Coloring for Grown-ups?

Coloring book ad2By Judith Costello, MA, OCDS

I am trained as an art therapist so I don’t like coloring books, right? Actually, I now think that the concept of the coloring books was simply marketed incorrectly. Give the children big pieces of blank paper and creative tools and let them explore. They know what to do instinctively. But adults are another matter!  Coloring books can be a great starting point for them.

Last night a little boy, age 7, played with play dough and had me guess, “What is this?” He knew what he was doing and didn’t care if I guessed right! He was very confident in his expression. But in another couple of years, he may start to censure his creativity. After about age 9, children judge what they do in comparison to others. They begin to wonder if they can do this creative thing that used to come so naturally. By age 11, they may decide to give up trying. And that is really sad.

God, the Creator, made us in His image. And He likes for us to explore that gift which is planted in us. Creativity brings us into the realm of spirit where the unformed is waiting to be formed. What we create may not be gallery-worthy. It may not be understood by others. But like the little boy with the play dough, there is a feeling of joy that “this has come through my spirit and my hands.”

SO…I have designed my own coloring books to reflect the soul’s longing. I hope they will be tools…a stepping off place into the world where there are no rules about coloring in the lines. In the world of children’s coloring, they need freedom, then they need form. Eventually they get frustrated with not being able to communicate with art so they want the rules so they can successfully bring into form what is formless in their hearts. But for us as adults who have learned to censure and give up, we need the form first, then we need freedom.

With my coloring books, I have left a lot of white space and I share ideas about using “organic” designs. In the wonder of Creation we see patterns of lines, circles, spirals and squares. When basic shapes are repeated with slight variances, our eyes find comfort and rest. So I encourage the use of these design patterns around the white space of my illustrations. Coloring can be both inside the lines and exploration outside the lines.

There is a modern interest in coloring for grown-ups. In my training as an art therapist, I begin to see the reasons: Coloring can lower your blood pressure. And it can open a door into the wonders we experienced as children when we played and didn’t worry whether anyone else liked what we created or not. We did it in response to something stirring inside. We allowed a form to come into being and said, “This is good”– just like in Genesis!

I hope you will re-discover that beautiful opportunity again!

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