Friday, December 19, 2008

The "Coloring Book Phase"

Every time my mom went on a trip or as a leader to girls camp or would be gone for longer than a night or two she took me to Kings before she left. I would go down to the basement and look at the wall of coloring books. I would debate and debate which one I would get. It was serious business, this business of coloring books. I am almost positive I never chose anything but the jumbo Barbie coloring book. It had Barbie as a cop, Barbie as a chef, Barbie as a dog walker…Barbie and her legs were everything a little girl could possibly ever want to be. And I colored away with my new box of crayons. Mom knew I didn’t like being left behind…obviously a brand new box of 64 Crayola crayons was the way to solve that. Life was a Utopia for me with Barbie and 64 colors such as “macaroni and cheese,” “burnt orange,” and “robins egg blue” by my side.

A few semesters ago my Art Methods instructor (the teacher who teaches me how to become an art teacher) started a class discussion on the negative affects of coloring books, claiming it destroyed creativity. Coloring in the lines is not what artists like Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Picasso had in mind. Enraged students all around me raised their hands in agreement; out-crying at the nerve of those who professed to be a patron of the arts and yet used coloring books, even endorsed them. A large portion of my imagination and a meager piece of my memory brings up a scene comparable to Lord of the Flies and Fahrenheit 451: students throwing bits of colored paper into the air with wild looks on their faces, banning and burning all coloring books to be found, the instructor standing on a table shouting encouragements, students declaring the reason for their failing watercolors lay solely upon the head of coloring books. Utter chaos ensuing. The only freshman in a class full of seniors, I sank in my seat, taking fond memories of coloring books with me.

There has been an internal struggle in me with the idea of coloring books ever since. What would Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Picasso, and other great artists think? Would they be disappointed in a society in which coloring books were part of most every child’s happy younger years? Do they really stifle creativity? I like to think of myself as a creative person, yet I glorified in the day when I was the proud owner of a brand new, blank coloring book.

I’ve decided that when doubt and discouragement strike, not only in a child’s art work, but in life, when it seems nothing you do turns out as beautiful as the picture in your head, wouldn’t it be nice to be handed something where all you had to do is fill in the lines with your favorite colors and have something you were proud of to show for your efforts in the end? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a crutch to lean on and encourage you along until you can leave the thick black lines for a blank canvas?

I still don’t know what Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Picasso would think. But when my kids get to the stage when they realize their drawings of people look more like bacteria than humans and are discouraged and want to break all of their prized “macaroni and cheese” colored crayons, I will gladly hand them a coloring book.

(Just as a side note…Microsoft word recognizes Barbie as a proper noun.)


Neighbor Jane Payne said...

Creatively brilliant, Ande! This was a great read. Color on, color on.

Cassidy said...

You go girl. haha. I am on your side.

Tyler said...

A long time ago I heard the same thing from Micah. I guess mama Brown was a proponent of the "stifled creativity" side of the debate, so she never gave her kids coloring books. And I look at those Browns and if it wasn't the no coloring books that made 'em all the way they are, there's gotta be some explanation ;) But seriously, I think all of us coloring book kids are just fine.

jkmoss3 said...

Nice post. I like coloring books. I am with ya.

Carolyn said...

Ande, I still like coloring books. And I think I turned out A-okay!

Mitchell Mark said...


I remember when I was on my mission my mom sent me a Star Wars coloring book so for a P-day I colored this sweet pic. I thought I did a pretty good job on it. Only went out of the lines a few times. So I mailed it home to my dad. He took it to school and hung it in his office. A student of his was in his office and saw the pic and said, "hey that is neat." My dad explained my son drew that for me. Her reply was something like "oh cool." My dad then told the lady that his son was 20 yrs. old. She then said, wow, with a concerned look on her face.

I am proud to say that my color artwork still hang proudly in his office.

Cali said...

Ray and I laughed our way through this post. I had to reread the part about the bacteria to him four times because I kept laughing so hard he couldn't understand me. BRAVO. I liked coloring books too. They may stifle some creativity, but they also garner organization and order. What's an artist that can't find their paints... hungry.
i love you.

Barb said...

Good to know about Barbie. I need help on that word: for some reason I always leave off the *e* at the end of her name.

Chelsea Herd said...

Hey Ande, I hope you don't mind that I stumbled upon your blog. I loved reading your posts. You're so good with words :) What a wonderful talent to have!

and ps i have always been a fan of coloring books as well :)

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