Updated: Oct 20, 2020
Often my projects are triggered by seeing a photo that captures my attention or taking a class because I am enthralled with the finished project. I always start out with an idea that my project will turn out amazing because of the image I’ve already got in my head. I get so excited about the project that I dive in headfirst to create the picture in my head - I just have to get it out and down on paper. Each time I truly believe this is going to be AMAZING. Here is the thing, on every project, and yes, every single project, there is a point when I get frustrated because what I see in my head is absolutely nothing like what I have put on paper. Either I have not used the right colors, or I put color in the wrong place or maybe I made one eye bigger than the other, etc. When I first started coloring that was the point when I would just stop. Yes, midstream, half of my project would be colored but I would crumple it up and toss it in the trash, irritated with myself for messing up. Until one day while I was cleaning my craft room and found one of these crumpled projects in the corner behind the garbage can (apparently when I am irritated my basketball skills fail me as well). When I picked it up to toss it into the garbage can I took the time to look at it again and remembered this was a project I was working on two weeks ago. I remember how irritated I was at the time I threw it out, but now I saw it differently. Yes, there was an ink splatter in the wrong place, but it was minor. There were also wrong colors in wrong spots, but I was able to see now that this project was not a lost cause. I had thoughts that I could fix it.
Fix it – wow, that never occurred to me before. I don’t know, maybe I thought that all artists magically put down perfect strokes every time and never had to make any adjustments or corrections. I guess I thought I had to be perfect with everything I colored. It took me years to figure this out but thank goodness I did. I have learned everything is fixable. Okay, fixable is a relative term, because if you spill wine all over your project it is not what you originally expected - but does that spill add some creative flare you can play up now as a beautiful splashy background. I learned to come to terms with my mistakes and figure out how to make adjustments to fix them. I cannot tell you how much stress this has eliminated from my coloring process. I don't panic because I no longer expect each stroke to be perfect. I do know that practicing has helped me to put down confident strokes that look better and better with each project I create. So, let me tell you about three things that have helped me to figure out how to "fix it".
Erasers Are a Tool
I have always thought erasers were made to correct mistakes. Thinking back to when I was in school, we were taught that if we made a mistake (especially in math class) we used an eraser to get rid of it and start over. So, I guess I have always seen the eraser as a negative—meaning I did something wrong. I have recently figured out that is the exact opposite in art. Erasers are awesome tools. Sure, if you put down a bad pencil stroke you can erase it, but that is not all an eraser can do for you. For example, in coloring hair I use a fine tip eraser to create highlights in the hair. I also use an eraser to help me make adjustments if I went too dark in an area. That’s when I use the eraser to dab the area just a bit to lighten it to the value I am looking for. Erasers are awesome tools with so many uses. So, if you think you need to make an adjustment pick up your eraser and think about how you can use it to help you make an adjustment or fix to your image.
Add More Layers to Correct a Color
I have a bad habit of starting projects without having a clue what colors I will use. Ridiculous I know. I mean, I start out deciding that I will use reds and pinks in my project, but I don’t plan (or swatch) the exact colors I will use or which pencil brand I will need. That leaves me vulnerable to laying down colors that just don’t look right. In the past I would see that I have used the wrong hue of red and that would result with me crumpling up the paper, tossing it to the garbage can and starting over. But now I know there are ways to fix it. It is amazing how many layers of colored pencil you can get on the paper. I have taken areas that were too dark, like a sepia color, and layered several colors on top of it to bring it to a shaded pink area that I was looking for in the first place. Even if you run out of tooth on the paper there are fixatives that you can spray to help you continue to build more layers.
Push Past the Ugly Phase
If you have worked several projects on your own you know that every project gets super ugly before it looks amazing (secret, that happens on projects we take in classes too but we don’t realize it when we are focused on the steps we are given). The goal here is to not quit during this phase. As human beings we do not want to fail and when we see something going wrong, we have this urge to stop and get off this train headed to crazy town. Here is the thing about art, the train goes through crazy town on the way to the land of bliss. Don't get off the train too soon, by listening to the things you may tell yourself during the ugly phase. You know what I mean, you’ve said it too. Like, "Oh this is not working out" or "I am not good enough to do this" etc. Stay focused on what you intend for the project to be and how you can make adjustments to get there. You might be working on a face and see that the eyes look a bit crazy, that’s when you take time to analyze what is going wrong and make adjustments. If the color of the hair is going wrong then just focus on what is the issue even if it is a color change, you can change the color. Maybe it won't be perfect, but you can make it something that you can feel good about.
The bottom line here is that allowing yourself to make mistakes is a very freeing thing. You will be surprised at the skills you will develop in learning how to adjust and save a project you believed was in complete peril. When working on your next project relax and know that no matter what - everything is fixable.
What's happening in the Corner . . .
We are now focusing our attention on coloring eyes because it's amazing how something so small can add so much emotion or attention to the image you are coloring. Big or small, there are details that will help you color successful eyes every time.
If you are reading this after we moved on to the next technique, you can find the Practice Technique Pack for Eyes here.
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