There is no golden egg
No tip, no trick, no coloring hack that will instantly transform you into the Mystic Queen of Markers.
But there are tiny things which you can do today to improve the quality of your coloring projects. They’re not fairy tale enchantments but they really do help.
Today’s tiny thing:
Stop coloring for everyone else
Your niece Polly loves unicorns. Her favorite color is lime green. And when she grows up, she wants to be a dentist.
So now you’re stuck coloring a green unicorn holding a toothbrush for her birthday next week.
And I’ll bet you’re less than inspired.
That’s because you let the people and events in your life determine what you color, which colors you use, and how often you color.
If the only thing you're crankin’ out is hand-colored cards for other people, you are killing yourself slowly.
What I’m about to say is going to sound selfish.
I want it to sound terribly and horribly selfish.
Cardmakers and scrapbookers are some of the most generous people I’ve ever met. You folks think nothing of investing 2 hours on a single card or layout page and you give them away as if they were dandelion fluff.
Your projects are not nothing. You invest time, effort, supplies, and you even shed some tears in the process.
So how about coloring for yourself sometime?
You’ve earned the right to be a little selfish.
Here’s the Mother Theresa catch: If you only color for other people, you’ll never color the things that truly inspire you.
Inspiration is rocket fuel for artists.
You can’t grow if you’re handcuffed to projects that don’t make your heart beat faster.
When you’ve got your soul invested in the project, that’s when you make significant leaps in technique, skill, and artistry. You stay at the table longer, you filter out distractions better. And because of that focus, your hand and brain start making connections which lead to learning.
That hand-brain conversation doesn’t happen when you color green unicorns with toothbrushes.
Don’t kid yourself
I teach in a papercrafting shop. I’ve watched you folks shop for stamps…
“This stamp will be good for Holly’s anniversary card” and “this stamp looks just like my little Jamie.” Even when you find a stamp you really like, you still rationalize it. “I’ll be able to use this for a wedding shower, Norma's birthday, and maybe even a Christmas card!”
I have worked on commission. I’ve made art to fulfill stringent class requirements. But the things I’m most proud of making, the projects where I’ve learned the most, the art that speaks with my true voice… that magic stuff didn’t happen on demand or by client request.
Art happens when you listen
You absolutely must listen to your inner muse and let her guide your hands.
If the muse is telling you to add pink and you can’t because you’re coloring a stamp for your grandson’s bar mitzvah… well, you shush the muse at your own risk. She’s fickle. If you rebuff the muse, she may not visit again for a while.
Here’s the other problem with giving all your work away.
You don’t have it anymore.
I know that sounds kind'a silly, but there’s a reason why artists keep a lot of their own work and why every artist has pieces they will never sell.
Favorite artwork is a baseline
We look at our best work and plan how to improve upon it.
That improvement process takes time- more time than you might expect. You may love a project but not understand why you love it. It might take several months or several years to figure it out. All you know is that somehow, you captured a little magic. You have to hold on to the project until you understand the secret.
You can’t do that if Aunt Doris throws your card into the recycle bin after everyone leaves the party.
May I suggest a change to your coloring routine?
I’m not going to tell you to go cold turkey and stop coloring all birthday cards.
But I am going to suggest that you start paying attention to the ratio of coloring you do.
How many projects are heart-projects and how many of your projects are duty-bound?
Make sure that the ratio leans very heavily towards heartwork.
Art requires heart
It’s okay to color mostly for yourself.
Psssttt… there’s an added bonus:
when you color for yourself, you will gradually build up a really nice collection of awesome projects.
Many of these projects can be scanned or color copied to make beautiful cards and scrapbooking elements.
You’ll be amazed at how universal some of your heartwork images are. The robin’s nest in this article could work for a baby shower card, a sympathy card, a get-well card, a birthday card… unlike that green unicorn with the toothbrush.
Your heartwork on a card, even if it’s a just color copy and not the original, is a often a better gift than the package you attach it to.
Stop coloring for everyone else
Or at least color for yourself a little more often than you have been doing.
Color where your heart leads you...
It’s one tiny thing you can do today to improve your coloring.