Monday, June 17, 2019

Inspire Me Monday: Don't be Backwards with Backgrounds!

Hi all and welcome to another Inspire Me Monday! Boy, do we have a treat for YOU! If you've been using Copic markers for any length of time, you know this medium has so many tips and tricks that you could have been coloring for years and still not even scratched the surface of all the ways you could perfect the craft.

One woman I love to turn to for a little coloring advice is the fabulous Amy Shulke of Just last Friday she held a live class telling all of us to take the rules we thought we knew about coloring and... break them! What?? Seriously? Yes, seriously. Let's just take a gander at her finished project using Power Poppy's Hydrangea Hype. It's stunning with some beautiful details that many of us miss in the coloring process. One overlooked part of coloring I asked her to break down was.... the background! Yep, as you'll see, she has some thoughts on how and why we really need to put this part of an image in the spotlight!

Take it away, Amy!
Hello there, Amy here! Copics are a control medium. They go exactly where you want them to, which makes it hard to get watercolor splashy effects. When it comes to this background, colorless blender allows me to move the dye around on the page, giving that more organic looking drippy effect.⁣ See? 

If you take a look at the start of my "Splashy Hydrangea," you see the background is made with Copic and #0 with a little bit of colored pencil. The marker colors don’t matter much, we could grab markers blindfolded and get the same effect. People get too caught up on the recipe and forget that art is about experimentation and play. That's what it's all about folks!

So, what's all the fuss about backgrounds? 

I have to tell you, there should be a fuss! With every background I do, whether it’s busy and splashy, a geometric shape, or a white field… ALL of my backgrounds have something in common: a cast shadow (By the way, if you want to read up on what it takes to create a realistic shadow, check out one of my past blog posts HERE on the Vanilla Arts blog).

Here's a peek to show you just what I mean about making those backgrounds matter... 

Take a look at the cast shadow here, it's almost got a glow about it like the magnolia branch is just hovering over the paper, giving the flower dimension.  Stamp: Saucer Magnolia

The Distressed Ink background helps make the white leaves of the amaryllis pop. Look closer and you can see there's still a shadow under the petals grounding the image. Stamp: Amaryllis 

And this one above is a sweet and simple shadow background to help prevent that rose from just floating away on the paper. Stamp: Vital Rose

People tend to think of backgrounds as decoration, a chance to add more prettiness to something already pretty. They even color the background last. Many don’t even consider the background until the image is done. That’s when they go through the whole “it’s missing something, but what?” debate. They throw in a background color at the last minute praying that it will magically resolve the issue.

That’s backwards thinking and backwards process.

Most of my backgrounds are colored before the image. My Instagram gallery is proof; you can see how I’ve usually got the full background in place before I put any color on the main object. 

I even add the cast shadow before I color the object. It doesn’t matter if I’m coloring with realism or if it’s a cartoon; I might be coloring tight and precise or loose and expressive. No matter what style I’m using, I want the image to have a sense of plausibility. I want objects to have weight and presence rather than floating around aimlessly in outer space. To give my projects credibility, everything is given an environment plus a shadow.

Even the kooky characters and critters cast shadows because real objects cast real shadows.


When we look at photo above of the Splashy Hydrangea project, you’ll see that I’ve created a loose and wet looking mess of color in the background. But color alone is not enough to create an environment.

To give the flower a logical home, I’ve used BV20 and C0 to add heavy shadowing to the lower and right of the hydrangea. You can see I’ve even dipped in-between al the many petals to catch the bits of shady background peeking through.

Even without a lick of color on the flower, the hydrangea already has presence and credibility. It pops off the page, not because of my coloring technique or my marker selection but because I took the time to create a place for the hydrangea to rest.

When you shortchange the background, you lose an amazing opportunity for depth, dimension, and realism. You can be the best colorer in the world with the most amazing marker collection, but if you don’t give your flowers a place to exist, they will always look flat and unrealistic. So, bring those backgrounds to the foreground. Tackle them first and give your images just a little more depth, a little more dimension!

Thank you so much Amy for sharing your little tidbits and your beautiful colored up hydrangeas! Keep in mind folks, last weekend was the Livestream class where folks got to watch Amy color LIVE on her private tutorial channel. The good news? If you like what you see above, you can still take the class on coloring up Splashy Hydrangea. Amy will have this coloring session in her archives until December 2019. Just click HERE to learn how to get in on the action.

Meantime, I'll see you back here tomorrow when we throw up some more Creative Confetti to get that mojo a flowing with a fun new weekly challenge! Remember, if your name is randomly drawn at the end of the month, you win a $25 gift code to the Power Poppy Shop. Enter as many times as you like as well to up your chances!

Until then!


Donna Ellis said...

Such loveliness, Julie! thank you for sharing not only your tips, but your amazing artwork with the rest of us! hugs, de

Henriƫtte said...

Thank you so much Julie and Amy for this great post.
I assume that all what you say about the background not only counts for images coloured with Copics but with every medium.

Julie Koerber said...

Yes, Henriette! I am sure I speak for Amy when I say....backgrounds matter with all mediums! :-)

Katie Breen Allen said...

Wow, thanks so much for this post! As a newbie, I love learning tips like this. I'm going to follow this advice with my next project!

Deborah Smart said...

I really need to learn how to add realistic shadows - they add so much to an image. These are gorgeous!