Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Glimmer In The Darkness

I'm still plugging away at my Utopian paradise (see previous entries: "Creating a Coloring Book Parts 1 & 2), but I've been waylaid by another idea for a book, and got super inspired, so I've been focusing on that recently.

That's one of the perks of self-publishing...I can switch up my projects if I want to because no one is imposing deadlines on me.  Yay!  I've finally gotten to the point where I have the luxury of working on the things that are actively stimulating my creativity - which truly does bring out my best work.

I've been seeing a lot of gorgeous pages from the "Midnight" books: "Midnight Mandalas", "Midnight Garden", etc.  What makes them distinctive is their black backgrounds, which really make the colors pop!  The results are so striking, I got to thinking that it would be fun to try my hand at something along those lines.

I've also been hearing requests for simpler images with bigger colorspaces, for folks who get hand fatigue or have trouble seeing the super-intricate stuff (both of which I also experience), or for those who aren't into getting really fancy and/or want something quick and easy-breezy, but that still turns out beautiful.

Turns out, coloring with transparent colors (such as markers and most gel pens) over a page with a lot of black facilitates these attributes because you don't have to "stay in the lines" when the shapes are surrounded by black.  Thicker lines in between colorspaces also has this effect.  So I've been utilizing those principles when designing pages for this book.

I'm playing with creating elegant, stylized images with simple shapes and lines.

My basic theme is "things that glow", and there's a lot of variety within that category to explore!

There are a few pages with some more intricate bits, but even those can be simplified by coloring multiple spaces a single color - and they still look great.  Also - if you DO want to get more elaborate with them, you can certainly use your colored pencils to do blends, or get in there with your gel pens and add doodly bits to embellish.

I've been enjoying the effect of doing most of my basic coloring with markers (I've been using Crayola Supertips), and then using gel pens over that to outline things with metallic, or add some glittery sparkle to some areas.

I may do a video about the techniques I've found that create cool effects on these pages.

The artwork is also going fairly quickly, since they are simpler compositions.  It's a nice break from the more elaborate artwork I've been doing, which takes a long time!  I've got about half the drawings done so far, and I think they are turning out pretty cool!

What do you guys think?  Would you enjoy coloring these images?
Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Creating a Coloring Book - Part 2: A Perfect World

I’m working on my next coloring book, and I thought it might be fun to document the process on my blog as I go along.  

In Part 1, I talked about some stuff that inspired me and got me thinking about creating a fun, beautiful world that people could escape into for a bit and fill with their own colors.

I started out by sketching some colorful critters.  I wanted to create some interesting characters that had personality and charm, and would also be fun to color.  I started thinking about colorful animals, or interesting parts of various creatures that I could combine into something new. 
Things like: butterfly wings, curly antenna, floppy ears, giraffe spots and other patterns and markings, feathery/leafy/curly/fluffy  tails, feathers and feathered wings, chameleon skin, fins, glowing angler fish lures, fat elephant feet, big, glowy, shiny eyes.

I also wanted a variety of kinds of characters - different shapes and sizes.  I wanted them all to look like they came from the same world, but were also unique to themselves.  I wondered: what if there were different “species” that lived together in harmony? 

What if the whole world lived together in harmony?

I really liked this idea.  What if the world functioned like a perfectly balanced, symbiotic ecosystem, where everyone did their part and contributed so everyone would benefit from a thriving and abundant natural “economy”…?
What would it take to create a world like that?  How would a world like that naturally evolve?

I decided that in my world, there wouldn’t be any social distinction among “species”.  They are all just considered “earthlings” (though this isn’t Earth, obviously.  I haven’t figured out what to call them yet!).  There are beings that are more like animals, and beings that are more like plants, but they all have a certain degree of sentience and they all hold each other in mutual respect.  The animals would take care of the plants, which would produce fruit to feed everyone.  Plants would be more than just providers of food or pretty things to look at – they could participate in society, be considered valuable allies – even friends!  Plant friends!  I like it!  

The “animal style” creatures would have a variety of features and body types that I could mix and match.  There would be some that looked more female, some that looked more male, some that were more androgynous.  Some more cutesy, some more elegant.  Some would be more mammalian, some more avian or amphibious, or combinations of all of those.
Because everyone considers everyone else their kin, they are naturally inclined to work together and share the resulting abundance with everyone else, so no one has to struggle to survive.  No one would have to resort to crime. They would work, but the work would be rewarding and perfectly suited to each person.  They would do their work with enthusiasm and have plenty of time for creative or relaxing pursuits.
 Their technology would work in harmony with the environment.  If you have cooperative plants that you can communicate with  – there are all kinds of things you could do with this idea!  Plants could be part of the architecture – supporting and wrapping around structures made of stone and earth and the only plant materials used would be stuff that wouldn’t harm the plants to harvest.
Energy would be generated with green technologies – wind and water power.  Some of the beings could produce bioluminescent light.  What if the plants could produce different useful compounds like medicines or glues or paints – just by communicating with them and feeding them different things…?  What if some creatures could produce cloth like a spider spins a web? 

 I began coming up with benign, organic solutions to various needs.  This helped shape the look of the world – natural shapes, rounded forms, curling vines.  Decorated pots and baskets, fruits and flowers that look like cool, ornate lanterns.  Stacked and standing stones with swirly carvings (just because I think they are cool looking!), pathways made of tree limbs, stairs made of mushrooms spiraling around a tree.  Windmills with sails that look like leaves, or wings – or wings made of leaves! Waterfalls and bubbling streams, ornate tents and banners, colorful costumes and funky hats.

My world would be shaped by a form of evolution that relies on symbiosis and mutual benefit instead of “survival of the fittest”.  A world where the people work together with the environment to create abundance instead of just carelessly using it.  A kinder, gentler world that we can escape into from time to time when our complicated world gets us down.

After awhile, it dawned on me that I was working through some fears and frustrations about the current political situation in the U.S., as well as environmental issues and other problems facing the world in general.  I think by creating my own little ideal hippie world that I could design from the ground up, I was exploring my own ideas of what I wished the world could be.  No conflicts, no poverty, no greed, no crime. 
I don’t want the book to be political – that’s not my goal at all, but I found that all the things I’ve learned about ecology and societies began to come into play as I began to fiddle with these ideas.  I am creating my own cozy little Utopia!

And most of this information won’t even be explicitly mentioned in the book (I'm not even sure there will be any writing in this book.  Perhaps some poems to go with each art page...if I can come up with anything decent!)...this is just stuff that sets up the world in my mind, that will come through in the design and artwork.  These things will be expressed visually through the scenes I choose to present and the details of the pictures.
I’ve found that once these kinds of establishing ideas start fitting together and gelling, that’s when everything else starts to “bubble up” naturally.  There’s a rhyme and a reason for things to sprout from.
          Years ago, when I was deep into exploring visual symbolism from cultures around the world, I came across a symbol that really appealed to me.  It’s an African adinkra symbol, one of a whole lexicon of icons used to decorate cloth and express specific ideas.            It’s called Funtunfunefu Denkyemfunefu (easy for YOU to say!), and it depicts “Siamese crocodiles” that share a stomach, but have two heads that fight over food.  It’s a warning about the dangers of infighting and tribalism, and a call for unity in diversity. 

                I think that’s a pretty good theme upon which to build a peaceful and thriving society.

Stay tuned for future updates!

I’m having trouble coming up with a name for my world and its inhabitants, which will also likely be the title of the book.  Any ideas?  Please share in the Comments section below!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Creating a Coloring Book - Part 1: I Am A Sponge!

I’m getting started on my next coloring book, and I thought it might be fun to document the process on my blog as I go along.  

 I have a file folder on my computer with several book concepts that I'm developing.  I jot down whatever ideas come to me, make notes, do some sketches, start thinking about how the idea can be expanded into 30 or so art pages.  Some ideas I can pretty easily envision as supporting a book project – others I have to kick around for a bit before they start coming together for me.  Sometimes they end up scrapped or incorporated into other ideas. 

My first book, Sacred Beauty, was basically a collection of art pieces I had done over the previous few years that I re-worked so they could be colored.  I also did several new mandalas and patterns to fill out the book.  Looking back now, there are couple of images I think I should have spent some more time on, but it was a learning experience, and I think I'm getting better with each book.

At the time, I had just found out about the “Adult Coloring Craze” and I felt a massive sense of urgency to get something out there as soon as possible.  So often, trends such as this hit fast and hard and then fade just as quickly. I’d often found out about trends too late to actually participate in them, which is just as well since they don’t often end up being  long-term opportunities anyway.
 I feel like this trend is different though – I think it has potential to become an established and permanent category of books (as well as an awesome opportunity for artists). So far, that seems to be the case.  And I love it! 
 I truly love the whole concept of coloring books – they are like collaborations between the artist and the colorists.  There are so many ways a picture can be interpreted as far as color choices and different mediums.  I love seeing how the same image can take on a variety of “flavors” depending on each colorist’s unique style.

After putting together the first book, I was hooked.  The self-publishing process has gotten much easier since the last time I looked into it.  I won’t claim that it’s easy to do everything yourself, but most of the skills required are things I’ve learned over the years of being a professional illustrator and artist, and the things I didn’t know how to do, I could learn by doing research on the internet and exploring the various programs now available. 
I am mainly self-taught, and I started when I was a child.  I would look at a cool drawing and really want to draw like that, so I figured out how to analyze and experiment until I was able to mimic the effect I was after.  This was back before the internet, so I was mainly working from comics, animation, books and magazines about movies and art books.
I think “learning how to learn” has been a big part of my journey as a person – both in art and in general.  It’s a pretty darn useful skill!  And now that we have the internet, there is this massive resource for learning how to do things, and most of it is free!  Amazing!
 In any case…

          After publishing my last book (The Lumina Chronicles), I took some time to redesign my website, put some downloadable print packs together and do some marketing and promotion to get the word out.  Since my books haven’t been picked up by brick-n-mortar stores yet (though they are available in the biggest book distributor catalog out there), I’ve got to let folks know my books exist and are available online. 
                I’ve also learned that buying coloring books online can be risky, since it’s often the case that the buyer can’t look inside the book, and are sometimes disappointed with the contents.  I’ve tried to eliminate that risk by making video tours and watermarked images available that show what’s inside my books. 
                In any case – that’s the boring part of being an artist, but it’s essential if I want to actually sell things to people!  I think I’m doing pretty well, for a self-publisher!  My sales have basically doubled in the last 2 months, so I must be doing something right!

So… I knew I wanted to do more books, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do yet. To be honest, I was pretty burned out after finishing The Lumina Chronicles.  It was a pretty intense project, and I think it turned out well and I’m really proud of it, but it was a lot of work!

I decided to take some time off and go into “Sponge Mode”.

I’ve found that I tend to move through a creative/receptive cycle as an artist.  There are times when I am full of ideas and inspired to create and produce, and times when I need to take a break and re-charge my creative batteries. 
                This usually involves watching a lot of movies and documentaries, looking through books or researching stuff on the internet, and sometimes playing video games.  A lot of this is just something passive to do that doesn’t tax my brain too much, but it is also often the source of new ideas that I can tuck into my Inspiration File.  Anything and everything goes into the mix!  I am a Sponge, soaking up what's around me and letting it swirl around in my brain until something new and interesting comes out!

                This time, the video games ended up being more inspiring than time-wasting.  I discovered that there’s a whole genre of YouTube videos of people playing video games – which sounds kind of stupid and boring, but I’ve become quite a fan.  I’m not a particularly skilled player, (and my reflexes and eyesight aren’t getting any better!) but I love video games as an art form.  Watching a skilled player go through the game allows me to appreciate the artwork and design without having to spend the hours (or hundreds of dollars on different game systems) to actually play it.  

from the "Dragon's Lair" arcade game.
               When I was a kid, I was fascinated with the Dragon’s Lair arcade game.  It was like an animated movie that you could play!  So cool!  But I sucked at it, and back then you had to pay with quarters to continue if you used up all of your lives.  I just wanted to watch the cartoon, especially the end scene, which you could only see of you were good enough to progress to the end of the game. 
                So instead of burning through my limited quarter supply and not getting very far because I was crap at it, I’d actually give my quarters to skilled players who had already made it halfway through the game – so I could hopefully watch them get to the end and see the whole story. 

                So – watching folks play on YouTube isn’t much different – except that I don’t have to spend quarters on it!  Win/Win!

                I also discovered that video games as an art form have really taken off.  There are some truly beautiful and unique games out there now, and the genre is gaining in popularity.
                The one that really blew my mind recently is Journey.  It’s difficult to describe, so if you’re curious, check out this video:

from the "Journey" video game.
               This game literally took my breath away – there are moments that are just epic and glorious, others that are quite frightening, or heartbreaking, or heartwarming.   The story is told completely through sound and imagery - there's no dialog at all.  You just wander through and try things and discover how it works and what's going on as you go along.  And the colors – WOW!   The artwork is so simple, yet elegant and evocative.  It truly creates a sense of atmosphere and mood and exotic mystery.
               I started seeking out other “artistic” games, and found some really cool stuff.  Another wonderful one is Ori and the Blind Forest.  The story is quite touching, and the artwork is just gorgeous - look at the colors!  Don't you just want to jump in there and explore?  Don't you want to COLOR this scene?  I do!

from "Ori and the Blind Forest" video game.

               It got me thinking about how much I love the imagery of a lot of games, which often involve designing entire worlds; scenery, costumes, characters, creatures.  I’ve done this kind of work on role-playing games before and I love it.  It’s something I’ve done since I was a kid.  I learned how to draw by copying other people’s designs, but then once I mastered the skills, I could apply them to creating my own characters and whatnot.
                I began revisiting a lot of the stuff that I loved as a kid – fantasy movies like Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, comics and graphic novels like Elfquest, animated films and anime that created entire fantasy worlds.  I started looking at them from the point of view of pure visual imagery and coloring opportunities.

                I started thinking about doing a book that was set in its own unique world.  I had a few ideas of that nature in my file, but none of them quite felt right yet.

                I felt like doing something light and fun.  
                I pay attention to when colorists mention what they enjoy coloring (which is just about anything, truly!), and since a lot of folks color for stress relief, I thought that working with uplifting themes would be good.  Whimsical, charming, cute, but not too simplistic or sugary. Something that would appeal to both adults and kids. Something that was both familiar and exotic. Lots of fun details. 
I decided I wanted to create a fun, beautiful world that people could escape into for a bit and fill with their own colors.
                I began sketching out some little characters, playing with shapes, thinking about what my world would be like.  As I sketched and explored, the concepts began to coalesce into something that began to take on a life of its own.  The framework became clearer, and the details began to naturally bubble up.
                My Sponge was full and ready to release something new!

Continued in Part 2!

Are you a video game fan?  What games do you think have the best imagery and design?  Let me know in the comments!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Video Tutorial: "Coloring SuperVibrant Mandalas"

This tutorial is aimed at adult fans of coloring books who don't have any formal art training, but want to improve their coloring skills.
Follow along as I color the "Mesmerizing Mandala" page from my "Windows to the Soul" coloring book, using some basic principals of Color Theory to maximize color intensity and create a vibrant color scheme that's brilliant and balanced.

Print version of the "Windows to the Soul" Coloring Book is available on Amazon:

Downloadable Digital Edition available on my Etsy Shop:

Music by Kaminanda:

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Coloring Book Demo/Tutorial Video: Serenity Mandala from the Sacred Beauty Coloring Book

This video is the first in a series of tutorial demos for grown-up fans of coloring books. 

I believe that the more confident and familiar you are with coloring techniques and how colors work, the more satisfaction you'll get from your coloring, and the more you'll be able to fully develop your own unique sense of color.

This series of videos shares some tips, techniques and methods I use when hand-coloring, that I've learned or discovered over the years. It's aimed specifically at coloring book colorists who don't have much art experience or training, but want to improve their coloring skills.  

In addition to some essential colored pencil techniques, I offer some methods for making great color choices and creating harmonious color schemes, and demonstrate some "special effects" that you can use to take your coloring pages to the next level.

It's not a "How To" - because there's no One Right Way to color. But my hope is that this info will help you to create your own unique and beautiful results that will enhance your coloring experiences.

Please Share, Pin, Like, Comment...Yaddayaddayadda! 

#adultcoloringbooks  #coloringbooksforgrownups  #coloringbook #coloringdemo  #coloringtutorial  #colored pencil techniques

Monday, September 28, 2015

Windows to the Soul; A Mesmerizing Coloring Book

My second coloring book is now available!

Eyes are innately mesmerizing and infinitely expressive. They are, as they say, the “windows to the soul”. 

For this volume, I created 30 all new, original coloring pages integrating an eclectic variety of art styles, motifs and moods. Each of them frames mysterious eyes that seize your gaze…inviting you, challenging you to infuse them with vibrant color.

Featuring a variety of colorful themes including fantasy, steampunk, traditional cultural art styles, decorative mandalas and designs inspired by nature, this coloring book offers something for everyone, and is full of ample opportunities for fun and creative coloring.

 After I made my first coloring book (“Sacred Beauty; An Artful Coloring Book”), I knew I was hooked.  
I love designing coloring pages, and I love coloring them.  

I wanted to do another book, and I was pondering what kind of themes and imagery would make for fun, relaxing and engaging coloring experiences that would result in beautiful finished pieces.  

For me, coloring feels very much like doodling.  There is some thought that goes into it in choosing colors and creating color schemes, but it is also somewhat mindless, in a good way.  It reminds me of knitting, or…doodling.

For as long as I can remember, when mindlessly doodling, I‘ve drawn two things:  spirals and eyes….often in combination.  Not faces or anything that made sense… just these weird little abstract designs with eyes surrounded by decorative flourishes.  

I’m not alone in this habit.  Apparently, it’s a Thing.  Lots of people doodle eyes; angry, evil eyes, intensely gazing eyes, cartoon or anime eyes, realistic eyes, alien eyes, you name it.  I tend to draw serene eyes surrounded by lots of swirls and spirals and dots.  

Once I'd connected coloring to doodling, and explored the whole "eye doodling" phenomenon,  I realized that I'd found the basic theme for my next book.  

My next step was to think up a bunch of different designs, which was actually pretty easy.  My Muse was on board, and I started sketching like a madwoman.  

I thought about things that would offer opportunities for lots of color choices...things like butterflies and flowers and animal patterns and stained glass and mandalas.  I thought about things that accented eyes - masks and helmets and makeup.  I thought about various traditional art styles that would work - like Dia De Los Muertos face paint and Maori warrior facial tattoos.  I also wanted to make this book more appealing to male colorists, since my first book was pretty feminine in nature.  So there is a steampunk design featuring ornate mechanical bits, a grizzled warrior, a pirate, even a creepy alien.  Something for everyone, and every mood!
 I also wanted to offer a variety of levels of intricacy, so some of these designs are simpler and others are packed with details.  

The artwork is accompanied by "Inspirations" and "Trys".  
The Inspirations are basically keywords that you can enter into a Google image search to find loads of visual reference for inspiration and ideas.  They are things I referred to when creating the designs, and coloring them myself.  I encourage you to utilize these - and to take some time to study the images that come up.  Getting familiar with different color combinations will add to your own inner library of ideas and help you develop your own sense of color.
The "Trys" are suggestions for various color scheme ideas to explore, or coloring techniques to apply.  They are totally optional - but I wanted to share some of the possibilities that I thought of while designing and coloring the imagery.

"Windows to the Soul" is available as a print edition from Amazon:

and as a downloadable digital edition from my Etsy Shop:

I'd love to hear your feedback on it, and see your finished colored pages!  Please feel free to comment here, or post to my Art of Cristina McAllister Facebook Page.  And please post a review to the Amazon listing page - those reviews really do make a huge difference!

Sunday, September 13, 2015


I've published a coloring book!
It's available on Amazon at the following link:

You can also download a digital edition from my Etsy shop:

Several weeks ago, someone posted an article about coloring books for grown-ups on Facebook and I was intrigued!  It has become a hugely popular activity, and a bunch of really cool coloring books have been released in recent years.  These aren't the cheesy, simplistic cartoon character coloring books you remember from childhood, but gorgeous, complex designs that offer a fun, engaging and relaxing creative experience.

I realized instantly that my artwork would be PERFECT for coloring!  After all, when I created the original artwork, I basically made black & white designs and then colored them in Photoshop.  So converting my full-color artwork into color-able pages was simply a matter of going back to my black & white files and doing some reworking.

As I re-evaluated my drawings with hand-coloring in mind, I realized that I really enjoy designing coloring pages!  And I really enjoy coloring, which was something that mostly bored me as a kid.

I published through Createspace,'s Print On Demand Self Publishing platform, and found the process to be surprisingly quick and easy.  Within 3 weeks, I had put my book together, uploaded it and it was listed on  Amazing!

The response has be incredible, and people really seem to be enjoying the book.  I'm working on getting my wholesale distribution set up, hopefully in time to get some books in stores for the holiday shopping season.
And I'm working on my second book, which I think is going to be even better!