My Colorful Town: A Coloring Tour – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
My Colorful Town: A Coloring Tour is illustrated by Chiaki Ida, a Japanese illustrator, and published and kindly sent to me to review by Get Creative 6. This book is pretty similar in style to the Romantic Country series by Eriy (reviewed by me here) and if you liked those books, you’re likely to be a fan of this too. This book was originally published in Japan and was somewhat different in format with it being larger, and including a few extra pages and some postcards. This edition has been translated into English.

This book is 22.4cm square, paperback, with flexible card covers and partially coloured images from inside the book. The spine is glue and string-bound and eases up with use, some of the images do reach the centre of the spine and therefore a little is lost but the majority of the images aren’t full-page and have a border so the spine isn’t an issue for most of the pages. The images are printed double-sided and are a mixture of double and single-page spreads. The paper is cream, medium thickness and smooth with very little tooth, it coped well with my Prismacolor Premiers but may not cope so well with oil-based pencils which you’ll possibly struggle to layer; water-based pens shadow but don’t bleed so you’ll probably want to avoid using these. The images themselves are all of shop exteriors, interiors and produce, at the back of the book is a double-page spread depicting a map of the street. The shops include a book shop, bakery, patisserie, dress shop, shoe shop, clock shop, art shop, antique shop, café, flower shop, fruit and veg market and food stalls. There is a real variety of things to colour from shop fronts and brickwork to furniture, cakes, fruit and veg and flowers, there are outfits, metalwork, wood, and so much more so there are plenty of techniques to perfect to make this book look amazing. There is a little girl who you follow through the book into the shops, she isn’t named or mentioned in the book so I’m guessing it’s meant to be Chiaki Ida herself, taking us on a childhood walk through the town.

In terms of mental health, this book is lovely, it has a very charming feel to it and the imagery feels really nostalgic and heartwarming and takes you back to simpler times where you don’t have a care in the world. The line thickness is consistent throughout and is thin, verging on spindly thin. The intricacy and detail levels vary somewhat with the majority of the pages being very intricate and detailed with a few having larger open spaces and less detailed imagery. You’ll need pretty good vision and fine motor control to enjoy this book. The majority of the images will be best kept for your good days because they’re just packed full with content and in a number of the pages there aren’t overly obvious stopping points, however, if you’re really keen to colour this on a day when you’re quite symptomatic, you could pick one of the pages filled with collection images and colour just one cake or clock rather than a whole shop front. You will need very good concentration levels to complete most of the pages but you can always colour in sections so that it’s easier to focus. You can use realistic colour schemes if you wish, or go more outlandish, bricks can always be blue and wood doesn’t have to be brown so spice things up if you fancy, these images will look amazing no matter what colours you choose!

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to those of you who liked Romantic Country and those looking for a nostalgic, warm, characterful colouring book. The illustrations are meticulously drawn, realistic but also slightly cartoony and therefore they’re not so perfect that they feel intimidating to start. It’s yet another beautiful Japanese colouring book, filled with charm!

If you’d like to purchase a copy of this book, it’s available here:
Amazon UK – My Colorful Town: A Coloring Tour
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/My-Colorful-Town-Chiaki-Id/9781942021599/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Prismacolor Premiers and blended with a Caran d’Ache Blender Pencil.

Fairies: The Colouring Book of Secrets – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Fairies: The Colouring Book of Secrets is illustrated, published, and kindly sent to me to review by Russell Ince. Russell is best known for his beautiful story books, Fairies: The Book of Secrets and Santa Claus: The Book of Secrets, he received heaps of requests to turn his beautiful illustrations into a colouring book so that people could make the illustrations their own and Russell very kindly responded with these two beautiful colouring books. I’ve not actually seen the story books themselves so I’m unable to comment on whether these illustrations are the originals with the colour removed, or new ones in a similar style to those found in the story books.

The book itself is 21.4 x 14.9cm, landscape, paperback with a medium thickness flexible card cover with a black and white line drawing of an illustration from inside the book with gold foiling on the text set on a black background. The spine is lightly glue-bound and is pretty easy to break so that the pages lie-flat, this does mean that you’ll need to be careful to ensure that your pages don’t accidentally become loose and fall out though this would make removing them to frame very easy if you wish. The images are printed full page and double-sided and are a mixture of single and double-page spreads. The paper is thick, white, and lightly textured, pencils blend and shade smoothly, it feels thick enough that pens shouldn’t bleed but sadly my water-based pens did shadow a bit onto the reverse so do check yours in an inconspicuous area before diving straight in; alcohol markers will bleed through. Due to not having the original books, I didn’t know what to expect from the illustrations but I was hoping for lots of fairy scenes and images of them, their houses etc, sadly I was a little disappointed, there are surprisingly few fairies pictured and a large number of the images are actually wallpaper style images rather than scenes. These wallpaper designs are very nice and I really can’t fault them, they just weren’t the imagery I was expecting so do be aware of this and check out the photos below before ordering a copy. That being said, the fairies that are pictured are very lovely. The content ranges from wallpaper-style patterns to mirror image spreads, centralised fairy images and a lot of repeating patterns. The fairies are a mix of male and female and all have pointy ears with all but one having wings, they’re very pretty and nicely drawn and have quite a variety of outfits and wing styles so they don’t feel samey.

In terms of mental health, this book is a bit of a mixture, the illustrations are beautiful and if you like patterns and wallpaper style images then this will be ideal for your symptoms, however, if you’re wanting escapism and to be transported to another world then this may not be the book for you. The fairies are sadly lacking, 32 of the pages don’t contain fairies at all and only 13 do which seems like a low number in a fairy-specific book. However, this is a great mixture of images for pattern-lovers and the pages really offer a great variety of pattern styles to really go to town on and make your own and they’ll be ideal for anxious days as they can be coloured in any scheme you like and they’ll look fabulous. The line thickness is consistent throughout and is spindly thin so you don’t have much wiggle room at all. The intricacy and detail levels vary from large open spaces of fairy faces to much smaller sections of tiny berries and other details, you’ll therefore need very good vision and fine motor control as the majority of the images contain a lot of intricate parts. The images will mostly require a good level of concentration and focus so it’s best to save it for your good days. Patterns can be great for helping you zone out and re-focus your mind so those who suffer from anxiety may well like this book as the patterns are also very organic and nature-based which is ideal for all mental health problems.

Overall, this is a nice book and I’d recommend it as long as you look at the internal images first, I was left disappointed by the lack of scene pages and lack of actual fairies or magical objects but the content that is here is very nice it’s just very pattern-focused.

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Fairies: The Colouring Book of Secrets
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Fairies-The-Colouring-Book-of-Secrets-Russell-Ince/9780957577060/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Derwent Inktense Pencils activated with minimal water.

Santa Claus The Book of Secrets: Christmas Colouring Book – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Santa Claus The Book of Secrets: Christmas Colouring Book is illustrated, published, and kindly sent to me to review by Russell Ince. Russell is best known for his beautiful story books, Fairies: The Book of Secrets and Santa Claus: The Book of Secrets, he received heaps of requests to turn his beautiful illustrations into a colouring book so that people could make the illustrations their own and Russell very kindly responded with these two beautiful colouring books. I’ve not actually seen the story books themselves so I’m unable to comment on whether these illustrations are the originals with the colour removed, or new ones in a similar style to those found in the story books.

The book itself is 21.4 x 14.9cm, landscape, paperback with a medium thickness flexible card cover with a black and white line drawing with gold foiling on the text set on a black background. The spine is lightly glue-bound and is pretty easy to break so that the pages lie-flat, this does mean that you’ll need to be careful to ensure that your pages don’t accidentally become loose and fall out though this would make removing them to frame very easy if you wish. The images are printed full page and double-sided and are a mixture of single and double-page spreads. The paper is thick, white, and lightly textured, pencils blend and shade smoothly, it feels thick enough that pens shouldn’t bleed but sadly my water-based pens did shadow a bit onto the reverse so do check yours in an inconspicuous area before diving straight in; alcohol markers will bleed through. Due to not having the original books, I didn’t know what to expect from the illustrations but I was hoping for lots of Christmas scenes and objects, sadly I was a little disappointed, there are almost no Christmas scenes and while a lot of objects are pictured, a large number of the images are actually wallpaper style images and patterns. These wallpaper designs are very nice and I really can’t fault them, they just weren’t the imagery I was expecting so do be aware of this and check out the photos below before ordering a copy. That being said, the objects that are pictured are very festive and Christmassy and include presents, poinsettias, holly, Christmas trees, nutcrackers, biscuits, baubles, stockings, snowflakes and even Santa Claus himself. The content ranges from wallpaper-style patterns to mirror image spreads, centralised images of Santa Claus and a lot of repeating patterns, there are 4 scenes spanning 5 pages.

In terms of mental health, this book is a bit of a mixture, the illustrations are beautiful and if you like patterns and wallpaper style images then this will be ideal for your symptoms, however, if you’re wanting escapism and to be transported to another world then this may not be the book for you. The Christmas scenes are sadly lacking, only 4 are included and the majority of the other pages are patterns or collections of objects which seem a bit of a waste with such a wonderful theme. However, this is a great mixture of images for pattern-lovers and the pages really offer a great variety of pattern styles to really go to town on and make your own and they’ll be ideal for anxious days as they can be coloured in any scheme you like and they’ll look fabulous. The line thickness is consistent throughout and is spindly thin so you don’t have much wiggle room at all. The intricacy and detail levels vary from large open spaces of Santa’s face and a snow drift to much smaller sections of holly leaves and bauble details, you’ll therefore need very good vision and fine motor control as the majority of the images contain a lot of intricate parts. The images will mostly require a good level of concentration and focus so it’s best to save it for your good days. Patterns can be great for helping you zone out and re-focus your mind so those who suffer from anxiety may well like this book as the patterns are curvy and flowing which is ideal for many mental health problems.

Overall, this is a nice book and I’d recommend it as long as you look at the internal images first, I was left disappointed by the lack of scene pages and inclusion of so many wallpaper images, the content that is here is very nice it’s just very pattern-focused.

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Santa Claus The Book of Secrets: Christmas Colouring Book
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Christmas-Colouring-Book-Sant-Claus-The-Book-of-Secrets-Russell-Ince/9780957577022/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners which did shadow.

I’m Not Okay

As open as I am, I hate admitting to not being okay, to being worse at any point. I always put it off and tell as few people as possible in the vain hope that it might just go away if I don’t think or talk about it. This is a ridiculous way of thinking and behaving and yet, it’s what I do every single time. It’s not working though, it never works, and it means I have to struggle and deal with it all on my own rather than with help or understanding from those around me. So here I am, again, sadly having to say that I’m worse, that I’m not okay. You might be wondering why so many of my posts seem to be about deterioration and why so few are about me getting a bit better, I wonder this sometimes too, I think it’s because the better bits are still so challenging that it doesn’t often feel like an improvement, just a bit less bad (I know that sounds pessimistic but that’s how it feels, owing just £1000 instead of £1050 still means that you’re in debt!). I think it’s also because I’m busier and happier when I’m not as ill and I don’t immediately think to blog about that stuff, I just make the most of the things I’m finding a bit easier or become able to do because I’ve very much learnt the lesson that it may not last and that it may get taken away again.

So yes, I’m currently not okay. I deteriorated at the beginning of May and didn’t get back on track after that and then last week I got a lot worse again and am now struggling with any type of commitment or decision-making, even deciding what or when to eat is really hard now. I feel on edge almost constantly and just feel like I can’t cope. With what? I don’t know. There’s just an overwhelming feeling of not being able to cope. My IBS has also got a lot worse recently. I’ve mentioned before that it got worse at New Year, specifically the morning of any visits or trips I was making, this then got loads better for over 2 months and now it’s back with a vengeance! I’m in pain every day, whether I eat, don’t eat, or have something small, I’m in a lot of pain, suffering from terrible bloating, getting random attacks and severe toilet urgency. This then makes my anxiety worse because I worry about getting attacks, about being unable to do things and about having attacks outside my home. For those of you who don’t have IBS, you might not understand why this would be an issue but with toilet urgency I’ll have no idea I need the loo and then suddenly have a very urgent need to go and if I don’t get to a toilet within a few minutes then I’ll likely have an accident so when I’m feeling like this I’m very limited in where I can go out to and even panic about people using my shower for too long as we only have one toilet in our flat.

Unfortunately, this deterioration has also caused a bit of a confidence crisis in me. I get these every now and again and they’re really difficult to deal with, especially when the anxiety is bad because they feed each other. This deterioration has happened so suddenly and so out of the blue that it’s really had me questioning what the cause is and how and if I’ll ever get better. I’m very good at coping day to day, I plan short term and I focus on getting through today and tomorrow and this week or fortnight if I’m well enough to think that far ahead. But when the rug is pulled out from under you and you’ve got no idea why, or when it might be given back, it’s difficult not to start panicking about the future and wondering if you’ll ever be free from this. The randomness of these episodes is a constant reminder that I’m not in control, not of my condition, or of my life, that I’m at the mercy of my anxiety and the environment around me and that’s a really scary thing because if I can’t control this then who’s to say it’ll go away? Who’s to say that I’ll ever get better, ever be free of this, ever be “normal”? I mostly get through each day because I “know” that I’ll get better, I “know” that one day this won’t be my whole life, anxiousness won’t be my first thought, but during times like this I’m left wondering if that’s just denial or wishful thinking, if it’s all just my imagination and actually this is the best I can hope for. This is why I keep so busy all the time, why I’ve always got multiple activities on the go and I don’t stop, it’s why I always have the TV on, multiple social media accounts open, my phone next to me and heaps of colouring books started, because I have to move from one activity to another, to another, because otherwise my thoughts catch up with me and I just can’t let them. I can’t keep wondering if this is it because it leads me to really dark places, really quickly. If this is it then I can tell you now, I’m not ok with that, I don’t want to live like this long-term. I keep trying to kid myself that 3 years is temporary, it’s not forever, it won’t be like this always, I steer clear of listening to the voice inside my head that whispers each time “but what if it is?” because I don’t have a solution. I felt suicidal for 3 years in my teens and spent every day thinking up all sorts of horrible ways to end it all, I’ve realised since that I don’t have it in me to act on it. Many of you will think this is a good thing, I know my family are hugely relieved when I tell them this, but it’s very hard having that option taken away. Most people I know who are mentally ill have thought at some time that if it ever got bad enough, if it got just that little bit worse and even less bearable, that they’d end it all. Can you imagine what it feels like to know that you couldn’t do that? That you don’t have a way out? That you’re at the mercy of whatever happens to you because you can’t take that ultimate step to take control and take yourself out of the situation? For religious people they almost have a safety net, they believe that God will never give them more than they can handle, that they’ll never be alone, but for those of us who aren’t religious, who don’t have faith in a higher power, you can’t feel more isolated or scared than when you realise that you can’t and won’t end your own life. Those who say it’s the coward’s way out or that it’s easy couldn’t be more wrong, if it were easy I’d have done it, years ago, I wouldn’t have kept going and gone through all the things I’ve had to. I’m glad I haven’t, I’m glad I’m still here, but I’m not glad that my way out has been taken away, that I’m at the mercy of my conditions and that no matter what they throw at me, I’ll have to keep living through it.

Trying to get through each day currently is a real challenge. I don’t even want to get out of bed because it means I have to face things I don’t want to or feel able to face. I don’t want to have to see people or make phonecalls, I don’t want to deal with messages or emails. Decisions are an absolute nightmare, from when to shower, what to eat, which book to review next, to whether I should phone the doctor, go out, or visit family. My head feels so full, like it’s about to explode. I’ve had vivid, bad dreams every night for at least three weeks, I go to bed too late every night because I’m scared of shutting my eyes because I don’t want to have to live through these horrible dreams for another night. I stay up watching TV on my own, trying to tire myself out, trying to distract myself enough that maybe tonight will be different and I won’t dream that my boyfriend’s left me or that my brother’s been in an accident or that I’ve been in multiple arguments with people. I’m so terrified of failing, of letting people down, that I’m now managing to actually do those things, the anxiety is so bad that I’m unable to do things I’ve signed up to do, I’m having to cancel last minute because I’m feeling so close to vomiting or I’m rooted to the spot because I feel like I’ll collapse. I can’t cope with any pressure or demands because it just reminds me that I “have” to do things and the voice in my head screams that I can’t, that I can’t cope and then makes damn sure that I won’t be well enough to even try. It’s getting so bad that I’m considering multiple times a day just cancelling everything, refusing any more books to review, saying no to all visits or trips, and logging out of all methods of communication so that I’m not feeling bombarded by demands. But I know I can’t.

The last appointment I had with my psychiatrist has stuck so firmly with me, he said that avoidance was the worst thing I could do and would only make me worse. I know this. I know that on paper this is true, I know that avoiding just reinforces that I “can’t” do these things and will then make me question even smaller tasks but I also know that the things I’m told about how to get better just aren’t working for me. I was told that going out would get easier, it randomly does, and then for no reason it gets harder again with no pattern to it at all. I was told that after doing something once it gets easier, I can’t think of a single time this has happened. I was told that if I tell myself I can do it and that if I have positive experiences that I’ll regain functioning in that area. From day 1, I’ve pushed myself to go out, I’ve forced myself out of my ever-decreasing comfort zone, I make myself see people, make phonecalls, send scary emails, I can honestly say that almost none of it gets consistently easier. There is so little that I can do now that I couldn’t do 3 years ago. Even the photography isn’t helping as much as it was, though I’m very hopeful that once I’m a bit calmer and better able to focus I’ll be right back into it again, but even the thought of all the things I could photograph didn’t stop me being paralysed by fear this weekend and having to cancel plans for my boyfriend and mum’s birthdays. I know that part of why I’m worse is because I’ve put so much pressure on myself to be ok, to not affect other people’s plans and to be able to participate because I’m sick of things being altered for me but this time I pushed myself way too hard and didn’t manage to do any of it. I’m trying to give myself a break, to not give in to the screaming thoughts that I failed, that I ruined their birthdays (I know they’ll be furious that I’m even suggesting thinking that way), that I should have been able to do it and should have just tried a bit harder. I know that the truth is that I couldn’t have tried any harder, I’m burnt out, I feel completely crushed inside, I don’t have any energy left to fight any harder at the moment and almost all of that energy is going into just keeping swimming, keeping my head above the surface and not falling into the abyss, not giving in to the incessant worry and anxiety, not giving up altogether and just cancelling everything because I know I’ll just feel even worse, even more of a failure if I do.

You can probably see why I don’t tell people about this stuff often, because it’s scary and it’s depressing. It’s not just one deterioration, it’s not got a proper reason, it doesn’t have a time limit, and my worries aren’t limited to just this period of being worse, they drastically expand so that I’m then worrying about the future, about the rest of my life, about whether my boyfriend or indeed I can possibly cope with this for whatever length it lasts. It probably sounds like I’m feeling really sorry for myself and having a pity party and in many ways I am but I’m not seeking sympathy, I don’t want people to feel sorry for me, I just want to stop feeling scared, to stop deteriorating for no reason, and to be able to cope with normal, everyday things without wanting to just scream at everyone to leave me alone and stop putting pressure on me. I feel like a child at the moment, I’m scared of everything, unsure of myself and feel unable to commit to anything or deal with any stress or pressure. I’m trying to take pressure off myself, not give myself deadlines, have a break and get more sleep, I’ve gone back to taking my beta-blockers regularly instead of as and when I need them, I’m trying to up my fluid intake and am now taking a multi-vitamin in the hopes it might help me as I’m almost certainly deficient in things with my digestion being so poor at the moment. I’m even considering starting Yoga or Pilates videos in the hopes that it might help calm me down, get out some of my nervous energy and maybe even help my sleep. I’m doing everything I can think of to help myself, but right now I’m scared because this might go away tomorrow and I might be back to my “usual” level of functioning, or it might take weeks or even months for me to get better again, I could even get worse. I’m doing my best to stay positive, to stay busy and not to think too deeply or often about this, I’m trying to talk about it so that people around me know what’s going on and what will and won’t help but even when this deterioration passes and I go back to my “usual” level of functioning, I don’t get to just make the most of that, I’ll still be anxious every day, I’ll still struggle to go outside, to do anything remotely normal, and I’ll still have the threat of deterioration hanging over me every day because I’ve still not worked out what causes or triggers these dips and therefore still have no idea how to ward them off or even see them coming.

I feel so utterly overwhelmed, so consumed with fear and worry. I wonder when I’ll ever be okay. I wonder if I’ll ever be okay. Most of the time I can’t even explain all of this, or any of the other stuff swirling around my head, I can’t explain what or why, what the reasons are that I don’t feel able to cope, why today is different from other days and I’m rooted to the spot when I normally fight my way through. I can’t express how tired I am, how much my body aches, how uncomfortable it is to be able to feel your intestines wrenching in every direction, how it feels to be in my head and feel like your thoughts have been hijacked, like you’re no longer in control or have any say over your life. I don’t want to express how tired I am of fighting, how angry I am that every day is a struggle, that I can’t change the world like I want to or make the difference I feel I was born to make. I just hate having to face up to the fact that I’m worse, that this has happened again and that three little words are so capable of instilling fear and feelings of failure in me – I’m Not Okay.

Magical Jungle: 36 Postcards to Colour and Send – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Magical Jungle: 36 Postcards to Colour and Send is published and was kindly sent to me to review by Virgin Books. It is with a heavy heart that I have to write a less than positive review of these postcards. I had high hopes for them after detailing my criticisms of the Lost Ocean Postcards and raising these issues with the publisher and hoped things would be changed, but when they arrived I’m afraid to say I was very disappointed. This set of postcards contains 36 scaled down images from Johanna Basford’s hugely successful Magical Jungle adult colouring book (reviewed by me here). Each postcard is printed single-sided with a leaf-outlined stamp space and space for an address (left blank with no lines) on the back so that you can send them to family, friends and loved ones. The postcards arrive in a sort of box that doesn’t have a top or bottom and opens out to reveal the postcards inside with three black images drawn in a white line from inside the book, in two designs. The cover is cream with beautiful gold accents and a scaled down version of the book cover. The postcards are attached to the inside back cover of this box and have a glue binding which isn’t attached to anything other than the cards, it’s very sticky on the outside and also not very hard or strong, after the first careful look through the postcards I had already loosened a few and by the fourth time looking through them over half had completely detached. I’ve only had this set for two days and I’ve already had to completely remove the glue binding because so many postcards had fallen out and they’re now all loose in the box-type cover which they fall out the bottom of.

This time there is only one size of set including 36 postcards rather than the 50 we were offered for Lost Ocean. Of my 36 postcards, one was duplicated meaning I got 36 postcards with 35 designs and of the duplicated cards, one had a printing error with a centimetre gap of unprinted design at the top (see photo below), I’ve been in touch with a fellow reviewer whose set also has the duplicate. Four of the postcards didn’t have the design printed centrally and were drastically shifted to one edge of the card (see photo below) and a further one had some text printing at the very top which I assume should have been cut off during manufacturing. The majority of the postcards are landscape and a few are portrait (7 including the duplicate image twice), they measure 16×11.2cm (a little smaller than the SG and EF postcards). Some are of the whole original image scaled down (8) and others are of sections of the original image that have been shrunk so there is a variety of intricacy levels from very intricate to virtually impossible to colour – the majority of the postcards are nowhere near the same size as the original illustrations with some being shrunk from 22.5cm across to just 9.5cm so you can imagine just how small these are. All but one of the designs are unique and they’re a beautiful selection of images from the book.

The postcards are made of thick, cream card which doesn’t bleed with water-based pens. The cards are a much yellower colour than the Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest Postcards and books. There were issues with white circles and patches on the Lost Ocean postcards which haven’t continued with this set, however, the card is identical and as before, water-based pens don’t colour smoothly or evenly and are repelled by the surface causing a much paler colour and a patchy appearance (see photo below – I will definitely be avoiding pens on these cards because of this). The postcards are lightly textured but don’t take pencils well, when covering larger areas the pencils almost clump and won’t apply smoothly, no matter what brand I’ve used, and it’s difficult to get smooth coverage over any size of area. I’ve found my Holbein pencils the best on this card but even they struggle and burnish quickly. There isn’t much space within the designs to blend or shade unless you want to colour over the lines. The line thickness is spindly thin, I have very good vision for small, close things, and also have very good fine motor control but many of the images on these postcards are so tiny that they’re almost impossible to colour and I went over the lines a number of times on my card which was one of the larger designs. Fineliners would be best to colour such intricate images but can’t be used due to being repelled so you’ll need some super sharp pencils and patience to colour slowly and sharpen very regularly. It’s such a shame because I’m a huge fan of Johanna’s images and I just love her books but scaling down the images to postcard size really wasn’t a sensible choice because it’s so limiting. The postcards are beautiful to look at and would be gorgeous to send or display as they are but given that they’re sold as colouring postcards, I expect to be able to colour them and I just haven’t found that possible to do as neatly as I’d like to. I had assumed that the images would include full-size zoomed in sections of the original images so that you can still blend and shade with pencils but because the images have been shrunk, many of them are just too small to colour (see the photos below where I’ve shown a 0.4mm Stabilo nib for scale).

Unfortunately, from a mental health perspective I really can’t recommend these, I really struggled to colour them and found it quite stressful because I just couldn’t get it to look right. They require a huge amount of concentration and while they’re less intricate than the majority of the Lost Ocean postcards, this is because Magical Jungle was Johanna’s least intricate and detailed book and therefore had larger spaces but when scaled down this doesn’t make a huge difference. Though they’re really interesting to look at, I would have to say that they’re really not well designed for colouring (I coloured one of the largest, least detailed images and still really struggled). All in all, I’m afraid I’m really disappointed. It’s such a shame these postcards didn’t follow the format of the Secret Garden Postcards, or those of Millie Marrotta’s Animal Kingdom and Tropical Wonderland which had very few uncolourable images due to them being zoomed in sections of the illustrations, a much more sensible and usable format. My recommendation would be to get the book of Magical Jungle instead, this is a fairly expensive set of postcards when you factor in that many of them aren’t colourable. These postcards would look beautiful framed as they are but for me, they’re just not suitable for colouring, a real shame!

If you’d still like to purchase them or view them online, they can be found here.
Amazon UK – Magical Jungle: 36 Postcards to Colour and Send
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Magical-Jungle-Johann-Basford/9780753548158/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The book of Magical Jungle can be found here:
Review – Magical Jungle
Amazon UK – Magical Jungle
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Magical-Jungle-Johann-Basford/9780753557167/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Holbein Artist’s Colored Pencils and blended with a Caran d’Ache Blender Pencil.

Tidevarv (Seasons) Målarbok – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Tidevarv is the fourth instalment of colouring books illustrated by Hanna Karlzon and published and kindly sent to me to review by Pagina Förlag. I have previously reviewed Hanna’s first three books, Dagdrömmar (Daydreams), Sommarnatt (Summer Nights), and Magisk Gryning (Magical Dawn). The latest book is identical in format so if you already have a previous title of hers then skip to paragraph two, for those of you who are new to her work, this book is hardback and just a little smaller than A4 at 21.6 x 25.8 cm. The covers are a beautiful lemon yellow colour with a black and white design from inside the book with gold foiling accents and lettering adding a touch of luxury! The spine of the book is black with gold lettering (these books look really luxurious on the shelf and look like classic tomes). The pages are glue and string-bound and the pages are attached to a sturdy ribbon which is flexible rather than being rigidly glued to the hardback spine; the spine is durable and hard-wearing but it can be a bit difficult to get to the very centre of some of the pages though this does ease up with use. The paper is thick, cream and smooth and pencils work fairly well on it, with it being relatively easy to build up layers for blending and shading; water-based pens don’t bleed or shadow (always test somewhere inconspicuous because everyone colours differently). The illustrations are printed double-sided and consist of single and double-page spreads.

The image content is gorgeous, varied, and possibly the best yet! This time, they’re organised into four sections of season-themed images starting with Spring and ending with Winter. The vast majority of the images are heavily nature-centred and realistically drawn but with Hanna’s signature quirkiness and magic added to them with gemstone fruit, anthropomorphised animals, and hair morphing into fruit, florals and even migrating geese. This book contains the second largest number of women (18) with seasonal accessories, beautiful headdresses, piercings and tattoos, these are in my opinion, the best drawings of women that Hanna has given us so far, they’re beautiful and so inventive, and in keeping with the seasonal theme, however, if you’re not interested in colouring people then don’t despair, these are not the majority of the images and there are loads of images of animals, flowers, plants, fruit and lots of gemstones as always! There is so much content in each of these books, it’s hard to sum it all up in a written description but the book contains everything from potion bottles, birds, mushrooms, seedlings, beetles, and mice, to snakes, fish, berries, cats, candles, houses, lanterns, Christmas baubles, presents and stars, it’s absolutely jam-packed with content. The illustrations are all highly decorative and ornate, they are beautiful in black and white but they’re completely brought to life with colour! Hanna’s work has always been beautiful but the added theme of seasons is spectacular, it’s really brought a new dimension to her work and has led to some really creative and beautiful illustrations.

In terms of mental health, this book is just wonderful, it offers escapism, natural imagery and lots of whimsy and it’s perfect for distraction even just by looking through the images! The line thickness is consistent throughout and remains medium/thin so it’s definitely manageable to colour. The intricacy and detail vary throughout and mostly range from medium to high but a few have much larger open spaces. The detail is part of what makes Hanna’s work so special and beautiful, if you’re wanting to colour within each teeny tiny section then you’ll need to have very good vision and fine motor control but if you’re happy to colour over some of it and use it as texture underneath then moderate vision and fine motor control would be absolutely fine! Unlike Hanna’s first book Daydreams, this book doesn’t contain any outline images or written prompts. This may be a welcome change for those of you who don’t like to draw. A number of the images are centralised and have large surrounding spaces so there are plenty of opportunities to create your own backgrounds if you wish, though of course this isn’t a requirement! I found this book and the illustrations within it great for my mood, just looking through it and noticing all of the different details, patterns and creatures makes me feel calmer and the images are just charming so they’re sure to lift your mood and keep you distracted from any difficult thoughts or persistent symptoms. The images do vary in size and difficulty and they consist of a mixture of collections of components, portraits and scenescape images. This makes it ideal for good and bad days because you can work on one gem or potion bottle on a bad day, or a whole page on a good day so it’s ideal for those with fluctuating conditions or concentration levels.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves natural images, highly ornate illustrations, and anyone who likes all things pretty or magical. Hanna’s books are genuinely stunning and some of my favourites, I love just looking through them and this is definitely my favourite with the seasonal theme, it’s added another dimension and gives the book more flow.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available right now from Sweden from the site below and if you use my exclusive discount code Lucy_PW you’ll get a 10% discount on all items in the Book category until the 8th of June 2017.
www.printworksmarket.com

The image below was coloured using Holbein Artists’ Colored Pencils and Prismacolor Premier Coloured Pencils.

Sagor Och Sägner (Tales and Legends) En Målarbok – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Sagor Och Sägner is the second colouring book illustrated Emelie Lidehäll Öberg and published and kindly sent to me to review by Pagina Förlag. I have previously reviewed Emelie’s first book, Sagolikt. This latest book is different in format from Sagolikt, it’s the same format as Hanna Karlzon and Maria Trolle’s books, this book is hardback and just a little smaller than A4 at 21.6 x 25.8 cm. The covers are pale pink with a mostly coloured design from inside the book with gold foiling accents and lettering adding a touch of luxury! The spine of the book is burgundy with gold lettering. The pages are glue and string-bound and are attached to a sturdy ribbon which is flexible rather than being rigidly glued to the hardback spine; the spine is durable and hard-wearing but it can be a bit difficult to get to the very centre of some of the pages though this does ease up with use. The paper is thick, cream and smooth and pencils work fairly well on it, with it being relatively easy to build up layers for blending and shading; water-based pens don’t bleed or shadow (always test somewhere inconspicuous because everyone colours differently). The illustrations are printed double-sided and consist solely of single-page spreads apart from one double-page spread at the back.

The title translates as Tales and Legends and that’s exactly what you get in this book, images of fantastical creatures, scenes from fairy stories and, I assume, characters from Swedish folktales. The content is floral, girly, and quite similar, but not samey, to Sagolikt. The images are decorative and very nature and animal-focused. There are lot of mice and bunnies as well as doll-like girls and characters from stories. The images are really pretty and this book is absolutely ideal for anyone who likes fantasy, whimsy and images that are filled with childlike charm (not childish) but with adult levels of intricacy. The illustrations are also really cohesive and I didn’t feel that any of the pages contained filler images, each has definitely earnt its place and they look beautiful together but would look equally good removed from the book and framed. The images include mice, princesses, gnomes, flowers, woodland creatures, snow globes, a whale, teacups, a dragon, and lots of other beautiful objects and animals. Many of the pages depict imaginative imagery from a snow queen to a fortune-telling cat, a hare carrying a house on its back to mice being read a bedtime story, and fairies to mice showering in a teacup and so much more! The images contain a lot of realistic items used in very imaginative ways including lemons, teapots, cakes and acorns, all made into houses. The pictures are all very cute, fun and often light-hearted and they look absolutely stunning once you’ve added a splash of colour to them!

In terms of mental health, this book is lovely because it’s based around fairy-tale imagery which is full of charm and whimsy. The images aren’t overly realistic so there’s no need to use realistic colour schemes unless you want to and the animals pictured could be coloured as if they’re real, or as if they’re cuddly toys that have come to life so the possibilities are endless! The line thickness is consistent throughout and is medium/thin so it’s perfectly colourable for almost anyone and there is a little leeway to prevent you accidentally going over the lines. The intricacy and detail levels vary throughout and while the majority of the images are very detailed, hardly any of this is particularly intricate so this book will suit most people apart from those with particularly poor vision or fine motor control. The variance in difficulty level means that there is something suitable for your good days, bad days, and everything in between so this is an ideal book for those or you with fluctuating conditions or changeable concentration levels. The book offers huge amounts of escapism and truly transports you to a far off land where you can get out of your head, away from your thoughts and lost into a place filled with friendly fluffy animals, beautiful doll-like people, and quirky, whimsical landscapes. There are plenty of fairly large spaces where you can really practice your blending and shading and there are a number of objects that you can practice realistic colouring of wood, metal or fur on if you wish. The images are really pretty, so varied and just lovely to look at and to colour! There is plenty of space to add your own backgrounds or details if you wish but all of these pages look finished and there are no hints or written suggestions so there’s absolutely no need to be able to draw if you don’t want to.

I would highly recommend this book to those who like tales and legends, charming and cute imagery, and Swedish artwork because this book is beautiful and one I’m really pleased to now own. It’s a really pretty book with plenty of detail and interesting imagery, the paper is ideal for pen and pencil lovers and it really has a good feel about it.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available right now from Sweden from the site below and if you use my exclusive discount code Lucy_PW you’ll get a 10% discount on all items in the Book category until the 8th of June 2017.
www.printworksmarket.com

If you’re a fan of Emelie’s work then please do join my dedicated Facebook group where you can share your coloured pages from all of her books and postcard books.

The image below was coloured using Holbein Artists’ Colored Pencils and blended with a Caran d’Ache Blender Pencils.

Romantic Country: The Third Tale – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Romantic Country: The Third Tale is published and kindly sent to me to review by St Martin’s Griffin. I’ve been looking forward to this book being published for such a long time and I was delighted when it arrived just a few days ago and I was able to complete my Romantic Country collection. I think that the second book is my personal favourite, it seems the most cohesive and most exciting in terms of content, however, this third instalment is beautiful too though the story does jump around from us being shown Elena meeting Joset the duck in Chapter 4 to seeing new scenes of shops and places we’ve seen in previous books as well as visiting new islands and areas. The book is illustrated by Eriy, a Japanese artist who creates her work using a toothpick dipped in ink. This whole book took approximately 900 toothpicks and because of the way the lines are created they’re not a uniform thickness and aren’t a stark black colour (more on this later). This series was the series I’ve been hoping would be made, with its childlike charm but with adult levels of intricacy, it’s what I always felt was missing for me in JB’s books, don’t get me wrong, hers are stunningly beautiful, I really love them, but they’re a little too perfect for my imagined perfect series. Eriy’s books are utterly charming, not quite perfect, and truly heart-warming and that’s what makes them so wonderful.

This book is square, the same size as the bestsellers, paperback, with a removable paper dust jacket with partially coloured images from the book on the front and back. The book itself has brown card covers with two line drawings from inside the book and blank covers on the inside. The paper is a lovely rich creamy colour (it’s hard to describe but it’s a little warmer in colour than the paper in Johanna’s first two books but not yellowy and it’s the same as in the previous Romantic Country titles), and it’s thick and doesn’t bleed or shadow with water-based pens when used carefully, it also holds up well to water and doesn’t bleed through with Derwent Inktense pencils. The paper is lightly textured and while you can’t get loads of layers, pencils do lay down well on it and it’s perfectly possible to get some lovely blending and layering. The spine is glue and stitch-bound so it’s durable but a little difficult to get to the centre of each spread, however, spines of this type do ease up with use so do persevere. The images are printed double-sided and borderless and are a mixture of single and double-page spreads so a little of each image is lost into the spine to begin with.

The images themselves are beautiful, charming, and begging to be coloured and are split into the following 5 chapters: 1. Peaceful Days in the North; 2. Peaceful Days in the South; 3. Beautiful Island Scenes; 4. Good Times for Elena and Joset; 5. The Passage of Time in the Secret Forest. The book starts with a single page spread showing a map of the islands of Cocot (the name of the land in which the first two books are set, which was dreamt up in the imagination of Eriy when she was a child), depicting the landmarks introduced in this book. Following this, are two double-page spreads showing mapped scenes of Sarryska Island and Cocot North, and Uisce and Melati Islands and their landmarks which are pictured in more detail later in the book so you can clearly see where they’re situated in relation to each other. Following the maps, the images show beautiful scenes of children posting letters to Santa Claus, vegetable carts, snow-capped castles, farmyard scenes, cutlery and crockery, a library, Island traditional dress, a lamp shop, inside a boat, a picnic, fairies, mermaids, a dragon receiving healthcare, a witch’s hat shop, and so much more. Each image is shown as a thumbnail at the back of the book too with a short description telling you more about each place and life there. At the back of the book are two fully colourable pages with single-sided scenes to cut out and assemble into a 3D shop that Elena and her duck friend Joset, are visiting.

In terms of mental health, I doubt there’s a book (or series) that’s better for it in all honesty! Certainly for mine anyway! The illustrations are so charming and because they have a beautiful childlike quality to them they really have a nostalgic aspect which will remind you of colouring books you used as a child but with so much more detail and intricacy that it’s still very entertaining as an adult. The content is wonderful because it whisks you off to a simpler, happier, gentler place where there is a slower pace of life and mythical creatures live alongside people and even witches are good. The line thickness varies throughout because Eriy draws with a toothpick and so it naturally varies however the majority of the lines are thin but not spindly so they’re perfectly colourable with moderate vision and fine motor control. The lines themselves are not a stark black, they’re an uneven brown because they’re drawn in dipping ink and while this may not sound great and does take a little getting used to, it truly adds so much charm to the drawings and these illustrations just wouldn’t look right drawn in harsh, black, perfect lines. The images range in intricacy and detail from large open spaces in some of the landscape pages, to small intricate details of vegetables, books and leaves, and everything in between, it’s very wide-ranging but the intricacy level in this book is significantly higher in most images than in Romantic Country though most of the images would still be suitable for those with moderate, or higher, vision or fine motor control so this is a great book for nearly anybody! The images are detailed and contain lots of things to look at and colour but most are not so overwhelming that you don’t know where or how to start and because they’re all depicting real things like buildings, plants, and food, they’re easy to work out colour schemes for whether that be subtle pastels, realistic browns and greys, or bright fantastical colours, this book isn’t so perfect that you don’t want to touch it which is part of its huge appeal. The images are less cohesive in this book and don’t tell a chronological story, however, they do create a wonderful sense of place and they offer great escapism as you walk through the streets, castles, countryside and shops, by the end of the book you really feel like you’ve visited the fantastical lands and you’ll be planning your next visit as soon as you can!

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes to colour scenes, landscapes, shops, food and flowers. This is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever seen, it’s cute, pretty, whimsical, magical and charming and it truly is the book of my dreams, and hopefully of yours. If you don’t already have the first two Romantic Country titles then get them too, this series is truly perfect!

If you’d like to purchase a copy of this gorgeous book then it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Romantic Country: The Third Tale
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Romantic-Country-The-Third-Tale-Eriy/9781250133830/?a_aid=colouringitmom

Book 1 and 2 are available here.

The image below was coloured using Holbein Artist’s Colored Pencils and blended using a Caran d’Ache Blender Pencil.

Mein Sommer Spaziergang (My Summer Walk) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Mein Sommer Spaziergang (My Summer Walk) is published and kindly sent to me to review by Bastei Lübbe. This book is one of four season-themed colouring books illustrated by Rita Berman, a highly talented German illustrator. This series of books is truly stunning, it’s not often that I get hugely excited by books now because I have so many but when I saw Rita’s illustrations online I knew I had to have these books and when they arrived I was honestly blown away by their beauty, there’s so much detail and content packed into each book and they really do typify and epitomise each season. I can’t enthuse about them enough, they’re just beautiful! The books are all identical in format and therefore my review of each is the same, as are the mental health benefits, skip straight to the second paragraph about content and photos at the end to see what’s inside this title.

The book itself is slightly smaller than the bestsellers at 20cm square, it’s paperback with a partially coloured image from inside the book on the front cover. The spine is glue and string-bound so it’s durable and strong and will ease up with use; many of the images are full page designs and therefore a number of them do reach or span the gutter however as the spine becomes more supple, you’ll be able to reach almost all areas of the page. The images are printed double-sided and are a mixture of single and double-page spreads, the book contains 72 pages of images, at the back of the book are three pages showing the book covers of the other three titles in the series. The paper is bright white, medium/thick and lightly textured, water-based pens didn’t bleed or shadow when I tested them but dark colours or colouring the same spot may cause shadowing so do ensure that you test them yourself in an inconspicuous area; coloured pencils blend and shade well. The images themselves are where these books really come into their own, there are similar style images in each book but they’re heavily tailored to each season and it’s very clear from looking through each book which season it’s dedicated to. A couple of images in each book are repeated across two books e.g. sunflowers in the Summer and Autumn books, sheep in Spring and Summer and a Spring scene in the Winter and Spring books.

The drawings range from double-page spread scenes to wreaths, centralised images to random object spreads and a few pattern pages, all usually related to the season theme. The content ranges from beach scenes, seagulls and beach huts to ice cream, fruit and sunshine, there are woodland scenes, seashells, blossoms, birds and hill views, picnic tables, jars of jam, duck ponds and camping, vegetable patches and quite a few cats through the pages. The imagery really does sum up Summer and childhood memories of beach or camping holidays. The illustrations are all drawn quite realistically but each is filled with patterns and small sections to colour which really opens up the possibilities of how to colour them. The pages are filled with cute, whimsical and friendly-feeling images, none are intimidating, they just welcome you in to fill them with colour.

In terms of mental health, this whole series of books is just wonderful, the images are really natural and the content is very cute and packed with details so each time you flick through the book you notice more in the images. Because of how the illustrations are drawn, with mostly realistic outlines of obviously recognisable things but filled in with patterns and whimsical doodles, you can either colour the pages realistically, or in outlandish colour schemes and either will look totally fabulous as you’ll see from completed pages on social media. The line thickness is consistently variable throughout, each image is outlined in a medium/thin line with thin-lined details. The intricacy and detail level varies across the images from low-ish to very high, however, don’t despair if your vision or fine motor control aren’t perfect, they don’t need to be, none of the parts are impossibly tiny to colour and many of the images can be simplified by colouring over the internal patterns rather than within them which instantly reduces the intricacy to a much lower level for almost all of the images. The size of the book is ideal because it’s smaller than most and therefore doesn’t require quite so much time to complete each page, the content varies from full double-page spreads depicting scenes to much smaller images so it’s ideal for those with fluctuating conditions or poor concentration as you can colour one object or group of objects on a bad day, or colour a full double-page spread when you’re feeling focused and well. The illustrations create a wonderful sense of place and offer great escapism, they really transport you into Rita’s super cute world filled with charming animals and beautiful plants and flowers and away from any difficulties or symptoms you might be experiencing.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book and the rest in the series, they complement each other beautifully and really transport you into a whimsical world. The pages offer a manageable project for any level of functioning and they are just gorgeous when finished.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Mein Sommer Spaziergang (My Summer Walk)
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Mein-Sommerspaziergang/9783404609291/?a_aid=colouringitmom

You can read my reviews of the other books in the series here.

The page below was coloured using Holbein Artist’s Colored Pencils and blended using a Caran d’Ache blender pencil.

Mein Frühlings Spaziergang (My Spring Walk) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Mein Frühlings Spaziergang (My Spring Walk) is published and kindly sent to me to review by Bastei Lübbe. This book is one of four season-themed colouring books illustrated by Rita Berman, a highly talented German illustrator. This series of books is truly stunning, it’s not often that I get hugely excited by books now because I have so many but when I saw Rita’s illustrations online I knew I had to have these books and when they arrived I was honestly blown away by their beauty, there’s so much detail and content packed into each book and they really do typify and epitomise each season. I can’t enthuse about them enough, they’re just beautiful! The books are all identical in format and therefore my review of each is the same, as are the mental health benefits, skip straight to the second paragraph about content and photos at the end to see what’s inside this title.

The book itself is slightly smaller than the bestsellers at 20cm square, it’s paperback with a partially coloured image from inside the book on the front cover. The spine is glue and string-bound so it’s durable and strong and will ease up with use; many of the images are full page designs and therefore a number of them do reach or span the gutter however as the spine becomes more supple, you’ll be able to reach almost all areas of the page. The images are printed double-sided and are a mixture of single and double-page spreads, the book contains 72 pages of images, at the back of the book are three pages showing the book covers of the other three titles in the series. The paper is bright white, medium/thick and lightly textured, water-based pens didn’t bleed or shadow when I tested them but dark colours or colouring the same spot may cause shadowing so do ensure that you test them yourself in an inconspicuous area; coloured pencils blend and shade well. The images themselves are where these books really come into their own, there are similar style images in each book but they’re heavily tailored to each season and it’s very clear from looking through each book which season it’s dedicated to. A couple of images in each book are repeated across two books e.g. sunflowers in the Summer and Autumn books, sheep in Spring and Summer and a Spring scene in the Winter and Spring books.

The drawings range from double-page spread scenes to wreaths, centralised images to random object spreads and a few pattern pages, all usually related to the season theme. The content ranges from pussy willow branches to fields of sheep, crocuses, daffodils and tulips, spring bulbs and vegetables to mice, countryside and nesting birds. There’s a beautiful bunny, lots of feathers, eggs, and butterflies, there are pond scenes, woodland walks, and all manner of things that you’d expect to find in Spring and at Easter. The illustrations are all drawn quite realistically but each is filled with patterns and small sections to colour which really opens up the possibilities of how to colour them. The pages are filled with cute, whimsical and friendly-feeling images, none are intimidating, they just welcome you in to fill them with colour.

In terms of mental health, this whole series of books is just wonderful, the images are really natural and the content is very cute and packed with details so each time you flick through the book you notice more in the images. Because of how the illustrations are drawn, with mostly realistic outlines of obviously recognisable things but filled in with patterns and whimsical doodles, you can either colour the pages realistically, or in outlandish schemes and either will look totally fabulous as you’ll see from completed pages on social media. The line thickness is consistently variable throughout, each image is outlined in a medium/thin line with thin-lined details. The intricacy and detail level varies across the images from low-ish to very high, however, don’t despair if your vision or fine motor control aren’t perfect, they don’t need to be, none of the parts are impossibly tiny to colour and many of the images can be simplified by colouring over the internal patterns rather than within them which instantly reduces the intricacy to a much lower level for almost all of the images. The size of the book is ideal because it’s smaller than most and therefore doesn’t require quite so much time to complete each page, the content varies from full double-page spreads depicting scenes to much smaller images so it’s ideal for those with fluctuating conditions or poor concentration as you can colour one object or group of objects on a bad day, or colour a full double-page spread when you’re feeling focused and well. The illustrations create a wonderful sense of place and offer great escapism, they really transport you into Rita’s super cute world filled with charming animals and beautiful plants and flowers and away from any difficulties or symptoms you might be experiencing.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book and the rest in the series, they complement each other beautifully and really transport you into a whimsical world. The pages offer a manageable project for any level of functioning and they are just gorgeous when finished.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Mein Frühlings Spaziergang (My Spring Walk)
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Mein-FrAhlingsspaziergang-Rit-Berman/9783404609284/?a_aid=colouringitmom

You can read my reviews of the other books in the series here.

The page below was coloured using Holbein Artist’s Colored Pencils and blended using a Caran d’Ache blender pencil.

Mein Winter Spaziergang (My Winter Walk) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Mein Winter Spaziergang (My Winter Walk) is published and kindly sent to me to review by Bastei Lübbe. This book is one of four season-themed colouring books illustrated by Rita Berman, a highly talented German illustrator. This series of books is truly stunning, it’s not often that I get hugely excited by books now because I have so many but when I saw Rita’s illustrations online I knew I had to have these books and when they arrived I was honestly blown away by their beauty, there’s so much detail and content packed into each book and they really do typify and epitomise each season. I can’t enthuse about them enough, they’re just beautiful! The books are all identical in format and therefore my review of each is the same, as are the mental health benefits, skip straight to the second paragraph about content and photos at the end to see what’s inside this title.

The book itself is slightly smaller than the bestsellers at 20cm square, it’s paperback with a partially coloured image from inside the book on the front cover. The spine is glue and string-bound so it’s durable and strong and will ease up with use; many of the images are full page designs and therefore a number of them do reach or span the gutter however as the spine becomes more supple, you’ll be able to reach almost all areas of the page. The images are printed double-sided and are a mixture of single and double-page spreads, the book contains 72 pages of images, at the back of the book are three pages showing the book covers of the other three titles in the series. The paper is bright white, medium/thick and lightly textured, water-based pens didn’t bleed or shadow when I tested them but dark colours or colouring the same spot may cause shadowing so do ensure that you test them yourself in an inconspicuous area; coloured pencils blend and shade well. The images themselves are where these books really come into their own, there are similar style images in each book but they’re heavily tailored to each season and it’s very clear from looking through each book which season it’s dedicated to. A couple of images in each book are repeated across two books e.g. sunflowers in the Summer and Autumn books, sheep in Spring and Summer and a Spring scene in the Winter and Spring books.

The drawings range from double-page spread scenes to wreaths, centralised images to random object spreads and a few pattern pages, all usually related to the season theme. The content ranges from pine cones and Christmas trees to Wintry mountain scenes and penguins, mittens, hats and scarves to the northern lights, Christmas biscuits and an advent calendar, even Father Christmas makes an appearance! This book contains everything you would want from a Winter and Christmas-themed book with multitudes of stars and snowflakes, baubles, Winter sports and even a Christmas market scene. The illustrations are all drawn quite realistically but each is filled with patterns and small sections to colour which really opens up the possibilities of how to colour them. The pages are filled with cute, whimsical and friendly-feeling images, none are intimidating, they just welcome you in to fill them with colour.

In terms of mental health, this whole series of books is just wonderful, the images are really natural and the content is very cute and packed with details so each time you flick through the book you notice more in the images. Because of how the illustrations are drawn, with mostly realistic outlines of obviously recognisable things but filled in with patterns and whimsical doodles, you can either colour the pages realistically, or in outlandish schemes and either will look totally fabulous as you’ll see from completed pages on social media. The line thickness is consistently variable throughout, each image is outlined in a medium/thin line with thin-lined details. The intricacy and detail level varies across the images from low-ish to very high, however, don’t despair if your vision or fine motor control aren’t perfect, they don’t need to be, none of the parts are impossibly tiny to colour and many of the images can be simplified by colouring over the internal patterns rather than within them which instantly reduces the intricacy to a much lower level for almost all of the images. The size of the book is ideal because it’s smaller than most and therefore doesn’t require quite so much time to complete each page, the content varies from full double-page spreads depicting scenes to much smaller images so it’s ideal for those with fluctuating conditions or poor concentration as you can colour one object or group of objects on a bad day, or colour a full double-page spread when you’re feeling focused and well. The illustrations create a wonderful sense of place and offer great escapism, they really transport you into Rita’s super cute world filled with charming animals and beautiful plants and flowers and away from any difficulties or symptoms you might be experiencing.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book and the rest in the series, they complement each other beautifully and really transport you into a whimsical world. The pages offer a manageable project for any level of functioning and they are just gorgeous when finished.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Mein Winter Spaziergang (My Winter Walk)
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Mein-Winterspaziergang/9783404609178/?a_aid=colouringitmom

You can read my reviews of the other books in the series here.

The page below was coloured using Holbein Artist’s Colored Pencils and blended using a Caran d’Ache blender pencil.

Mein Herbst Spaziergang (My Autumn Walk) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Mein Herbst Spaziergang (My Autumn Walk) is published and kindly sent to me to review by Bastei Lübbe. This book is one of four season-themed colouring books illustrated by Rita Berman, a highly talented German illustrator. This series of books is truly stunning, it’s not often that I get hugely excited by books now because I have so many but when I saw Rita’s illustrations online I knew I had to have these books and when they arrived I was honestly blown away by their beauty, there’s so much detail and content packed into each book and they really do typify and epitomise each season. I can’t enthuse about them enough, they’re just beautiful! The books are all identical in format and therefore my review of each is the same, as are the mental health benefits, skip straight to the second paragraph about content and photos at the end to see what’s inside this title.

The book itself is slightly smaller than the bestsellers at 20cm square, it’s paperback with a partially coloured image from inside the book on the front cover. The spine is glue and string-bound so it’s durable and strong and will ease up with use; many of the images are full page designs and therefore a number of them do reach or span the gutter however as the spine becomes more supple, you’ll be able to reach almost all areas of the page. The images are printed double-sided and are a mixture of single and double-page spreads, the book contains 72 pages of images, at the back of the book are three pages showing the book covers of the other three titles in the series. The paper is bright white, medium/thick and lightly textured, water-based pens didn’t bleed or shadow when I tested them but dark colours or colouring the same spot may cause shadowing so do ensure that you test them yourself in an inconspicuous area; coloured pencils blend and shade well. The images themselves are where these books really come into their own, there are similar style images in each book but they’re heavily tailored to each season and it’s very clear from looking through each book which season it’s dedicated to. A couple of images in each book are repeated across two books e.g. sunflowers in the Summer and Autumn books, sheep in Spring and Summer and a Spring scene in the Winter and Spring books.

The drawings range from double-page spread scenes to wreaths, centralised images to random object spreads and a few pattern pages, all usually related to the season theme. The content ranges from ploughed fields and haystacks to orchard fruits and mice, squirrels and birds to rain showers, Thanksgiving turkeys to root vegetables, kites flying in a blustery wind to mushrooms, pumpkins and Autumn leaves, and even migrating geese, everything you can think of that symbolises Autumn is pictured in abundance in this book. The illustrations are all drawn quite realistically but each is filled with patterns and small sections to colour which really opens up the possibilities of how to colour them. This book was the first published and as such, a few of the images are drawn in a slightly different style from the other three books in the series and are much emptier, more on this later. The pages are filled with cute, whimsical and friendly-feeling images, none are intimidating, they just welcome you in to fill them with colour.

In terms of mental health, this whole series of books is just wonderful, the images are really natural and the content is very cute and packed with details so each time you flick through the book you notice more in the images. Because of how the illustrations are drawn, with mostly realistic outlines of obviously recognisable things but filled in with patterns and whimsical doodles, you can either colour the pages realistically, or in outlandish colour schemes and either will look totally fabulous as you’ll see from completed pages on social media. The line thickness is consistently variable throughout, each image is outlined in a medium/thin line with thin-lined details. The intricacy and detail level varies across the images from low-ish to very high, however, don’t despair if your vision or fine motor control aren’t perfect, they don’t need to be, none of the parts are impossibly tiny to colour and many of the images can be simplified by colouring over the internal patterns rather than within them which instantly reduces the intricacy to a much lower level for almost all of the images. This book has a five images that are quite different from the rest in this, and the other books in the series, these are much emptier and feel less finished, there are no written prompts on the pages but you could certainly add your own patterns or imagery if you wished, or just leave them as they are and finish them off with beautiful colours and backgrounds if you fancy. The size of the book is ideal because it’s smaller than most and therefore doesn’t require quite so much time to complete each page, the content varies from full double-page spreads depicting scenes to much smaller images so it’s ideal for those with fluctuating conditions or poor concentration as you can colour one object or group of objects on a bad day, or colour a full double-page spread when you’re feeling focused and well. The illustrations create a wonderful sense of place and offer great escapism, they really transport you into Rita’s super cute world filled with charming animals and beautiful plants and flowers and away from any difficulties or symptoms you might be experiencing.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book and the rest in the series, they complement each other beautifully and really transport you into a whimsical world. The pages offer a manageable project for any level of functioning and they are just gorgeous when finished.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Mein Herbst Spaziergang (My Autumn Walk)
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Mein-Herbstspaziergang/9783404609161/?a_aid=colouringitmom

You can read my reviews of the other books in the series here.

The page below was coloured using Holbein Artist’s Colored Pencils and blended using a Caran d’Ache blender pencil.

Harry Potter Magical Artefacts Colouring Book – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Harry Potter Magical Artefacts Colouring Book is published and kindly sent to me to review by Studio Press. This book is the fourth in the Harry Potter Colouring Book series and my reviews of the first, second, and third can be found here. Grab your wand, bring a lantern, swat up on your incantations and let’s get delving into the magical artefacts of the wizarding world. This book is paperback with a glossy accented cover and a pale blue spine, it’s A4 in size and glue-bound meaning that a little of some images is lost. The images are a mixture of single and double-page spreads with many of the single pages having a thin border meaning that they’re not lost into the spine. The book contains 96 pages which are printed double-sided. The paper is bright white and thick (they’ve sorted out the paper issues since the first book), and didn’t bleed or shadow when tested with water-based pens, it’s lightly textured and perfect for pencils, you can get plenty of layers for blending and shading! It also held up fine to light use of water when activating the Derwent Inktense Pencils.

The images are drawn by multiple illustrators so they’re cohesive in content but some are drawn quite differently from each other. The images themselves include almost no stills from the film this time. There are a number of images based on concept art for the films and a few patterns are included which do feel a bit like “filler” images but there are fewer of these in this book than the first two (about 4 full page patterns) however, at least 24 pages are images with a centralised object overlaying a repeating pattern, like my coloured page of the sorting hat, and these get quite samey and dull. A huge number of different artefacts are pictured from obvious inclusions of wands, brooms, a time-turner, the Sorting Hat and horcruxes, to many of the items sold by the Weasley twins, book covers, the Marauders’ Map, Delores Umbridge’s cat plates and lots more. There are single and double-page spreads of objects and posters. This time there aren’t many pictures of characters though a few are included  At the end of the book are a number of full colour pages of the images included in the book meaning you can either copy the colour schemes in those or pick your own, they’re also great for helping you re-live the magic of the films and get yourself back into the world of Hogwarts – as if any of us ever left! I have to say, this book feels quite samey when compared to the previous three and they haven’t been brilliantly represented as specific titles due to the first book containing a real mixture of images and then the following three being specific aspects, many of the most obvious of which had already been featured in the first book. It just feels like it’s lacking, we’ve already had images of wands in two books, we’ve already seen the quidditch balls and different brooms, the collection of images is just quite random and the most obvious wizarding artefacts aren’t pictured well due to being shown in previous books.

In terms of mental health, this book doesn’t have an awful lot of impact on it unless you’re a Harry Potter Mega Fan in which case it’s likely to considerably lift your mood and give you hours and hours of distraction and enjoyment. The images take a long time to colour if you want them to look realistic so you will need fairly good levels of concentration. The line thickness varies from very thin to thick but mostly it remains thin so you will definitely need good vision and fine motor control to get the most out of this book. The best part of this book is that it has coloured pages at the back which can be used to copy or give inspiration for colour schemes, you can also easily google the objects and artefacts in order to work out exactly how to colour them so they look true to the film, or you can go it alone and try out your own colour schemes with purple broomsticks, glittery wands and rainbow time-turners – it doesn’t have to be realistic, remember it’s a magical world! Some of the illustrations are very intricate and detailed and others are much simpler with larger open spaces so this book does have a variety of difficulty levels to accommodate your good and bad days.

All in all, this is a good book, but I’m left disappointed, it feels samey and lacklustre and the image style gets boring quite quickly, I think a trick was missed by creating the first generic themed book, it really took away from the subsequent three specific titled books as the best bits of each had already been pictured. However, if you’re wanting to finish off the set, or you’re just a bit less picky than me then this book may be for you. The paper quality is good and there’s a wide range of objects and artefacts pictured, I just feel they could have been pictured in a better, more exciting and inspiring way.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Harry Potter Magical Artefacts Colouring Book
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Harry-Potter-Magical-Artefacts-Colouring-Book/9781783705924/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners and Derwent Inktense Pencils activated with water.

Jane Foster’s Colouring Book – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Jane Foster’s Colouring Book is published and kindly sent to me to review by Pavilion. Jane Foster is best known for her range of screenprinted toys and homeware products which are inspired by Scandinavian art from the 50s and 60s, this colouring book offers fans, new and old, the opportunity to bring her illustrations to life with their own colour schemes. The book itself is 20cm square with rounded corners, paperback with a thin card cover with a partially coloured illustration from inside the book, and a thick piece of hardboard-style card at the back which offers a great surface to colour on. The spine is not attached to the spine of the book cover and is lightly glue-bound meaning that the book opens completely flat and the pages can be easily removed but will also fall out easily when colouring the pages towards the back of the book so do be very careful if you’re wanting your book to remain intact. The images are all printed single-sided. The paper is bright white, thick and lightly textured, it’s perfect for water-based pens which didn’t bleed or shadow but would work equally well with pencils for blending and shading or alcohol markers as long as you put some protective sheets behind your work to prevent bleed-through. The illustrations themselves are lovely and very cheerful, they’re mostly flowers, leaves, fish and birds and all have patterns within them. They’re drawn in quite a simplistic, naïve style and are quite childlike and would certainly appeal to children as well as adults. The designs are mostly Scandinavian-inspired and if you liked the book Scandia, you may well like this as it’s quite similar. The content is wide-ranging consisting of everything from flowers to peapods, bouquets to cacti, fish to feathers and chickens to mushrooms. The images are all in large print, contained within the page without reaching the edges, and quick and easy to colour.

In terms of mental health, this book is lovely to just zone out with and not have to think hard about the colouring experience. The images are all of real things but are not drawn at all realistically meaning they’ll look equally good coloured in real colour schemes as they will coloured in rainbows or neons. The images are all small and blocky and therefore quick to colour so this is ideal for anxious or low mood days when you don’t think you’ll be able to concentrate for long and can’t cope with blending and shading, the art really lends itself to block colouring in your brightest colours and after 20 minutes of that you’re sure to feel calmer and more able to face the world. The line thickness is consistent throughout with each image being outlined in an extremely thick line and then details added within in medium and thin lines. The illustrations are all centralised objects or groups of objects and therefore none are scenes in need of backgrounds though you could still add some if you wish. The intricacy and detail levels vary throughout each image with the majority having one or two very large spaces and then other areas that are made smaller by internalised patterns which can either be coloured within or over for texture. None of the spaces are teeny tiny and this book would be suitable for almost any level of vision or fine motor control including most children. The content is cute and quirky and sure to put a smile on your face, especially once you’ve filled it with bright colours and made it your own.

I would recommend this book to those who like Scandinavian art, those who liked Scandia and those who want quick and easy designs to colour on days when their mental health is poor, this book is filled with cute and quirky designs that look great no matter what colours you choose so grab a pen and get colouring!

If you’d like to purchase a copy of this book it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Jane Foster’s Colouring Book
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Jane-Fosters-Colouring-Book-Jane-Foster/9781911216155/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Stabilo 68 Fibre-tip Pens.

Rhapsody in the Forest – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Rhapsody in the Forest is illustrated by Kanoko Egusa, a Japanese artist, who very kindly sent me a copy to review. Kanoko’s work is yet to be picked up by a US or UK publisher which is a real shame because her work is truly stunning, it’s unlike anything we’ve seen before in the UK but is similar to many of the other beautiful Japanese books on the market, they have such a lovely quality to them and are very whimsical and cute with plenty of detail. Kanoko has created two books so far, this one and a second called Menuet de Bonheur which I’ve reviewed here.

The book itself is just under 25cm square, paperback with very flexible card covers and a beautiful thick paper dust jacket with linework from inside the book. The pages are printed double-sided and the spine is glue-bound, the images are printed full-page and therefore do enter the spine so you’ll need to be careful when trying to reach the centre of the pages not to break the spine or you may end up loosening the pages. The paper is white, medium/thin and very lightly textured, it doesn’t bleed or shadow with water-based pens but do make sure you check this somewhere inconspicuous as we all colour differently, pencils blend and shade well despite the lack of tooth in the paper and sparing amounts of water were tolerated very well and didn’t cause bleeding when I used my Derwent Inktense Pencils. The images are a mixture of single and double-page spreads and the content is all heavily nature-based with lots of animal characters. The book is printed in Japanese so it’s not possible to read the text at the beginning of the book which I assume explains what’s happening through the pages but most of the scenes are pretty self-explanatory.

The illustrations contain all sorts of imagery from food to flowers, postage stamps to books, circus and nautical scenes and lots and lots of animals in various stages of anthropomorphosis from very animal-like, possibly wearing a hat, to very anthropomorphic and doing human jobs like decorating cakes, trick-or-treating, and even going to a ball. They are very natural and filled with detail, objects, and plenty to look at and the content is really wide-ranging and very pretty. I’m not entirely sure what the specific theme of the book is but it seems like it’s following the lives of lots of woodland and more exotic creatures and their travels, tales, exploits and even parties! It’s a really lovely theme for a book and the pictures are truly exquisite and beautiful! Five of the pages have black or grey backgrounds which is quite novel and a nice addition to the book.  Of the two books, I personally prefer this one as it’s more natural and less anthropomorphic which suits my tastes more, however, both are just gorgeous! At the back of the book are two light brown pages, the first has two postcard sized images which can be cut out and coloured, the second has 5 illustrations each with dotted lines drawn around them so that they can be cut out and attached to cards or used as gift tags etc either coloured or uncoloured.

In terms of mental health, this book is fantastic, it’s so calming and distracting and there’s just so much to look at in each picture so it’s really absorbing. It also offers wonderful escapism because you can create stories about what the animals are doing and what they might be baking a cake or wearing their best outfits for and immerse yourself in their lovely world. The book feels really peaceful and reminds me of my childhood reading Beatrix Potter’s wonderful stories about animals, I’m sure Peter Rabbit and Mrs Tiggywinkle would fit right in with Kanoko’s forest of creatures and you could have great fun naming all of the characters depicted in this beautiful book. The line thickness is pretty consistent throughout and is thin but not spindly thin so it’s perfectly colourable. The intricacy and detail levels vary throughout from very detailed sections with lots of intricate parts to much larger sections where you can really go to town with your blending and shading if you wish; this book would be suitable for those with moderate to good vision and fine motor control. This book will require a fairly good level of concentration but there are lots of natural stopping points so you can colour for as little or as much time as you want and still get a good sense of accomplishment. The amount of content in each page varies so some are centralised single page images, others are fully covered double-page spreads and a few have spaces where you could add your own imagery or backgrounds if you wish.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book and Kanoko’s second book, Menuet de Bonheur, both are truly beautiful, really natural and calming and just charming to look through. Having seen lots of coloured images from inside, these illustrations are really brought to life with colour and they look spectacular when finished.

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it is available on Amazon but price varies so do check there as well as Amazon Japan (postage is steep but does reduce per item if you buy more than one thing) and check Etsy too where an increasing number of Japanese and other International colouring books are being stocked for a reasonable price.

Amazon UK – Rhapsody in the Forest

The image below was coloured using Derwent Inktense Pencils activated with water.

Menuet de Bonheur – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Menuet de Bonheur is illustrated by Kanoko Egusa, a Japanese artist, who very kindly sent me a copy to review. Kanoko’s work is yet to be picked up by a US or UK publisher which is a real shame because her work is truly stunning, it’s unlike anything we’ve seen before in the UK but is similar to many of the other beautiful Japanese books on the market, they have such a lovely quality to them and are very whimsical and cute with plenty of detail. Kanoko has created two books so far, this one and a second called Rhapsody in the Forest which I’ve reviewed here.

The book itself is just under 25cm square, paperback with very flexible card covers and a beautiful, thick, dusky pink, paper dust jacket with linework from inside the book. The pages are printed double-sided and the spine is glue-bound, the images are printed full-page and therefore do enter the spine so you’ll need to be careful when trying to reach the centre of the pages not to break the spine or you may end up loosening the pages. The paper is white, medium/thin and very lightly textured, it doesn’t bleed or shadow with water-based pens but do make sure you check this somewhere inconspicuous as we all colour differently, pencils blend and shade well despite the lack of tooth in the paper and sparing amounts of water were tolerated very well and didn’t cause bleeding when I used my Derwent Inktense Pencils. The images are a mixture of single and double-page spreads and the content is all heavily nature-based with lots of animal characters. The book is printed in Japanese so it’s not possible to read the text at the beginning of the book which I assume explains what’s happening through the pages but most of the scenes are pretty self-explanatory.

The illustrations contain all sorts of imagery from flowers to teacups, baby clothes to fruit baskets, fireworks to vegetables and lots and lots of animals in various stages of anthropomorphosis. This book contains many more human-like animals than Rhapsody in the Forest and it appears to show family life from bathing the children to hanging up washing, reading a bedtime story to food shopping, preparing dinner to going on holiday and even depicting a wedding! The images are very natural and filled with detail, objects, and plenty to look at and the content is really wide-ranging and very pretty. Animal family life is a really lovely theme for a book and the pictures are truly exquisite and beautiful, it feels like you’re taking a peek into their life and stepping into their story. Three of the pages have black backgrounds which is quite novel and a nice addition to the book. At the back of the book are two light brown pages, the first has two postcard sized images which can be cut out and coloured, the second has 5 illustrations each with dotted lines drawn around them so that they can be cut out and attached to cards or used as gift tags etc either coloured or uncoloured.

In terms of mental health, this book is fantastic, it’s so calming and distracting and there’s just so much to look at in each picture so it’s really absorbing. It also offers wonderful escapism because you can create stories about what the animals are doing and immerse yourself in their lovely world. The book feels really peaceful and reminds me of my childhood reading Beatrix Potter’s wonderful stories about animals, I’m sure Peter Rabbit and Mrs Tiggywinkle would fit right in with Kanoko’s creatures and you could have great fun naming all of the characters depicted in this beautiful book. The line thickness is pretty consistent throughout and is thin but not spindly thin so it’s perfectly colourable. The intricacy and detail levels vary throughout from very detailed sections with lots of intricate parts to much larger sections where you can really go to town with your blending and shading if you wish; this book would be suitable for those with moderate to good vision and fine motor control. This book will require a fairly good level of concentration but there are lots of natural stopping points so you can colour for as little or as much time as you want and still get a good sense of accomplishment. The amount of content in each page varies so some are centralised single page images, others are fully covered double-page spreads and a few have spaces where you could add your own imagery or backgrounds if you wish.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book and Kanoko’s first book, Rhapsody in the Forest, both are truly beautiful, really natural and calming and just charming to look through. Having seen lots of coloured images from inside, these illustrations are really brought to life with colour and they look spectacular when finished, they’re also ideal for practising colouring fur!

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it is available on Amazon but price varies so do check there as well as Amazon Japan (postage is steep but does reduce per item if you buy more than one thing) and check Etsy too where an increasing number of Japanese and other International colouring books are being stocked for a reasonable price.
Amazon UK – Menuet de Bonheur

The image below was coloured using Derwent Inktense Pencils activated with water.

The Labyrinth: Mythical Beasts to Colour – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
The Labyrinth is published and was kindly sent to me to review by Michael O’Mara Books. This is the fourth book created in this series, all illustrated by Richard Merritt who this time has been joined by Sabine Reinhart. This book is exactly the same size and format as the predecessors (it’s non-perforated like The Aviary and The Aquarium) but in case you missed those here are the specs. The book is huge at 29cm square, it’s paperback and has beautiful teal and purple foiling on the cover. The pages are not perforated but they are easy to remove by cutting as close to the spine as possible so you can still frame them if you wish. There are 32 images, all printed single-sided and very little of the image enters the spine so hardly any of it is lost. The paper is bright white, fairly thick and lightly textured. My water-based pens didn’t bleed or shadow at all and there was no sideways bleeding so these images are ideal to be coloured with fineliners or fibre-tipped pens as well as coloured pencils, you could also use alcohol markers as long as you pop some protective sheets of paper behind your work. Each image is just like a portrait of a person but each one is of a mythical beasts instead, some are zoomed in a little, some are drawn side on and others are pictured front on, all are pictured individually. The images are beautifully drawn and very varied as Richard and Sabine’s art styles are quite different from each other, if you’re a fan of mythology and mythological beasts then you’re sure to love this book! This new instalment to the The Menagerie series is just gorgeous and a worthy sequel to The Aviary and The Aquarium, this series is really different from any other books I’ve seen in the way it’s presented and the content of the images and this title is no exception.

Each picture has a bit of colour added to the background in the form of blue mountains, pink and purple thistles, lilac clouds, and yellow lightening bolts, but the creature itself is always colour-free ready for you to make your mark. These images would look stunning framed on their own or as a set and I’m already making grand plans for some of my favourites! I have put a photo below of the list of mythological beasts included but some of my personal favourites are the faun, gnome, jackalope, unicorn, and fairy, but that’s just to name a few. Unlike in the previous books where a few of the animals were naturally black which made it difficult to colour them realistically if you so chose, in this book none of the beasts are naturally black though I’m not sure what colour many of the creatures are “supposed” to be so it’s worth going all out with your colour schemes and get your brightest colours working!

In terms of mental health, this book is fabulous! As seasoned readers of my reviews will know, I think natural images are best, very closely followed by fantasy-based images and you’ve got an abundance of those in this book so it’s a great one for getting lost in! I found it great fun to colour ready for review and this is sure to be one of my go-to books when I need energising or feel like my mood needs a boost. The images aren’t of real animals so you can really go to town with your colour schemes and there are really no wrong choices though there will be plenty of depictions of most of these creatures if you have a quick search online so you could copy someone else’s colour schemes if you wish or you can do what I did and just pick a colour and roll with it. There’s no right or wrong way of colouring this book and having seen other people’s finished versions of the previous books’ pictures online, I’m still not sure which I prefer out of realistic or outlandish and I’m intending to mix and match through my copy! The mythical beasts themselves are drawn with a varying line thickness which ranges from thin to medium but none of it is spindly thin which is ideal. The intricacy and detail levels also vary throughout but mostly these images are pretty intricate and are made up of lots of teeny tiny sections. However, you don’t have to colour in each section a different colour and could easily colour whole chunks and just use the black lines as texture behind that rather than guides for where you must colour within. A number of the images really lend themselves to beautifully blended pencils and I most certainly won’t be colouring within every section and will instead be using those to colour over. There are loads of possibilities with these images so this is one book that you don’t need to be put off from just because at first glance it looks too intricate. You will need a moderate level of fine motor control and good-ish vision but neither need to be perfect for you to be able to create a mythological masterpiece! These images will take ages to colour so they’re great for keeping you distracted from difficult thoughts and calming you down when your mind is racing and your anxiety is off the chart. The size of the images means that you’ve really got something to get your teeth into and you can just colour small sections on bad days when your concentration isn’t so great, or the whole image on days where you’re feeling more focused.

I would highly recommend this book if you love mythology and mythological beasts and really like intricate, detailed books with plenty of different sections to colour. This is one of the nicest colouring books of mythological creatures that I’ve seen. The Labyrinth is a fantastic book for keeping you focused and distracted from mental illness and I found it really helpful for calming down my anxiety and slowing down my thoughts so I could focus again.

I have recently created a fan group for artwork by Richard Merritt and Claire Scully (and now Sabine Reinhart too) which you can find here, please do join and share your finished pages from this and the other books in the series.

***This book has been published under the title Mythologica in the US and their edition has perforated pages whereas ours in the UK doesn’t. If you’d prefer perforated pages, I’ve included purchase links for the US edition as well as the UK edition below.***

If you’d like to purchase a UK edition it’s available to pre-order here:
Amazon UK – The Labyrinth
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Mythologic-Richard-Merritt-Claire-Scully-Sabine-Reinhart/9781910552612/?a_aid=colouringitmom

If you’d like to purchase a US edition it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Mythologica
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Mythologic-Richard-Merritt-Sabine-Reinhart/9781438009520/?a_aid=colouringitmom

I scoured the internet looking for places that sold frames that fit these images and found these ones on Amazon were perfect and are available in various colours to suit your image no matter how it’s coloured.
White 11 inch square frame
Oak 11 inch square frame
Beech 11 inch square frame

The image below was coloured using Stabilo 68 Fibre-tips.

Twilight Garden Artist’s Edition (Blomstermandala Tavelbok) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Twilight Garden Artist’s Edition is published and very kindly sent to me to review by Gibbs Smith Publishing. Twilight Garden is the English title of the hugely successful series of colouring books called Blomstermandala by Swedish artist, Maria Trolle. I have previously reviewed the Blomstermandala Colouring Book HERE and this is the Artist’s Edition of that book, it’s identical in format to other Artist’s Editions published by Gibbs Smith and Pagina (the Swedish publisher of all of these books) and therefore much of my review is identical to those, this Artist’s Edition is also identical to the Swedish version of it apart from the language. The book measures 29.5x21cm (A4), it’s paperback with thick but flexible card covers which are black with muted coloured flowers from inside the book and gold foiled text on the front, back, and spine. The book has a matte gold tape binding meaning the pages lie completely flat when the book is open and they can be removed for framing. The pages are made of thick cream card which is lightly textured and absolutely fabulous for using pencils on as they layer really well and blend seamlessly. Water-based pens also work really well on this card and don’t bleed through or sideways and there isn’t even a hint of shadowing either. For my page I used Derwent Inktense Pencils activated with minimal water which worked brilliantly with absolutely no buckling or warping at all. The illustrations are all single-page designs and are printed single-sided so you can use whatever medium you fancy without worrying about bleed-through.

The content is a little strange, the book contains 20 pages, 16 of which are illustrations from the original book, 1 is a floral alphabet where each letter shape consists of a single flower (oddly the letter W is missing), and 3 of which are black-background images with full colour printing of what look to be photographed petals, leaves and flowers so these 3 pages are unable to be coloured, a strange choice I feel. However, the other 17 images are lovely choices and are all single-page spreads from the book printed either the same size as the originals or a little larger. 7 of the images have white backgrounds and 10 have black backgrounds (some of these were printed with white backgrounds in the original book). The images are all of flowers and plants and none contain any animals, birds or objects so if those were you favourites then this Artist’s Edition may not be for you. A huge range of flowers are included from daffodils to tulips, lupins to forget-me-nots, foxgloves to grape hyacinths, and fuchsias to peonies and so many more! I’ve included photos of all of the pages below so that you can see the range and make an informed choice. None of the images reach the edges of the page and those with a white background have space where you could add your own backgrounds or imagery if you wish, though this is by no means a requirement, and this will make all of them very easy to frame for yourself or to gift to others.

In terms of mental health, this book is just wonderful, seasoned readers of my blog will know that I strongly believe that natural images, and those depicting nature are the best for mental health and calming you down and this book is no exception, the images are very relaxing and very realistic and details have been added to these that weren’t in the original illustrations (see photo comparisons below). The line thickness is consistent throughout and remains medium/thin so it’s definitely manageable to colour. The intricacy and detail vary throughout from medium to high and this is higher than the original book due to the added details in the larger spaces of each section, these are easily coloured over if you prefer larger sections to colour or they’re manageable to colour within so this book is good for a range of levels of vision and fine motor control depending on how you want to use it. I found this book and the illustrations within it great for my mood, just looking through it and noticing all of the different flowers and leaves made me feel calmer and the images are just beautiful so they’re sure to lift your mood and keep you distracted from any difficult thoughts or persistent symptoms. The images do vary a little in size and difficulty and they mostly consist of a collection of components which is ideal for good and bad days because you can work on one tiny flower or leaf on a bad day, or a whole page on a good day so it’s ideal for those with fluctuating conditions or concentration levels. The fact that the pages are printed single-sided and are removable is fantastic because it means you can remove your works of art and frame them or gift them which is a great way of reminding yourself of what you can achieve and brighten up the darkest of days.

I would highly recommend this book (despite the inclusion of three uncolourable images) to those of you who like to colour flowers and plants, those who have the original book, those who love to gift or frame their colouring, and those who like to use alcohol markers or wet media as there’s no worry about ruining any reverse images. The illustrations chosen are beautiful and very calming.

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Twilight Garden Artist’s Edition
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Twilight-Garden-Mari-Trolle/9781423647072/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Derwent Inktense Pencils activated with water.

Lost Ocean Artist’s Edition: 24 Illustrations to Colour and Frame – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Lost Ocean Artist’s Edition is illustrated by Johanna Basford and published and kindly sent to me to review by Virgin Books. This book contains 24 of the original images from the Lost Ocean colouring book all printed single-sided. The book is 25x33cm, paperback with thick card covers with beautiful gold foiling accents on the cover and blue text on the spine. The book has a lay-flat binding meaning there is no spine to contend with and that you can reach the whole image to colour it. The pages are all removable, they’re not perforated so there’s no risk of them not being fully perforated and you ripping a page when trying to remove it, they’re all glued onto the spine in the same way as postcard books so they’re easy to remove if you wish but they’re not stuck very strongly and in the process of colouring my page I’ve managed to detach nearly half of the pages so this book won’t stay together unless you’re extremely careful with it. The removable nature of the pages is ideal for two reasons, firstly, its main purpose, which is so that they can be displayed, framed, or gifted to friends or family so your colouring is no longer destined to stay hidden away in a book; secondly, it makes it much easier to colour if you remove the page first – the book is very large when fully open which makes it difficult to colour on your lap or even on a clipboard because it’s over A3 size when opened, but when you remove the page you can turn it to any angle you please so that you can colour each section easily without having to have your hand hanging off one corner or be rubbing over previously coloured areas and accidentally smudging bits. The pages are made of thick card which will hold up to just about any colouring medium (this is the same card as used in the Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest Artist’s Editions). I tested my Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners and they didn’t even shadow onto the back and they also didn’t bleed sideways or into the card, they seemed to glide on top instead of saturating the paper like so often happens with thick pages. The card is cream which I know isn’t everyone’s favourite, however, I love it because it makes it feel like a classic book with age and luxury. It also means there’s a less harsh contrast between the colouring and the background if you leave the background uncoloured and also allows you to easily add white as highlights or as a colour where white paper simply doesn’t.

The images included are from the original Lost Ocean book and I think they’re a really good selection. There aren’t any pattern or filler images this time and they’re all definitely frame-worthy. Of the 24 illustrations, 5 are landscape and the others are portrait orientation, 3 are printed smaller than the original illustrations but the others are all printed larger to varying degrees from 4mm to the largest being the skull at an extra 7cm larger, 5 of the images are taken from double-page spreads where a section has generally been enlarged (a couple have been shrunk but not drastically so) and the rest are from single page spreads. Because the majority of the images have been enlarged, at least a little bit, they mostly have larger spaces to colour which allows you to really go to town and the possibilities for blending and shading are increased. If you’re new to using pencils and want to learn about blending and shading then the slightly larger print would be ideal for practising these techniques.

As with all of the Artist’s Editions, this book doesn’t have a treasure hunt aspect. The Secret Garden Artist’s Edition arrived wrapped in thin plastic film, but this one didn’t, however that may be because it’s a review copy so do be aware that it may have plastic film on it in the shop and you may not be able to look through it in stores, this means that the cover is well protected and won’t be at risk of staining or marking which I personally think is pretty sensible, though it’s a shame they didn’t do a preview on the back of what images are included. Because of this, I have included pictures of all of the images from inside the book below so that you can “see inside” before you buy it, as well as comparing the size to the original images.

In terms of mental health, this book is wonderful. Colouring this book ready to review it has provided countless hours of calming distraction and the card is such a joy to colour that I’ve enjoyed every moment of colouring it and was almost disappointed when I finally finished my picture and had to move onto another review. This is a book where you really don’t notice the hours passing because you’re so engrossed and focused on colouring each section. Johanna’s books are not for the faint-hearted and are quite an undertaking and they’re not for those of you with poor eyesight or challenged fine motor control. However, for anyone who is mentally ill and doesn’t have poor eyesight, this book is ideal because not only are the images stunning but they’re also completely grounded in nature which is perfect for calming you down and relaxing you. When colouring these images, it feels like you’re going on a wonderful adventure into Johanna’s Lost Ocean, the journey is less obvious but the images are printed in the same order as they appear in the book so it does have a feeling of flow. It’s sure to lift your mood and focus your thoughts so that even the most racing of minds will be quietened, at least for a short while. The details and intricacies force you to concentrate and become immersed in a watery world filled with brightly coloured fish and enchanting sea creatures and you’re sure to feel your anxiety lessen and your dark thoughts soften a little. It’s by no means a cure, but this is a fabulous book for distraction and the fact that you can remove the pages and display them means that all of your hard work and creativity can be prominently displayed and used to brighten up your darker days and remind you that you can create beautiful things which I often find gives me a huge self-esteem boost.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. If you liked Johanna’s original books or want to delve into her inky world for the first time then I’d strongly recommend purchasing it. With the best paper quality that I’ve come across in a colouring book, it contains the most stunning images and the feature of removable pages is one that I personally love because it means you can decorate your walls with your work or give wonderful, thoughtful presents to family and friends. This book exudes quality and luxuriousness from its thick card pages, to the signature gold foil accents on the front cover and the small selection of shells printed on the reverse of each picture, it is a work of art in itself and will be transformed into a masterpiece once you unleash your creativity upon it. I truly can’t enthuse enough about this book, it is a must-have and one that if you have been umming and ahhing about whether you should purchase it should be bought at once because I can just about guarantee that you won’t regret it. This book is ideal for anyone who is struggling with their mental health and anyone who just wants something truly beautiful to colour. Do check the images below to ensure the selection is one that you’re happy with and then get ordering because this is a book you definitely need in your collection, it’s gorgeous and one I can’t wait to get working on again!

If you’d like to purchase a copy of this book, it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Lost Ocean Artist’s Edition
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Lost-Ocean-Artists-Edition-Johann-Basford/9780753548134?ref=grid-view&qid=1491572389812&sr=1-1/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Prismacolor Premier Coloured Pencils and blended with a Caran d’Ache blender pencil.

Wonderlands by Johanna Basford – A Review

Ever since I found Johanna’s first colouring book, Secret Garden, I’ve been on a mission to have copies of all of the books and formats that get published of her work. A quick google search alerted me to an elusive book called Wonderlands which was the first book published in her name but this was either out of stock, unavailable or selling for crazy amounts of money for a used copy on Amazon or Ebay because it’s now out of print, with no plans to re-publish. I had pretty much given up hope of ever getting a copy unless I won the lottery. That was until a week ago when I saw that a few people in the colouring community had suddenly managed to find copies and that they weren’t having to re-mortgage their homes in order to get them. I contacted two of them straight away and both got back to me and were really helpful in showing me how to find the book on the publisher’s website (it’s very well hidden, even googling numerous times and trying different search terms didn’t come up with the ability to buy it) and I got ordering. I ordered it last week and just 7 days later I had a copy in my hands and wowee was it worth the 2 year wait and countless hours trying to hunt a copy down in that time.

Wonderlands is not a colouring book and was never designed to be one. The paper is white and thick though subsequent designs can be seen through it and it has a visible horizontal grain, a small section of pages (16 sides) are black paper with a vertical grain with white line drawings printed on them. I have not tested the paper with any colouring mediums as this book is now my pride and joy and I won’t be going near it with pencils or pens so if you wish to colour it you will need to test your mediums on an inconspicuous area but do bear in mind that paper with grain can bleed badly with any type of liquid and it may therefore only be suitable for pencils rather than pens. The content of the book is mostly from Johanna’s Wonderlands art exhibition which was displayed at Dundee Contemporary Arts from the 4th of May to 7th of July 2013. As such, the illustrations are some of the most detailed I’ve ever seen and have not been designed with colouring in mind and are therefore very black-heavy with much less white space left than we’re used to in Johanna’s work. Many of these illustrations have been shrunk down from much larger depictions in order to fit the book’s pages and therefore the intricacy and detail levels are second-to-none. I can only imagine how wonderful it would have been to see the original exhibition but luckily we are able to take our own mini tour within the pages of this book.

Looking through the book feels almost like you’re looking into Johanna’s mind, you can see her creative process working and there are hints and precursors to all of her colouring books and projects. I studied Creative Textiles for GCSE and therefore love seeing the process from initial ideas and mood boards all the way through to the finished display pieces and this book really feels like you’re able to go on that journey and you can see the first glimpses of certain pages from the colouring books we know and love from the owl tree and lily pond in Secret Garden to the monkeys of Magical Jungle. The content of this book is much more wide-ranging and less specific and is also more jumbled up within each page with one page containing objects ranging from an octopus to a cactus, a dustbin to a whale, a playing card to a ladder and even a lightbulb. This book is honestly spectacular and while it’s not for colouring, anyone who’s a fan of Johanna’s work will find that this book is an absolute must-have. Not every page has a design on it but the ordering of these blank pages is quite random throughout, there are a few single-sided pages but the majority are double-sided. The image styles range from ribbons across the page with vast blank spaces around them to repeating patterns like we saw in Lost Ocean, centralised images of trees and other objects to centralised mirror image designs and some lovely two-page spreads where the original image is shown in its entirety on one side and a section zoomed into on the other so you can see some of the wonderful detail more closely. The illustrations cover such an expanse of content from alphabets drawn in flowers and leaves and another in robots and machinery, to people ranging from Sumo wrestlers to Beefeaters, Royal Guards and little ballerinas, there’s a whole page dedicated to junk food including gingerbread men and burgers and others just consisting of butterflies, moths, or pyramids of animals. As with all of Johanna’s work, each illustration is stunning and one of the best features of this book is the section of photographs at the back which shows the exhibition itself and shows the scale of some of the pieces she created, we’ve seen sneaky peeks of some of these in newspaper articles and in her studio videos where we’ve seen her beautifully doodled dog statue and framed cuckoo clock designs and it’s wonderful seeing them in situ in the book, my personal favourite being the beautiful sailboat with seaweed imagery which clearly inspired Lost Ocean. The black pages are different again with the images all printed in a slightly greyish white and looking a little less crisp than the black-lined illustrations do, they look a tad more smudgy and as if they were created with paint or screen-printing rather than a pen but nevertheless they’re beautiful and the content here is very natural and nature-based from Oriental-style motifs to a beautiful double-page spread of peacocks, a floral heart very similar to the one in Secret Garden, to a beautiful pond and rainforest ribbon. The book feels quite sectioned off with it starting with black on white illustrations, then moving to white on black, then back to black on white and finally ending with 16 pages of photographs from the exhibit, despite this sectioning, the book feels really cohesive and does feel like a journey through the exhibition itself and Johanna’s mind and creative process. At the very back of the book all of the works of art are titled and information about the commissions and exhibit is given which gives great context for where the pieces are from and why they were created.

In terms of mental health, this book has certainly been fantastic for my own and has already given me hours of enjoyment and calm. Looking through the pages has really opened up a new world for  me and I’ve loved looking at all of the different aspects and details and each time I look through I see something new because it’s just so jam-packed with content. The paper has a lovely feel to it and it’s just a really tactile book with plenty to keep you occupied for hours. The spine is glue-bound so you’ll need to be a little careful not to break it by opening the pages too far. I’ve really loved adding this book to my Johanna Basford collection and it’s possibly my favourite book because it’s just so beautiful and wide-ranging. The cover has a black and white illustrated removable dust jacket with full French flaps and this could be completely coloured if you wish though I shall be leaving mine as is, the black and white is just so striking and the paper it’s printed on has a lovely soft feel.

Overall, I can’t recommend this book highly enough, if you’re looking for a colouring book then this isn’t for you as many of the details and designs are impossibly small and wouldn’t be colourable but for fans of Johanna’s work who want to see more of her art and discover where the books we colour have come from this book is ideal. The production of the book is wonderful and while it may seem a little pricey at £20 + £5 postage (more for International deliveries) it’s truly a beautiful book that I think is worth every penny, it’s becoming harder and harder to find and I have no idea how much stock the publisher has left (it currently states Low Stock on the site) so I certainly wouldn’t put off ordering it if you’re desperate for a copy, you won’t be disappointed and it really is a very special creation.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of the book it’s available here: Dundee Contemporary Arts

For a silent full video flick-through of the book, please click here.

3 Years On, 3 Years of Managing

Today marks 3 years of suffering from anxiety disorders and being unable to work or leave my house much. I’m never quite sure what to write in these posts and this one is particularly difficult to write as I’ve been so up and down over the past year, there have been high points where I’ve been able to go out on my own for up to a couple of hours whilst taking photographs and there have been real low points where I’ve been unable to leave my flat for days on end and have had to cancel visits or leave early because I’m simply not coping. In some ways I feel stronger and a little more able to cope and manage, I’m not sure what’s caused this but I do think it has a lot to do with how long I’ve been experiencing these symptoms for, after a while you do get more used to it and while you’re still suffering every day, you learn to sit with that for longer and put up with it more before it gets to the point of overwhelming you. I also feel though that I’m much more all over the place and less stable, in some ways this is good because it means the good bits are a bit better but it inevitably means that the bad bits are often worse too and more unexpected. I wrote recently that I’d been really struggling since New Year’s Eve and that lasted nearly 3 months, I think I’m finally coming out the other side of that now and tentatively I’ll say that I think I’m feeling a bit stronger and more capable again but my IBS is still kicking in every time I get stressed or have to go out anywhere even though all of these places are very familiar to me so I’m certainly not back to my pre-Christmas level of functioning yet. I think I’m gradually going off the idea of analysing a whole year at once, while it’s important to look back and to see how you’re doing in comparison to various points in time, I also find it unhelpful because a year is a very long time, especially in the world of a sick person and it’s easy to generalise and view the whole year as being worse or the whole year as being better when this wasn’t actually the case. I prefer to be realistic and break it down a bit further and that has helped me see that certain aspects are a bit better and certain aspects are the same or worse and that these often change.

So where am I at now? I’m starting to get a bit stronger and I feel a bit more resilient, though ask me on a bad day and that sure as hell won’t be the case. I often wonder how realistic my view is because on good days I wonder why I’m at home, why I’m not working and whether it’s all imagined and then on bad days I don’t even know how I get out of bed, let alone run a blog, manage any deadlines (though I’m pretty ace at missing most of those I set myself) and actually make any meals at the right time. My view of the world and myself is very changeable and very much affected by how I’m feeling at the time. Generally though, I’m pushing myself really hard and doing my best to keep challenging the anxiety and live as normal a life as I possibly can within its confines. I struggle a lot with people not understanding and I now feel like I have to explain many of my actions or not show everything because so many people think that doing something once means it was easy, fun, or that I can continue to do it. I can’t stress enough how unhelpful or inaccurate this is. When I do things outside my home they’re rarely fun or enjoyable, I have to focus the entire time on keeping my breathing under control, I need a lot of reassurance and my thoughts are always racing, this doesn’t mean I don’t have a good time but it does mean that what you might see isn’t usually representative. I’ve become a master at covering up how I’m feeling and disguising how hard I’m finding things, I’ve spent 3 years trying to manage the panic symptoms so that I rarely have panic attacks whilst out but I’ll often have them when I get home because I’ve forced myself to hold it together for too long and that energy and fear has to come out somehow. It’s exhausting feeling like this and then being misunderstood and assumed to be “better” because I’ve done something once. 3 years of being ill has taught me that doing something once, even 10 times, doesn’t mean it gets easier, it doesn’t mean I can do it every time and it doesn’t mean that it won’t get harder again. Anxiety is very random, it’s very changeable and it usually does what you least expect. Instead of telling me that I’m better or telling me that it’s great I’m going out more, perhaps you could ask how I’m feeling, ask how I’m finding it and what I’m experiencing, rather than assuming, or worse, telling me how I must be feeling. If you look closely enough, you’ll see the signs of anxiety and stress, you’ll see that I’m stiff, my shoulders are up, I’m very jumpy, my eyes are wide and scanning the room, I’ll rub my hands together and rub my legs hard to try and get out some of the nervous energy and I’ll dig my nails into my palms. The signs are there but I’m very good at covering it up by smiling and joking and pretending as hard as I can that it’s not happening and that I’m in control.

Over the 3 years I’ve been ill, I’ve learnt a few coping strategies, these have varying levels of helpfulness and success but I do have more of them to try now than I ever have. Keeping my hands and my mind occupied is really important, colouring and crochet are great for this as long as my hands aren’t shaking too much and I regularly use both to help stay calm. I have grounding stones, 2 bright blue glass pebbles, that fit in the palms of my hands that I grip onto when I’m out if I’m feeling really stressed and they’re nice and flat so I can easily put them in my pockets and no one will notice. I also try not to bite my nails so that I can dig them into my palms if I don’t have the stones. I also like to bake though I usually need a bit of moral support as my confidence isn’t very high but I love being able to make tasty things and it’s a great distraction. My newest coping strategy, as mentioned in a previous post, is photography. This is mostly great for my anxiety and helps keep me calm and focused on the present and means that I stay outside for longer (more on the benefits can be found here). However, it brings its own anxiety with it, for a start, I can’t bear being watched or looked at by strangers and having a massive camera hanging round my neck or bending down to take photos means that people notice me. It’s also difficult because I want to be able to post my photos on social media when I’ve managed to go out, I’m really proud of some of the shots I’m taking, the things I’m noticing and the things I’m doing but as mentioned above, this can elicit responses from people wrongly thinking I’ve improved or that I’m finding it easy. Sadly, this isn’t the case and while I am pushing myself harder than ever and photography is making me that bit more determined, I’m still really struggling to go out and this ranges from being scared of my door being knocked on to occasionally being able to go out alone for a couple of hours, and anything in between. I cannot plan trips out without huge anxiety for days ahead of time, often I can’t follow through with plans and even when I do, I struggle throughout. Having to go through this suffering, dealing with these symptoms every single day for 3 years, and then having it simplified into “yes, but you did it” the few times I do succeed, is very difficult to manage and to tolerate. I don’t want to be negative but I also don’t want people around me to force positivity onto me. I’m so grateful and proud every time I set foot outside my front door, whether that be to take the rubbish downstairs, or to go on a trip out, but I still have to deal with the constant stream of fearful thoughts, the flinching, the feelings of being totally overwhelmed whilst fighting to be outside because I feel like I’m going mad indoors and just have to get outside and see something other than brick walls and my possessions. Trips out aren’t split into good and bad for me, they’re a mixture of both every time, I absolutely make the most out of them and focus on the positive and rarely even talk about the bad bits (except whilst blogging) unless someone tries to force positivity onto me and make out that the whole thing was sunshine and rainbows. When I’m not dismissed you get the full picture, you know that I struggled but that I’m proud beyond words, that I’ve now got photos of every trip out, every little thing I noticed from ice-covered litter and animal bones to birds, flowers, sunsets and even deer! Those are the things I want to be able to share, to be able to show off but that I usually feel unable to do with most people because it feels like I’m not believed when I receive comments about how much better I appear to be doing.

However, in the spirit of pushing myself and trying to combat the anxiety I’ve decided to post some of my favourite photos below because I really am proud of what I’m achieving and how hard I’m trying and I don’t want to have to hide those things because of the fear of misguided comments. I’m really hoping that over time I’ll stop worrying quite so much about what other people think though this is very ingrained in my personality and something I’ve always struggled with. I wish I could just brush off what other people think and say and just do things for me but sadly, that’s not how Social Phobia works, it’s a condition that means that every confrontation, every interaction, every glance or even future event has to be analysed, worried about and obsessed over, I try to just think ‘sod it’ but I just can’t, it matters so much to me to be liked, accepted, and above all else, believed. I really am going out on a limb every time I post photos from outside my flat, it might not seem like a big deal but to me it’s akin to posting half-naked photos of myself, I feel exposed and it means that people can, often accidentally, attack me in the most damaging ways. I’ve always strived to tell the truth, but telling the whole of it is a real struggle for me. I never, ever lie but I often don’t feel able to tell the whole truth because I’m often not given the time or space to fully explain a situation and then assumptions are made that I’m improving or achieving more than I actually am. I probably sound completely mad and totally paranoid but I’ve been receiving these comments throughout my life, from the age of 9 when I first got ill with M.E/CFS and my biggest fear and hate in life is not being believed so for me the stakes are really high every time I open up enough that someone could disbelieve me.

I hope you’ll all enjoy my photos, I’ve loved taking them and am really pleased with them. One thing the anxiety is great for is anxious vision, or as I call it “anxious eyes”, it means that I notice everything around me and I know that’s making me better at photography and noticing subjects to capture. I’ve had my camera for 2 months and have already taken over 5000 photos, a huge chunk of which have been through my lounge and bedroom window of lots of birds that visit the trees outside our flat, I couldn’t be more grateful for them on the days when I can’t get outside and I’m regularly known to take 1-200 photos of a pair of birds in under an hour in the hope of getting a perfect shot. It’s a great distraction and it’s lots of fun. 3 Years On, 3 Years of Managing.