Comics coloring is one of the most unappreciated aspects of the medium, despite enhancing the thematic subtext of a work and just making it look better. In this series I’m going to shine a spotlight on some of the best and most interesting colorists in comics.

Sloane Leong colors horizons better than any other colorist in comics. Any artist worth her salt knows that you can't just plop down a single color for the sky and sit with your feet back, but Leong has a particular knack for punctuating the emotions of a scene with a unique gradient.

A year after I first moved to Los Angeles, I stayed up all night with a couple of friends to see the sunrise. We hiked up a nearby hill, through a sickly-gray fog that hung heavy over the neighborhood, and waited for the sun to rise. We never saw it rise, though; it just appeared all at once, over the pollution-tinged mists, and the whole morning felt strange and illusory. My friends and I were new to a city that had existed only in fiction and in our minds for our whole lives, and here was a sight none of us had ever seen before.

Leong's work in the Image series Change, written by Ales Kot, captures that feeling perfectly; a mixture of hope and potential and disappointment in a city that thrives on all of those emotions, wrapped up in a feverish blend of exotic colors. Look at the colors in this page from Change #4:

 

Art by Morgan Jeske, from Change

 

Change is not a comic that lends itself easily to description, so let's focus on the art itself. Sonia, the character in the above page, looks through an open window in Los Angeles. Outside the window is a comforting, homey orange glow, like a campfire. The interior of the house is gray-green, like pollution, or a corpse. There's sickness or death in the house (eagle-eyed readers might notice the hole in Sonia's forehead), but the outside is warm and inviting. The bottom panel shows the gradient seep of both of the conflicting colors as they bleed into one another. In Change's LA, sickness and health aren't fully opposites, and Leong's colors reflect that.

A few weeks after I stayed up with my friends to see the sunrise, I sat on a hill and watched the sun set over West LA. There was no sickly green-fog, no pollution at all; it seemed peaceful and warm. Here was the city we'd been told about, where potential burned like fire in the sky as the sun went down.

 

Art by Morgan Jeske, from Change

 

Even when coloring scenes set in slightly-more fictional places than an apocalyptic Los Angeles, Leong's attention to detail in the scene allow for a deeper sense of time and place. Her colors are naturalistic, not realistic, placing the scene in a specific moment pertinent to the emotions of the scene. Whether she's coloring the thin, smudge of light as the sun sets...

 

Art by Brandon Graham

 

... or the rainbow burst of hues as an artist sketches...

 

Art by Allison Sampson, from Porcelain

 

... Leong's talent is undeniable.

 

Art by Aaron Conley, from The Sabertooth Swordsman