The secret joys of coloring as an art and therapy

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The secret is out: coloring for adults is a big craze these days. All you have to do is walk around someplace like Michaels and see the overabundance of “adult’ coloring books featuring designs of mandalas, paisley patterns and everything and anything in nature. A few weeks ago, Parade Magazine featured an article called “50 Shades of Happy: the New Joy of Coloring.” 

The secret is out: coloring for adults is a big craze these days. All you have to do is walk around someplace like Michaels and see the overabundance of “adult’ coloring books featuring designs of mandalas, paisley patterns and everything and anything in nature. A few weeks ago, Parade Magazine featured an article called “50 Shades of Happy: the New Joy of Coloring.” 

Artists like Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts who created Zentangle helped make the coloring craze sweep across the nation, bringing all “closet colorers” out into the open. Truth is, many an artist get their start with winning coloring contests as a child, making purple grass and red trees. It’s part of the process of discovering the artist child within.

Hazel Ross, a member of Foothills Art Association, heralds the benefits of good ol’ fashioned coloring. As a child, Ross was fascinated with coloring books that she could paint using plain water, with the colors appearing like magic.

“I suppose that my mother thought I could do less damage with plain water but I soon longed for real paint and the freedom of choice of color,” Ross said.  

Ceramic artist and jewelry-making instructor at La Mesa Michaels, Cecile Fleetwood says she has always loved to color. When she was a kid, coloring was part of her crafting repertoire. 

“I loved the look, scent and feel of a new box of Crayola crayons. I have always had some sort of coloring book around. Babysitting gave me an excuse to color way past the usual age of interest. 

“You know, I think my mom was a closet colorer too. I remember sitting at the table and coloring with her,” Fleetwood said.

When Fleetwood was in high school, she discovered Dover Press coloring books. These high quality books were filled with highly detailed images such as arty zodiac signs, Elizabethan clothing, and Shakespeare’s plays. These were all perfect for coloring with Pentel pens, colored pencils, even watercolors, Fleetwood recalled.

“It was a good way to work off teenaged angst and loneliness,” she said. 

The joys of coloring can last through adulthood with more sophistication and choices, as it has for Fleetwood, who still buys whatever coloring books catch her eye. Her favorite characters include Hello Kitty, Minions, fairies and other fantasy creatures. She suggested Michaels for their $1 coloring books for kids and a few more sophisticated coloring books. One of her favorite places to add to her collection of coloring books is Captain Fitch’s Mercantile in Old Town for its large selection of Dover Press and other high quality “adult” coloring books.

El Cajon resident Gloria Chadwick, a conservation artist, uses the art of coloring in a more general sense. She has found that crayons, colored pencils and felt tip markers are all wonderful tools to express creativity. Best of all, they don’t require special paper or clean up problems. They can be used anywhere and the results are only observed by the artist who doesn’t fret for feeling compelled to have a nice product. If it turns out nice, all the better but if not, it still served the purpose of self-expression.

“I find doodling with crayons can be helpful for planning out the different color scheme for a proposed idea for a painting. Sometimes, after experimenting with color choices ideas will either be solidified or changed. 

“It’s fun to let the colors build and blend on the paper. Color books are fine but the newspaper photos can be colored in with interesting results,” Chadwick said.

For the budding artist, Ross said that coloring could be good therapy, building up confidence and creativity. She suggested using an unusual palette or a limited one, which can be both challenging and imaginative. 

Recently, Ross has worked with an Alzheimer’s sufferer. “Although she could no longer concentrate to draw very well, she loved to color in semi opaque sheets to make “stained glass windows” featuring flowers butterflies and fairies,’ she said.

But old-fashioned coloring still brings out the kid in everyone, no matter what the age. Recently, at her bi-monthly crafts class at the Jewish Service Center, Fleetwood brought out a stack of pages she had copied from a number of coloring books. After choosing among “Hello Kitty,” fairies, butterflies, complex patterns and mandalas, everyone grabbed a box of gel pens, markers, colored pencils and Crayons.

“I love looking at the colors of Crayola and seeing what the names of the colors are,” said Pam Sulzbach, who finished her coloring of “Hello Kitty” for her granddaughter. She then set to work on a fantastical drawing of a tree in a forest harboring dozens of animals hiding within its branches.

For more information about coloring and techniques, read the Parade Magazine article at www.meetup.com/Adult-Coloring-Party. 

To meet even more coloring fans in San Diego, check out the Dover Publications’ Adult Coloring Parties at www.meetup.com/Adult-Coloring-Party.

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