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As a child, I dreaded coloring books. When rainy afternoons prevented a 40-minute recess during which we young Catholic savages could run free, jump rope and shove each other around, Sister Gemma or Sister Alice Ann would pass out the coloring books, and I would watch my first- and second-grade classmates dive into their boxes of Crayolas with enthusiasm, while I myself anticipated a half hour of utter tedium. Nothing bored me more than pages of open line drawings in which I was supposed to choose a color and then scribble within the lines.
Therefore, no one was more surprised than I to find myself not only embracing the idea of an adult coloring book but happily looking forward, every night, to spending sometimes up to an hour carefully selecting my colored pencils and bending my head to the task of filling in drawings. Lately, I have had an even greater revelation: the more intricate the design before me, the happier I am.
My embrace of coloring books was quiet accidental. Surveying my Amazon Associates ledgers one day I noticed a number of adult coloring books among the purchases made by readers of my blog, and that inspired a bit of research. Were coloring books trending, I wanted to know, and if so, why?
As it turned out, yes; the things were trending, and — recalling that toward Christmas a few years back I had actually recommended this oomphy “grown-up” coloring book and these colored pencils as a Christmas gift for teens (and had given them, myself, to a niece who loved them), I had actually been ahead of the curve.
“I’d color during a stressful moment at the office or at home, or use it as a break from a complicated or boring task, or to transition between tasks,” wrote Beth J. Harpaz of the Associated Press. “My longest stretch coloring was an hour while awaiting delivery of time-sensitive documents that I feared were lost. Coloring distracted me from worrying about something I couldn’t control or fix. I channeled the book’s subtitle, Color Your Way to Calm, and could feel anxious thoughts waning as I concentrated on the picture. Coloring required just enough attention to disrupt the obsessive loop playing in my mind.”
Distraction sounded tempting, but what really won me over were the delightful images people were sharing of their finished projects. Colorful cats, Steampunk designs, late-Victorian fashions and various cityscapes all tempted me, so I did the unthinkable and bought a few inexpensive books, including this one and this one, and got to work.
Interestingly, despite my appreciation for beautiful cities and art deco, it was the book of doodles that has held my attention. As it turns out, if given the choice between coloring something that is supposed to look like something, or working on something that looks like nothing in particular, I will go for the abstract every time:
Yes, I am very proud of my coloring, and while my family is tired of me demanding their attention and their praise whenever I complete these surprisingly work-intensive pictures, I took a great deal of pleasure in reading that the great Catholic artist Daniel Mitsui has made some of his religious artwork available for downloading and coloring (a donation is appreciated). His designs are gorgeous, inspiring and intricate — something of a color trifecta!
I understand that at least one Catholic book publisher is putting together an adult coloring book that includes meditations, and I look forward to that. In the meantime, however, if you’re thinking of ways to share some Christmas family time together (that doesn’t involve the television), you could do worse than bringing out some excellent colored pencils or fine markers and getting everyone artistically involved.