Doodling, colouring & drawing

Creativity is the ultimate problem solver. The next time you have an issue at the office, a dilemma at home or are simply feeling like you are in a bit of a slump, try tapping into your creative side.  Science proves that giving your analytical mind a break and allowing your mind to relax is one of the best ways to shift from confusion to clarity.

However, it can be difficult to relax if you have a deadline looming or an issue that continues to resurface over and over again.

My top 3 relaxation practices include meditation, moving my body (on my yoga mat or in the forest) and doodling, colouring or drawing. The latter are the cornerstone of an artist’s practice, no matter their medium.  Just like an entrepreneur, a CEO or a parent, artists problem solve all day long.  Sketching, doodling and drawing is a fast, inexpensive way to tap into a creative flow.

If you are intimidated by the thought of picking up a pencil or have scathing memories of previous attempts at drawing, I have some ideas for you.

Doodling is highly under rated. It is one of the most effective ways to slow your busy mind down to actually listen and concentrate.  The word means to “scribble absentmindedly,” and synonyms include tinker, fiddle and trifle.  No wonder it gets such a bad rap.

Here are some alternative thoughts and evidence from Sunni Brown’s website –

  • That doodling is as native to human beings as are walking and talking;
  • That human beings have been doodling in the sand, in the snow and on cave walls for over 30,000 years;
  • That we are neurologically wired with an overwhelmingly visual sensory ability;
  • That doodling ignites four learning modalities—auditory, linguistic, kinesthetic, and visual—and dramatically enhances the experience of learning;
  • That doodling promotes concentration and increases information retention by up to 29%;
  • That doodling supports deep, creative problem solving and innovation;
  • That doodling has been an ever-present tool, a pre-cursor and a catalyst for the emergence of intellectual breakthroughs in science, technology, medicine, architecture, literature and art;
  • That doodling is and has been deployed by some of the best and brightest minds in history;
  • And that doodling lives outside of the elitist realms of high art and design and is a form of expression free and accessible to all.

If you are still not convinced or want to learn more, watch her 2011 Ted Talk –

I always doodle during a webinar or at a boardroom table.  It helps me focus on what’s being said and keeps me from being distracted by my electronics!



Blind contour drawing
BCD – Skull by Georgia O’Keefe

Blind contouring drawing is another way to let go and learn how to go with the flow.  The idea is simple.  You focus on an object or a scene in front of you, place your pencil on the paper and slowly draw the outside lines of the shapes you see. You try not to lift your pencil off the page and the blind part means, you don’t look at your paper while you are drawing.  I love to do this exercise in my workshops with people because whatever happens on the paper is just going to be interesting and can’t possibly look like the object or scene because we are “blind” during the process.  I love the mark making of this style of drawing and the freedom it creates.  I’ve been working on a series of blind contour drawings of famous women artist’s work (see my blog posts).  It helps me slow down and really see all the bits and pieces.  I appreciate the art even more after studying it this way.  This is a great exercise to do to slow down and really see your surroundings.  The results are surprising and fun!

A great reference for drawing in general is a book called “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” by Betty Edwards.  It is a classic.  If you are interested in the science behind drawing and want to improve your drawing skills, I highly recommend it.  It is full of exercises like blind contour drawing.




Outside Your Lines, a colouring bookColouring for adults has hit the mainstream in a big way over the past few years and I’m glad about it.  I believe that most of us forget how to play and we forget that it is actually beneficial to create things that have no purpose, except for perhaps to just have fun.  It is sad that we collectively feel that play time for adults is a waste of time. I’m so glad to see this colouring revolution, we need creative play not only to relax but to grow just as much as kids do.

There are so many amazing colouring books out there, I was so inspired that I created one too! It is called “Outside Your Lines.”  I made a book for all of you free spirits who don’t necessarily want to colour in the lines or maybe the rebel in you is intrigued by the idea of creating something outside the box!  I also made sure that there are not too many small bits so that you don’t need reading glasses to enjoy it.  And lastly none of the designs are scenes or are symmetrical so you won’t feel restricted in colour choice. The book is also an introduction to the chakras (because yoga and creativity go hand in hand in my world), it is printed on 100% recycled paper and I’m pretty proud of the project!  Reach out if you’d like to purchase a copy or follow this link.


If you want to see what inspires me, I’ve been sharing my blind contour drawings and some of my watercolour and ink doodles on instagram .You can even “win” a card from me, I mail one out each week!

Lastly,  if you really think you can’t draw, Graham Shaw is out to prove you wrong. Grab some paper, a pen and give him 20 minutes of your time.  Enjoy!



Thrive Talk by Marlene Lowden – My personal artist story

Meet my teachers and hear my very personal story on becoming an artist.

This is an audio recording (with slides) of my talk for Thrive on March 29th, 2017.

Public speaking is pretty scary and sharing your personal story adds another layer of vulnerability. I want to thank the Thrive network for the invitation to speak because I learned so much about myself in the process.  It was an incredibly supportive audience and I recommend that you take a peek at their blog to hear more stories from that night.

I hope that there are bits of what I share that help you reflect on your story and discover the beauty even in the dark and seemingly insignificant parts.




Thrive is a network for female and femme-identified artists based out of Vancouver but has members from around the globe.


To stay connected visit me on Instagram – marlenelowden and sign up for my monthly newsletter.



Share Your Truth! – but what if you are not exactly sure what YOU want to say?

Speak Your Truth, Share Your Voice, Express Yourself!

I agree, we need you and your message, more than anything right now. We need positive change.

But what if YOU don’t know exactly what YOU want to say?


You know you are passionate about all sort of things, motivated to serve, to give and to share but it all feels like a bit of a swirling mess and you can’t quite put your finger on what YOUR voice is being called to speak about exactly.

Gail Larsen, one of the talented experts on public speaking calls our message our “original medicine.” In her book, Transformational Speaking, she explains that many indigenous cultures believe that we all have a unique message and gift that needs to be shared. She suggests that if you are struggling to define that message that you envision yourself in your coffin and imagine what your last words would be.

This coffin idea stopped me – mid sentence. It scared me. Desperation began to creep up my spine, I could see myself screaming –

Save the children!

Save the whales!

Save the earth!

Save yourself!

I put the book down, and took a deep yogi style breath and then, I knew my answer.

In my coffin or on my deathbed, I’d ask you to PLAY.


colouringphoto_19I’d ask you to think about the last time you spent time playing? The kind of non-structured, no purpose, for no good reason kind of play with no outcome or result expected or required. Period.

Why exactly would the world need you to play when there are so many serious crises and causes that need your attention?


Stay with me.

My inner artist and yogi would invite you to just love being in a body, your body specifically and I’d ask you to make stuff, you know, like craft time in kindergarten.

sunshinecoastyogafestival16I’d ask you to try yoga or to go dancing, swimming, hiking or go jump on your neighbour’s trampoline, (you know you want to).  I’d ask to put down the timers, the measuring tapes, the scales and stop taking it all so seriously.

Your body is not your life’s work. It is an expression of your truth for sure, but ask yourself this, are you operating from love or fear?

Your beautiful, life giving, supportive home, a.k.a your body doesn’t need a drill sergeant, it doesn’t want you to whip it into shape, to deprive it, to push it to the pain threshold and to submit to your will.

It desires movement. Your body asks you to take care of it and to treat it like you would your best friend. It wants to feel joy with you, it wants to eat leftover birthday cake for breakfast, it wants to stay up way too late dancing, it wants to skip the regime today and sleep in. Your body loves to celebrate and to play!

Your body is child like in nature and will take delight in the simplest experiences but it is also wise beyond measure.  It holds ancient messages that have been buried deep by our obsessions of superficial beauty, perfection and agelessness.


Your body is your home and within resides its soul mate, your imagination. The doorway inwards awaits you and play is the key.

Inside you will discover your message, your calling and that inner truth that everyone is talking about.

Let me explain…

pastelsCreative play, making a mess, being at ease with imperfection, letting the brain rest, and being in your body will help you enjoy the present moment and be fully engaged in now. Time away from productivity and efficiency will reveal what you deeply care about. You will discover what motivates you and playfulness will guide you beyond all the grown up reasons why not.


Play is freedom.

And in this state of freedom, trust me, you will start to hear your calling loud and clear. You will feel in it in your body, you will dream of it and ideas and words will start to form.

Play will introduce you to yourself if you take the time to listen.

With a playful spirit you can overcome all the I can’ts, someone else will, that’s a stupid idea, I’m scared to speak out, step up…

We need you.

Sorry, I know it is scary but we need you to dive deep, figure it out (make mistakes on the way) and share.

Creativity will guide you in. Through this deep connection with yourself, you will be motivated to create life-affirming positive changes.

We need that – let me be clear – we need life-affirming positive change, in short, we need you now.

Once you start feeling it, it will take courage to share because it might feel a little rough around the edges, not quite crystal clear. Share anyways because through the sharing, your message and your gift will gain momentum and clarity.

Even if you know your message, play will help you refine it and play will continue to be a source of inspiration, providing you new ways to share and serve.


Satya means truth


Your message is already there waiting for you. Enjoy the journey, my friend, I can’t wait to hear what YOU have to say.

And now you’ve had a bit of my medicine (no coffin required).



10 surprisingly easy ways to enjoy a stress-free holidays.

Be playful and exercise your creativity!  Why?  Read on to learn how creative play can banish stress and make your holidays a whole lot happier!

  1. Write a love letter – to your grandmother, your partner, your child – send it old school (in the mail) as a holiday card or even in an email with holiday greetings.  Tell them why you love them, thank them for being there for you – this will make you feel amazing and them too – studies show that writing letters of gratitude increases happiness!
  2. Sing – in the shower, in the car, let it rip, crank the tunes, plan a little carolling – come on you know you love them – singing is energizing, healing and a stress reducer and did you know that singing actually releases pain relieving endorphins.
  3. Make stuff – use your hands.  Hang out with kids and build some Lego spacecrafts – show them how it was done – before there were kits & instruction booklets, or get outside and build a snowman or a fort.  Research shows that using your hands to make things (especially playful, non “productive” stuff) helps decrease stress, relieves anxiety and depression.  Yippee!
  4. Read – reach for some feel good reads.  And try, READING OUT LOUD – even adults love to hear a story read to them. Infuse your voice in those holiday favourites for the family or try curling up with something saucy & that special someone (Santa-baby!)  Along with the countless benefits of reading – reading out loud creates stronger bonds between you and your loved ones.
  5. Doodle – it’s o.k. – science backs it up – doodling is actually good for you.  It can stimulate creative thinking, whole-brain thinking and help build a variety of pathways for problem solving.  Maybe you can turn your funky designs into some wrapping paper or a holiday card.  Here’s a great TED Talk on the subject featuring doodling guru Sunni Brown. (I was so inspired writing this article – I made “colouring pages” for you!)
  6. Let’s Dance!  Dancing, yoga, and Nia are a wonderful outlets for your creativity!  We know that moving our bodies improves our physical health but research is pointing to further health benefits, such as stress reduction and increased serotonin level, which equals a greater sense of well-being. Sign up for some classes as a gift for yourself and/or a loved one, go out on a dancing date or two this season and blast the tunes in the living room with the whole family!  If you are on the Sunshine Coast, I offer yoga classes and my dear friend, Jan Jensen is a superb Nia instructor!  See you on the dance floor!
  7. Take that hard to buy for someone out on an Art-Inspired Date!  Stressed about finding the perfect thing?  Switch it up and make a date to spend time with a loved one instead – tour local galleries or artist studios add coffee/tea & a treat – wah lah the perfect gift!  Viewing artwork is inspiring, creates interesting dialogue and helps you stay in the present moment – a sweet reprieve.  If you are on the Sunshine Coast, you can visit the Gibsons Public Art Gallery, the Sunshine Coast Art Centre or look up studios on the Purple Banner Tour (membership to public galleries also makes a thoughtful gift).
  8. Colour – Yup.  Science says “The relaxation that it provides lowers the activity of the amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress.” Colouring books for big people are a fad that is here to stay!  I’ve turned some of my doodles into a coloring book – treat yourself to a box of crayons and relaaax!
  9. colouringphoto_18Plan an Arts & Crafts session – this is a fun way to play with friends and family – create 2015 Vision Boards using magazine images & collage or make a collaborative canvas, everyone adds to the masterpiece.  Spending time together playing is an invaluable gift to give.  A little intimidated?  I offer workshops  – gift yourself and friend – come play.
  10. Eat really dark chocolate – this has nothing to do with creativity but I read that really dark chocolate has all sorts of health benefits and that it can reduce your stress hormones – enjoy! – p.s.  A favourite chocolatier of mine.

Wishing you a playful, joyous, happy and relaxing holiday season!

What do you do to destress?  How do you play over the holidays?  Please share to inspire the rest of us!

My Sources (some really interesting stuff!)


Steal Like an Artist – Austin Kleon

Creative Confidence – David Kelley & Tom Kelley

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain – Betty Edwards

The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron


“The health benefits of love letters and kindness” – Victoria Batacan

“Life-Affirming Benefits of Singing – Vocalizing Promotes Well Being” – Patty Mills

The Creativity Cure, A do-it-yourself prescription for happiness” – Carrie Barron, M.D.

“Coloring Isn’t Just For Kids. It Can Actually Help Adults Combat Stress” – The Huffington Post | By Elena Santos

“Use It or Lose It: Dancing Makes You Smarter” – Richard Powers

TED Talks:

Doodlers, Unite! – Sunni Brown

How to Build Your Creative Confidence – David Kelley – founder IDEO & Stanford University