The Happy Side of Social Media, Part 1

Beach Retreat 2023

Many of us find ourselves frustrated by social media and the evils and annoyances that often lurk there, but over the past week, I had the opportunity to finally spend in-person, quality time with three strangers (at the time) I met online. We all heard tales of caution and skepticism from friends and family … “you are going where? And you’ve never met these people before?” “Are you crazy?” “What if … what if … what if …”

But, done right, social media can be an amazing tool that unites people instead of dividing them.

It all started with Ruby Charm Colors and sharing my designs with three women who would color them to test them out and share their masterpieces with the coloring community at large. We developed a close friendship through coloring and art and had planned on meeting in person a few years ago, but then Covid struck. That trip got shut down fast, but we finally made it happen this year! We met up in Atlanta, Georgia, to stay at Lora King’s home for the first leg of our journey. I flew in from Michigan, Betty flew in from Edmonton, Canada, and Paula drove down from Tennessee. We met Lora’s husband, her boys, and her cats and dogs, and had a chance to see her craft room and her enormous collection of art supplies and coloring books, plus her beautiful home and gardens.

The next morning, we packed up two cars (and two of Lora’s sweet dogs, Gracie and Little) and drove down to the Gulf Shores in Alabama to stay in a house right on the beach. Coming off the tails of a long Michigan winter, the smells in the air, the sound of the waves hitting the shore, and warmth of the white sand was an incredible treat for me, but finally being with my friends was simply the best treat of all. Lots of laughter and sharing stories and it felt like we had know one another for ages. Seamless and ridiculously comfortable.

Coffee on the beach, Gracie and Little (our trip mascots), and a beach flower

We had a giant dining room table at the beach house where we could set up all the art supplies. Lora graciously brought a ton of pencils, markers and more for us all to use and try out (since we had to pack light for our flights) and then, over the course of the week, we’d all come and go from the table coloring and learning from one another. Betty fell in love with Lora’s Kuretake Zig Clean Color Real Brush Pens after playing with them for a bit and ended up ordering a set for herself. I liked them, too, and added them to my “someday” list (along with my dream set of Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer Watercolor Pencils in the wood box⏤I am obsessed, I know) but I’ve got a daughter heading off to college in the fall so I’ve got bigger fish to fry.

Lots of coloring, plenty of food and drinks (coffee at sunrise was amazing), and we even went on an e-bike adventure through the Gulf State Park⏤it was so much fun! Lora’s dogs kept leaving their little toys in my sandals throughout the days, and I found a broken sand dollar on the beach ….. which I eventually colored with markers and pencils and left back on the beach for someone else to find. Each day was special. A huge thank you to Lora who made it all happen and to Betty and Paula for being there and sharing their skills and time. It truly was wonderful and I feel so lucky to know you all.

Sand dollar, our house (second from right) at sunset, treats in sandals, and plenty of soft, white beach sand.

Betty was, without a doubt, our star instructor because we all wanted to see and learn how she colors fur, eyes and feathers, and of course, bokeh. If you have seen her work, you know what I am talking about. Betty has a gentle, artful way of coloring with pencils that is fascinating to see in person, and she has a unique way of creating soft, dream-like, colorful backgrounds using bokeh effects and adding leaves, flowers, etc. for more depth and interest.

Colorings by Betty Hung

The Tigerlily Tweeter bird on the left was colored while we were at the beach house, and the Floral Coyote work in progress was started in April by Betty.

I’ll be talking about Betty’s bird coloring in detail in my next blog post which will focus on what we all learned over the course of our week together, so please check back in a few days. Also, we had planned on doing a Facebook live event but in addition to some camera-shy souls, we didn’t have all the right equipment and surprisingly, ran out of time! So my apologies.

You can find the Tigerlily Tweet design for coloring in the following places and formats:

Until then, cheers to creativity, art supplies, and the people and places that inspire us!