Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A Nerd's Coloring Supplies Guide Triology: Episode I, Colored Pencils

by Michelle M. Johnson

For as long as I have been leading folks through coloring and creativity workshops, I have been asked to create a guide for all of the coloring supplies that I have used and/or taught with...so, for about two years...that's how long I have been procrastinating creating this guide of my familiar supplies for folks! Why have I procrastinated SO long? Well, every few weeks or so, I come across yet another coloring tool that I want to explore, so I delay writing a coloring tool guide as I go about gathering up more knowledge and experience (that, and I have been incredibly busy these last two years, but that's not a good excuse: EVERYBODY is busy!). If you haven't noticed, coloring is rather popular now, so popular in fact I don't think it is too far off to say that coloring for adults has helped to reignite a demand for art supplies as well as to reinvigorate the market; new tools are popping up left and right: shimmering brush tip markers? gel pens from Crayola? Just a year ago, these products just didn't exist. But, I digress. 

On to my guide to all of coloring tools, with photos, buying links, the works! This is Episode I of a proposed Coloring Supplies Guide Trilogy (you have no idea how awesome it feels to call my coloring tools guide a "trilogy" - the depth of my nerdiness seriously knows no bounds!). Why a trilogy? Well, I have quite a lot of coloring tools as I do this sort of thing professionally, and I have a lot of opinions on each of the supplies (which is why I assume you are reading this blog post, for my impression of these tools), so rather than smack y'all with a eye-bending monster of a saga of all the coloring supplies I'm acquainted with, I thought I would break it into bite-sized chunks of three categories: Colored Pencils, Markers & Pens, and Watercolor vs. Water Soluble Colored Pencils.

One disclaimer I feel I should add though: the links that I attach to my blog posts are Amazon Affiliate links, which means that should you decide to purchase an item based on clicking the link from here in this post, I earn a small (really small, but every penny counts!) amount of money per purchase. I'm not suggesting that you do anything with this post besides read it and hopefully gain some useful information from it. But, should you decide to purchase something while reading this post or after reading this post, it would be lovely if you used the links found here in this post. Thank you:)

Episode I: Colored Pencils

Prismacolor Premiere Colored Pencils 150 Count Set

Up until just recently, Prismacolor Premiere Soft Core Colored Pencils were the top of the line colored pencil a coloring enthusiast could have. I bought my set back in early 2015, and I was thrilled by the selection of colors: the numerous greys, the enormous depth of purples, blues, oranges, browns, etc. What I was not so thrilled with was the quality. Prismacolor Colored Pencils do have a great lay down feel, soft and smooth, their colors are vibrant and blend well, and they still can't be beat by any product for size of color collection, but they are quite fragile. Additionally, the color core of these pencils is not always intact, which leads me to believe that there must be decreased quality control at the manufacturing level than what there used to be before coloring got big. Don't get me wrong, I love my Prismacolors and I am very happy to have them! But, if you have a heavy hand when coloring or your pencil sharpener is a brute, these expensive pencils will not last you long. 

I stumbled upon this little workhorse of a colored pencil when I was trying to outfit many loved ones with their own collection of colored pencils for Christmas a few years ago. For the price (which oscillates on Amazon between as high as $25 and as low as $17 depending on the season), the collection of colors one gets with the Marco Raffine 72 Colored Pencil set can't be beat. Where these pencils may frustrate some folks is that they are hard rather than creamy. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially if you have a heavy hand when coloring. But, if you have any issues with your hand joints or grip, getting deep dark colors out of these pencils will be difficult. I still recommend these pencils to folks just getting into coloring because they are very easy to shade with given the lovely color values  of the major color families present in this set. These pencils also respond to using Vaseline as a blending and softening agent very well, so the problem of color lay down is easily solved if you are on a creative-cash budget. Additionally, if you color with children, these tough pencils hold up nicely to immature hands trying to sharpen them and to being dropped and/or stepped on. These are not a preferred artist tool like the Prismacolors, but because of the price, the color selection, and the durability, they cannot be beat, even by Crayola, which typically is the brand of colored pencil folks think of as the place to start for adult coloring.

I love coloring in coloring books with Koh-I-Noor colored pencils! The colors are vibrant, the color cores are soft and creamy, and they lay down color easily and without much pressure. Polycolors are also durable, so these pencils make a great "step-up" colored pencil for folks looking to invest in an artist's quality colored pencil. I have even used this set successfully with my nieces and nephew, who were pre-schoolers at the time, and had no pencils broken and smiles all around at being encouraged to be big coloring with Auntie. There is one caveat to these lovelies though: they have a very limited color selection. The largest collection Koh-I-Noor makes in their Polycolor line is 72, which for me is a huge let down. I absolutely prefer coloring with my Polycolors to my Prismacolors, but when I am trying to create color gradients and depth in my coloring, I find I have to reach for my other colored pencil sets to achieve the look I am going for due to their limited color selection. 

As I said before, I absolutely LOVE coloring with Koh-I-Noor colored pencils, and their Progresso Woodless Colored Pencils are some of my absolute favorites! These pencils respond the best, I think, to coloring techniques that utilize pressure and hatch-marks because they hold a point beautifully for a really long time, much longer than my Prismacolors or my Polycolors. I also love that they come in this handy, dandy traveling case, making them my go-to colored pencil for when I travel. But (and this is a BIG but!), these lovelies are VERY fragile, not when you color with them, of course, but if (or really when) you drop them onto a hard surface (like a floor or table, two things that are required when coloring). Progresso Woodless colored pencils are a solid core of color, no wood barrier to protect them from any impact, so despite the fact that they have a thin lacquer on them to keep the color from getting all over you, that coating does NOTHING should a pencil be dropped onto a hard surface...nothing. These pencils shatter on impact, no joke (I bet you're asking how I know that's true...yes, I learned the hard way.). So, these are not a pencil for the rough and tumble sort, the clumsy sort, the under 13 sort. They are also probably not a pencil for folks who have issues with their grip as they are very slick as well. That being said, I love them. Even with the 24 count set being their largest selection of colors, I find myself turning to my Koh-I-Noor Woodless more often than not, probably because when I get to color for myself, it is that we are traveling, and these are my traveling coloring buddies:)

Another option for the coloring enthusiast who is looking to take a step up in their colored pencil game is the Faber-Castell Art Grip Colored Pencil. This pencil has similar qualities to the Marco Raffines, but the color lay down is smoother, the barrels are triangular making them easier to hold, and they have a grippy texture, great for hands that have issues with gripping. My creative son prefers these pencils to my other sets as he deeply loves to shade and create gradients with layers and pressure. These pencils have a very dry feel to them, which is why they are so great for layering colors and varying pressure. They are neither expensive nor inexpensive. They only come in 36 colors, which I find to be a downfall. They are durable, come with a carrying case, and are easy to color with. They are pleasant middle of the road pencil, in my experience, so if you find them for under $25, grab them and add them to your collection:)

Well, there you have it: a buyer's guide to all the colored pencils I have thus far had the opportunity to explore. And, I say a "buyer's guide" because I have quite few other sets of colored pencils that I still use that are no longer being produced. In fact my favorite colored pencil of all time, Spectracolor (colors so lush and dreamy, absolutely buttery color lay down), are all but extinct. A quick Google search will show you that they go for a pretty penny on eBay as there are many folks like me that still love using this pencil. I have a set of 48 colors that I received as a Christmas gift when I was in high school that I use sparingly as they are quite literally irreplaceable. But, I still use them because how sad it would be for such beautiful colored pencils to become museum pieces!

As I said before, this is Episode I of my proposed Coloring Supplies Guide Trilogy, so stay tuned for Episode II, Markers & Pens, to be published sooner rather than later...I hope ;)

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Creativity and the Unexpected: What One Experienced Creative Learned by Simply Sorting Coloring Supplies into Color Families

By Toni Davenport

**This is a Guest Blog Post by my friend and fellow creative, Toni Davenport. Her recent observations on coloring tools and how she separated them into color families delighted me, leading me to invite her to expand her musings into a guest blog post here on Have Color Will Travel. I hope you enjoy this intimate little dive into her creative process!**

Hi folks, my name is Toni Davenport, Adult Services Librarian at the New Braunfels Public Library, and I'm am about to be a guest blogger for the first time in my life! Michelle and I know each other because she volunteers to lead our adult coloring program, Coloring Therapy, every first Thursday of the month at our the library. Each coloring session Michelle teaches our patrons a little something related to coloring and creativity while they color.  Some lessons are more interactive for patrons than others, but all of them ask participants to think about color and how it relates to and interacts with their lives. In August I traveled to San Francisco and sent Michelle a coloring post card with the words "I can't wait to see the colored postcard when I get back!"  She said that I gave her coloring homework, and she loved it, so for our October session, Michelle in turn gave me a coloring assignment: to separate out the library's coloring supplies by color family instead of by coloring tool in preparation for an idea she had for our patrons. Setting up for this particular meeting of our program really got my brain thinking more deeply about colors, how shades relate to each other and how I perceive them. I sent all this thought process I had in an email to Michelle with work-in-progress pictures. This email led to her suggesting I write my first ever guest blog post about this experience. I hope you enjoy it!

This past October, Michelle decided to encourage our library coloring patrons to explore using color families more intensely. She explained that her idea was to have our supplies separated out by color families rather than by medium, meaning rather than having separated tubs and containers of markers, colored pencils, watercolor pencils and crayons, we would have groupings of an integrated mixture of supplies separated by their colors only! This lesson just begged people to participate and get out of their creative comfort zones just a little. After all, coloring is one of the safest places in the world to get out of your comfort zone and push yourself to do something you're not sure you're going to like. This exercise really intrigued me since I'm typically a sharpie, pen, and marker kind of person. I knew that setting up our coloring session this way would stretch me, force me to use other tools I normally don't think to pick up, so I figured other colorists like myself might feel the same concerned interest I had.

To complete this task, I first I gathered all the supplies onto one counter and set out cups to start sorting.  

I started with markers, because, well, I believe in starting with what you know.  As I sorted, I noticed that there were very few shades of purple and a lot of shades of green and blue. I wondered if that's because as purple moves lighter it becomes almost pink very quickly.  I also wondered how the lack of certain colors in my preferred coloring tool has shaped my coloring in the past. Uh-oh! Here I thought I was just going to be simply sorting supplies into color families, but right away I started to analyze myself! That's how it often goes with creative ventures though: we start a project thinking it's going to take us in one direction, but if we're open to the process, creativity can lead us somewhere completely unexpected. What I like about being open to the journey is that I find out more about myself along the way. But, let me get back to the experience of sorting colors! 

Once I started adding the colored pencils to their color families, I had to separate out the teal from the green because there were too many for a single cup. Then I had to separate out the light green and dark green because the greens just kept coming! There were so many greens! But, right on their tail were all the blues; I had to separate the light blue and dark blue due to space issues. I eventually had to more deeply separate the oranges as well, which surprised me. Why was I surprised? Honestly, I wasn't sure until I stopped to write this blog post, but when I look around at the world, I don't see that many shades of orange in my daily life. I see a lot of blues and greens, so having an abundance of shades in those families isn't surprising to me at all. Now I'm wondering if that's just how my eyes work or if that's really the way the world is. Are my eyes just drawn to blues and greens because I like them? Is that why I expect to see more of them in coloring supplies? Or is it because there are actually fewer uses for the color orange in the world, so we only see that family as accent pieces or "splashes" of color in an otherwise blue and green hued world? Michelle's "simple" assignment had really turned into a deeper look into myself and my world than I thought it ever could be!

But, back to the colors.

I had quite a few peach-type colors that weren’t really what I would call orange, but I didn’t know where to put them. If I held them up to the other oranges, that's was the color they were most similar to, so they all got put together.

At the end of the project, I had to separate out the pinks into light and dark pinks. Above you can see the pinks are overflowing.

Oddly enough, I never had this problem with reds, yellows, or purples.  What does the coloring world have against purples? If you have a answer to that question, I would love to hear what you have to say in the comments! If not, just consider my musing rhetorical and a bit frustrated. 

Curiously, throughout this process I noticed there are some colors that were hard to place within families. For example, I had this one Crayola Twistable Colored Pencil that could have fit in multiple color families. Here it is by itself.  Where would you put it at first guess?

Looking at it on its own, it's hard to decide which color family this pencil belongs to, so I held it up to the groups of colors I'd created.

Does it go with pink?

With purple?

I eventually decided that it actually goes in the red family.

Okay, so now I want you, dear reader, to think.  Where would you put this chameleon color?  Does your final decision match your first guess or mine?  This exercise showed me that my first impression of where a shade of a color might fit may not be true.  Yes, yes, I know this can be a metaphor for many things in life, so I won't beat you over the head with it, but this color experiment really reinforced for me that giving things a second look (and maybe even sometimes a third) can lead to making better decisions or, at the very least, understanding why we make the decisions we do just a little bit better.

But, that shade-of-red Twistable wasn't nearly the toughest color to sort! I had a couple gold coloring tools, also. I initially thought they belonged with the yellows, but when I held them up close to yellows, that didn't seem quite right. The golds also looked like maybe they would be some sort of a light brown, however, they didn't really go with brown either.  On my third pass, I discovered they look pretty happy with oranges.

Michelle asked me why I anthropomorphized the gold colored pencils and talked about their happiness or discontent at being placed with certain color families. Here we go again with self discovery.  I'm not sure, but I think I'd have to say that when I put them in the coffee cup with their color family, they looked like they were nestled in with their relatives, the folks that understand them.  I know when I'm snuggled up with my family (and that can be people I'm related to or my close friends that I just get along with really well), I feel pretty happy. These colors looked happy to me to have the gold pencil come and hang out with them.  What more can I say?

So there you have it, all of our library adult coloring supplies had been separated by color family.

What did we do with this?  What difference did it make? Specifically, this forced me to use colored pencils and crayons, supplies I normally shy away from. They're still not my favorite, but I will say it was fun to experiment with other types of supplies from what I have at home. That's one of the biggest benefits of these library coloring sessions and many other library programs: we provide a lot of resources that you may not want to or be able to purchase just yet, so you get to test things out and see what you like. Quite a few patrons found this experience of limiting their color selections while simultaneously adding to the type of coloring tools they were using interesting also. There was quite a lively dialogue, folks talking out loud about their coloring choices or making revelations about their own perceptions of color and how they use it. It was probably the most talking out loud the patrons had done during a coloring session since we began Coloring Therapy over a year ago!

Here are some of the results!  As you can see, several people chose two complimentary color families. 

So, in conclusion, I've never taken this much time to analyze myself and how I go about a particular task. I am surprised that Michelle's color family sorting task stimulated this thoughtful process in me; it became as much a part of the coloring homework she assigned me as the actual sorting of the coloring supplies. Since I usually don't spend a lot of time in self-reflection, this process was not the easiest for me.  At the same time, I liked stretching myself creatively and challenging myself. Typically I create and don't reflect on how I've created.  I've never taken the time to analyze how I go about a task as thoroughly as I have with this guest blog post.  Now that I have taken that time, I'm more aware of how my approach in this project translates to other tasks in my life. I'm methodical about some things and much more forgiving of myself in others. I'm also more aware of how taking time to look back at your choices and your approach to a task can result a lot of self-reflection, for better or worse. In the end and going forward, I think I am going to schedule a little self reflection time into my creative projects, and see where the process takes me and my creativity.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Modular Coloring: 2 Simple Steps to Help You Sneak in Some Coloring Time Even When Life Gets Crazy-Busy

by Michelle M. Johnson

September has arrived, and even in South Texas there are signs of fall popping up here and there.

Tallow trees are turning WAY early this year!
Is a good sign, a bad sign? I have no idea.
All I know is tallow leaf red is one of my
favorite colors:)

School is back in session, football season is underway, store fronts are beginning to remind us of the proximity of Halloween, Thanksgiving and even Christmas (too soon, Hobby Lobby, too soon!). Yet even though most folks declare that fall is their favorite season of the year (Really, I Googled it.), it is without a doubt the most crazy-busy time of year. Social and work obligations are numerous, holiday demands start earlier and earlier, and all around us is advertising reminding us of how lovely it is to take a stroll through brilliantly colored leaves, or enjoy a slow morning with coffee in the brisk but not cold morning air, or create a fall meal from scratch that requires a full day...Are they kidding me?! Who's got time for that during fall?

The reality is time for our friends and families is in short supply in fall, much less time for ourselves to live a creative life. I could feel the pressure building about the upcoming busy-ness of fall both in myself and in my friends all the way back in the beginning of August. And, it got me thinking: how can I hack this problem, this problem of always feeling "too busy" to do the things and activities that we love? Now, I have no idea what to tell you if your passion is making meals that require days and days of preparation (Sorry - I'm an eater, not a feeder.), but if you love to color, love to get lost in black and white drawings and images that sing to you to fill them in, well I have tried to come up with some simple steps that I hope will help you to keep finding time for yourself to color every week during the busiest time of the year, perhaps even to color every day (Gasp!). I'm calling this collection of steps Modular Coloring, because every good hack deserves a name to remind you that you are coming at your problem ("I don't have time to color, damn it!") from a new and perhaps non-traditional way.

The ideas behind Modular Coloring came to me in the mail. Around the middle last month, August, a friend of mind sent me a coloring postcard from her adventures in San Francisco.

Lombard Street: "the crookedest street in the world."

In her message to me on the back, she said that the package of postcards she'd bought had instructions to color the card BEFORE sending. Ever the rebel, she dared to send me the uncolored postcard with the words, "I can't wait to see the colored postcard when I get back!" Challenge accepted! I had just received coloring homework - YES! Problem was, August was turning into a real whirlwind (I am a parent of a child in high school band - need I say more?), and I knew I was going to be seeing her the first week of September; there was no way I was going to have even this teeny postcard colored by the time I saw her - I just didn't have the time.

Or didn't I? I knew I couldn't disappoint my friend: she'd taken time out of her holiday to post a greeting to me that absolutely made my week. Saying "I was too busy to color your thoughtful gesture" just doesn't scream THANK YOU, if you know what I mean. I may not have had time to sit down with all of my coloring supplies and spread myself out for an intensive coloring session where I'd only come up for air once the image was fully colored (Does anyone ever really have that kind of time?), but was I really so busy that I couldn't color a car or two on any given day? The brutal answer to that question is no; no matter how important we are, no one is too busy for that level of creative commitment. It was that realization, and the desire to see the smile on my friend's face when I showed her the completed coloring assignment, that led me to these simple steps, led me to thinking about my creative time when I am busy as Modular Coloring.

STEP ONE: Flip your coloring page upside down.

Often what takes up the vast majority of our time for our creative outlets is deciding where to start. Turning a coloring page upside down pushes our perceptions of the image into extreme focus: some things REALLY stand out, and others fade into the background quite quickly. Whatever catches your eye, start coloring there - no more thought, no more pondering what to do, start with the first thing your eyes are drawn to. Both right-side up and upside down, the first thing that caught my attention on this postcard was the lines of the stairway, so that's where I started coloring, that was my first module I was going to find time to complete.

STEP TWO: Pick only one coloring tool, technique, or color/color family and leave all the rest of your creative supplies tucked away.

Look at your coloring supplies separately or in an isolated way from your coloring page and ask yourself, "What do I really feel like using today?" When I decided I really wanted to color the stairs after a busy evening of errands and responsibilities, I knew I just had to try out the new Color Technik Glitter Gel Pens I had ordered for a coloring workshop I was leading the following week. They had sat on my desk for a few days untouched (Again, due to busy-ness.), and I knew I needed to test them out before I taught with them, so problem solved, two birds with one stone: color the stairs, test out the glitter pens. I brought out ONLY the glitter pens and left all my other supplies in my studio. Once I was done with the stairs (which probably took me less than 15 minutes), I stopped, even though I wanted to continue. And, instead of feeling deprived, I knew I had accomplished this one creative goal (or really, two): coloring the stairs in glitter pens.

The next time I sat down to color this image, I briefly looked at it upside down again, and found a new thing that caught my attention (the leafed trees), and went into my studio and chose a different coloring tool (Derwent Inktense Water Soluble Colored Pencils).

I had been wanting to play with these super cool water soluble pencils for a while, but again, I'd been too busy. So, I took the idea that worked with the glitter pens and applied the lesson again. However, there are two steps to using these pencils: coloring and then applying water. One evening I did the penciling and stopped there. The next brief opportunity I had to color, I enjoyed adding the water to the image, an experience very much like the old Paint-With-Water books that used to be a mainstay for children back in the 70s and 80s, and totally relaxing fun!

I continued using these two very simple steps for weeks: 1. looking for a new module in the image to focus on; 2. quickly choosing a new coloring tool, color family or coloring technique to use exclusively, and coloring between 5-20 minutes depending on my schedule:

Finally, my eyes settled on the little cars, and I chose
 Pentel Arts Sign Pen Brush Flexible Point Watercolor Markers.
They are awesome for creative lettering, but when you have
 to color quickly, their ink saturates and spreads with ease and speed:)

I chose the roads on a super busy night,
coloring them with Tombow Dual Brush Pens.
I was finished in just under 5 minutes, and still
had a lovely time doing it:)

I chose the smallest amount to color one night
(the windows of the buildings), but the biggest
box of markers to dig through, my
Staedtler Triplus Fineliners

Markers are super fast coloring tools for when
 you're squeezing your creativity into your schedule!
I chose a single color family from my
Staedtler Triplus Fiber Tips, and then created
a color sequence on the bushes so the greenery
would still pop:)

Again, this modular coloring experiment
lead me to play with supplies I had taught
with but not had time to use in my own
coloring. The buildings are a mixture
of Derwent Metalics and Graphitint, both
of which are water soluble. I just LOVE how the
structures turned out, and they were soo easy to use
to create this effect!
The final spaces on the image chose themselves because
 that was all I had left to complete. I decided to complete the postcard
 in simple blue and green gradients using my Prismacolor Premiere Colored Pencils.
I did the greenery one night, and the blue skies another. I only had out 3 colored pencils a time
 and had my trusty T'Gaal Sharpener close by to keep the points sharp
in order to be able to use the brief amount of time I had to color efficiently.

This 5x7 card took me from August 14 until September 3 to complete: 3 weeks. Should such a small coloring page take 3 whole weeks to complete? I don't know; you tell me! How long is too long if you're having a good time and expressing your creativity a little bit every now and then? I'm really happy with how the whole image turned out, happy with the individual modules themselves (I'm especially excited by the murals I decided to add to the two retaining walls, Sakura Gelly Roll Pens smeared on top of 10% grey Prismacolor Premiere Pencil, a new technique we're going to be exploring at the Seguin Public Library and New Braunfels Public Library adult coloring programs later this fall!), and happy with the collection of styles and coloring tools that I managed to have fun with over those three weeks all on such a small image. Squeezing in a little bit of time to let my creativity flow even when life was running me ragged somehow gave me more energy to do the things I had to do. On top of that, it made me feel really proud of myself for finishing this coloring in a way I felt good about that also didn't cause me to fall behind on anything else.

And, I did it just in time - I'm supposed to meet my friend tomorrow morning at 9:30am. I'm going to have my coloring homework in hand to show her as well as a big thank you for making me think of my creative time in a whole new way.

So, my challenge to you is this: make room for teeny, tiny doses of creativity just for yourself this fall. These little moments we catch and hold onto just for ourselves add up. They are a much better use of our time than complaining about how much time we don't have or wishing we had more time. Our time never really belongs to us anyway, so why not color a little, read a few pages of that novel you had your eye on, write a haiku, turn on your favorite song and make up a few original dance moves to it, find some blank paper and a pen or pencil and just draw for 5 minutes, do a little something creative just for you today, no matter how busy you are. It feels good and those effects last on into the next day, encouraging us to keep our creative lives alive, even if just for a few brief minutes. 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

“I’ve Colored; NOW WHAT DO I DO WITH IT?!" Some Answers to That Question From a "Coloring Expert"

I'm a coloring/creativity workshop facilitator, so folks see me as sort of a "coloring expert," a label I am uncomfortable with, but I've learn to accept with grace (I hope). Part of my job is to answer folks' coloring questions, and I am happy to say that I usually have the answers. Lately, however, I have been getting asked a question that absolutely stumps me:

"What do I do with all my coloring pages?"

Do with them? As a life-long colorist, it never occurred to me that one would DO anything with coloring pages beyond color them. But, as I have heard this question time and time again at the coloring/creativity workshops I run, I thought I should do my due diligence and seek out a proper answer for folks.

I don't believe in reinventing the wheel, so the first thing I did was Google "re-purposing completed coloring pages" to see what other creatives have come up with. Here are the best suggestions I found separated into 4 crafting personality types.

Online Suggestions:

Scrap Paper Tree Tutorial

If you have loads and loads of coloring pages, colored and uncolored, and you don’t mind seriously altering them, this tutorial that is designed to put spare scrapbook paper to good use would be an awesome way to create a unique home decor piece out of coloring pages. I also think it would be an especially good option for folks who have a passion for coloring intricately patterned pages.

11 Crafty Ways To Use Your Coloring Page

If you are into other kinds of creative activities as well as coloring and/or don’t mind investing further money if it means putting your finished coloring page to good use, there's probably at least one idea on this list you might find interesting. One caveat to this link to think about, however, was brought to my attention when a participant in a Coloring Therapy program at the New Braunfels Public Library asked me how I would feel if I saw a scarf of one of the pages of my coloring book, Doodled Blooms, out and about on a stranger's shoulders, which is suggestion #6 on this list. This question led to an intriguing conversation in our group about copyright, artistic license, and plagiarism. It is the best policy to err on the side of caution and politeness; if this idea appeals to you and you wish to wear your gorgeous coloring, seek permission of the artist and/or publisher of your original coloring pages.

4 Brilliant Ways To Repurpose And Display Your Finished Coloring Pages

If you’re really happy with the way your coloring page turned out, and you’d like to have a more permanent way to enjoy it in its original form every day and/or share it with others, this link has ideas that are quick and easy that require few additional materials. I especially like the idea of making coasters out of your favorite pages. 

23 Crafts To Make With Adult Coloring Pages

If you enjoy project tutorials and are comfortable sharing and altering your completed and uncompleted coloring pages, this blog post has enough tutorials to last a crafty colorist a long time! My favorite is #22; I think this would be super fun to make with some of the youngsters in my life.

Have Color Will Travel Suggestions:
Like I said at the beginning of this post, it never really occurred to me that one would need to DO anything with coloring pages. But, I find questions I don't have immediate answers to intriguing (I'm a nerd to my very core!), so I set to brainstorming this predicament. Here's what I came up with:)

1. If you color from books, keep your coloring pages in the bound coloring book, signing and dating your pages as you complete them, creating a memory book of your creative time. You can add text to the back sides of the pages or margins, thoughts that you had while coloring or that the image inspired in you, utilizing the entire book and really having a creative and therapeutic experience with your coloring. Once a coloring book is fully colored, it will essentially have become an art journal.

2. If you primarily enjoy coloring loose and/or torn-out coloring pages, get a 3-ring binder and some sheet protectors. Once you've finished a coloring page, slide it in a protector, creating a sort of a coloring portfolio for you to look back on or to show to friends and family.

3. Use completed coloring pages that are one-sided as extra-special stationary, writing letters on the back sides and sending them to loved ones. Everyone LOVES receiving an actual letter in the mail; that it also does the double duty of being beautifully colored makes it an all the more unique communication experience!

I colored this macro version of a small section of one
of my pages from Doodled Blooms to make the
 background for my blog, but I didn't have the heart to recycle it
 (I have the problem of thinking everything is "precious"). I am now
very excited to use this page for stationary as I have quite a few
pen pals:)

4. It isn't a good thing when our hobbies and passions begin to feel like weights that overwhelm our hearts and our creativity. Living a creative life is a worthwhile goal that needs no purpose or function. Life is creation, so to be alive is to create. To that effect, coloring is of value even if we can't find a "purpose" for our completed pages. The "purpose" was our act of creating them. What I am suggesting next is REALLY emotionally challenging: take a good picture of your completed coloring pages, and then recycle them. The pages served their purpose (they inspired in us, the colorists, creative thought and action) - there is no need for us to DO anything more with them. If they are collecting dust or crowding out other important elements of our lives, then we should let them go. Having just typed this suggestion, I feel compelled to let readers know I HAVE NEVER DONE THIS, NEVER RECYCLED ANY OF MY ART. But, this suggestion is one that comes out of my focused reading on creativity and art in our lives that I have been doing lately, and I am beginning to think that there is more to this idea than just posing a "double-dog-dare" to ourselves.

5. Lastly, this suggestion goes super old school and sort of reflects back to #3 (use coloring pages as stationary): send your completed coloring pages to friends/family to put up on their refrigerators, dorm walls, cubicle walls, and pinup boards (but don’t forget to sign and date them!). I adore getting the completed coloring pages of my young nieces and nephews, so it makes sense that they, too, might enjoy receiving colored pages from their crazy auntie! I have friends of all ages, and I can think of a few who are college aged that would get a kick out of receiving a Lion King coloring page completed by a middle-aged friend. Parents never tire of hearing about how their kids are doing, regardless of how old you are, so even if you're 55, send a completed coloring page to your mom or dad! It may be a head-scratcher to them at first, but it will also probably brighten their day and make them laugh.

Whether you are the sort of person who would like to DO something with your coloring pages or not, I hope this post has given you some ideas to either try or think about (I'm serious about my #4 - why can't I just let my art go? It isn't all amazing, it isn't all truly precious, so why on earth is it still in my studio??). And, if you have an additional suggestion for what to do with coloring pages, PLEASE share with us all in the comments! Coloring nerds need to stick together and help each other continue coloring happily:)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

To Be Or Not To Be: That Is the Question I Am Working on When It Comes to Social Media and Being an Introvert

Earth Day this past Saturday was beautiful in my neck of the woods (Seguin, Texas), and since my family and I had such a full Saturday schedule, I decided to spend the day as unplugged as possible. I wanted to do this in order to make the most of the weekend with my family, but I also wanted to give my brain a bit of a tech break.

Then, I saw these gorgeous grasses dancing in the unexpected April cold front, and decided to let the muse move me to capture the movement on video with my smart phone.

And, I wanted to share it...right that instant.

I'm shocked at how quickly my mind jumps to thinking about how I might share a quirky image I've run across, a picture of a drawing I'm working on, or a random observation I've just had about the meaning of life onto the many social media accounts that I run for myself professionally and personally. On a scale of 1 to 10 for introversion, I rate pretty close to the "I'm allergic to people" intensity (I even need a break from my beloved family on weeks where I have to spend consecutive days out in the world of extroverts). And yet, social media and technology has created in me a desire to make what I once considered my internal world and monologue more a part of public discourse open to scrutiny, yes, but more interestingly to me, the introvert, open to social engagement.

My son spied this soap in the McNay Museum
 gift shop on Earth Day. "Wait, I have to snap a pic of that!" I said.
I knew instantly where I wanted to share it (Twitter),
 and I did, the next day, to a rather large response for me:
 24 likes & 5 retweets (I'm not much of a tweeter).
Apparently, introverts love to talk about
how the world isn't designed for us...I know I do;)
It's such a powerful thing to be able to preserve every moment on film (really, a data cloud) or in text, and then share it with a wider audience, but I am finding myself asking the question "why do I feel the need to share this?" more and more probably because I read this fascinating article about the addictive properties of our smart phones in The Atlantic late last year. When I ask myself this question, I'm looking to clarify my motivations for sharing. Sometimes my answers are immediate: certain friend groups will find something funny/exciting/informative, or it's an important event, moment, decision that needs to reach a large number of people and social media is the easiest way to do that, or I want to promote something I think is great to a larger audience, or simply because I want to. But lately, when I am feeling compelled to share something on social media, asking myself that question comes up with a "I dunno."

As an introvert, the balance between sharing my experiences and ideas on social media and actually living and processing my life is always a little fraught. It is so amazing to be able to connect with family across the country in a heartbeat, to be able to maintain friendships from various points in my life as if everyone still lived next door, to discover new kindred spirits across the world and share our common passions and interests as well as collaborate on projects (This post will not be another one of the million rants that are out there about how social media is the end of civilization; I am definitely not in the social-media-is-evil-and-has-made-us-all-into-self-absorbed-nut-jobs crowd), but the ability to do so leaves little room for just moving thoughtfully through life, or at least it feels that way to me sometimes.

When I share my life and ideas widely, while it brings me happiness (I love seeing that folks are excited about the new coloring books that I'm working on, or that they plan to join me at my next creativity workshop:) and makes me feel connected to the world at large (who doesn't want to hear about folks' new jobs, babies, pets, greatest adventures, deepest sorrows?), it also makes me feel like I am split into a million pieces, that I am in all these places at once and nowhere at all simultaneously. I have no idea if this response to social media is common (I only have my closest confidants to discuss these matters with), but I do believe that for me this response is due to my introverted personality.

To recharge my batteries so I can be awesome with humans each day, I need solitude, plain and simple. This is true of most folks who identify as introverted. And, even though there are many who claim that social media is not the same as actual face-to-face human interaction, as an introvert, I beg to differ. A few hours spent working on social media leaves me sometimes even more emotionally and psychologically drained than spending an entire weekend with friends and family. I think this is because social media engagement has no boundaries, no timeline; our phones go with us everywhere (well, ours never come into our bedrooms) and little lights and gentle beeps and boops pop up and sound off 24 hours a day. What I felt I had the energy to share at 9:00 am one day could, theoretically, continue asking me to engage socially well into the following week.

This truth about social media for me, that it is a never ending social engagement merry-go-round, is I think, why I have recently pulled back from sharing content that I deem worthy of posting up. I have moved social media apps buttons deep within my phone's additional screens, have shut down all notifications, have changed my phone's wallpaper to be images that remind me to respect my introverted nature's need for the same firm boundaries on engagement that I place on face to face encounters, but the only thing that really helps me to avoid the overwhelm that can come with social media is to avoid in-the-moment posting and cut back on posting altogether if I am feeling drained and distracted.

I suppose engagement in the world is a delicate balance we all struggle to maintain: what to capture vs. what to allow ourselves to just live, what to share widely vs. what to allow to be a simple moment lived privately. In the end, I did not post the video clip of the green grasses swirling in the wind. Nor did I post about the great museum exhibits we saw that day or the fabulous pizza place we discovered or the hilarious cat-picture-covered shoes that I bought. I'm glad I caught all of these images and experiences on my phone, but I'm also glad that I resisted the urge to share these moments right away on any social media platform because the day unplugged was just what I needed to build up the endurance to face this week. I may share some of those images and thoughts at a later date (food pics are awesome, and well, CATS!), but it will not be before I ask myself a new question: "Do you have the emotional energy to be engaged in social media right now?" 

Friday, March 24, 2017

What Is a Feminist Coloring Party? Coloring In a Group...With a Purpose

What is a Feminist Coloring Party?

Equality never looked so good!
Feminist Coloring Party participant
Kelsey Cooper explored Tombow
Dual Brush Markers and her passion
for equal rights through coloring.
Until a month ago, I couldn't really have answered that question (For me, every coloring moment is a feminist coloring moment - my feminist lenses are permanently fixed; I couldn't take them off even if I wanted to!). But, thanks to Dr. Pam Johnston, Professor of English and Women's Studies at Texas Lutheran University, inviting me to be a part of their Women's History Month Celebration, I got to have a hand in creating an actual Feminist Coloring Party right here in Seguin, Texas where I live.

In the middle of February, Dr. Johnston approached me to see if I had any interest in being a part of an idea she had for a creative and low-key Women's History Month event: a Feminist Coloring Party. The combination of two of my biggest passions was a no-brainer for me, so I said yes straight away. The two of us began sharing ideas about what we thought would be necessary to create a Feminist Coloring Party (I just love typing that phrase, Feminist Coloring Party; it never grows old for me! #SorryNotSorry). At first we thought finding readily available feminist themed coloring pages or books would be a snap, but a brief search revealed that there were slim pickings out there for meaningful feminist coloring moments (Unless Boss Babes is your idea of feminist coloring fun, which by all mean, enjoy. The title alone left me cold, and the idea of feminist word searches and fill in the blanks mixed in with black and white caricatures of currently famous females is all together creative 'meh.' And, that's my review of that coloring book in two sentences.), so I offered up a rough sketch of an idea that popped into my mind immediately when Dr. Johnston messaged me with the invitation: a chaotic collage of sorts of all the great protest signs I'd seen in my social media feeds of the Women's March on Saturday, January 21, 2017, done up in such a way that they would be fun for folks to color.
My rough sketch of the Feminist
Coloring Party page. Really rough. This
was scratch paper I had handy that I
doodled on while I was on hold. The
Final drawing lost the humans and big
empty spaces because I had a hard
enough time limiting the number of signs
as it was & I wasn't going to lose any for
heads and shoulders!
Despite the fact that I was not able to attend the Women's March on that now famous Saturday in January, it was still incredibly powerful to watch unfold; it had affected me deeply, reigniting my spirit which had gotten crushed with the 2016 election and the goings on in Washington D.C. the first few weeks of the current administration. So many different kinds of people, from all walks of life, pulling together peacefully all over the nation to demonstrate the importance of equality, democracy, love, and freedom. That is what feminism is to me, and that was the coloring page I wanted to create: a page full of empowerment and inspiration. To my great pleasure, Dr. Johnston loved my idea, so I got to work at creating an original design for the TLU Women's Studies Feminist Coloring Party.

Typically when I draw an image for coloring, I focus mostly on shape, patterns and design, disregarding realism. I do this for a very important reason: If everything I create is fantastical, there isn't any ONE way to color it, and this leaves huge amounts of room for the colorist who comes to the page to add their own creativity without being too encumbered by mine. But, for this Feminist Coloring Party page I really wanted a bit of the real world, a bit of authenticity. Like I said, I didn't get to attend a march, and I just didn't feel right about scavenging the Internet for march photos to examine, so I put a call out on Facebook, making the post public, to all my friends about the project I was working on in hopes that folks I knew personally or who knew my friends personally might be willing to share their photos of the posters they personally carried in the march they attended. Additionally, I was really interested in the page feeling like it represented more than just Texas; there were marches all over the country, and I wanted to see just how many different marches I could get represented on the coloring page in a short period of time.

Social media truly is magical, because quickly I received images from St. Paul, Minnesota, Los Angeles and Sacramento, California, Austin and Fort Worth, Texas, Washington D.C., Montpelier, Vermont, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Phoenix, Arizona. On top of that, I made new friends, kindred spirits if you will, who openly shared with me about their experiences at the march that day, their reasons for attending the march and for wanting to share their photos with a complete stranger. By the time I was finished collecting drawing inspiration for the coloring page I felt like I had attended the march all over the country, from warm and sunny Texas and California, to freezing and snowy Vermont and D.C. This was such a privilege and a lovely side-effect of working on this project that I hadn't anticipated. Unlike my coloring book, Doodled Blooms, which I had created more or less in a bubble of my own imagination, this coloring page was wholeheartedly a widespread collaboration.

My town, Seguin, Texas, did not have its own Women's March, but I know many folks who would have loved to have been at the march that day, including myself. To that end, I left the center sign on my coloring page blank, labelled Texas Lutheran University, Seguin, Texas. Although I do not like coloring pages that leave extra space on the page for "you to add your own ideas" (If I wanted to add my own ideas to a coloring page, I would have purchased blank drawing paper NOT a coloring book!), with this Feminist Coloring Party Women's History Month moment, it seemed appropriate to leave space for the colorist to create a sign of their own, a sign that they feel represents feminism for them, encouraging them to think and act on their creativity. It's kinda of bossy, I know, but this wasn't going to be any old coloring party, this was a Feminist Coloring Party, a coloring party with a purpose!
Work in progress by Feminist Coloring Party
participant, Danielle Grove. Her color
selection really brings the enthusiasm of the
signs to life. The mark she left on the march
with her sign captures the idea behind
social justice - it all begins small, and then
expands to improve the lives of all.

Even once I'd finished creating the page, I still really wasn't sure what a Feminist Coloring Party was going to be like, how it was going to be different from all of the other corporate coloring workshops and public library coloring clubs I'd led. So, I went into Tuesday, March 21, 2017 (exactly three months after the Women's March, which I thought was extremely cool:), a little anxious...but, my anxiety was unwarranted. You know what makes a coloring party a Feminist Coloring Party? Being in a group of like minds, clustered together for similar reasons, all looking to channel their anger, fear, frustrations, and anxieties at our current political landscape in a positive and creative way; a Feminist Coloring Party looks a lot like a Women's March, just with more coloring supplies and snacks:)

One of my favorite colorists and
human beings, my partner, Steve
Vrooman. We have had loads of
household conversations on the
Equal Rights Amendment lately
so it was awesome to see his mark
on the march honoring the
conversations we've been sharing
with our son at home:)

A wide range of ages and both genders were present at our Feminist Coloring Party, just like at the Women's March. And, our topics of conversation ranged from the political issues at hand to the versatility of Tombow Dual Brush markers (This was a coloring party after all, and folks were excited to try new coloring tools they had never been exposed to before:). Participants were quite interested to hear the creation story of the coloring page I'd created, and I was very excited to finally get to share it with its intended audience. I did so while they colored, and it was fun to watch their heads pop up as they noticed a detail here or there on the page which inspired a them to ask questions along the way (I love questions about creativity and about feminism!). They were also collectively interested as to why I placed a capitol in the center of the drawing. In answer, I started to show them the variety of the photos I had been working from, all with national and state capitols in the background, taking them on the same tour of the nation's marches that I had been on the last few weeks.

Ashlie Ford proudly displays not only
her vibrant and eye-popping coloring
but her awesome mark on the march:)
She was the first to complete the blank
sign, and I couldn't have been more
excited to see it!

Of course, participants were curious as to which sign on the page was my favorite, and I had to be honest: my favorite sign I was sent didn't make it onto the coloring page. In fact, a huge number of signs that I felt would make creative and empowering coloring moments did not make it onto the coloring page as I had such large and wonderful collection of photos to work from. It was at that moment that I decided to reveal to the Feminist Coloring Party group that based on the responses I had received online privately, I had begun to think that maybe the Women's March of 2017 warranted more than just a single coloring moment; maybe the signs of progress that were held high and proud at the Women's March of 2017 deserved an entire coloring book (It was a friend of a friend on Facebook that was the first of now many to put this bug in my ear, hitting home for me, once again, how truly inspirational the connective nature of social media can be!). It was very encouraging to hear the group's positive response to the idea of a full-sized coloring book of Women's March signs as this concept has continued to rattle around in my brain, even with the page completed, and isn't likely to go away soon; an artist always likes hearing there is a market for the art we wish to make. My hope upon the creation of this book is that I will be able to donate a portion of each book's sale to a charitable organization that works for the promotion of women's rights and creativity for all. Full-sized coloring books take a good while to create, layout and publish; my goal is to take that time to also find just the right organization to tie this coloring book to. If you, the reader, have any suggestions for me, I would really appreciate it if you left your suggestions in the comments below:)

Whether you are coloring in a group or on your own, time has a way of passing all too quickly, and the Feminist Coloring Party participants were surprised and a tad dismayed to look up at the clock and realize the allotted 50 minutes for the brown bag event had come to an end. As they were collecting their things and preparing to return to their Tuesday, I reminded them that is the gift that spending time on a creative pursuit gives us: the gift of losing track of time, that feeling of blinking and an hour has passed. Time evaporating without us being aware of it is a very difficult state of mind to enter pleasantly once we become adults, and it is one of the more powerful reasons why coloring as an adult is very therapeutic. That we spent the hour coloring and discussing the largest gathering of human beings peacefully protesting that our nation has ever seen is all the better.

Its hard to take an "action shot" of coloring. Intense creative
concentration is not all that interesting to photograph. However
one doesn't color to look interesting; one colors to have an
interesting experience:)

Dr. Johnston and I have had a little time to debrief since the event this past Tuesday, and we both agree that Feminist Coloring Parties and Feminist Coloring are a thing, not just a one-time thing. To that effect, I am including a printable PDF version of the TLU Women's Studies Feminist Coloring Party page (click HERE to download!) as a thank you gift to those who read my blog, as a promise made good for those who supported this project but were not able to attend the Feminist Coloring Party here in Seguin, Texas, and as a hope that folks will color it, feel empowered, and share about it on social media with their sign of strength and progress in the center of it. No matter what people may say about the power of social media, it is a force for change, and it is about damn time it should be channeled as a force for equality, for democracy, for love and for freedom for us all.