Author: Lucy

Johanna Basford 2021 Weekly Colouring Planner – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.

Johanna Basford 2021 Weekly Colouring Planner is published and was very kindly sent to me to review by Andrews McMeel Publishing. This planner is the perfect combination of organisation and colouring with space to write plans, appointments and notes, whilst also having weeks and weeks of colouring for you to do too. This planner is paperback with flexible pale cream card covers which have a beautiful black line-drawn flower, leaf and butterfly design on the front and back with it printed in reverse, white on black, on the inside covers, the front cover has gold foiling accents and the front and back cover have removable pale blue card strips with the information about the planner and the barcode etc printed on them. The planner is spiral-bound and measures 21.6 x 19.6cm, the covers aren’t especially sturdy so I’d be careful about travelling with it much and you’ll want to keep it safe somewhere rather than stuffing it in a bag or it’ll get damaged very quickly. This isn’t the best planner I’ve seen in terms of features and organisation, but for the combination of colouring and organising, it’s perfect and strikes a really good balance.

This planner runs for 12 months, from 28th of December 2020 to the 2nd of January 2022. The planner is printed double-sided and starts with a one-page overview of the year 2021 and then the planner itself starts with an image on the left of each double-page spread from one of Johanna’s eight books, images from all eight (Secret Garden, Enchanted Forest, Lost Ocean, Magical Jungle, Johanna’s Christmas, Ivy and the Inky Butterfly, World of Flowers, and How to Draw Inky Wonderlands) are included, and the week’s days and dates with writing space for each on the right (this is in the same style as normal planners with added leafy accents and leafy lettering for the month title at the top). Each week runs from Monday to Sunday with equal space to write for each day, the dates are on the right and important festivals and bank holidays etc are written in small text on the left of the page, as well as the country it’s celebrated in. After the planner pages, which make up the vast majority of the book, there is a double-page spread with sections for each month of 2022 for you to add your advance plans to. Following this is a full page of 2020 dates and a full page of 2022 dates, followed by 5 lined pages where you can write notes (all with added leaf accents) and the final page is a colouring test page where you can test out your mediums to check for bleed through.

The paper is pale cream rather than bright white (it is the same paper as last time and it’s less yellow than the Secret Garden book paper and more cream than the ivory paper in World of Flowers; see photo below of the different paper colours), lightly textured and medium thickness, sadly it does shadow a fair bit with water-based pens but it doesn’t bleed through; I’d strongly advise writing in pencil throughout or you’ll ruin the image on the reverse either with shadowing or indentation from ballpoint pens. Pencils work well on this paper so I’d suggest mostly colouring with pencils and using water-based pens if you don’t mind the shadowing showing through on the planner pages. A great selection of images from Johanna’s books are included with some being sections of original images at the original size and others being the whole page shrunk down to fit on the planner page so some of the illustrations are quite tricky to colour neatly but almost none look impossible as long as you use a good set of fineliners or sharp pencils. Because this is the fifth planner and the publisher has tried not to duplicate images it means that a number of my favourite images from her first few colouring books haven’t been included as they were in the first few planners, however, we’ve got new images from those as well as from the newest book, How to Draw Inky Wonderlands, and there are some lovely inclusions so there’s no disappointment to be had with this planner and it really is a great mix between organisation and colouring (two of my favourite things)!

In terms of mental health, this colouring planner is ideal. It gives you a manageable goal of colouring one page per week which could either be next week’s page so that it’s coloured ready for that week or this week’s page so you can colour as you plan. You could even colour it ahead for the whole year. The pages are a great size to practice colour schemes for your copy of the actual books, or even to try out colouring mediums on a smaller page. The spiral-binding makes it easy to access the whole page and none of the images go into the spine, it’s also ideal because once you’ve finished using the planner at the end of 2021, the pages are easy to remove for framing or gifting if you want to get more use out of your works of art. There isn’t a treasure hunt element in this planner and there are no written hints for drawing though there are plenty of spaces on a number of images to be able to add your own details or backgrounds to really make the pages your own but this of course isn’t necessary and it’ll look finished without the need to draw at all. This planner is perfect for fans of Johanna’s work and it is a beautiful way of using her illustrations. The line thickness varies a little throughout from thin to spindly thin and the intricacy and detail levels are higher than in the books because many of the images are shrunk down to fit the pages so you will most definitely need very good vision and fine motor control to get the most out of this planner if you’re wanting to colour it; you could of course leave it blank and just admire the illustrations because they really are beautiful to just look at with no need to add colour if that’s too challenging. The images aren’t arranged into any order but a few have been cleverly chosen to fit celebrations like a heart for the week of Valentine’s Day and images from Johanna’s Christmas through December. There is no skull for Halloween this year. The page size is much more manageable and less daunting to colour and this is ideal for those of you with fluctuating conditions or concentration levels because these pages are quicker to finish and likely to cause less frustration.

I would highly recommend this colouring planner to fans of Johanna’s work and to those who love to be organised. It’s a great combination of planner and colouring pages and the size and format is ideal for those who find the full-size book pages too daunting. It’s great for practising colour schemes or using new colouring mediums and it’ll be a lovely keepsake to work through from beginning to end and see how you’ve progressed over the year it runs for; you can even remove the images afterwards and frame or gift them.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available below:
Amazon UK – Johanna Basford 2021 Weekly Coloring Planner

Video Flick-Through and Review

The image below was coloured with Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners.

Inky Wonderlands 2021 Colouring Wall Calendar – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.

Inky Wonderlands 2021 Colouring Wall Calendar is published and was very kindly sent to me to review by Andrews McMeel Publishing. This calendar is beautiful and is the same format as the previous JB wall calendars. The calendar itself is the same size as most others at 12 inches square, making it significantly larger than Johanna’s books. It includes 13 of Johanna’s drawings and this time, rather than being from one book, they’re from every title she’s produced so far. This calendar doesn’t include any new images. There is one illustration for each month of the year and one at the beginning for a 4-month overview of September to December 2020. I have included pictures of all of the calendar pages below so that you can decide if this is for you, as well as comparison photos of the book and calendar size.

The whole calendar, including the covers, is made of thick pale cream paper which is good quality (it is less yellow than the Secret Garden book paper and more cream than the new ivory paper in World of Flowers; see photo below of the different paper colours) – I thought it was going to bleed with water-based pens and watercolours but there was no bleed-through at all and only some shadowing when using my darker fineliners (in previous calendars) and no bleed-through or shadowing with Derwent Inktense pencils activated with water. Do bear in mind, when writing on the calendar I’d strongly advise using pencil so that you don’t get bleed through onto the next month’s image, or indentation from using a biro. The images are printed much larger in the calendar than in the books so this is a great purchase for those of you who find Johanna’s books just a little too detailed and small. You definitely can’t use alcohol markers because the images are all printed double-sided with the dates for the previous month on the back of the page which will get ruined by bleed-through if you colour ahead but would be fine if you colour month by month. The paper is quite smooth but has a little tooth and I didn’t have any issues with getting a few layers built up with my Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils in a previous edition. The butterfly image below was coloured with Stabilo Fineliners and Fibre-tip pens which didn’t bleed or shadow. The real-time colour along video can be found linked below.

The calendar is spiral-bound so you can easily fold it back on itself for easier colouring as it’s a little unmanageable when it’s not folded in half. Each page has a small hole at the top, this is smaller than on normal calendars and doesn’t fit a nail through it so you’ll have to very carefully hang it up with string (be careful so you don’t rip the pages) or, use a Christmas tree hanger or unbent paperclip. The cover has signature gold foil accents and is fully colourable, as always, and each calendar page has lots of tiny leaf accents and each month has a leafy lettering title. My only issue with the whole calendar is the foiling from the front cover, it’s embossed which therefore leaves debossed sections on the first image (the one I coloured) which is printed on the inside cover above the 4-month 2019 overview, it’s fine to colour if you use wet media like pens or Derwent Inktense activated with water or other watercolour media but if you use regular pencils then you’re likely to struggle because the colour doesn’t apply evenly over these sections and looks like you’ve coloured over something, a similar effect to when you do brass or bark rubbing so just be mindful of this when colouring the first image.

In terms of mental health, this calendar is ideal because not only does it give you hours of colouring fun and distraction, you can also easily display it on your wall to brighten up even the darkest of days and you’ll get satisfaction every day looking at all of your beautiful hard work. The larger image size means it’s more suitable for those of you who don’t have perfect vision or fine motor control. It’s a great project that will help motivate you with a deadline of making sure each image is ready for the first day of the following month. The pages could also be removed at the end of the year once you’re done with the calendar and could be easily framed or gifted to others to bring enjoyment for years to come. This time, there isn’t an inky treasure hunt. World of Flowers returned to Johanna’s usual high levels of intricacy and so the slightly larger size printing is a huge bonus to give you a little extra wiggle-room and ability to add blending and shading. There is a really good variety of images, needing varying levels of concentration which can be used to keep you occupied and distracted when you’re feeling anxious or low, or requiring less focus if you need a more relaxing colouring experience. Johanna’s images are really good for practising mindfulness techniques because many require a lot of focus and time to complete meaning this calendar is ideal for those of us who are mentally ill and needing to zone out. The line thickness is medium/thin throughout so there is some leeway when colouring.

I would highly recommend this for any colouring fan who needs a calendar in their life. Johanna fans won’t be disappointed with this calendar, it’s beautiful with a lovely selection of designs and great paper quality and it will brighten up the darkest of rooms and moods. It would make a fabulous gift either as it is, or fully coloured for someone and it’s not only useful for the coming year as a calendar, but for years to come when you can frame your pictures to continue the joy.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it can be found here: Amazon UK – Inky Wonderlands 2021 Coloring Wall Calendar

Full video flick-through and review

Real-Time Colour Along

The image below was coloured with Stabilo Fineliners and Stabilo Fibre-Tips Pens.

Update – September 2020

It’s been an absolute age since I last wrote a proper update. As time passes, I feel like I have less and less to say and yet, so often, I’m desperate to write, to say something, to try to make a difference but I remain silent. I can’t even tell you how many half-written blog posts I’ve started and abandoned. They’re all saved, they all start off with promise, with a point or a purpose and before I know it my confidence dies again and the words dry up and I post nothing. It means that every time I do attempt to post I feel the need to explain, justify, and apologise because I never intended to be so sporadic about posting. I planned to show up regularly, for this to be my space that I’d carved out to inform, educate and share my experiences with the world. But somehow I always talk myself out of it.

However, today I’m here and hoping it’ll be different and that this won’t be left unfinished and saved and never seeing the light of day again. There are so many things going on in my life that it’s hard to even know where to start but the thing that made me open the document and start typing was that I’m getting worse again. I’m sure it won’t last like this, it happens regularly, almost always when there’s way too much difficult stuff going on in my personal life for me to handle, but it never feels temporary at the time. It’s always a shock when I get worse because my daily life is challenging at best and I live with some level of symptoms every day. But when I deteriorate everything is ramped up. Today for example, I’ve had 3 panic attacks and cried twice. Today’s not a special or challenging day, nothing was planned, nothing happened, but I’ve spent the whole day just feeling completely unable to cope. For weeks now I’ve felt like I’m drowning. Most of my waking moments I feel like I can’t get enough air and my sleep is worse again. I feel stressed and on edge the whole time and I’m so irritable and at times I’m becoming aggressive because I’ve just had enough of everything.

One of the biggest contributors to this deterioration is that I finally applied for disability benefits. I’ve put it off for 6 years because I’m so aware of how awful the process is but I was finally persuaded into applying in February. It’s been a long and arduous process. A 40-page form to fill out where I had to detail all the things I can’t do, the things I need help with and the ways in which I fail to function. 4 months later I had an assessment on the phone which was terrifying but I thought it had gone well. 2 weeks after that I got my decision letter through saying not only was I not entitled to anything but a whole load of lies, assumptions and errors which just felt like a personal attack. While I know the system isn’t personal, having it implied that you’re making up the severity of your condition when you’ve been disbelieved about your suffering for two thirds of your life is immensely damaging. It absolutely floored me and sent me into a tailspin. I’ll be completely honest, it made me seriously consider suicide. Thankfully I was able to talk myself round and my determination to fight has returned and so I’m going to do my damndest to get what I know I’m entitled to but my god has it made me ill just trying to keep my head above water. On top of multiple other horrible circumstances I’m living through right now, this was the last thing we needed.

As ever, it just feels like it’s one thing after another. It’s relentless. The anxiety is so ramped up that I’m regularly having panic attacks because of ridiculous things making me jump. Examples just in the last fortnight have included Joe getting too close to me, a seed blowing across the floor, Joe’s shadow, my own hair, the window cleaner, a fly, Joe speaking unexpectedly, and the remote control getting knocked. I spend most of the time, nearly every day at the moment feeling like I can’t cope and wishing I could just sleep. I’m so exhausted and utterly burnt out but I’m lucky if I get 7 hours of broken sleep a night at the moment. My concentration is absolutely shot and I can focus on almost nothing. It’s got so bad that I tune out during conversations or TV programmes that I’m watching because I just forget to listen. My attention span is a few minutes at best so I can do almost nothing. I’ve not done any colouring for weeks. I’ve had embroidery threads out for a project for 2 weeks and I still haven’t even cut the fabric or transferred the design. My brain feels like it’s running at a hundred miles an hour, constantly seeking out new sources of anxiety and fear but never able to settle into anything useful. I long to do one of my hobbies, to be able to do something other than mindlessly scrolling through social media, taking nothing in and just intensifying my loneliness. For weeks I’ve thought multiple times every day about taking diazepam to take the edge off and try to get through a little better because this is just unbearable. It gets so bad that it feels like it’s killing me from the inside out. I know this must sound dramatic but honestly, this doesn’t even capture the true severity of how intolerable and unending this feels. I guess it’s little wonder that in the midst of all of this, receiving an assessment saying that I’m basically fine was the final straw to me being able to fight this latest relapse.

I’ve not really worked out what point I’m trying to make in this post. I always try to have a purpose for them, a specific thing to say or message to impart but right now, I can’t think of one and I’m not sure I started with one in the first place. I guess I just wanted to share what this is like, to explain that 6 years on, it’s often still like the first time, that I still go through periods of my panic attacks ramping up to multiple times a day with no specific triggers or reasons and the little functioning I’ve built up gets torn down again. I always try to give a full and honest picture here of what it’s like to live with these conditions and this is part of that. I can’t go into detail about most of the reasons why things are so hard right now, perhaps I’ll be able to in the future but we’re in for a very rough ride and I’m already really wishing I could get off. I’m sick to death of the existential dread that seems to just shroud me at the moment. I want to breathe normally and freely again and not keep feeling like my heart is about to stop or the oxygen is running out. I know I’ll get through this, I always do but I wish the process got easier and quicker.

Written on August the 27th.

Let Down in Lockdown

Yesterday I got an unexpected phonecall. It was a private number. That always fills me with dread. What I really wasn’t expecting was that during a global pandemic, while my country is on lockdown, my mental health service would phone to discharge me. A lot of what ensued is a blur. I was on my back foot from the start and was just completely stunned that a stranger was calling me and trying to discharge me back to my GP. I’ve not been checked up on during this crisis so when this woman introduced herself and where she was calling from, I was immediately really pleased and impressed that they were phoning to see how I was. They weren’t. In fact, I don’t think I got asked any questions about how I am, how or if I’m coping or if I’m getting enough support. She went straight in for the kill and said they were planning on discharging me. I then spent nearly 20 minutes trying to find out why, what that would mean, how I can stay on their books, what criteria I have to meet, all the while trying not to burst into tears and have a panic attack.

More and more unexpected information came out during this phonecall including the fact that my psychiatrist retired in September or October which I’d not been told. I apparently should have been written to by him but even she couldn’t find a record of that letter on their system. He had, seemingly wrongly, promised to keep me on their books until I was well enough to attend treatment in the future. He’d apparently promised this to a lot of patients, all of whom I’m assuming are getting the same out-of-the-blue phonecall passing them back to their GP with no warning or support. It means that I’ll no longer be allowed to have visits from my support worker, the only professional involved directly in my care who actually sees me and knows what I’m going through and how damned hard I’ve worked despite the lack of visible progress or improvement and who continues to support and boost my confidence and self-esteem and treat me like a valuable human being. She has to work under a clinical lead and I’m not allowed one of those because I don’t fit the criteria and so she won’t be allowed to work with me either.

I know that mental health teams are increasingly underfunded. Before all of this, I worked in one. I know all too painfully the limitations of the services, the understaffing and the squeezing from all angles. I’ve tried to make myself as little of a burden as possible on the NHS and specifically on my local mental health team. I’ve not agreed to appointments unless I really believed I’d be well enough to attend. I stopped booking them when it was making me worse and I was becoming unreliable at attending because I didn’t want to waste appointments that could be given to other people. I didn’t agree to have therapy that I’ve previously had that I knew wouldn’t help me and that again, I wasn’t well enough to attend. All I asked was to see my support worker for an hour every couple of months and to be kept on their books, under a named psychiatrist, so that I didn’t have to wait weeks to be re-referred in the future by a GP surgery where I’ve met none of the doctors and the last doctor I was under kept me on a medication that my psychiatrist described as basically poisoning me with horrendous side effects.

Oddly, this phonecall came the day after I had a completely unexpected letter from the same team telling me that an appointment had been booked for me to have a telephone consultation with a new psychiatrist. I have no idea who booked this or why and the lady on the phone yesterday wasn’t aware until I highlighted it and she checked my records and even she didn’t actually know why it had been booked. I was already stressed and anxious because of this random appointment but it also really upset me and made me pretty angry because I begged to have telephone appointments 5 years ago so that I could still engage with support but not make myself really ill trying to go to appointments. I was always flat-out refused this and told that it was completely impossible. I know that we’re living through “unprecedented times” right now and that people are having to change and adapt their work in order to maintain services during this pandemic but I cannot for the life of me work out how it’s possible, doable, and acceptable to have telephone appointments with a psychiatrist now, when a few years ago it was completely impossible even though that meant that I had to stop having any support from a trained professional because I was too ill to do it in the way that they offered.

All I kept being told yesterday was that their service only offers time-limited, goal-specific help, none of which I’ve ever been well to engage with because the offerings are so limited and are all aimed at people who are much less ill than I am. All I’ve ever been offered (apart from medication which we’ve all agreed I can’t and shouldn’t take again) is 6 sessions of CBT and group art therapy run by a support worker, the same job role I had when I was working. Yesterday, I asked what people like me are meant to do, those of us who are too ill to engage with what they offer and she said there were community treatments, all of which she acknowledged required you to be well enough to physically attend. I’m severely agoraphobic. I can’t go out. So the upshot seemed to be that there’s nothing for me, no service, no treatment, no one to keep an eye on me or make sure I’m not spiralling. No one unrelated to me who I can talk to about how this is actually all making me feel or what it’s like to live like this which actually leaves me with no one to talk to about that because I just can’t bear putting that on people around me. My social network has reduced and reduced over the years of my illness and each time I’m struggling, there are fewer people to talk to and I feel further and further away from them and from normality. I’m good at getting through the day-to-day stuff, I’m great at ignoring my limitations and working within them to the point where I sometimes forget that I’m ill and often forget what I’m not capable of until I’m rudely reminded by circumstance and it all comes flooding back. I don’t have people to talk to about how frightened I am, about how much my belief and hope are fading as each month passes. It’s not because I don’t have people close to me, it’s because I can see how painful it is for them when I talk about these things and I know that what often keeps them going is my grit and determination and continuing belief that I’ll get better. I don’t have the heart to tell them that I don’t know if I believe that anymore and that although I mostly do think that I’ll be better, albeit not cured, one day, that image is increasingly vague and I’ve got no idea of how to get from here to there, what to do to make it happen or when it may occur. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be 6 months from turning 30 and still severely agoraphobic and unemployed. I know I achieve a lot and this isn’t meant to be a pity-party but it’s very hard to keep yourself going, day after day, year after year, when you have to fight for even the basics of medical support and then have that randomly threatened with being removed.

The only reason I’m not now discharged is because of this mysterious appointment that’s been arranged for me. She eventually agreed that I could speak to the new psychiatrist and see what he says and that we’d “discuss it”. So now, I get to spend the next month, waiting and trying to work out how or even if I should try and persuade them to keep me on their books. Because even if I manage to stay this time, how long will it last? It will always be hanging over me. They offer me next to no support and no treatment anyway so in many ways I won’t be any worse off without them. But it feels like I’ll be even more alone, even more adrift and cut off from reality, normality, and help. It makes me sad and angry that people like me are just abandoned. That we’re so ill we can’t function and are essentially punished for that by having accessible treatment denied. So many people have the opposite problem of needing help but not being so ill that it’s deemed necessary and having to wait until they deteriorate before anyone will treat them. Increasingly it seems that there’s a right way of being mentally ill and more and more of us are failing to do it that way and then get denied treatment. I can’t make my illness fit in with the criteria they set, I can’t get myself well enough to attend the treatment that they say will get me better and so rather than bring any of it to me or even keep it paused until a miracle happens and I can get myself there, they decide that I look bad on their books and need to go. I wonder how many people out there exist as I do? I don’t think we’re even counted. They know how many people have a diagnosis, how many people went through therapy, how many people had a psychiatrist. But once I’m discharged, I won’t exist anywhere as a statistic. I won’t be counted as one of the people they failed, I won’t be listed somewhere as one of the people who was so severely ill that they couldn’t be treated. I’ll just disappear. Even statistics for houseboundness don’t seem to exist. I’ve looked and looked over the years and never found anything that even attempts to give numbers to how many people are physically or mentally ill enough that they’re confined to the house. I know there are many of us. The sheer number of people who, well-before lockdown or Coronavirus, were arriving at my blog because they wanted advice or help to cope with being housebound, is huge and I’m just one blogger with a small following and a pretty small reach. There must be thousands of us. But we’re all hidden away and mostly we’re forgotten about and just left. Lockdown has shown just how hard living your life indoors is to the masses. People are going stir crazy. They can’t work out how to entertain themselves, how to stop eating every 30 minutes, how to work, how to get medical help. This has been my life for 6 years and I’ll tell you for nothing, there’s never been a better time to be housebound because of the sheer number of free resources that have been released. So many things have adapted and been made accessible so that life can continue despite us all being indoors and still it’s unbearable for many people. Spare a thought for those of us for whom this is our life permanently, who don’t get to do PE with Joe or have church services via Zoom or watch Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals in our lounge the rest of the time. The majority of the time, these things are completely inaccessible to people like me and now even mental health treatment, in the midst of a pandemic, is being withdrawn because I don’t fit into the box neatly enough. As yet, I’m undecided about what to ask for in this appointment and whether I’ll put the energy into trying to fight or just give in this time because as seasoned readers of my blog will know, absolutely every step of the way, I’ve had to fight to get any treatment or support and I’m so unbelievably tired of doing that and being let down. I always thought that I’d get through this on my own, in my own time and I have no idea if that’s true but it looks like that’s the only option I’m left with and I’ll just have to hope that one day, the solution will reveal itself and I’ll somehow get from here to “better”.

6 Years’ Agoraphobic – Coping with Social Distancing, Self-Isolation and being Housebound: Advice for COVID-19, Anxiety and Beyond

For 6 years, I’ve been virtually housebound suffering from severe Agoraphobia, Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Social Anxiety. It means I’m in a fairly unique and experienced position to advise about the dos and don’ts of being indoors for a prolonged period of time. Below is a long list of suggestions that have helped me and that I hope will help you to cope and keep occupied.

Do remember that this will have an end point. Much as it’s not clear when that end point will be, there will indeed be one and it’s important to focus on that and not get too bogged down or pessimistic. For those who don’t know me, I’ll point out here that I’m not an optimist, nor am I a fan of most self-help stuff because I find it patronising and overly simplistic. I’m not involving myself in the medical side of things because there are plenty of articles already available on this and I’m not a medical expert, but I am an expert in how not to go stir-crazy when cooped up indoors for an indefinite period of time, for reasons beyond your control.

1. Create and Keep a Routine – Getting up and having a routine are absolutely key to keeping focused, motivated and having any sense of what time of day it is. You’d be amazed how quickly those things fade if you don’t stick to at least a few basic plans each day. The absolute musts are getting up, going to bed and eating at set times as those all help to regulate your body clock. Getting dressed and having activities planned for the day are also great for helping you be ready to tackle things and motivate you to get stuff done rather than lounging in front of the TV all day. Writing out a timetable can be really helpful, as well as a list of suggestions for activities and tasks to do if you get bored or can’t think of something to do at a specific time.

2. Limit Accessing of News Updates – It can be really tempting in times of crisis and uncertainty to want to be as informed as humanly possible, all the time. Stop. It’s SO bad for your mental health, won’t lead to you being more informed and is likely to just make you panic and feel sick. Choose your news sources wisely! Don’t take notice of the umpteen viral social media posts written by so-called experts that are constantly contradicting each other and spreading misinformation and worry. Pick one or even a few specific times a day where you will check on these reliable sources and then avoid the rest of the time. If you find this too much, then keep reducing down until you reach a happy medium of informed and calm-ish. If it’s all too much and you want to hunker down, then feel free to avoid all news and stay in your happy place. Do whatever it takes to stay sane and coping!

3. Be Prepared but Don’t Panic Buy! – We’re all well aware of how ludicrous the situation is in the shops right now (at least in the UK) and it’s important to be prepared and to have in the things you need for if lock-down happens or you have to self-isolate. Having enough food and supplies in is really useful but please, please don’t panic buy because it’s stopping everyone from being able to be prepared and causing widespread anxiety. If you’re able to get food in, then a great idea is to batch cook some meals to freeze so that if you become sick, you can eat nutritious food, won’t need to go shopping for a while and can just defrost and reheat instead of cooking when you really won’t feel like it. You do not need 1500 toilet rolls, they don’t taste nice or help your lungs! Make sure you eat healthily and regularly and stock up on some treats too – try to avoid eating all of them on the first day of quarantine!

4. Finances – Money is becoming a huge worry for many. Try to avoid burying your head in the sand and work out exactly where your family stand and look into what help is available to you. Making a spreadsheet of current expenditure and income can help you identify areas to cut back on, as well as showing you your budget. This puts you in the best position to act quickly and pre-emptively if things are going to worsen for you and could help you avert a crisis. The finance situation is different for everyone and changing daily so keep researching and applying for all of the support available to you and remember that even small changes can build up to make a big difference.

5. Social Contact – While we’re all having to avoid physical contact with people outside our household (and inside for those self-isolating), we don’t have to be isolated from all contact. Phone calls, emails, video calls and group chats are just some of the ways in which we can continue to socialise. Talk to people about how you and they are feeling, give each other tips of how to pass the time and talk about anything other than the virus when you can! Check in with others who you think might be struggling and rekindle friendships that fizzled out due to lack of time – there’s an abundance of that right now. Setting up cyber groups is another way of doing joint activities whilst being socially distant, things like film nights, book groups, cocktail evenings, lunch dates, debates and more can all be done via video chats or cyber groups to keep you involved and connected with each other, sharing activities and combatting boredom.

6. Plan for the Future – During scary times, it can feel all-consuming and never-ending but this will pass and there will be light at the end of the tunnel. In order to keep focused on that and to keep you getting through all of the difficulties and things you currently can’t do, rather than focusing on what you’re missing, put all of those things and the things you’re looking forward to doing once this is all over, into a list. Keep adding to it each time you think of something new and it’ll give you all sorts of ideas for how to fill your time once this period of isolation and restriction comes to an end. It’s highly likely to increase your enjoyment and gratitude for the ability to do those things once you’re finally able to again. I never get over the novelty of feeling the wind on my face having spent the majority of the last 6 years indoors.

7. Use this as an Opportunity – You’re likely to suddenly have a lot of time on your hands and while that might seem like a dream come true, the novelty quickly wears off. Rather than letting the boredom set in, use this as an opportunity to get tasks done that you’ve been putting off, to learn new things, to start something that you’ve always wanted to and even to re-evaluate your priorities and make changes to your life. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day busyness of life and forget that we can change things we don’t like and put more time into the things we do and now is a perfect opportunity to start making that happen.

8. Look After your Mental Health – This is crucial! A lot of us who have mental illnesses, have strategies and coping mechanisms to keep our symptoms at bay and enforced time at home may be restricting your ability to do some of those things. Even those who don’t have mental illness may well have things they do that keep them calm, focused and able to cope well with daily life and being indoors for prolonged periods of time is likely to have quite a profound effect on your mental wellbeing. My key suggestions would be to talk to others and tell them how you’re feeling, share tips on coping and activities to pass the time and set goals together that you can help each other achieve. Being at home can be extremely lonely and isolating but you don’t have to be mentally alone, there are a lot of us out there all in this together so head to your contact list or social media to find others to connect with and you’ll realise you’re not alone in finding this hard and that might just make it a bit easier. If things get really bad then reach out for professional help, it’s still accessible especially over the phone and online, so don’t suffer in silence!

9. Help Others – If you’re feeling bored or have any skills, services or supplies that you could share with others in order to help them then do it! Helping others is a great pastime as well as building community spirit and connectedness. In times like these, even small gestures can make such a huge difference and they help us see the wider picture of us all being in this together. Obviously, maintain social distancing whilst doing this.

10. Be Creative – As you’re likely to soon find out, there truly are only so many hours of daytime TV and trips to the kitchen to check the fridge for snacks, that one can take before wanting to climb the walls. Therefore, creating, rather than consuming, is a great way of getting out of that cycle and making your day better. It doesn’t have to be drawing or painting, it can be literally anything from writing a poem to building a shed, taking photographs to making up a dance. Anything that involves you making something or changing it and using your hands and your brain to produce something, will do just fine and it’s great for giving you a sense of achievement too because you can see the result of your efforts at the end.

11. Keep Fit – You might have to get a bit inventive here and try not to annoy your neighbours (especially those of us in flats/apartments) but getting your heart rate up and your blood pumping is a sure-fire way to help clear your head and get rid of excess energy and anxiety. If you have home exercise equipment then use that, if you’ve got a garden then get out there and run, play with a ball or even skip. For those of us who only have indoor space we’re a little more limited but thanks to the wonders of the internet you can find free workouts, yoga and Pilates tutorials, dance classes and more. You could do strength training if you’ve got weights and if not, get out some of those stock-piled tins of beans and use them instead. If motivation is tricky, then get your friends involved and hold each other to account or even video chat whilst you all do the same workout and cheer each other on!

12. Avoid Substances and Bad Habits – It’s a really tough time for everyone and it can be all too tempting to look for ways of escaping difficult feelings but leaning on substances or bad habits will only harm you more in the long-run. Try to avoid alcohol, comfort eating and any other self-destructive behaviours and talk to others if you’re struggling to manage. Keeping busy is the key to getting through as unscathed as possible.

13. Free Activities and Resources – Companies and individuals are offering free services, resources and activities, with new ones popping up daily for kids and adults worldwide. There’s everything from fitness routines to tours of zoos and museums, education and language-learning resources for all ages and abilities, colouring pages, recipes, courses and qualifications and so much more. Now is the time to start looking into all of the things you always wanted to do and never quite made the time for, be it learning sign-language, pasta-making, or crochet, there are guides to almost everything, if you look.

14. Change your Environment – If your country allows and you feel it’s safe to do so, then go outside to an open area, staying 2 metres apart. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden or a balcony then use that regularly. If, like me, you don’t have outdoor space then you have to be more creative. Watching nature programmes and documentaries is a great way of seeing outdoors without actually being out there and opening windows as often as possible to get fresh air in is really beneficial. Even just changing rooms or sitting down the other end of the sofa is better than staying in the same spot for days on end. You could redecorate or rearrange some of your living space to freshen it up and make it feel different and new. Keeping your curtains and blinds open and making sure you get enough daylight will help your mood, sense of time and your sleep pattern and although you may not notice the benefits, you’ll certainly notice the deterioration in all of those things if you keep the light out. Another great way of getting the outdoors indoors is to grow something. It’s very therapeutic to have a plant to look after, it’s good for air quality, and it can even be useful if you grow something edible – my personal favourite is chilli plants which grow pretty quickly and easily and can then be added to my cooking or saved up and made into chilli jam.

15. Working From Home – For those of you who are unexpectedly working from home, try to keep a distance between work and home. If possible, keep your work to one area of your home, keep it to specific times and outside of those don’t be tempted to check emails or do extra unless you absolutely have to. Psychologically, it can be hard to keep a mental distance when there’s little to no physical distance but our brains are really good at picking up on cues so setting routines and times that are similar to your regular work schedule and even changing clothes, eyewear or hairstyle so that you have ‘work’ and ‘home’ versions could make the difference between feeling like your work is never finished and being able to fully enjoy your free time. It requires discipline and it’s not easy but having separation really helps you to focus on the task at hand and then let it go when the time for that is over.

16. Tune Out – Although most of the things I’ve suggested involve ‘doing’ stuff to keep your mind and body occupied, you sometimes need to just ‘be’ and that’s just as important. Write a list of things that help you relax, calm down, and zone out, and plan those in so that you’re not exhausted from too much ‘doing’. Anxiety, stress and worry are exhausting, trust me, I live this every day and it’s really tiring and you’re likely to get a lot less done than you’re planning or hoping. Try to be ok with that. Plan in regular time to just ‘be’ and you might find that the rest of your time is more productive because of the breaks you’ve taken. Similarly, if you’re religious, spiritual, or have regular practices like mindfulness, meditation, or relaxation, then ensure that you’re still building that into your life, even if it means using alternative methods to access it. You’ll need periods of escapism too and reading, audiobooks, gaming and passive TV can all provide this and give your brain a much-needed break.

These are frightening and uncertain times but hopefully by following some of my suggestions, you’ll keep as calm, occupied and content as possible, until freedom is restored.

For specific, anxiety-related tips on how to cope with being housebound, you can find my post written 14 months in here.

Worlds Within Worlds – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Worlds Within Worlds is illustrated by Kerby Rosanes and published and kindly sent to me to review by Michael O’Mara. This book is the seventh title by Kerby and is not part of the Morphia series albeit it’s drawn in a very similar style but without the signature alien creatures and swirls of the earliest Morphia titles.

The book is 25cm square, the same size as Kerby’s previous titles and most other bestsellers. It’s paperback with black covers and white lettering. The images on the front and back covers are partially coloured and are both contained within the book. The spine is glue and string-bound and quite tight on arrival, it takes a bit of work to get it lying flat however you shouldn’t need to crack the spine to colour the entirety of each image. The majority of images don’t enter the gutter so it’s not a big issue and it will ease up with use. The paper is bright white and medium thickness, it has a light tooth and allows for blending and shading. I used Prismacolor Premier Pencils which blended very well. When using heavy pressure, some of the image on the reverse page did transfer to the opposite page so you may want to put a sheet of scrap paper under your work in order to prevent this, however it’s easily erased if it does happen. The book begins with a name plate spread and information about the new search and find element of the book, a key hidden on a tiny image of a main feature of the proceeding image hidden within each colouring design. The book then contains 83 pages of illustrations printed double-sided which are a mixture of single pages, paired designs and double-page spreads. The image content is extremely wide ranging and because there is no specific theme, it really does contain a bit of everything including themes that he’s previously drawn in his earlier titles. None of the images are repeats, a few of them are just the same subject, drawn differently including fish, nautilus, dragon, bees, skull, and stags. The vast majority of the images are of completely different subjects and all of them are drawn in a very different way from previously. The premise of the book is exactly as the title suggests of worlds within worlds including cities within Russian dolls, rabbit warrens in rabbits, terrariums containing fields and windmills, underwater asteroids and so much more. The imagery is so inventive and as with all of Kerby’s work, it constantly surprises you and each time you look at it you notice something new that you hadn’t spotted before. Kerby’s artwork is full of the weird and wonderful and although it can often be very tricky to know where to start, no matter what colour palette you choose, you’re sure to create a masterpiece, it’s almost impossible not to with line drawings like this!

In terms of mental health, this book is fantastic. It offers so much choice in image theme and the content can’t help but inspire you! I often feel very overwhelmed when looking at Kerby’s work and trying to choose an image to colour because they’re quite an undertaking because of the amount of stuff crammed into each drawing but I didn’t feel that way about this book and the page I coloured was the page I chose as my favourite on my first flick-through of the book which is pretty much unheard of for me! The images contain a wide range of intricacy and detail levels and although none could ever be described as simple, there is a good variety ranging from pages absolutely packed with content and hundreds of individual component parts all overlapping each other which can be quite difficult to visually distinguish, to much larger, less complicated images where a centralised object takes centre-stage and there are a few internal or surrounding details. On flicking through the book, these differences are apparent and it means that you can use this book during lots of different symptom levels and pick simpler images to colour on days where your concentration isn’t up to scratch and attack a much more complicated design on days where you’re really able to focus and not inadvertently identify things as background that shouldn’t be. This book is hugely distracting, even just to look through and it’s certainly helped me over the last week when I’ve struggled to focus on much at all and really needed a distraction, colouring my page took far longer than I expected but I’ve really enjoyed it and it’s certainly kept me busy and kept my mind occupied which I’ve been very grateful for. It’s a great book to get you out of your comfort zone because nothing is as it seems and you absolutely don’t need to stick to conventional or realistic colour schemes if you don’t want to.

I would highly recommend this book. It’s a great title to begin with to delve into the world of Kerby’s artwork and for those of us who’ve been fans for years, it’s a wonderful new title and theme to add to his previous works. The images are just incredible and feel very exciting and fresh, you’d never guess this was the 6th book of new images, it feels like a show-stopping debut! I can’t recommend it highly enough and although I often find that new books are my favourite of an illustrator’s, this isn’t just my favourite Kerby book because it’s new, it’s by far my favourite imagery of his and an absolute must-have for followers and fans of his work!

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Worlds Within Worlds
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Worlds-Within-Worlds-Kerby-Rosanes/9781912785124/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Prismacolor Premier Pencils.

My video review and flick through can be found here.

New Year Update – January 2020

So, it’s 2020, my brain still can’t get used to that but hopefully it’ll catch on soon. Happy New Year! It’s been an absolute age since I blogged or vlogged. I had intended to update you all shortly after I moved but that was all just crazy and now here we are, nearly 3 months on. I’m never sure why I make these plans and goals because I know when I make them that I’ll never manage to stick to them and lo and behold, I haven’t! As ever, there ends up being so much to tell you all and so much happening that I often get overwhelmed or put off by the sheer amount of stuff to try and get out and so I put it off. But I’m finally here writing and hopefully making sense.

The biggest change and update is that Joe and I bought a flat and have moved. We bought at the end of October, I spent the whole of that week frantically decorating so that it was ready for us to move into and 8 days after buying, we moved in with help from family and friends. Unfortunately, we moved during a storm with 60mph winds and sideways rain so we did have a few casualties in our possessions but mostly it went fine, especially under the circumstances! It’s been quite a whirlwind since then. We’ve had various issues with the previous owner that have really taken the shine and excitement out of moving. We’re hoping that most of those major issues are now dealt with and we’re finally starting to calm down and enjoy the place but even on completion day we had some horrid news that we had to pay an extra £5200 that we were unaware of ahead of time thanks to various misunderstandings so we didn’t have a typical completion day at all and we spent a lot of that day in shock. It meant that we didn’t take any photos of us, no champagne to toast such a monumental day. I’m really sad that it all transpired the way it did because we’ll never get that back. It was completely understandable given that so much bad stuff was going on but it’s such a shame that we’ll never have those experiences at our first home again. We didn’t do it when we moved in together 6 years ago because we moved into the property on different days and this time it was because of shock. We completely overlooked our 8-year Anniversary the week after we moved in too because we were just so swamped with tasks to do in between Joe starting a new job and trying to navigate our way around the insane number of boxes that were piled up to head height in every room.

Since then, we’ve settled a lot more and although we’re not completely sorted out, we’re mostly unpacked and hopefully by next week things should be much more under control after a furniture delivery at the end of this week. We’ve had various issues to contend with including problems with windows that we weren’t aware of, various bodged jobs that we’ve discovered and bailiffs turning up at our door on my birthday, the week before Christmas, seeking out the previous owner. It’s not been the best and it’s meant that I’ve not really talked to most people about our move or shared anything on social media because most people are so excited and full of positivity in this situation and that’s not been the case for us. I’ve found it quite isolating to be honest because I had struggled so much in the lead up to the move after it was dragged out for an additional 2 months beyond what we were expecting. I was thinking I’d be sighing with relief as soon as my solicitor phoned and I could collect the keys and that was exactly what happened until 4 hours later when we found out about the huge fee we had to pay the following month. I was all ready to give the flat back and unpack our stuff at home and just live out our days there. Ultimately, it’s all worked out. At least I think it has, I say that quite tentatively currently because it’s not been that long and with the amount of random, unexpected curve balls that have been thrown our way recently, I’m not holding my breath that we’re beyond all of that yet. But hopefully we are and if so, then it was worth it and it’s worked out. Though it has put us off moving for a lot of years and it has made us less trustful of other people thanks to how much our seller has messed us about.

The positive things of living here are that the flat is larger so there is more space for our stuff and I feel much less claustrophobic and trapped. The space also means there’s more room for me to sort through my possessions and hopefully clear out some of those at a later point. I was able to decorate with the colours that we’d chosen ourselves and those have worked out really nicely and I’m really proud of the job I did and how homely and “us” it feels. It’s also so quiet here. I really struggle with noise sensitivity and we had pretty noisy neighbours at our last flat and it’s so much quieter here. There’s a real sense of community here too, our neighbour opposite is an absolute sweetie and really looks out for us – we were out for the day on my birthday and he heard the postman knocking and getting no answer at ours so he went out and requested the postman leave our parcels with him to save us a trip to collect them from the post office (he didn’t know it was my birthday and we have no arrangement with him for this, he just did it off his own back). We got 3 Christmas cards through our door from other flats having only lived here for 7 weeks; the same number we received in the 6 years we lived at our last flat. People say hello and talk to each other, it’s tidy and clean in the communal areas, almost everyone had a wreath on their door at Christmas. It’s just lovely! We have really nice views over a local park and we’re not properly overlooked in any of our rooms. We’ve got huge windows that let in lots of light, despite no longer being south facing and we have gas central heating, instead of night storage heaters and that’s just such a luxury! It’s hard to explain and probably doesn’t make much sense but despite my anxiety being worse at the moment, I feel calmer here. I don’t feel as stressed or unsettled in myself and I feel more able to keep on top of cleaning and tidying and managing the flat than I did before.

That being said, my anxiety is worse and in particular my agoraphobia. I don’t have any specific plans or reasons to go out and so often, I just don’t. I didn’t go out this year until the 12th and that was only because I realised I’d not been out yet and forced myself to go with Joe to collect my mum and her partner from the airport. I’m trying to psych myself up to go out more often but even when I think about that I can feel my brain pulling away and coming up with reasons not to. I’ve also hit my yearly period of questioning my life, my purpose and what on earth I’m going to do with myself and my time. As ever, I feel completely lost and useless as well as bored and I’m spending an inordinate amount of time trying to work out what direction I want to go in and if there’s any way at all of earning money and not feeling so rubbish about myself! I have various plans that I’m really hoping I might actually get on with this year and I’m desperately hoping that some of those might bring in some money. It’s hard not to blame yourself or lower your self-esteem when you see other people succeeding in so many ways and doing all of the things you want to be able to do and realising you’re nowhere near being able to do any of that. I spent time last week researching how to train in various types of therapy and realised that the chance of that happening without a lottery win is minute. It’s SO expensive and time consuming to train and my brain so often feels like complete mush that I have no idea how I’d ever go back to formal education despite absolutely loving learning. I’ve already mostly ruled out my dream career of becoming a Clinical Psychologist because it’s so competitive, high stress and difficult to get into but I had really hoped that I’d be able to become a therapist and now even that is looking further and further away. I’m a very goal-orientated person and find that life makes far more sense when I know what I’m working towards and how I intend to get there. I’m also very career-orientated, especially as I don’t plan to have children and so most of my goals are focused on work and how I’m going to spend my time and so when I have huge wobbles or my plans fall through or change drastically, I really struggle to make sense of that or catch up. It makes me feel really lost and very panicked because I don’t cope well with the unknown and I’m very aware that I’m turning 30 at the end of this year and my life is absolutely not how I’d hoped or planned and I seem to be drifting further and further from what I wanted. It doesn’t feel like my life is changing direction, it doesn’t feel like I’m now travelling on a different path towards a different goal. It just feels like I’m lost and drifting aimlessly but further away from all of the things I’d dreamed of. I keep hoping that my purpose will reveal itself, that I’ll stumble upon a career that’s meant for me, that doesn’t require thousands of pounds of investment or unbearable pressure and demands on my already frazzled mind. I’m not sure that I believe it’ll happen but I can’t keep torturing myself by researching things at the moment, only to find out just how unattainable my chosen options are so I’m trying to just focus on the present and do the best I can with that.

Another thing I’ve noticed recently is that my ability to start things is hugely diminished. “Well” me would be shocked at how much “ill” me changes and how differently my brain works. I’ve always been someone who thought it was better to start, and to try, than to not give it a go for fear of failing or not finishing. At the moment, I struggle to start most things because I’m so worried about failing or making a mess of them. A lot of this is down to lack of confidence which is an ever-present problem for me. I question myself about everything and it’s what’s stopped me from blogging or vlogging and what’s stopped me from reviewing, doing any of my hobbies or beginning anything new because I talk myself out of it all before I’ve even started. I’m never sure how to get beyond this. I try to just ignore it and start anyway but I end up freaking out and not doing it because there are so many ways in which I could mess up or regret starting. It’s infuriating but very real at the moment. I’m trying very hard to push past it and do the things that I can do in the hopes that I’ll work up to the scarier things at a later point. It’s still early days since we moved and I know I’ve had to deal with a huge amount of changes over the last few months. It always takes me a long time to process and catch up but it does feel very unfair to be plagued by so much self-doubt and lack of ability to ‘do’ things because it means I don’t have much distraction or much to show myself about my abilities or uses. Hopefully I’ll find a use and purpose for myself again soon.

All sorts of other stuff has been going on since I last posted an update but this is already massive and before I lose confidence and chicken out from posting this I’m going to take a deep breath, press upload, and send it out into the ether. I’m working on psyching myself up to post more often both about mental health and about colouring and I’m hoping to one day be brave enough to do a video tour of our new flat. I have no idea when any of that will happen; it always takes way longer than I plan or hope for but know that I’m working on it and I hope to be back soon!

* The photo was taken during the first week of owning our flat during a quick lunch break whilst decorating my bedroom

How to Draw Inky Wonderlands (US Edition) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
How to Draw Inky Wonderlands is by Johanna Basford who very kindly sent me a UK and US edition to review. This review is of the US edition, (my UK review can be found here) which is published by Penguin. I have also written a comparison post which can be found here, or the video comparison post can be found here.

This book is completely different from anything previously produced by Johanna and in fact, anything else I’ve seen on the market. Rather than being a colouring book, Johanna has welcomed us into her world to teach us her secrets in order to allow us all to be more creative and draw our own colouring pages and additions. As soon as I heard about the premise of the book I was very excited but also really nervous; I’ve always wanted to learn to draw but struggle to be patient or practice enough to actually improve. However, if anyone can teach me to draw, it’s colouring book queen, Johanna Basford, and spoiler alert, it’s actually working! Loads of people state that they can’t draw and are lying through their teeth, they normally mean that they can’t create a hyper-realistic portrait of someone that looks identical to a photograph. I, however, am serious about my lack of talent for drawing, I genuinely struggle to draw straight lines, circles or evenly-spaced stars and my sheep, age 28, are still drawn as clouds with stick legs and smiley faces. They’re adorable but no one believes anyone over the age of 8 drew them.

The book itself is paperback and unlike the majority of Johanna’s colouring books, it’s rectangular, not square and measures 21.5 by 25.5cm, making it the same size as Ivy and the Inky Butterfly and the same height as all of the US editions of Johanna’s colouring books. There is no removable dust cover this time, instead having flexible card covers with ½ French flaps which open out front and back to reveal a beautiful flower, leaf and butterfly design that is fully colourable, it isn’t waxy and is very smooth meaning most mediums will be suitable for colouring it, just be careful with alcohol markers in case they bleed through to the external covers. The spine and covers are white with black text, the cover has gold foiling accents and the title is backed with a beautiful duck egg blue background. The spine is glue-bound which you’ll need to be careful with, a number of people have reported previous titles published in the US falling apart so you will need to be gentle with this edition when trying to open it flat for drawing in. The paper is the same as that used in previous US editions of Johanna’s titles from Magical Jungle onwards, this paper was created and named after Johanna it’s beautiful, it’s not the same paper as used in the UK editions. The paper is a pale ivory colour, it’s a medium thickness and lightly textured and it’s perfect for pens and pencils. It has a good level of tooth so it can cope with pencil lines being drawn and erased and the Staedtler Pigment Liners that Johanna uses herself and recommends drawing with work beautifully on the paper. The only issue I had was that my 0.2 nib pen slightly feathered and spread on the page, however, none of my other pens really did this so it may just be a dodgy pen but just bear it in mind and do check out the photos below to see what I mean. Using the Staedtler Pigment Liners means that your drawings will match Johanna’s and blend in really well with the printed artwork so your drawings won’t stand out as “different” from the content that’s already on the page. The paper is ideal for pencils and water-based pens and you only need to avoid alcohol makers or particularly wet media. As ever, there’s a test page at the back of the book where you can check out how each of your tools and mediums behaves.

This is very much a drawing book, it’s not a colouring book with a few drawing tips included. Upon opening the book, you find a beautiful title page, name page and introduction including tips and a materials list. The book is then split into 3 themed sections: Garden, Ocean, and Forest. There are no page numbers in the book and no contents page. The book is printed double-sided with each double page depicting at least one drawing technique, often many more. The drawings are all split up into really clear sections most of which are visually displayed in steps along with accompanying written instructions. There is a real range of different size projects included from small and simple requiring just a few very easy steps, to much more time-consuming and complicated and requiring more focus and ability to replicate well.

For the vast majority of the tutorials, each step is numbered and the step you’re currently drawing is printed in black, with the previously drawn sections in paler grey so that you can easily identify what elements you’re adding each time. Once you’ve drawn the whole image you then go over it all with pen and once dry, erase the pencil lines and voila, you’ve got your own illustration which is highly likely to surprise you, mine certainly did! There is a huge range of content for the tutorials including loads of different types of flowers and leaves, fish and other sea creatures including crabs and lobsters, ships, objects, borders, and different types of motifs including crests, symmetrical, repeating and circular. The possibilities are endless once you’ve learnt the basics and Johanna has a real knack for making it all seem very simple and easy rather than difficult and daunting so before you know it, you’re drawing things you never expected to be able to. It can be really anxiety-inducing starting something new, especially when it’s something you’ve struggled with before and find frustrating but this book is so different from any others I’ve seen and doesn’t make things just sound simpler, it actually breaks each drawing down into simpler steps so that you’re drawing very basic shapes and creating amazing things with them. There is real talent in being able to teach a skill in that way and make it so inclusive and accessible.

The tutorials are ideal for starting to learn to draw but they’re also fantastic to help you continue because once you’ve started you’ll start noticing how other images are created and what shapes they’re made up of. I often find inspiration very lacking when I try to draw and if you’re like me then I highly recommend going through Johanna’s colouring books and you’ll be absolutely inundated with ideas to the point where the only difficulty you’ll have will be choosing what to draw first! Learning to draw is apparently like exercising, it won’t come naturally or easily at first and it’ll often feel like it’s not worth it but the more you practice, the more you’ll improve and the easier it will become and eventually you’ll be creating your own things rather than copying the original tutorials.

In terms of mental health, I’ll be completely honest and say that before receiving the book, I was dreading writing this section because I thought I was going to have to say it was bad because I’ve always found drawing stressful. However, I’m pleased to say that this isn’t the case and actually, I think this book is great for mental health as long as you have a little patience because it makes it surprisingly simple and learning to draw the few things I have with this book has been by far the least frustrating drawing experience I’ve ever had! I’m not just saying that because I’m a huge fan of Johanna, I honestly was so nervous about reviewing this book because I didn’t want to have to write a negative review or say that although it was lovely, I was still unteachable. How wrong I was! Just as Johanna has been telling us, anyone can learn to draw. I’m certainly not an artist, I’m not ever going to get paid for anything my pen puts on paper (apart from my signature on a job contract) but I can safely say that with practice, my drawings will no longer look like a child’s and people won’t laugh when I tell them I drew it rather than a small kid. For me, that’s more progress than I ever thought I’d make and it’s a huge confidence boost too. That’s one reason why this book is ideal for those of us with mental health problems because it gives you the tools you need to actually succeed at learning a new skill and that’s sure to improve your self-esteem and confidence.

I would highly recommend the Johanna Basford journals for practising your drawing in, it’s what I’m currently using and I’ve had no issues at all with it so far. The features I’m particularly liking about using them are the ribbon bookmark which I can use to mark my place, the paper which is lovely and thick and a great surface to draw on and takes erasing well, and the motifs already printed on each double-page spread which offer great inspiration and make the whole process much less daunting, at least for me, because I’m not starting on a completely blank page, each one has already been started for me! I intend to work through in order, dating my drawings as I go so that I can hopefully see my progress over time.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book, even to those of you who absolutely cannot draw because Johanna really will teach you! I already miss getting my yearly fix of colouring pages from her but the fact that she’s teaching us how to draw our own comes a very close second for me and seeing everyone’s versions cropping up online is definitely spurring me on to practice and learn and be more creative. This book is spreading joy, even more so than Johanna’s colouring books do, and it’s boosting confidence and self-esteem all over the world. If you weren’t sure about getting a copy then I really would suggest getting one and seeing what you think and if you need further persuading then have a go at following Johanna’s video tutorials on her Facebook page and see what you can create!

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available here:
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/How-Draw-Inky-Wonderlands-Johanna-Basford/9780143133940/?a_aid=colouringitmom

Video Review

How to Draw Inky Wonderlands (UK Edition) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
How to Draw Inky Wonderlands is by Johanna Basford who very kindly sent me a UK and US edition to review. This review is of the UK edition, (my US review can be found here) which is published by Virgin Books. I have also written a comparison post which can be found here, or the video comparison post can be found here.

This book is completely different from anything previously produced by Johanna and in fact, anything else I’ve seen on the market. Rather than being a colouring book, Johanna has welcomed us into her world to teach us her secrets in order to allow us all to be more creative and draw our own colouring pages and additions. As soon as I heard about the premise of the book I was very excited but also really nervous; I’ve always wanted to learn to draw but struggle to be patient or practice enough to actually improve. However, if anyone can teach me to draw, it’s colouring book queen, Johanna Basford, and spoiler alert, it’s actually working! Loads of people state that they can’t draw and are lying through their teeth, they normally mean that they can’t create a hyper-realistic portrait of someone that looks identical to a photograph. I, however, am serious about my lack of talent for drawing, I genuinely struggle to draw straight lines, circles or evenly-spaced stars and my sheep, age 28, are still drawn as clouds with stick legs and smiley faces. They’re adorable but no one believes anyone over the age of 8 drew them.

The book itself is paperback and unlike the majority of Johanna’s colouring books, it’s rectangular, not square and measures 21 by 25cm, making it the same size as Ivy and the Inky Butterfly and the same height as all of the UK editions of Johanna’s colouring books. There is no removable dust cover this time, instead having flexible card covers with ½ French flaps which open out front and back to reveal a beautiful flower, leaf and butterfly design that is fully colourable, it isn’t waxy and is very smooth meaning most mediums will be suitable for colouring it, just be careful with alcohol markers in case they bleed through to the external covers. The spine and covers are white with black text, the cover has gold foiling accents and the title is backed with a beautiful pink background. The spine is glue and string-bound which makes it very durable but a little tricky to get it to lie flat for drawing in however little to none of the content enters the spine and therefore you don’t lose much in the gutter. The paper is the same as that used in previous UK editions of Johanna’s titles from Magical Jungle onwards, this paper was found through a global hunt and it’s beautiful, it’s not the same paper as used in the US editions. The paper is a very pale ivory colour, it’s a medium thickness and lightly textured and it’s perfect for pens and pencils. It has a good level of tooth so it can cope with pencil lines being drawn and erased and the Staedtler Pigment Liners that Johanna uses herself and recommends drawing with work beautifully and seamlessly on the paper with no feathering, spreading, shadowing or bleeding and they blend in beautifully with the printed artwork so your drawings won’t stand out as “different” from the content that’s already on the page. The paper is ideal for pencils and water-based pens and you only need to avoid alcohol makers or particularly wet media. As ever, there’s a test page at the back of the book where you can check out how each of your tools and mediums behaves.

This is very much a drawing book, it’s not a colouring book with a few drawing tips included. Upon opening the book, you find a beautiful title page, name page and introduction including tips and a materials list. The book is then split into 3 themed sections: Garden, Ocean, and Forest. There are no page numbers in the book and no contents page. The book is printed double-sided with each double page depicting at least one drawing technique, often many more. The drawings are all split up into really clear sections most of which are visually displayed in steps along with accompanying written instructions. There is a real range of different size projects included from small and simple requiring just a few very easy steps, to much more time-consuming and complicated and requiring more focus and ability to replicate well.

For the vast majority of the tutorials, each step is numbered and the step you’re currently drawing is printed in black, with the previously drawn sections in paler grey so that you can easily identify what elements you’re adding each time. Once you’ve drawn the whole image you then go over it all with pen and once dry, erase the pencil lines and voila, you’ve got your own illustration which is highly likely to surprise you, mine certainly did! There is a huge range of content for the tutorials including loads of different types of flowers and leaves, fish and other sea creatures including crabs and lobsters, ships, objects, borders, and different types of motifs including crests, symmetrical, repeating and circular. The possibilities are endless once you’ve learnt the basics and Johanna has a real knack for making it all seem very simple and easy rather than difficult and daunting so before you know it, you’re drawing things you never expected to be able to. It can be really anxiety-inducing starting something new, especially when it’s something you’ve struggled with before and find frustrating but this book is so different from any others I’ve seen and doesn’t make things just sound simpler, it actually breaks each drawing down into simpler steps so that you’re drawing very basic shapes and creating amazing things with them. There is real talent in being able to teach a skill in that way and make it so inclusive and accessible.

The tutorials are ideal for starting to learn to draw but they’re also fantastic to help you continue because once you’ve started you’ll start noticing how other images are created and what shapes they’re made up of. I often find inspiration very lacking when I try to draw and if you’re like me then I highly recommend going through Johanna’s colouring books and you’ll be absolutely inundated with ideas to the point where the only difficulty you’ll have will be choosing what to draw first! Learning to draw is apparently like exercising, it won’t come naturally or easily at first and it may feel like it’s not worth it but the more you practice, the more you’ll improve and the easier it will become and eventually you’ll be creating your own things rather than copying the original tutorials.

In terms of mental health, I’ll be completely honest and say that before receiving the book, I was dreading writing this section because I thought I was going to have to say it was bad because I’ve always found drawing stressful. However, I’m pleased to say that this isn’t the case and actually, I think this book is great for mental health as long as you have a little patience because it makes it surprisingly simple and learning to draw the few things I have with this book has been by far the least frustrating drawing experience I’ve ever had! I’m not just saying that because I’m a huge fan of Johanna, I honestly was so nervous about reviewing this book because I didn’t want to have to write a negative review or say that although it was lovely, I was still unteachable. How wrong I was! Just as Johanna has been telling us, anyone can learn to draw. I’m certainly not an artist, I’m not ever going to get paid for anything my pen puts on paper (apart from my signature on a job contract) but I can safely say that with practice, my drawings will no longer look like a child’s and people won’t laugh when I tell them I drew it rather than a small kid. For me, that’s more progress than I ever thought I’d make and it’s a huge confidence boost too. That’s one reason why this book is ideal for those of us with mental health problems because it gives you the tools you need to actually succeed at learning a new skill and that’s sure to improve your self-esteem and confidence.

I would highly recommend the Johanna Basford journals for practising your drawing in, it’s what I’m currently using and I’ve had no issues at all so far. The features I’m particularly liking about using them are the ribbon bookmark which I can use to mark my place, the paper which is lovely and thick and a great surface to draw on and takes erasing well, and the motifs already printed on each double-page spread which offer great inspiration and make the whole process much less daunting, at least for me, because I’m not starting on a completely blank page, each one has already been started for me! I intend to work through in order, dating my drawings as I go so that I can hopefully see my progress over time.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book, even to those of you who absolutely cannot draw because Johanna really will teach you! I already miss getting my yearly fix of colouring pages from her but the fact that she’s teaching us how to draw our own comes a very close second for me and seeing everyone’s versions cropping up online is definitely spurring me on to practice and learn and be more creative. This book is spreading joy, even more so than Johanna’s colouring books do, and it’s boosting confidence and self-esteem all over the world. If you weren’t sure about getting a copy then I really would suggest getting one and seeing what you think and if you need further persuading then have a go at following Johanna’s video tutorials on her Facebook page and see what you can create!

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available here:
Amazon UK – How to Draw Inky Wonderlands
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/How-Draw-Inky-Wonderlands-Johanna-Basford/9780753553190/?a_aid=colouringitmom

Video Review

Video Post – Unboxing How to Draw Inky Wonderlands (UK and US Editions) by Johanna Basford

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Today I received the most exciting parcel of goodies from Johanna Basford. Check out my video to see what was inside, see the UK and US edition of her new book, How to Draw Inky Wonderlands, due out in October, and to hear me get so excited that I stop being able to make sense. Reviews, flip throughs and comparison videos and written posts will be coming soon!

If you’d like to pre-order a copy it’s available here:
Amazon UK – How to Draw Inky Wonderlands
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/How-Draw-Inky-Wonderlands-Johanna-Basford/9780753553190/?a_aid=colouringitmom