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!
I wanted to share two videos today—both flip-throughs of my latest books on Amazon done by Steph Johnston (aka @red_tifa on Instagram) on her wonderful Red_Tifa YouTube channel. Steph goes through each page in both volumes which is especially helpful when it comes to seeing and understanding the structure and purpose of the books as well as all the different pieces of art you will have to play with.
In the first video, I used the Caran d’Ache Neocolor II water-soluble pastels (Bronze, Raw Sienna and Toledo Brown) over simple patterns I drew with a white Pablo pencil. I had to keep moving my desk lamp around so I could see the white lines I was drawing on the white paper. It was a little challenging! I then blended the pastels with a Caran d’Ache medium tip water brush. The Bronze Neocolor is just beautiful with a slight metallic shimmer. Instead of coloring the pastels directly on the paper (which could mar the white lines I had drawn), I used a blade to shave a little of the pastel onto a palette and mixed with a little water before applying my colors to the paper.
Neocolor II pastel shavings: a little goes a long way, so if you are interested in investing in a set it’s good to know this in advance. I was gifted this gorgeous set of pastels by a dear fan friend and just adore them—rich, beautiful creamy colors!
The mouse is all done for now so I wanted to add one last time-lapse and a photo of the finished piece:
I added subtle bits of color to the mouse and then used gel pens to add more small designs and embellishments. I got a little sloppy with the large “fish-scale” heart … can I blame it on cold hands and eyeglasses that need a good cleaning?
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!
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?