The art of the coloring book

In the bustling college environment, I find myself overwhelmed at times, bubbling with so many ideas, conversing with so many people and balancing things to do. After a long day, I need to unwind.

Chloe Patel | Senior Graphic Artist

Don’t get me wrong, I watch movies and TV shows. I also journal, work out and meditate — all of which to help me de-stress. But lately, I find myself reverting to childish ways, and reaching for something less conventional than usual — coloring books.

What first comes to mind when you think of coloring as stress relief might be the intricate mandala designs of “adult” coloring books, or some sort of color-by-number. That’s not what I color. 

I won my Peeps coloring book in an Easter egg hunt organized by my suitemate, and surely enough, everything changed. I was no longer growing annoyed at attempting to fill in every detailed pattern of a mandala. The lines of pink across the pages bled and overlapped together, creating a less-than-perfect composition of a rabbit. 

I would routinely cap my marker, place it back in the box and flip to the next page of my Dollar Tree Peeps coloring book. Despite the imperfections and out-of-line work, I was always satisfied, something eight-year-old me would’ve been proud of. 

Now, the Peeps coloring book is full, so I journeyed down the block to Dollar Tree to find another book. I was disappointed with the selection. There was something so perfect about the Peeps. Each page was so simplistic with its chicks, bunnies and an occasional word search here or there. 

On that next visit, the books before me were a chaos of super heroes, princesses and TV show characters I had never even heard of. I finally settled on a book full of llamas. 

In times like these, I can’t help but have a slight feeling that I have taken my experience of art and coloring in the past. In college, I find myself creating less art than I have before, as it used to be such a major part of my life. Maybe it’s because I am busy or just because I have grown distant between that creative and expressive side of myself. I used to paint, draw, make jewelry, crochet — you name it. 

I remember I would be at Hobby Lobby once a week in fifth grade, buying $8 Copic markers to grow my collection. I am constantly inspired by my friends, who are College of Fine Arts students, and I spend time in the studio to write as they paint. I enjoy it, but doing so never fails to remind me of when I used to do the same. 

I think coloring has provided me with a happy medium of the expression and stress relief that creating art brings me. Though beautiful as my Peeps and llamas may be, they are definitely far from “art.”

Coloring also reminds me of home, when I used to sit at the dining room table with my baby cousin as he colors a monster truck. I would run upstairs to my Nana’s house and reach on my tip-toes for the drawer that holds the box of markers, or kneel on the hot summer driveway as I cover its entirety in chalk drawings. These memories bring a comforting presence to the simplistic act. 

These days, I find myself in my dorm with a hockey game on, reaching for my Dollar Tree coloring book. As I sloppily fill in the lines of mismatched colors, I reflect on how the imperfections of my coloring would have made me go crazy years ago. Now, even through the messiness — I am somehow relaxed.

The realization I have made is that coloring is perfect for me as another way to practice mindfulness in my day-to-day routine. In fact, within the last few years, I’ve made efforts to integrate mindfulness into my life. This comes in the form of being very in tune with what I’m feeling and sensing in the moment and not passing judgment. It allows me to be cognitive of my emotions and has helped me a great deal with being less anxious. Staying grounded and present in my life is now easier, and I have deliberate gratitude for everything around me. 

Coloring allows me to be present in only the action in which I am doing and lulls all of the distractions around me. It also emphasizes the nonjudgmental part of mindfulness, as I am not worried about it being perfect or neat. I go in with the expectation to fill in the shapes anyway I want, with no stress over whether it looks the best or not. 

As I continue detailing orange llamas on the page, I will reflect on my gratitude for the new outlet that the Peeps coloring book has opened my eyes to. This seemingly childish or unconventional hobby has let me find solace as of late, and I am thankful to have found it as a way to relieve stress.  

Who cares if others don’t consider it art? Art is subjective. Stress relief is imperative.

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