Color me studied…

Lately, I’ve had color studies on the brain. In the long run, I know that doing them before setting to work on a piece is a necessary step to take, especially when working in traditional media. But I always worry that over-thinking a piece, (which includes over-thinking the color study) leeches life and energy from my work. As a safe compromise, what I usually end up doing is just one quick color study, before setting to work. This can often tell me just as much about where I don’t want to go with the color, as where I do want to go with it.

One quick scribble can inform a lot. In terms of the color study part of the process, I don’t generally over-think them, because they’re not my favorite part. Quick color studies are, for me, like ‘eating your vegetables’ (although in real life, I do like vegetables… but the equivalent as a figure of speech!) I enjoy the immediacy of choosing colors on-the-fly, the thrill of having to ‘make it work’ if I need to quickly switch gears and revise a color choice that may not be working with the rest of the piece. Fun stuff! That is part of what I love about being an artist — that immediacy, the unknown, the ‘make it work’ aspect (sometimes against all odds)! But that’s the “color-rebel thrill-seeker” in me talking, and these days, that ‘thrill-seeker color rebel” only comes out to play when I’m working on non-client work. So, I still like to walk the tightrope, but I don’t do it without a net!

At the end of the day, one 5-minute color study can save hours of illustration “first aid”!


About wellerwishes
Kathy Weller is a children's illustrator. She has produced work for clients such as Harcourt, Macmillan, and Pearson Education. Her first illustrated picture book "The Months: Fun With Friends All Year 'Round" (Lobster Press) was published in September 2007. Kathy is also an accomplished illustrative graphic designer. For the past ten years, she has helped concept, craft and execute online advertising promotions for clients such as Target, Cheap Flights, Filene's and Verizon through her post as Sr. Graphic Designer and Illustrator at the well-known regional online media portal, Kathy also enjoys spending her days creating whimsical pet portraits for the pet-loving masses. Her pet portrait work has been positively noted by The Boston Globe, Canada's National Post, Life magazine and, and is regularly featured in Modern Dog magazine. Kathy is a member of The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Graphic Artist Guild (GAG) and National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP). She lives in Cambridge, MA with her husband and two pugs.

2 Responses to Color me studied…

  1. ddraws says:

    Agreed, similarly, I am rediscovering the value of a good value study for my work lately. At first I stopped doing value studies because I felt they took too much time and I was already feeling pressured for deadlines. But lately I find that they have significantly reduced my time overall and also just made the work better at the end of the day. It feels good and sufficiently humbling to realize just how worthwhile it is to get “back to basics”.

  2. carolkoeller says:

    I hear you on the overthinking part–there’s mystery in art, and getting too analytical can make the mystery go away. Yet in many pictures, you’re not doing the picture justice by making it up as you go along. A short color study is a good compromise–and since it’s short, it’s easier to be exploratory and spontaneous. If it bombs, no big deal, but you just might come up with something amazing!

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