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I'll admit that for a long time I've been buying Dollar Store coloring books to just color in, or add extra scenes in. And with the recent boom in coloring books and mandalas for adults, I have to believe that there were way more people out there either doodling in the margins while taking notes during that business meeting, and then coloring them later (ahem, I have a couple of red and pink pens I've wound up with at the Day Job, for you know, like, totally legit business reasons, yeah that's the ticket), or like me was using their cheapo Dollar Store-type colored pencils and coloring books.
But why are they so popular?
I've read all around the interwebs that coloring helps reduce stress. At a point where I was quite overwhelmed with a variety of things in my life I didn't think I could control, I turned to my usual stress relievers: playing ukulele, smashing the hell out of my drum set, busting out my cans of spray paint and making space-art, and just free writing. But none of them seemed to be working.
Playing music was frustrating me. I hated everything I painted. I wound up staring at a blank page and nothing flowed, making me feel like a failed writer. Hell, I started jogging for health reasons and for stress relief, which helped a little, but still didn't seem enough (my brain finds jogging very boring).
The day I bought a coloring book for adults was the one and only time where I had absolutely no thought or concern in my head other than this needs to be blue, no—wait. Royal blue, not sky blue. Before I knew it an hour had gone by without me realizing it. I did feel calmer, but not in the same way you feel calm after, say, taking a nap. It felt different than the other creative stuff I turn to feel relaxed.
All the difficult parts of creating art are already done for you in coloring books. The outline is there. All you have to do is actively choose colors. I tend to shade while I'm coloring. I also actively try to choose colors opposite from what I think they should be:
This deer's antlers? Make them blue.
The trunk of this tree? Shades of green.
I feel like the point of these calming mental exercises is also to think differently than you normally do, or how you're told to think about color itself, to find that inner child who made the sun a bright red-pink. There's no one to judge you for it. Seriously.
I've been working on Animorphia, a coloring book which tickles my sense of the surrealistic absurd.
That and you have an excuse to buy shiny PENS! Pencils! ALL THE SHINY! Ahem. I've been using my watercolor pencils, but am looking into pens. Any suggestions?