Tuesday, January 22, 2019

My Very Non KonMari Adventure in Tidying Up My Creative Space: Part One

by Michelle M. Johnson

Recently, it seems like every where I go on the Internet and in real-life conversations, folks have the words "tidying up" and the name "Marie Kondo" on their lips, something I found bemusing as she published her book, the Life Changing Magic of Cleaning Up, years ago - why, all of sudden, was everyone in a huff and a twitter over old lifestyle news? 

But, last night, as my partner and I were settling down to watch something on Netflix, there was my answer at the top of our viewing feed, bold as brass - Tidying Up with Marie Kondo: the Series. Ever curious about all the fuss, we decided to alter our viewing plans (we are in the thick of Sex Education, a series, starring Asa Butterfield and Gillian Anderson, about sex and high school, yes, but also quite a bit more: parenting, relationships, personal development, courage, friendship, loyalty, identity, trust, I could go on and on - it is really wonderful, entertaining scripted television, likely not for the under 16 yrs crowd or folks who prefer not to talk about human intimacy, but it has been time well spent in front of a screen, if that's the sort of thing you enjoy after a long day at work:), and turned on the first episode of Marie Kondo's series...and quickly had to turn it off because 15 minutes in we both started feeling like we were going to have a panic attack.

I understand why Marie Kondo and her KonMari method is catching everyone's attention yet again: clutter is stressful, and despite our highly digitized lives, reams of it still enters our living spaces every day. It is also the beginning of a new year, a fresh start, and spring is around the corner; it's the time where we all feel a pull to take a closer look at our lives and perhaps prune a bit of this, trim a little of that. But, I also deeply understand the backlash against her teachings (books...books are clutter...are you f*&^ing kidding me??) however, that isn't the reason why her show instantly started to stress my partner, Steve, and I out. Clutter is always a symptom of a greater problem, not the cause, and seeing that play out on screen, watching folks jump at the chance to have someone come in an organize their house and realize that it is their marriage that needs the overhaul is NOT our idea of a relaxing Saturday night.

Clutter by its very nature isn't stressful, at least not to me (a mess of books, a chaos of Legos, an overflowing box of photos brings me more joy than a tidy shelf with strategically placed objets d'art), but spaces that create clutter do push me over the edge into the no-joy zone.  I find that living in a poorly designed or thought out space leads to things and activities not having designated places and therefore getting lost/misplaced/forgotten, which then leads, at least in my life, to the kind of clutter that has me screaming at whomever is available to listen (usually a cat, but occasionally the humans I live with get an earful, too).

It is my definition of clutter that recently lead me to do what I called a "deep cleaning" of my studio space here in my home. Yeah, yeah it was the turn of a new year, the season of resolutions and good intentions (geez, I sound bitter and jaded...), but this deep dive into my creative life's living quarters had been coming on for a LONG time - the space just wasn't working hard enough for me, and because of that I was breaking my back (literally and figuratively) in order to work in it. The irony that I decided to carve out the time to re-imagine my creative studio at the exact same time that the world decided to go (or not) all KonMari is not lost on me, in fact I find it rather hilarious. But, I am writing this blog post not because I wish to add more fuel to the "messy people suck, tidy people are royalty" argument (I neither identify as messy or tidy, and I find folks who are heavily on one side of the spectrum or the other and proud about it to be a bit...boring), but instead to share with y'all what I learned through the emotional process of trying to figure out how to make my creative space work harder for me instead of the other way around. The the whole ordeal (and I do mean ordeal - tears were shed, bouts of noisy frustration were had) has some interesting things to say about creativity, I think, so I here is part one. 

Yes, that's right PART ONE (of two) because as I thought about writing this blog post, the whole experience naturally broke itself into a BEFORE & AFTER dichotomy, for better or worse. Sorry, sorta not sorry.

So, welcome to Part One of my very non-KonMari adventure in tidying up:)

First off, before I decided to put all other projects and activities aside to focus on a full on overhaul of my creative space (because NO artistic work can get done in a room that is completely torn apart, believe me), I did some concentrated thinking about WHY I was choosing to stop progress on all things Have Color Will Travel to do what could have been a re-organization-as-procrastination decoy that my shifty brain put in place (I have been having serious self-confidence issues about my work lately, and one of my go-to creative block crutches is re-organization, so I was highly suspicious of my instincts). After thinking and not a small amount of talking with Steve, I came to the conclusion that, yes, a studio overhaul was indeed quite necessary for the following reasons:

1. I had lost art tools that I knew I absolutely would not have thrown/given away or lent, and I had been avoiding the projects that needed these tools because, damn it, I was NOT gonna buy another one! I had been looking in all of my usual hiding places in the studio for almost a full year, never finding what I was looking for, so a huge instigator of my overhaul was to find my lost art tools AND to help me know for sure I wasn't going crazy (me throw art supplies away - never...right???).

2. I needed better spaces for art tools that I really hadn't been using much in the last 5 years, but now all of a sudden are needed right where I can access them quickly and easily. Currently, I teach three different levels of tap dance and conduct regular private dance lessons, and the dance students at the studio where I teach LOVE getting whimsical hand stamps at the end of class. As it turns out, I have been collecting rubber stamps for the last 20 years, so I have a bunch of well cared for, out of sight, in boxes, under books, behind other supplies (you get the idea) rubber stamps that now have a renewed and joyful purpose. And, I need to see all of my stamps all of the time because if I don't see them, I won't remember to bring them to class, and then, oh my goodness, sadness ensues. 

3. I was looking for more space as last semester I began my online coloring shop, so now I needed shelf space to store reams of different types of paper safely, an area to store shipping materials, a location for cardboard inserts to rest, and a spot for all the printed cards and bookmarks to sit as I prepared orders. During last year's holiday season, my drawing table served all of those needs, and while all the items were safe and kept in good shape, I was completely unable to draw or create anything for all of November/December because, well, I needed MORE SPACE.

4.  I needed healthier space, also. Prior to what I now am fondly calling the Great Studio Overhaul of 2019, I was trying to do all of my computer/smart phone work (blogging, website creating, correspondence, social media) on a small drawing table in the corner of the studio that I had outgrown (see - I NEVER THROW AWAY ART TOOLS!), but something about the level/angle of the table or the chair just made my back feel 20 years older than I actually am. Buying new office furniture isn't in this I've-got-a-kid-in-college artist's budget, so with the overhaul I also wanted to piece together my own version of a stand-up desk in hopes that maybe, just maybe digital work doesn't have to hurt quite so much.

5. I was determined to make my itty bitty spare room (my creative studio used to be my son's nursery and is about the size of a contemporary house's walk-in closet, and I'm not complaining - I feel super lucky to have a dedicated creative space - but, lucky or not, it is small) a harder working space with this deep cleaning. In critically analyzing my motivations for wanting to re-organize my creative studio, I came to the conclusion that I need that space to serve three distinct functions simultaneously (a drawing room, a writing room, and a coloring/creating room). Part of the reason the space was always cluttered was due to the fact that I am not just an artist, but I'm also a writer, a choreographer, a teacher, a creator, and I do ALL of these things EVERY week. I was spending more time cleaning up WIP projects in order to complete other tasks that had popped up or had earlier deadlines than I was actually creating, and I was driving myself crazy.

And, here is where I'm going to leave this post. While I consider the reasons why I attacked my cluttered studio to be of value and worth sharing, it is what I discovered along the way that really took me by surprise. 

Stay tuned for that post, but until then, here is a very AFTER picture of the whole deep cleaning process. I snapped this pic today while I was working satisfyingly simultaneously at all three stations:)

Looks can be deceiving, especially when using the
panorama function on one's camera - my studio is no
where near this big, but at least now it feels like it is to me:)

Monday, December 24, 2018

An Introvert's Holiday Wish For The World (and a free coloring page)

by Michelle M. Johnson

Whenever we head into "the most wonderful time of the year," I always feel a little out of step with the rest of the world.

So many parties.
So many lengthy to-do and must-do lists.
So many obligations.
So many expectations.

All of this added on to our regularly-scheduled-programming.

Oh, and a brand new year is rushing up right around the corner, too.

(Just typing this list makes me anxious...)

The pressure to keep up AND slow down at the same time during the holiday season (and I do mean SEASON: it lasts a full three months!) is enough to make anyone crazy, but it is especially challenging for folks on the more introverted side of the social spectrum, folks like me.

Before I go fully nuclear with trying to keep up and keep creating, I've decided to take the last few days of 2018, add them to the first few days of 2019, and create a bit of a break for myself. With this time I hope to recharge my emotional and creative batteries and (fingers crossed) rediscover my rhythm and my workflow post this holiday hurricane.

I may sign off for a few days or maybe even a few weeks, I haven't decided yet, but before I did so I wanted to put something out into the universe for you all, a wish for the end of your 2018 and the beginning of your 2019 in the form of a coloring page:

Zoom in on the purple rings:
...every creature deserves...to wake to its own rhythm...
To color this page and receive future Free-Coloring-of-the-Month pages
directly to your inbox, sign up for my free bi-monthly coloring/creativity newsletter:)

This year has been a difficult for our nation and for many of us personally, too. During such challenging times, it is hard to remember that we are all simply creatures of this world, creatures with unique and beautiful rhythms that must be honored in order to remain healthy. My wish for you all reading this blog post is that you will have the time and space to wake and to work to your own rhythm if not daily or weekly then periodically, and that with that time you will each be able to hear your own life-beats and listen to how your rhythm fits into the larger song of humanity. 

Dec/Jan Have Color Will Travel Free-Coloring-Page-of-the-Month is
a free flowing doodle I created during a particularly stressful time
last spring. These flowers look like cross-sections of oranges to me,
which is probably why I started coloring them in warm yellow/orange shades.
It could also be that I was really craving gummy orange slices, too, a candy
we have right around December:)
A new year offers new possibilities - the next 365 days don't have to be more of the same, especially if the same just hasn't been good enough (but by all means, if your 2018 has been a solid gold hit, I hope you have a replay in 2019!). May this last wave of holiday mayhem before the new year provide you with a smidgen of time to wake as you wish and roll with your days without the push and shove of melodies that aren't of your own making.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

If You Made It, Sign It: A Case for Signing Your Art, No Matter What You Made

by Michelle M. Johnson

If you've ever been to one of my coloring/creativity workshops or happen to have had a conversation with me about something you made with your own two hands, then you've probably heard me say what I am about to type next: 


I don't care if you feel like your creation is "art" or "Art" or "just a craft" (ugh, that last one kills me, but I hear folks describe their beautiful creations with that phrase all the time, but that's a discussion for another blog post), letting the world know that your hands, brain, and soul decided to make something by signing your name, your initials, your glyph to that work (that is what you see me very awkwardly signing in the above video, a glyph or "ornamental vertical groove," and #protip - don't try to paint your personal mark on pottery with your right hand while videoing yourself doing so with your left...) is super important.

I have always felt strongly about giving yourself creative credit where credit is due. For as long as I can remember, the only prerequisite I've had about coloring in my treasured coloring books is that you sign and date your name on the page that you colored, even if you didn't get the chance to finish it. But, this idea of signing your work, no matter what you've created, solidified in my heart ages ago when I took my then toddler son, Sam, to a quilting exhibit at the University of Texas at Austin's Texas Memorial Museum. I have two very strong memories from that outing: 1. Watching my 18 month old child play with magnetic quilting squares meant to be stuck to a large piece of sheet metal that had been installed on a museum wall in order that visitors to the exhibit could create their own quilting patterns...and my little tyke continually trying to stick the magnet to the wrong wall, a non-metal wall, and watching it fall to the ground at his feet over and over again, each time joyfully uttering the phrase "damn it!" (an embarrassingly real parenting moment for me and a wake up call that my efforts to reign in my colorful vocabulary had not been entirely successful) and 2. Examining gorgeously intricate quilt after quilt, some over a hundred years old, and reading that, due to a variety of cultural expectations about "women's work", the origin stories of many of the most beautiful specimens of this mathematically mind-blowing and fantastically colorful art form were lost to us - LOST - because the quilts were not signed (yes, signing a quilt is most definitely a thing that can be done)!

That day, my brain starting pummeling through ideas about ego, about what constitutes art, about how we as a society shame creators, especially women who create, when they proudly state "I made this," and that the end result of all of this - I don't know, I guess it feels like fear of artists/creators getting too big for their britches - is that we lose the history of how, of why and by whom things, beautiful things, are made. 

I'm not entirely certain of this next thought, but I do believe that it was that experience almost two decades ago that started me experimenting with my initials to create my mark, my glyph that I have since gone on to leave on everything that I had a hand in creating  (and I mean EVERYTHING - cards, pottery, illustrations, collaborations, poetry, choreography, mix tape CDs...and yes, pun intended). I chose to create a glyph instead of simply leaving my signature on my creations because my name is extremely common, even versions of it that include my middle name. Creating my glyph not only made me feel like I finally had a moniker that stood out, it was also an incredibly fun intellectual puzzle to create something that represented me that could be drawn/written in a single flourish. I highly encourage you to try to create a symbol out of your initials, even if drawing or handwriting isn't something you consider your strong suit; chances are someone, somewhere has your exact name (maybe even in your family), but the likelihood that anyone anywhere creates the same shape to identify themselves as you do is small. 

Over the years I have tried to encourage the many artists, makers, creators in my family to sign their work, no matter what it is, with varying degrees of success. If I happen to be sitting right next to them during the creation process and I am able to gently make my case that they should leave their mark on their art, then a piece of family history gets created. But, I unfortunately live thousands of miles away from the vast majority of my family, so I have quilts and cards and blankets and pots and paintings and scrapbooks pages and ornaments, all sorts of stunning creations that are all unsigned. Right now, the history of these items is alive and well - my partner and I are young, our memories are intact and we can verbally share the origin stories of these family treasures whenever the moments arise.

But, honestly, the moments don't arise often: the museum quality quilts that my partner's nana made for us stay packed safely away as we currently have cats who would have a hay day with them (our gentleman kitty, Edward, is certain the worst sorts of boogers live in the folds of blankets, so he obsessively digs into any sort of covering within his reach); we are more into coffee rather than tea during this time of our lives, so the stunningly painted ceramic teapot my partner's grammie gave me for my birthday ages ago is on display, way up high, still in sight but not always in mind. I have many stories like those about the treasures we are stewards to in our home, things so precious to us they are tucked away. Sadly, because they are tucked away, the occasion to tell (and re-tell) the origin stories of these creations to our son never arises. When we are gone, and this family history is passed down to our child, will we have told our family stories enough times for him to remember who made what, who had a gift for what art form? Will he understand why he is so fascinated by shading when he draws (he gets that from his grammie), why he is so good with patterns (he gets that from his nana), why he enjoys creating detailed things (he gets that from his grandma Barbara), why he focuses on realism in his art (he gets that from my mom)? I don't know, but I fear the answer is 'no' because there is no record of who created which pieces of family art; no one has signed their work.

Perhaps I care entirely too much about folks signing their coloring pages and their drawings, about folks figuring out how to sign their knitted blankets, scarves, hats (there's *got* to be a way!), about artists of all types and levels proudly leaving their mark on their work because every creative act is a personal victory. But, recently, my in-laws' house burned to the ground in the Camp Fire, a devastating firestorm that took place in northern California this past November, and I can't get out of my mind how much family history is now forever gone.

This driveway once led up to my in-laws' beautiful house in the woods of
Magalia, California. The Camp Fire consumed their home,
 yard, outbuildings, and all the treasures that resided there.

Signing your art won't protect it from a catastrophic event like a raging forest fire, of course.  But, if there is a take away from this horrific event that I have gleaned through listening to my in-laws talk about this nightmarish experience, it is that, after our loved ones, what matters most in this world are the things we make and share with each other. 

If you are moved to create something, whether it is a gift or not, whether you keep it in your personal space or move it out to a more public venue, please sign your work, leave your mark on your art.

And, if you read that last sentence and you felt your brain adamantly responding, "No way, Jose," then I'd like you to ask yourself why you do not want to let the world know that you made something, that you are an artist. Creating a personal history of ourselves and our interests by signing our work is not boastful; it lets our loved ones know that we were here on this Earth and left something good behind for them to remember us by.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Coloring Nerd Supplies Guide Trilogy: Episode IV - More Awesomeness!

by Michelle M. Johnson

Can you ever have too much of a good thing?

When it comes to coloring supplies, I think the answer to that question is decidedly no!

Which is why even though my blog series, The Coloring Nerd Supplies Guide, is labelled as a trilogy, I am now about to bring you Episode IV - More Awesomeness. 

Coloring for adults (and everyone, really) is going nowhere, and art supply companies are continuing to create new markers, pens, pencils and paint (yes, paint!) for coloring enthusiasts of all ages to enjoy and explore. 

My three previous episodes in my Coloring Nerd Supplies Guide were organized according to type of tool, but I have been exploring such a wide array of coloring supplies lately, I thought I would just review for you all the latest and greatest that I have discovered this year. So here are my favorite new pens, pencils, paints and markers. 

One disclaimer I always add to my Coloring Nerd Supplies Guide: 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 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 I shared about with you in this post, it would be lovely if you used the links found here in this post. Thank you:)

I know, I know, I have talked to y'all before about the wonders and fun of coloring with watercolor markers (especially the Tombow Dual Brush Pens, and yes, I still really like those babies, too - you can read my review of them here), but trust me when I say that the Zig Clean Color Real Brush Pens are a whole other animal!

Zig Clean Color Real Brush Pens are just what their name says: watercolor markers with an actual synthetic bristle paint brush tip! You can color with these pens, paint with these pens, sketch with these pens, letter with these pens, and blend these pens with or without water. The brush tip is delicate and fine (just check out the narrow flick lines I was able to create with them in the above video), and the super saturated color of these markers flows easily (you needn't press on them at all to lay down color - simply brush the pen lightly on your paper).

I have the 48 set, and I have used it in coloring and card making on a variety of paper styles, and as soon as I have time to noodle around with some blank water color paper, I plan to watercolor sketch with them and see what happens. For the seasoned coloring enthusiast, these pens are a fun adventure, and they are sure to make a great gift. However, for a someone new to coloring, these pens might be an overwhelming first marker (a better marker gift for a coloring newbie, in my opinion, are Bic Marking permanent markers). Additionally, these pens are an investment (and one that I hope will last, but I have only had them for 6 months, so I have no data on that, yet), to that end, they are not a toy for children. These pens ARE water based, but like I said before, they are highly pigmented, so they are not necessarily washable inks, and should be given to only those children who understand the privilege and responsibility of artist level markers.

I never thought I would type the phrase "niche markers," but Monami Plus Pen 3000 water-based (but not watercolor) markers definitely fit that bill. These extremely fine point markers have a quill-like nib, quite sharp and rigid, that releases an super fine line of ink. Why I consider them to be "niche" is that unless you really enjoy coloring very small spaces (like the brick red lines and aqua blue ovals in my Art Deco-Steam Punk bookmark above or the spiral rainbow wheels in my "Reject Perfection" doodle below), these marker simply can't lay down ink fast enough to cover a good sized space without seriously mangling the tooth of your paper due to their needle-like point.

That being said, I really like these markers, and just for that very reason, coloring in seriously tight spaces. I also think the color selection in this compact set (currently the largest collection of colors available in Plus Pens) is pretty spectacular; it is rare for a 36 set to have a complete breadth of colors that also includes grey. 

My color chart for Monami Plus Pen 3000. See how incredibly
fine pointed these markers are?! I tested them out to see how
their water-based ink would flow if I added additional water, and
to my surprise, some of the inks bleed nicely, an interesting
characteristic I hope to use the next time I color with these pens:)

Because these pens have such a stiff, pointed nib, I do believe they would make a great marker set for drawing free hand in color, an idea about these lovelies I had only recently, so I plan to take them on my next road trip. The fact that these pens come in a sturdy carrying case also makes me excited to pack them in my suitcase - no breakage or loss during travel is a fabulous thing! When I bought these markers last spring they were close to $25 and only available through from the maker, Monami, all the way from Korea, which meant a really long shipping wait. Now, Amazon is stocking these fun pens directly, so the cost is cut in half and you will receive them in a fraction of the time I had to wait. The breath of colors you get in the set for the current price makes these pens a perfect choice for the budding artist or the frugal coloring enthusiast.

I do not like shopping as a general rule, but I do enjoy exploring the cluttered and eclectic shelves of such stores as Tuesday Morning and TJ Maxx, and it was on one of these little treasure-seeking adventures that I stumbled upon these soft cored, vibrantly pigmented pencils from Holland. Before purchasing these colored pencils, though, I pulled out my phone and did a quick bit of research on them as I had never heard of Bruynzeel before (protip: when buying art supplies at aftermarket stores, don't be afraid to use your phone to check prices and quality - just because art supplies are at a discount store doesn't mean A. they are low quality or B. a good deal).

I used my Expression Colour pencils to color bits of the background,
the scales of the second to last circle, and the blue and magenta
zigzag lines of the bottom circle of my "It's All Connected" bookmark. Also,
this is one of my Kraft-colored cardstock bookmarks - I wanted to test out
how these pencils held up to rough-ish and darker paper. I was pleased
with the results!
Turns out, Expression Colour is the second tier level of pencils for Bruynzeel (meaning they are student grade) and at under $20 for their 36 set, they are a good deal. I really enjoyed the smooth creamy feel that came with coloring with these pencils, and if you are looking to upgrade colored pencils for yourself or someone you love, these are an inexpensive step up in comparison to a few of the other colored pencils I reviewed in Episode I of my Coloring Nerd Supplies Guide. Add that they are also now on Amazon (click here to check them out) and they are a cool little art supply discovery - thanks, Tuesday Morning!

Did I need any more gel pens? Technically no, considering I already own the complete set of Sakura Gelly Rolls and a fabulously sparkly set of Color Techniks (read my reviews on those two gel pens styles here). But, in leading our local libraries' coloring-for-adult programs I was consistently asked, "Is this only on Amazon? I don't shop online..." So, when I stumbled upon these brightly colored Paper Mate gel pens at Walmart last semester, I thought I would bring them home and test drive a coloring tool that can be found at a local brick and mortar retailer. These pens are easy to hold and lay down a vibrant ink very smoothly. Additionally, that ink dries extremely fast, a quality most gel pens on the market don't have. 

I have the .07 nib set of 14 pens, and while .07 is a rather "fat" nib, these pens are not well designed to color in large spaces (unless you have literally all day to color), which is why I decided to try them out on my November Free-Coloring-of-the-Month page (yes, I bought these pens in April and didn't try them out until November...it's been that sort of year), an illustration that has loads of small spaces. So far, I am really enjoying playing with these pens, but I have discovered that their ink dries with a bit of a sheen to it, not a problem *unless* you are like me and like to layer colors one on top of the other; these gel pens do not accept additional layers and instead sort of repel the 2nd color like oil to water. This isn't a problem necessarily, just an observation I made. 

Lastly, I was disappointed to discover that Paper Mate InkJoy are less expensive on Amazon than they are in Walmart or on Walmart.com. This isn't a surprise to me, however considering that the question which led me to buy these gel pens from a brick and mortar storefront originated from older, retired folks, I am frustrated and saddened that it is people on a fixed income who have the fewest options to explore and challenge their creativity in a cost-effective way.

Yes, I am reviewing artist quality pan watercolors for coloring in coloring books: painting in coloring books is awesome and so incredibly relaxing! And, I absolutely LOVE my Kuretake Gansai Tambi watercolors (even if I have to look up how to spell their name every, single, time I write it). These are a Japanese watercolor that has its origins in sumi-e painting. I discovered them when I toyed around with the idea of studying watercolor independently (all of my watercoloring enthusiast friends recommended this set), a goal I still plan to get to, but by accident I started using these gorgeously saturated colors in my coloring books first. 

One of the biggest frustrations folks bring to coloring is the anxiety of coloring outside of the lines, so my favorite catchphrase to use in my coloring workshops is "The lines aren't the boss of you!" But, just hearing me say it over and over isn't as effective a way to instill this message in folks as to actually color outside of the lines myself. Which is exactly what I did when I led an entire coloring workshop on going outside the lines on purpose (gasp!). I use this page I from my book, Doodled Blooms, and I colored it only with Kuretake Gansai Tambi as an example. To create these alternately deep and then gentle colors, I had to use very little water. What that all means is that while these little pans are not very deeply full of paint, they will last me for a good long while. They also have shimmery metallic colors that I am looking forward to experimenting with on my next painting-in-my-coloring-book creative adventure. 

These watercolors are not inexpensive in comparison to a palette of Crayola Watercolors, but these creamy, flexible colors are most definitely a few huge steps up from washable watercolor paint. If there is someone in your life who is looking to explore watercolor (or creatively adventurous like me and wants to watercolor anywhere!), bringing home this set of 36 pans of paint is definitely a fun idea. Tubes of watercolor paint are all the rage on Instagram and Youtube painting tutorials, but with a little experimentation, you can achieve the same or similar results with pan watercolors for a fraction of the price and receive a great selection of colors (yes, I am always looking out for making creative cash go further).

And, that is this episode of the Coloring Nerd Supplies Guide!

Stay tuned for the next episode where I'll be sharing with y'all my tips and strategies for storing all your markers, pens, pencils, paint, and coloring books:)

Sunday, November 4, 2018

November's Free-Coloring-of-the-Month Page & A Request for Some Feminist Coloring Enthusiasts!

by Michelle M. Johnson

Click HERE to get started on Have Color Will Travel's
 free-coloring-of-the-month page for November!
November is here and so is a new free-coloring-of-the-month page for y'all to dig your crayons, colored pencils and markers into! 

Well, "new" may not be the right word to describe November's free Have Color Will Travel digital download IF you have been following/reading my blog for a while. For those who have only recently started following my work, I was commissioned by the Texas Lutheran University Women's Studies Program in February 2017 to create this drawing as the centerpiece of their Feminist Coloring Party event held March 21, 2017 in Seguin, Texas (to read all about that momentous event click HERE). The resulting page, your November free-coloring-of-the-month, was also the catalyst for the project that I have been devoting most of my creative energies towards, my next full-sized coloring experience, Feminism Is For Everyone: A Feminist Coloring Book of the Signs from the 2017 Women's March

My work on my new project has been slow going in comparison to Doodled Blooms, my first full-sized coloring book, but as of this blog post I am about halfway finished with the 25 original drawings I have planned for this book. All of which has me thinking about the most difficult part of creating a book: the cover.

As I have been drawing the images for Feminism Is For Everyone this past year, always in the back of my mind are ideas about what the cover of my book should look like, both the front and the back. While the front cover is still something I am thinking on, after much internal debate (I am a big fan of talking to myself, weighing pros & cons), I have decided, most definitely, that I need YOUR help, my readers, the folks coloring my drawings, to make the back cover of my dreams for this feminist coloring book.

The idea for Feminism Is For Everyone was born out of a gathering of all sorts of folks expressing their creativity and what feminism means to them, and that is what I would like the back cover of this coloring book to express. So, with this month's free-coloring-of-the-month page I am also putting out into the universe a hope that y'all will download this page, add your creativity to mine with all your gorgeous colors, and also make your mark on this new chapter in the history of feminism we are experiencing right now by creating a sign of your very own in the middle of the page (I would love it if you added your city, state, and first name at the bottom, too!) and then send a high resolution photo or scan of your masterpiece back to me so that it can become a piece of the tapestry of creativity and feminist thought that I am envisioning the back cover of my coloring book to be.

If the idea for the back cover of my feminist coloring book sounds like the exact same idea that I used on the back cover of Doodled Blooms, well then you are understanding my vision completely! I tossed around a wide variety of alternative layout plans for the cover of Feminism Is For Everyone, but I kept coming back to what I love and am most proud of in the creation of Doodled Blooms - the back cover being a quilt-like tapestry showing the creativity of colorists of all ages (7 years to 77 years!) and backgrounds. I can think of no better idea for the cover of a feminist coloring book, can you??

So, this blog post and this free-coloring-of-the-month page is a call out for folks who would like to have their art, their ideas be a part of my feminist coloring book, Feminism Is For Everyone. If you have colored this image before back when I released this page as a free download in March of 2017, I would love it if you submitted your work for the cover! If you have only just discovered Have Color Will Travel and my illustrations and would like to be a part of my feminist project, I would love for you to bring your creativity to mine and submit your finished coloring to be a part of the back cover, too! Please email high resolution scans and/or photos to mjflowergirl@gmail.com or if you are local, I would love to scan your original with my scanner (and I will of course give your coloring masterpiece back to you once I've got it in 1200dpi - I promise!). 

From my previous publishing experience I know that I will be able to include 20 full color submissions. That being said, I am a little nervous about even receiving enough submissions to create the cover of my dreams for this coloring book. This illustration is very dense, will probably take folks some time to color, AND the ideas within feminism are very personal, political issues - folks may not want to share in the creation of this coloring book's back cover with the same enthusiasm that they did Doodled Blooms and its back cover tapestry of creativity. 

But, the possibility of folks shying away from this project is a risk I am willing to take in order for this to become the coloring book I want to make - a book full of hope, color, determination, doggedness, resilience, and creativity. I've got my fingers crossed that I can find 20 willing, creative and colorful folks to join me in some feminist coloring. But, even if being a part of Feminism Is For Everyone's cover is not for you, please download this page, color something for free and give yourself the gift of some no-rules creative time. This page is my gift to all for the month of November, regardless; thank you for your readership and for your creative contributions to the world:)

A work-in-progress pic I took at the Texas Lutheran University
Women's Studies' Feminist Coloring Party on March 21, 2017.
Colorist: Kelsey Cooper rocking a Tombow Dual Brush Pens rose palette!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Perfectionism is a Big Jerk; Train Your Brain, Episode 2: Approve of Yourself

by Michelle M. Johnson

I spend a lot of time encouraging perfectionists to take risks with their creativity. I help them get through the natural anxiety that comes along with taking a creative risk because I know that there benefits on the other side of these emotional hurdles that can't be achieved any other way: increased self-confidence and a recognition of their own power over their fears and self-talk, to say nothing of the accomplishment of completing the creative project itself.

I don't choose to make the emotional struggles of trying something new and out of one's comfort zone a priority in my coloring workshops, tap classes, and blog posts because getting through these sorts of situations is an easy thing for me to do (remember, I am a perfectionist, also). I focus on these issues because getting through the anxiety and negative self-talk of creativity is probably the single most challenging thing for me to do in my day to day life.

It is a continuous struggle for me every time I start something new, this battle with myself and my expectations of my performance, whether I'm taking on a creative risk in my drawing, my coloring, my writing, my dancing, my teaching, my speaking, or my social media. Every time I take a creative risk, my perfectionism rears its vicious head and tries to take me down, remind me of my place, and put the breaks on whatever it is that I had the audacity to try. 

And, I have been trying *loads* of new stuff this year: I started an adult tap class in my home town of Seguin, Texas; I opened an online store on my blog to sell the variety of coloring experiences I've been making in addition to traditional coloring books; I've made a commitment to blogging with more frequency and vulnerability, and then actually sharing it as widely as I can (embracing this space as *my* blog, a place where I proudly call the shots and then tell others all about it has been INCREDIBLY hard for me - I was raised to see all positive self-talk, whether internal or external, as bragging and therefore sinful, and I was regularly encouraged to keep my opinions to myself because sharing your opinions is akin to bragging, and as I just said, that's what sinners do...yes, I'm an Irish Catholic, how could you tell;); and, I started an email list for my blog this August, finally heeding the advice of countless artistic and creative professionals who were kind enough to share their business wisdom with me.

Of that rather long list of creative risks I have undertaken in the last few months, the one that has kept me from sleeping (you know, the buzzing brain, can't-rest-because-my-anxieties-and-fears-keep-rerunning-like-a-cable-all-access-channel feeling?) was the creation of my email list. For some reason, this particular creative business decision felt the most risky, the most "who do I think I am?!" I felt like I was laying my soul to bare for all to judge in asking for folks to submit their email to me in exchange for my free-coloring-of-the-month pages and that sort of vulnerability makes me want to puke or yell obscenities at strangers, both of which are not acceptable coping mechanisms. But, with the support of my family and a few close friends, I ventured into the world of email lists and email marketing (yes, there was some gnashing of teeth, some kicking, some screaming, but no one got hurt, and in my book, that's a win!).

Recently, I got my first UNSUBSCRIBE from my email list...and it hit me like a rock.

My gut response to this unsubscribe was as follows: I should quit, I can't write, I can't draw, I can't handle rejection, I should give all this up because I can't be this vulnerable day in and day out, putting myself out there for all to judge - I just wasn't born with a 'thick skin' and there's no possible hope of me growing one! Discovering this piece of data threw me into an emotional tail spin that lasted a good 5 to 6 hours, time where I was completely useless, and time I will never get back.

I chose not to reach out to my support team that day (big mistake as I probably could have cut my emotional processing time down by at least 50% by sharing this rejection with a kindred spirit, but we all make mistakes...), but what did bring me back to my sanity (and eventually to writing this blog post in my Train Your Brain series) was remembering something I had *just* told a former student (who is now a seasoned teacher) and fellow perfectionist only a day earlier: your work is not YOU once you set it out into the universe. 

As perfectionists, we put our hearts, our souls, every ounce of our attention and energy into our projects, whether that work is a drawing, a speech, a lesson plan, a performance, a blog post, novel, a song, a report, a meeting agenda, anything - that's just how a perfectionist works. But, while our work is wholly ours, a representation of ourselves that we feel very connected to and protective of while we are doing it, once that work is released into the universe to its intended audience, what we made is no longer us but something else entirely, and the world is free to have their opinion about that work, regardless of the great personal risk we took to share it. 

I have been very proud of the work I have been doing and sharing to the world and to my email list: my writing is more personal and yet relatable, my drawings more detailed yet still approachable, and I have been working to make my all of my art always with the intention that its function is to lift society up, to empower folks. All of that means that my art, my work, the things that I share to my community of followers can now, on occasion, be perceived as political (for heaven's sake, I am throwing the lion share of my creative energies into making a feminist coloring book, something I may not perceive to be political - I don't *believe* in gender equality, I *accept* gender equality as scientific fact, something that JUST IS, like gravity or the number of hours we have in single day - but a vast majority of the Internet considers the concept of gender equality to be a highly politically charged topic), so it makes absolute sense that on a day when I send out an email containing links to what I had been working on that week (two blog posts, one on finding hope to keep fighting for gender equality in unexpected places and the other on my frustrations with the attention economy, its overlords and their effects on independent artists, and a reminder that my Reject Perfection coloring page would soon be replaced by a new page in November), I receive notification that a subscriber is "no longer interested" in my emails.

The person who unsubscribed from my email list obviously did not approve of my work.

But, I never ever release ANYTHING out into the universe that I don't wholly approve of myself, never. For me to share my art, my work, anything to the universe, it must always A. not be a waste of anyone's time, including my own, B. be of the best quality I know how to produce, and C. hopefully be of some use or enjoyment to someone, someday, somehow. 

But with one unsubscribe, I went from approving wholly of myself and the work that I do all the way to "I should quit, never make art again, never share my words again," even though that individual was entirely within their rights to decide my emails, my art, my work were "no longer of interest."

Self-approval is very challenging for perfectionists. We measure our success in numbers, in the comparisons to others, in the amount of work and/or time it takes us to achieve a goal (if it takes too long to learn something, to make something, well, we must not be good at it, so we should quit and move on to something we can do perfectly with ease), and in the approval of sources outside of ourselves. But, the reality of creativity is that for us to make art, to learn new things, to keep creating, the only approval we have any control over and desperately need is our own.

This all sounds simple, but in the end, it is not, and for perfectionists it is a constant struggle (#WIP and all that...). That one unsubscribe last week sucked all of my hard won self-approval out of my sails, leaving me drowning in a sea of unworthiness and defeat.

But, this was not the first time this has happened to me (and as I type that sentence my logical brain is telling me it will not be the last time, either - I will never be perfect at self approval, ironic, but true), which is why I have my studio rigged with images to help diffuse the "must have everyone else's approval" bombs that I invariable stumble upon. Below is one of my favorites, and I have it framed for me to see as soon as I enter my work space.

In the months after leaving an toxic work environment,
I struggled with feelings of worthlessness because I hadn't been
able to fix a broken situation (and have I mentioned I'm a perfectionist?).
I saw my departure from this job as a complete failure (even though
I left to pursue other interests AND because the stress was affecting
my health) and was beating myself up over my decision to leave
until one day it hit me: my family and friends approve of my decision, so
the only approval I'm still looking for is my own. I decided that I needed 

something visual to help this message of self-approval sink in, so every time I felt 
myself sinking into self-loathing mode, I forced myself to write down on
 a huge piece of paper some version of the following sentence: 
You need no one else's approval but your own. 
Obviously, the message took some time to sink in...

I sent this photo which displays my constant battle for self-approval/acceptance to my former student (who is now a teacher) in hopes that it might encourage them, might remind them that even those folks they look up to have to work diligently on the basics (for some reason my former students remember me as the most put-together, competent, confident teacher they ever had, and it is a shock to them that not only was I human then and now, but their struggles today are the same ones I was having back in their day...and we all turned out just fine!), and to help them remember that their lessons, their classroom, their students are not themselves, and when a difficult parent makes them feel inadequate, that doesn't mean that they should quit their job. No matter what you do professionally, there will be days when folks don't approve of your work, your art, but their approval is not the vital ingredient for getting sh*t done - it is our own. 

I totally approve of the direction my work is taking right now - it's more personal, my lines and my words are deeper, more diverse, full of emotion and sometimes I am so proud of what I made I find it hard to believe that it was me that created it (I'm not sure what to think of that feeling, that "I made this?" feeling - is it positive or negative; only time will tell, I guess). What is it that they say? That if everybody likes you, then you mustn't really be doing anything worth doing? I think I butchered that quote, but you get the point. 

After some thought (and realizing that I need to actually practice what I preached only a day before!), I can actually say I'm as proud of that recent UNSUBSCRIBE as I am of the work that moved that person to flush me from their email box. 

Learning to approve of yourself when you are a perfectionist is f*cking hard because that means we have to acknowledge and approve of our mistakes as well as our successes, even if what feels like a mistake to us actually isn't (a parent not approving of how you're running a classroom or a member of your email list not approving of your politics is not failure - it means we are trying, doing, innovating and perhaps hitting a nerve). Whatever hacks you can figure out for yourself to help you along this journey to consistent self-approval, whether it's like my visual aid of seeing me having written "Approve of YOURSELF" over and over or something completely different, hold onto those babies, stockpile them like you would wood for a long hard winter, and make sure to revisit them whenever the phrase "I should just quit" bursts out of your mouth. 

When we take creative risks, the likelihood of coming upon stumbling blocks and disappointments is, well, 100%, and these tumbles we must take to reach the other side of a creative risk (they simply are a part of the game) are most definitely triggers for our perfectionism. Arming ourselves with reminders of whose approval REALLY matters (our own) is our only defense against these feelings of inadequacy and failure, and they will help us continue to keep creating, keep learning, keep growing; they will help us pick ourselves back up and get back to keeping on keeping on no matter what anyone else thinks of us.