Having a cup of tea and reading a book in a cafe in Hanoi
After my PhD in 2010 I went on a soul searching trip to Vietnam, coming back really quite desillutioned. I did not turn out to be a whole other, different, more adventurous person in Vietnam than I was in Belgium! I spent my time in Hanoi as I would spend it in Brussels: going to a bookshop and having coffee on a terrace (Vietnamese drip coffee is divine by the way). So not the spectacular transformation I hoped for! Why am I sharing this then? I did find a book, in a little shop called The Smallest English Bookshop in South-East Asia (if my memory is correct), very close to a big lake that had furniture flowing in it and big black fish! The book itself was a rather plain self-help/self development book called Think like Da Vinci by Michael Gelb. Somehow it touched me. The book is infused with the notions that became so important to me later on, being really present with tastes, colours, sounds, training your body and your brain by learning to write in mirror for example. It intorduced the Alexander technique to me, and in general challenged me to learn more, use different perspectives and in general be more curious about things. It also itroduced the possibility of learning how to draw. Before I read the book, drawing, as was music, was something you learn as a child, and if you can’t mysteriously ‘do it’, it’s a lost cause. Gelb spoke of the possibility of learning how to draw, even when you’re an adult and mentioned the book Drawing on the right side of the brain, by Betty Edwards. Once I was back home, I ordered this book and started reading and practicing. I was intrigued by what I could do! I became fascinaed by the work and journey by Vincent Van Gogh who also just learned how to draw at 28 and was really quite bad at it in the beginning! However, my self-cringe kicked in and I forgot about drawing for a few years. I picked it back up in 2018, and, knowing about my previous ‘fail’, I challenged myself to share my work with friends, just to keep motivated and give myself some accountability…
And so it happened! My friend Kes had been playing with the idea of a colouring book with queer animals for years by then, and during a chat session when I shared one of my drawings, she asked me if I could draw her colouring images for her, in a jokey way obviously! And so I went along with the joke, made a quite rough, but colour-in-able image of a whiptail lizard and sent it to her.
Like this? I asked.
And she said, Yes, exactly like that!
Since then we created two colouring zines and a colouring book together, and are currently working on another book.
I do not call myself an artist or illustrator (others do), but talk about ‘making images’, as I feel that’s what I do. I like to keep my images as realistic as possible (as far as colour-in-able images can be realistic!) and would love to learn more pencil work, coloured pencil in particular.
I share this background hoping to inspire other to just try out the thing, especially the ones who don’t think they can do it! I still don’t think I can do it most of the time, but I feel very grateful when I can find the courage to do any kind of creative work!