Staying in Focus: Focus on: Color Your World

Take a walk back in time with me. It’s a summer day, circa 1960, and I am seven years old.  My family has just settled, part and parcel, into our cabin in the Lake Wallkill community, near Sussex, NJ, for the summer. I sit on the screened porch and look out at the lush green of the trees and grass around me.  Summer vacation has just begun and endless days of swimming, fishing, hiking, and reading a book in the hammock out back stretch before me.

On our way to the cabin, we stopped at a store to pick up a few things. I picked out a new coloring book and a box a Crayola crayons.  I loved the moment when I opened the box to see the crayons lined up neatly inside, like soldiers on parade. Fresh and sharp, their paper jackets crisp and whole. My new coloring book was neat and shiny, with pages of black and white drawings waiting for me to begin.  These two items would keep me busy and give me much pleasure in the weeks to come – for very little financial outlay on the part of my parents. No mess, no fuss.

This was, of course, before the time when children’s coloring books were co-opted by merchandising. That’s when, instead of pages of pets, toys, flowers, people, animals –  a variety of things to color, coloring books morphed into money-making items for the cartoon and movie industry. They became thinner, but more expensive, and consisted of pages of the same character in various poses and scenes.  Not much room for creativity there.

I continued to look for interesting coloring books over the years, but the children’s books were poorly drawn and depicted the current merchandised characters. You see, I was not looking to buy these for a child, but for me. Yes, I confess, I am an adult who likes to color. Why?  It is a fantastic stress reducer, allows me to express myself creatively, but most of all brings back the feelings I had as a child, sitting on a screened porch on a rainy summer’s day, cooled by the gentle breath of mist floating through the screen.  I would fill the hours until the sun returned coloring with my crayons. It’s a memory that grounds me, takes me back to a simpler time in my life.

Several years ago, I came across a coloring book depicting ancient Egyptian scenes. It was intended for adults as it was more involved than a child’s coloring book, more patience and detail required, and so I switched from crayons to colored pencils. Colored pencils made it easier to fill in small spaces on the more detailed pages in my book. Far and away, I love Prismacolor pencils the best. The color is bright and deeply saturated, which I like because I tend press hard when I color.  The core of the pencils is soft, making it easy to color boldly. They are on the pricey side but there are Crayola and Fantasia pencils, which are good and cost less.

When my friend, Denise, moved to North Carolina, I was helping her unpack and came across a box of coloring books and crayons. I had found a fellow coloring fan!  At this time I had discovered some additional adult coloring books in museum stores, which I shared with Denise. She enjoyed using the colored pencils, too.

Soon, we began to see more adult coloring books crop up in craft and book stores, and on Amazon.com. We felt as if we’d died and gone to coloring heaven! The rest of the world had caught on to what Denise and I had known for years – how soothing and stress relieving coloring can be. One important thing to keep in mind – it is the process that counts, not the final product.  You do not have to be a Picasso or a Van Gogh to color. Enjoy the flow, feel the zen, and breathe deeply. That’s all there is to it.

So if you have a tense day, stop by a book or craft store (Michael’s, AC Moore, Barnes and Noble) and buy a book and a box of colored pencils. Spend an hour coloring and find your stress disappear and your creativity soar! Books depicting everything from geometric patterns, to whimsical gardens and intricate mandalas are available.  So pick up that pencil, relieve your stress and color your world!

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