Coloring Is Life: 10 Bits of Coloring (Life) Advice I Gave To My Son When He Went Off To College

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In August of 2018, my son, Sam, headed off to university...1300 miles away from our home in Seguin, Texas.

On August 14th, 2018, I sat down in my studio and secretly inscribed, rather lengthily I might add, his copy of my coloring book, Doodled Blooms.

The title page of Sam's copy of Doodled Blooms.
I started with the goal of being brief and straight forward...
but my kid was going off to college, living away from home
 for the first time, and I had things to say, so I ditched that
goal almost immediately:)

My inscription began like this:

You are about to head out for the greatest of adventures, and I am so ridiculously proud of you!! Who knows when you will see this inscription, but I just want you to know that it made my heart sing that you wanted to take your copy of my coloring book with you to Chicago. Here's a few bits of coloring advice that I feel also apply to life:"

Sam actually never had the chance to crack open a coloring book during his first year at DePaul University as a music performance major (and I am totally not surprised), but instead discovered my inscription when he sat down to color with me once he was home in Texas for summer vacation (and the look on his face as he read my words is one I will always cherish).

What follows below are the 10 pieces of coloring advice I gave my son when he went off to college, with a little bit of polishing here and there (I was quite emotional as I scribbled on Sam's book a year ago, and it shows in my dropped words and raggedy sentences). There seems like no better day than National Coloring Book Day 2019 to share these pieces of wisdom with a wider audience, especially since Sam heartily suggested that I should shape this list into a blog post for y'all. 

1.The lines of a coloring book's illustrations are NOT the boss of you (or anyone else)! Color inside them or color outside them - the choice is yours and yours alone.
There are so many "black lines" in life trying to box you in and tell you how to think and do: this is valuable, that is not; this is quality, that is not; this is right, that is wrong; this is weak, that is strong; this is worth it, that is a waste of time; this is the correct choice, that is a mistake. Every society has its preferences and suggestions, and they are not shy about broadcasting them loud and clear. But make no mistake, the only person that decides what to do with all those thick and thin black lines is you. And, who's to say you shouldn't color inside some lines and disregard others? Some lines create more meaningful shapes than others. Where and how you place your life's crayons, colored pencils or markers is entirely up to you.

2. Use a clean sheet of thick paper between the pages of your coloring book so that the art you make today doesn't bleed or imprint through to the next page, ruining the art you might make tomorrow.
Preparation today saves you perspiration tomorrow when you work smarter not harder. If a particular task is always giving you trouble or if you are presented with a task so monumental you feel the need to quit before you even begin, stop, breathe deep (in through the nose, out through the mouth), and narrow in on what you can work on right now rather than focusing on your challenges or feelings of the overwhelm. Managing the whole of life is always easier when you focus on its bits and pieces.

3. Don't over think your page; great creations come by just picking up the color next to you and using it.
Plans of attack are good, necessary even. Everyone loves a delightfully planned and executed color palette! But, the act of making detailed plans can also be a time suck. When you are pressed for time (and who isn't these days?), focusing on the single question right in front of you (how shall I spend this hour) is a much more efficient use of the time you have than plotting out your entire day in detail (which can actually take more than an hour, an hour in which you probably planned to do something else).

4. There is no reason not to try a new coloring tool just because you've never used it before. Don't know how brush pens, gel pens, water soluble colored pencils, etc. work? Just start coloring with them and see what you can learn.
Every expert in anything started out as a novice. Sure, they might have had some classes, some education eventually, but dollars to donuts (there's another phrase in my vernacular I don't know the origins of!), that expert started off by following their curiosity and trying something they knew nothing about. Expert advice is good, but it isn't always necessary to have it before you try something new. And, besides, through experimentation you might discover a use for something that no one has thought of yet - yay, you!

5. There are no mistakes in coloring. Sure, you may not LIKE how something turned out, but it isn't a mistake - you just don't like it, and that's an opinion, not a fact, about your creativity. 
There are coloring pages that may not have turned out as you planned and there are coloring pages that you may have walked away from, but these are not true honest mistakes; you colored (or danced, or sang, or played, or wrote, or tried something creative) and that is never, ever a mistake. 

6.Coloring is more fun with friends.
Coloring is creative, coloring is even artistic, but remember: creating art is as much about the process as it is the product. And, when you are coloring with friends, the process is about so much more than your art - it's about good conversation, laughter, camaraderie, and making memories. Coloring with friends may not end up in your most beautiful coloring pages or in even a completed page, but it is always time supremely well spent.

7. Take a picture of your finished coloring, post the pic on social media, share the shot with a friend in a chat, email the photo to someone you love. Don't keep your coloring to yourself.
The art in you inspires the art in others, and if there is one thing the world needs more of right now, it is all of its citizens remembering that being creative isn't only the prerogative of "artsy" people, but the birthright of each and every human.

8.  Sign, date and even annotate your completed coloring pages.
In the moment of finishing a coloring page, you think you will remember who you were, what you were thinking and what was important to you at that time. But, life is full of so much action, that the gentle moment of filling in a black lined illustration with a collection of colors will surely fade into the background of your memory. Future you will thank you for taking the time to jot down a brief who, what, when, where, why, and how of each of the times you sat down to be a little creative just for yourself.

9. Never throw away your coloring books or pages!
Coloring books and pages take up so little space, and everything in their pages is your creativity. Are they precious? YES! Cherish and enjoy your creative life, find it a space on a shelf or in a drawer and let it be a reminder to you that no matter what age you are or what you are doing in your life, you are never too old to color, never too old to create because...

10. Coloring is for everyone!
When in doubt, color. When you are bored, color. When you are lonely, color. When you are sad, color. Coloring can help anyone and everyone think through whatever lies in front of them. Coloring brings our minds and hearts into focus, and there isn't a person on this planet that doesn't occasionally need a bit more focus now and again. And, it is through this logic that I declare now and forevermore, coloring is for absolutely everyone.

Happy National Coloring Book Day 2019, everyone!


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  2. Beautiful message. Sam is lucky to have you as a mom. <3

    1. AWW:) Thank you! At 19 he is beginning to agree with your assessment, which means I, too, am a lucky mother:)


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