Puzzle Coloring: A Follow Up To Our Creative End of 2019

Hello world, and hello 2020!!

I am still in awe of this new decade - we are in the literal future that I read about as a child, the future that seemed so impossibly far away until, like, a month ago!!

But, before rushing into the business of the new year, I would like to share with y'all a followup to my final, colorfully crazy suggestion of 2019. 

Adding Puzzle Coloring to all of our end of the year holiday gatherings here in Seguin,Texas, went swimmingly well!

In our house and at the houses of friends who graciously agreed to give my collaborative coloring activity a try at their gatherings, much coloring art was made by folks young (a precocious 8 year old was the youngest Puzzle Colorist) and less young (the oldest Puzzle Colorist was younger than 60 but older than 25, and that's all I'm gonna say). A total of 12 sets of human hands added their unique creativity to the two copies of my "head in the clouds..." illustration that I printed up for this experiment at the tail end of December, 2019.

At each Puzzle Coloring gathering, there were no rules given about how multiple people should come to a single illustration, no suggestions offered for where to start or what colors to choose, and, most importantly, no rules stated about how to treat the coloring art of a person who had come to the page before you.

I simply left the clean coloring pages (and eventually not so clean coloring pages, as it didn't take long for folks to begin coloring on them) out on a table with a collection of art supplies and encouraged any and all souls present to color/not color to their heart's content.

Here is the coloring art that was created in the last few weeks of this past year by our friends and family.

"head in the clouds..." is the Dec/Jan Free Coloring of the Month
illustration for the HCWT coloring community.
I thought for sure the bigger colorable spaces would
be colored first in this illustration, but it turned out
folks went for the itty bitty sections, first!

Neither of the coloring pages was finished by the year's end, even though both pages saw three holiday gatherings full of three different sets of people, and each gathering lasted well over two hours.

But, remember, finishing these coloring pages wasn't ever the point of this coloring experiment (and quite frankly, finishing a coloring page is never really the point of sitting down to color in the first place, but I will save my thoughts on how the motto "finish what you start" is best left out of the realm of coloring art all together for a later post).

The point of collaborative coloring, of Puzzle Coloring, is the community that is created when folks sit down to a black lined drawing and use a rag tag collection of art supplies to add a bit of color to it; the point of collaborative coloring is the conversation and connection that can be made when we engage folks through a lens of creativity before getting down to the business of "so what are you up to, lately?"

And what a lovely community was created for us this holiday season as we colored! Our Puzzle Coloring gatherings were with folks that we had not seen for many, many months, which meant that much catching up was had, of course, but also much realization of how much growth had happened in each of us during our time apart! 

Yep, that's me coloring in the corner with two of my favorite people.
I only added a smidgen of color to each of the pages as I was the host of two
of our holiday gatherings, and a bit busy during the fun.

Negotiating lots of elbows in a communal coloring experience
 is a bit challenging; a round table comes in handy!

I thought the tiny details of this page would be daunting and overwhelming,
but it seems itty bitty coloring spaces are not as irksome when you have folks
around you providing stimulating conversation!

There was also, surprisingly to me, conversation about the illustration we were all coloring. This was an interesting and slightly stressful topic for me to partake in as the artist. I did not draw "head in the clouds..." with the intent that it would be colored at all, much less by so many people, so I was nervous (more than usual - I always feel a bit of anxiety when presenting a new illustration to color) that this drawing would not be fun to color at all. Happily, this illustration's dense patterns, lack of attention to "proper orientation," and commitment to both black and white empty space seemed to stimulate introspection in colorists.

Here are some fun artistic and creative observations I overheard during our Puzzle Coloring gatherings. See if you can match the musing to the colored section in the close-up photos that follow!

"This part makes me want to just choose two colors and go from there." 
The great thing about patterned coloring pages is that choosing colors
is a swift process. The mind sees a math problem to solve in a patterned
illustration rather than an artistic dilemma.

"I'm just feeling purple all over this, shades and shades of purple. I am purple today." 
In this section it seems colorists were inspired by the colors that were
left behind by the person who came at the page before them; it was a sort of
"collaborative coloring through time and space" experience!.

"I want more black outlines - they just make the colors pop!"
One copy of this coloring page leaned heavier on cool colors and the
 other leaned heavier on the warmer spectrum. I have no idea why
this transpired because I was too engaged in conversation
 to notice while it was happening!

Coloring such a chaotic and detailed illustration in a communal way also inspired questions about artistic risk and creative boundaries from our youngest party goer: "Can I color on the black parts? Can I color over what someone else colored? Can I color on both sheets?" These are some of my favorite questions to hear as a creativity facilitator because they all are essentially asking the same thing: What are the rules I need to follow to be acceptably creative in this moment (emphasis on the word *acceptable*)? It gave me great pleasure to answer this young colorist, "YES! Color over the black lines, make marks on what has already been colored if you like, and have at it with both coloring pages, so long as you aren't hurting anyone!" The lack of "rules" with Puzzle Coloring turned a less-than-eager participant into an ardent colorist and active contributor to our "mature" conversation.
I am always saddened to hear young children feel like coloring has too many
"rules" for them to want to partake of it after a certain age. It is my life's mission to erase
 those rules for them and help them see that they are only classroom edicts
 meant to keep a group of children safe, not guidelines for how one lives a creative life.

As the artist and master mischief maker of these three creative moments, it was an absolute pleasure to watch folks of all ages be surprised at how engaged they could get in a communal coloring experience! And, of course the biggest gift to me from this whole experience was the two "completed" coloring pages that took our family through the 2019 holiday season; I will treasure these pages and the memories their colors trigger in me, always.

The first few months of the new year don't hold nearly as many holidays and gatherings as the months that end the old year, but if the idea of Puzzle Coloring intrigues you, dear reader, this page will be free to download through to February 2020 (to receive HCWT Free Coloring of the Month pages one must only become a member of the Have Color Will Travel coloring community, which is super easy and also free - click HERE to sign up!). 

And, while the holiday season may be over for now, may I suggest adding Puzzle Coloring to any Super Bowl parties you plan to attend or to hold (trust me, not *everyone* is in it for the game), and maybe even offering a couple copies of the "head in the clouds..." illustration and along with coloring supplies to your Oscar party guests (the commercial breaks of that broadcast go on and on and on...)? These two big-reasons-for-folks-to-gather are swiftly coming up, and who knows what sorts of creative shenanigans might happen while your personal community is gathered around a big screen TV should you also offer up some coloring fun to all of your guests!

It's just a (mischievously creative) thought for y'all to ponder.😉


  1. I loved puzzle coloring!If I had guests at my house often, i'd do it, but I think it will work well with my youth group!!

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it!!
      I can report for certain that large groups of young people love coloring this illustration, so I hope you have success with it in your youth group:)


Post a Comment