Help! I Bought a Coloring Book!

“But the book is too pretty to color in!”

           “Wow, I’m afraid of wrecking it.”

                       “I freeze when I go to start coloring!”

These are frequent comments I see in the Facebook coloring communities. So many people are intimidated by their adult coloring books, and I totally understand! It can feel overwhelming to have a book in front of you that might be (approximately!) 100x nicer and more complex than the books you fondly remember from your childhood. The flowers are rich with detail, a blank sky begs to be layered with dramatic color, and adorable little gnomes and fairies invite your imagination to run wild. But holy guacamole, how do you not screw it up??

Let’s get something out of the way first. Coloring books are made of paper, not glass. You can’t break the pages, and you’re certainly not going to wreck them. (But perhaps keep your glass of water on the other side of the table, just in case!) The book is your partner, waiting for color to be applied to it. Every hue you set down comes from your own unique self (ummm, or occasionally your toddler or pet,) and is inherently beautiful. Yes, even that accidental crayon mark or paw print!

Nearly every mistake can be corrected, erased, incorporated, or layered over. Imagine in five years, you come across a stored coloring book you had forgotten. You see that stray mark that you cringed over when it was made, except this time – this time what you remember is how baby Henry bumped your arm when he was learning to stand up, or how the dog decided he’d “help” that day, or how you were early in your coloring phase and how far you’ve come since then.

The very absolute worst case is that you are incredibly unhappy with the outcome and desperately want another shot at it, in which case you can re-purchase that book. But there are so many fantastic and fun pictures in all the books you have (or will have!) By the time you finish them, you’ll probably be at peace with your mistake – or maybe even figure out a way to fix it so it doesn’t bother you. Don’t forget that as a coloring artist, you’re constantly learning new things, even when that wasn’t your intention!

Ok, you’re not going to break the coloring book, we’ve established this. You’re still stuck, you say?

I’m a corporate person by day, but by night, coloring isn’t the only way I express my creativity. I enjoy solving problems creatively; I’m an amateur photographer; I even enjoy erupting into random songs spontaneously! It took years of marriage for The Husband to finally admit he really does live in a musical. Thank goodness he stopped making fun of TV shows & movies where they suddenly sing and dance (yes, it can – and does! – happen in real life.)

An incredibly famous song recommends that you “start at the very beginning; it’s a very good place to start.” (Don’t worry, I’m singing it right now, too!) Why shouldn’t this approach apply to coloring?! It’s perfectly acceptable to not have your entire picture figured out before you start coloring; you don’t even need to have a fully developed coloring scheme.

Concentrate on starting at the beginning – with what you know. Do the leaves call out to be colored a beautiful autumn shade of maroon? Perhaps the water wants to be a cool glacier blue? Maybe the grass in your gnome world is…purple?? You may not know what color the sky, the building, or the mushroom is going to be, but you definitely know you want purple grass. Start with what you know – the purple grass.

While you’re focusing on coloring your purple grass, your mind might wander to what to work on next, and that’s ok. At some point, you might even become rather fixated on a particular section or item within the drawing (that mouse won’t stop staring at me!). Again, you may not know what you want the entire picture to look like, but by concentrating on one thing at a time – that one thing you know, and then the next thing – it will snowball into an overall direction for the picture and before you know it, you’ll be well on your way.

Keeping these two strategies in mind will help overcome anxiety when staring at a beautiful, detailed illustration that’s waiting for you: it’s not glass, and start at the beginning, with what you know. You’ll no longer be thinking about the book as a breakable object, and you won’t be worried about wrecking it; you’ll just be caught up in your latest coloring masterpiece and enjoying the process.

And by the way, you’re welcome for the ear worm. J

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