my adult coloring story

Colouring an illustration by @happydoodleland . . . #adultcoloringbook #coloringbook #coloring

A photo posted by Michelle Lynne Goodfellow (@emelgy) on

It all started with adult coloring books. They were everywhere, after the success of Johanna Bamford’s Secret Garden, and the subsequent wave of interest in adult coloring.

I picked up a few here and there, mostly in bargain bins at bookstores, or as impulse buys from drugstore magazine racks.

From the start, I was less interested in coloring and more interested in making my own drawings, so I never coloured in the adult coloring books I bought. I told myself that they were inspiration for future artwork.

A friend passed along to me an adult coloring book that he had tried and didn’t want, and I finished one of his pages (below). But I was still kind of like, meh. I didn’t want to colour, myself.

Then I bought the Pocket Posh Botanicals coloring book by Flora Chang, and coloured the page at the beginning of this post. I used these coloured pencils. I was pretty happy with how it turned out. (Plus I really liked Chang’s doodle drawings. I wanted to make drawings like hers.)

If you scroll through my Instagram feed from that point on, you can see a visual record of what happened. I started drawing again in earnest (after a long period of not doing much drawing or art journalling) – first imitating some of the work by others that I really admired, and then playing with my own style.

And it was play. It was a way to pass the time that put me in the zone, or flow state. I kept coming up with new ideas to try, and it felt good at the end of each day to see the things that I had created.

At some point it occurred to me that I wanted to share my drawings online (I mean, more than just photographing them on Instagram). I wanted other people to be able to colour my drawings. And my first downloadable adult coloring page was born.

How do you come up with ideas for your adult coloring pages?
I follow a lot of artists and illustrators on Instagram, and I my Instagram feed is always inspiring to me. I also save a lot of illustration, art journal and zentangle pins on Pinterest as inspiration.

But honestly, a lot of the time I just play around in my art journals and sketchbooks until I come up with something interesting.

Do you have any visual arts training, or are you self-taught?
I studied design at university for my first degree (a Bachelor of Science in Clothing, Textiles and Design), and I studied visual arts for two more years after that, thinking that I wanted to get a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting, but ultimately transferred out of the program and finished my Bachelor of Arts in Film Studies, instead. So yes, I have visual arts training.

I’ve also worked for many years professionally as a writer, editor, desktop publisher and in-house photographer in the social services sector, and have illustrated a few publications like this one for clients.

I love drawing, and over the years have filled many sketchbooks and art journals with my drawings, often using them as illustrations on my blogs and websites.

How do you create your adult coloring pages?
I use a scanner and several computer programs to save the pages electronically, so I draw all my originals on individual sheets of paper. I usually choose plain, 8 1/2 x 11″ sheets of printer paper, since they fit best in my scanner.

Once the drawing is done, I scan it as a picture, and save the file as a JPEG. I then open up the image file in PhotoShop to crop it, adjust the contrast so that the lines are dark and the background is pure white, and then I clean up any smudges, or discoloured areas left behind by the scanning process.

Finally, I save the image both as a JPEG and as a PDF, and then update the metadata in the PDF using Adobe Acrobat so that the PDFs are optimized for online search engines.

Then I upload the finished files to blog posts on this blog, and they’re yours!

I love drawing adult coloring pages. Every day I have dozens of ideas for new ones, and making the drawings is very enjoyable. I hope you enjoy them as much when you’re coloring them!

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Would you like more free, hand-drawn adult coloring pages like this? You can find an index of my adult coloring pages here.

playing on the weekend

art journal workspace

I’ve been spending so much time writing lately, I thought I’d put my visual art aside, but on the weekend I had the sudden urge to pull out one of my art journals and do some collaging. (I don’t think that’s a word, but anyhow.) Here’s a snapshot of my work area, gluing in progress. The finished art journal spread is below. I’m going to use it in an upcoming post on Kitchen Sink Wisdom.

art journal spread what is essential

loss, and freedom

Gondoliers 1

If you’ve read some of my earlier posts (look here, here, and here for examples), you’ll know that I encourage people to get in touch with their deepest dreams and desires. Sometimes it’s not until we know what we truly want that we can make decisions about which direction to take in our lives.

The cyclical nature of life means that for every birth there is a death – but also for every death, there is a birth. It’s no mistake that Christians, for example, celebrate Jesus’ birth in the winter (when everything in nature seems to have died), or his death in the spring (when everything in nature seems to be coming back to life). When we live our lives in sync with these natural rhythms, the pain of loss can lose some of its sting.

My boyfriend and I just broke up. We remain great friends, and love each other deeply, but we are moving in different directions. For either of us to give up our dreams for the sake of the other would mean a loss of something so intrinsic to ourselves that it’s unimaginable.

And yet I am almost paralyzed as I sit between two extremes: the pain of losing him, and the joy of finding myself.

I thought I knew what I wanted, but what if what I wanted isn’t what I really want? (And I just went looking for some food to stuff into my mouth, which you KNOW can’t be a good sign.)

Sometimes we can’t know. Sometimes we’re walking blind, and when we hold out our hand to find a wall or a piece of furniture to orient ourselves in the blackness, we hit instead a knife blade that slices deep.

But what if the blade cuts things not apart, but together?

I am in the first year of a kind of bodywork training called the Alexander Technique. Without getting too esoteric, the technique is about becoming aware of your habits of poor psycho-physical use, and replacing those habits with better use.

I’ve discovered that letting go of old habits and discovering something new is very frightening and disorienting. One of my instructor’s favorite commands is to “not know.”

“Don’t KNOW,” she intones with discouraging frequency as she works on me with her hands. (Discouraging only because it means that for the millionth time I’ve been trying too hard, and cutting myself off from true knowing in the process.)

“Don’t know, don’t know, don’t know,” I direct myself with fathomless panic inside my head, until suddenly her hands, in cooperation with my open mind, find new freedom and release within my body.

Don’t know.

It reminds me of the Rainer Maria Rilke quote from Letters to a Young Poet, where Rilke says:

…have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.

Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything.

Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Loss, and freedom. Perhaps deep down, they are really the same thing…

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This post was originally published on my professional organizing blog.

Art journal spread Gondoliers, undated (October or November 2006). Wax crayon, ink and collage on paper.

This art journal spread has special meaning for me, since all the collage pieces were ephemera from a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers that I took part in the previous spring. I played the Duchess of Plaza Toro, and my then-boyfriend played one of the gondoliers, Marco.