Reflections on our Adult Colouring Book Workshops

"Fast Castle: From the Sea" by Henry Bright.
Reading time: 4 minutes
Two line-art illustrations of a woman resting and a bird on a branch. Plus two photos of artists at work.

Digital outlines created by Qi Li (top) and Laura Beattie (bottom).

Jackie Aim, Stewart Lamb Cromar and Hristo Meshinski take a little time to reflect on last week’s Festival of Creative Learning workshops

Overview (SLC)

Last week the Interactive Content team ran two Festival of Creative Learning (FCL) workshops in partnership with colleagues from the University’s Centre for Research Collections (CRC). These collaborative workshops are attempting to create a new adult colouring book inspired by over 40,000 images published by the CRC under a Creative Commons Attribution licence (CC BY). Combining both analogue and digital processes participants learnt key skills to transform photographs from the collection into new artworks.

Image selection (JA)

Our source images for the workshop were all downloaded from the University of Edinburgh Collections. I didn’t realise how vast it is or what the collection actually held. We worked with a great team from the library who helped us to pre-select a number of suitable images and got us thinking not just about licence and copyright but that some images may also be inappropriate for religious or political reasons. We also didn’t want people to spend all their workshop time looking for an image.

Sketchpad software (JA)

The software we were going to use also required research, we actually found Sketchpad 5.1 relatively quickly and it nicely ticked all the boxes for us. The key requirements for us were that it is free, useable online in your browser, doesn’t need a login and you can use your own images. Most software you have to download and install which wasn’t really any good when using a training room. I created a test image to see how it would work and found it fairly easy-to-use, it has a great amount of functionality too including auto-saving. Also Sketchpad doesn’t have any advertising or any annoying popups.

Workshop handbook (JA)

We wrote a handbook for Sketchpad to go with the workshop, that was a bit of a learning curve for me. We limited the guide to only what we would be using in the workshop – such as adding images, drawing lines, curves, shapes and exporting finished files.

What happened on the day (JA)

Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, Vol.2, T.61. Copyright © The University of Edinburgh 2019 CC BY. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Digital outlines created by Tracey McShane.

The two workshops we ran turned out to be a lot of fun, and the attendees enjoyed it. Everyone had little or no experience with drawing online, but in next to no time they got used to creating Bézier curves and lines. The most pleasing thing was how much they managed to achieve in the three hours. At the second workshop we had three people choose our traditional methodology with pencil and paper, which was a nice surprise. For the people who finished early they had the option to have their image printed on high-grade paper so they could start colouring it in. We uploaded all the images to Padlet and everyone got to vote on their favourite image. The winners were delighted when there were prizes of Johanna Basford colouring books. Everyone else got a pack of coloured pencils to take away.

Fast Castle from the Sea (HM)

Had a wonderful time at our Adult Colouring Book Workshop which we ran twice during the Festival of Creative Learning. I had the pleasure of helping attendees become comfortable with the online tool – Sketchpad with which they created their drawings. Interestingly some participants chose to trace their images on real paper. One particular image was very popular (The Evergreen Spring, 1895, p.107) being chosen by three different people. The drawing that I was most impressed by was Crystal Check’s interpretation of “Fast Castle: From the Sea” by Henry Bright (see banner image).

Student and staff feedback (SLC)

The initial response from workshop participants was extremely positive. We had several students ask about a mailing list so they can be alerted of any future sessions. Others were so enthused by the three-hour workshop they have carried on creating images afterwards. We had one amazing student email us after their weekend with 15 brand new images she’d drawn whilst listening to an audiobook. In an effort to minimise printing we emailed all participants a short questionnaire to garner further feedback. It pleased me greatly that after an opportunity for reflection people still loved the workshop. The key messages were that they enjoyed – the relaxed/friendly atmosphere, learning a new software package and exploring the CRC image collections. Suggestions for improvements included some simpler pre-selected images to start with and perhaps a group walkthrough of the initial steps.
Nice to have time to focus on doing something creative! It was great that we could print out our contributions at the end as it was really nice to be able to take something away.
I’m delighted to have learnt to use a new (to me) piece of digital software.
Thank you for organising. It was so enjoyable. Great to contribute towards a creative project which engages with the collections and will benefit the university community.
Photograph of workshop participant tracing an image with a pencil.

Devika traces a photograph of the ECA Main Building with a pencil.

Run your own workshop (SLC)

From the outset it was our intention to open-licence (CC BY) all the workshop materials generated within our team. But we also asked that, if acceptable, participants on the day signed their photography/film consent forms so we could licence photos taken by us and their own Sketchpad/pencil creations. We’re very happy to share our opening PowerPoint presentation, the PDF handbook (inc. Word version for easier editing) and photos from the workshops:

What happens next? (SLC)

We have some funding now in place and we intend to publish an A5 book of completed drawings created by all the University students and staff who collaborated with us. It’s our intention to have this ready for the next exam season (April/May 2019) and distribute the adult colouring in book for free to students.

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