Q&A with an artist: Kelly Horton (The Colouring Collective)


Next up in my #ArtistsSupportingArtists blog series is Kelly Horton AKA The Colouring Collective. She is the multi-disciplined artist behind the popular Little Darlings colouring book series available on Amazon and Etsy, and I was amazed to discover how she juggles her career as an artist around being a super busy Mum – a real life Super Woman!

Kelly has also generously gifted you 10% off everything in her Etsy store (link at the bottom of the post) and has given Creative Happy Life Club members 3 gorgeous Little Darlings to colour in. Enjoy!


Q1. Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Kelly Horton, and I live in England in the beautiful Warwickshire. I’m the illustrator behind my colouring book brand The Colouring Collective, and I’ve illustrated mostly portrait colouring books in both greyscale and line art.

Recently, I created The Little Darlings brand which is definitely the most enjoyable illustration style to draw!

Q2. How did you start making art? Did you ever study a creative discipline(s) or are you self-taught?

I don’t believe that you are born with the ability to draw, paint, play music or dance – they all need dedication, practise, determination, grit and hard work. You need to be driven by pure joy, and a love of the subject. That is how I became an artist.

I started drawing Disney characters from the back of the video case, or I would pause the film and draw them whilst looking at the screen.

My earliest memories are of drawing or colouring with my Grandad. I was lucky to have many years in adulthood with my Grandad, and he was my number one fan and supporter. We would be watching an illustrated movie together and he would say to me “You can draw better than that”, and I would just laugh. His positive influence and support from a very young age definitely shaped me as an artist. 

I started drawing Disney characters from the back of the video case, or I would pause the film and draw them whilst looking at the screen. I can still draw all the main Disney characters such as Mickey, Minnie, and Donald from memory! I’ve have never had any formal training in the arts, but I have watched many TV shows, read books and watched YouTube that have influenced me over the years. 


Q3. What does it mean to you to be an artist?

Everything! I’ve had a lot of jobs in my working career, including working as a fork lift truck driver, police officer, hairdresser and make-up artist…but I’ve always wanted to be an artist.

Q4. How long did it take for you to develop your signature style as an artist?

I’m not entirely sure I have a signature style, maybe this is something that I’ve not recognised in myself yet?

Drawing digitally is much easier as it takes one minute to pick up my iPad and just start.

I’ve been a portrait artist for many years, drawing traditionally in graphite until approximately 2 years ago when I wanted to try digital drawing instead. I bought my first iPad, and started drawing digitally and experimenting with using more colours. Before this, I’d always drawn in greyscale! From the first line art drawing of a mermaid, I was hooked!

I love drawing and painting digitally. I have chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, and more often than not, once I’d got out all of my books, pencils and paints out and got myself set up, I would be tired to draw. Drawing digitally is much easier as it takes one minute to pick up my iPad and just start.


Q5. Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a published artist? Have you ever done any other jobs before becoming an artist?

I’ve sold my artwork in exhibitions and shows in the UK, and sold many portraits all over the world before creating colouring books.

After looking at all of the colouring books on the market, I noticed that portrait colouring books were few and far between, and so I began by creating portrait colouring books and illustrating them in a realistic style, both in traditional line art and greyscale.

I also knew that I wanted to create a set of characters that colourists would instantly recognise as my illustrations. This is how The Little Darlings were born.


Q6. What inspired your business name?

It was my Daughter that came up with the overall umbrella name ‘The Colouring Collective’ for all of my colouring book merchandise.

When it comes to dreaming up colouring book titles, we always have a debate in my house and I ask my husband and our children to vote on the names for the books. 

Q7. Have you learned any lessons along the road to becoming a full-time artist? Is there anything you regret, or things you wished you'd done sooner?

I think the biggest problem most of us face today is social media. The internet will memorialise anything that we do, which will reflect on us as a public figure FOREVER. Any mistakes we make now on social media, could cause damage to our reputations and businesses in the future.

It can be hard to navigate the pitfalls of social media. It gives access to our lives so openly, and allows us to be easily accessible to both positive and negative interactions.

I would most definitely advise anyone that runs a business online to always remember that they must ensure that their online life reflects them well in real life too.  

Q8. What does your creative process look like? Where do you draw your inspiration from and what excites you most about the creative process?

I’m extremely disorganised in my brain, so my creative process is always very random! I’ll just see something on TV, or something in real life, and just think to myself that I like that style, or the line work, and I’ll just start sketching away.

I do get creative block too, but when that happens I have learnt to walk away and not get stressed over it. Soon enough It will pass.

Q9. Have you every suffered from creative block or burnout?

Yes, I do get creative block and it is really, really hard to get through sometimes. The harder I try to work through it, the more frustrated I get.

Instead, I just walk away for as long as I need – whether that be hours or days. Usually, whilst I’m taking a break I will choose to paint as I love creating acrylic pour paintings and seascapes.

I never stop creating, I just move between different styles.

Q10. What does your work space look like?

I love my art studio, it’s my retreat in a VERY busy house. We have five children between the age of 11 - 19 years old, plus four dogs, two cats, two rats, four hamsters AND a bird. My studio in the garden is quiet and organised, but it’s also free to have paint thrown around, pastel chalks on the floor, and inks on the tables.

I’m lucky that two of our Daughters both want to have a career in art. Our eldest daughter is heading into her final year of graphics and illustration, and then she going to University. Our next eldest Daughter is following her onto the same course and then off to University too. Therefore, I share the studio with them – or more accurately described – they take over my studio!

Q11. Describe your typical day as an artist…

My typical day involves getting up early to take our eldest Daughter to college, then heading straight back home to my younger three children to start their day of education. I’ve home educated our children for many years now, and it has been successful in our children gaining places at College when they were older.

I juggle home education with the usual home chores, and find times during the day to jump online and answer messages and emails. Later on in the day, I’ll then pick up or drop off the kids to their activities and clubs – often I take my iPad in the car so when I’m sat in the freezing cold and rain at my Son’s football training, I can still grab an hour of drawing. 

I then get home and try to feed everyone before I can finally sit down and get a few hours drawing. I can usually get 5-6 hrs of drawing or painting in the evening before I collapse into bed. Then I get up and start all over again!


Q12. Are there any themes you try to capture in your art?

I’ve always had strong opinions, and I believe in equal rights for all.

Drawing portraits has enabled me to show my support for equal rights by including different races, skin colours, body sizes and shapes, religion, and most recently, same sex relationships.

By showing the beauty of everyone in my colouring books, I feel like I’m spreading a positive message to as many people as I can. I’ve made it a priority to raise my children to know that everyone is equal, everyone deserves respect and love, and everyone should be treated well.


Q13. What is your dream project? Have you got anything exciting in the pipeline you can tell us about?

I’ve written and illustrated children’s books under pen names,  and I still want to work more in this area. I want to write and illustrate a book that captures an audience, and to spread as many positive messages as I can to our children. They are, and they will be, better than us.

My children make me proud every single day. I wanted to raise strong, independent, opinionated and intelligent children – especially my little women. To hear them argue and debate with other adults about climate change, LGBT rights, women’s rights, politics, and many many more subjects makes me extremely proud. They will change the world, and so will many other young adults and children. To be a small part of that is amazing. 

Q14. Have there been any milestone moments in your life that you've channeled / used as inspiration in your art?

You may have noticed by this point in the interview that I am most proud of my children, so of course becoming their Mother has been ALL the milestone moments for me. Of course, meeting and marrying their father too. Anything beyond that point was a bonus! 

Q15. What do you love / you dislike most about your job?

  • LOVE: I love the freedom. I can fit it around my children, and it is what I’m most passionate about. My children see me doing what I love, and working hard to get what I want from my career, as well as be their Mother. I’m hoping that this will show them that they can do and be whatever they want to be. 

  • DISLIKE: Absolutely nothing!

Q16. What tips would you give to other artists that are looking to start making an income from their passion?

It’s hard work. It takes commitment and lots and lots of practice. Never stop learning. If you think you have completed a craft, and you know it all, you are wrong! 

Always always keep learning and trying new things.


Quick fire round 🔥

  • My most embarrassing EVER moment is...
    I don’t think I get embarrassed really, so I can’t think of moment…

  • One thing that scares me is...

  • If I could eat one meal for the rest of my life it would be...
    Chicken Tikka Masala.

  • The artist that most inspires me is...
    My favourite art period is the Renaissance. So, the art that inspires me tends to be oil paintings and beautiful portraits, and even though they don’t really translate to my work, I just love to be surrounded by beautiful pieces! I took my Daughters to London for a girl’s trip and we visited all the biggest galleries. It was amazing, and after our few days away, I couldn’t wait to get home and start drawing again.

  • If I had to describe myself in 3 words, I would say I am... 
    Opinionated, loyal and dedicated.

  • My biggest accomplishment is... 
    Creating my family.

  • My favorite book is...
    The Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell. 

  • My favorite band / solo artist / music genre is... 
    Taylor Swift.


Discover more of Kelly’s art 🎨

There are many ways to support Kelly as an artist if you enjoy her illustration style, and don’t forget that she’s also generously gifted you 10% off in her Etsy store too!

Kelly’s gift to Creative Happy Life Club members

Kelly has generously gifted members of the Creative Happy Life Club a bundle of pages that feature her signature Little Darlings illustrations.

If you’d like to know more about how you can get brand new colouring and planner pages each month from myself, plus bonus goodies like these from Kelly, head here: Find out more about the Creative Happy Life Club membership.