Art, Boobs, and Closure

My new book, Inkandescence, is not for everyone, and that’s just the way I like it.

Harebrained – “If all this stuff in my head was audible instead of visual, it would be very loud in there, all the time.”

This is the first adult coloring book that I didn’t design to be a coloring book from the start. All of the art in this volume is based on the drawings that I did during Inktober 2020, and all were greatly influenced by 2020 itself.

For me, this book is a way of getting closure on this very difficult year and punching my way out of burnout. I hope that my audience also finds comfort and resolution in its pages.

It was a very different experience for me to take my ballpoint pen and ink drawings and transform them into colorable art. It was especially tricky to take the leap of faith and share art that is so personal. After all, none of these images were intended for coloring. They were my way of interpreting the Inktober prompts while dealing with stress, and also practicing my ballpoint pen technique.

In the end, it was a great decision. This is the book that I’m most proud of. Is it perfect? Art never is. But I’ve learned to accept and embrace imperfection, because chasing a flawless outcome is a guaranteed way to never accomplish anything.
It’s honest. It’s beautiful. It gets you thinking, and you can interact with it.

So, how “adult” IS this book?

Watch this behind-the-scenes INTERVIEW and decide for yourself.

“I grew up on classical art. I grew up on marble statues and Michelangelo’s bodies all intertwined. To me, artistic nudity is just natural. It’s obscene that we have to drape our women in drapery, and hide nipples and curves.”

Swing by my private community TALM, and share your thoughts and feelings about this volume, and also show off your colorings.

Get INKANDESCENCE downloadable PDF here

Get INKANDESCENCE in print here

How to deal with Burnout in 2020

My burnout face

Burnout is that horrible state between depression and exhaustion, that seems to hit us very suddenly and linger. It’s like running into a brick wall, and it happens to all of us at some point. You work and you work, and no matter how well you do, one day – boom! Burnout. The irony of it all is, the harder we work and and better results we produce, the rougher we fall.

When we get slammed with burnout, we suddenly feel that the effort, time and skill that we put into our work are significantly disproportionate to the reward. Imagine having to work one extra hour each day for the same pay. Ok, maybe you can deal with it for a while. How about two extra hours? How about working for free for a while? Maybe throw a few daily insults in there as well? At what point will you stop and say “To hell with it all. It’s simply not worth it. I’m walking away.”

That’s how every person experiencing burnout feels. The worst part is, most of the time we can’t actually walk away from it all. We have jobs and responsibilities, so we feel trapped, enslaved.

However, there IS a way to get out of this rut.

The biggest problem with burnout is that it’s self-feeding. We work too hard, and feel underpaid, unappreciated, used even. So we force ourselves to work even harder, thinking that increasing the quality and quantity of what we produce must change things for the better. But we’re exhausted. As we work more, we exhaust ourselves further, and with every new push of effort we get slammed with even more negative energy, as we’re still not getting the reward that we ultimately seek.

It’s quicksand. You need to get out, and you CAN, without quitting your job.

Here’re eight ways to deal with burnout that worked for me

Full disclosure, I’m not a therapist or a psychiatrist. I’m just a human being dealing with the stress of 2020, and these are the things that helped me get out of my burnout.

The first and the most effective step in dealing with burnout is also the most difficult one.

1. Force yourself to stop working

I know, I know, I said without losing your job. “Stop working” doesn’t mean quit your job and go live under a bridge. What I mean is, analyze your work day, and cast out every single item that isn’t absolutely essential. At first, you’ll hold on to all of them for dear life. “Of course I can’t skip that weekly staff meeting.” “No way can I not answer work e-mails after dinner.” “I simply can’t NOT release YouTube videos every week. My audience will freak out.” You can, and they won’t.

Decide what can stay and what can go by testing it. Sit out every other meeting, politely excusing yourself, and see if anything at all in the universe will change, other than you having an extra bit of energy. That heap of e-mails – you’re not paid to go through them after hours. Look at them in the morning, and if they compete with your actual work, bring it up with your boss and ask him/her which task they would rather have you perform. Your audience will still be there if you don’t show your face on YouTube for a month or even longer. Jesse Driftwood, who became famous by making DAILY short films of Instagram for several years in a row, just took 7 weeks off publishing anything at all on Instagram or YouTube, and nothing happened to him or his channels. He’s back in full swing, making absolutely amazing short videos with his new crew. Check him out by the way, instead of reading those e-mails.

YOU, need to actively force yourself to take time NOT to work every day. It’s harder than it sounds.

For me, I spent the last year and a half filming and producing professional art tutorials every week. Never missed a publication date. I was a on a roll. Burnout hit me as always, like a brick wall. No one particular incident occurred to cause it, I just started waking up feeling crappier and crappier every day and dragging my feet. A simple act of forcing myself to stop producing highly detailed tutorial videos every week, and instead spend more time on my art community and on my private students, changed my life instantly. And guess what, my YouTube watch-time hours and subscriber count did not come to a screeching holt. Literally, nothing changed. I just feel like I can breathe again, and my audience actually has opportunity to get personal feedback from me now.

2. Keep company of positive and happy people

This is difficult to do when you’re feeling down. We tend to hide from people all together. We don’t want to bring our friends and family down with our misery. Today, in the middle of a pandemic, it’s especially difficult because of social distancing, and because of the very obvious lack of happy people. Let’s face it, we’re all under tremendous amount of stress.

However, this step is expremely important. You NEED to find positive company and keep it. Think about all the times that a friend, a family member, or a colleague were not feeling so hot and you kept them entertained and cheered them on. Did you feel like they were dragging you down in any way? Probably not. You were probably glad to help out becasue you cared about this individual. And, if you had the opposite experience, you probably just distanced yourself.

Give people a chance. Let THEM decide if they’re up for being your positive company. It’s not up to you to make that decision for them, to spare them or otherwise. Reach out. Say hello. Start to mingle.

Now, while our strange 2020 lockdown lifestyle makes things a little bit difficult for social interaction, we do have the internet. Join a forum, or a group, or a community. Find like-minded people, who are all on the same journey. What are you into? Do you like diamond painting? Or motorcycle repair? Maybe you’re into scrapbooking or training dogs? Whatever it is, I assure you, there’s an online community out there that suits your passion or hobby. Spend at least half an hour a day there. It’s positive fuel.

In my private community TALM, we start every week with “Feel Good Monday,” where members share one thing that they are thankful for, hopeful about, or happy about that day. Some of these are very small things, like being thankful that the rain had stopped; some are larger, like celebrating a daughter’s graduation. I cannot avoid smiling and genuinely feeling good for the rest of the day after reading a whole thread of comments, all glowing with positivity. Not everyone shares, but enough people do to light up many other people’s days.

Find your light.

3. Laugh

Laughter is the best healer. I know, it’s 2020. There’s very little to be happy about, but humor isn’t dead. If you watch tv or movies, or YouTube, make sure to watch comedy. I kid you not, you will feel a million times better if you spend at least an hour every day laughing, even if it’s at the dumbest things. The very act of laughing has healing powers.

4. Say at least one positive thing every day, and mean it

This ties in heavily with 2 and 3, but it’s more specific. Just like with my Feel Good Monday tradition, saying one positive thing about YOUR life is extremely important…

Did I pick a bad year to join INKTOBER?

Is Inktober truly dead? Am I late to the party? What’s all this noise and drama?

These were my first thoughts when I started seeing articles and YouTube videos with titles like “Did Jake Parker ruin Inktober,” “Is Inktober cancelled this year?,” and “Jake Parker plagiarised my Book.”

The kind of ink work that I do.

SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube channel and follow my daily Inktober 2020 uploads.

Year after year I’ve been watching other artists and friends post their daily pen and ink doodles for the October challenge known as Inktober, and every year I made a pledge to myself that “next year will be the year I join for sure.” The trouble has always been that October is my busiest month, with all the Halloween content that I produce for my adult coloring following. Ironically, this year being the busiest of them all, I suddenly decided that THIS is finally the year! But lo and behold, what do I find? Controversy! Drama! Noise! Ahhhh….

Run awaaaaaaay!….

Wait. Hold on. It’s YouTube. Of course there’s drama.

So, I took a few days and did some reading and watched some videos. And …

I’m not going to go through all the dirt on Jake Parker with you. Sorry. You can find it all on YouTube if you’re into that kind of thing. The truth is, a month ago I didn’t even know who Jake Parker was, and I didn’t care.

Inktober, the event, has been on my radar for years. Jake Parker, the person, has not. I stopped an analyzed all the reasons that I’ve always been excited by this challenge. Have they changed? No.

My additional challenge to myself is to do the whole 31-prompt list with female subjects. Since the list is already public, have a test character already drawn, filmed, and time-lapsed.

I still find the concept of a drawing bootcamp extremely appealing. I still want to have the pressure of a deadline and the discomfort of an assigned subject matter to push me to create something out-of-my-comfort-zone. In my experience, all the best art is made under pressure, and with collaboration.

We get cozy and lazy by ourselves. When we’re alone in our studios we draw and paint things that are easy and obvious. We may even think that we’re challenging yourself, but we’re really not.

I truly need an outside force to push me off my balance, and it’s the attempt to get back on my horse that inspires me to create art that is unique and risky, and opens new doors. Maybe not perfect, maybe rushed, but the concepts that pour out of my head when I’m under pressure are way more interesting than the stuff that I come up with when I’m relaxed and stress-free.

That’s just me though. A pressure-driven creative process is not for everyone.

Having determined that my interest in the Inktober drawing challenge has not changed, I asked myself the following questions?

  • Am I able to organize a multi-thosand participant event that will challenge me to draw something new every day? No.
  • Am I able to simulate such a challenge by myself or with a handfull of friends? Absolutely not.
  • Did I care about Jake Parker, his cause, or supporting him in the previous years? No. Inktober has always been its own beast in my mind. To me, Inktober is a game. I love games. Will I stop playing Borderlands if I find out that its creators are involved in some YouTube controversy? Hell no.
  • Will NOT doing Inktober improve my art skills? No.
  • Will DOING Inktober improve my art skills? Yes.

So, after writing all these thoughts down, I came to a conclusion that I just don’t care about the drama.

I’m going to do Inktober 2020.

Follow me in on Instagram for daily posts and subscribe to my YouTube channel to see my drawing time-lapses.

If you’re on the fence about Inktober like I was, I encourage you to ask yourself these questions as well. Your answers may be different, and that’s fine. But whatever you decide to do, do it for yourself, not for Jake Parker, not against Jake Parker, not for Inktober, FOR YOU.


Draw for YOU.


Fantastic Familiars Vol2

The flip-through for this book is a video flip-though. Please follow this link and enjoy the show.

Fantastic Familiars Vol2 video flip-through

Get your PDF download here.

Get your paperback here.

Watch the full video flip-through here. Don’t forget to like and subscribe. <3

My first year on YouTube

Remember my article “A new adventure begins, on YouTube?” Yeah, the previous one. That was almost a year ago. Joining the ranks of YouTubers turned out to be a fall down a rabbit hole, and I absolutely love it. It’s nothing like what I expected, and it’s pretty much a full-time job. I certainly didn’t expect to be talking to hundreds of people on daily basis. But I’m getting carried away. Let’s go back a bit.

I’ve always been terrified of video recordings and camera appearances. Hell, even actual phone calls, where you have to use your voice to communicate with another human being, have always been traumatic for me. It’s so much easier and safer to put things in writing. When writing, you have the privilege of taking as long as you want to produce content. You get to shape and reshape your words until you’re 100% happy with what you want to say and how you want to say it, and you get to do it all in your pajamas, with no makeup on.

I got comfortable at my keyboard. I didn’t ever want to get into video, except that many of you, my fans and colorists, kept asking for video art lessons. So, one day, after watching Peter McKinnon videos, I declared that it was time. I would take the leap and just set up a YouTube channel. What’s the worst that could happen, right?

What I immediately discovered is that video is scary. Recorded video is straight up weird. That whole “just pretend that the camera is your friend” thing is not helpful at all. I don’t have any friends who look like lifeless, glossy, unblinking, black circles. You can’t just flip a switch in your head and pretend that you care about sharing something with the camera. Live recording is even more terrifying, because you get just one shot. No post-production, no chances to take out all those Um..’s. You just talk and hope for the best.

In my very first video I look like I’m about to cry. That’s because I am. That awkward, tense, three-minute episode took a full day to record and three days to edit. Scratch that. It took three months to record, considering all the time necessary to get the first camera equipment, make the art, film the art, write the scrip, rehearse the script, and then spend the day recording it over and over again.

Today, I can produce a video like that in less than three hours, artwork and all. Instead, of course, I still take three days, but produce much more involved episodes. So, what changed, and how did it change?

The one biggest piece of advise that you will hear from any YouTuber is “stick with it.” Producing weekly content, basically grinding, is the way to make it on YouTube. And, what do you know – it’s true.

I thought that getting used to the camera, to the workflow, and learning the editing software would take many months if not years. But I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I advanced at a geometric progression, leaping from terrified to mildly uncomfortable, to pretty chill, to “hey, this is cool,” to “hell yeah, let’s do this!” within the first three months.

I cannot stress this enough, if you’re new to YouTube, STICK WITH IT.

Of course, an entertainer is nothing without her audience. YouTube only works if someone’s watching. You wouldn’t think it, but one of the biggest time hogs in art and video production is marketing. I spend almost as much time talking about my new video releases and upcoming live-streams as I spend on video production and editing.

I believe that this is one of the most difficult things for artists and creators to overcome. We just want to be left alone and create art. We unrealistically expect that the simple act of posting a video will get someone to watch it. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Internet is oversaturated with information, and getting anyone to see your video takes nothing short of a miracle.

Building an audience is as big an art form as the actual art that I share with you, and this is where things come full circle. Remember back when I could not for the life of me think of the shiny black camera lens as my friend? Well, now I can. In fact, now I have a difficult time seeing anything other than a curious, smiling face staring back me, because that’s essentially what’s happening.

All of you, my viewers, the people who say hello in the live streams, and hit me up on Facebook chat after the show, all of you with profile pictures and personalities, and coloring styles – I’m talking to all of you, each of you, individually every time I look at that camera lens. I see you Laurie, and you Sam, and you Kat, and you Cyndie, and the rest of the 1,000+ colorists in my Facebook group TALM. I see all of you, and all of you are there in my studio, and I genuinely enjoy our time together.

This is why now, you will rarely see me without a huge glowing smile on my face and my arms spread wide open when I start my show yelling “Hellooooo! aaaaaaaand welcome!!!!!” You can’t fake that emotion. You can’t learn it. You have to experience it. But, to get there you have to grow your audience and you have to get to know them. One feeds off the other. As I get more animated and personal and professional, more people join. As more people join, I get an emotional reward for all the hard work, and I take my game a level higher. And on and on it goes.

Now, I’m not at all a big channel. This isn’t one of those “I went from nothing to a million subscribers in a month” success stories. The truth is, my niche – adult coloring tutorials – is quite small, and having started my channel with no video or social media history at all, I had to work very hard and a lot to get to 1.5K subscribers.

I won’t tell you that it’s easy, that you just need to do it and have fun. That wouldn’t be truthful. The truth is, you have to work your butt off, spend some sleepless nights, sacrifice some hobbies and even jobs, accept a life with perpetually dirty dishes and piles of laundry, and reevaluate your whole attitude towards public feedback and criticism, if you want a chance at simply remaining active on YouTube.

I look at channels started by friends and family of famous YouTubers, or see celebrities bored with quarantine kick off brand new channels and immediately get a million or more subscribers on day one. At first, it’s discouraging, but then I remember that it didn’t take John Krasinski one day to get 2 million subscribers. It took him 20 years. 20 years of building up his professional career as an actor and a tv personality. That first YouTube episode invited his entire 20-year dedicated audience, his virtual family. I didn’t have that. I’m building it up now. I’m on day one.

Some of you may look at my channel and think it a huge success. You may have been on YouTube for two years and still have 200 subscribers. You may think you’ll never get to where I am now. You will.

Don’t compare apples to oranges. You are not me. I am not John Krasisnski. We cannot be jealous of each other or be discouraged by the other’s success. We should learn from it. You absolutely can be where I am now. And I absolutely can get to 2 mill subscribers. But we all have different paths that we take. Paths that have already been greatly shaped by the lives we’ve lead so far.

We cannot complain about not getting a head start or a boost, but we can work hard to get to the milestones that we set for ourselves, and remember to set realistic expectations. If I really want a multi-million subscriber channel, I probably need to explore more popular niches, but I may not necessarily want to. I would rather be a big fish in a small pond, and stick to what I’m good at and passionate about. An epic adult coloring channel is better than a mediocre lolcat channel.

So, what’s happening on these days?

When the pandemic started, I switched from my weekly high production 10-minute recorded art tutorials to daily live streams called  Survival Coloring, and it dramatically changed the mood of my channel.

Coming up on two-months of Survival Coloring, my personal community has grown quite a bit, and I developed much closer connections with many colorists. I enlisted the help of my husband, inviting him to be my “lovely assistant” and a character on the show, known as Tek Support. We’ve had weekly live guests, including molecular biologists, med techs, professional artists, homeschooling parents, crystal collectors, etc. It’s really been life changing, and now it’s time to re-adjust to the flow of things yet again.

Starting Mid May 2020, I will reintroduce recorded tutorials, keeping occasional live-streams, and of course the big two-hour weekend shows like the one I have coming up on May 23rd. I’ve been really enjoying having special guests on the show, and the next guest is indeed special. Albert Jones, the man behind Black Widow pencils, my new favorite brand, will be live on my stream.

I will be working on my original drawing of Black Widow, the Marvel character, using only Black Widow pencils, while Albert talks to us about his new pencil set release, how he got started making pencils, what’s involved in this business, and anything else that the live chat participants wish to know. Additionally, we’ll have a giveaway, where three lucky winners will get new Black Widow pencils sets sent to them directly from the source.

This kind of a collaboration is one of the greatest rewards of being a YouTuber. Suddenly, the people and the companies that you look up to as giants and deities, become regular approachable people that you can invite to your house for a chat. Where else would this be possible?!

If you’re an artist or a colorist, I hope to see you there. It will be quite epic, with much to learn, enjoy, and even win. Coloring Black Widow with Black Widow Pencils

Help my channel thrive!

Many don’t realize, but video production takes A LOT of time, time that I don’t get paid for. What you can do to help my channel grow and succeed is simple. All you have to do is watch my videos all the way through, and hit that thumbs-up button. That’s it. It’s free and fun.

The watch time hours and the likes are literally what drives my channel. The more minutes and likes that my video gets the more likely it is to get picked up by the algorithm and be recommended to someone else, therefore getting more views and more likes. So, if you enjoy my content, please let me know by doing this one simple thing.

I have to say, so far you guys have been an amazing audience, and I cannot thank you all enough for making this journey possible. I’ll see you on shortly.

Bye. Don’t lick strangers.



A new adventure begins, on YouTube!

This week I took a giant artistic step in a terrifying direction – I created a YouTube channel!

I have been avoiding video cameras for years, and lately I realized that I can’t escape them any longer. I simply have too much information to share with you guys, and visual demonstrations are far more powerful than written text.

My aim is to release new content weekly. I will keep my videos short and sweet, professionally filmed and edited, and full of useful information for developing artists and colorists. From specific drawing techniques, to behind-the-scenes of my personal art projects, to deeply philosophical art discussions, my channel will take you inside the mind of an artist. So, buckle up and enjoy the ride.

For me, the most exciting part of this new journey is that YOU guys are driving my content. I get so many private messages and comments with specific questions, that I am in no danger of running out of topics for hundreds years to come.

I always say that art is a conversation, and you are proving me right. When I release a time-lapse or a tutorial, you comment on it and it opens a whole new can of colorful worms, a new video is born, you comment on that, and on and on it goes. I thank you guys for your support and the inspiration that you give me. I hope that I inspire you as well.

If you enjoy my videos on YouTube, please take a moment to click the “thumbs up” button, and subscribe to the channel to get all the new video content. Your support makes my channel possible.

See you there.

Lisa Mitrokhin channel


Perception of beauty – a painting study

Have you ever wondered what is it about a certain face that we find attractive, or boring, or scary? How about your own face? I have days when I wake up, look in the mirror, and I swear it’s a totally different face, and not a flattering one at that. On the other hand, I also have days when I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror and think to myself “hm, I look really nice today.” I am sure you have moments like that too. You know your face doesn’t magically change overnight though. It’s the same face, but somehow it looks more or less attractive on day to day basis.

To demonstrate one of the ways in which we perceive attractiveness I created a character for us to play with. I painted this character in a digital painter program (Corel Painter 18), using artist oils. It is essentially an oil painting of an imaginary girl of more or less my age, displaying a more or less neutral expression. She will be our model for today.

Since this is not an oil painting tutorial, I will not take you through the step by step process of her creation, but rather jump straight from sketch to (fast forward 24 hours) the finished oil painting of our Jane Doe.

A rough sketch of what my girl will look like.


Paint, paint, paint…..


A day of painting later, she is complete.

Now that we have a face to work with, let’s study it for a minute. Obviously we all have different tastes and our own personal reactions to every face. Some of you may find this girl attractive, some may find her rather dull, some may not care one way or the other. Probably, very few people will find her ugly. In this painting I went for a more classical painting approach, presenting a face that is pleasant to look at, but not distracting with exotic beauty or an unusual  emotional expression. I wanted her to be just a girl, like me.

I painted my girl in what I imagine to be soft, defused daylight, illuminating her face pretty evenly. This way we don’t have any extreme shadows adding to the way we perceive her.

Let’s see what happens to her if we add just a little bit of definition to the areas around her eyes.

I am adding just a little bit more color and shadow to the eyelashes, eyelids, and eyebrows.


I am not changing the shape of the eye or the eyebrows. I am simply adding a touch of dark brown tones around the eyes and to the eyebrows.

I was very gentle with my edits, but look at the difference that it made. She is the same girl, but somehow she looks a bit more vibrant. Just a touch of definition on the eyelashes and the eyebrows, and we intuitively perceive this face as more lively.

Let’s see what happens if we go from our neutral face in the other direction, removing some of the definition around the eyes.

In this case, I am softening the definition around the eyes, making the eyebrows and the eye lashes more pale, and also smoothing out some of the lines around the eyes.


Once again, the edits were minor, yet her face changed quite noticeably.

A pretty dramatic change, isn’t it? Whether you find her more or less attractive, you must agree that she looks somehow more vulnerable, her expression plainer. She doesn’t have that glow and intensity of the eyelash girl. Her eyes, without the definition of lashes, brows and shadows, seem smaller and further apart.

Our limbic brain naturally perceives bigger eyes as more attractive. That stereotype has nothing to do with Hollywood, or fashion, or modern makeup trends. In fact, those trends work because they are based on what our brains already perceive as attractive. So, as a painter, illustrator, colorist, or make-up artist, if you wish to make your character look, I hesitate to say less attractive, but rather plainer, tone down the definition around the eyes. On the other hand, if you want to make them more interesting, more seductive, more expressive, try adding just a touch of definition to the eye area.

Notice that we never changed the face. The bone structure, the direction of the gaze, the lighting, the parting of the lips, none of these things were ever touched in this experiment. We only played with adding and removing definition around the eyes.

Let’s get back to the mystery of my ever-changing morning face. Most of the time, the definition around the eyes is created by the changing light throughout the day. In the morning we wake up with our eyes slightly poofy and squinting and we usually admire ourselves in brightly lit bathrooms that are anything but flattering to the perception of the face. What we see is smaller, less defined eyes and we immediately perceive them as unattractive. Run that through an emotional filter of “I just woke up and I am not exactly filled with positivity” and you got yourself a recipe for seeing yourself as plain awful in the morning.

As the day progresses, however, we wake up, wind up, start interacting with people or animals. The sun rises, and we are now illumined by natural light that is cast from above, creating those beautiful eyelash shadows on our eyes. Even without the use of makeup, our eyes look more defined and vibrant in daylight than they do in that awful morning bathroom light. Plus, now we are adding (hopefully positive) emotion to our face, which naturally makes it more attractive, and viola – your face has transformed into something that is pleasant to look at even to yourself.


I hope this has been helpful and inspiring to you not only as artists but also as people struggling with your self-image. Now, go out there and practice making your characters and yourselves look more vibrant, and don’t forget to smile.

Feathers and bubbles coloring techniques

In my art group TALM, I offer monthly coloring events. Each event is unique in subject, theme, and goal, and each always ends with one chosen winner. The winner of the event is rewarded with a unique prize. As a reward for winning my 5 de Mayo event, the winner got to request any tutorial topic from me on either coloring or drawing. She asked me to go over how I color feathers and bubbles. Excited by the unusual topic, I drew a coloring page of a winged angel in a bubble bath. It is this line drawing that we will be coloring today, paying particular attention to feathers and bubbles. Let’s get started.

I will be coloring this image digitally in Corel Painter, but the techniques I am about to apply are specifically tailored for color pencils. As a matter of fact, I will set my drawing tool to be the same types pencils as I would use in real life.

My pencil settings in Corel Painter

Because we are focusing only on feathers and bubbles, I will skip the step by step portion of how I colored the angel’s body. Let’s just jump to the part where her skin and the details of her face are already done.

The order in which you color the subjects of the page is very important. I would not start with the wings and I would most definitely not start with the bubbles. Here’s why. The wings are an accessory to her. We need to know what she looks like first and then decide what kind of wings match her complexion. The bubbles should be the last thing to color because they are opaque and transparent. They reveal and reflect all the colors of the scene. How can you possibly know what color your transparent bubbles should be painted if you didn’t yet paint the scene?

We skip to the part where the body and the face are already colored.

The next part that I like to establish is the background. This will set the mood for my overall color scheme. Many people leave the background for last, but I find that in most instances that is not the best way to go. Establish your settings and your atmospheric conditions first, and then the colors and the lighting of  your main subjects will be established for you.

In this case, I want the scene to be soft and dreamy. I pick very delicate pastel tones of lilac. I may adjust them later on, but for now I am happy with this color. Notice how I didn’t just click-and-fill the space. I took the time to actually color it with my pencil tool, giving it some blurry swirl effects. Whether you are working digitally or with physical pencils, try to avoid solid color backgrounds. That makes the backdrop look flat. Instead, try to suggest some atmospheric perspective with blurry effects and using several similar tones instead of one solid color. When working with pencils, blurry effects can be achieved by smearing and smudging your pencil marks with q-tips, soft erasers, cotton balls, and even your finger.

I have a very clear idea in my head of what color scheme my finished drawing will have in the end. I can close my eyes and literally see the finished piece. When I draw, paint or color, I am actually just reproducing what I already see in front of me. Many people don’t approach drawing and coloring this way, and that’s perfectly fine.

If you cannot clearly see the finished colors or have difficulty deciding what color schemes to use, I highly suggest using what I call inspiration pieces. It’s simple, especially now that we have a world of images at our fingertips. Just look through a whole bunch of images until you see ones that speak to you in terms of light and color. A good idea is to search for various types of photography, and just let the image links take you down a rabbit hole until you come across color palettes that you like. Keep in mind, these should be completely unrelated images. They can be paintings, photographs, screensavers, whatever strikes your fancy. As long as you find pictures in color schemes that look beautiful to you. Pick one and use it as a guide when selecting colors for you piece.

Here are some examples of photography that I found online that are interesting to me for some other projects I have roaming around in my head. Remember, we are only looking at colors and their distribution on the page, not the subject matter. There are literally millions of images out there. Take a a few minutes to look through some of them to find the color inspirations that work for you.

Examples of photography that I found online.


Ok. Let’s continue. Now that you, hopefully, have an idea of your color mood, let’s get those wings painted. I want her wings to be almost white. Not quite perfectly white, but kind of cream-colored. I begin with some very basic grey shadows.

The most common mistake that people make when coloring wings is focusing too much on each individual feather, and losing track of the structure of the wings. Don’t start with feather details. Instead look at the wings as at two objects. How are they positioned? Is one closer to you than the other? Are they reaching forward or back? Is there a curve to them? Where is the light coming from? Where would the shadows be?

In my case, the light in the bath-house is very diffused. There isn’t really one strong light source. The light is soft and generally reflected off all the steam that I imagine is in the air. So I don’t have to worry too  much about harsh shadows, but I do have to give my wings structure. I use a regular grey pencil to start adding shadows to the parts of the wings that are the furthers from us, and little bit here and there to start defining the shape of the wings.

I place my shadows here. I am working very lightly, because every new layer of color that I will add will go on top of this grey. I don’t want to compete with it, but I do want to establish my shadows.

The blue lines indicate the areas where I placed the shadows.

Now I move on to my first color – a soft grayish-purple tone. I add it to the parts of the wings where I’ve already indicated some shadows. This time, I take more care to add more pigment and to make my pencil marks with the direction of the feathers. Feathers are very textured. Part of what will define your texture is your pencils marks.

Notice that my pencil marks are still very rough, but they are starting to give the wings shape. Aways work with the shape of your object and don’t just color blocks of color between the lines. This will give your piece more dimension.

My first color on the wings and the direction of pencil marks.

The other way to add more dimension and depth to your subjects is using several colors to build one color effect. Even though I’ve decided that my wings are a solid cream color, I am actually using multiple colors to make the wings look more realistic and 3-dimensional. Granted, we are working in a more cartoony style, but I am going for the semi-realistic coloring of a comic character effect.

My second color for the wings is an ivory blush tone of light brown. I add it lightly here and there, like makeup powder. If I hadn’t told you that I added it, you probably wouldn’t even notice. But compare this screenshot with our previous step where I only added the purple. It’s not a dramatic difference, but somehow there is already a little bit more shape definition to the wings.

The blue lines indicate some locations where I added minor beige highlights.

So far, my wings just look kind of grey and dull. Let’s start working with the actual cream color that I promised. I select a very pale, almost yellow, beige and a complementary pale blue to go with it. I am working very delicately with both pale yellow and pale blue to complete my wing illusion, adding the lightest tones to the parts of the wings the are physically closer to us.

At this point, I actually switch back between all four of my color pencils to balance the coloring. I hide some of the black outlines with my purple pencils, and you can see that I’ve started adding some detail to the individual feathers. Note that I am only adding detail to the feathers that are closest to us. I am barely defining any feather shapes on the wing that is further away. That lack of definition helps create an illusion space. Add more detail to the objects that are closer and less detail to the objects that are further away. You can even use your smudging tool to blur that darker wing a bit.

Notice how I’ve retraced the outlines in these areas with my purple pencil. That gives the coloring a softer feel, which is of course what we want, given the subject matter.

The blue lines indicate places where I retraced black lines with a softer purple.

All in all, these are the only colors that I used to paint the wings. You may finalize your wings with a  touch of white highlights here and there.

Remember to always make your pencils marks in the direction of the fur or the hair or the feathers flow. The feathers are growing left to right here. My pencils strokes are also left to right. The eye of the viewer will pick up on that and see it as more natural, even if the brain doesn’t realize why the illusion works.


Now, I could take this further and eliminate all of the black lines. Some people take the time to do that. If this was a piece for publication or print, I would invest in that effect, but for the sake of the tutorial, I’m ok with leaving some traces of the original black outlines here and there.

You can also take this further and add really fine hyper-realistic detail to some of the feathers, but take care not to overdo the effect. When we look at objects we see concepts, not full detail. When you look at a bird with open wings, your brain does not register every single feather. It registers two symmetrical wings, the overall feather color, the overall feather texture, the darkest parts, and the lightest parts of the wings. A successful, drawing, coloring or painting is one that delivers the message in a way that our brain already interprets information. So, don’t sweat those tiny details. Sometimes, less is more. Light and shadow are far more important than detail.


All right, let’s move on. Before we can start adding bubbles all over the place, we need to finish coloring everything else that remains uncolored in the scene. In this case it’s the tub, the soapy water and her hair. I chose to paint her hair in a color that will stand out. This color will be the centerpiece of my drawing. A little burst of visual emotion in an otherwise pale and subdued scene. Plus, with a vibrant color, I can clearly demonstrate the color selection for the bubble painting.

Let’s start on our first bubble. There is one floating in front of her hair.

I start by working with the same pencils that I used for the tub and for the hair, and very lightly adding those tones to my bubble. I am not going for detail here at all. In fact, on the contrary, I want the effect to be blurry. In real life I would use a q-tip to smudge the color all over the bubble.

Keep in mind that soap bubbles are not just 100% clear. They are opaque, and they kind of distort everything that you can see through them. In this case, the line drawing already suggests where the colors should go. (The line drawing, of course, being made by me 😀 I like to give my colorists enough suggested information to guide them, but not so much that there is no room for their own artistic decisions).

Looking at the overall color scheme of my whole composition, I pick one other color to put into my bubble to make it stand out a bit. I pick purple. I could have picked blue or beige, and they would have worked just as well. There is no one perfect or correct way to draw a soap bubble. All soap bubbles are unique and each has an element of randomness to its swirls and blurry effects.

Experiment. See what works in your composition. For instance, if you paint the rest of your scene with completely different colors from the ones I chose, making her hair green and the tub blue, inserting this soap bubble painted exactly the way that I did, will make absolutely no sense. Your bubble has to work with your color scheme.

I add some white to the suggested places and also hide the black outline with pink and white. As much you can, try to make the soap bubble outline white. That will really help with the illusion of weightlessness. You can do this with a white marker, a white pen, whiteout, white pencils of certain brands (I like Prismacolors the best), acrylic paint, white charcoal, and many other easily available art tools. Try different things to see what works best for you.

Finally, having observed my new soap bubble, I decided to add a few more little white highlights here and there, to make it a little shiny. If you are not adding white with a separate white pigment tool, take care to leave the designated areas uncolored, using the white of the paper as your lightest sections.

Remember the element of randomness. There is no one formula for where the white dots and circles should go. It’s all about what feels right to your eye. I tend to keep the center of the bubble a little darker and the edges lighter. For me, this is the perfect effect.

I am happy with how this bubble turned out. Let’s move on to the next. How will this bubble be different? Well, the most obvious thing we can see about this one is that it is in a different location, with different colors surrounding it.

I use all the colors that are around this bubble, but I make them slightly more pale, because bubbles are soapy, and once again I am going for the smudgy effect.

I add some pink glow on the side of the bubble that is closest to the pink hair. This is very import. This will be true for every bubble that we color. I want an obvious pink reflection on every significant bubble, on the side that is closest to her hair. This should be consistent throughout my piece.

I complete this bubble with some white highlights. Notice that they are different in size and placement from our first bubble. A common mistake that colorists make is coloring every bubble in exact same stencil way. That just doesn’t look natural. The light is playing off of everything in this setting. Bubbles are even reflecting other bubbles. We are not going to get technical and photorealistic here. I want to stick with the cartoony style, but we can imitate a realistic look by staying true to that element of randomness we talked about.

Every bubble should be unique and working with its surroundings. Let’s take a look at a few other examples. Notice that the bubbles are in fact colorless. This is why you cannot “color” a bubble without first coloring the rest of the scene. They are little prisms for other colors around them.

Now that all my bubbles are complete, note how each of them is perfectly unique and random, yet they all have one consistent principle – the reflection of the pink hair color. The pink glow is not just randomly placed here and there. It is very strategically placed on each bubble directly opposite the source of the color.

Now that my coloring is complete. I look over the entire composition, and study it. Is anything off balance? Does anything look too dark or too light? Do any of the bubbles stand out in some awkward way? This is the time to tweak little things here and there to bring everything to perfect harmony. I don’t see anything obviously wrong with my coloring, other than my overall tone. Looking at it now, it’s too crisp and there is too much pure white. I would prefer to look at this scene through a yellow or an orange filter. If I were working with real pencils, I would pick a few golden yellow tones and begin to carefully add some highlights here and there. Working digitally, I can skip 15 or 20 minutes of tedium by adding a single layer in the filter color that I like. Sorry, had to cheat at least once during this tutorial. You know me. 😉

Here are the two versions of my finished piece. Honestly I like them both. Both are perfectly fine, and I could have achieved the second effect from the very start. The yellow light effect just didn’t occur to me until I saw the final piece.

So, here she is – a winged angel in a bubble bath.


I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. The line drawing version of this page will be offered for a one-time coloring event in TALM, the winner of which will also receive a kick-ass prize, like this one. Remember that this is by no means the one and only way to approach feathers and bubbles. I highly encourage you to experiment and also to remain true to your own style.

If you enjoy my work, and wish to come join us in these fun events for a chance to win cool prizes, I hope to see in my group, TALM. Just click here, and join the fun.


Special thanks and congratulations go to Leatha Loftis, the winner of my 5 de Mayo event. This was the coloring that won her this tutorial.



Painting reflective and transparent surfaces

Today, I will be digitally painting a still life, concentrating on composition, multiple light sources, reflective and transparent surfaces and light as its own character. I will be working in Corel Painter 18 with mainly acrylic brushes. As always, I invite you to join me and try something similar on your own time. You can apply the principles that i am about to show you to both manual and digital painting.

The final painting


Interesting still life subjects

The first and most important thing in still life painting is, of course, selecting interesting subjects to depict. But what makes subjects interesting? You may think that that you need fancy trinkets or exquisite bouquets of flowers to paint a beautiful still life, but you would be wrong. The only thing you need for a gorgeous composition is interesting lighting and a good vantage point.

In fact, simple, everyday objects, often make the best compositions because most viewers will be able to relate to these things. If you do your job right as an artist and depict an ordinary object in an extraordinary way, that magic that you envelop your subject in will remain with the viewer for many hours, days and years to come. The next time they see a broom or a set of keys, or ordinary drinking glasses they may just see them in the same magnificent light that you introduced in your depiction.

Searching for a better angle

For my ordinary subjects, I chose to work with these colorful glasses. There is nothing special about them. I have one of every color in my kitchen. I chose only the yellow and the orange, however, because the day is very warm and cheerful, and there is gorgeous golden sunlight coming in through all the windows. I place my two chosen glasses near some other interesting reflective surfaces and begin looking for a fun angle to view them from.

I took some photographs of my subjects from different angles solely to illustrate the process of seeking the perfect composition. I highly recommend that you do not draw form photography but rather from real life. Set up your subjects, set up a drawing or painting area nearby, and paint the three-dimensional objects that you actually see, not a photograph of these objects. Once you are comfortable painting from real life compositions as well as from memory and imagination, you may use photographs for reference, but the process then will be very different than just copying the photo. For now, let’s work with what we actually see.

After moving my subjects around a bit, and myself shifting around them, looming over them and kneeling to look up at them, I finally find an angle that is the most interesting to me. From this vantage point, down on one knee, the yellow glass becomes completely obstructed by the orange one giving it an extra burst of color. I really like this effect and will go with this composition. In a photography course that I am taking, I learned that most subjects become more interesting when photographed slightly from below. I will apply that principle here and situate myself slightly lower than my subject. Relocating the subject to your work station is of course also an option, especially if you have great natural lighting in your room or studio.

As always, we begin with a rough sketch. This is the composition that I finally decided to capture. Working in my digital painting program I create a square canvas and begin sketching the scene that I already cropped in my mind. I am only interested in the composition and the simple structure of the objects at this point.



When drawing geometrically accurate and symmetrical objects it is often tempting to use guides, rulers or a compass when working both digitally and analog. I strongly encourage you not to fall into that trap. We are not creating a blueprint. We are depicting what your eyes tell your brain to perceive. We do not see perfect lines. We see concepts. Here, from where I’m sitting, I see a glass that is slightly warped by perspective. I will sketch it exactly as I see it, and if it comes out a little bit crooked it will be received even better. There will be an element of imperfection, of cuteness to it.


Because I am working in a digital program I can apply geometry to my sketch AFTER it is done just for the sake of demonstration. Notice that while my glass appears to have realistic proportions, it is slightly inaccurate. The three virtual ovals are not exactly parallel to each other. Yet, they are not randomly placed either. From where I’m sitting the glass looks almost like it is slightly curved. I want to exaggerate it a bit to give it kind of a cute sense of grandeur.


For the sake of demonstration, I will apply a virtual grid so that you can see that the perspective lines I have created for my glass are not perfect, yet consistent. Had I applied the grid to begin with and used the circle tool to create perfect ovals, my glass would have looked too graphic and unnatural. I do not wish to create a graphic design. I wish to create a painting.


I remove the grid and continue with my free-hand sketch. It is important to keep your composition simple and readable. Mine consists of three main layers/subjects. The first and most important layer is, of course, the glass itself. It will receive the most attention to detail as I paint it.


The second most important layer in this composition is the lovely reflective metal and a little glass weight that I have laying around. They are there to demonstrate space and depth of field. They create the scene for our glass. They will receive a lot of attention, but they don’t need to be quite as polished in the final draft as the main character.


Finally, there is another object visible in the background. It is not very importanyt in terms of detail or even focus. It is pretty much a backdrop. It will receive the least amount of attention.

Now that I’ve established what I am depicting, I begin adding little structure lines to my most important subjects to begin building their shapes. At this point, I am also marking the lightest parts of my subjects, the brightest glow that appears on their surfaces.


Inspecting my still life I realize that light is as much a character in this scene as the objects that it illuminates. In fact, it is really the sunshine that I am painting with the help of these objects. I’ve marked the potentially lightest parts of painting as a demonstartion for you in this graphic.


Since light is now a character that we are depicting, I shift my attention to the beautiful orange and yellow glow that is cast through the glasses onto the shiny metal. The glass in combination with this delightful artifact now become my main subjects.


Now that I have the scene built, I prosede to apply rough brushstrokes to the parts of the objects that look the darkest to me.


This will take a while, especially if you are working with pencils. This light technique, however, is ideal for brush painting with acrylic or oil paint, or the digital equivalent of the two.


At this point, I realize that I actually prefer to be working on a tonted background. Thankfully, I an drawing digitally, so I can simply add a cream colored layer underneath. When working on actual paper, I recommend that you start with tanned paper, or prep your paper by paining it with a base layer of a ligt cream color. However, working on a pure white background is not a problem at all. Starting with a bit of a tone is just a way to speed things up a bit. If you have a way to add pure white as final details, try tinted paper.


Keep an eye on your light source. If it is artificial light, it will remain constant. However, working with natural light, you do need to get all the light information down on paper as quickly as possible, becasue eventually, the sun will rise or set and your light source with shift.


Becasue this image is all about light and color, I don’t spend much time on shading and building up details. I start introducing color right away. My glass is actually orange in color, so I introduce orange. The orange gets reflected in the tin behind it. Remember that yellow glass that is hidden behind the main object? I see that tone reflected in the tin as well. These are points of interest. They are the colors I will continue to build up.


A common beginner mistake is to focus too much on individual details and lose track of the bigger picture. Don’t worry about all the little light artifacts on the glass at this point (unless you are working with watercolor. That technique is completely different from what we are doing now) Instead, start giving your objects shape by building up shadows and adding more and more color where you actually see color. I like to use a softer digital brush to add faded soft grey shadows to my background layers.

Always look at your subject. Your eyes should be going up and down between the composition and the page all the time.


Continue buidling up shape and color by applying dabs of paint all around your composition. Do not fixate on one part yet. Pay a little bit more attention to the objects in the foreground, keep your brush strokes broader and messier on objects in the background, and build and build your composition up.


I like for my paintings to get gradually brighter and more sturated, rather than go staright into strong colors. Whether working manually or digitally, I create many layers of paint, each a little bit more saturated, each a little bit more defined.


I continue to add detail with each layer.


Adding darker brush strokes here and there helps define the shapes of the objects.


To make the dark parts appear even darker, I add more contrast with light yellow and near white highlights.


Now I have enough information to start adding the little artifacts of light that I see on the surface of the glass. Little dots and bads here and there that suggest glitter and glow.


These do not have to be exact. Nor do they have to be exactly where you see them in real life. When I zoom in a bit, you can see that my brush strokes are by no means flawless, and you have no way of knowing if every dab of white and yellow that I have depicted here really corresponds to what I see on the objects, but it feels realistic. It is believable. That’s the goal of this kind of painting, to convey a recognizable scene.


I always continue studying my subject as I paint it. The glass is thick and colorful and it’s easy to overlook that it is also transparent. Not very obviously trasparent, but some lines can be seen through it. I add the necessary transparency suggestions.


As I am nearing the completion of my painting, I check my light source. It is still coming from the same direction (from up and left). As this is morning light, I notice that the angle of the sun has changed a little bit as the day progressed, but not significantly enough to change what I see. I check my lightest spots and confirm that they are consistent with the current light source.


I check my main subject and its colorful shadow artifact. They are indeed the brightest and most interesting parts of this composition and appear to capture the natural light quite beautifully. If anything feels awkward or uneblievable at this point I tweak it without referencing the still life. Remember, this doesn’t have to be 100% true. We are more inetersted in the feel.


Now that we are nearly done, let’s revisit the shape of the glass. Remember those perspective lines I drew earlier? The vertical is a little bit curved and the parallel ovals are not exactly parallel. I chose to make this glass a little bit warped, and not 100% geometrically accurate. Looking at my painting now I am very pleased with the trick that this warp plays on the eye.


For the final touches, I use pure black to really bring out the darkest parts of the painting. I only use a few brush strokes, and only in the areas indicated here with green circles. This step is optional. I actually debated doing it for a few minutes. I like the soft, fuzzy look that I already achieved, but in the end, I chose to add just a touch of sharpness and higher contrast by introducing a few dabs of pure black.


I call that complete. I sign my work, and save my file.


I hope you enjoyed creating this digital painting with me. This tutorial was a result of several requests from my fans on Facebook. If you enjoyed this painting process and would like to see more, please don’t hesitate to propose new topics. Come join me on Facebook at my personal art group TALM – The Art of Lisa Mitrokhin, and tell me which art techniques interest you.