Psssttt… Confession time: I spend a lot of time doing something without a name.
Yep, I spend hours coloring highly detailed projects with Copic Markers and colored pencils. They’re little paintings. Lots of other people do it too— some working with digital stamps and others with their own original line art.
You’d think there’d be a name for this… Hobby? Pastime? Obsession?
When I tell people I teach coloring classes, it doesn’t feel right. Strangers assume I mean card making or coloring books. But I’ve never made a card in my life and I haven’t owned a coloring book since grade school.
So I started telling people I teach painting classes, which feels a lot more accurate, except that it started freaking out the students. "Who, me? I’m doing what?”
For want of a better term, I call it: Artistic Coloring.
Hello, my name is Amy Shulke and I’m the illustrator and art instructor over at VanillaArts.com. Today I’d like to show you behind the scenes of my latest coloring project, All is Bright.
Hopefully, we can better define Artistic Coloring. It’s a sub-niche of something fine-artsy, almost like watercolor but crossed with illustration, the step-child of paper crafting, and cousins to card makers and art journaling… whew!
What would you call it?
See? We’re the Duckbilled Platypus of the coloring world. And hey, maybe you’ll want to join us!
1. Artistic Coloring is larger than most coloring projects.
As I said, I’m not a card maker. Die cuts and glitter powders? That’s some strange voodoo stuff. When I do see cards, I’m always amazed at how people color such cute little itty-bitty teeny-tiny stamps.
We work large.
For All is Bright, I printed Power Poppy’s Snowy Church digital stamp large enough to fill a full sheet of 8.5 x 11” Bazzill cardstock. If I was teaching this for a retreat, I would use my oversized printer to fill a sheet of 18 x 24” Cryogen Cardstock. In artistic coloring, the size of your project is limited only by the size of your printer.
We use digital stamps or original line drawings because cling and clear stamps are not large enough to accommodate the shaping and details we add. Power Poppy digis are perfect for us!
We go big.
2. Artistic Coloring relies on photo references and observation
Meanwhile Artistic Colorers are in it for something a little harder to describe.
They notice more nuanced color when they look at the world around them. More than shaded edges and single light sources. They want to incorporate what they see into their coloring projects.
They’re flirting with the concepts of realism.
So we use photo references rather than tutorials. Students learn to color what they observe rather than following step by step instructions.
The cool thing about using photo references is that you can color Snowy Church many times in hundreds of variations. It wouldn’t be hard to remove the snow and add a glorious burst of apple blossoms and green grass to the image. Add a northern lakeshore or a field of sleeping sheep. It could be sunrise or sunset if we wanted.
With photo references to guide your coloring, you can color anything!
3. Artistic Coloring takes longer
If you'll allow a little snark, I’d say Artistic Coloring is basically overthinking the simple stuff and taking hours to color what most people do in five minutes.
But it’s fun!
The images are larger, so they take longer to color. And we add lots of detail which slows us down even more.
All is Bright took me about six hours to color, spread out over four days. I also spent a couple hours in the pre-planning stages, hunting down a great photo reference and testing out possible color palettes.
But it was fun.
So much fun!
4. Artistic Coloring uses mixed media
- Copic Markers provide intense and vibrant color, but it’s hard to color thin window frames with a big fat marker.
- Technical pens are great for crisp texture and moderate detail but they’re too small to color a whole pine tree.
- Colored pencils make beautiful highlights and subtle color gradations but they’re painfully slow, especially on nighttime backgrounds.
- Colorful paper can add a beautiful smooth background but that same color can dampen the vibrancy of your markers, pens, and pencils. It's hard to glow on cool colored paper!
There isn’t one medium that works best for everything. Artistic Colorers don’t mind. We pick and choose based upon the needs of the day.
5. Artistic Colorers blend but they don’t use blending combinations
A traditional Copic Marker tutorial might instruct you to use three different piney greens on the trees here— a light, medium, and dark green. That’s a standard Copic blending combination.
But Artistic Colorers look at shaded green and we don’t see more green in the recesses and niches, we see less green. Most of the time, Copic doesn’t even make the murky shady colors we see. We’re the group that says “G99 isn’t dark enough!”
The trees here were colored with a magenta marker layered with a green marker. The unusual mix of pink under green is called Complimentary Underpainting. Pink and green are opposites on the color wheel and together, they make the realistic muddy color that you’ll find in the shady crevices of a pine tree.
To see more unusual Copic underpaint colors, see the Vanilla Undercover series here.
6. Here’s the best part - Artistic Coloring does not require special skills to start!
We use digital stamps, so there’s no drawing involved.
Most students start Artistic Coloring classes with little more than a few Copics and the desire to use them differently. It's strange, but if you walk in the door with years of coloring experience, you spend a lot of time unlearning before you start learning.
I'll be honest, my All is Bright online class is an advanced coloring lesson. It's not an entry level project. But every student in the Vanilla Livestream system started as a beginner and within a year worked their way up to this kind of challenge.
This is totally doable. You can learn to do this!
So here’s my Artist’s Notebook challenge for you this month...
But maybe it’s something you’ll want to think about into the upcoming new year.
Artistic Coloring is something that you absolutely, positively can do.
You must be willing to work larger, on projects that take longer, and with less supervision and demonstration to guide your way.
But for detail oriented people who dream of coloring digital stamps with a completely unique style and voice… whatever we call this Duckbill Platypus coloring hobby… this is the art-form for you!
Want to color Power Poppy’s Snowy Church with me?
My All is Bright class is part of the Vanilla Livestream series for intermediate to advanced Copic colorers. This lesson covers how to use white sparingly and intelligently for maximum depth and impact. The overuse of white gel pens and white colored pencil flattens your projects, so let’s learn how to highlight the classical way.
You can find out more about Vanilla Livestream classes here.
And hey, I’ll see you next month for another glance into my Artist’s Notebook!
Previous Artist Notebook articles:Eye Popping Color Palettes
You Are Blessed!