This is the second instalment in my "Advice From A Grayscale Colorist" blog series. This time I interviewed a very talented and self-taught colorist and artist, Christine Kowbuz. Over the past several months she has shared many of her colorings from Beautiful Creatures with me and I became very intrigued by her coloring style and techniques. I was thrilled when she agreed to be interviewed!
The questions I asked:
First, let's start by taking a look at some of the gorgeous pieces Christine has colored (the horse above is hers as well!). Then, we will dive into finding out how she achieves these incredible results!
What role does coloring play in your daily life?
I am a worrier by nature and tend to always feel a bit anxious. I also have a long commute to work and back so doing my arts and crafts projects when I get home is hard when I'm so tired. However, I needed a way to relax and thought I would try colouring as I LOVED it as a kid. I always had two or three colouring books or doodle arts on the go.
I find that colouring the black and white photos is just like painting and I can do as little or as much in a sitting as I'd like. It's also convenient. To keep your pencils on hand and colouring a little is much easier than hauling out a bunch of paint or fabric or sculpture supplies that I use for my bigger projects. The pictures are challenging too and I find that colouring is like a form of meditation. I can't think or worry about anything when I colour. That's what I enjoy most, I can escape for a little while.
What are the key steps you follow when coloring a grayscale image?
How do you select your color palette when beginning a new picture?
First I decide if I want the piece to be photo-realistic (i.e. exactly as you would see on the animal in real life). If so, I find a reference photo in one of my books or online. I study the photo and sometimes I print off more than one photo to show the animal in different lights and colour variances. I keep the photos handy throughout the colouring process. For the background I let my imagination choose the colours for me. I like contrasting colours a lot. I find their combination really makes a photo come alive.
I like to look around me at plants, flowers, trees, birdand how their colours go together. I have a lot of light green foliage on my balcony garden but with reds, bright fuchsia and deep purples. The contrast is great when the light hits it and I try to recreate this in my colouring. I also like to paint and blending colours takes a little practice but once you have that skill you can colour anything easily.
What is the technique you are using with your pencil strokes & overall approach to coloring a grayscale picture?
For my techniques I start to colour the shadows first around the highest contrast points (i.e. sunniest spots in the picture). After mapping out the shadows I discover a lot of details in the picture. Sharp pencils and light strokes help to keep the details clear.
For the different shades of shadows I use different shades of the same colour. For example, on the underside of the butterfly's wings I used three or four dark and mid-yellow tones. I feel this adds depth and texture.
Sometimes I get bored with myself and I start using patterns (dots and hatched marks) especially in the background. I feel the background is just as interesting as the animal in the picture and it's fun to draw your own little details in.
I jump around a bit when colouring. I start on the flower then jump to fine black details on the wings, then start with the yellows, then back to the flower, then to the background. These little breaks keep my eye fresh to each part of the picture. If I colour in one place too long I get a bit of tunnel vision and things turn out a bit flat.
I love filling in the teeny tiny details with the darkest colours. The butterfly was great for this because if you look at a butterfly wing under a microscope, the wing is made up of tiny scales that reflect light so instead of long strokes I coloured the entire wing with tiny dots of colour (the sharpest pencil and just using the tip).
What materials do you use when coloring & what do you use a Berol grease pencil for?
Derwent Watercolour Pencils by Rexel Cumberland, Canada Laurentien, Prismacolor, Eagle Canadiana, Stabilo and Progresso Hardtmuth Woodless Coloured Pencils and a Berol grease pencil.
I still have pencil crayons from when I was in public school and high school. I really use what's available but I do pick up some new ones that catch my eye.
I really like the Progresso woodless pencils I bought recently but be careful when sharpening them as I snapped one in half on a vigorous turn in the sharpener. I taped it back together though.
I also 'borrowed' some pencils from my brother. He is an artist and had some lovely water colour pencils he no longer used. So my collection is really things I've gathered over time.
I particularly like Eagle brand as they really get into the texture of the paper without leaving any whitespace between the texture and fibre of the paper.
The water colour pencils are nice when you want to add a translucent quality to the picture (i.e. flower petals). Colour first with your palettes and with just a moistened paint brush go over the colour. It hides all of the strokes.
I use the Berol grease pencil when I want a sharp white on a highlight. I save this to the last because you can't colour over a grease pencil. When I make a mistake I have to use a razor blade and scrape off the grease to start again. Very messy.
I hope you found this information as interesting and useful as I did! If you have any questions for Christine be sure to leave a comment here for her and I'll contact her for the answer.
If there are any other colorists out there with some unique coloring techniques that they would like to share in an upcoming "Advice From a Colorist" blog post, then please leave a comment or contact me.
I'm a Mom of 2 from Vancouver, Canada. I recently discovered grayscale coloring and loved it so much I published Beautiful Creatures and Beautiful Nature because there were no high quality grayscale coloring books to be found. Join me as I write about the grayscale coloring techniques I have learned and that I am continuing to discover!