Coloring for Adults ... for Dummies?!?

Coloring for Adults for Dummies
Imagine my surprise when I learned Coloring for Adults for Dummies was actually a thing. While I loved the For Dummies series for teaching me many useful things throughout my life, like how to fix everything (duct tape, Velcro, superglue and industrial magnets), I laughed when I came across the dummies book that would teach me how to color. The thoughts that ran through my mind ranged from “Does one really have to learn how to color?” and “Honestly, how many of us have been doing this wrong?” Imagine my even bigger surprise when I told my family about Coloring for Dummies and my sister, very unabashedly, stated that coloring stresses her out. I just stared at her…..and blinked. She went on to say that I would not understand, because I missed the formative years (pre-K to first grade) and never learned the importance of sharing, coloring inside the lines or following rules. Color commentary equals psychoanalysis…go figure.

Existential crisis aside, I wondered how many others were convinced that coloring is a stressful activity. Naturally, I consulted Google and after typing “coloring st” into the search box, autocomplete filled in “stresses me out.” The complaints ranged from not being able to find time to color and the subsequent feelings of failure and lack of commitment, to anxiety over using the wrong medium, to countless Tumblrs, YouTube channels, and Instagram feeds dedicated to “proper coloring technique.” Questions across forums included: Do I blend? Do I not blend? Am I blending enough? Pastels, crayons, color pencils, glitter pens (oh my)? Do I color in the lines? Do I color around the lines? Do I make my own lines? Lines seemed to be a common problem for many.

Contrary to internet musings, there is an entire school of thought that believes art and coloring can be relaxing. Carl Jung identified coloring and color therapy as a relaxation technique in the early 20th century, often using the practice of coloring mandalas to enter into a meditative state to “allow the subconscious to let go”Note 1Post, T. H. "Why Coloring Could Be The New Alternative To Meditation" The Huffington Post., Inc. 30 July 2015. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.. Activating different areas of our cerebral hemispheres, color therapy incorporates vision and fine motor skills (coordination to make small movements and manipulate crayons) and lowers the activity of the amygdala (a part of the brain that controls stress). The ability to “turn off” your brain and focus on one simple, therapeutic activity can ease tension and has often been credited for leading to a healthier state of being and mindfulnessNote 2Curry, N. "Can Coloring Mandalas Reduce Anxiety?" Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association 2005: 81-82. Print.. In addition to calming the senses and reducing anxiety, some believe this elevated state of calm may even aid cancer patients in coping with their diagnosis and treatmentNote 3Harding, C. "Could Colour Cure Your Ills?" The Daily Mail. Associated Newspapers Ltd. 20 May 2002. Web. 23 Feb. 2016..

With such evidence of the health benefits, it makes one wonder why an adult coloring book market did not emerge sooner. Niche art markets have always existed, Color Me Mine (paint your own pottery) and Pinot and Paint (a BYOB paint by numbers establishment) come to mind. Despite this, the adult coloring market never took off. In 2006, Japanese children’s illustrator Taro Gomi emerged on the art scene with Doodles: A Really Giant Coloring and Doodling Book and Scribbles: A Really Giant Drawing and Coloring Book. Despite online reviews hailing both of these books as an invitation for the aspiring artists to think, imagine and grow through a series of unfinished images and drawing prompts, the fad never really took hold.
Lost Ocean; Folk Art Landscapes
It was not until recently, when Crayola capitalized on the nostalgia market sparked by the successful revival of 80’s and 90’s cartoons, that the coloring world was taken by storm. Releasing a line of adult-centered coloring books, Crayola moved away from child-like images of princesses and rainbows, to more complex imagery. Crayola teamed up with artists from companies like Hallmark for their Color Escape line, which naturally features exclusive colors that complement the geometric or garden designs. In a similar fashion, renowned Scottish artist Johanna Basford, known for her work with Vogue, also released a line of “inky adventures,” a series of intricate coloring books that incorporate ink and line drawings and hidden images.

Recognizing this craze as an emerging phenomenon that could not be ignored, many locales have begun hosting pub crawls and meet-ups dedicated to the age old art of coloring. While the two may not seem immediately related, the social factor of picking up a crayon and scribbling away with abandon attracts the young and the old alike. If the need to embrace your inner child overwhelms you but the bar scene may not be for you, we encourage you to look no further than your local library branch. In addition to hosting a number of adult-centric coloring programs, we offer a number of helpful resources that may provide inspiration for your next masterpiece. To get you started, try looking at some of these titles:
Watercolor; Colored; 1500; Big Book

The Complete Watercolor Artist: Materials, Techniques, Color Theory, Composition, Style, Subject by Sally Harper.
Publication Date 1994
Call Number 751.422 COM

The New Colored Pencil: Create Luminous Works with Innovative Materials and Techniques by Kristy Ann Kutch.
Publication Date 2014
Call Number 741.24 KUT 2014

1500 Color Mixing Recipes for Oil, Acrylic & Watercolor by William F. Powell.
Publication Date 2012
Call Number 752 POW 2012

The Big Book of Watercolor Painting: The History, the Studio, the Materials, the Techniques, the Subjects, the Theory and the Practice of Watercolor Painting by Jose Maria Parramon.
Publication Date 1985
Call Number 751.42 PAR
Note 1 Post, T. H. "Why Coloring Could Be The New Alternative To Meditation.The Huffington Post., Inc. 30 July 2015. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.

Note 2 Curry, N. "Can Coloring Mandalas Reduce Anxiety?" Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association 2005: 81-82. Print.

Note 3 Harding, C. "Could Colour Cure Your Ills?" The Daily Mail. Associated Newspapers Ltd. 20 May 2002. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.
-Carlyn H.


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