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!

Order my coloring books at

The Real Truth about Real Fun

By Judith Costello, Unwind Studio

Against the Sky

Against the Sky

Katende Andrew is a seminarian from Uganda who is starting a foundation to help impoverished and neglected children get an education. He’s the “St. Don Bosco” for poor children in his country!  Don Bosco gathered up orphan children off the streets of Italy (1818-1888). He found a way to help them learn and flourish without being a harsh task master. Instead, he made his students laugh even in difficult circumstances and in spite of the meager offerings he could provide for them. They learned to have great fun together.

That “Don Bosco style” is needed for our young people, not only in Uganda, but around the world today! The saint once said, “Enjoy yourselves as much as you like, if only you keep away from sin.” But in today’s world fun seems to equal sin among young people. When Katende posted this quote on Facebook, a young person wrote, “How can you enjoy yourself as much as possible without sinning? Let me say when it comes to lots of food, partying and you can mention the rest (of the things that are ‘fun’)?”

From children in high school to young people in college, the reports of sin/fun are increasingly exponentially to include drinking to “get smashed”, various new drugs, anonymous sex, serial partners and experimentation of many kinds.

Somehow we need to wake people up: This is not fun!!  Such things lead to illness, STDs, severe depression, abortion, and hopelessness. That equates to death and destruction not fun and happiness.

The refreshing beauty of how Don Bosco lived and taught is that he knew what real happiness is all about. There is truth that can be known and the truth is: real happiness and enjoyment only comes from being physically, mentally and spiritually challenged, AND from relating to others in more than a superficial, “selfie/text me” way.

Young people need to learn this. And they need to know that if they’ve been confused and already made really bad choices, they can start now to turn that around. Make better choices. Find out what is real. God is waiting to offer help!

So here’s a short list of Real Fun Things. Let’s keep adding and adding. I’d like to paper a wall with the truth about fun!! How long can the list be?

Play soccer, football, basketball, baseball. The physical body needs a workout!

Read a classic novel. (Avoid the modern, or at least the trashy modern stuff.)

Visit a Church and spend over 20 minutes in prayer! Really once you start the time will fly.

Sit at a coffee shop and talk through the night. Solve the world’s problems. Come up with an end to poverty. Come up with a solution to cancer or homelessness.

Do an art project! Find a photo from your life. Study it. Then paint it!

Do an art project with friends. Bring out a piece of canvas, markers and paint. Ask everyone to add something. Let the laughter begin.

Tell jokes.

Play charades.

Go for a drive just to look at the sky. Find beauty everywhere.

Put your head on a friend’s belly. When they laugh, you’ll laugh!

Watch children. Do what they do.

Watch animals. Do what they do. (Hint: they sleep a lot. But when they’re awake, they are very aware of everything.)

Dress up in fun clothes. Create new clothes. Don’t be afraid….cut that old tee-shirt.

Watch the stars. Count them.

Go to bed alone…enjoy the feel of the sheets. Say prayers of gratitude.

Dance the night away…(just avoid the hyper-sexualized modern dancing.) Try Jewish folk dance or polka or Two-Step.

Play a kazoo!

Enjoy music. Go to a special concert (where the artists don’t cuss.)

Go somewhere new. Smile at everyone. Strike up conversation with strangers.


Have fun. Avoid sin. Find beauty.  Yes…That all goes together.

Now add to the list.

They say that before he died Don Bosco said, Tell the boys I’ll see them all in Paradise.” He was raising saints for the wonders of eternity.

The site by Katende Andrew is