This is Part 2 of a series all about reviewing and exploring the latest craze of adult colouring books. Today I want to share with you what I experienced when I did my first coloured pencil colouring in since my childhood. It was only a little test, but I discovered a lot of interesting things.
However before I get into the big ideas that I want to share with you today, I just want ot thank everyone who left a comment on Part 1. Wow! So many comments and great thoughts. As many of my readers are people who already sketch, the comments were leaning towards drawing rather than colouring in, so I am very thankful to hear from some people who are really enjoying their colouring books and do not draw for themselves – yet!
A few general comments:
– I wasn’t trying to make a definitive judgment on the whole Adult Colouring Book movement and I am certainly not at all dismissive of it. I was hoping to start a discussion – which I did! – and to flesh out some ideas.
– I am also very aware of the irony of attempting a review before actually doing any colouring in! This post hopefully addresses that short-coming a little… although as you will see it was only a ‘mucking around’ attempt.
– I was remiss in not purchasing a ‘mindfulness’ based example so I have since bought ‘The Mindfulness Coluring Book’ which is a nice little book full of patterns and simple objects (including a tea cup page!) with clean but heavy ink outlines. More about this book soon, but I am a little surprised how much I like it.
– I am not going to comment any further on the ‘mindfulness/ art therapy’ component, but rather want to focus on more the art side – techniques, process and my personal responses.
BTW these blog posts are fun to put together but take me many hours… I always feel afterwards like I have only said half of what I wanted to. So this might end up being a series of posts whenever I get a chance over the next few months – whenever I get a chance to do a little. And just for the record I am NOT going to become a coloured pencil colouring-in-er, but I am sure that this little tangent will expand my visual thinking and art techniques in unexpected ways!
Ok… enough intro – let’s get going!
After I posted Part 1, I felt the urge to start one of the books, but to be honest, I was a bit intimidated! I was never good at neat pencil work and staying within the lines. And well three of the books I reviewed are a bit scary! So I choose the book that I didn’t like the linework of, but had a more approachable subject matter – Secret Paris. I opened a random page and just had a bit of fun. Ah! a handbag page – perfect!
Although the only pencils I use reguarly are my selection of 11 Faber Castell Albrecht Durer watercolour pencils, I have a large collection of other water soluble pencils (Inktense, Graphitint and more many of the Faber Castell range) and my old 72 set of derwent studio coloured pencils with the odd Prismacolor. I store these in paper drawers sorted by colour. So I just pulled out a drawer and picked up a random pencil (no idea what the colour would look like on the page!) and started colouring. Note: I did not sharpen any of the pencils as this was only an exercise in mucking around – in fact it was a case of getting distracted – I think I was on my way to do a chore at the time but got side tracked!
And this was the result – it’s a bit crazy!
Here are a few thoughts:
– Without thinking I started colouring the way I did 20 years ago as an architecture student – crazy style with strokes in every direction! This was not at all what I was expecting but remarkably similar to the way I apply my watercolour strokes at times.
– I found deciding what colour to use a bit ‘stressful’ (that is a way too dramatic word) as I had no reference material in front of me. I am so used to responding to the colour as I see it!
– Colouring someone else’s lines was weird, especially when I don’t really like their lines to start with AND there were a few mistake lines. Colouring my mistakes is bad enough, but going over someone else’s in a commercially produced book didn’t feel right at all!
– However after a few bags, I was in the groove and accepted the fact I was just doing the colouring part. I then realised that this was liberating. “Hey – the mistakes aren’t mine!” All the pressure for accuracy that I feel (to some degree) when I draw an object was totally absent! Yay – this is good!
– I found myself adding shading and leaving lots of white just like I do with watercolour and I felt very relaxed about being loose(messy) and not staying within the lines. I was worried that I would feel too constrained by the lines. but it didn’t faze me at all. I don’t think I would feel as comfortable doing messy colouring in one of the other more elaborate books – but this needs to be tested!
– Bag no. 6 was fun. It was a relatively neat checked pattern and I wanted to mess it up. Ironically there is another checked bag on the bag with some patchy linework, but the one I chose to colour in was better drawn than that.
– It was very apparent that I didn’t know my tools well enough and I found that made my colour decisions much harder (Aside: Derwent pencils are the worst – so little label of the actual colour is visible and it is often very inaccurate.)
– Apart from starting to ‘stress’ about what the next coloured bag should be (after all most of the bags I own are brown!) this was a really fun exercise!!!
So the big takeaway from this exercise was: Colouring someone else’s lines was very liberating in regard to ‘accuracy pressure’, however I felt more pressure about colour.
I felt as an artist I ‘should’ be more mindful of what colours I was using even though this was just a warmup. I nearly always tweak the colour of my subject to suit what I want to do on the page, but without a reference I felt a little bit lost! Looking through the more elaborate Enchanted Forest or Animal Kingdom books made me worry even more – “how would I go about making the decisions to colour these?”I am sure that I will get into the groove fairly easily, but these were my initial reactions!
Note: I am playing up my ‘stress-outs’ a little bit and with all my experience no longer take them very seriously. However, for someone who hasn’t done any art since childhood because they believe ‘they are not talented’ these would be things that their inner critic would be shouting at them – and this could become a real barrier. The fact that my old childhood insecurities about choosing colour re-surfaced was fascinating, so I am certainly very sympathetic if anyone else has them!
But of course I have a lot of experience behind me (150 sketchbooks worth), and as a result have a lot of confidence and acceptance of my own work – even when I make mistakes. And there are numerous mistakes in this sketch. While I was drawing these bags I was thinking about the line vs colour relationship in new ways, and I couldn’t help asking myself what would a coloring book that I drew be like? (Note: this is not a serious future project… just wondering about it in abstract!)
As I result I decided to scan the first pass (linework) to show you, and then I started thinking about different ways of drawing these bags. As a result each bag is done differently – each one of these approaches are explained in my online SketchingNow Foundations course, so for those of you who have done/are doing it, I will use my terms. (A little refresher course!)
My main goal in sharing this exercise is to show you how many options are available when we sketch and combine our own lines with our own colours based on our own subjects.
Bag 1. Feeling edges, I started doing a contour drawing working from one part to the next and embracing the wonkiness! Because of the way I was working, all my lines were the same line weight.
Bag 2. I decided to vary my line weight by lightening the lines that described the texture and only doing this partially. Would most colouring books would draw it all? When I painted I applied my strokes to correspond to the texture.
Bag 3. The simplicity and symetry of this little bag increased the pressure for accuracy…. so I decided that I would get a pencil to help for the next one. Random Fact No 1: This is a rare black object (I don’t wear black generally). Random Fact No 2: When was the last time I use a tiny bag/purse like this or bag 8?? Gone are the days of small handbags – just simply my Lamy pen wouldn’t even fit in those bags!
Bag 4. I used pencil for some gestural setup. This helped me work freer and looser and use less linework! Interesting to compare this with bag 1, where my tendency was to draw outline around every part.
Bag 5. Constructing volumes, (but without my pencil!) I started with the big overall shape which helped me place the internal components. Oops! a smudge when I was applying paint.
Bag 6. Back to the pencil, using the constructing volumes approach again, this time to help draw some guidelines for the pattern which I decided I didn’t want ink outline around.
Bag 7. Time to put away the black pen and try coloured water-soluble lines instead.
Bag 8. And oh! i just had to throw in an abstracting shapes version – putting down the paint first. This really helped me minimise my lines (oops – that is an Edges concept!)
Bag 9. And finally, using paint as my setup for a more complex pattern.
Do I need to tell you that I had so much fun… and also as a result of doing this sketch am able to ‘discard’ a few of these bags that I no longer use – another benefit of sketching your own life as I was discussing earlier in the week!)
Well, another LONG post… but just before I finish I just want to say that I did have a lot of fun colouring and will be doing some more in the coming months. It is an art form in its own right, with lots of great things about it, but I do hope that it will open the door for more people wanting to sketch for themselves – and be able to tell the stories of their own lives…because I think that is more meaningful