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Adult Coloring Books

November 2, 2016


Many kids, including future artists like me, begin their pursuit of art by filling in the spaces in coloring books. I was not yet a teenager when it occurred to me that coloring between the lines was restrictive and unnecessary; in fact, creating my own lines was far more interesting. If one were to remain within the borders, why not go all the way and create those borders yourself? Why rely on someone else to create lines for you?


The kids on my block in the 50s and 60s expressed no such thoughts. They prided themselves on navigating the lines and adding proper colors where deemed necessary. Skies were blue. Grass was green. Trees were brown. Back then, coloring books were the domain of children, but today that’s changing.


When our son CJ was in the hospital recuperating from his aneurysm, several well-wishers brought him adult coloring books, colored pencils and crayons. I thumbed through these books and was impressed by the complexity of the designs. Last week on CBS Sunday Morning, a segment was devoted to adult coloring books, which are becoming extremely popular.






As I mentioned, coloring books weren’t my thing, although there was a time when I accepted the challenge of coloring between the lines.


Andy Holloway lived across the street. Andy was a few cards short of a full deck and marched to his own drummer. He ate crayons and claimed to have pooped out a rainbow and climbed our school flagpole naked on a dare on more than one occasion. He frequently landed in hot water for saying and doing outrageous things. His nickname was Hollowhead.


An incident in the third grade class I shared with Andy comes to mind. Our teacher had handed out mimeographed outlines of squirrels and we were given the entire class to fill them in. I always love the smell of mimeograph ink and I inhaled deeply before flaunting my burgeoning artistic skills. I laid down a ground of golden ochre and then began adding strokes of burnt umber to form realistic fur. I added white glints to the black eyes to make them shiny and moist as I brought that squirrel to life.


At a desk opposite mine, Hollowhead was scribbling over his squirrel outline with a purple crayon. Purple was everywhere; not just outside the lines but all over his desk, on his hands and arms and in his hair. When he licked his lips I saw that his tongue was also purple—soon to be part of a colorful poopy rainbow. Hollowhead was enjoying himself; he was laughing as the purple crayon was used up and disappeared. Thinking back on it, I’m sure I didn’t look anywhere near as delighted as Hollowhead as I worked to recreate a squirrel that was ordinary yet realistic.


My effort was highly praised, received an “A” and was showcased on a bulletin board for Parent/Teacher Night; Andy Holloway was sent to the counselor’s office for testing to see if he belonged in “special” class. Note: This wasn’t the first or last time he’d be sent there.


After all these years I realize Hollowhead was the one with the soul of an artist, not me. I was attempting a slavish copy of something mundane, something I could see just by looking out the window. Hollowhead was releasing his inner muse, unleashing his emotional instincts like a Picasso or Jackson Pollock. Andy Holloway, without realizing it, was embracing modern art, was firmly entrenched in the philosophy of the Fauves. Hollowhead might have been the school dork, but if he’d gotten the encouragement I received he might have been an artistic pathfinder. It’s possible that at the age of seven he knew more about art than I’d ever learn.


What about you? Are you someone who stays between the lines in life or do you draw your own? Do you think you could get into adult coloring books?     





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I like drawings that look like what they're supposed to look like so I would have liked yours better but I'm sure Hollowhead could have found plenty of people to enjoy his "art." It reminds me of the Simpsons where Homer becomes an "outsider artist" when someone mistakes his mish-mash of barbecue parts for a sculpture.
By: PT Dilloway on November 2, 2016
The extent of my artistic skill is the power of observation. I often find myself looking, even staring at something. Then and and only then will I try to capture what I see in my minds eye. I don't equate photography with art as seen by a painters eye. Painters are in a realm uniquely theirs to create and translate as their mind, heart and soul sees and feels.
By: Daniel LaFrance on November 2, 2016
Sometimes i like to stay within the lines, and sometimes i like to draw my own, and i wouldn't mind an adult coloring book if they weren't so expensive. There, i don't have much art in me, and i'm cheap and admit it.
By: messymimi on November 2, 2016
I try to stay between the lines, but I find teven that to be difficult, but not in a Hollowhead kind of way.
By: cranky on November 2, 2016
I've never been able to stay within the lines no matter how hard I try. I will be doing so good and then all of a sudden - bam I start going out of the lines and can't find my way back. I have several adult coloring books and even though I've tried a few pages, I'm afraid if I try coloring them I'll take away from the beautiful illustrations. Go figure. Thoughts in Progress and MC Book Tours
By: Mason Canyon on November 2, 2016
Andy was a free's too bad we all cannot just follow our own muse as kids...lots of time to"draw within the lines" as adults! As soon as we get back home I'll be posting your painting give away! Cheers!
By: Kathe W. on November 2, 2016
Andy was a free's too bad we all cannot just follow our own muse as kids...lots of time to"draw within the lines" as adults! As soon as we get back home I'll be posting your painting give away! Cheers!
By: Kathe W. on November 2, 2016
Nope. I am not one for staying in the lines and don't get any satisfaction from coloring books. Jerry bought a stunningly intricate one in New York and a beautiful set of pencils, but he also finds it a bit less creative than he expected. Oh well. Nice idea, but not for us.
By: Mitchell is Moving on November 2, 2016
I love to color. I still can't draw and have zero artistic skill, so coloring is my way of creating!
By: Elizabeth Seckman on November 2, 2016
Years ago I would have loved to work in this books. I think they are great at releaving stress. I think that some artists need to take baby steps to the style they develop. By the way, I did post on your giveaway not that I finally got my blog working again!
By: Tabor on November 2, 2016
Then again, the dude did eat his crayons. I drew within the lines. And soon found it was more fun to draw and color my own.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on November 2, 2016
I have to confess to having several colouring books -- especially Christmas ones. The positive side of that is that I found them to help me relax amid the madness of Christmas in our house. However, I also found them quite a bit boring after a while. Each page takes me hours to complete. But I still find them fascinating. Probably because I have no real artisitic and imaginative skills whatsoever...
By: The Broad on November 2, 2016
I saw the piece on adult coloring books too but the intricacy of the outlines would drive me mad. Maybe I've got some of Andy's genetic makeup.
By: Catalyst on November 2, 2016
I've never had any desire to use Adult colouring books, they look great, but I think I'd find the whole process a bit pointless.
By: LL Cool Joe on November 2, 2016
To paraphrase something in "Treasure of the Sierra Madre": Lines? We don't need no stinkin' lines!!
By: fishducky on November 2, 2016
I was thinking that Hollowhead could probably get a good price for his work today. I stay away from the adult books as they just look too tedious for me. I do have a children's book (cows, pigs and ponies) to play with when the power goes out and I need entertained.
By: Arkansas Patti on November 2, 2016
I had already heard of this craze. It's good, especially as a stress-buster. Greetings from London.
By: A Cuban In London on November 2, 2016
My wife the artist and former art teacher does not care for coloring books. I thought they may have been helpful in teaching finer motor skills and manipulation, but I supposed that could be achieved free hand as well. Though some of the modern designs are beautiful.
By: Tom Cochrun on November 2, 2016
I think Hollowhead was rebellious. He didn't want to follow the rules as he was probably not able to perform.
By: red Kline on November 2, 2016
he probably did have a lot more fun...
By: TexWisGirl on November 2, 2016
I can't color in the lines. It isn't that I'm being artistic or rebellious, I'm just not that good. I'll just live vicariously through your talents. :)
By: scott park on November 2, 2016
I think, since he ate the crayon, he may have had other issues but he enjoyed what he was doing and was not looked at as he should have been but rather judged since he did not fit the norm. I always had a hard time to stay within the lines and once, when my brother was praised by my mom for staying in the lines and I should learn from him, I purposely went way outside the lines and used fantastic colours that did not apply. I left it out but nothing was ever said.
By: Birgit on November 2, 2016
I am boring and mundane, and try to live my life between the lines. I could not get into adult coloring books. They're for people who have too dang much time on their hands, or people who fiddle around with them and then moan that they never have enough time to do anything.
By: Val on November 2, 2016
Art and beauty are in the eye of the beholder. I'm rather reactionary and pragmatic, and I would've appreciated your squirrel far more than Hollowhead's.
By: Lexa Cain on November 3, 2016
I forgot to mention that my version of coloring books are making advertising for my books. I love doing it and it de-stresses me. People who're stressed should definitely try coloring books. :)
By: Lexa Cain on November 3, 2016
I was given a colouring book so I tried it. I can't see the point, and the little bit I've done has gotten on my nerves! I never liked colouring as a kid either, for what it's worth. Yet I like embroidery, crewel work, and drawing. Different strokes for different folks :)
By: jenny_o on November 3, 2016
I'm definitely the stay-inside-the-lines person. I understand adult coloring books are soothing and relaxing, similar to listening to relaxing music or doing knitting, etc. I just don't have the time for it. I saw a meme on Facebook once, about a grandchild asking a grandparent about how it was possible that someone like Donald Trump could be elected president in 2016. The grandparent replied, "Well, that was the year we all were distracted by adult coloring books."
By: Pixel Peeper on November 5, 2016
I think I could get into adult coloring books if they were nudies. I also think I should be ashamed.
By: Al Penwasser on November 8, 2016
Stephen..I love bright colors and admire art. I cannot however draw a stick figure to save my life so the adult coloring books give me pleasure by letting me relax and not avoid being creative knowing I can't draw. On the flip side...I've always lived outside the lines, leaning to the wild side!! LOL
By: Bee BB Bee on November 14, 2016

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