Improve your coloring today - Turn off the distractions


There are no magical shortcuts to better coloring...

You never color well when you're distracted. Tips for improving your Copic coloring. |

But there are small things you can do TODAY to immediately improve the quality of your finished coloring projects.




Today I'd like to talk about

You never color well when you're distracted. Tips for improving your Copic coloring. |

Hold on, they're about to vote someone off the island.

what happens when you color

Wait? The butler did it?

with the television on

You never color well when you're distracted. Tips for improving your Copic coloring. |

Oh, yeah. I need to remember to buy fabric softener.

I know that for a lot of you, coloring is a relaxing hobby.

Cool! I've been waiting for that season to be available on Netflix!

So it makes sense that you'd want to put on your comfy slippers, grab a hot beverage and your bag of markers, and plonk down in the recliner in front of the television.

Dang, that's the new song everyone is raving about? I don't get it, that's a hit?

You never color well when you're distracted. Tips for improving your Copic coloring. |

Coloring and catching up on your latest programs, that sounds like a perfect evening, eh?

Ohhhh... that looks yummy! Let's go out for burgers Thursday night.

But here's the problem. If you are trying to improve the look of your coloring or if you're trying to master a new technique, that requires learning. Learning requires your full attention.

You never color well when you're distracted. Tips for improving your Copic coloring. |

In order to retain what you practice, your brain needs to

Hold on, let me turn off the television. There. That's better. Let's continue...


Whew! That’s better!

Okay, in order to really learn something, your brain needs to engage.

  1. You must consciously make the decision to change something about the technique that you are currently using.

  2. You must coach yourself through the new movements and the motion as you're doing it.

  3. You must view and analyse the results of this new motion to evaluate if you performed the action correctly.

  4. You must evaluate the results to decide if the change in process was an improvement over old results.

  5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 and visually monitor yourself as you continue to perform the new action, making corrections when you accidentally revert back into your old technique.

  6. You must register a sense of joy or pride in the newly learned skill in order to have the desire to repeat it again.

And in order for any of this to take root and become a natural habit, you have to be clear and mentally present throughout every single part of the process.

You can't do that if half your brain is paying attention to the television.

if you are not concentrating, most of what you do will fade from memory before bedtime.  


Multi-tasking is a myth

I don't care what the get-it-all-done-today efficiency nuts tell you. Doing two things at once is essentially doing neither thing well.

You never color well when you're distracted. Tips for improving your Copic coloring. |

Learning, practicing, and progressing in skill levels? You really, really, really can not multi-task the learning process.

If you aren't wholly involved in the learning process, if you brain isn't locked in and loaded for Copic coloring, then you are not logging the new information into long your term memory storage. If you aren't fully engaged in the task at hand, you are not developing muscle memory.

I don't care if it's just the news or a talk show. I don't care if it's an old episode of something you've seen 200 times. Your brain still checks in and out when you should be concentrating.

The first half of this blog today was really hard to read, right?

It's because I wasn't focused on story telling. It was actually pretty hard for me to write; I kept getting side tracked as I tried to recreate the distraction process.

Yes, I was distracted by the distraction.

That is precisely what happens when you try to color when there are too many visual and audio disturbances.


It's not enough to practice coloring every day

I know many of you made New Year's resolutions to improve your Copic coloring this year. And all those 30 day coloring challenge people? They've inspired you with their talk about how great they feel and all the amazing things they've learned. Practing your coloringisnt like the piano lessons you were forced to take when you were eight. Coloring practice is fun and rewarding. 

But sitting down and logging minutes with a marker in your hand isn't the point.

The point is to be learning, growing, and improving.

That requires full brain engagement.

You can't do that with episodes of CSI MIAMI MEETS NCIS SVU AT JAG playing in the background.

It doesn't matter if you mute it. Your brain will still check in with the programming on a very frequent basis.

Oh, I really like this part. They just don't make cops like Jerry Orbach anymore!


Turn off the tube

And if you're like me, turn the podcast off.

Maybe you have to turn off music with vocals.

It all depends upon what what twinges the "hey, let's think about something else" process in your brain. For most people, distractions are mostly the visual kind like the television or the grandkids playing in the corner of the room. But it might also be a window that displays scenery you find appealing.

For other people, it's the sound of voices. I can't concentrate when people sing on the radio because I find myself stopping to listen to the words.

It can also be certain sounds.

I have an app that plays environmental recordings in my studio. I have to be super picky about which sounds I play because I find bird calls to be a distraction. Rain or waves I can handle but as soon as an animal chimes in, I get pulled out of the art-zone and into the

Is that a bluebird I hear? I wonder how long they had to wait to capture a bluebird in that spring meadow recording? Where was the microphone? Was it camouflaged? I wonder how much sound technicians earn annually. Seems like an easy job to set up a mic in a field and then wait...

See what I mean?

Be honest. You know what rings your bell. Avoid that stuff.


20 minutes is easy!

I know you have twenty minutes in you. Find a quiet spot, away from the household traffic and the buzz of life.

Practice coloring for 20 minutes in a distraction free environment.

You'll get more done and see more growth in 20 minutes of dedication than in 2 hours of the same project in front of the television.


Self Sabotage: Don't Give Up Just Before a Growth Spurt

Hard days in the craft room lead to growth |

Ever have one of those days when you can't seem to color anything right?

Pat yourself on the back then, because you're perfectly normal.

We all go though periods when we have the Reverse-Midas touch.

But don't despair, there's a reason you're having a tough time with your coloring.

Bears Grow Quickly |

We call my youngest son Bear

Not because he's grumpy but because he's a big kid. My husband is 6'4" so the fact that my fourth grader is ready to play offensive tackle professionally isn't exactly a surprise. Bear is 99th percentile for height and 75th for weight, that's pediatrician speak for "man, that's one big kid".

He hits growth spurts really, really hard; since birth. He gets this gigantic belly and suddenly nothing fits. He'll walk around like the Incredible Hulk bursting out of his pants for week or so and then suddenly, BOOM. He's 2 inches taller, thin as a rail, and the same pants now need a belt and about 2 inches added to the hem.

It's a little freaky but it is nice to know that he's about to grow. Once that beer gut appears, I'd better start shopping for bigger pants or the kid'll be goin' naked next week.


Artistic growth spurts are harder to predict

At least I hope you don't grow a beer belly before you make each skill improvement.

Boy would that stink.

But there is a pretty good, tell-tale sign that you are about to make a gigantic leap in your coloring, That is, if you are smart enough to spot it and to keep pushing onward.

It's those darned Reverse-Midas days.

The days, weeks, or awful months when everything you touch goes directly from your desk to the garbage can because it simply sickens you to look at coloring that bad. Those days are threshold moments where something amazing is about to burst through.

Not being able to stand your own artwork is a sign that you're about to make a growth spurt.

But here's the problem and I especially notice this with crafters:


Many people give up right before the magic happens.

They don't stick it out long enough to reap the rewards they've earned.

They cash in their chips, chuck it all, and move on to something else.

Every crafter I've ever met does 19 different things. They quilt, they knit, they glue stuff to the back of dominoes and at somewhere in the past, they painted pottery or decorated tissue box covers or made teeny tiny birdhouses for teeny tiny birds. In some of my classes, I'd be hard pressed to name a single craft that someone there hasn't at least tried.

Yet not one of them knits or glues stuff to dominoes professionally.

And the fact that they're sitting in my art class means that they're now jumping headfirst into coloring.

Which is fine for me, but I suspect that they all had the potential to knit, quilt, or make teeny tiny birdhouses for profit. Because they're all seriously competent at crafting in general. Which means that there's abundant talent inside them. But with many crafters, it's an unfocused talent.


I think at some point the going got hard. The teeny tiny birdhouses weren't turning out as nice as envisioned. Because of that, the crafter enjoyed the process less and less. And since teeny tiny birdhouses were always supposed to be a hobby and not the craft equivalent of waterboarding, they moved on to something new and less painful. They found happiness in starting a new challenge.

Maybe they never dreamed of being a professional bird-houser but they were pretty far down the path to being awesome and yet they gave it up when the bird houses weren’t living up to expectations.

The best bird housers stick through the hard sessions because they know they're about to make a technical growth spurt. 


It's all about your taste level

You know good Copic coloring when you see it, right?

You've got artists and crafters whose work you admire, you pin their projects, you follow their blogs, you subscribe to their YouTube channels.

You know good stuff.

And during those dark days, you look at your own measly project and you know it doesn't live up to your standard.

We've all been there. Antonio Salieri was a pretty damned fine musician and he lived in the shadow of Mozart. And Mozart lived in the shadow of his father.

There is always someone better than you. Always.

And the fact that you recognize this is because you have taste. You have an internal barometer, something to live up to, to strive for.

Taste pushes you upwards. It's your vision for the future.

So when you're sitting at your craft table looking at the pile of mess you just colored and hanging your head in shame, it's your taste level telling you "do a better hair color next time", "don't make the nose so dark", "boy that color palette didn't work". Even though your brain is being kinda mean to you, it's also working quietly in the background making plans for what to do differently next time.

Your taste is going to keep bappin' you upside the head until you finally make the connection between what your hand is doing and what your brain wants it to do.


Think about television detectives

Almost every crime drama has the same scene: A murderer is on the loose and it's up to our hero to solve the riddle before the killer kills again.

It's such a tired and overused trope that it's usually reduced to a montage of the detective pacing, biting pencils, and walking down a city street in the rain at 3am, all set to really tense tick-tock theme music.

It's when Sherlock Holmes pulls out his violin and starts playing mad music.

Now consider: during this hard thinking segment, does it ever look like the detective is having fun? Is he smiling broadly, waving at hot chicks and little old ladies? Is he having a grand time? Party central?


But wait- this is the detective’s passion, he’s at his best when he’s thinking. Solving crime is his life's purpose!

And yet he's not enjoying every single second of the experience?

It looks like torture.

Thinking is not glamorous in the art world either. You could play tick-tock music 2-3 days a week in my studio.

But it’s necessary.

While you're fiddling on a violin or coloring really bad noses on beautiful stamp images, your brain is making the necessary connections to save the day.

Really bad coloring is what you do with your hands while your brain is learning. It isn't fun but it's essential to the growth process.

And I get it. It's totally unfair that half your brain is solving the crime while the other half is berating you for being a complete and total idiot.

But that's part of being human.


oh, the sweet relief that comes when you finally make a break through!

When your hand finally gets it right you want to show your project to the whole world- your husband, your dog, your best friend, the garbage man. "Hey world, look at what I did!" 

Your mean old brain? That’s what pushed you to this glorious point! It's the motivating factor. It beat you up for days (or months) and had you on the brink of depression in order to drag your butt over the finish line.

And now you'll have a few months of quiet, self-satisfaction until the process begins anew; when the tick-tock music starts knocking around in your noggin again...

"Dang, my coloring really stinks!"

You have to ride the cycle and push through the dark days. This is the learning process.

You will see marked improvement the morning after the storm.


But not if you quit and take up basket weaving

When you're beating yourself up the worst, when your pants don't fit anymore, when you feel like ditching it all for a hobby collecting Romanian minor league baseball cards... that's the clue that you're on the verge of upping your entire game.

Stick with it. It's coming.

The dues hurt but the prize is worth it.