These days Coloring Books for Adults are available in nearly every store (I dare not say Adult Coloring books for obvious reasons). While I would never call myself a trend-setter, I will admit to coloring LONG before it became the national obsession.
In college I would de-stress during finals week by purchasing a Christmas coloring book and a pack of 24 crayons. Perhaps it was the nostalgic images of Santa, Christmas stockings, and decorated trees that relaxed me. Or perhaps it was the vibrant colors that awakened my senses after reading pages upon pages of black and white text. Or perhaps it was the kinesthetic movement of coloring that relaxed my mind, body, and cramped hands. Whatever the reason, it worked. After a few minutes of coloring I was ready to tackle the books again.
Scientists today confirm what I felt in college: coloring causes us to slow down, to tap into our imagination, and to subconsciously help us view the world from a different perspective. Come to think of it, coloring and journaling are not that different. Both can be used to bring about wholeness and spiritual well-being.
I first discovered mandalas about two years ago. Mandalas are circular shapes, filled with geometric lines that when viewed as a whole present a different image. I love the mandala’s symmetry, and the infinite creative opportunities it represents. Unfortunately, my mind freezes when I’m faced with unlimited choices. Do I want to use every color of the rainbow or stay within a defined color palette? Where do I start, or does it matter? I am often frustrated before I begin, thus nullifying any possibility of relaxation.
This week, however, I was determined to rediscover my joy of coloring. I used this design included with Susannah Conway’s Unraveling the Year Ahead (available free on her website). While the design appeared simple enough, I still struggled. Perseverance was my motto, however, and here are a few lessons I learned along the way:
- Recreating what I see in my mind is not an inherent skill. I had an idea of what I wanted the finished piece to look like. I wanted a symmetrical flower using a beach color palette. I wanted to express the feeling of carefree and happy – warm summer days with bare feet in the sand. My first attempt was neither symmetrical nor beach-y. The colors I chose were too dark, and the lines I followed led to dead ends. A re-start was necessary.
- Weaknesses do not equal failure. I am visually impaired. Well, my brown eyes see fine, but my inner eye suffers. I cannot accurately visualize what something “might” look like. I must see it in person. This prevents me from helping with any remodeling decisions, but it doesn’t have to hinder my coloring. If what I want to create falls short, I can just print another copy and try again.
- If at first you don’t succeed… is actually a worthwhile maxim. I have always associated talent with effortless success the first time. And since I never succeed the first time, I assume I have no talent. But this is coloring! There is no right way to color. There is no perfection. There is little skill. So rather than quit, as I am wont to do… I tried again. And again. And again. I think I made seven copies of this one mandala and continued to experiment.
- There is joy in the journey. And with each experiment, I learned a little more about the process. I refused to listen to that inner voice, trying to convince me I’m not good enough. Instead, I continued to remind myself how much I enjoyed the repetitious movement of the pencil across the paper. I paid closer attention to colors and how they worked together (lights and darks, monochromatic and complimentary, etc.) I even mixed two colors together to create a new shade. Dare I say it, I began to have fun!
- Consider another perspective. After several attempts, I was pleased with the outcome and thought I was finished. But then I looked at the design again. Rather than viewing it horizontally, I looked at the petals and how they aligned vertically. I wondered what the result might be if I colored from this new perspective – better or worse? Interestingly I discovered that neither was superior to the other.
- Art is about expression, not judgment. I love the idea of being an artist. I enjoy photography, scrapbooking, and writing. I often daydream about painting a large canvas mural. But I rarely take part in these creative endeavors because I am afraid I’m not good enough. It won’t be perfect. I’ll make a mistake for the world to see. But art isn’t about pleasing others – art is about self-expression. And who can best express me but… me.
I see lots more coloring in my future. In fact, I think it will become a part of my regular routine. What better way to start the day than with a little writing, a little prayer, and some therapeutic coloring.