By now, the trend has swept the nation: coloring, an activity typically associated with children, has become the newest fad to spark the imagination of creative adults.
A popular gift under the Christmas tree, local and online retailers saw sales of “adult coloring books” — depicting everything from intricate forest scenes to images inspired by the Harry Potter book series — soar during the recent holiday season.
One of those was a book put together by the Clovis Senior Activity Center’s advanced drawing class. Financed with a $1,000 donation and printed locally at Office Max, the books were sold for $10 each at the Senior Center and at Allard’s art store in Fresno. The initial print run sold out before Christmas. Proceeds were donated back to the senior center.
Bonnie Doyle, who will retire next month after teaching the class for 18 years, said the project was a natural fit for her group of advanced adult artists, many of whom have shown and received awards for their work. Although creating coloring pages was new for most, she said, her students were up for the challenge, which was presented after a trip to the zoo.
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“We met at the (Fresno Chaffee) Zoo to take photographs,” recalled Doyle. At the time, she said, “adult coloring books were just becoming popular.” Doyle decided creating their own coloring book based on their visit would make for a fun project.
Students used their own photographs as reference material for their original pen and ink drawings, which were drawn on a large scale before they were reduced to fit the coloring book’s 8.5x11-inch pages. “Things look tighter when they’re reduced,” Doyle explained.
“When she (Doyle) said this was going to be our end project, I thought it would be great,” said Jeanne Naito, who said she’s been taking Doyle’s class for about eight years.
“I was doing other art but I couldn’t figure out why it just didn’t look right sometimes,” said Naito of her introduction to the class. “Drawing is the basic skill you need for all art.
“Bonnie teaches and everybody learns,” she continued. “We always have fun in this class; I don’t think anybody feels intimidated.”
Naito contributed two drawings to the coloring book, including one her classmates affectionately dubbed the “Fruit Stripe Zebras” due to the way she colored the sample depicted on the book’s cover.
“The basic outline didn’t take long,” she said. “I got it done in a session of drawing.”
Other students spent considerably more time on their initial outlines. Deborah Pepin, who contributed a picture of birds roosting atop a cat’s head, said she took about four to five hours to complete her drawing, which was originally about 22 by 28 inches.
“I’m ‘go big or go home;’ I’m that type of gal, so most of my pieces are pretty large,” Pepin noted.
“Huge,” her friend Lynne Valek interjected.
Pepin went on to explain how her interest in doodle art — which she described as “putting in lines and patterns and you go from there” — influenced her piece. “You can kind of see it’s got lots of lines and texture and patterns,” she said, gesturing to the drawing. “For me it’s all about color, texture, how they mix, how you perceive them when you look at them.”
The texture and patterns, students said, are part of what make coloring pages so appealing.
“I thought it would be really fun to color in all the circles,” said Valek, who used African fabric as a reference point when creating patterned borders around her drawings of a flamingo and a rhinoceros. She added scales to the rhino for the same reason.
“It would be boring to have a plain old hunk of gray. I thought it would be fun to show the scales and let people color them in,” she said, adding she hoped people might be inspired to choose “crazy colors.”
She wasn’t the only student who considered how end users — the artists who will eventually fill in their outlines using crayons, colored pencils or markers — might unleash their own creativity when coloring in their pieces.
Tom Powell’s whimsical, cartoon-like frogs fill an entire page. “They’re not zoo animals,” he said of his drawing, “but I just wanted to make something fun to color. I put as many things in there as I could to make it fun for the person.”
Powell said he gave a copy of the finished book to his granddaughter and her husband. “They’re in their 30s and they’re into coloring when they’ve got some spare time or are watching TV,” he said.
As much as it can be an individual activity, coloring can bring people together, encouraging collaboration and creativity.
“We left it (the book) on the table all day during Christmas and it was just really fun,” said Valek. “All ages, from toddlers to grandparents, were coloring. We had a great time as a family. And we didn’t limit ourselves, either.”