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Colorists: Working With Magic

Updated: Jan 25, 2020

You know what I’ve realized recently? There’s 3000 articles everywhere of people talking about their favorite writer or favorite artist in comics… But almost no one talks about a very important creative member in the process of a great comics: Colorist.

Since I’ve been reviewing comics, I realized colors have a huge impact on the success of a comic. We can have amazing art, if the colors are messy or are not good looking, the art loses its impact on the story.  I’m the first one to be appalled when the colors don’t catch my eyes like they should be or to drop a book because I feel like it’s too bland. Colors can take it from an okay story to an absolute beautiful masterpiece.

Often times, the person writing the story is not the same as the one doing the drawings and this person is not always the same as the one doing the coloring.

And I can name you at least 5 of my favorite writers and artists…. But I actually have a hard time talking about the colorists. I feel guilty to say that…. I almost never take the time to look at the colorist names. It’s a shame really. That’s why I wanted to dedicate today’s article to some of my favorite Colorists in my comic collection.

There are so many styles of coloring out there, it’s really impressive when you think about their job. It needs a particular talent to know how to use the different techniques available to work with the medium. Some will work the old fashion way with paint/pencils/papers and some will prefer using more modern technologies by using computers or tablets. We can find so many different style nowadays, like an almost never-ending gold mine. Without going too deep in the process of coloring, you should know it’s a really hard and complicated job. I admire those artists jumping in near the end of the project and having the almost impossible task to match the writer, match the artist… All while leaving their own personal signature to the comic. We are far from the few same colors used in the older comics. When I think about those, I’m thinking about simple lining with little to no shading or those few basic colors used in traditional

comics, for example (not that it’s bad - I find it quite beautiful and vintage!). But it’s not the same anymore. Colorists can express themselves and have a pretty good rendering of their creations (because let’s be honest, printing then is not the same as printing now)!

I have a personal preference for colorist who plays with a theme or a specific color palette like in GIDEON FALLS, for example. DAVE STEWART use this creepy dark color palette consisting of green, grey, black and some pops of red. It gives a nice heavy atmosphere to the already beautiful drawings. He is also a multi Eisner Awards winner in the past years! And although there were different colorists on the project, his work for HELLBOY is the ultimate way to win my heart. I think it’s my favorite thing in the whole world. The palette he used of black, dark green-blue-yellow and bright red is, for me, perfection. HELLBOY wouldn’t be Hellboy without those colors. It elevates the universe to something dark, mysterious and mystical that helps bring those supernatural stories to life.

I must say there’s also nothing I love more than super bright and colorful comics such as in PAPER GIRLS, where MATT WILSON use bright neon colors and contrast to complement CLIFF CHIANG’s work. He also did an amazing job of using bright colors in THE WICKED + THE DIVINE. Did I mentioned he won an Eisner Award for his color work in 2017? With such an imposing signature, I’m not even surprise.   And while talking about bright colors, I can’t leave out JEAN-FRANCOIS BEAULIEU the colorist of MIDDLEWEST. I already said it once in my latest review, but this is a true masterpiece. The colorwork in this book is sensational. It feels like there’s a powerful dose of magic in it.

And can we talk for a moment about those colorists who uses watercolors in their works? Have you seen something more breathtaking? For me, this is an incredible talent to master the art of such a difficult technique. I’m thinking about the incredible DUSTIN NGUYEN who’s work on DESCENDER is astonishing. He’s a true master of his art: not only did he colored every page, but he also created the sketching/drawings! Impressive, right? (I also love how we can see the texture of the paper on the pages… Makes me adore it even more). And although I still need to find some time to fully read the story, I’m always impressed to look at the work of HILLARY JENKINS in GRASS KINGS. There’s something almost poetic, I find, in her work. Using soft colors helped adding movement and fluidity to the scenes. Loved it!

Now, one of my favorite horror comics, WYTCHES, was colored by another amazing artist: MATT

HOLLINGSWORTH. His use of color splashes is astonishing. His technique is a perfectly beautiful mix of photoshop and watercolors, something I adore. It is truly breathtaking and I am fascinated by how he was able to work with so many colors in rather dark book. I wouldn’t love this story as much if it wasn’t from the art, most importantly the colors. It really helps to make the story even more scary, blurry and creepy. He is currently in nomination for Best Colorist against of course MATT WILSON and other great artists such as JORDIE BELLAIRE – I really appreciated her work in Head Lopper. Her color palette is what I want my life to look like.

Also, I think we can anonymously say that MITCH GERADS work in MISTER MIRACLE is an impressive piece of art. Another artist who proved he can do it all, also in nomination for this year’s Eisner Awards in the category Best Penciller/Inker.

If you want your daily dose of retro vibes, ELIZABETH BRETWEISER’s work will get you what you need. Her work in KILL OR BE KILLED or THE FADE OUT is one of my favorite. Makes me think of certain kind of fading pop-art inspiration that brings those vintage vibes into the story. I think she has an interesting color palette that gives a nice pop of color to those rather dark stories while still respecting the essence of the artist. She is also the one behind KILL OR BE KILLED and VELVET, two other excellent and equally beautiful books. I find her quite versatile and I like that!

Finally, I know we are talking about colors… But would this article be complete without talking about black and white? For me, when I think about a truly masterful black and white book, SIN CITY is always the one that comes to my mind. I always admire a multitasking artist and FRANK MILLER is most definitely one of them. I mean, have you seen the beauty of those pages? It carries you in another world right here and there just by how simple yet complex those lines are done! I know there’s not much “coloring” per say in it, but I just couldn’t miss the chance to mention this incredible book.

There are so many amazing colorists out there, I can’t believe how talented they are. Being able to take a drawing and making it look alive with the power of colors is something truly impressive. Those stories previously mentioned all have a great writer and a great artist… But colorist can make those books looks almost surreal with their talent. It is amazing to think about their work and their contribution to the comics industry.

Most definitely, colorists are magicians with a paint brush – traditional or electronic – for a wand!

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