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Colouring for Relaxation

Updated: May 30, 2020

Dr Karen Stacey, Consultant Anaesthetist, Imperial College (Uploaded by admin)

Adult colouring. Yes it’s a thing. I haven’t done it for quite a few years, but the appearance of COVID19 in my life has led me back to it….

I’m a consultant anaesthetist at Charing Cross Hospital. I have only recently crossed the line from being a trainee, so COVID19 has meant a rather punchy start to my consultant career. The WhatsApp notifications are endless, the emergency rota is exhausting and I rather miss my regular lists in work, not to mention missing friends, family and normality in general. Initially I was coming home from work and struggling to concentrate on reading, or even watching a film. I would end up trawling social media which didn’t help anxiety levels, and all the blue light from my screen was exacerbating my poor sleep…

A friend mentioned she had bought a colouring book to try. I remembered back to my final FRCA when someone had bought me Johanna Basford’s postcard collection and from there I had started my colouring journey. I’m no artist. In fact, I failed art in school, and having been asked to draw something in my primary FRCA the first comment from the examiner was “how very Picasso…”. What a compliment!?!

The drawings in adult colouring books are exquisite, delicate and immersive. I started off block colouring with thick felt-tips. I then found my stash of Stabilo fine liner pens from my OCD revision flashcards. Yes, I’m that anaesthetist. I’ve since started to develop my style, and use a hybrid of Stabilo pens and colouring pencils to create my pictures.

There are lots of advertised benefits to colouring. Some refer to it as ‘art therapy’, mindfulness and even as a type of meditation. I can’t vouch for the science behind it, but I will say that I’ve found it to be very relaxing, and it has offered a wonderful escape from all things COVID19. Some days I will just want to bash out a few random sections, other days I can spend hours transfixed in creating an entire colour scheme across a drawing. I currently have only the 20 colour stabilo set of pens, and a few random pencils. Making different patterns and colour combinations can be a satisfying challenge, and I often vary between block colour and just highlighting the edges.

I currently own 2 books; The Secret Garden and The Lost Ocean, both by Johanna Basford. There have been an explosion of publications over the years, and starting to write this mini blog has meant that I’ve just treated myself to a larger pack of pens and some different styles of book.

I’m not sure why I picked this one to start with yesterday. I had just done a resident night shift and wanted something with discrete items that I could dip in and out of as a rested.

I decided that autumn colours of browns, oranges, reds and yellows was warming and homely despite it being spring outside. I’m thrilled with the variety of block colour in both pencil and pen, and the coloured outlines

Not content with just one page yesterday I moved onto a vibrant green scene. It is again from The Secret Garden. I have only 3 green felt-tips and 2 pencils. I worked hard to create some different styles and colour pairings. The image is almost a perfect mirror image along the vertical from the centre. I’ve kept true to my OCD and kept my colouring balanced according to the mirror image.

This greenery took me about 5 hours sat in the sun, and I didn’t once think about work, supermarket queues or lockdown. My only internal conflict is now whether to go psychedelic bright colours for mister owl or stick to natural browns. So I’ve done a twitter poll to decide….


I've been in touch directly with Johanna Basford (the inky artist herself!) and she has directed me to 

where you can download 20 different style images ready to be brought to life if you want to give adult colouring a quick go for free. Johanna wanted to express her gratitude for all the hard work and sacrifices being made by front line NHS staff


Colouring Blog 2: #teamcolouring

Wow, turns out a few of you actually read my first entry! I suppose there isn’t much out there in the way of entertainment at the moment… but I’ll take it!

Lots of people have contacted me and started sending and tweeting me their beautiful colouring creations. Johanna Basford’s The Enchanted Forrest seems to be a popular book option. I’ve now treated myself to add that to my collection! It has only just arrived but I can’t wait to get stuck in!

The talented twitter friend (@demoralisedoc) has made a start to her colouring adventure using the free creations I linked to in my first blog. She has sent this finished page. I just love the red and white toadstools, and the rainbow stained glass and I will struggle not to steal those for my own version! I love receiving your work, please to add yours to the comments section or tweet me @karenstacey82

One of my best friends, Camilla, is isolating at home. We are keeping in contact via phone and

videocall, but it must be so much harder being alone compared to having someone else at home to go through this crazy time with. She is the person that inspired me to get my pens back out. She has The Lost Ocean book and we set ourselves a #teamcolouring challenge of the seahorses picture. We selected the picture, and gave ourselves a few days to complete it, then revealed our creations to each other. It is incredible how personal styles and colour preferences can make identical drawings end up looking totally different. She has used colouring pencils which has allowed shading and colour graduations. I actually think I prefer her version, although I do love the Cleopatra blue and yellow stripes on my own version. We’ve set ourselves another colouring challenge for this week.

Following on from this, I thought I would suggest a #teamcolouring challenge for anyone reading this. I’ve picked two pages to suggest we start with. Both are from The Enchanted Forest, with the toadstool castle being available to download for free from Johanna’s website. Please do get involved and send me what you create for me to include in the big reveal for my next blog.

In case you fancy a spot of colouring but flowers and animals don’t float your boat…. Here are a

varied collection of books I’ve found on a quick internet search that might take your fancy instead…

Happy colouring!

Ps. Mister Owl update. Psychedelic colours won the twitter poll. I haven’t returned to that drawing yet, but will post it when I do. Incidentally, that drawing is also available for free download so if you wanted to do you own version, just pop to Johanna’s website 


Coluring Blog 3 #keepcalmandcolour

I’m thrilled to see so much colouring appearing on my twitter feed and in random WhatsApp messages.

Several people have commented that it is their first foray into adult colouring, and how relaxing, and sometimes addictive, they are finding it. I’ve found it so helpful between shifts, and I’m glad other people are too. This week’s blog is a little bit bitty, as I’ve chopped and changed a lot with what I’ve been colouring this week due to illness.

I previously mentioned that I had treated myself to some news pens. They have arrived! And they are wonderful! So many new shades to experiment with!

An update on Mister Owl, as requested. I had some help from Flash with this one. Not quite as vibrant as I had initially envisioned. In fact, it reminds me a little of the colour pallet of the super cool 1980’s shell suit I had as a child… Did anyone else have a go at this page? Please post below in the comments and show me!

I’m sure I’m not alone in having thoughtful and generous friends who have sent little treats during this strange time. I was going to buy some thank you cards when I saw a post from @gayanijay showing her #teamcolouring efforts in one of the postcard books you can buy. So I’ve bought the Ein Paradies voller Blumen postcard set which is the German postcard book of Johanna Basford’s World of Flowers book. As you can see I’ve made a quick start, and will be sending out my thank

yous in a much more personal way. It is quite satisfying knowing that the finished pages won’t just be stuck in a book. There are many different options available to buy and these didn’t cost me anymore than a pack of thank you cards would have.

Week 2 Challenge Results!

Last week I challenged #teamcolouring to two pages. I’ve had some lovely results sent to me. It is incredible how colour palettes and styles can be so different, and also in some cases, so similar! If you have one to add, please add it as a comment below!

My attempt became a 6 colour only rainbow page (aside from the tail of the top left bird which I did first then regretted!). I think we must all have been inspired by the NHS rainbows everywhere! I enjoyed the challenge of a limited colour palette (despite my new huge collection!) and that’s something I’ve continued to explore and will reveal next week. Otherwise, I’d be tempted to stick to my same tried and tested styles and colour combinations and I didn’t want my books to be all the same.

This one saw more variety!

The tree seemed to be everyone’s favourite bit, and the results are exquisite. I went for a Disney fairytale castle. I wish I’d gone for a more implausible tree colour though – perhaps swapping up the water and tree colours!?!

Week 3 Challenge for #teamcolouring

Given how much I’ve enjoyed last week’s reveals as they have arrived to me…. we are going for more this week!

With what is really excellent timing for us, Johanna Basford has released a new FREE TO DOWNLOAD book called flourish;

I’ve picked the first drawing in the free mini-book and a beautifully delicate firefly from The Enchanted Forest

My favourite book is in fact The Secret Garden so I will be doing this lovely circular scheme for next week too. If you have the book, please join me as I’ve gone a bit different and would love to see your results! Available at

My favourite book is in fact The Secret Garden so I will be doing this lovely circular scheme for next week too. If you have the book, please join me as I’ve gone a bit different and would love to see your results!

Please do keep posting your results on twitter @karenstacey82 and as a comment at the bottom of this post!

That’s all for today, folks.


Colouring Blog 4 #worththewait

Apologies for the slight delay in this latest edition. Life has got in the way, and my colouring is meant to be enjoyable and relaxing, so I’m trying not to berate myself too much. Lots of our theatre staff have been getting stuck in and have nudged me into writing this today! I won’t be able to show my face in theatre if I don’t get on with it… (maybe I could hide behind my PPE?!?)

Again, I’ve had lots of different projects on the go over the past couple of weeks. We had VE Day celebrations and my street held a (socially distanced) street party to honour one of our 94 year old residents who told stories of VE Day on our very street, 75 years ago. We didn’t have any bunting so I downloaded some images to colour in and display in the windows.

Sometimes you want to escape work when you get home… but other times its nice to join the wave of support for the NHS. I really enjoyed colouring this #NHSMillion poster and its now proudly on display in my front window. I’ve got so used to colouring Johanna Basford’s flora and fauna it took a while to get into a groove, but I eventually found a style. Maria and Roisin have also sent me their versions

The firefly was a very popular choice – I’ve squeezed in 4 great examples, with a lovely variety of colours. The colouring pencils really do create such a wonderful effect with s

hading, beautifully demonstrated in Sally’s piece. It made me want to explore this style more! Which is your favourite? I have decided not to include mine as these better examples!

This was another popular design. I decided to try out my new colouring pencils and borrowed Sally’s shading style, but I couldn’t resist letting my felt-tip pens get in on the action. I’m thrilled with the effect. My favourite part of all of these garlands is the little cluster of flowers on the top right. We’ve all gone for different colours, but all are exquisite. Thank you #teamcolouring for all your efforts.

Sorry if I haven’t managed to include your work – but please add it as a comment at the bottom. I love seeing your work!

I mentioned last time that I wanted to explore another piece with a limited colour palate having completed the hot air balloon with just 6 colours. This one, I limited myself to yellow, orange and brown. I think it has been really successful, although it does remind me a little of some slightly dodgy 1970’s crockery my parents used to own!!!!!

Week 4 Challenge for #teamcolouring

I’ve picked two drawings for this week (ish). One is again free to download from Johanna Basford’s ‘Flourish’ ( - the mushroom house. Please do print it out an get involved!

The second #teamcolouring challenge is from the Enchanted Forrest book again, since this seems to be the most popular book. For some reason this beautiful scene brings to mind The Owl and the

Pussycat poem in my mind! Looking forward to this gem, its so ….. enchanting!!!!

It was my birthday between the last blog and this one (one reason for my laziness!). Not only did I receive a lovely colour-your-own birthday card from a good friend, I received this wild swimming colouring book (I miss swimming!) and these fabulous watercolour pens. I’ll let you know how I get on…

Please do keep posting your #teamcolouring creations on twitter @karenstacey82 and as a comment at the bottom of this post! Thanks for reading, and all your colouring enthusiasm.

That’s all for today, folks.

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