Well it’s been a while since my last post. Don’t worry, nothing happened. I was just coloring away and everything else slipped before I know it. So I am back with exciting news about a new coloring book called “Insectimaginery” by the very talented Susan Carlson of Ruby Charm Colors. In short, it’s all bugs. It’s her first themed coloring book. She has become a dear friend and I am part of her coloring team so yes I can be a bit biased. I am going to show you why I love this book and I think you will too. Over the last few months, I have been coloring a few of these bugs and I am going to share with you a bit of techniques I used in each one.
Insectimaginery – a book of bugs
This is a self-published book with Amazon KDP. I already talked about paper quality limitation of KDP books in my last post “Art or Paper” and options to get around if that bothers you. The book is filled with fantastical insects and like the other Ruby Charm Colors adult coloring books (Ruby Charm Coloring Art Journal vol 1 & 2 and Ruby Charm Colors Creative Companion), it is designed as an art journal with plenty of room to test and track your colors. Being a coloring enthusiast herself, Susan is very mindful of what colorists really need and there is the usual tips prologue at the beginning of every book.
I am very honored that one of my color art – Orchid Bumbles – made it to the back cover of the book in the company of so many other talented colorists whose work I really admire.
There are a couple of streamer dragonflies in this book. Here’s one of them and my favorite! The line art is beautifully composed and I customized it a little by adding some little flower buds. Glitter is all the rage now in coloring, everyone is into glitter gel pens, metallic brush pens, mica watercolor, some people uses glitter nail polish although I have not tried that. Here I used Finetec pearl watercolor on the dragonfly’s wings. I think the shine makes it even more magical. I also recommend handmade shimmery watercolors by Karen Spencer of KJDesign @indigoartgb (this is her instagram link), her paints are amazingly rich, creamy and a collection of the most beautiful hues I have ever seen.
Flower buds are really simple to draw, they are simply little circles with a few lines to indicate budding petals. I usually have 3 to 4 petals. Here’s a close up. Another tip is that a very very dark background is what makes the little buds pop. Here I used various greens and black, some buds appear with more clarity than others. Some hint of the same red without outline in the green area adds depth.
Ah what can I say about this piece. A poll on the Ruby Charm Colors Community Facebook Group (hint: you might want to join this private group if you’re not already a member) shows this is a favorite of a lot of people! If you have read my “About me” page here, you know I took watercolor classes before and it’s a medium I really really love. Coloring this piece brought back all those feelings when I did watercolor painting years ago. I printed this page off on 90 lb watercolor paper, it’s just light enough to not choke my printer. Let’s talk about my choice of paper for a bit. I mostly color directly in coloring books as I like flipping through them and look at my work from time to time rather than having loose collection of papers. However, some books don’t take heavy water very well, in that case I choose either cardstock or light watercolor paper. I use cardstock if my primary focus is going to be pencils and watercolor paper if I plan to use a lot of water medium. The dilemma is colored pencils don’t really like watercolor paper, you need heavy blending because of the rougher paper texture. I really don’t like using blenders. So there’s a trade off, use the right paper depending on your need.
Another tip about storing these pieces of art after you finished coloring – I bought these plastic pouch / bag from stationary stores (e.g. Staples in US and Canada) that has a velcro flap on top and opens like an envelop, it’s pleated so it can hold quite a few 8.5×11 or smaller pieces. The beauty is it has 3 holes on the left side, so you can file these pouches in regular 3-ring binders. How cool is that!
Back to this piece. First I want to talk about the bumble bee. I used watercolor to create the fluffy bumble. The trick is to let the black and yellow meet and blend into each other when they are still wet. Be careful to wash your brush often so your yellow does not turn to mud. Notice also that my yellow actually has red/orange/yellow and my black has blue/grey/black. Complex colors add depths as well.
I cannot resist adding some extras, in this case, orchid leaves. This is not because I think the original line art is too bare, the artist side of me just likes to embellish with my own mark. I have seen lovely coloring by other Ruby Charm Colors team (check their Instagram: @dukewife, @pstonecolors) without leaves. I am also very happy I chose a deep dark violet/burgundy red as the back ground, it brings out the lighter subjects beautifully. Oh and the wings are done with Karen’s mica paint. Special mention about the “Gold”, it’s heavenly and you can’t get more gold shine than this.
I remembered being very excited when I first laid my eyes on this line art. Why? because it has no flowers and it has fungi which I seldom have a chance to color other than button mushrooms here and there. It’s not that I don’t like flowers but a change from the normal creates excitement! That was the day I got my new full set of Faber-Castell polychromos which has really pretty greens and browns. In some areas such as the leaves and background, I used the help of Derwent Inktense to form a base before highlighting with pencils. I have previous blogs on the use of Inktense. I didn’t really have a color plan, I just jumped right in with a pretty color named “Terracotta” on the big chanterelle mushroom and the rest just evolved around it. Some people find it amazing that I seem to have a lot of colors going on in this piece but surprisingly they fit together. I confessed that once I colored the fungi, leaves and background, I looked at the butterfly and go what now. I want both the fungi and the butterfly to be the focus if that’s not too greedy. I was careful that the part of the butterfly that’s next to the big chanterelle has no orange or brown or yellow or red. Hence it’s light blue and grey along the edge. I drew some patterns along the edges of the wings and colored them black, this created a lacy feel and lightened up the heavy wooded background. Of course a butterfly got to have some bright colors. I made sure they are on the side of the green area. I think that pulled it off. I also want to bring your attention to the tree trunk with moss covered bark. This was done by using a fineliner to draw some random lines (vary the thickness of the lines), I finish it off with some green burnish (meaning rub really hard) here and there to mimic moss.
Dragonfly with Lotus
Coloring on black paper intimates me. Do you know Susan made Black Magic Coloring book manually? It is by special order only complete with your name on the cover. It’s really beautiful. So why does it intimates me? Well colored pencils go on black paper like chalk/pastel. So you need a lot of layers and good blending. However, the result is absolutely gorgeous. Secondly, you really can’t print white on a home printer, so it’s straining to the eyes to find the black lines on black paper. I get around it by working under a bright LED desk lamp and I used a white pencil to immediately trace the lines before I started coloring. So why color on black? As you can see, it creates a very lovely pastel like texture that you can’t get on white paper, it also gives you a chance to use those extreme light pretty colored pencils that you have no idea what to do with, and besides, you don’t need to color the background black!
The trick for a successful black paper coloring is lots of layers and blend well. Here I’ll show you the difference, the result on the right took twice as long as the initial result on the left. So lots of patience and you will be rewarded.
Last but not least is this Valentine’s Cicada (hence the heart shape) which Susan kindly made as a limited time freebie on the Facebook community group. This is also included in the new book.
I only used Prisma Premier colored pencils on this piece with a couple layers of Wink of Stellar clear glitter pen on the wings. Again the trick to all coloring is layering and blending (I mean blending multiple colors together, not using a blending tool or oil or whatever. The only exception to blender tool for me is if the paper is too textured and I need help getting the colors into the nooks and crannies. Here the star of the show is the transparent wings. I had a blog before about how to color something transparent, you can read it here. Other Betty embellishments includes turning the outline of the heart into twisted twigs and I filled up the centre of the Protea flower with real looking anthers (I am not sure if this is the right term). Here’s a close up of the work in progress, be patient and blend, blend, blend til you can look at it close up and all the colors smoothly transition from one to another unless you actually want to see lines like in the petals. I deliberately let some lines shows on the petals for texture.
Sorry this blog post is so long as a result of my attempt to make up for my MIA in the last few months. I hope my biased review of the book inspired you. The book is available on Amazon worldwide and while you are there, check out the other publications of Ruby Charm Colors as well. Some of the insects line arts (and a collection of non-bug line arts) are also available as pdf downloads from the Ruby Charm Colors Etsy store. Happy Coloring!