Art or Paper

My title for this blog is a little weird. Let me explain. Like everyone else, before I buy a coloring book, I read reviews and comments on Amazon and sometimes watch flip throughs on youtube. Lately I saw someone said in a comment “the paper is so bad! This is the first and last book I will ever buy from this artist”. I am deeply troubled by this because I come to understand that the world of book publishing is not that simple. Not every artist is Johanna Basford or Hanna Karlzon. Don’t get me wrong, I love Johanna and Hanna. They are very successful and their books are amazing. My crusade here is for artists starting and trying to make their art known. How does one even get a publisher? Hence there is the option of self-publishing, like CreateSpace by Amazon. However, we all know the paper quality is less than desirable. I am sure every artist would love to have their coloring pages printed on thick, white, high quality paper that can take all the abuse from us colorist, like trying to do watercolor blending on non-watercolor paper. However, instead of waiting for that opportunity to come, the next best thing is to at least publish and get your art out there. For me, I’d rather get good coloring pages on not so good paper than bad art on good paper.

Less than ideal paper – deal with it

Now that I understand and accept books with less than ideal paper quality. I learn to deal with it. As long as you understand the limitation, what works best with the paper, you can definitely achieve great results with any kind of paper. If you can’t color without drenching the paper with wet medium then you still have the option of copying the page to paper of your choice like card stock or even light watercolor paper. As long as you use the copy for your own use and not distribute to others including friends and family, it doesn’t violate copyright laws. I recently purchase a few of these “bad paper” books and the art in them are amazing. I had a lot of fun coloring in them with just colored pencils and even a bit of water activated medium like Inktense. You just have to make sure you don’t drench the page too much, let it dry completely before doing anything else with it. These paper usually have a lot of tooth, and you need your pencil sharp to get into the “valleys” of the paper and cover all the whites or use a colorless blender. I used Inktense to create a base (cover the whites), waited for it to completely dry and then color over with my pencils for large areas. In the featured picture above (from the Vintage Classic Coloring pages by Tantiana Bogema),  to achieve that dark royal blue background, I used Inktense 1100 as base then used Prisma 901 and 902 over it. This method prolonged the life of my Prisma pencils and saved me from a sore wrist from all the burnishing / blending I otherwise had to do to create the same effect. The coloring pages are printed one-sided to allow the use of markers so that bleed-through doesn’t ruin another coloring page.

Two amazing books – Ruby Charm Colors (RCC) Adult Coloring Art Journal vol 1 & 2

Ruby Charm Art Journal vol 1 & 2
Ruby Charm Art Journal vol 1 & 2

I don’t do book reviews usually in my blog and this is really not a book review. Please don’t take it as such. The reason why I want to bring these two books to your attention is that I truly admire the artist, Susan Carlson. This is not because she is kind enough to include two of my coloring of her pages at the back of vol 2 – well that’s pretty cool and I am very honored. These books are printed on CreateSpace paper which nicely ties in with what I just talked to you about. So let’s get past the paper quality beef and let me tell you a bit about why these books are amazing.

I was first drawn to @rubycharmcolors on Instagram because Susan’s unique drawings and the way she colored them appealed to me. Her subjects are animals, reptiles, insects, aquatic creatures and she stylized them. I find it very unique, not the same old flowers and leaves. She tested out her drawings by coloring them herself and her color choices are amazing. I love the way she combines greys, browns, blues and greens. I am also impressed that she’s very responsive to comments and always takes the time to explain.

When she decided to self-publish her books on CreateSpace, we, her followers, are her cheering squad. We know how hard she worked on these books. Her books are not just coloring pages, they are Art Journals. Each design has practice page, notes page where you can write down what you did, your color palette etc before you color the full page. I have never seen anything like this. These books are suitable for beginners as well as advanced colorist as you can color the line arts as is or you can be adventurous and add your own design / interpretation. Personally I love to add a bit of realism to her stylized animals so the face of the lion is quite real but everything else is stylized, like the lion page below.

Lion From Ruby Charm Colors Collection by Susan Carlson colored by Betty Hung -
Lion From Ruby Charm Colors Collection by Susan Carlson colored by Betty Hung –

or I turned her horse drawing into a stained glass design

Horse from Ruby Charm Colors Collection by Susan Carlson colored by Betty Hung -
Horse from Ruby Charm Colors Collection by Susan Carlson colored by Betty Hung –

and this is my latest work from her collection, you can get pdf version of these cute lemurs from the rubycharmcolors Etsy store:

Lemurs from Ruby Charm Colors Collection by Susan Carlson colored by Betty Hung -
Lemurs from Ruby Charm Colors Collection by Susan Carlson colored by Betty Hung –

If you are interested to see all my colorings of Ruby Charm Colors, they are all collected under the instagram hashtag #rubycharmbybettyhung

Follow Susan Carlson on her instagram: @rubycharmcolors or Facebook page “Rubycharmcolors Community”

Happy Coloring!

In addition to the RCC Art Journals, I also bought a couple more coloring books on less than ideal paper as I believe in supporting talented artists and I hope you do too. Here’s another completed page:

“Squirrel” in Magic Beauty by Nadiya Vasilkova

Squirrel" from Magic Beauty by Nadiya Vasilkova colored by Betty Hung -
“Squirrel” from Magic Beauty by Nadiya Vasilkova colored by Betty Hung –



10 comments on “Art or Paper

  1. Betty, what a great post. I too think it’s a shame that many artists work is not purchased because of Create Space paper. I’m one that has no problem copying on better paper.
    I absolutely love Susan’s work and agree that her new books are marvelous.
    Your coloring is brilliant!

  2. Very well written. Supporting other artists and being positive is so important! Thanks for sharing

  3. Thank you for that very insightful explanation of “cheaper paper” and self-publising. Sometimes we need to learn to be more generous in our thinking. Also, a different paper can pose challenges from which we learn to be better colorists.

    Betty, I always enjoy your beautiful coloring and your blog.

  4. Well said, Betty. May I suggest that you include any insight you might have on which colored pencils work best with create space paper. I find that the less expensive ones work well, as well as the harder more expensive brands such as Polychromos.

  5. Well said, Betty, about paper quality and choices, and since everyone has their own personal preference, it’s hard to say which paper is best. I was really worried about CS paper for my books (it was my only option), but I’ve gotten used to coloring on the CS paper now and though it is not my absolute favorite, it’s actually grown on me. I would not choose it for a piece of art I wanted to frame or sell, but it is fine for playing with color, learning new techniques, and just having FUN. And thank you for the kind words about my art and “cheering squad” comment just made me smile – I have the best coloring friends ever! I never would have gotten two books out if it weren’t for you all cheering me on and working your magical colors with my lines. I truly feel honored! 🙂

  6. Hello Betty, I absolutely agree on what you say about dealing with not so good paper versus really fabulous art. I just ordered two books of Tatiana Bogema at amazon! I choose to copy on watercolor or mixed media paper if I want to use wet media. And above all, I really enjoy your blog. I read through all of your entries and I feel moved and think you give us all a big present of your art, technique and your inspirations. I thoroughly enjoy it. A heartful thank you from Irene

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