Color Your Essence: A Conversation with Artist, Coach and Author Joni MacCracken

JONIMacCrackenFrom The Gentle Traveler

I see the black and white drawings as the container and the adding of color as the myriad of possibilities we have in life.
–Joni MacCracken

As a coloring artist and author, Joni MacCracken probably has the best job in the world. At least I think so! When I was a child, I would spend my days with the smell of crayons wafting through the air and wax under my fingernails. Admittedly, I was an “inside the lines” kind of colorer (and actually got a little OCD about it). Never the less, I remember being in a heaven of my own making as the very act of pushing those fat, brilliantly-colored crayons along the thick outlines of my Sesame Street coloring page put me giddily in another space and time…

Fast-forward 35 years and now coloring is suddenly the “it” thing to do for stressed-out adults. Research with brainwave monitoring proves that a session of good, clean coloring has the same effect as meditation!

So dust off those old Crayolas, colored pencils and markers, everyone, because science has now confirmed what 6-year-old’s worldwide knew all along….coloring is good for your health!

For artist, creativity coach, therapist and author Joni MacCracken, helping people connect with their creativity through art and expression has been her passion for the last 25 years. She has worked in that capacity as a social worker, a wilderness therapist, a preteen girls’ counselor, an addiction recovery advocate, with children in the foster care system and with individuals with disabilities. After four years of study at the Snow Lion Center School, she received a certificate as an Integrative Energy Healer. She is also a certified Hendricks Coach.

Joni is the author of “Color Your Essence,” a collection of 18 original, hand-drawn floral patterns on detachable cardstock, every one of them ripe for juicing coloring.

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Joni MacCracken creativity coloring work in progressThe Gentle Traveler: Why did you decide to create a coloring book? Are these books just for adults?

Joni MacCracken: I’ve been doing these drawings for several years and coloring them and framing them for myself and as gifts. One morning while I was coloring in the fall of 2014, I got a “download,” if you will, to “create a coloring book.” I then set about creating new drawings specifically for this book.

I would say the book is for adults as my drawings are quite intricate. I hosted a coloring party recently where one of my friends decided to color completely out of lines which proved to be transformative for her.

TGT: How do you recommend folks use the coloring book?

JM: My recommendation is that people use it any way they wish. My intention is to inspire one’s innate creativity and open up the possibly for your creative genius to be expressed. I LOVE seeing how other people interpret my drawings and the colors they use!

TGT: Tell us a little about yourself as an artist and creativity coach. As a coach, how do you help people?

JM: Creating with my hands and playing with color are a couple of my genius’s. I have made things with my hands as far back as I can remember and have always been drawn to vibrant, alive colors. I love creating new ways to combine and play with color in many mediums.

I have painted, drawn, done beadwork, knitted and sewn, all playing with color. And at the same time, I love putting a black pen to a white page. I see the black and white drawings as the container and the adding of color as the myriad of possibilities we have in life.

As a coach and therapist, I support people to uncover and step into their unique creativity by teaching body-centered or body-intelligence skills and tools. In a session, it may not look like what we are doing is uncovering creativity but when fear and trauma are alive in the body, it is impossible to access our creativity or genius. Every person is different, so every session is different. I do a lot of movement-based activities. The results are a faster access to one’s essence, where creativity lives.

JoniWorkTGT: The Gentle Traveler is all about the importance of personal retreats of all kinds (I talk about 6 different kinds in our Free PDF) as well as travel experiences that have meaning other than just sight-seeing. How can people incorporate coloring into a retreat experience? Also, would your book be good to bring along on a trip or vacation?

JM: Yes! Coloring is very relaxing and there are studies that show coloring affects the brain the same way meditation does. For me, I found this so affirming as my body knows this. I have been “trying” to meditate for many years and no matter how long I go for a stretch (one time I sat almost every day for over a year), I always stop. I can sit for 10-15 minutes at a time coloring, though. The timer disappears and I connect with myself and my breathing while actively firing my creative brain. I do take my coloring implements with me when I travel. I love it!

TGT: Can you talk a little about the stress-reduction and meditative qualities of coloring? What does the research say?

JM: I’m not a big researcher but I have come across a few articles on the benefits of coloring as coloring has become such a big thing in the last year. Here is a little bit based on an article I found recently:

Through coloring…

1. You improve your concentration.Joni MacCracken coloring
2. You unfold your inner creativity.
3. Your brain treats it like meditation.
4. You can chill out anywhere, any time.
5. You improve your motor skills.
6. You release negative thoughts.
7. You decrease your anxiety and stress.

JoniBook-300x300TGT: I have ALWAYS loved coloring but sometimes I think…Why am I doing this? This is for children! I am sure I am not the only “colorer” who feels this way. What advice do you have for me?

JM: I hear a lot of reasons why people say they can’t color or they will buy my book for their children, their grandchildren etc. I gently encourage them to download a free coloring page from my website or any of the other myriad of free coloring pages offered on-line and to go for it! I have hosted coloring parties and one of the men that attended told me that he woke up at three a.m. (afterwards) with a lot of emotion from participating and coloring, something he never thought he could do. It was a very powerful moment for me and him.

How about allowing yourself 10 minutes to give it a try? I think the “10 minute time slot” is very powerful because it’s easy to find 10 minutes in a day. I find when I allow myself 10 minutes, it often turns into much longer because I’ve gotten myself in “it,” whatever “it” is.

For more information about Joni, check out her website HERE.

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