Thursday, August 16, 2018

Art Appreciation Month

August is Art Appreciation Month. I didn't know that until I received a newsletter from ColorIt, a company that produces coloring books for adults and all kinds of coloring pencils and pens. Since I could not find a listing for Art Appreciation Month in the list of official list of month-long observations in the U.S., perhaps ColorIt made the designation themselves. Regardless of who made the designation, taking a month to appreciate art is not a bad thing, especially for those of us who paint beautiful pictures with words.

But I'd like you to take a moment to consider a different kind of picture making.

In 2016, the adult coloring book craze exploded, and sales of coloring books soared at Amazon and other retail outlets. Craft stores, such as Micheals and Hobby Lobby, had full aisles of books and coloring pens and pencils of all kinds. While the fad seems to have waned some this year, there are still plenty of adults coloring to relieve stress or just for fun. I do it for both, and here is one of my latest pages.

I didn't want to cut the picture out of the book, hence the shadow at the bottom.
I have been coloring for pleasure most of my life, and some of my favorite childhood memories are of sharing crayons and construction paper with my sister, especially when our mother would join us to color. It was a past-time that we carried into adulthood and visits home to Michigan always involved a day of coloring and/or drawing. Some of the best conversations I had with my mother about her past happened while we were creating. It was like she was more comfortable talking when the main focus was on coloring, not what was being said.

In light of recent studies that show how coloring is good for us, emotionally and mentally, I understand now how that activity allowed my mother to talk about things that were difficult. (Those difficult things are the basis for my novel, Evelyn Evolving, which is a fictionalized story of my mother's life. It is now finished, after three years of writing and rewriting and advice from a developmental editor, KathrynCraft, who was a contributor here at BRP for several years. More about the book when it finds a home.)

All the years that I spent drawing and coloring with my mother and my sister, I always did it just for enjoyment, not knowing the specific emotional benefits. According to clinical psychologist Ben Michaelis, coloring is a stress-free activity that relaxes the amygdala — the fear center of the brain — and allows your mind to get the rest it needs. 

I didn't even know we had an amygdala, but I'm sure glad mine is relaxed. :-)

While I have always known that creativity feeds creativity, which means that pursuing any form of creative endeavor can improve our writing, I never considered that narrow focus of resting the fear center of our brains. Going to movies, listening to music, and visiting art museums connects us to that great creative consciousness, and primes the well as Heidi Thomas wrote here in April, 2013. Those are still important pursuits for writers, but I would like to encourage adding coloring to your list of creative pursuits. Perhaps there is some fear you need to put to rest.

Coloring is not the same as art therapy, but they are related in that they help a person with focus and mindfulness, two things we writers need for sure. It also stimulates brain areas related to motor skills, the senses and creativity. So there is no doubt that coloring is beneficial to us wordsmiths, so again I invite you to try it. You don't have to invest in the expensive books and pencils and pens that are sold by the specialty companies. A simple child's coloring book and a few crayons will do for a start. 

Are you willing to try? Have you ever had a love for coloring? Please do share.

Maryann Miller - novelist, editor and sometimes actress. She won her first writing award at age twelve with a short story in the Detroit News Scholastic Writing Awards Contest and continues to garner recognition for her short stories, books, and screenplays. You can find out more about Maryann, her books, and her editing services on her Website and her Amazon Author Pageread her  Blog,  and follow her on Facebook and Twitter

9 comments :

  1. As a person who was never particularly drawn to coloring, even as a child, I am tempted to rethink this now, based on your article. Thanks for sharing this, Maryann.

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  2. You're welcome, Linda. And do let me know if you try coloring. While I do have a few of the newer adult coloring books and some fancy pens and pencils, I colored for many year with just crayons and enjoyed that very much. The only reason I have newer materials is that my kids gave them as gifts.

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  3. You've inspired me to get my coloring books out again! I always feel a little guilty when I do, even though I am usually coloring with my children. One thing that is interesting, though, is that often the very intricate coloring books meant for adults overwhelm me, making me feel more stressed! I like the simpler, more open designs best. Thank you, Maryann, I really enjoyed this article, and am looking forward to getting out my colors!

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    1. Glad the post inspired you, Khadijah. I, too, like the simpler designs, but I do feel a need to use the books that were given to me as gifts. In addition to this book of mandellas, I have another book for yarn lovers, that has cartoonish pictures of people knitting in unusual situations. The one I'm working on know has a knitter perched on the bow of a ship with a whale in the water following the boat. Love the cartoon look of these pictures, so I go back and forth between the two books.

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  4. I spent the first 25 years of my professional life drawing everything from fashion ads to logo designs, so I can see how coloring books can be therapeutic. Nice that it brings back such sweet memories.

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    1. By the way, your exhibit is lovely. Reminds me of those old kaleidoscopes.

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    2. Many of the mandalas in my book, do look like what one sees in a kaleidoscope.

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  5. I still love to color. Someone suggested having a coloring book made of my YA book for marketing purposes. I wish I had the ability to sketch it.

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    1. Having a coloring book of your YA book sounds like a terrific idea. Have you ever tried to sketch some pictures from it? You may surprise yourself. :-)

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.