Friday, March 4, 2016

Confessions of a Colorist

This is my adult coloring book post.  I debated whether it was media-related enough to include on this blog, but since I've been coloring in conjunction with watching a lot of movies and television lately, I figure a one-off is okay.

This past December, my mother in law encouraged me to add more items to my Amazon wishlist, which various family members use as a buying guide.  Too short, she said.  Not thinking too hard about it, I added socks and soaps and the new Stephen King short story collection.  On a whim, I also added two of Johanna Basford's adult coloring books, which I'd briefly paged through at a Michaels craft store.  At Christmas I wound up receiving three adult coloring books - one of the Basfords, the "Game of Thrones" coloring book, and one of the "Color Me..." series, plus a new set of markers.  I don't think it really dawned on me until that moment what I'd gotten myself into.

Two months later, I've become completely caught up in the adult coloring craze.  I've been spending at least an hour every night curled up with one of the coloring books, a box of colored pencils, and an episode of something playing on my laptop.  I confess that I've been putting off watching several movies with subtitles because they'll require me to spend more time looking at the screen and less being able to focus on my coloring.  I've come to the conclusion that I'm not particularly good at coloring, but that's not the point of the activity.  I'm having a great time reconnecting to my creative side and letting my overactive, overcritical mind loose on something fun.

Now, when the trend first popped up around a year ago, and we started getting articles and think pieces about the implications of coloring suddenly becoming popular among grown-ups, I didn't pay much attention.  Now, looking back over the arguments about whether this signaled that adults were becoming infantilized, if there's anything actually creative about coloring, or whether coloring actually has any therapeutic benefits, it all seems so silly.  Of course it's creative, its therapeutic value depends on the person, and there's nothing infantile about it.  I say this from the perspective of someone who colored with pencils from childhood until well into her twenties.  Nobody ever objected - probably because I also drew and inked the line art first. 

Coloring is it's own separate process from drawing, with its own techniques and challenges.  It's generally more tedious, but certainly offers its own opportunities for creativity, and can be significantly rewarding.  Detractors claim that simply coloring in somebody else's drawing isn't really creating art, which is a crock.  When you color, you're responsible for the hues, lights, shadows, textures, and patterns.  You're not creating the whole piece, but you are a collaborator, and an important one.  That's why some find coloring to be a mindless activity, and some can get completely worked up and stressed out over it.  I fall somewhere in the middle.  I get frustrated when the pictures I color are boring, or I don't like the template artist's choices, or I make mistakes and the end product looks terrible.  But when things go right, there's a certain easy pleasure to the whole process.   

I stopped drawing in my late twenties when I got too busy, and didn't particularly feel an inclination for it anymore.  I always loved making art as a hobby, but found it a little depressing at times because I was never as good as I wanted to be at it, and never in a position to spend the necessary time and effort to get better at it.  I have some perfectionist tendencies, which don't help.  With the coloring books, however, the pressure's mostly off.  I still look at some of the nicer drawings and wonder if I'm going to ruin them if I try to add anything.  And then, I tell myself that it's just for fun and practice.  These aren't pictures I'd ever want to put on my wall.  The books are cheap (and plentiful) enough that I can always go out and buy another one if I want to try again. 

On that note, I admit I have been obsessing over these books lately.  Whenever I have a spare moment at work, I find myself on Amazon, looking through their previews, trying to gauge which book I'd like to try next.  My experiences with adult coloring so far have revealed that I'm very picky about templates.  Those "Star Wars" and "Harry Potter" themed books look pretty on the outside, but the actual coloring pages are not my thing at all.  I've even made two trips to my local Barnes & Noble during lunch hours just to browse their selection. 

One thing's for certain.  My Amazon wish list is going to have a lot fewer sock and soap suggestions next year.

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