Anyone who can recall their early years will remember time spent with crayons and coloring books; choosing colors and staying within the lines. Colored pencils, paint, charcoals and other art supplies supplanted the earliest efforts of filling in the white spaces boldly without a checklist of proper choices. Most importantly, you didn’t have to be an “artist” to be successful. If you had a special flair, and were a daring youngster, you could actually flout the rules and make other color choices.
Yes, I loved my Crayolas but even more so, the very popular Venus Paradise Coloring Sets. Although these were marketed primarily for children, the sets utilized colored pencils and it was easy to learn various colored pencil techniques. The outline artwork was numbered and the colored pencils needed for the illustration were included in the set. Subject matter covered a wide range of images—American Indian scenes, animals, landscapes, outer space, and scuba diving. These were vibrantly colored, rich media pencils that were a neater version of paint by numbers sets. We would spend hours creating “artwork” that gave us a template and reflecting on it now, a soothing and meditative way to produce something to admire; a project to hang on the refrigerator.
Fast forward to a recent trip to a large bookstore chain and I was surprised to see an entire area devoted to coloring books for adults. Based on non-fiction book sales measured in August, #3 was the Mindfulness Coloring Book: Anti-Stress Art Therapy for Busy People. Apparently it is this summer’s hottest trend and per devotees of a return to a happier time, coloring offers complete absorption as it engages both sides of the brain, the creative and the tactile. According to Alice Domar, PhD, “The creativity comes with envisioning the color selection and how it will play throughout the piece, while the tactile involves applying your decisions to the artist’s design. Both keep your right brain from taking over.”
The beauty of these sets for children was in their simplicity and portability. Not everyone was creative enough to draw complex freehand pictures. Instead, we purchased a kit with a template, tools and directions that if completed accordingly, you could have an attractive piece of artwork in time.
Of course I purchased a copy of the updated version of a coloring book for myself and am now on the hunt for the perfect pencils. It’s the 2015 version of a stress free activity…once I have the right pencils.