Sunday , March 3 2024
Adult coloring books are the latest "thing," but for some, it's been a long-lived passion.

True Confessions of an Adult Coloring Book Addict

Confession: I never outgrew the nearly every child’s love of putting color to paper. For me, crayons gave way to colored pencils, which gave way to Craypas (oil pastels) and back again. Mind you, I’m no artist. Yeah, I scribble, doodle, scrawl, and at one time fancied myself a terrific designer of exotic Renaissance-inspired dresses. But I never really went there.

Of all the career paths I’ve followed, art was never even a remote possibility. Which is, when it comes to coloring books, is sort of the point. They let you be an artist without having to be particularly talented at things like perspective (or the ability to draw a recognizable human form!).crayoloa

My entry medium was of course Crayola crayons. What child could resist all those colors. I can still picture my first box of 64 colors (with a sharpener embedded into the box!). I can probably recite all the colors with their wonderfully descriptive names: strangely coarse burnt sienna, lilac, peach, the blue-green and its corollary green-blue, forest green, aquamarine, carnation pink. Admit it, you can too!Like many kids, I had a big collection of coloring books: cheap entertainment for a rainy day. More expensive (therefore a special treat) were Venus Paradise color-by-number kits, which allowed me to pretend I was Van Gogh (ears intact) or Picasso. Or Monet.

Like many kids, I had a big collection of coloring books: cheap entertainment for a rainy day. Then I graduated: Venus Paradise Color by Number sets, enabling my inner Rembrandt.


Eventually, I outgrew coloring books and color-by-number, trading crayons for ink, and coloring books for notebook paper. I would venture a guess that most of my college notebooks contained more doodles, fashion designs and cartoon-ish creations from my pen than they did actual lecture notes. (And all created by an array of colorful felt-tipped markers).

It was back in those college days that I realized I wasn’t alone. Staring back at me in the university bookstore was a Dover “adult coloring book” — pages and pages of Renaissance and Medieval scenes, fairies, fantasy animals, and abstract artworks. The cost me hours and hours of time filling in the intricate shapes and swirls (and probably cost me any chance of ascending to the dean’s list.

Alas, my restless fingers found their way to the computer keyboard and were much occupied over the next years with writing rather than coloring. That is, until recently, when to my delight, I happened to read an article about how coloring (and doodling) is one way to reduce stress in adults. Hmm. Never thought of it that way. It even has a name: “doodle therapy.” To some, coloring and doodling are akin to meditation or yoga. Doodling–and coloring–unlock your mind’s creative engine, help you think, relax, lead you to a more mindful existence. Cool, huh?

doverIt was like learning that chocolate or coffee were beneficial to health, and I was intrigued. I took a trip to, and “lo and behold,” there were enough coloring books to tickle any adult’s imagination and artistic ambitions. I’m in!

I immediately thought back to my old Venus Paradise colored pencils and wondered if they’re still sold. (They’re not.) But there are so many, many alternatives: vibrant pencils, oil pencils, watercolor pencils, soft pencils, metallic pencils, gel markers… Even Flair pens have gotten into the act and Papermate sells sets of pretty cool fine point Flair felt pens.

There are books of mandalas, dreamcatchers, Victoriana, animals, fairies–anything your heart can imagine. I had to hold back my glee and settle for just one book and a couple sets of markers and pencils.

Do they relieve my stress? Not sure about that, as I concentrate on filling in the intricate patterns with multitudes of fabulous color, stressing about which colors would work best into the plumage of a fine-feathered peacock (besides the conventional-wisdom-esque turquoise). I have yet to test whether a half hour of coloring will release my inner creative spirit and make me more productive at my more lucrative creative pursuit: writing.

I do have to admit, though, coloring is a great distraction that (for the geek I am) does not include buttons, screens, crushing candies, keypads, swipes or emails. I’ve just dismissed a class of fourth graders from my room after I’ve watched them for nearly half an hour excitedly choosing markers, asking my advice on what and how to color their designs. And just having fun–no electronics needed! So dive in, choose your weapon: pen, marker, pencil, crayon–and…Go!

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About Barbara Barnett

A Jewish mother and (young 🙃) grandmother, Barbara Barnett is an author and professional Hazzan (Cantor). A member of the Conservative Movement's Cantors Assembly and the Jewish Renewal movement's clergy association OHALAH, the clergy association of the Jewish Renewal movement. In her other life, she is a critically acclaimed fantasy/science fiction author as well as the author of a non-fiction exploration of the TV series House, M.D. and contributor to the book Spiritual Pregnancy. She Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (

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