Q&A with a colourist: Nicola Tagger

Today I’m interviewing Nicola Tagger, who just so happens to be joint admin for my private Facebook group ‘The Colouring Den‘ – ooh, how I love to be nosy and find out more about our colouring community!

Nicola’s colouring has always struck me as being so happy, vibrant and full of fun, and I think today’s interview with her really showcases her just-as-vibrant personality, and her own unique colouring journey.

Colourist interview with Nicola Tagger and Kim White of Fox Design Den

Q1. Tell me a little bit about yourself: Who are you? Where are you from? How long you’ve been colouring for and what inspired you to start colouring as an adult?

I’m Nicola, almost 44yrs young. I’m a mother to 3 beautiful daughters (aged 18yrs, 16yrs and 6yrs), a wife to my adorable and supportive husband, and a woman who is a colouring addict.

I’m a London girl who lives in Birmingham, but I’ve also spent about 14yrs living in Southend Essex – and as you can imagine, my accent is a bit mixed up! I’m also 90% vegetarian as I could never give up a good bacon butty or KFC 😉

I have been colouring on and off almost all my adult life, and was always a felt tip kinda girl until about 3yrs ago, when I decided that I wasn’t getting the results I wanted. This is when I made the switch to pencils.

After HOURS of research on Facebook  (after all, I didn’t wanna splash the cash then realise I wasn’t any good, meaning floods of tears at the wasted money), I decided to start with Marco Refinnes and Marco Renoirs.

Like many others, my reason for this hobby is to help with pain management, peace of mind, and my sanity. They do say colouring is like yoga for the mind.

Q2. What are your favourite tools or supplies for colouring? What colouring medium(s) have you used for these pictures?

Now my favourite tools have be my pencils and my white Posca pen.

Asking me which brand of pencils that I use are my favourite is a little tougher to answer. I’d have to say my answer is ALL OF THEM lol!

Q3. How did you learn to colour, blend and shade so well? Do you ever follow tutorials and have any you’d recommend?

When I started colouring with pencil, I knew nothing about blending, shading, and all the other exciting stuff that comes with it, such as light source and direction, sparkles and highlights. I just had to kinda learn as I go.

Many colourists recommend watching videos on how to do it all, and nowadays there are even books available with all the tips and tricks of the trade as they say. For many this works really well…but unfortunately, I’m not very good at being told what to do!

I’m also not patient enough to sit down for an hour watching a video, only to then try it out and discover it didn’t work for me. My learning progress has maybe taken a bit longer than others, but I think I’ve done ok.

What I do is look at other colourist’s masterpieces, and see if it’s how I would like my colouring to be. I also look at real life objects for shadows and shines. Typically,  when I actually get around to colouring, I forget all that I’ve looked at for inspiration and just go with what feels right for me at that time.

Blending took a LOT of practise to figure out the way I like to do it – some people blend light to dark, and others blend dark to light. The latter is where I sit.

I blend dark to light, building up many light layers to achieve the blend and tone I desire. This is definitely one of the reasons I’m a slow colourist.

Q4. How did you choose the colour palette for the Blissful Mermaid design?

Picking my palette for any picture is always the same process. I know it sounds silly, but I have to sit there and look at what I’m gonna work on, and let it talk to me.

I need to be able to feel the picture when I colour it, or my heart just won’t be in it and it’ll end up being complete mess.

My Blissful Mermaid page palette was easy – I wanted it limited.  I wanted it to be different, but I also wanted to use mostly colours I’m comfortable working with. Aqua, turquoise, mint, teals and also greens.

The only colour on this palette I don’t use often enough is pink. I’m more of a purple girl really, but I wanted to sweeten up the balance of the palette a bit.

Q5. Are there any fellow colourists that inspire you, or you draw inspiration from? If so, who are they?

Fellow colourists?  I love them all!

Each finished page has beauty, and they say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I know my answer seems to be a bit of a cop out, but honestly, there so many talented people in the colouring community that it’s hard to just sit here and just name a few.

One thing I do love is seeing them grow, and watching their progress over time. To see the journey of a colourist progress from starting out as a beginner, to a year down the line, learning new things etc is amazing to witness, and should serve as inspiration to all of us.

Q6. Which colouring book illustrators do you admire? Can you remember the first book / colouring magazine you ever bought, and do you have an all-time favourite?

I admire all colouring book illustrators. To be able to draw, and transfer an idea in your head to a blank piece of paper – for the entire world to see – is just amazing to me.

Of course I love some artwork more than others *smiles and thinks of Kim* but each day I would give a different answer to the same question. For me it’s all down to the mood that I’m in at that moment.

I have so many books, by so many different artists, and I love them all for how different they are.

My first adult colouring book was a giant poster book by Warner brothers. It had Looney Tunes and everything in there. It was only about 12 pages and cost me around £20 roughly 18yrs ago.

My family thought I was crazy spending that much on one book, and thinking about it now, I tend to agree with them! Although, I do wish I still had it. I would be able to see my switch from felt tips to pencils, and my growth as a colourist.

Having just one favourite book is madness. I have lots of favourites, but I do have to mention Doodles from The Den here, and my reason for this is the complete mix of images it has. No matter the mood I’m in, I know there is a page I’ll want to colour.

Nicola's colouring book collection

Q7. What are 3 top tips you’d give to someone who wants to improve their colouring skills?

  1. Be patient. Something I need to learn myself!
  2. Take your time. There is no rush no race, just go at your own pace.
  3. Find what works for you. Watch videos, read books or blog posts and play around. Most of all, have fun with the whole process. Colouring is meant to be enjoyed and be relaxing – don’t try to keep up with The Joneses.

Q8. Do you have a favourite spot where you like to colour? Or a place which makes you feel creative and “in the zone”?

My spot to colour has to be my dining room table. It has the best light.

It gives me a clear view of my garden, and through the window I can listen to nature pass by – the weather (especially the rain!), the wind, the birds, the flow of traffic from the other side of the street, and the train in the distance. Everyday life just carrying on around me, it’s so peaceful to have that in the background.

No TV, and no music (well, maybe sometimes). Just me, and life, and my art.

Q9. What is your favourite thing to colour and why?

My favourite thing to colour is almost anything and everything. I will try it all.

Up until recently, I would avoid skin tones and instead turn people into blue fairies or green goddesses, but now I just go for it! What s the worst that can happen?

Q10. Name one thing you love about colouring

One thing I love about colouring – that’s easy. The satisfaction of completing a page, and watching it come to life by adding colour.

Q11. Name one thing that bugs you about colouring

One thing that bugs me about colouring – that’s a little more difficult.

I would have to say white bits showing through the colour. I can’t take it. It all haa to be covered.  I blend as usual, but if that doesn’t work, I’ll get out my blending tools – depending on my mood it could be a pencil, or a pen, or maybe my Zest It and stubby.

Love Nicola’s ‘Blissful Mermaid’ colouring masterpiece?

You can find this whimsical mermaid, plus 19 other gorgeous colouring pages, in my Doodles from The Den colouring book.

If you like all things cute and quirky, then this book is destined for you! It’s available as a digital edition and physical book over in my Etsy store.