The holidays always seem to creep up faster than I’d like and then, of course, in a moment they are gone and I’m left wondering where the time went.
One relaxing way to truly slow down and enjoy the holidays is to do something creative and mindful. Plant yourself in a comfy chair, pick up your colored pencils and whatever other art supplies you have on hand, and do some coloring or painting.
I’ve been trying to do a bit of art each day to chase away the Michigan winter blahs, give myself time to breathe, and allow my mind to focus on something other than the stresses that holidays always seem to bring. Just slow down.
I recently added three new illustrations to my Etsy shop and they are looking for good homes. All they need is some color and a little time. All three are downloadable PDFs and include complimentary grey-line versions of the designs, and the swan illustration includes a bonus image. And guess what? All PDFs in my Etsy shop are on sale through the end of December so it’s a great time to add to your RubyCharmColors collection!
Works in progress with a mix of pearlescent paint, colored pencils and gel pens.
Volume 2 is finally done and residing on Amazon as a link you can click to purchase a book full of coloring goodness—especially when paired with Volume 1 (see a review of V1 here). I ran into a few issues during this project and they set me back in regard to time, but I think it was worth the wait. The books are done and I am ready to work on an Art Journal companion that should dovetail nicely with the adult coloring books.
The upcoming Companion will be more like a journal (similar to a bullet journal) with plenty of room to write, calendars, and lists for those who love coloring and art in general. There will also be lots of little illustrations to color and doodle around with, so stay tuned! The tentative release is late October / early November—definitely in time for the holidays!
Volume 2 of the Ruby Charm Colors Adult Coloring Art Journal
Paisley Fox page from the Ruby Charm Colors Adult Coloring Art Journal, Volume 2
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.
The past month has been busy for the Ruby Charm Colors project. In addition to working on an upcoming book (which has somehow morphed into two 100+ page volumes) I’ve created a few new illustrations for my Etsy shop and have released several sets of cards for coloring.
The first illustration I completed was actually started a few months ago and was a special request by a fan, Lucia, who is now on my coloring team. Lucia’s Crestie gecko, Nacho, was the inspiration for this illustration and I finally got around to finishing up the background in July. The gecko itself was done quite some time ago, but as with several of my mini projects, sometimes they fall by the wayside until I have a reminder to git ‘er done, as they say. The line art, if you would like to color this finished design yourself, can be found here in the RubyCharmColors Etsy shop.
I started coloring this illustration using a mix of Caran d’Ache Neocolor II pastels and colored pencils. I had ordered about 8 individual (open-stock) pastels from Blick to try them out as I had seen a number of beautiful colorings on Instagram and Facebook using the Neocolors. I was attracted to their intense hues and how they appeared to blend really well. I used Turquoise, Chromium Oxide Green, Olive Brown, and Fast Orange for the background, sun and leaves for this piece. Though it was my first time using the pastels and I was still getting the hang of blending them with my Kurtake and Aquash Pentel water brushes, I was pretty happy with the outcome and decided to order a set of the Neocolors through Amazon so I would have more colors to work with in future projects.
Gecko line art for coloring books and pages (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, colored by the artist
Once the pastels dried, I started going over different areas of the illustration with a mix of colored pencils – mostly Caran d’Ache Luminance and Pablo pencils, Polychromos, and Prismacolors. Once my overall colors were in place (lots and lots of layers as usual) I started burnishing the colors using my Irojiten pencils.
Close-up of Gecko line art for coloring books and pages (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, colored by the artist
The final step for the gecko was to add small embellishments with Sakura Souffle gel pens. This piece has a long way to go before it’s complete, so it’s now living in one of my “unfinished projects” folders for safe-keeping. I am sure I’ll pull it back out again when I have some free time.
Gecko line art for coloring books and pages (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, colored by Lora King
The next illustration I completed recently was the Toutterkoi. It started out as a butterfly but I added a toucan’s face to the tips of the wings on a lark. It was weird but I liked it enough and decided to work in some koi on the bottom wings and tail. I really enjoyed fitting creatures into the butterfly and had fun color-testing this piece with a mix of Polychromos, Prismacolors and Irojitens. I really appreciate the sharp tips I can get on the Irojiten pencils for small details.
Toutterkoi line art for coloring books and pages (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, colored by the artist
Toutterkoi line art for coloring books and pages (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, colored by Vanessa Black
Paula Leach used Schpirerr Farben pencils for her Toutterkoi. Using a blend of greys moves her fronds to the background while the brighter colors move the Tourrtekoi forward.
Toutterkoi line art for coloring books and pages (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, colored by Paula Leach
Here is a close-up of Paula’s work including her signature sparkles as embellishments on the body and wings – lovely color choices.
Close-up of the Toutterkoi line art for coloring books and pages (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, colored by Paula Leach
My next project consisted of modifying some of my line art to make greeting cards that can be printed at home, colored and given away. There are 6 designs in the first set: Little Bird; Horse with Flowers; Insects; Lion, Hare and Moon; Mice in Freesia; and Spring Hare.
Little Bird line art for coloring books, pages and greeting cards (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, colored by the artist
After that, I modified a collection of my moth and butterfly illustrations and turned them into greeting cards, too. This set of 8 designs can be printed at home (card stock is best), trimmed to size and colored with your favorite media.
So about the Caran d’Ache Neocolor II pastels …. I did order a set of 40 off of Amazon and I was so excited to get them in the mail. After opening the box and grabbing a few pastels to try out of a scrap of paper, though, my heart sank. They did not blend at all with my water brush. What the hell? And then it dawned on me … I had mistakenly ordered the Neocolor I pastels (which happen to be water-resistant) instead of the Neocolor II pastels which are meant to be blended with water! The Neocolor I pastels are beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but they were not what I needed. I repacked the box and sent them back.
If you order Neocolors through Amazon, be sure you are ordering the correct type of pastel you need (I or II)! The item description did not specify which set I was ordering, and since there was a picture of paintbrushes next to the pastels, I assumed I was getting the watercolors. Nope.
Just a few days later I opened my mailbox to discover a rather large and heavy package inside. I carefully slid it out (because I didn’t want the ginormous black spider who has taken up residence in said mailbox to hitch a ride on my package). It was a full set of gorgeous Neocolor II pastels gifted to me by a dear fellow artist! I can’t tell you how much it meant to me that someone would send me art supplies – such a thoughtful and generous gesture and I am still in awe. i got to work right away using the pastels (and some colored pencils) to color in one of the greeting cards I designed as a thank card.
Horse with flowers line art for coloring books, pages and greeting cards (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, colored by the artist
Horse with flowers line art for coloring books, pages and greeting cards (c) 2018 by S. Carlson / Ruby Charm Colors, finished card colored by the artist
So that’s what I’ve been up to the past few weeks. My gardens are going wild and I really need to do more weeding, my tomatoes are finally ripening, the cicadas are buzzing, and I have fresh flowers in the kitchen each day.
Now back to the business of making the book(s), and I’ll have a teaser about that in the coming days ….
Flowers from my gardens-gone-wild: Tree Lily, Phlox, Lavender, Day Lily, Crocosmia, and Jerusalem Artichokes
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?
ABOUT THE DESIGN: The black & white illustration this design is based on was originally drawn by the artist, Susan Carlson, for the Ruby Charm collection of coloring pages and books for coloring enthusiasts. This illustration was completed with a mix of watercolor and colored pencils, plus a number of pens for embellishments.