Sitting in my studio, I look out through the doorway to a man I know so well. He is one who has never felt ‘creative’ or really particularly ‘spiritual’ or has ever meditated but for all the labels you may give it, I see a man at peace, happy and in a meditative state. He has not been himself for years though. Lost and broken by a career which demanded he live in a state of constant stress and on the edge of his nerves, doing duties most of us would never comprehend for all of his adult life.
He picks up another coloured pencil from the rainbow spread before him. Gently the lead traces back and forth, following patterns on a page within a book, seeking shapes and all the while the calm he has connected to comes rolling through the room. He smiles, unaware I am watching and starts to hum something soft and sweet. Lost in his healing calm. I return my thoughts to my own desk, lifting my watercolour pen to fill in the petals of a flower with washes as I think about writing this article. We are at peace, centred, focused and connected. We are both colouring-in, connected with our personal creative awakenings.
I am an artist, an author, an illustrator and for over thirty years I have taught arts and crafts to people of all skill levels and all ages. Most have come to me to learn a technical skill but as with all such classes, nearly all leave with so much more to support them. They learn creative confidence, find community connection and gain an understanding of their personal emotions and how to express themselves. They find peace, understanding, personal happiness and strength. These are the gifts of creativity that many of us know well but we are not all so lucky to have found opportunities, the time or the finances to seek such treasures in our lives either ever or continuously.
Of all the many different forms of art I have taught and shared, it is those which pull back the mysteries of creativity to it’s barest foundations that inspire, heal and support the most. Colouring-in is one such creative pursuit. It is one which is not directly connected with a strong belief, movement or style and welcomes us all easily. It is creativity in it’s most basic form, in a common accessible language, which offers the unsure and the unskilled a room to begin exploring and the confident and experienced a place to return to recharge and to discover again uninhibited.
As a teacher, I have been in hundreds of classrooms and felt the calm descend on groups, large and small, as everyone focuses on the creative pursuits before them. The energy in the room changes, calms and people’s bodies relax as peace is felt by all. Is this spiritual? Is it mediation? I feel it is something of both but it is a truly personal experience and I would never presume to tell anyone exactly what that was but what I do know, through experience, is that creativity offers something that is most definitely healing, inspiring and connecting.
creativity and freedom
Colouring-in, like other creative foundation pursuits that have been popular through the years before, such as Folk Art, Quilting, Decorative Art, Scrapbooking, become popular because people experience real change in themselves. It is a return to the beginnings of our personal creative awakenings and once there those initial sparks are ignited again. Be assured, colouring~in is not a regression; it is a remembrance of this creative awakening, of being first inspired and gently supported to explore. Will a bird be purple or green with orange spots? Colouring-in guides, it supports by giving you lines but it never inhibits. One day you may repeat those lines for yourself and then draw your own and I would always encourage you to do so because colouring~in is not, and never was, a final destination, it is a stop along the way on the creativity road. We may return any time we wish and learn again, play again and to find peace again because in our childhoods, we experienced true creative freedom and most of us find that so hard to find or retain in our busy lives.
The next destination to explore after colouring in was for us all, drawing. Somewhere there, many of us left the road forever. Some of us kept going and we enjoy returning to all the creative destinations we have been through before or even missed over the years because we know creativity is not a line, it’s a sphere, a world that is always welcoming, challenging, changing but we are always welcome at every place.
I personally find Colouring-in is a way to focus and centre the mind and spirit. It is certainly not the only way or even a preferable way but it is way which has been proved to be very beneficial to many for calming, for stress relief along with the obvious therapeutic applications in physical rehabilitation programs for those regaining control and mobility.
Recently I began creating colouring-in which was more personalised for someone close to me who was advised to try it as a form of meditation to assist with anxiety. I wanted to combine my work with Flower and Nature Therapy with my art to create mandala-like spheres as I saw a way to bring the energies and properties of the geometry that each flower holds to the person colouring in. These have now gone on to fill my book series ‘Florasphere’ Rockpool Publishing.
Perhaps Colouring-In is something you may wish to try again, to return to and explore and if you do, I’d suggest you start with finding themes which you re attracted to. Then put down your phones, pick up your pencils, find somewhere preferably outside to sit and return to your creative awakening.