I am currently based in London, and am working for a tech start-up, as well as doing some freelance work as a content writer and designer.
When the lockdown was first enforced however, I had lost my job. Suddenly, I had a lot of spare time, which I wanted to make productive use of. There was so much fear and negativity circulating online regarding the pandemic, which motivated my desire to create something positive to counteract that.
I knew a lot of people who do coloring as a form of stress-relief and also just for creative enjoyment, so I decided to create a coloring sheet with the phrase “staying in is the new going out”. I wanted to make it relatable, with a touch of humor to remain light-hearted. I hadn’t initially planned on creating any more coloring sheets but once I had completed the first page, a wave of inspiration hit me and I began creating more, working non-stop for two weeks until I had made a whole coloring book.
I’ve kept a blog for many years, writing about issues I care about and projects I’m interested in, but it’s not something that I go overboard in promoting, it’s simply there for anyone who is interested to read it. Equally, when I published my coloring book, “The House of Quarantine”, on my website, I didn’t promote it much. Many people in my network, like my family and friends, shared it with their networks, and somehow, it ended up being shared and downloaded by way more people than I could’ve imagined. It was crazy— I couldn’t believe how quickly it spread. To this date, the coloring book has had around 1,200 downloads from over 48 countries across every continent in the world. I’m still really surprised by it!
At the start of lockdown, especially because I didn’t have a job, I was quite scared and like many others, often wondered how I would fill my time, how long lockdown would last, and when I would be able to find work again. Throwing myself into this project truly helped me occupy my time and occupy my mind.
I went three weeks without a job. Coincidentally in that third week, the day after I published the coloring book, I actually got a call from the company I had been working for before lockdown, notifying me that they were really busy and wanted me to come back again. Since then, I have been working full-time. There are so many people out there who have lost their jobs and don’t know when they will be going back to work, so I’m very grateful to have work again, and I know I’ve been very lucky.
At the end of the day, this pandemic has given me a lot of time to do things I never would be able to do usually. I’ve had time to pursue my love for art, and I have been working on a new painting, my largest piece yet. I’m also cooking more, trying out new recipes and baking my own bread. I’m in lockdown with my parents and my brother, so it’s good that I’m not alone, it’s nice to have their company. We have dinner and sometimes play board games afterwards. It’s wonderful that we can spend that quality time together.
There are many positive aspects of this situation, and that’s something that I wanted to focus on in the designs in my coloring book. The scenes in “The House of Quarantine” are depictions of everyday activities or objects that bring us comfort, drawing direct inspiration from what can be found in our very own homes.
Some people have asked me why I did this for free. I didn’t create the coloring book to make money from it— that was not the idea at all. I rather the people who need or want it be able to have it, without having to pay anything. Sometimes it’s just nice to give things to people without having something in return, you know?
Quite a few people have sent me photos and videos of their colored-in pictures. Lots of people have also sent me kind messages thanking me, and telling me how much they appreciate it, which is so nice. Their gratitude is enough for me, and it makes me feel good to know that I’m able to help people, even if it’s in the smallest way possible. I’ve also received messages from people with anxiety telling me that the coloring has helped them during this time, from people who have given some pages to their elderly neighbors, and from hospital staff who have printed out sheets for their patients to color in. I’m so happy to hear that “The House of Quarantine” is providing some enjoyment to people and getting to those who could really use it.
Written by: Natasha Leong
Edited by: Emily D'Silvia (Guest Contributor)
Emily's coloring book "The House of Quarantine" can be found here!
Two coloring sheets from "The House of Quarantine"