For the past couple of months I’ve been coloring mandalas. I color when I am waiting for the kids to get ready for bed, when I’m talking on the phone, and when I could be writing or cleaning the house. I’m not always coloring, but I crave it, like anything else that makes me happy, often throughout my days and evenings. I tell myself it’s cathartic and meditative, that it nurtures the creative centers within me. And it does. For all you colorers out there, you’ll know what I mean.
I’ll blame my friend Kathy for this addiction, after all she’s the one who kept posting her beautifully colored creations on Facebook for all her friends to see. She’s the one who happily introduced me to the special selection of adult coloring books at our local bookstore, and smiled knowingly as I drooled with delight over those that featured mandalas, fairies and buddhist art. I was already hooked before I opened their covers.
I started with animal mandalas. My first creation the mythical dragon horse seen below:
And, 7 colored pages later, pulled myself away Wendy Piersall‘s beautiful book to join a coloring club (also brought to my attention by my dear friend Kathy and her mom, both of whom were already in the club). To my delight, the group was also coloring mandalas. One a week from their chosen book and going in order, so switching pages was rather painless, especially knowing I could always go back.
I usually start with 5 or 6 pencils, choosing my colors based on impulse, rather than thought. They are quickly selected from the line-up and rarely do I switch them out. Once the choices are made, these 5 or 6 colors define the art I create. It is like the act of automatic writing, or recording one’s stream of consciousness. There is no going back once the pencil is brought to the paper, no erasing and editing, which is my habit if I am creating a non-erasure (versus erasure) poem or working on a narrative manuscript.
Coloring mandalas, I sometimes cross over the black lines with my pencils and there is the initial impulse to erase, or to berate my mistakes. Thinking I have been careless, imperfect. A temporary break in focus. A common condition of the human mind. Then I stop and smile. I leave the color outside the black, which has bleached into the white space of another shape. My mistakes are me, breaking through the mold of who I once thought I should be. I embrace them as aspects of self that help define me as individual, flawed if you will, or simply multifaceted. Not wholly contained, imperfectly divine manifesting into form.
And I don’t always love what I create. Sometimes the colors are too pale and uniform for my liking. When certain hues are side-by-side there is not enough contrast. They clash or fade into conformity. Still, I leave the colors in the places I have put them, allowing them to remind me, to teach me, of the lessons of growth. It is not always a comfortable process, but it is a necessary one.
The cheaper of the two sets of pencils I use break a lot at the tips, especially after sharpening, but color the space more easily. With less effort I can spread colors through the abyss of white. So I endure the hassle of repeated sharpenings, knowing the risk I take with the pointed tips I create. Sometimes I color with wiggled ends. Sometimes with the broken tips. Coloring, like life, has an element of unpredictably and the need to work with the tools you are given, or have been made available to you. We must improvise, we must settle. I’m still using my children’s pencils, and keep promising them (who sometimes join me in coloring) and myself that we’ll soon purchase more. For now, though, we are content.