Category Archives: Art

Coloring Books For Grownups, (AKA The Best Therapy EVER)

Three things you should know:

1.  I really like to play with art supplies.  It doesn’t matter what kind.  I love them, and never really need an excuse to obtain more.
2.  It’s stressful being an adult.  One of the best things about it, however, is remembering that the only person making rules about when it is and isn’t okay to play is ME.
3.  Therapy is expensive.  Crayons and colored pencils are not.  Arts and crafts therapy is a thing… a real thing.  A good thing, too.  More on that in a minute.

Oh, and one more thing:

4.  I have moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis.  It’s relevant to this post… just hang with me.

Since I was a kid, I’ve loved to color.  Every year at Christmas, I break out four or five coloring books that contain many, many years’ worth of pages that I’ve filled in, or that my mom completed on Christmas Eve in my kitchen, or that my children colored with me, or with one another, or by themselves.  The pictures are dated and usually signed — and, of course, the ones with the wonderful, spidery kid scrawls are my favorites, and are precious to me.  There’s something about going from a black-and-white page to something alive and imbued with colors, and the emotion that helped shape it, that’s almost mystical.

Sounds corny, I know.  But it’s true.

So…  Art.  Stress.  There’s a relationship here, in the sense that when I’m stressed, art makes me feel better.  Unfortunately, sometimes it’s difficult to go from a closet full of art supplies to an art journal page, or a painting, or a beautifully-drawn bit of Zendoodletanglescribble fun.  However, there’s a wonderful product that’s been around forever, and it’s been revived and re-branded and reinvented for grownups.  Behold:  the adult coloring book.

Kaleidioscope Wonders Color Art for Everyone, by Leisure Arts

Kaleidioscope Wonders Color Art for Everyone, by Leisure Arts

What I’ve discovered, through the use of adult coloring books, is that I can recapture that same feeling — the joy and the wonder of something so simple as the choosing of one color over another, because it feels right, and the delight in seeing the finished page, a one-of-a-kind creation.

The stress evaporates in an almost tangible way.  With each tiny segment filled in, these complex drawings and doodles have the power to siphon the very noisy excess ick in my brain and channel it into something almost medicinal, and certainly therapeutic.

This is doubly true in my case, as there are days I can barely hold a fork.

“At the Concert” by Renoir

I’ve been instructed to stay busy, and I know that keeping active and my joints flexible is a way to prevent the swelling and stiffening that are hallmarks of rheumatoid arthritis.  It’s been a challenge, partly because I’m so frustrated at my inability to do the simplest things, and partly because the disease appeared to have really kicked me when I was down.  But then, I learned something fascinating:  famous Impressionist artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir suffered from RA, too.  He is quoted as having said, “The pain passes, but the beauty remains.”

It struck a chord with me.

I may not be able to do things the same way that I used to… but adult coloring books have made something amazing possible.  I can physically exercise my hands in a way that helps maintain my range of motion, and I can exorcise the demons in my head that tell me I am stuck, or limited, or unable to make beautiful things.

It's such a simple thing, but it has the power to heal, in more than one sense.

It’s such a simple thing, but art has the power to heal, in more than one sense.

This is what this Leisure Arts publication allowed me to do: make something lovely using little more than a colored pencil and the limits of my own imagination.  The book contains a variety of designs and patterns — everything from mandalas to paisleys (similar to the shapes you might see in Mehndi or henna body art), and floral designs, to which I’m especially drawn (no pun intended).

And that’s not all — the book contains tips on shading, an explanation of the color wheel and color combinations, and comparisons of different media you might want to use in your art.  I used colored pencils, but the paper is heavy enough that markers or watercolor pencils could just as easily work.

The pages are perforated, and the art continues on past the perforations, which means you get a nice sharp edge to your work if you decide to remove it from the book to frame or scan in, or if you simply prefer to work on individual, unbound pages.  I like that the option is there and that you don’t have to risk destroying the whole book for the sake of a single beautiful piece.

One common thread to the book as a whole is that the pieces do seem to all have a kaleidoscope effect.  The artwork is mostly abstract, which is a wonderful thing to me.  It allows me to not be constrained by pre-conceived ideas of what colors to use, or the way things “ought” to look.  It truly makes for a therapeutic, relaxing experience.  While I received this book for review purposes, I have to tell you, the price is so reasonable as to make it a must-have for anyone who loves art, deserves a break, and needs to feel the sense of accomplishment that comes from making something beautiful — you can purchase it at Leisure Arts for about the same price as a latte from your favorite coffee shop.

And if you do happen to have arthritis, or you’re interested in the merits of art as a form of physical therapy, ask your doctor(s) what they have to say about it.  All I can tell you is that, for me, this little book has given me something incredible.

Pick up a pencil, or a pen, or a crayon, or a paintbrush today.  Create something, in some way.  See if you don’t feel years younger, happier, and healthier — in body and mind — as a result.

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Filed under Art, Book Review, Books, Crafts

That Doodle-Tangle-Art Journal Thing Everyone is Doing, and Bad Words

It’s funny, how something that’s supposed to be enjoyable and relaxing can so easily become an obsession.  There’s something to be said for getting sucked into your work, but there’s a fine line between having a hobby and having a neurosis.

I’ve kind of been toeing this line lately.

Since drawing random shapes and patterns on paper using little more than a steady hand and a fine-tipped black pen (who am I kidding?  It’s a Sharpie Ultra Fine Point, dammit, and it is my Precioussssssss) is all that’s technically required for the “simplest” of these, you would not think there’d be much opportunity for it to get weird.

Oh, no.

I blame Pinterest.  It was almost too easy… someone posted a pic that had a complex series of inked-in patterns worked into its design.  It was like a paper quilt or scrapbook page, made with STUFF that looked simple enough when taken separately, and looked magical when all pulled together.

KMorgan Art Journal WINGS

Isn’t this lovely?  Yes, I think so, too.  It is my own work.  It also involved many, many hours of the gnashing of teeth and many bad words and some not-entirely-charitable comments aimed at the creators of published patterns, paint, and my inability to read the fine print on the containers of certain adhesives…my poor countertop, alas, suffered for it.

I was hooked.  Shit.

It started out innocently enough.  I found tutorials for online patterns, which are intended to be very Zen and doodle-y and should not involve migraines or swearing or any kind of practice runs and tearing out of one’s hair.  So not the way that works.  And then, it turns out, there are Facebook groups dedicated to both art journals and Zentangles and tangles (the non-branded, generic version of doodles and pattern making).  Some of them are so very intensely specific, and sometimes group members hiss in unison when noobies (or the ignorant) cross lines.  It happens fairly regularly.  And, of course, me being me, I step on toes on a regular basis and then feel stupid about it afterwards…but I digress.

IMG_0059

Another one of mine. No tangling, just a bit of doodling, and mostly collage and art journal. I’m such a rebel *cough*.

It was supposed to be an innocent diversion, something with which to occupy my time after my freelance content writing took a backseat to life.  It wasn’t supposed to cost money, only effort.  Yeah, right.  Suuuure.  I now own two very pretty decorative storage boxes chock full of paint, fine-tipped pens, ModPodge, gesso (both matte and shiny-sheeny), paintbrushes, Washi tape, bits and bobs, more scrapbook paper I do not need, more paint, makeup sponges, bubble wrap and texturizing tools, and four different weights of art paper.

And it’s so, SO easy to get sucked in and get stressed out.  This is the opposite of the point of art, or even a hobby.

I compare what I make to those projects posted in art groups.  I stress that the Pins I’m collecting are so much more pulled-together and lovely than what I’ve made.  I see the carnage left by an obsessive two-day art binge as every flat surface in my kitchen is covered in Stuff, and I think, “How did it get this bad?  Is there a 12-step program for crafting addiction?”

Not sure, but I’ve got it bad.

I have a very dear friend who PMs me on Facebook when she needs to blow off steam.  She will snap a photo of her current project, and, because I love her, I don’t tell her how frustratingly easy she makes the process of creation look.  Does it stress her out as much as it stresses me out?  Probably not, but she’s not mental, either.  My recent mastering of a horrible, evil, wicked official Zentangle pattern called “Paradox”  a certain pattern spurred me to snap a pic and beam with pride.  I felt like I’d just run a marathon (not that I’d know what that’s like, but I’m sure there are fit, healthy, awesome folks out there who are up to the task… and they probably also have Paradox down, too, the wretches).

It’s a sad thing.  It’s an awesome thing.

I need to browse through the sale flyers now.  There are killer deals right now on Sharpie fine-tip pens.

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Filed under Art, Crafts, Pinterest