Behind the Lines—The Story of a Coloring Book

An interview with the talented artist behind Wanderlust Media’s first-ever coloring book, Playful Nature.

To view and download Wanderlust Media’s coloring book, Playful Nature: Coloring for the Here and Now, click here.

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By now, many of us know that coloring is good for us. Various pieces of research and articles touting the stress-relieving and mindfulness-boosting benefits of coloring for adults have been passed around, as well as many “adult” coloring books.

But what you don’t often see, while you’re sitting down, often trying to color within the lines (as many of us were taught), is what happened behind those lines—the thought and creative processes that went into their creation.

We’re here to give you a glimpse inside the magic: To see our first ever Wanderlust Media (Wanderlust + YOGANONYMOUS) coloring book transform from blank page to intricate—sometimes surprising—beauty.

It took Samantha Michell, a 26-year-old Mexican-American multi-disciplinarian artist based in Playa del Carmen, Mexico three solid weeks to complete this project. This is the first coloring book she has ever created, and she has been drawing “all my life.”

We sat down with Samantha to find out the process behind the magic, how music is her muse, and the role of yoga in her creative process. To get in on the action yourself, check out Playful Nature: Coloring for the Here and Now.

What makes this coloring book stand out?
I believe it’s different from other coloring books, it has a lot of entwined elements to it and especially the influence of tapestries. I want people to get lost in the pages, to discover and rediscover new things each time they grab their coloring pencil and be rapt by all the different details, because that’s the beauty of it.

Samantha Michell creative process 1
In Samantha’s studio with her dog, Layla, connecting the details.

Is there any page you think will resonate most with Wanderlusters?
I think every page has a different visual aspect that will resonate with Wanderlusters. They’ll enjoy all the hidden elements within it, as each page has its own life. It’s heartwarming to know that someone else will transform the work I created by making it their own.

Does this coloring book have a central theme or element?
This coloring book is about the natural world we live in and the hidden treasures within it. It’s playful in nature. One theme I had was Moroccan tiles—I saw all this detailing on the tiles and niche elements, so I wanted to incorporate that, too. And have a nature theme going on by using florals. It was interesting just trying to incorporate all these ideas and not just make it a garden scene, but make it a scene that’s in movement where you have all these things coming out—you see this animal and then you see something else—I just wanted people to connect with this coloring book.

What has been your favorite part about creating this? What’s your creative process?
I think just the process itself. It’s really back to basics: I have an eraser, a pencil, and a ton of ink just to do these. I usually don’t use that much pencil because it kind of gets in the way of the lines… I began just doing the circles, basically doing a Tetris of the whole—mapping out what’s going to go where in sense of the forms, and then from there I just pointed out the detailing: circle here and detailing, and flowers and detailing, and leaves and detailing, and the animals, and then inked it—and that’s it. I just did it all by hand.

Samantha Michell coloring process2
Papaya Playa Project, Tulum

What inspires your illustrations?
My yoga practice definitely allows me to have a clear mind and not get so wrapped up in all the detailing. Either outside in my yoga class or even laying down on the mat I have in my studio gives me clarity when I feel blocked—especially when working on all the small details.

Music is my main inspiration—once I have found the right instrumental piece the images just flow. Sometimes it takes a bit longer, but when in doubt—always Abel Korzeniowski. Particularly classical music. I just really try to find something where I can imagine some sort of movement in it—I wouldn’t be able to listen to heavy metal and then suddenly create this beautiful garden scene.

Did research on the benefits of coloring for adults—like how it lowers stress—surprise you?
It really didn’t because when I researched it I noticed that people would get really into it. They wanted to make it beautiful and they wanted to use the right colors, everything was just so precise. And it’s something that, almost like yoga in a way, just takes you out from your schedule, your routine, and gives you a moment of peace to create something out of it. And you’re just so happy with the results afterwards. [Coloring provides] those little breathers that we sometimes need to just block out everything in order to just have those moments of peace.

And I’m so happy! Because it’s something that we’ve seen before, but people are just making it new and exciting again.

Will you color your own Wanderlust Media coloring book?
I will definitely color my own coloring book! It wouldn’t be complete without the color. I think it’s a great way to connect with your inner child. Coloring is so simple and we sometimes forget that the simple pleasures are what bring us the most joy.

Watch Samantha create the coloring book below:


Photos courtesy of Samantha Michell

Samantha Michell bioSamantha Michell is a Mexican-American multi-disciplinarian artist. After moving around Chicago, New York, and Miami she decided to call the Yucatán Peninsula home. Her work reflects the various places that have influenced her life and having grown up with the best of both worlds. She currently resides in Playa del Carmen, Mexico where she often goes to Tulum for work and inspiration. See more of her artwork on Instagram.





Caitlin Berens bioCaitlin Berens is an editor at Wanderlust Media. Previously she served as an assistant editor at Everyday Health where she helped launch Health Matters With Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Her work has appeared in Inc., Better Homes and Gardens, Billboard, and SELF. She loves cupcakes, laughter, good workouts, and bulldogs. Follow her musings on Twitter and Instagram.