Friday, January 22, 2016


When I was a kid, I used to spend hours coloring pictures in coloring books. I always had a box of 64 Crayola crayons (with a built-in sharpener) handy because back then, Crayola was considered to be the Rolls Royce of crayons. 

My childhood friend, Janet, always used to say, “Nothing smells better than when you open a brand new box of crayons.”

I can remember when I was about 10, one of my aunts, who was known for being…well, really frugal, asked me what I wanted for Christmas. Without any hesitation, I said, “Coloring books!”

So that Christmas, I was excited when I unwrapped three coloring books from her. Unfortunately, two-and-a-half of them already had been colored. My dad said she’d probably recycled them from a dumpster, but that didn’t stop me from coloring the few pages that still were left.

When I got older, I continued to enjoy coloring books – mostly the Barbie ones. I loved coloring Barbie’s dresses and outfits and pretending to be a fashion designer. This, I’m embarrassed to confess, was when I was in my 30s.

“Aren’t you a little old for coloring books?” my husband commented one night as I sat transforming yet another Barbie dress into what I considered to be a work of art worthy of someone like Vera Wang.

“Coloring is calming,” I said. “You ought to try it when you’re feeling stressed.”

He rolled his eyes. “Can you honestly picture me sitting here coloring Barbie’s evening gowns and underwear?”

“Don’t be silly. You’d use a boys’ coloring book – you know, one with stuff like race cars and Ninjas in it.”

I could tell by his expression he wasn’t even close to being sold on the idea.

Unfazed, I continued to buy coloring books and crayons every few months throughout the years, even though I often was teased about it.

About a year ago, however, things dramatically changed.

That’s when some company came up with the brilliant idea of heavily promoting coloring books designed especially for adults who were “experienced colorists.” Actually, these books had been around for a while, but not too many people were aware of them, mainly because they’d been sold primarily in art stores.

Even though I considered myself to be an “experienced colorist,” the particular book I saw advertised on TV contained such intricate, detailed patterns, I figured any adult without a perfectly steady hand and eyesight like a hawk would find them a real challenge to color. Still, I was more than willing to take that challenge.

“Adult coloring books?” one of my friends repeated, frowning, when I told her about them. “You mean X-rated ones?  What fun would coloring those be? The only crayon you’d need would be a flesh-colored one!”

I burst out laughing. “No, they’re not X-rated!  They’re called adult coloring books because the pictures in them have millions of fine lines and are really difficult to color. They’re advertised as being great for relieving stress.”

 She obviously failed to comprehend my enthusiasm. “How can coloring something so complicated make you relax?  I’d think it would give you a headache…or eyestrain.”

To my delight, my friend Colleen bought me an adult coloring book and a tin of 24 colored pencils for Christmas last month.  I excitedly leafed through the pages so I could select a picture to color right away. I’d known in advance that the designs were going to be more complicated than my Barbie fashions, but I actually was surprised when I looked closely at all of the fine details.  One beach scene, for example, contained about 700 rocks and 400 seashells, with a flock of seagulls flying overhead. Another picture featured a flower garden with more flowers than a florist’s greenhouse, and once again, more birds…all with intricate plumage. Some of the lines were so fine, I nearly needed a magnifying glass to see them.

I selected a picture of a garden tea-party and set to work on it. The colored pencils were a dream to color with. They seemed to practically glide over the page, and their colors were rich and bright. They made coloring with regular crayons seem dull in comparison. I was hooked.

Once I started coloring, there was no stopping me. I spent hours just sitting and coloring. I ignored my housework. I didn’t make dinner until nearly midnight, and then when I finally did, I forgot all about it until the smoke detectors reminded me I was cooking something. And by the time I let the dogs outside, they practically were crossing their legs. Even worse, my fingers, after gripping colored pencils for endless hours, began to ache and even get tingly.

But still, I continued to color.

Too soon, I realized that 24 colored pencils weren’t going to be enough. I wanted, at the very least, the 64 colors I’d had in my trusty Crayola box. So I went online to check out the brand of colored pencils I was using – Prismacolor Premier.  Believe me, I wasn’t prepared for what I found.

A box of 48 pencils was selling for an average of $40. The box of 72 was going for $85-$100, and the deluxe box of 132 was about $120.  The last time I’d bought colored pencils, they were only $1.50 a box. I couldn’t even begin to imagine paying nearly 100 times that amount for them. For that price, I’d become hysterical if I ever broke off one of the pencil tips while coloring.

It seemed as if the majority of my friends also received adult coloring books this past Christmas. Suddenly, I no longer had to hide my secret coloring addiction. Suddenly, I was hip and trendy instead of some weird old lady who always bought Barbie coloring books and crayons and had to hear, “Oh, your grandchild will enjoy these!” from the cashier.

I even went to Michael’s craft store last week and saw a display of about 20 different adult coloring books – most priced at an average of $12.99.  I looked through every one of them, my eyes wide with excitement. One book in particular caught my eye. It was about as thick as a New York City phone book and contained all sizes and shapes of mandalas in a variety of patterns – geometric, flowered, optical illusions, animals, and more.  It was $15.99.

I walked around the store for a few minutes, then returned to the mandala coloring book and looked through it again, already imagining which color schemes I’d use on each page.

“No,” I said, shaking my head. “Spending $16 for a coloring book is crazy!”

Ten minutes later, I walked out of the store with my newly purchased coloring book. And that night, I spent four hours coloring just one of the mandalas. My neck and hand were so stiff the next morning, I barely could grip my morning cup of tea.

So I colored another two pictures…strictly as therapy, of course.

I do realize that my coloring addiction is interfering with my daily routine and is seriously getting out of control. So I’ve decided there’s only one thing left for me to do about it.

Save up enough money to buy the box of 132 colored pencils.

                                                                     #  #  #


  1. Hi Sally. Longtime reader in Goffstown here. I can almost smell the crayons! Well, sometimes serendipity noses in, too. A friend just sent me this. Provided I can put a link in here. It goes to a pdf file from the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, with images from their vast collection of mostly medieval artworks done up as coloring book images for you to print and go to town on! Here it is:

    1. Thank you! I can't wait to check it out!