There’s a new addition to the RubyCharmColors Etsy shop and I really enjoyed completing the line art for this one. I had roughly sketched the bear months ago, but then it sat neglected in a folder on my iPad. A few days ago, I pulled it up and was inspired to finish it off for inclusion in my new set of books which will be offered on Amazon soon.
The Bear with Fish will be included in Volume 1, but it is also available on Etsy right now as an instantly downloadable PDF for coloring. Two pages are included in the file–the black line illustration and also a grey-line version in case you enjoy working with lighter lines.
Here’s a sample of the color test I did of this design – it is still a work in progress and might be for some time since I’ve really got to get back to the books and finish them up for a September release.
I started with lots of light layers with the Luminance pencils, then worked in my Polychromos for variations in color and more blending. The Irojitens pencils were used to burnish and set my colors. When I have a chance, I plan to use Neocolor II pastels for the background.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how one piece of art can multiply and transform into many different versions as colorists (people who love to color in coloring books) approach the same line drawing with their own color preferences, creative vision, tools, technical skills, and experiences.
The tools or media a colorist chooses to work with plays an important role in the overall appearance of a coloring. Some colorists like to mix things up and use not only a blend of different colored pencils, but also other media like watercolor, markers, chalk, gel pens, pastels and even eye shadow. Others prefer to stick with their favorite pencil brand. Either way, gorgeous results are within everyone’s reach— it just takes is time, practice, and a willingness to learn and experiment. And sometimes a little luck!
Each version of the Mice in Freesia has its own unique feel, and different elements of the design are brought forward (or pushed back) through use of color, shading, pattern, and different applications of the media.
The next set of drawings are examples of colorists seeing past the lines of the original Insects illustration into completely new and original creative territory. Some may be worried by the idea of altering an artist’s work (and I have seen colorists on social media flip out on other colorists about how they don’t think it is okay at all) but I think it is fantastic!
I don’t mind being the catapult if someone has a vision they want to reach in their own coloring. If my work can inspire new ideas, then I feel I have accomplished something special. I include the simple black and white illustration above the work of Fumiko and Valencia (below) so you can see how they altered the original work to fit their individual visions.
Valencia Venter Van Zyl took her coloring of the same Insect design (but printed on white card stock) in a completely different direction by adding strawberries and roses. The way she approached the circles by adding borders and tiny flowers is reminiscent of an heirloom teacup saucer which gives the design a more antique feel. Here is Valencia’s coloring up close. And I am sorry I don’t which pencils or other media she used …
All of these colorists have beautiful, individual approaches that bring the original art to new levels. As an artist, I find this very exciting and feel that there is a collaboration between creatives not typically found in other art forms. When we see a painting in a gallery, or a sculpture on a table, or view photos or films, we participate to a degree, of course. But not to the extent people interact with the art in the adult coloring book world. Colorists take the line art—the basic framework—and transform it through their own creative lens. They truly involve themselves—physically and mentally—in the art.
Adult coloring as a hobby is sometimes ridiculed for being childish, but those who ridicule may not be looking close enough to see the beautiful art that’s being produced by colorists around the world. And they may not understand the truly therapeutic effect putting a pencil (or other media) to paper can have. For me, coloring or drawing puts me in a state of focus I don’t find elsewhere. Keen focus. And at the same time, a state of catharsis. My mind feels clear and sharp, and overall I feel relaxed and more centered. A sort of yin and yang effect.
Sometimes I think that we are too bombarded by distracting “little bits” that throw us off track. Every waking moment. Cell phones are continually dinging at us, we see a flash of the “news” on TV or one of our other devices that barely scratches the surface of a story before jumping to the next “bombshell”, we read newspaper and magazine articles that are so short it’s a wonder anyone gets paid to write them. I sometimes worry that our ability to focus and think deeply about much of anything will someday disappear. So yeah, I get the adult coloring craze that surfaced a few years back, and those who dismiss or ridicule it are missing out. I think a lot of people crave something real and tactile—something they can start, see their progress, make their own decisions, hold in their hands and say “I did that.”
Coloring can be “mindless” but it can also be mindful.
This next batch of colorings (above) have unique qualities, too. Lisa Duggan colored two different versions of the Lion Fish design. Her first version (a close-up here), was colored in September of 2017, and she used Prismacolor and Polychromos pencils. In her second version (completed more recently), Lisa used Derwent Inktense, a little layering on top of that with Polychromos, and then added embellishments with gel pens. Click here for a close-up of Lisa’s second coloring. Her color choices for the Lion Fish and the background uniquely alters the mood of each version.
Again, the media we work with can make a huge difference in the overall look and feel of a piece. And I probably say this more than I need to, but never be afraid to experiment! Even if a coloring turns into a disaster, there were probably some useful skills learned in the process.
Here’s another set of colorings that beautifully highlight the variety of work being done by colorists working with the RubyCharmColors illustrations. This is Gazelles.
Lisa’s warm hues, blending of the sky with a few hazy clouds hanging in the air, and her coloring technique effectively brings us to the African savanna (see close-up) while Fumiko’s blue gazelles and and striped planet looks like a mystical scene from Avatar (here’s her close-up). On Instagram Lisa commented that Fumiko’s coloring looks like night photography and I tend to agree. Both colorings are uniquely beautiful!
Now this is pretty cool … same colorist, different versions of the original line drawing: one was printed in black while the other was printed at about 50% grey-scale. Colorist Beth Hovey told the RubyCharmColors group on Facebook that she used the Sun & Moon illustration as an art lesson for her granddaughter!
After coloring the black line version, she printed out the grey line version to help her granddaughter understand how black lines and gray lines can have an affect how a coloring turns out. She used the same color palette for each version—and even though she said the purple pastel chalk on the black line coloring was applied a little heavier—we can still see the nuances between the two different versions.
Coloring the grey line version (which I include with all of the PDFs I offer on Etsy as a bonus) puts more emphasis on shapes and colors and less emphasis on the sometimes heavy black lines themselves. Working with grey line versions can also make it a little easier to veer from the original design and add more of your own details since the lines are much lighter and easier to color over. And you don’t have to have a grey-line PDF to do this. Depending on your printer’s settings, you can can either choose “Greyscale” or even print at a lower “economy” setting which spits less ink on the page (if you have an inkjet printer). Laser printer? Not sure … but you can always poke around your printer’s settings and try a few experiments.
The next three images are from colorists Sandy Kinzer, Lucia Brown and Paula Leach, each working their own magic on the same image. Here, it’s all about the color combos. The simple butterfly design was offered as a freebie through the RubyCharmColors group on Facebook (you need to join and participate to get the freebies) as a teaser and as a practice run for the more complicated “Butterfly with Spheres” design that was released shortly after as a downloadable, printable PDF.
Sandy’s butterfly feels like spring with a lovely mix of pastels and a few bright colors we associate with the season of growth and awakenings. Lucia’s butterfly uses a pallet that is a little more limited, and her use of pinks and turquoise create playful, modern looking contrasts.
The close up of Paula’s butterfly in more muted tones above shows the metallic, glittery pens she used to embellish some of her detail work. Below is her coloring of the full version of “Butterfly with Spheres.” Her color pallet is intentionally limited and gives the piece a soft, romantic unified look.
Having a little time to think about colors before approaching a final piece can be helpful. And being able to experiment with different media on a more simple piece before committing to the final can take away some of the pressure, too. Not everyone is concerned about the final outcome (and that is perfectly fine), but there are a lot of colorists who are, and who want to keep learning and pushing themselves creatively.
Now how about these rabbits? Again, color changes everything! These three colorings below are of the Spring Rabbit illustration.
Horse with Flowers is a more recent drawing, and I have three colorings I’d like to share though I know there are more floating around out there. Betty Hung, a colorist and blogger (check out her beautiful and helpful blog about coloring here) used Chameleon pens and Colortone pencils in her beautifully balanced piece. Her blending of the background is soft and exquisite (zoom in here).
There are so many other colorings I’d love to include in this post, and so many wonderful colorists that I’d love to tip my hat to, but I’ve run out of time. I would love to do this again in a few more months, though, so keep those colorings coming, please use the #RubyCharmColors hashtag on Instagram, and please tag RubyCharmColors on Facebook.
I’d really love to see your work!
A big THANK YOU to all the colorists willing to share their work and joy of coloring with us all! Show them some love and give them a follow on Instagram!
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.
“Bo Dog and the Moon” is based on an old pencil sketch I did of a canine companion I had years ago. He was a floppy, bumbling (150 pound) Anatolian shepherd. Bo lived with me in my car for a summer while I collected data for research on birds in the Sleeping Bears Dunes National Park. Yep, I’ve had my share of odd (but always interesting) jobs!
Bo (Mr. Bojangles as he was originally named when I adopted him) loved to swim in Lake Michigan, and sometimes at night we’d hear the coyotes yipping.
A “Color Your Own” version of Bo Dog and the Moon is also available as a soft-cover, 120 lined page, 6” x 8” spiral notebook that can be colored with your own favorite colored pencils, pens or markers. The tote bags, great for daily errands, shopping, hauling art supplies, or even using as a special gift bag, can be colored or painted by you or others as well. Bo Dog and the Moon is printed on both sides, constructed of 100% spun polyester with cotton web handles, lined with black fabric, and available in three sizes: 13” square, 16” square and 18” square.
This past summer, I transferred my Bo Dog image to the back of a denim jacket and after painting blocks of color in acrylics, started embroidering and a sewing on beads and metal studs. The jacket is almost finished (just need to add a few final touches and sew in a cotton lining) and it’s ready to wear. Here’s a close-up of part of the jacket:
Lots of options if you are interested in adding “Bo Dog and the Moon” to your home or wardrobe!