Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hi Art!

Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere. ~G. K. Chesterton

Quite a few people have asked me how I make the coloring pages, which I will be happy to share with you.

I did not study art except for the classes they make you take in elementary school and one summer class in Pencil Portraits when I was in high school. That class taught me the basics of drawing, proportion (specifically concerning the face) and shading. Here are some of the drawings I did in that class.

Notice anything unusual? Why yes, that is Tom Cruise. He came and sat for our class out of the goodness of his heart. Such a sweet guy before he started jumpin' on couches! Kind of crooked front teeth but I straightened those out for him!

Actually, the teacher gave us copies of Premiere magazine covers to use because the photos were usually large and detailed; kind of like having a real person sitting in front of you who never flinched or got tired. (The one of the barber and the little boy was a Kodak ad, not a cover but sooooo cute.) So that is the extent of my artistic training. The only other experience I acquired was on the job as a mom. When the Professor was a little guy, he loved to color at a little table covered in white butcher paper. He used to ask me to draw his favorite things: trains, planes, balls, volcanoes, Larry the Cucumber, Jim Cantore, etc... I learned very quickly how to come up with an easy cartoon version of these things and he honed my skills with repetition.

By the time the girl's came along, I enjoyed decorating the table for them by looking at their favorite coloring books and reproducing the images in a bigger size on a plain white paper table cloth. They loved to sit and color their own table cloth and then eat lunch on their designs.

This is the kind of "artist" I am. I can reproduce images. The simpler the better! You have no doubt noticed that all of these coloring pages come from an original picture. I am not the kind of truly talented artist who can sit and transfer the image of St. Monica from my brain to the canvas in front of me. But I can look at a picture and see the "hard lines". I can see where they connect and intersect to make the basic shapes. Those I can translate to the page in the form of a pencil sketch. I try to blow up the picture to the largest size I can so that I can see it better but sometimes that means losing detail. Once I finish sketching the basics, I go back and add the detail always using the smaller original as my guide. Then I trace over the pencil lines with a fine point black Sharpie marker and scan it in as a jpg image. Adding the name or date or a quote is all done in Word.

That's about it. It's not something that everyone can do, I understand, but I am pretty sure that more people can do it even if they don't think they can. I would even recommend tracing as a means of practicing (which no real artist would condone). My daughters have noticed recently that tracing a picture often times produces a coloring page like product. It's just a matter of looking at the world through black and white glasses. Black and white is easy; it's the shades of gray that give me trouble.


  1. Wow! You really have a gift! Have you ever tried to draw your kids? I really wish I could do that...

  2. "(which no real artist would condone)"

    That reminds me of this article which I read the other day.

  3. Melanie, I absolutely agree with that post. I did a lot of tracing when I was younger. Those glass coffee tables that were so popular circa 1980 were great tracing tables with the addition of a flashlight underneath! Maybe that is what has made it easier for me in my little artistic endeavors now. I encourage my girls to trace and what I see is a better understanding of proportion in their drawing. Heads are not twice as big as the bodies and arms are not just twigs attached to pompoms. Thanks for pointing that article out to me!

  4. Have you ever tried using really thin tracing paper to trace an image and then coloring it in to make it like the "stained glass" coloring books?

    It might work...and be kinda neat!


  5. You do great work! And we really appreciate it. I'm much the same kind of artist, and learned line, form and perspective by tracing and copying as a little girl. And have always acted as an on-the-spot coloring book creator for my kids, too.

    Isn't it wonderful how God works? He's using your gift to help us Moms out here celebrate the Lives of the Saints with our children. What has been a useful, but negligible talent for me as a mom have sparked the life gift intended for my son ~ as my 17 y.o. is the real McCoy ~ a shading-in, creative, oil painting artist. I wouldn't wonder that artists sprouted under your eyes, too!


Thank you for sharing your thoughts and yourself!