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.

tomatoes

white porcelain bowl with fresh tomatoes

Doesn’t that look amazing? I’ve been caring for some friends’ gardens, and one of the benefits is fresh produce. The tomatoes are gorgeous.

This photo reminded me of a drawing a did several (10!) years ago in one of my art journals. I love all the subtle colours in the ripening tomatoes – oranges and greens and pinks…

IMG_8287

jamais vu

blue fish drawing

For a moment I thought I was crazy.

Yesterday a colleague of mine had a déjà vu, and it reminded me of a strange feeling that I get every now and then – like my life is totally unfamiliar. I asked my colleague if she’d ever experienced anything like that, and she shuddered and looked at me like I had two heads.

But in the middle of the night I was curious, so I went searching on Google to see if I could find out if this feeling had a name. At first I didn’t even know how I would search it, though. What do you call a weird feeling? I tried “state of consciousness,” and hit pay dirt with “altered state of consciousness.”

Turns out there’s something very similar to déjà vu, called jamais vu (from the French, meaning “never seen”). It’s exactly what I was trying to tell my colleague about. A sense of eeriness and feeling like I’m seeing the situation for the first time, despite rationally knowing that I’ve been in the situation before.

I also discovered a related phenomenon, called semantic satiation, where words start to look unfamiliar after you look at them too much. Most of my experiences of jamais vu have to do with names looking unfamiliar to me.

I’ve written a Cowbird story about some of my experiences with jamais vu, here.

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Art journal frontispiece, September 2005. Collage and wax crayon on paper.

citrus fruit

citrus 1

These are some details taken from an in-progress art journal spread that I’m working on. It started as a fragment of a tear sheet from a magazine, with a photo of some sliced limes. I love citrus fruit, although I don’t eat much of the sweet stuff anymore. But I still buy limes and lemons to squeeze over my summer salads, or slice into my cold water on hot days.

citrus 2

citrus 3

so i’m writing this book

stack of art journals

I’m not quite sure how it happened (to be honest, it feels a little like a dream that I may wake up from at any moment), but I’m writing a book right now. It’s based on these daily blog posts that I’ve written for my Kitchen Sink Wisdom blog over the past two months, on the theme of ritual.

I’m excited and humbled by this project. It keeps me up at night, and puts a smile on my face every morning.

I’ve always wanted to write a book, but I never knew how to get a book written. To tell you the truth, the very idea of writing a book always intimidated me. How do you choose a subject? How do you make it interesting? Even though I’ve been a paid writer for nearly 20 years, the sheer length of a book scared me. I write short things: articles, newsletters, information sheets, procedures, training materials, blog posts, reports, business plans. But a book? No way. Too many words to ever get down on paper.

Then I found out that an acquaintance of mine has published 55 books in his lifetime. Yes, you’ve read that correctly. 55. And when I realized that his books were written one day at a time – sometimes one blog post at a time, the way I was writing – it finally occurred to me that maybe that’s how a book gets written. Through a regular practice, sentence by sentence, day after day.

The second, wondrous aspect of this particular book that I’m writing is that the subject matter of the book is the same as its process. Meaning, I’m using creative ritual to write a book about creative ritual. I’m tapping into an energy larger than myself (which some people might call God, or their muse, but I like to call creative Source), and letting that energy flow through me, while writing a book about how I let creative energy flow through me. Yes. Pretty trippy.

I’ve been blessed to have a small circle of readers who’ve followed the original blog posts day after day on Kitchen Sink Wisdom. Having them there has been a huge inspiration to me, and in honour of their faithfulness (and to help keep me focused), I’m making the working manuscript available to anyone who’s interested. You can read the introduction here. Email me if you want more. I’m happy to share.

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

maps

map 1

I recently started a map pinboard on Pinterest. I was so excited and full of ideas about what I could put there, including some of my own art journal work, which sometimes includes collaged vintage maps. These are some Instagram photos of details from five different art journal spreads.

(And yes, I’m going to pin these photos to my board!)

map 2

map 3

map 4

map 5

inside the highly sensitive body

wax crayon and collage art journal spread of hands

I’ve been doing a lot of reading into Highly Sensitive People, in order to try and figure out some strategies for being in the world in a healthy way, rather than an anxious, burnt-out way. I’ve also found some new books that I haven’t mentioned before, by psychiatrist Judith Orloff. All of this reading is also helping me feel not quite so isolated and strange in being highly sensitive.

What is high sensitivity? (Or, as Orloff calls it, intuitive empathy?) It’s having a nervous system that processes sensory input in a different way from the rest of the population. From my own experience, it feels like being inside a huge sensory amplification system, and not being able to shut it off. Sounds, smells, physical sensations, emotional cues from others – they bombard my nervous system so incessantly that I (and about 15-20% of the population) become quickly overwhelmed and exhausted. I need a lot of time in quiet solitude to recover my equilibrium and energy.

Here are two simple tests that I scored 100% on. They’ll help give you an idea of how a highly sensitive person experiences the world. The first is from Elaine Aron:

  • I am easily overwhelmed by strong sensory input.
  • I seem to be aware of subtleties in my environment.
  • Other people’s moods affect me.
  • I tend to be very sensitive to pain.
  • I find myself needing to withdraw during busy days, into bed or into a darkened room or any place where I can have some privacy and relief from stimulation.
  • I am particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine.
  • I am easily overwhelmed by things like bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens close by.
  • I have a rich, complex inner life.
  • I am made uncomfortable by loud noises.
  • I am deeply moved by the arts or music.
  • My nervous system sometimes feels so frazzled that I just have to go off by myself.
  • I am conscientious.
  • I startle easily.
  • I get rattled when I have a lot to do in a short amount of time.
  • When people are uncomfortable in a physical environment I tend to know what needs to be done in order to make it more comfortable (like changing the lighting or the seating).
  • I am annoyed when people try to get me to do too many things at once.
  • I try hard to avoid making mistakes or forgetting things.
  • I make a point to avoid violent movies and TV shows.
  • I become unpleasantly aroused when a lot is going on around me.
  • Being very hungry creates a strong reaction in my, disrupting my concentration or mood.
  • Changes in my life shake me up.
  • I notice and enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, works of art.
  • I find it unpleasant to have a lot going on at once.
  • I make it a high priority to arrange my life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations.
  • I am bothered by intense stimuli, like loud noises or chaotic scenes.
  • When I must compete or be observed while performing a task, I become so nervous or shaky that I do much worse than I would otherwise.
  • When I was a child, my parents or teachers seemed to see me as sensitive or shy.

Here is Judith Orloff’s test for Emotional or Intuitive Empathy:

  • I have been labeled as “too emotional” or overly sensitive.
  • If a friend is distraught, I start feeling it too.
  • My feelings are easily hurt.
  • I am emotionally drained by crowds, requiring time to be alone to revive.
  • My nerves get frayed by noise, smells, or excessive talk.
  • I prefer taking my own car places so that I can leave when I please.
  • I overeat to cope with emotional stress.
  • I afraid of becoming engulfed by intimate relationships.

Despite recognizing myself in all these descriptions, and realizing that many other people experience the world the way I do, I still feel an incredible amount of shame for being the way I am. Partly because when I was growing up, I witnessed how high sensitivity was often misunderstood and ridiculed by those who didn’t experience it. Also, in my own unconscious attempts over the years to cope with being physically and emotionally overwhelmed, I developed habits (such as withdrawing from social activities and highly stressful relationships) that were seen by others as very strange and unfriendly.

More to come on this ongoing exploration…

Detail from an untitled art journal spread, August 2005. Wax crayon and collage on paper.