Adult Coloring Books

Animal KingdomI received an adult coloring book for Christmas; otherwise, I would not have ventured into this trend that is sweeping the book market. I am overloaded with hobbies, and I feared that one more activity in my current repertory would leave me with five remaining hours of sleep per night. I opened the first page to a very detailed octopus, a fantastical creature with eight winding, intricate, highly stylized feet in my gift book Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom. Marotta has several other nature-oriented adult coloring books: Secret Garden, Lost Ocean, Enchanted Forest.

Initially, I questioned whether coloring is a creative activity. Certainly, it is a cut above paint-by-number, because the colorist still retains the decision-making power of what color to fill in where on a drawing someone else designed. I derived a great deal of pleasure from making these color choices. A lot of experimentation was involved, and I was not always pleased with the results of my combinations and contrasts; yet some turned out well, causing me to lean back in my chair and admire my handiwork. I used felt-tip fine markers on this first foray. Although the colors are bright, the fine details make colored pencils better for filling in these drawings. I went to the store to buy a box. While I was browsing another woman was also searching for a large box of colored pencils for her adult coloring book, demonstrating I am not the only old lady to have received a coloring book for Christmas. We excitedly exchanged notes about our experience and the coloring books we were using.

Others who have delved into the intricacies of adult coloring books have reported on its relaxing, meditative DSCN0742quality, producing the same effect that knitting does while watching films or television programs. Like knitting, there is something to show for the unproductive hours of sedentary viewing.  Some recommend coloring for those who have been unsuccessful at meditative practices.  Undoubtedly, coloring can serve as a stress reliever.

The creative aspect and the element of relaxation in the activity relate to color itself.  Specific colors are associated with the chakras or auras around the body. Their different hues represent emotional energy fields.  Color choices reflect moods and levels of energy. Color plays a significant role in dress, home decoration, and gardening. Personality is reflected in the colors we pick in these activities also. This transfers to coloring, because in the process, we are connecting with our inner self.  I found it very satisfying to choose colors and to realize that no two people would color the drawing in the exact same way, and consequently, I was creating something unique to myself. In addition, it was unique to the moment, to the dynamics of the specific time I was coloring, and if I colored the same drawing another day, it would turn out completely different.

The last discovery I made from my adventure into adult coloring was its mystery. By this, I mean not knowing what the drawing would look like in the end. As I colored, a world of possibilities opened before me. That mystery kept me coloring in the same way I would keep reading a detective novel to find out how the crime would be solved.  This is the draw, the wonderful mesmerizing quality of continuing to clothe those empty white spaces as I would dress a naked baby in a cute outfit.

The adult coloring book, as others have widely commented, awakens childhood memories. That is true, yet the reasons coloring gave so much pleasure in childhood are the same reasons that as an adult I find it so pleasurable. Coloring is creative; colors relate to our energy fields; coloring is like solving a mystery.

Several years ago I wrote a poem about coloring, which is in my book Playground, a collection of poems on the childhood activities that my generation loved. Here it is:


Open the jumbo box for the first time.

See four rows of sixteen sharpened tips.

Inhale the smell of crayons fresh to smudge

Bright swaths upon the coloring book page.


The Walt Disney one fat with cartoons calls.

Who to color: Uncle Scrooge, Donald Duck?

Shade with olive and forest green the trees;

Add turquoise tones and aquamarine skies.


Stay within the lines and when finished

Admire the masterpiece then start another.

Hours of Crayola fun inside on rainy days

Spent coloring on the kitchen table.


A few dot-to-dots scattered through the book.

Follow the numbers; a drawing is exposed.

Too much pressure on periwinkle breaks

The crayon in two; switch to cadet blue.


Carnation pink is worn to a blunted stub.

Boo-hoo! It’s our favorite color, more than

Mulberry, red-orange, or burnt sienna;

Give me the flesh crayon for Fudd’s face.


We shade, pressing darker along the lines

In grades that mark an artist’s genius.

The orange and green Binney and Smith box

Holds a few tips still sharp for tomorrow.


Many more pages to color, many more days,

Some sunshiny, some dull as used crayolas

Whose smell lingers on fingertips long after

The lid is closed on rows of rounded heads.


Broken crayons, some without their paper,

Tossed into cigar box, their luster lost

Until Roger comes up with the bright idea

To melt them down to a model volcano.








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