Can you be a successful colorer without understanding color theory?

The answer to that is obviously yes. After all Frankie and I have been successful in our coloring for a few years now. Neither of us have formal art education, but we didn’t let that stop us.


However, let’s think a minute about our parallel art stories. Frankie and I both started out our coloring adventures by buying coloring supplies. Soon after, we both realized that we would be wise to figure out how to use the newly purchased supplies in the proper way. That led to researching and enrolling in online classes that centered around our color medium (at the time was Copic markers). One class led to another and then another and . . . you know how that goes!


Then it happened, one day in early 2017, I posted a completed class project for everyone to see. Not only did the instructor take the time to give feedback on my project, so did a total stranger . . . Frankie. We both continued our individual coloring paths until late 2018 when we met in person at a coloring retreat. From that point on our coloring adventures merged and from that point on we continue to climb this art mountain together.

Why do I call it a mountain? Well, because learning to color ignited a passion in both of us. We thought it was simply a passion for coloring. But we later discovered we had gone beyond coloring and into the world of creating art. But when you have no formal art training, learning and growing your skills can be an uphill climb. But with Frankie as my practice partner along the route I can get a hand when I need it or give a hand when she might need one.


Our early success was clearly due to the ability to follow class instructions. We were doing so well that we thought we were invincible with Copic markers and colored pencils. So much so that we spent months coloring project after project that we were creating on our own based solely from word prompts. As a side note (or word of caution), never agree to this unless you see the list of words first and have editing rights!


We were quickly humbled that contrary to our belief at the time, we weren’t the best colorers after all. We struggled with so many things. Coming up with an idea to illustrate the word prompts, how to get an image from our heads onto the paper (neither of us drew at that time), what paper do we use, what colors do we use. When you take a class, these are all the decisions that are made for you. When you venture out on your own, you must figure out how to make these decisions. This is where the thoughts of, if only I had taken art in school started to creep in.


I am sure you have noticed the funny thing that happens with photographs of yourself. You know, you see the photo and you think you look so grown up. But months or years later, you come across the same photograph and your thought now is something more like look how young I was. The same thing happens with the artwork I create. When I finish a piece today I might really think it’s the best I’ve done to date. Yet, in months or years later, I will look at it and my thought can become more like what was I thinking! That is true of the projects we did in our word prompt project, but still looking back at them over a year later, some are really standing up to the test of time where others are screaming to be redone.

Why is that? It’s because I continue to learn more about art techniques or theory as I continue to color. That is a characteristic that Frankie and I also share, the love of learning. We found that by practicing our coloring together we learned so much more. That’s why she started the Practice Corner as a place that fosters learning and growing your art skills through focused practice. A place where you are learning and sharing with others to become an independent artist. One that can get an idea for a project and then see it come to life and ultimately finished.


We have learned that to do all those things, you do need more than just a class with a pretty project. You need to have the desire to understand the fundamentals that go into making them.


That was a long way to getting to the point that you really don’t have to understand the fundamentals of art or be able to explain the Munsell color system to a friend before you can be successful as a colorer, especially if you are only coloring by instruction. But once you start creating your own art, then it sure does help if you understand some concepts such as the effect of light on your subject, the use of color harmonies, etc. Scratching the surface of color theory can help one gain confidence about color choices--something most colorers want help with. Amazingly, whenever we talk about anything color theory related, fellow colorers perk up and take notice. That’s another indicator that even you know there must be something to be gained from having a little more understanding of color theory. But until you do, keep coloring. When you put together colors that don’t look good – trust your intuition and change them. Then as your art knowledge starts to expand, you will find out why you were wise to trust your own eyes!

As 2020 is rapidly coming to an end, Frankie and I are just completing our first year in the Practice Corner. Spending the last 12 months digging into 12 unique techniques and sharing what we’ve learned with others has continued to propel us up our coloring mountains.


When it comes to coloring, what would you like to do in 2021? Do you want to learn to color on your own, but don’t know how? Do you want to understand coloring techniques to the point they become second nature? Do you want to inspire and be inspired by others in the Corner? Join us, we will help you meet these goals and more!


Here’s to a happy, healthy and colorful 2021.

What's happening in the Corner . . .


Has colder weather arrived where you live? Do you find yourself inside trying to stay warm? Why not pick up some knitting needles and start knitting a warm scarf. Hey, hold the presses, we don't knit here in the Corner, we color! So join us this month as we pick up our markers, colored pencils, and/or watercolors and learn to create a knit texture on paper!

If you are reading this after we moved on to the next technique, you can find the Work-at-Your-Own-Pace Practice for Texture:Knit here.

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