creamy. And this is good and serves a purpose as they can help blend by breaking up the waxes from other pencils and move them around on an almost microscopic level. I’ve noticed I really love the way they behave on certain papers while on others, they tend to be a little more temperamental. Especially when combined with more waxy pencils. And it’s hard to predict so experimenting is key. When I am working on a new paper (or on the same paper but from a different batch), I always test out how different pencil brands will (or will not) play together first. Most mistakes can be fixed, but I have made of mess of things enough to be a little more careful. Ever have an area you are coloring turn to a glob of colors that refuse to blend and just clump up? No fun.
After I defined the leaves a bit, I grabbed my Rotring Isograph technical pen and realized it was almost empty. I wanted to use it around parts of the flowers, but had to do a refill first. Always a messy job:
Post pen-filling: I am not too happy with the results –my lines look too harsh (especially in photographs) but I can probably fix that and do a little more blending with the Mulberry Irojiten pencil. No worries–I’ll go back to it later.
Instead, I grabbed a white Soufflé gel pen (Sakura) to add dots to the anthers and a few on the horse’s face, and blue and copper metallic gel pens to add dots around the centers of the flowers. And a few Sakura Soufflé turquoise dots to the mane…
The art doesn’t look as harsh in person. Anyone who has tried photographing colored pencil on a dark background (especially when there are metallics involved) knows what I am talking about. I don’t have the right lighting in my studio and I get a lot of glare. I keep a few small gooseneck lamps on my desk and am constantly moving them around to get the best light when I am coloring, but have to turn them off when I take pictures. Someday I’ll get that all figured out.
I can’t imagine coloring on anything other than this old artist board (below) I bought back in college. I keep a small brass sharpener in a dish handy, as well as a brush to flick off any junk that lands on my paper and keep the wax bloom at bay.
Once I have a bunch of pencils I’ve pulled out of my cases to work with on a given piece, I store them in a tin drawer so I can keep track of them when I come back to the drawing. I used to write my colors down, but I don’t anymore.
Here is where I am leaving off on this piece for now. I have plenty more to do and will post a follow-up when I have a chance. For now, off to book work and and other tasks that need my attention…
Please feel free to leave questions or comments –I am always curious to learn how others tackle their art and channel their creativity, and no question is too silly. I may not have the answers, but I’ll give it an honest try.