Monday, February 22, 2016

The Science of Coloring

I love the smell of crayons, and I like to fill in empty spaces, like writing in a new notebook or filling in a chart, or rolling a paint roller over a wall and watching the white spaces disappear.  There's something very satisfying about making sure every spot is covered and complete.  So, of course I like to color!

I colored a lot as a child.  It was one of my favorite things to do.  There were very few things that matched up to a new coloring book and sharp, new crayons--you know, the ones where the edge hasn't been worn off yet.  I was careful with my crayons, tilting them and coloring on the side, then turning at strategic moments to make sure the tip stayed even.  Eventually, I'd have to peel the label off little by little to continue to move up the crayon, but that was always sort of tragic for me, because the names of the colors were very important.  There was a big distinction between burnt sienna and raw sienna, and between peach and apricot, but sometimes that difference disappeared with the shreds of the label, and I didn't like to be surprised by the color when those damn labels weren't there.
Adult coloring has become mainstream and trendy lately.  Suddenly closeted colorers, myself included, have options other than stealing their kids' super hero or Cars coloring books to satisfy the urge.  And thank goodness, too, because the colors just weren't very fun--that Dark Knight IS, after all, DARK!

I have several coloring books that are all mine.  A couple were Christmas gifts from my like-minded sister.  But, just like all things in my life, I find it difficult to finish one before I move on to the next one.  So when I found myself facing a huge rack of intricately-designed "adult" coloring books in a craft store the other night, I knew better than to try to resist.  I'm not the only one, apparently.  While I stood there, trying to decide if I was really going to spend ten bucks on yet another coloring book, a friendly older man approached and struck up a conversation about his favorites among the choices, and before I could remove myself from the awkwardness of seeing "AA Susan" in his phone contacts, he was thumbing through photos of pictures he'd colored and snapped pics of, very proud of his work, indeed.  It occurred to me at the time to wonder why he'd photographed them at all when he has the colored page, but maybe it was just for bragging rights or to troll for chicks in Michaels' on a Friday night.

So, what's the appeal?  Google "adult coloring" and you'll find a plethora of articles speculating about the health benefits (stress relief) and entertainment value of coloring for us grownups.  (You'll also find a bunch of free printable pages, so why the hell am I spending money on these things?)

There's a sense of satisfaction in taking all of the white spaces, the blank spaces, and turning them into something.  I even tend to add my own details when I don't quite like the way it looks (boy, is that ever a metaphor for life!).

It's fairly mindless.  The extent of the mental exercise involved is just in the choosing of the colors (burnt sienna, or raw?).  I like a lot of contrast (again, life), but that's pretty easy to do without actual thought.

It's cheap, it's not too messy, it's easily transportable, and there's little to no embarrassment involved (okay, maybe now that I've outed my coloring habit) if people see what I created.  After all, I just filled in the spaces, right?  I didn't actually DRAW anything!

I get out what I put into it.  I have crayons, colored pencils, and two...no, THREE, different kinds of markers of varying tip widths and scents.  And oddly, the coloring utensil that I use is both directly affected by my mood and serves its own purpose.  When I really need to tune out, to disengage, an intricate design with a fine-point marker does the trick.  I have to concentrate to stay in the lines, and filling up those spaces requires a lot of back and forth in a small space, which is not as dirty as it sounds.  When I'm just taking a small break from life, though, I'm more likely to choose a picture with larger designs; I can use a wider variety of tools and not focus as intently on the task.  The markers fill the designs smoothly and without much resistance...my hand stays steady and I tend to color in one direction only, with ease...like little else in my life.

Crayons, on the other hand, are a different story.  Aside from that SMELL (yes, I did just stick my face in the crayon bucket and inhale deeply), crayons can do so many things.  They create that contrast on their own, if I want, depending on how much pressure I use, being careful not to snap those carefully-created sharp points.  And there is something much more satisfying about the need to scribble back and forth, to create that friction to accomplish the task, that markers just can't accomplish.

I don't think I have a favorite way to color.  That would involve choice.  As usual, though, when I can't make a choice, I just keep all of them.  My favorite way to finish a picture is by using markers, crayons, and colored pencils, to vary the colors and contrast, as well as the textures.  Turns out, burnt sienna and raw sienna feel the same, but markers and crayons do not.

2 comments:

Lesley said...

We need to have an adult coloring party and bring all of our coloring stuff. And I feel the same way about crayons. ��

Amy Greene said...

This is great! I have found myself coloring alot lately. And I feel so much better afterwards!