Keep Looking For Hope: My 2020 Voting Plan And A Coloring Page

by Michelle M. Johnson

"Keep looking for hope" is the title of my latest Have Color Will Travel Free Coloring Page.

A partially colored coloring page with a variety of gel pens, colored pencils, and markers surrounding it.
This in my copy of the current HCWT Free Coloring Page.
I started coloring it a few days ago when I began to 
feel (even more) concerned over the upcoming presidential election.
This page is available free as a digital download to 
members of the HCWT coloring community. 
Sign up HERE, free, for access to this illustration, the 
HCWT Google Art Classroom (where I share free
virtual coloring tutorials),
and my semi-regular coloring community newsletter.


I began working on it during the height of the COVID19 pandemic, and I finished shortly after the murder of George Floyd Jr., a decidedly dark time for my country and a wholly low time for me.

It may not look like it at first glance, but is an topical illustration for me. My lines are heavier, my formations more chaotic, and I've used completely inked in shapes in my patterns. I was working things out for myself as I focused on this drawing, trying to understand and process all the hurt, fear, sorrow, and anxiety both in my nation and in myself.

And, while I laid down ink to paper during those weeks, I kept returning to the idea of hope.

The word hope is hand drawn and colored in with colored pencil. It is a closeup of a quadrant of the original coloring page.
This is where I began my coloring journey with this
illustration. Teaching my first virtual coloring retreat
on colored pencil blending this summer reinvigorated
my love of colored pencils! I'd forgotten how 
flexible and vibrant they can be IF my coloring focus
is on the journey rather than the destination. 

Wherever my eyes scrolled or my ears listened, it seemed folks were out of hope, struggling for hope or they were holding onto hope, encouraging hope, suggesting that the former being a lackluster, dull state of affairs and the latter being its shiny, sparkly opposite.

But, is that really the truth about hope? Is it really the bright, cheerful and welcoming reverse of hopelessness?

Another closeup section of the coloring page, this time colored in marker.
This illustration isn't intentionally focused on being "not pretty;" 
there are brief moments of stereotypical beauty throughout
because I can't not draw flowers, hearts, and swirls.
However, I did intentionally draw it to feel "not easy," so
I anticipate there will be folks who may call this piece
"ugly," and I'm fairly certain I'm okay with that.

Sure, that's what the definition of the word suggests (Merriam-Webster defines hope as a "desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment," which sounds pretty glossy and put together to me), but is that what hope really looks like in the wild?

The more ink I added to this drawing, the more I began to think not.

Another closeup section of the original coloring page, this time the word hope is colored in markers in a rainbow pattern.
I've thus far always illustrated with the negative 
space of my drawings staying empty, white. 2020 has
seen me thickening my lines, creating inked in negative
space, and moving in a whole new artistic direction.
I attribute a lot of this change in focus to my work on
my soon-to-be-released book,
Feminism Is For Everyone: A Coloring Book.

Hope isn't the colorful bloom on a healthy flower; its the dirty, mottled, fibrous stem punching its way through the packed earth to reach the sun. Hope isn't the shiny, clean, comfortable automobile; its the stinky, flammable, toxic gasoline we need to get a car's tires turning. Hope is knotted, crusty, grabby, and thick. Hope is also angry, bossy, demanding, and tenacious. And, hope is found as often, and typically in larger quantities, in the most unlikely of places - a conversation with a stranger, a bumper sticker in the parking lot, an unexpected phone call, a report on the news - as it is in the places we expect it - the voices of children, the hugs of a loved one, the words of the likeminded, the music, movies and books that we choose.

As this illustration came to a place of balance for me, as it started suggesting to me that it was finished (I never know when a coloring page is done; it just sort of...announces itself to me), my personal relationship with hope during this dire time in my nation's history began to feel clearer, too.

A final closeup of a new quadrant of the coloring page with the word HOPE colored in neon gel pen.
Can you spy with your little eye the HOPE that I missed
coloring in during my recent art therapy time?

Hope is the easiest for me to hold onto when I am angry and when I feel I have some sense of agency over a situation that is trying to tear me apart. In me hope isn't pretty, polite, or patient; it is a heat-fueled drive for something better, kinder, fairer. Having hope can exhaust me and energize me; it can just as easily push me to silent contemplation as it can inspire me to wild creativity.

Early voting began this week here in Texas, and though I have yet to vote (don't worry, me and mine will be heading to polls early for the first time ever, soon), I am seeing loads of folks eagerly casting their ballots, faces filled with energetic hope. And, while this excites me to see all the enthusiasm about taking part in this year's election, I am also a bit concerned. There are still many hurdles between where we are now as a nation (where the world is in general, too) and seeing all of us safely through this season of social distancing and social change; can my hope and the hope of others for a better, brighter, more just future be maintained once the opportunity for agency has passed (getting to cast a voting ballot is one of the most powerful types of agency there is)? Will anger be enough to see me through 2020 and beyond?

Perhaps maybe now the title of this illustration is making more sense? "Keep looking for hope" isn't a Where's Waldo coloring challenge (Although as I began to color this image myself, I started by coloring in all of the HOPEs...or so I thought - I completely overlooked two HOPEs and didn't realize it until I was taking photographs for this blog post!😂), but rather an inky reminder to myself and anyone else who prints and colors it that hope is elusive, twisty, not all that pretty, and most definitely hard to find sometimes, but that doesn't necessarily mean we are hopeless. Hope is a hungry critter, and it requires us to pay attention and keep our eyes peeled for its presence for it to survive.

After I vote, my plan is to add color to this illustration, teeny bit by teeny bit, when (not if) my hope wavers to remind myself that hope isn't an easy concept to play with, especially when my feelings of agency aren't very strong. And, I hope you will color it, too (See what I did there?), because that's what this particular piece of gnarly, patterned, abstract art is for -- helping you keep looking for hope.

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