07 April 2011

Colouring Books

Can you remember the last time you picked up a colouring book and pencils and coloured just for the sake of it. The last record of me drawing is 1985 (I was 15yo). I had no skill and still really have no skills.

My aunty, who resides in Italy, is a self-taught watercolour artist and has been for about 20 years. She has produced some really lovely works that my siblings and I have had the privilege of owning. I wish I had sufficient walls to display her collection. The best I can do is store them in artist's folders and flick through them every now and then.

Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland reproduced from a photograph I took during our 2007 travels. It was a gift for John's birthday. Given our love of castles, this is our favorite in her collection.

This painting made especially for Trinity was reproduced from a very old fairytale book.

In recent years I have had the desire to learn how to paint and spend more time being creative/artistic. Art is a tremendous way of expressing oneself and immensely satisfying. Much more so than writing a financial plan or advising someone on how not to spend money they haven't earned (sleeeeeppy time).

However, I predominantly operate from the left side of my brain. I am very comfortable in the world of finance, organisation, logic, problem solving, reasoning... get the picture? My best friend is a right side operator and it shows in her artistic explorations. Whilst she can work from the left side (you need to be able to as a Personal Assistant), she is very comfortable with chaos (check her desk at home when she's creating), has millions of creative ideas and it is visible in her finished products. You sometimes wonder how we have sustained such a fabulous friendship for 22 years.

My difficulty as a left brain operator is that I find it difficult to tap into my creative side. Give me instructions for x-stitch, tapestry, jewellery making, sewing and I'm okay, I can deliver. Give me a colour pencil or paint brush and I just sit there staring at the canvas, having not a clue as to what to do with it. It's also perhaps why I struggle with the more creative side of photography as well. Unlike my buddy Peckster who has given me some great photos and am the proud owner of his sunset photo of the St Kilda pier and cafe (before the cafe burned down).

This was proven some years ago when my girlfriend did just that. Gave me pencils and paper. Whilst she was happily painting away, I sat staring at the drawing paper. My heart rate elevated after some time, felt stressed, frustrated and pressured. Imagine that? This was meant to be relaxing, creative and fun. That was the problem solver in me rearing its ugly head. I could not solve the problem of creating. After 3 hours I managed to scrounge together some geometric shapes and then colour them in. In 2 colours only. Red and white. There was relief though. I solved my problem. Did I have fun, hmmm can't remember, but sitting in my girlfriend's company chatting more than makes up for my lack of creativity any day of the week.

What does that have to do with colouring books? Well it is ten years on and I still can't draw but upon a visit to the Reject Shop, I came across a collection of Doodle Design colouring books. Jam-packed with gorgeous patterns and scenes, I couldn't resist picking up the Garden Fairies, World of Animals and Country Cottages. Each one of them resonated somehow with me. Having a little girl who loves animals, pink and dollies made those an easy choice. The country cottages just reminds me of the gorgeous cottages I saw throughout Scotland.

On a whim, during my 2009 Bali trip with my sister, I took a couple of the colouring books. It was the nicest flight as I whiled away the time colouring in. I have no idea what the passengers around me were thinking nor did I care. Incensed by the relaxing and fun experience, I then spent an entire afternoon (6 hours to be precise), colouring with my sister... under the palm trees, near the pool, with a Bintang or two. No stress, no pressure, no need to problem solve. Why? Because the outline is already there. I don't have to have the skill to draw it, just the inclination to experiment with colours. I have the pleasure of a pretty finished product that I can look back on and reminisce.

The afternoon was so touching to both of us that we often refer to it and prior to leaving Melbourne we did it all over again. The dining table was scattered with pencils, felt tip pens, crayons, glitter, even hijacked my nephew's awesome texta collection. It was difficult to fathom that we were two moms, 40+ playing with colouring books. But at that moment in time we were just a couple of girls enjoying the simplest thing.

Today, I unpacked the art box and came across coloured princesses and fairies and I remember the days we coloured in Bali and the afternoon around my dining table. As my sister is due to arrive for a visit in two weeks, I have an unfinished princess which she needs to complete (and we may be able to steal an afternoon just for colouring).

My conclusion is that you are never too old to colour, especially in the company of children. You don't need special artistic skills, just the desire to play. And when the going gets tough, just colour for a while, you never know what solutions may come to you when your mind has the space to think.

As for my daughter and I, I can hardly wait to colour with her and create pretty pictures. In the meantime, it's crayons and blank paper for lots and lots of scribbling, the prequel to colouring as this artwork by Trinity attests to.