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Color outside of the lines + drawing homework

Color outside of the lines.

Was your first experience with art a coloring book and a box of crayons?

“Color inside of the lines.”

“Don’t scribble.”

scrib·ble  (skrbl)

v. scrib·bledscrib·blingscrib·bles

1. To write hurriedly without heed to legibility or style.
2. To cover with scribbles, doodles, or meaningless marks.

To write or draw in a hurried careless way.
1. Careless hurried writing.
2. Meaningless marks and lines.
The adult made sure to instruct you where to put your crayon marks, “The color should be placed inside the lines. Dogs are brown. The sky is blue. The grass is green.”

“No, I said the grass is green.”


You looked at your drawing with purple grass, and you felt awful. In your mind you were coloring grass on a different planet.

When you colored between the lines, and had a brown dog and a blue sky, the adult would say, “I like that.”

You lived to hear, “I like that.”

The adult’s parents instructed them how to color properly as did their parents before them, generation after generation coloring inside the lines, since Richard F. Outcault, created one of the first character coloring books in 1907.

Important drawing homework

1. Buy a coloring book and a box of crayons.
2. Pick one picture and scribble all over it. Scribble is not a dirty word.  [click here to tweet, tweet, tweet]
3. Pick another picture and use any color crayon you want. Blue grass or a green sky. Or blue sky and green grass.
4. Tape your picture to the refrigerator and say, “I made that.”

“Hey, wait a minute!” you ask.


“I thought we were going to make art. Where are my drawing lessons? What supplies should I buy? I want to really draw, not use some child’s coloring book!”

Thank you for asking me why I want you to buy a coloring book and a box of crayons. 

For a few days we will be children again. Do you remember what it felt like to open a new box of crayons? Do you remember having your own coloring book with no pages colored on  yet?

Be a child again and open a fresh box of crayons and color in your coloring book. This time, you are in charge of your coloring book. There is no adult  telling you what to do.

Well, that is not completely true. I am an adult and I am telling you what to do. So, I give you permission to ignore me. You don’t  have to scribble in your coloring book. Ignore what I say if you want to. You can even color inside of the lines.

If you don’t want to buy a coloring book, use a black magic marker and draw your own picture. You are the boss.

Color outside the lines.


Do you remember coloring in a coloring book as a child?

Please tell me in the comments. I would love to chat.


About Pamela Hodges

My name is Pamela Hodges. I am a writer and an artist. I write to encourage and to bring laughter. I paint cats, draw cartoons and write books for children and grown ups.

You are an artist. Yes, you are. Really.

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Get the FREE illustrated, sort of a comic book, “You Are An Artist.” Believe in yourself and your ability to draw. xo Pamela

  • Anjali

    Thnks for this lovely article Pamela.. I run art classes by the name ‘scribble’ :))

    And thats exactly what I believe, lets kids be kids and dont suppress their thought process. The sheer joy of connecting pencil to paper brings a smile to my face 🙂 Sharing your article on my fb page. Thnks

    • Anjali,
      Your art class looks wonderful. And I love the name of the classes. 🙂
      Thank you for sharing this story.
      All my best,

  • Christa Sterken

    I STILL love a new box of crayons. I keep a big box on my shelf, just because it makes me smile

    • Me too Christa. Today I want to buy a new box of crayons.

  • Shari

    Observations: I dug through a closet and located my daughter’s old box of 64 crayons. I also found a Christmas coloring book. As a child I yearned for the box of 64, but I think 24 was about as high as I got when it came to crayon count. My favorite way to color as a child was to outline darkly and color in lightly. It always made for a pretty perfect coloring experience. Today I colored Rudolph a nice shade of brown with a cherry nose. I colored his girlfriend silver, which I could do because of the box of 64. Now, I know that reindeer aren’t really silver, but I was trying to think a little outside of the box. She was colored in the same manner as Rudolph. Actually, they looked pretty good. But, that was where I knew I needed to at least attempt scribbling. Messy is really out of what I thought was my nature. I found myself using a side to side stroke to color the forest friends. I just chose colors I liked and didn’t worry so much about whether they were appropriate or not. Then I scribbled the sky and the background. It felt quite freeing and I found myself responding well to the mixture of colors. Finally, I scribbled over my perfect reindeers. It looked really good! I’ll go hang it on the fridge. I learned something. Maybe I’m not so neat after all, and letting go of those conventions of how something is supposed to be is actually quite liberating. Besides that it was fun! (PS I found that having 64 color choices was kind of paralyzing. You know, too many color choices and all. I think that box of 24 looks better and better.

    • Shari,

      I am glad you had fun coloring and scribbling. I loved what you said, and it sums up the purpose of the homework.
      “Letting go of those conventions of how something is supposed to be is actually quite liberating.”

      A pack of 24 or even 12 crayons is what I prefer as well. Then I get to make my own mixtures by laying the colors.
      Thank you for sharing your story.

  • La McCoy

    Just love this!

  • Melissa Wheeler

    I was the one who always liked to make my sky purple and my dogs have green polka dots

    • Melissa,
      This made me smile. May your sky’s always be purple and may your dogs always have green polka dots.
      Being brave to be you.

  • Teresa Richardson

    I remember coloring in a coloring book. I did so as a child, I colored in pages of my children’s coloring books, and right now I have a large box of 120 crayons and several coloring books. When Walmart had their school sale, I saw boxes of crayons- one was 8 shades of purple and the other was pastel colors- and I bought both boxes.

    • Teresa,
      You are prepared. Will you color today?
      What is your favorite color in the box?

  • I’m going to buy a coloring book and crayons today. Pamela, you inspired me. I always look with longing at the pencils etc. in art shops. So I’ll take a break from scrubbing and painting and I’ll color in a picture. I used to have pictures from when I was six but sadly they were stolen years ago, with everything else in my house. The robbers only left the furniture. Even our cars were taken.
    I remember my pictures because the sky colored with tiny circles.

    • Patricia,
      You are an artist. There is a box of pencils in the store with your name of them. A box of watercolor pencils to draw the ocean and the big blue sky with tiny circles.
      The thief took your drawing from when you were six but he can never steal your ability to see the world.
      You will create with crayons and pencils now, and not just words.

  • I love this, Pamela. Next time I go to the store I’ll buy myself a coloring book. 🙂

    • Anastacia,
      Did you go shopping yet?

      • Not yet. I’ve been looking for excuses to go though. 🙂 So far the baby doesn’t need diapers and everything else I think of picking up isn’t a necessity. I may just say, “Hey, I’m going to the store because I have to have a coloring book!” LOL

  • I brought a coloring book to school the last day of my senior year. All the other kids laughed. Then they wanted me to tear out a page for them. It was fun. I came close to buying a new box of crayons today. I’ll look for a coloring book and crayons. I always loved getting a fresh box of crayons. Ah, the smell. Better than a new car smell (although I’ve never owned one of those).

    • Eva, your friends laughed and then they wanted to play.
      You were very kind to share your coloring book and crayons. If we were in high school together, we would have been friends.
      Did you go shopping yet?

      • I found a Peanuts coloring book at the Dollar Store. It had Pigpen in it. Perfect for scribbling – lol!

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  • I don’t think this will work for INTJs Making the sky green or coloring outside the lines would really mess with our minds. By the way, I can’t tell you how fun it was for me to draw the picture of my car almost hitting a bicyclist, you just reminded me. I really have to draw more often.

    • Kathleen,
      You can color inside the lines and keep your grass green. You are the boss of your coloring book.
      The story illustrated with a drawing of a car and a bicylcle I saw on someone else’s facebook wall because they had shared it. I immediately opened it because of the drawing. I didn’t know it was your story.
      The drawing prompted me to read the story.

      • Thank you for permission to draw inside the lines, and thank you for liking my drawing, that makes my day!

  • Ah, yes, I remember . . . coloring a clown on a page from a coloring book, in Sunday School it was. My green crayon strayed outside the clown’s face on a more-or-less straight line, admittedly not an exercise of brave artistic freedom but the result, I believe, of being distracted by motion on the other side of the room. The adult at my elbow was like “Hey hey hey WATCH O – U – T!!!!…”

    I got the message. At least he hadn’t questioned my choice of color!

    Will purchase the coloring book and crayons in the morning.

    This should be interesting!

    • John,
      May your colors stray all over the lines. Now you can give yourself a new message.
      “There are not rules in art.”
      Will you buy Thomas The Tank Engine? Cars or a Super-Hero?
      A 24 pack of crayons or a pack of 64?

      Please share your finished work.

  • Yes, I remember coloring in a coloring book. I loved to color. My cousin once came over and showed us what to do when we colored in our books. She took one color and went around the outside of the whole picture. Then she took a second color and so on. By the time she was finished there was this rainbow of sorts going around the whole picture. We loved coloring that way. Of course we did, we were kids.

    • Hello Anne,
      Your cousins sounds very colorful. Will you color outside of the lines Anne?