Color Me Calm
Coloring books for adults emerge
August 26, 2016
Hours of intense focus on a two-page spread; markers in hand, adding vibrancy to the intricate, detailed characters. Organization, creativity and simplicity all bound into one book, and hundreds of teens adults readily indulging in the new and improved art of coloring.
Coloring books for teens and adults are popping up in bookstores everywhere, including Decatur’s Little Shop of Stories. Some books claim to be calming, some rework the work of artists like Monet and Van Gogh and some bring movies and TV shows to the page. No matter what their purpose, these books have one thing in common: intricate detail.
According to sophomore Hope Barrineau, coloring one picture can take over an hour. Barrineau said she spent two and a half hours carefully filling in her favorite picture in her Harry Potter themed coloring book. What makes the long hours worth it?
For Barrineau, the books pose both an artistic challenge and a way to destress.
“I really enjoy coloring, but if I take on too much of it then it will kind of stress me out because I’m a perfectionist. The actual coloring it out is very calming to me, though,” Barrineau said. “I definitely struggle with anxiousness, and it’s nice because it gives you something to do with your hands. I think it’s just a good way of taking a minute to focus on one thing without having to stress about everything else.”
Senior Ruby Vaughn, another coloring book collector, also finds the simplicity of the task and organization of the patterns relaxing.
“I’m the kind of person that spends every day of my entire life cleaning and I get stressed out when things aren’t in their correct place,” Vaughn said. “So coloring in the lines is really simple but satisfying for me.”
Unlike Barrineau, however, Vaughn doesn’t find her coloring books to be a creative outlet; rather, she feels that coloring books give a false sense of artistic expression.
“When adults color, they want to feel like they’re accomplishing something, which makes them feel calm,” Vaughn said. “They think they’re being artistic because they’re coloring, but they didn’t do anything for it.”
Vaughn doesn’t exclude herself or children from this idea. Coloring in a book with pre-made designs makes Vaughn feel less confident about her own original artwork, and she says she can see coloring books affecting children’s work in a similar way.
“It’s better if kids make their own art rather than coloring because they have to use their imagination,” Vaugh said. “[Coloring books] are used when your children don’t want to be creative but you’re slyly trying to make them creative.”
Barrineau disagrees with this idea; she believes that coloring can inspire art in children.
“Participating in small acts of artistic and creative things really just makes the difference,” Barrineau said. “I think for sure if a kid starts coloring in a coloring book and really enjoying it, it can egg on some more artistic interest. I definitely think it can influence the kid’s interest in art and levels of creativity; it’s a good jumping-off point.”
This coloring-inspired creativity aids Barrineau in her own original art process.
“If you’re experiencing artist’s block or just don’t know what to do, it definitely helps to take a break and give yourself a little time off, but you still want to be pursuing something more creative,” Barrineau said. “I definitely use it for artist’s block. If I don’t really know what I want to draw but I want to do something creative, coloring is definitely a good option.”
Once exclusively for children, now targeted toward teens and adults, Barrineau has noticed that coloring has become an activity for anyone to enjoy, and she is now “a strong advocate for the ‘anybody can enjoy coloring’ idea.”
Photos by Ellie Butterfield