Colouring with Purpose

Colouring books are great things to buy. They are fun, relaxing, beautiful, and make fantastic presents. It is impossible to only buy one book. Before you know it you have too many to store. But nowadays colouring is not only restricted to books…

One innovative colouring alternative are greeting cards. They are creative and personal ways of expressing you feelings, congratulations or sympathy for friends and loved ones. Many people have made their own cards by hand at some point, but these cards make it slightly easier to produce something (almost) handmade. You may think it is cheating, but everyone has a unique way of colouring. Every picture is different due to the choice of colours, type of pen/pencil, and even the way we hold said pen/pencil.

The pictured examples above come from a set bought for me from The Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall.Each one features a different type of bird: hawfinch, goldfinch, yellowhammer, coal tit, great tit and long tailed tit. Some of the cards are more detailed than others, but the final result relies on you, the artist.

There are loads of ready-to-colour cards out there. Look in art and craft shops, book stores and local gift shops to discover many of the different types. Also, websites like Amazon have a huge selection. Here are some examples:

  • Rebecca Jones has produced several ranges for The National Trust. Each set contains some aspect of nature: butterflies, flowers etc.
  • Prepare for Christmas with these cards produced by the same publishers as above.
  • Instead of greeting cards you could opt for Postcards, like these from Puffin, the publishers of thousands of children’s books.
  • You can buy cards for all sorts of specific occasions, especially birthdays
  • … and thank yous.
  • Even popular colouring books have postcard versions.
  • Colouring cards are just as relaxing as colouring books.

Sadly, these packs of cards can be expensive. However you can make your own coloured-in card. If you have finished colouring sheets lying around (or a book that’s fallen apart like I have) you can turn them into a lovely greeting card for someones birthday. All you need is a blank card to stick the sheet on (which will probably need trimming), and voila, one handmade card. Give it a go!

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THINK. Then Draw. Create.

Following instructions is something everyone needs to be able to do in numerous areas of life: school, work, relationships, cooking etc. Despite people assuming artists can do what they like – which in some cases they can to an extent – following instructions is an extremely important part of an Art & Design career.

Sometimes instructions can be straightforward and easy to complete, e.g. “Draw a tree.” However, there are times when the way to tackle a direction or design brief is less clear: “Produce something that represents happiness.” In these cases the artist needs to take time to mind map ideas before settling on a final outcome. This is something that school and college tutors are constantly stressing the importance of to their students.

When I was working on my BA in Graphic Design I initially found it difficult to map out my ideas before starting to put together the final design. I remember one of the first assignments was to create four typographic posters to represent a chosen London location. We were instructed to draw at least thirty “thumbnail sketches” before we even touched a computer or began experimenting with materials. I overheard a few of the students around me complaining that it was a waste of time, or too difficult to think up such a large amount of ideas. I agreed with them. However as time went on I began to understand the reason we should begin all projects like this. The obvious answer to instructions is not always the right one.

I confess that since finishing college I have not always sat down and mapped out a multiple of ideas before starting a brief. Often this is because of a time limit, but sometimes it is impatience – a need to get things over with and finished as quickly as possible. Occasionally brilliant ideas pop into our heads whilst sitting on a bus or lying in bed, however most of the time, unless we stop and really think about the task in hand, we are only going to produce average art work.

This is something I have noticed happens when I am completing (for fun) pages from the book Think. Draw. Create. I have written about this before but to recap it is a book with a prompt on each page that requires the artist to think carefully before they start drawing. I set myself the challenge to complete a page every weekend, and this pressure has slightly prevented me from properly planning what I am going to draw. Some of my outcomes (ones I am too embarrassed to show you) are very mundane and poorly executed. I am disappointed with myself for my lack of effort on these occasions. This is why it is so important to THINK before you start anything.

From now on I promise to really try to plan before I start on any design work. I urge you to do the same regardless of the size or importance of the project. You may think it a waste of time, but would you rather take a little longer and produce something amazing, or rush and end up with something merely passable?

Recycling “Boring” Greeting Cards

For years my Mum and I have been making our own greeting cards by cutting up and reusing shop bought cards. I also know a lot of other people who do this too. After Christmas and birthdays we sit down and cut out the parts that might come in useful: the “happy birthdays”and “merry Christmases,” stars, hearts and other shapes. But quite often we get “boring” cards – a painting or photograph that cannot be cut up into reusable parts. HOWEVER, if you have a creative mind, nothing is completely useless.

Here is one idea that will turn a generic image into an effective hand made greeting card. All you need is: 1 “boring” card, 1 blank card, a simple template (Google has many), a craft knife or scalpel, Blu-Tak, a glue stick, and a cutting board.

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In this instance I am using a greeting card version of Lowry’s The Old House, Grove Street, Salford 1948.

 

 

Step one: Cut the back of your “boring” card off, you will not need that part. Blu-Tak your chosen template onto the front of the card. This will prevent it from slipping when you begin to cut it out.

13059643_10207611221070037_138096388_nStep two: Using the knife, carefully begin to cut out the inner sections of the template, pressing really hard to make sure you go through both the paper and the card. Take your time, rushing leads to mistakes. If you have not used a craft knife before it would be a good idea to practice cutting out shapes, or following lines before starting on the real thing.

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Step three: Only once all the inner sections have been cut out should you begin to cut the outer shape. Depending of the complexity of your template you could either do this with scissors or the craft knife.

 

Step four: Once everything has been cut out, glue your cut out card onto the plain card and, voilà, your unique greeting card.

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Once you are confident with using a craft knife, the possibilities are endless! Have fun creating cards for all occasions and impress your family and friends.

(Sorry the examples are not that great. I’m out of practice!)

 

 

 

Learning to Draw

Many people ask me how I learnt to draw, and the most honest answer is “I don’t know.” I never had drawing lessons, art classes at school consisted of copying rather than learning how to, and, to be perfectly honest, I passed my Art GCSE with a grade C and appalling artistic ability. My two years of Graphic Design A Level were purely computerised and it was not until my second year of my BA that I realised that I COULD draw – or as the tutors saw it, EVERYONE can draw.

In some ways it feels like I suddenly developed the ability to draw, but in hindsight I think the skill was always there but I needed someone to explain the method of drawing and what to look for – something I will always be grateful to my degree tutors for.

As I look back over the artwork I have produced I can see a marked improvement over time, even in the past few months. It is not possible to create your masterpiece on your first try with no experience behind you. Everyone needs a starting place, and mine, I believe, was when I received some Draw 50 books for Christmas 2008 (or 2007? I forget).

Draw 50 is a series of six books by the late-American artist Lee. J. Ames. Each book contains fifty step-by-step methods of drawing realistic images. Of the six I had four: AnimalsHorses, Endangered Animals and Flowers; and by using these instructions I produced the first ever drawings I was proud of.

My favourite book was Flowers, which I found much easier to draw. It helps that if you go a little bit wrong, the drawing still looks like a flower, whereas if you draw an animal incorrectly it looks horribly misshapen. I also found that, although all the books were by the same artist, the Endangered Animals contained so much more detail that it was almost impossible to produce a perfect replica.

It is that idea of a “perfect replica” where the flaws of these types of book emerge. Draw 50 did not teach me to draw. They taught me to copy. My friends complimented me on a drawing of a horse, but did that mean I could draw horses? No, it meant I could copy that particular horse in the book. There are no written instructions as to what to look for when drawing the animals or flowers in real life.

Yet, these books gave me a starting point on my artistic journey. They gave me the opportunity to practise holding a pencil, creating line marks, shading etc. Also, learning to copy is not necessarily a bad thing. Whether you are drawing something from a step-by-step guide, from a photograph or from life, you are essentially copying what is in front of you. I often rely on photographs or even line drawings as a starting point for the art I am producing today… so am I any better than I was when I was sixteen and using the Draw 50 books?

I do recommend the Draw 50 series (or any step-by-step books) for the wannabe artists, the people who wish they could draw. It is a great way of boosting your confidence about drawing. However if you are serious about becoming an artist you need to be able to move on from these guides and learn about different drawing techniques so that you can draw (or copy) the things you see around you. And, do you want to know a secret? I am still learning with every piece of art I produce!

Below are three examples of drawings I made using these books (2009, aged 17)

Coloured in… Now what?

So many colouring sheets… Too many to keep…

Everyone seems to be enjoying colouring these days. The amount of different books you can buy is phenomenal, and it is so easy to purchase individual sheets online. But the question is, what do you do once you are finished (other than the obvious: beginning another page)? It seems such a shame to eventually throw these works of art away.

Here is a solution: turn them into something new.

A couple of months ago I was told about a group of women at a care home who had found a love for colouring. They decided to use their new passion as a way of raising money for charity. After finishing each sheet they turn them into placemats!

Making placemats is quick and easy to do. All you need is a colouring sheet, coloured pens/pencils, a laminator and laminator pouches. Once you have completed your amazing artwork, you simply put it through the laminator and you have a waterproof place mat to brighten up the table. These are perfect handmade gifts to give to friends and family, or as the women mentioned above have done, a means of raising a small amount of money for a charity of your choice.

Have fun!

Looking for free colouring sheets? Here is one of many websites to take a look at.