Interview: Helen Claire Elliston and “Colorist special effects” 

Dear Friends,

It has been a while but I promised you I had something special for you in the pipeline – and I had. A short while ago one of my favorite coloring book authors, Helen Claire Elliston, launched a new book:

The book covers a lot of the things that all colorist meet when they want to step up their game in the coloring community. Even if coloring is not – should not – be a competition, we all want to improve our skills and do our best to bring a picture alive. Well, Helen’s book delivers on that promise. And more.

It’s built with several pages of different exercises in successive order as to increase difficulty step-by-step throughout the book. As you go through the steps you are trained on everything from shiny pearls and bows, jewels and even tears and eyes.

What’s even more incredible is that Helen is already working on the second book in this series. Therefore I contacted Helen and asked her a few questions about her new book – and here I share with you her answers. Enjoy!

1 What gave you the idea? What was your initial thought behind it?

The book started out as fairly simple; brief guidance and areas to experiment and practice in.

But as I began working on the interior content, that’s when it evolved!  I decided the book needed to offer far more explanation, encouragement and inspiration… and so each page became more in depth.  I just carried on… and on… and on… until the book was bursting with step-by-step guides.   

Once I get my teeth into something, I tend to go full throttle, work long days, late nights and weekends.  I was even thinking about the book in my sleep!  I’d wake up with ideas, and start drawing in my dressing gown during breakfast.

2 How did you do it? From the first idea to the finished product?

Firstly I drew the outline image… for example a gem.  Then I would color and play around with it until I’d achieved the effect I wanted, noting down the steps, mediums and order.  I then recreated each step digitally – I felt it would be clearer to view and follow if done that way. There are photographs of the finished, colored-by-hand items on the pages, but doing the steps digitally was the best approach.

3 Why do you think the coloring community needs a book like this for coloring?  Any experience or stories you want to share maybe?

There are plenty of art techniques books on the market, but one tailored this specifically to adult coloring books is not something I had come across.  When I have posted pictures on social media of pieces I have colored over the years, I have often received messages from people asking me how I shaded an item like this… how I achieved the glossy look on that… Having that information grouped in a book, that colorists can work through and practice in at their own pace and leisure, and refer back to whenever they wish, is very handy.

4 Which ideas did you discard before reaching the finish line?

There are several pages that didn’t make it, because I thought that the book would have been too thick.  But I am currently doing the ground work and drawings for a second book, so those pages will feature in that.

5 How can a colorist – in your POV – use this book to gain an extra skillset?  How does it differ from other books on the market for colorists?

It differs because it is totally tailored to adult coloring books, showing what color to put where to achieve certain effects… It features many items commonly found in those books, but also shows how to add extras and different background effects.   It’s amazing what a difference adding details like air bubbles or water drops and then a background can make!

I also include details of how to shade and blend pencils, and how to burnish.  These are all key to creating effects and having a more polished piece of artwork at the end.  Art takes practice and passion.  I like the idea that people are practicing in the book, and enjoying improving at their own pace.  They can then apply those skills to coloring pages in other books.  So when they come across a gem or mushroom etc… they can refer back to my book for help on how to color it.

6 Have you any reactions/opinions so far you want to share with the readers?

I have been so amazed by the lovely and warm response to my book.  Colorist’s have been so kind and supportive with their messages and reviews.  I’d really like to thank everyone for their kindness and support.  It’s so heartwarming to hear that my book is already helping people to not just improve their skills but inspire them to have fun experimenting and trying.  Art has always given me a buzz, and I just hope other people experience that same buzz and fulfilment by using the book.

7 What did you learn during this process – and how is it different from making a new coloring book for example?

Wow, well… I have learned so much.  I was forever tweaking and altering the wording, the picture sizes, the layout… so now that I’ve gone through all of that once, hopefully creating book two will be a little bit easier!

At several points it was overwhelming and I had to step away and do something to take my mind off it.  I had stuck each page to my kitchen wall – as I find that really helpful – but that also meant there wasn’t really any escape!  Every time I made a cup of coffee or cooked dinner… it was there!  Staring back at me.  The wall is so patchy now that I need to repaint!  

This was so much harder than creating a normal coloring book.  I was working on four levels; drawing the items, coloring them, explaining how to recreate them, and laying it out in a way that would be easy to follow.  It was quite a task.  I wanted to keep the wording quite down to earth.  I’ve never been one for speaking in arty farty terms anyway, so writing as ‘me’, was the best option.

Thank you very much for interviewing me, Anette! Xxx

If you want to see a flip through of the book, Coloring with Claire has provided one for us right here.

Also, go check Helen’s Instagram account out, the name tag is @hcelliston.

Helen, it has been a joy working with you, and I’ve already ordered your book on Amazon!