Awakening the Secret Garden within Part II

Michelle Casey's finished Secret Garden page. Faber-Castell Art Grip colour pencils were used to colour this.

Michelle Casey's finished Secret Garden page. Faber-Castell Art Grip colour pencils were used to colour this.

Today I thought I’d share my first coloured page in Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden with you along with imparting some more reflections on colouring. Recently, I was compelled to buy the book because I hoped it would help me to focus in the studio. You see, despite my best efforts, I’m the type who allows my worries to rule my head… some days this really paralyzes my sense of creativity. The moment I spied Secret Garden, I remembered how colouring once helped me cope with childhood stressors. I hoped it might do the same thing for me now; and, it did! In the last little while I’ve accomplished more work than ever… all while colouring my daily demons away!

The Meditative Benefits of Colouring…

Devoting time to colouring reminded me of how important it is to nurture a sense of fun in the studio. It made me more aware of mediums (ie. crayons, pencil crayons) I enjoyed using as a child and the sense of freedom they imparted. Feeling a colour pencil in my hand again was good; I remembered how important it was to hold it just so and put the right amount of pressure on it to elicit bold or subtle nuances of colour on paper… and how beautiful it is to layer colours upon each other. As a child colouring magically affected my imagination. Little did I know then that it also had benefits akin to meditation; as with the latter: it can help you sleep better; reduces stress; improves your health and sense of self-awareness. With regards to the latter, it certainly tuned me into my creative inner voice (See: Awakening the Secret Garden within Part I).

Using Colouring to Escape & Much More…

Recently a friend commented on how he used colouring as a tool to escape from the bullying of an angry parent. That got me thinking about the journeys colouring took me on as a kid. I too turned to colouring to soothe nerves brought on by family battles. When I got my first set of Crayola crayons, I fell in love with them instantly. I took joy in memorizing each and every one of their names: lemon yellow, cornflower blue, carnation pink, etc…. Like collage, colouring allowed me to create worlds of my own choosing; ones that were much rosier than the one I was living in. It gave me a sense of freedom when I had none. If I felt like it, I created whole monochromatic worlds of blues or reds. Other times, when I grew tired of straight colouring, I inscribed Zentangle-like patterns onto colouring book images. I experimented adding light and shade to images as well but it didn’t take me long to realize that I didn’t need to mimic the colours or textures of the real world – my colouring book was a free-for-all space; a place to break the rules and to breathe life into ordinary paper with colour! That sense of freedom allowed me to develop a personal relationship to colour, texture and line. Finishing an entire book never spelled the end of its use either. I continued to copy, trace, cut out and collage my favourite imagery onto greeting cards and school projects. As I did this, my brain began to take in the contours and shapes of things and that in turn fostered a sense of drawing, composition and collage. As I think about those times, I realize that colouring books were like mini experimental visual art labs. They were a great place to develop and expand my creative skills while simultaneously enjoying myself… most importantly, they provided me with a space to imagine a brighter world and to trust in and connect with my inner voice.

As in the past, I’ve also extended the life of Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden; recently, it’s inspired me to give shape to a new piece which I’ll share with you soon. I’d love to hear your fondest colouring memories. Were they an escape for you? Sheila Cain-Sample, you’re still colouring now; for you, the magic continues!

Share Your Secret Garden Pages!

PS I was delighted to hear from a number of you who decided to purchase the book. Did you know Basford is collecting images of coloured pages for a Secret Garden Facebook album? If you’ve completed one, why not send her a copy? I’m sending in mine! As well, she just published a Secret Garden postcard colouring book – see the link below for more information… wouldn’t it be cool to send a hand-coloured postcard to a friend!

Other Related Links:
Secret Garden: 20 Postcards
IMMRAMA Institute: Everyday Meditation for People Who Don’t Like to Meditate (Colouring as Meditation)

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