Coloring Is ART, Which Is Why Judging The 3rd Annual HCWT Coloring Contest (Online!!) Was An Epic Challenge!

To color online or to color in person?

That was the question I began to ask myself mid July of this past summer as we were heading into National Coloring Book Day (August 2nd, and the date I had hosted all HCWT live, large group coloring events) and Have Color Will Travel's 3rd annual coloring contest here in Seguin, Texas.

Why question what had thus far been a successful in-person thing?

For starters, my life had changed dramatically now that my son was in college. The beginning of August was no longer an in-between sort of month - you know what I mean, the waiting around for school to start, too busy to think of escaping the Texas summer heat, but not inordinately harried so that fun couldn't be squeezed in here and there.

August is now full of more preparation than my family has hours for, and adding *one more thing* to my summer this year brought me only tears and gnashing of teeth!

Coloring and contests are all about having fun with your creativity and witnessing the creative fun of others, so once the preparation for 2019's contest became only about me feeling overwhelmed, I made the executive decision to rethink how I hosted 2019's Have Color Will Travel annual coloring awesomeness.

Taking into account the changes to my personal schedule, and adding into that mix that that the scope of Have Color Will Travel had grown beyond my local area with the launch of my blog's online Coloring Shop in the fall of 2018, the most logical step for me to take was to give my hand a go at an online-only coloring contest.

But, I was quite literally sweating bullets (this October was a stinking hot month here in south Texas) over bringing my little coloring event to a much larger audience: would anyone anywhere want to color along ALL month with one of my illustrations; would anyone anywhere want to color ALL by themselves instead of at our fabulous local Court Street Coffee Shop here in Seguin, Texas; would anyone anywhere want to share their coloring art in such a public space as social media; would anyone anywhere want to follow along with my HCWT newsletter that had tips, tutorials and encouragements for them each week????

And the kicker? An online coloring contest is actually a considerable amount MORE work for me to host than an IRL coloring contest whether anyone colors along or not!

But, when you see these 26 gorgeously colored submissions to the contest, the proof is there that all of my work and anxious over thinking of the whole shebang was absolutely, positively worth it.

It goes without saying that my taking a leap into hosting online coloring events was a fabulous decision! Quite a few folks had mini coloring parties with this year's illustration, generations of coloring enthusiasts exploring their creativity together, and, at least from my perspective as the judge, inspiring each other's creative decisions as well. This year's coloring page was also used in a group situation, as a part of a church's youth group meeting, which I absolutely adore! And, for those who used this year's contest as an opportunity to have a bit of solitary creative self-care time (like I did...although I have yet to finish mine...*sigh*), their coloring art turned out as beautiful as their stories behind their coloring experience, which they generously shared with me through social media direct channels (thank you - y'all's coloring process stories give me life!!).

But, all this awesomeness had to be judged...and judged by me.

And, even though this is my third go around judging a coloring contest, rather than getting easier over time, it has actually gotten MUCH harder.

This year I offered prizes (each winner will receive two Colorable Hugs, one for themselves from me, and one that they can send to someone special) in three distinct categories: Colored Pencils, Markers, and Mixed Media (a category that I left purposely open to y'all's interpretation).

After much deliberation and a bit of opinion seeking (I asked two non-contest-participating creative folks for their take on each category, as well as the opinions of both my son, Samuel, and my partner, Steve, both of whom took great care with how they colored this year's contest illustration, even though they could not officially compete to win), I have finally settled on the 3rd Annual HCWT Coloring Contest (Online!!) winners.

However, I must strongly state for all who read this post that EVERY SINGLE CONTEST SUBMISSION THIS YEAR WAS A STELLAR EXAMPLE OF COLORING AS ART!!! 

Recently in media, coloring has gotten a bit of a bad rap as something that is the bastardization of "real" art or something that only folks with "too much time on their hands" do. These sour grapes attitudes (you know the memes and social media links I'm talking about) stink, and to me it feels like they stem from people who are intimidated by the myriad of choices that a black line drawing presents them with (there is no rule book or google search that can tell you HOW to choose a color or coloring technique, how to fill in all that blank space, and making that kind of art is scary), and from folks who are frightened to opt out of all of life's busy and harried "must dos" and dip their toes into the often times quite self-reflective creative "want to dos" for fear of judgement and maybe even for fear of falling behind in whatever race they are running.

Every single person who participated in this year's HCWT coloring contest, even if you didn't manage to complete your coloring art on time to submit it for judging, is a super star coloring artist! There are so many obstacles in our contemporary lives battling to fight for our attention; that you all took a risk and chose to spend some time on your creativity is a huge victory, and to that I say huzzah!!

And, now for the winners:)

Mixed Media: Barbara Vrooman

Mixed media winner, Barbara Vrooman, participated in this year's contest in Oregon!

Once I shared this epic collage-as-coloring submission online, everyone who saw it was in awe, including myself...and super curious about what Barbara used to create her coloring art masterpiece. Thankfully, she took this WIP photo; it provides loads of incite into her process for all who were curious:)

Stamp pads, glue, scissors, sparkly things, patterned paper,
 and many, many copies of my illustration went into the creation
of Barbara's coloring art this year.

Markers: Maryah McHam

Coming to a decision about the markers category was incredibly difficult. Every single submission was a winner on its own for a variety of reasons: using a limited palette (super challenging on such a detailed illustration), adding extra illustrative details (I am a sucker for folks who ADD drawing elements to my coloring pages - I absolutely LOVE it!!), choosing to color only with patterns...PATTERNS!! But, what put Maryah in the lead with her jubilant rainbow mandala was her stellar use of white space. Many folks across the contest categories chose to leave sections of this year's illustration blank, and that is always an interesting and risky decision, in my opinion, because it can either add to your coloring art OR it can look like the colorist got tired and called it a day (why is it always assumed uncolored space is a lazy colorist...we don't think of white space on a canvas as a lazy painter or a page break in a novel as a lazy writer!!). I like to think of coloring space left blank as an artist's choice (really, in the world of coloring supplies, there is no way to create the true, smooth white of blank paper), and the sections Maryah left open really made her rainbow extravaganza pop to my eyes in a way that made her submission stand out loud and proud.

Colored Pencils: Melissa Skinner

I've said over and over how difficult it was to judge this year's contest, but truly, the judging category I agonized over the longest was the colored pencil category. Everyone I sought judging opinions from loved a different submission, and each suggestion as to why this or that mandala should win was compelling: unique and unexpected coloring palette, outstanding use of colored pencil techniques, "I just can't stop looking at it because it makes me happy" rationales. So, my process for choosing a winner in this category had to go deeper.

I took the liberty of digitally drawing on top of a screen shot of Melissa's cool blue mandala to show y'all what her subtle color choices made me see: a whole extra layer of petals/feathers within the mandala's structure! That this quiet shading within an already colored section is so discreet that one must study her coloring art for a bit to even find it in her mandala made it all the more compelling to me, and so after two weeks of wondering how I was ever going to choose a colored pencil category winner, this particular bit of coloring artistry is what brought me to a decision, *finally.*

Of course, because I am me and this is MY contest, I had to have a few runners up. I had a handful of submissions from children in this year's contest, not in a category all their own but ALONG SIDE ADULT COLORISTS! Each deserves a special shout out on this blog, and I will be sending them a Colorable Hug of their very own from me as a congratulations for their gorgeous creative efforts:)

Runner Ups: Lucy, Caleb, Abigail, Courtlynn and Rachel

This coloring page may only be partially colored, but Lucy's burst of crazy rainbow awesomeness makes me smile big every time I look at it! Of course I love rainbows, but Lucy's interpretation of rainbow order takes that joyful collection of colors to a whole new level. I absolutely adore Lucy's coloring art!

I didn't have a Crayons Only category this year, but Caleb's free flowing, exuberant use of Crayolas has made me rethink next year's contest; there will definitely be a crayon category for folks to color in! This young man is also my nephew, and I love, love, LOVE that his coloring style echos the coloring style of his uncle, my partner, Steve:)

There is so much that I love about Abigail's bright and bold mandala, but it is the risks that she took (color blending with markers is hard for grownups to do with confidence, and she's ELEVEN!) that made me smile big when I first saw her coloring art! This young lady is my niece, and I am super proud that she was not afraid to "color outside the lines."

Creating patterns with markers is one thing, but making solid and defined patterns with colored pencils is downright challenging (smudging happens very easily, and getting strongly defined shapes takes quite a bit of time!)! I was SO impressed with Courtlynn's coloring art this year!! This young lady has participated in every HCWT coloring contest I have held, and it has been an absolute delight and honor to watch her skill and creativity with colored pencils grow and grow and grow!

Not only did Rachel not let the lines of this coloring page become the boss of her (that each little section of this mandala seems to be its own universe makes my heart sing!), but she didn't let common crafting rules stop her from rethinking her supplies either (look closely at those puffballs she collaged on to her coloring page - she colored on top of those, too!!). This young colorist is also my niece, which means I am probably biased, but I think great things should be expected of the imagination that created this coloring art!

The coloring participants for this year's HCWT coloring contest came from all over Texas, California, Arizona, Oregon and Illinois. My hope is that next year's coloring contest will be even bigger, touching even more states, and encouraging even more folks all over the U.S. to give themselves a smidgen of time for their creativity during their busy days (sadly, I currently have to limit my HCWT Coloring Contests to the United States).

Thank you to everyone who shared their creativity with mine and to everyone who encouraged and complimented the coloring art of strangers online! You all made me smile every day during the month of October and feel like these crazy ideas I have from time to time (like hosting an online coloring contest without knowing a thing about how to go about doing so) are worth following through.


  1. And Michigan! Lucy is from Michigan. :-)

    1. That's fabulous news!! One more state to add to the colorful collection!! Yay!! :)

  2. Wow! I am so honored and humbled. There were so many great submissions!

    1. Those are good feelings to have:) It was indeed a ridiculously challenging task to choose winners...but, that is always the case. Folks who love to color are artists, and judging art is...hard. They were ALL my favorites!


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