Hi everyone, and welcome back to school! I know that the start of the semester often comes with a lot of stress. When you’re an artist, art is often your stress reliever, but when you’re an art student taking multiple art classes, art can start to feel more like work rather than play. This is why I’m so glad I remembered something I stumbled upon recently, called The Reverse Coloring Book!
The Reverse Coloring Book was created by Kendra Norton, who began working on this project in 2018 and set up a Kickstarter for it in 2019. On her Kickstarter page, Norton explains that as a busy mom and artist, she found herself lacking the time and motivation to create. She felt a hole in her life, like she was missing a big part of herself. In an effort to dive back into her creativity, she began playing with watercolor and ink. With this technique, she found a new, freeing form of expression. The loose, no rules technique allowed her to once again make and finish works of art that she was happy with, and she decided to share this idea with the world.
Her book is filled with about 40 of her watercolor paintings without any line work. The idea is that we add the line work to her paintings. What I love about this is that, unlike regular coloring books, this fosters creative thinking. You have to look at the image in front of you to see what you can find, and you use one tool to create the images in your mind. Sure, it’s fun to color in between the lines, but getting to actually make the lines keeps your brain thinking in new ways, thinking like an artist. A tik tok user who reviewed her copy of this book stated that the most daunting part of starting a work of art is the blank page, so this book filled with color allows you to get right into drawing without needing much of a plan. This is actually why I think this book is great for art students. At least for myself, I feel that art students often get caught up in the routines of their schedule: in figure drawing you worry about proportions, in painting you need to understand color theory and perspective, and in sculpture you need to ensure stability and structure. We often find ourselves lacking in true expression, blocked by the desire to do things correctly. With The Reverse Coloring Book, there is no correct way to draw. There is simply expression, and every artist needs an outlet like this to ground them and remind them about the joys of art.
To be honest, you don’t need this book to do what Norton is promoting. In fact, I’ve used this concept before. You can spill ink of watercolor, or paint messily and go back in to find images. You can absolutely do this all on your own, and I would encourage anyone to do so because, like Norton said, it’s good to loosen up and paint or draw without expectations. However, knowing many of you may be perfectionists like I am, this can be scary. Having a book like Norton’s feels a bit less scary, and in fact feels inviting. She is allowing us to turn her art into ours, and this collaboration feels like an honor. This book also takes away the time constraint. I know for myself, taking 18 credits doesn’t leave me with a lot of down time, and the free time that I do get is often spent resting. Norton’s book is perfect for this, because I don’t have to have a ton of materials or the time to let paint dry before getting to draw. I can carry this in my backpack and pull it out when I’m early to class or have spare time in the library, and all I need is a sharpie to dive into the wonderful world in my mind.
The book is set to release on August 31st, so it will be out by the time this is posted! I have mine pre-ordered, and I’m so excited to receive it. Over the past year, I’ve been trying to let myself work without a plan and create things naturally. I tend to overthink my ideas until I hate them, so sometimes I let myself just hope for the best. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but at the end of the day I still created something. Isn’t that the point? I could either make something bad or I could shy away and push off an idea until it never happens, and I think that’s worse. Norton’s book will help me become more comfortable in my abilities as an artist, and will help me allow myself to make mistakes and trust that they will not hinder me, but instead allow me to grow.
If you’re an artist, I think you’ll love this book. If you like to doodle in class or on phone calls, this could be a new way to it. If you’ve never picked up a paintbrush in your life but want to foster a little creativity, this book just might be for you. You can get the book on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and many other places that sell books. If you decide to purchase it, I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I think I will!