Have you noticed how many articles and news segments, facebook posts and blogs have appeared in the last few months about the phenomenal rise in coloring books for adults? I have and I'm thrilled that the best kept secret in women's personal development is now reaching audiences far and wide!
Many women experience coloring as a meditation that generates well being and a connection to the spiritual self beyond the every day chatter of the every day life.
I have been creating Mandalas and coloring sheets for women for over 20 years and have seen the tremendously positive impact of coloring first hand!
In shelters and prisons I meet many women who give feedback that coloring is one of the best ways to relax because they experience a reconnection to their creativity. The reconnection often opens up old doors on talents and interests that have long been forgotten. As a staff training and development tool colouring pages offer an experience of mindfulness and creativity in the areas of staff training and development and I have been creating and developing them in these settings for many years.
There is debate amongst art therapists over the value of coloring books as "therapy" but what the women who have been making the connection to coloring have told me over many years is that they find it therapeutic, restful and often a catalyst for exploring their creativity and the role that their hands and imagination can play in moving forward from past difficulties.
As Carl Jung said:
Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.
In celebration of the launch of The Big Girls Little Coloring Book I thought I would share a few of the things that I have learnt about the why part of the Coloring Revolution and some of the reasons we are seeing such a meteoric rise in coloring books for adults.
1.Coloring is therapeutic. In the words of one of the women in our prison group "I've met a lot of psychiatrists and therapists and
counsellors who want me to talk about the things that happened in the past but for me, sitting with the coloring book is one of the most peaceful places I go to".
Coloring a pattern or template is similar to walking a labyrinth. The lines that are followed create a meditative state and within the conformity of those lines, like the labyrinth, the mind and body enter into a soothing meditation that is not confined to or bound by the pattern that is being followed.
2. As children we were very connected to our coloring pencils and often received a coloring book as a gift. In kindergarten we were coloring all the time and then, sometime around junior primary, our colored pencils began to take a back seat to learning processes that were not so much concerned with creativity as academic performance. Many women never found their colored pencils again...until now!
Women are now reclaiming their colored pencils and returning to the fun, relaxing enjoyment of coloring.
3. Many women are tired and exhausted from participating in you can have it all and are now holding down full time jobs as well as running a family full time, pursuing studies and in amongst it "all" are tired, restless and feeling disconnected from their creativity.
Coloring creates a peaceful, personal space that is a form of open eyed meditation. Breathing slows down and the rhythmic movement of the pencils is akin to a mantra that slows the mind and stops its restless chatter.
4. Women experience a great sense of connection and community when they come together to color in circles. This is especially relevant for women who say they are tired of socialising in public spaces and are looking for a return to the Village and the sense of community and belonging that is at the heart of conversation about when the world was a much more simple place.
Gathering in small circles creates a trusting, innovative space where young women and older women can gather. Where we can meet up with friends, make new ones and share food, stories, creativity and laughter together.
The Big Girls Little Coloring Book has 21 Mandalas, each accompanied by an Affirmation poster with a thought provoking message.
It has been a pleasure and a great honour to create a coloring book for women that covers topics such as the power of the mind, the nature of patterns in our life and how to tap into that deep well of creativity that we knew so freely and easily as children and, for many women, are re-discovering again through the pages of coloring books for grown ups!
I was delighted to read a couple of articles this week about how French women have taken to colouring in like never before and have embraced it as an "anti-stress" activity
In her article Why felt tip pens are colouring French women happy Olivia Goldhill writes that colouring books are out selling cook books in France and how sales of a low selling colouring book were boosted after the words "stress buster" were added to the front cover.
In one facebook group there are over 1000 French women sharing their beautiful interpretations of colouring black and white pictures that we knew so well as children.
I have been creating Mandalas for women to colour in for many years and Olivia's article and another on the BBC World Service facebook page are a sign that the big secret is out!
Colouring in is a relaxing form of medARTation at a time when many women are yearning to reconnect with their creativity and return to simple pleasures in this highly complex world we are living in.
I began to create colouring sheets for women after I read Carl Jung's writings on how powerful the Mandala form is as a tool for self reflection and personal transformation.
I was working in a women's homeless and domestic violence shelters at the time and it was apparent that whilst many women were not reading books and were too uncomfortable to take on training and education at this stage, most had a yearning for new information that would enable them to break out of the limiting and often self defeating patterns in their life. So I created art work that carried the theme of that days discussion.
If we were discussing how to recognise patterns in relationships, the art work reflected the information that once was given in the form of written handouts and power point presentations.
When the conversation was about overcoming stress and anxiety or healing past issues, I created a colouring sheet that brought Nature into the concrete confines of the shelter walls and opened doors into a world many women had not considered before.A couple of years ago, after almost 20 years of creating colouring sheets for women, I was encouraged by a small group of women to create a colouring book that had both the Mandalas (Circular patterns) and life coaching information so that women outside of the shelters and prisons where I was working could also enjoy colouring Mandalas.
It seemed like a good idea and with their love and encouragement I created The Big Girls Little Colouring Book as a download & self published it as a hard copy.
If you haven't come across the benefits of colouring in before, here are just a few of the things I have discovered over many years and if you work in women's services in any
capacity, I can not recommend highly enough how powerful the process is for women to relax, unwind and connect with their intuition and creative imagination.
It is also a terrific tool for staff development and team bonding and a Vision Statement workshops.
*Colouring in is an open eyed meditation. As the hands rhythmically colour the page, the movement is akin to a mantra that focuses the mind, relaxes the breathing and centres the consciousness into the Present moment. This form of medARTation is especially good for women who find that their thoughts are racing and are easily distracted.
*The colouring in process is a wonderful tool for creating Women's Circles. When women come together to share food, conversation, creativity and laughter, there are enormous benefits for health and well being.
*Colouring in is not restricted to an indoor activity. My Mandalas have travelled in aeroplanes on long flights, gone to the beach for summer holidays and are at the centre of Big Girls Picnics where we head out to Nautre for a day of creativity, fresh air and delicious food and cups of tea.
I am truly delighted to see the growing interest and reclaiming of colouring in as a wonderfully simple tool for relaxation and fun. Although many women hold the belief "I am not Creative" they soon discover that once they put the coloured pencils back in ther hand, like we did so often when we were young, a certain kind of Magic awakens and we are transported into the world of imagination and possibilities we knew so well as children.
If you would like to download The Big Girls Little Colouring Book and experience the fun of colouring the 20 Mandalas with their accompanying Affirmation postsrs, click here The Big Girls Little Colouring Book Store and enjoy what many French women already know...Colouring in is magnifique!
I received a delightful letter from a friends daughter who had received The Big Girls Little Coloring Book for Christmas. My friend had purchased the book for her mother, her daughter and her self and I was delighted when Kiani contacted me with the following message:
Hi Carol, I have a question about The Big Girls Little Coloring Book... More than one question actually!
How long did it take you to come up with the pictures that are in the book? How long did it take to create? Was it hard to do? How did you come up with the idea of having a Big Girls Little Coloring book? What got you interested in drawing?
Kiani’s questions were a welcome opportunity to reflect on the process of the book after months of developing the Mandalas and poster and I told her I would answer them as a blog post with an acknowledgement of appreciation to her.
Thank you Kiani! I have enjoyed your questions and the opportunity to reflect on the Big Girls Little Coloring Book and where I began as a Mandala artist.
Here are the responses to your well thought out questions:
How did you come up with the idea of having a Big Girls Little Coloring Book?
I had been creating Mandalas for women’s groups for many years. I was working in homeless shelters and women’s prisons and wanted to have personal development information available that didn’t need to be read as many women were not into reading or could not read because of low literacy, some came from non-English speaking back grounds so I was looking for creative ways to share information and create a relaxed learning environment.
As my personal development art became known across women’s services networks in our town people began to ask me for copies of the Mandalas for their mum / sister / friend etc and it became apparent that the Mandalas were appealing to all women, not just those who were in shelters and prisons.
I had created a similar book of Mandalas with information a few years ago called The ART of Change but it stayed within the circles where I was working at the time. It was pre-facebook and social media era so there was not the same on line opportunities to share and market self published works like there is now.
How long did it take you to come up with the pictures that are in the book?
It was in March 2012 that I was offered a venue to
launch The Big Girls Little Coloring book at my friend Megs Conscious
Connections Centre a few months later in December, 12/12/2012
I had not even begun the book at the time, although I had many years experience of making Mandalas and women’s personal development art so I wrote out a schedule for the Mandalas of creating one a week for 20 weeks and then a week or so for the posters that accompany them.
I also got married in that time so it was a busy few months and having a clear schedule for creating the Mandalas was very useful.
How long did it take to create?
From beginning the Mandalas to the launch it was 10 months & for the most part, I did stick to the schedule and found that having a plan was very useful. Although I think the book really began almost 20 years ago when I first read about Mandalas in Carl Jungs book Memories, Dreams and Reflections.
Was it hard to do?
The biggest challenge was actually making the commitment to doing the book.
Many people has asked me over the years if I would put my personal development art into a book and I usually said I will one day and will make sure to invite you to the launch. The group of 4 women who encouraged me to actually DO the book and not just talk about it didn’t accept my standard reply, instead they came up with a date and a plan to support me through the creative process. I then became accountable to a group of women who really believe in my work and the importance of sharing it in the larger world.
If ever you want to achieve a creative goal Kiani, I really recommend you find one or two friends or family members who love and support you and can be there during the challenges and celebrations!
What got you interested in drawing?
I was very lucky to grow up with a creative Mum so when most of us stopped drawing and making things as we went on past primary school, I continued drawing. I actually believe we are all creative but many of us stop doing the drawings that we loved to do in early child hood, and then we forget we ever used to do them in the first place.
In my later years I was always doodling during meetings, on the telephone, I discovered that I absorbed information better if my hands were occupied as I talked or listened. This is known as kinaesthetic learning, whereby we learn best by doing, by having movement as we explore new concepts and information.
Even now I see interesting shapes in the clouds and landscapes and am always thinking “hmmm…that would make a good Mandala”.
Thanks so much for your interesting questions Kiani.
You are very welcome to share photos of your coloured Mandalas on The Big Girls Little Coloring Book facebook page and I hope the coming year is filled with fun and creativity for you!
I was delighted to receive an inbox message from someone who has downloaded The Big Girls Little Colouring Book to let me know that she is hosting a Big Girls Colouring Circle this weekend. Her home is in Canada, I live in Australia and thanks to the amazing power of social media, we are sharing a common passion & inspiring one another with the fantastic connections that occur when women come together and create.
The heArt and soul of The Big Girls Little Colouring Book is to connect, create, inspire and invoke new possibilities.
I am blessed to be a member of a group of 5 women who meet every three months for the soul purpose of spending a day creating, sharing food, laughing, offering feedback and new perspectives and simply taking a day out of often busy schedules to nourish and nurture together.
The last time we gathered I put theI Am The Gardener of My Life Mandala on the table and we also brought along interesting books and photographs to share in our talking circle.
I thought it would be fun to share some of the tips and tools for hosting a Big Girls Colouring Circle as several people have expressed an interest in getting together with their women friends and spending a day or an evening colouring together.
There is of course no "right" way or "wrong" way to host a get together but there are some things that can really contribute to making it an enjoyable, fruitful gathering.
This is what the space looks like before everyone arrives when I am hosting a home group:
This is what the table becomes once everyone has settled in. For this particular circle I provided the Mandala Energy Woman as a A3 small poster template.
If it is in the evening people may bring something to share for supper but if we are having an all day get together (my favourite) we discuss before hand what we will have for lunch and what each person would like to contribute.
Usually the host provides the tea and coffee and perhaps a few nibbles on the tables. Some groups rotate the hosting and others meet at the same place and other groups I am a part of through my ART of Change program may meet weekly, fortnightly or monthly.
Here are a few common questions I am asked regarding Big Girls Colouring Circles and if you have any other questions, drop me a line and I will respond in the comment section here:
Should I supply the colouring pencils and the Mandalas?
Ideally for a regular gathering it would be great if everyone had their own copy of The Big Girls Little Colouring Book although someone recently told me she wanted to offer her downloaded book to her group members to chose their own Mandala. This is a very generous gesture & the download format enables that kind of sharing.
The copyright agreement in the download doesn't allow for multiple photocopying but we have made the book available at a very affordable price knowing that women often want to share the experience with their friends and family. If members have their own copy they can experience the full 20 Mandala journey of the book both in the group and in their own time so it really depends on how you would like to share the process.
I always encourage people to have their own coloured pencils and pens as they become the tools by which we create with and bring the Mandalas to life in our own unique way. Sometimes the host will have her own supplies for sharing so again, it is up to the host and the group to decide.
What kind of colouring tools should we use?
Thats a great question regarding what to use.
Theres a number of types of pencils. At the very sort of entry level for a good quality, inexpensive brand i recommend Faber Castel. I also use their texta colours but am not sure if they are specific to Australia or not.
After that the Derwent brand is great for variety and quality of lead and colour.
InkTensives are also popular with many Big Girls colour'ers and I have used FaberCastel water coloured pencils on many of my Mandalas and the Mandala posters I create also.
The Rolls Royce of the colouring world are Prisma pencils, they are expensive but can often be found much cheaper on ebay sites.
Many of my Mandalas are coloured with Prismas after asking for a group present from my family last year of the big box of them. :-)
Faber Castels are equally as good in so far as they are a very reliable brand. I always avoid pencils from the bargain type stores, especially in my workshops, as they are often cheap but have very soft leads and break and crumble very easily.
Some people have been talking about Copic Markers as a terrific colouring wand and I am planning on getting some for my Christmas present this year! Colouring in things for presents are a great way to build up the creative tool box.
A space where women come together to create, colour, share, laugh and cry is by nature a healing space because it is generated from Love. Sometimes our Big Girls group gathers in nature, we have Big Girls picnics & we also meet around the camp fire.
If your group shares a common Spiritual path you may like to think about opening with a healing prayer or inviting the oldest group member to share her Wisdom with the younger ones. The divine feminine energies are amplified when women gather & often the simple act of sitting and colouring together will generate its own Magic and story telling so we don't need to try too hard to "structure" the gathering.
In our womens circles we sometimes share a poem or a story or we bring a question or quandary to the circle, knowing our siStars will have answers and new ideas. We have laughed and cried and meditated and prayed together and celebrated our blessings with gratitude.
What do you think about the idea of a theme for the day? I thought I might read one of the big Girls affirmations and the story of the Mandala?
I think thats a terrific idea! You are creating the space for women to gather, women who you know and care about and so you are well qualified to choose the theme for the day and if you become an on going group, perhaps others might like to also introduce the theme in a rotating format.
For more information about the colouring in process check out my previous blog entry: "Its more than just colouring in "
I hope this has been useful for you and I will leave you with one last photo. It is of my beloved Mother, Maureen, as we sat and painted the air drying clay beads I had rolled for us earlier in the week.
When we sit in the creative space together, Mum tells me some of her stories. She shares the memories of her early childhood in war torn England, she tell me about books she has read, fond memories of when we were a little and what it was like to travel across the world to live in a new country when she was a young mother of three daughters.
Sitting in the creative space together is a beautiful, peaceful way to connect, to reconnect and to enjoy the simple blessings and pleasures of creating with our hands, hearts and imaginations.
I hope you too may feel inspired to share the Big Girls Colouring Circle with the women you love ...