Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Joys of Coloring "Within" The Lines

An adult coloring page

I think we all remember grade school and those pictures we were given in Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd and who knows what other grades, to color? Activities that I realized much, much later (as a teacher in the Peace Corps and found myself doing the same thing) were to give the teacher breathing space between subjects. We were given a page to color with whatever crayons we had, with the admonition to "color within the lines!" I think if I heard that once I heard it a thousand times. Maybe that is why I am so anal today with my adult paintings and crafts ... I am always trying to keep between the lines still!

I know this has been the rage in the United States now for the past few years. You can't go into a craft store today without seeing hundreds of "adult" coloring books along with colored pencils, markers, even fine tipped Sharpies in colors we never had as kids. Back then, they were like a Model T Ford, you could have them in any color as long as it was black. Though I did use a few items when I was teaching my seniors at the home, I never much relied on those pages without some kind of motive ... Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas decorations. I did note that they all seemed to enjoy doing it but I rarely tried them myself. I felt that I wasn't that old ... at least not yet! I was an "artist" for heavens sake, above such trivial pursuits.

As you can see above, this changed when I visited my sister last month. You couldn't help but notice all the coloring books and markers, Sharpies and such on her coffee table. As we talked and caught up on the past 20 or so years, she colored. Conversation didn't seem to slow her down and we had some deep conversations about our lives, the turn of events and such.

Ready to be colored
The following morning, we both got up early, made coffee and chatted. I looked at her variety of books, found a page design I liked, tore it out of the book and tentatively colored away. It was while I was getting absorbed in this rather mundane task that I was sent a text message with a link and watching that a moment on my iPhone turned to my sister and said, "Let's watch MSNBC. Something has happened in Florida." That something, of course, was the shooting and killing of 49 patrons at the Gay night club Pulse in Orlando, FL.

We sat glued in front of the TV all day watching developments as more and more details came out. Other than taking my dog for a walk, we were glued to the TV barely leaving even to eat. The more we watched, the more I colored finding in that simple task a kind of comfort that seemed forever broken in just going to a club and dancing with friends. Nightclubs such as Pulse were always considered a safe haven for the LGBT community. Now that safety was forever shattered.

I asked my sister about her new hobby. Never really artistic or at least not as much as me, I watched her and realized that whoever thought this up hit the motherlode of need and emotion for adults today. I find that just daily living is stressful. What you may have had planned can change in a minute. Illness, doctors appointments, a stolen vehicle and all that has to be done with that. The list goes on and on! While some of my sister's pages were interesting, some were amazing in their colors and execution. I urged her to have a few of the pages framed. While the design might not have been her's, the colors and the way items were colored were hers exclusively.

Look at the blank page above. If you gave this to 10 people each one of them would use colors so very different from each other that the finished product would look different. In some ways that difference would become their work of art.

Is this art? I don't really know. I do know though, that it obviously brings comfort to millions of adults that don't knit, paint, sew or garden maybe living in a climate that you can be trapped indoors for months at a time. I was thinking about this very thing when everyone warned me that summer in Palm Springs was hell. I was told, close all the blinds, turn on the air, strip naked and catch up on all the shows and movies you missed in the fall, winter and spring in Palm Springs. If you think I am kidding, when I returned home my A/C, not even a year old, was broken. I lived with a struggling single room unit for a week before it was finally repaired the day it hit 122ยบ. So, yes, it gets that HOT and the concept of "hell" is very, very real!

However, I have a "studio" chockablock full of canvases and unfinished wood things that are begging to be "colored" too. Yet, as I colored alongside my sister sharing markers and discussing colors, I realized that by 7:00 or 8:00 at night my mind began to shut down and while I may not have wanted to go to bed, this might just be the activity that I might find satisfying. If for no other reason than a way to try out color combinations for my birdhouses! And the best part? NO ONE HAS TO SEE THEM EXCEPT YOU!!!

Looking for a new, artistic activity? You just might find, as I did, a way to wash away the stresses of modern living if only for a few hours. All you crafters, let me also add, it gives you a chance to try and broaden your palette. I know it sure did mine.

Thank you for reading my blog. I believe that art is but a part of the design of living. Please check out my earlier blogs where I discuss how we design our lives!

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