Use your tulips to kiss winter goodbye. – Lilly Pulitzer
I have an idea about the coloring craze that’s busting out all over like April tulips.
You know, it’s that trend sweeping the planet that teases adults into spending time with special coloring books – designed, supposedly, with the appeal of tools for spirit.
It’s been amazing to watch this coloring thing unfold. It’s not just coloring books to fill in with crayons and colored pencils and pens. Have you noticed the spring home and garden magazines have a color theme? I know they often ‘mysteriously’ feature the same themes for a given month or season, but this year’s really stands out. It’s color. Pure color.
Where will color take you? shouts the cover of Country Living, showing a palette of paint colors with names like: Amaryllis, Organic Green, Oleander, Daisy, Lei Flower, Coming up Roses. As for pink, Good Housekeeping’s April cover is shades of pink, maybe even all 50 shades of it, if there are that many. Better Homes and Gardens declares, Fall in love with color! … how to brighten ourselves up inside and out. Color me Happy, of course, with a rainbow of pink, blue, gray, green and orange.
Naturally, spring brings a focus on color as the new season blooms after winter. But this year, that focus seems extra brilliant and intense. It reminds me of the movie Field of Dreams. We were driving down some beautiful mid-Michigan roads on April 1. The sun was out and the grassy fields were so intensely green, we both said it hurt our eyes. Then my husband thought he remembered that from a Field of Dreams quote. However, when I looked it up, it was about the blazing blue sky.
Doc Graham: That’s what I wish for. Chance to squint at a sky so blue that it hurts your eyes just to look at it.
Either way, baseball season signals spring’s emotional color intensity of brilliant blue and green… and for we Michiganders, energizing Detroit Tigers orange.
Major League Baseball got into the coloring craze this winter, too. Imagine my surprise – and amusement – when checking spring training schedules to see a printable Detroit Tigers coloring book online. What a way to get fans revved up and thinking about the new season.
Perhaps my favorite reference was the MLB article in the weeks before Spring Training. The Detroit Tigers created the coloring pages to wile away the days: 27 days until Spring Training…Add some zen to your life with this printable Tigers coloring book.
I began piecing my coloring theory together some months ago, increasingly aware of the myriad coloring books on the market. As time went by, I wondered what’s all the flurry? Do trends catch hold so easily? Maybe, in this Internet age, they do.
The phenomenon seemed to accelerate this winter. There swirled a snowstorm of gift catalogs and news articles and blogs featuring coloring books and coloring as a way to pass the long days of winter when you’re stuck indoors. Stress anyone?
Everywhere I turned, once I began noticing on purpose, I’d see another coloring book feature. Adults coloring, clamoring for more. Last summer, author Adrienne Raphel’s article in The New Yorker took a look at Why adults are buying coloring books for themselves. Raphel suggests that social media has somewhat fueled the trend, as well as marketers pushing the therapeutic angle.
Interestingly, she points out that it is also part of a larger and more pervasive fashion among adults for childhood objects and experiences. This ‘Peter Pan market’ has roots in publishing, beyond coloring books (the growth in sales of children’s and young-adult books to much older readers has been well documented) [in Publisher’s Weekly]but it is far from confined to that arena.
I hadn’t thought of myself as being part of the Peter Pan market, but I don’t mind; it’s fun. As for any global trend, everyone has an opinion about it. Here’s my theory about this amazing phenomenon. Deep down I think it’s because we’re craving color. Sure, it’s spring and we’ve been through a long, dark winter; and we’d really love to kiss it goodbye. That’s a normal, seasonal shift.
Perhaps there’s something going on in the global psyche, though…something besides new fads to get people to engage with their inner spirit. If coloring books are now among those catchy tools, maybe we’re simply needing more color in our lives. Given the current state of world affairs and domestic politics, maybe more and more we’re internalizing the negative global vibes.
Have the current headlines and political dysfunction got you down? Are you giving up hope that the world will ever change? These questions that caught my attention recently are apparently on the minds of millions. You can tell by the current election cycle.
The polarization of viewpoints is so abrasive, more than I’ve seen in my lifetime. I’ve followed it on my Facebook pages for months – often aghast at the comments by folks I thought would never engage in such negative discourse on a public forum.
You feel like you’re slogging through a metaphorical climate change, navigating a continual winter of bleak, gray skies. You wonder when, or if, the sun will ever come out again, so you can swing open the doors and put on a happy face.
Craving grace and mercy
We live in a cold time, writes Richard Rohr of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, NM, and we must now pray for the warming of hearts and opening of minds.
He’s speaking of mercy, and the focus of Pope Francis on declaring this year The Year of Mercy, in the wake of worldwide frustration with the way things are going. In recent decades, Rohr writes in The Mendicant for March 2016, as the world grows more desperate, crowded and fearful, doors of mercy have been forcefully shut rather than nudged open.
In my view, we long for a wellspring of grace and mercy in these turbulent times. We long to look through rose-colored glasses, as the world seems to be falling apart in front of us. In the 21st Century, we long for the doors of grace and mercy to be nudged open. We long to see a world in harmony. But really what’s to stop us? We always have our internal rose-colored glasses. They reside in our heart, I believe, which is also where grace and mercy are found.
I’ve long been involved – since I was a young mother – with United Methodist Women in our little neighborhood church. My UMW experiences have inspired my outlook on life and my sense of purpose. Each year there’s a national spiritual theme. This year’s is Growing in Blessedness (as seen in The Beatitudes).
April’s theme is mercy, defined as sorrowful at heart….It is the loving disposition and compassion towards those who suffer distress. A merciful person shares in another’s suffering as if it were their own.
I believe we need to allow compassion for ourselves, too. When we feel disheartened by circumstances, or by world events, we can choose to take out our rose-colored glasses. We can put them on, not to bury our heads in the sand, but to paint some color into our personal world. When we are sorrowful at heart, we can find solace and renewal through whatever creative tools we discover that make a difference and brighten our outlook and perspective.
There was a time when, if you wanted a coloring book for grownups, you’d be looking for a long time. Now, not only are we into coloring books, we’re into coloring mandala art big time. Turns out mandala coloring books are among the most popular.
There’s a reason why this is so fascinating to me. Several years ago I was only vaguely aware of mandala art. I barely knew what one was. Then I became acquainted with mandala artist Henry Reed; here’s how he describes a mandala:
Mandala means circle. In this case, the circle refers to the symbol for ‘all that is,’ especially all that can be, or Creation’s complete and full potential, the unmanifest. Carl Jung brought mandalas to our attention and noted that they often appeared in conjunction with the square motif.
Jung created a mandala on a daily basis, as noted in his book Memories, Dreams, Reflections:
I sketched every morning in a notebook a small circular drawing,… which seemed to correspond to my inner situation at the time….Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is … the Self, the wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well is harmonious.
For several years Reed, like Jung, drew and painted a daily mandala [The Daily Mandala]. I began following his blog, observing the new artwork everyday, intrigued with the kaleidoscope of patterns and colors. Looking at them seemed to energize me.
My first foray into working with mandala art occurred when I attended one of Reed’s workshops in creativity…reviving and unleashing your creative spirit. Included in the workshop was a session on drawing and painting (with watercolors) your own mandala.
Drawing and painting are not in my DNA, but Reed introduced us to the concept of mandala art as both art and therapy. I sketched my first mandala, mesmerized by the simplicity of beginning with a circle. Maybe I couldn’t draw as a real artist, I figured, but I could fill in a circle or doodle in its space.
Reed encouraged us with his easy steps: simply drawing a circle, dividing it into quadrants and putting the same design in each quadrant as you go around the circle – similar to these Wikihow Draw a Mandala steps.
The workshop was such a pleasant experience, you’d think I’d be drawing mandalas all the time. Like many intentions, it’s a discipline still on my to-do list. However, I decided to explore something unique to me. I decided to follow along with Reed’s hundreds of mandalas and use them as a writing practice.
As time went by, I surprised myself with my reflections; often it seemed like someone else wrote them. Reed would call this inspirational writing. It was fun to see what would flow out. It became a kind of therapy for me, as a writer, putting words with art. I’m still working on my reflections of Reed’s Daily Mandala; and I have a few hundred left to do at my turtle pace.
While I’ve yet to get into the habit of drawing my own, my husband – who has an affinity for drawing and painting – became interested in creating mandala art. I’m glad I influenced him to try it. Once in awhile, I’ll doodle a simple mandala drawing. It’s a good too to have in your personal creativity kit.
Naturally, you can see why I began noticing the trend of coloring mandala designs early on. First you’d find a few pages online that people had created; and then came the flood of actual coloring books. The coloring book craze is now helping spread the word about mandala art.
Playing with color
What fun and creativity comes from opening your box of Crayolas and playing with color. We discover that as children. We discover the possibilities inherent in our box of crayons. My personal journey with color began with that first box of eight; but I coveted my square box of 64, and if lucky, 96. Now I understand there are 120 colors, officially, with the Ultimate Crayon Collection of 150 marvelous colors, or a bucket of 200 if you want to go that far.
Amazing, this coloring thing once you begin exploring. Crayola’s been all about playing with color since 1903: Crayola art supplies and creative activities help children develop imagination while practicing fine and gross motor skills. Children can express, create, and connect with color. Watch kids’ confidence and independence grow as they learn through colorful play.
Somewhere along my life trajectory I had put the crayons back in the box. Like many adults, I’d stopped playing. As mentioned, I’ve memories of wishing I were more artistic in the drawing and painting sense. My love of color, though, has always been inside me. Finally, in recent years, I’ve begun to let the color genie out of the box.
At Henry Reed’s creativity workshop, eight years ago, I remember being handed a box of the basic eight. It felt strange, somehow, to be sitting with other adults holding boxes of crayons and pages to color, doodle, draw things. I felt like I was in kindergarten again. I was coloring, with crayons, with my peers. Again the self-conscious memories, wishing I were more artistic, came flooding back. Yet my love of color kept me going. Being among kindred spirits doing the same thing was exhilarating. I was on my way back to being that colorful person inside me. I came away wanting to play more with color; and I knew intuitively that, for my own health, I needed to do that.
Author Stuart Brown confirmed my hunch with his 2010 book: Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul . The Amazon interview is wonderful. You might also enjoy the book summary I wrote for Henry Reed’s Intuitive Connection Network about Brown’s book.
My friend Doris, a former teacher, loves playing with color – whether planting hundreds of flower bulbs for her garden, teaching about beautiful birds for Audubon folks, or baking with grandchildren… frosting with many colors a gallery of her famous cookies for each holiday of the year. Doris delights in the joy of color, and passes it on to everyone in her world. Her secret, I believe, is that spark of inner color that inspires.
Finding beauty in mandala art
One of my favorite catalogs, Isabella, features a page enticing us to be inspired by coloring mandalas. Notes Isabella, Your inner child never stopped loving to color. Sometimes I wonder, with all the hype about the coloring mandala craze, if there could be the beginning of a global mandala movement. You could call it the mandala effect.
In any case, I’m inspired to continue finding beauty in mandala art. I’m inspired to color mandala designs that others have created. I’m inspired to keep going with enjoying mandala artistry – both visually and via writing. I’m especially inspired to share my discoveries.
On April 5, I opened my Facebook page to find a mandala reflection I’d written on April 5, 2011. Because I’d been working on this blog about color, I was astounded to read my advice to myself from five years ago that exactly conveys this theme.
Following a burst of insight comes the art of coloring in the lines, connecting the dots, of this beautiful pattern I see before me. It’s time to fill it in, layer the pigments, giving depth to my dream … paving the yellow brick road with the power of red, vermilion, magenta, indigo. With strength to the color core of my being, I discover the magical blend that will carry me forward. – ATB
Bringing life full circle
Perhaps I’ve come full circle. Perhaps my life playground is that magical blend. I love to dive into color. I’ve gradually written in a more colorful style. While I have my gray moments, I’ve amped up my willingness to be seen wearing lots of color, to take a stand on color, and to stand out.
Make a splash with color, invites my Coastal Living magazine, offering 45 ways to brighten up your home…an everything guide to paint, with foolproof hues. Wow, I could use some foolproof hues in my life right now. Maybe some of Southern Living magazine’s New Southern Colors will do.
Think where color can take you if you make a splash with it. American fashion designer Lilly Pulitzer did. Noted for her vivid colors and floral prints, she unleashed the power of color to create her iconic and fun line of clothing. A Pulitzer Instagram post: We make your day brighter by creating printed products that are HAPPY and FUN.
The lovely Pulitzer quote from the front of this blog was found on that April 1 road trip to the west side of Michigan. I picked up the regional magazine Northshore Women’s Lifestyle and was struck by a photo of Pulitzer with a bouquet of vibrant tulips, mirroring the blooms of my rosy pink Easter tulips.
In such times as these – when cynicism abounds – I think the heart seeks beauty. Let the desert places in your heart bloom, says Pope Francis. For me, opening that door may be the best tool for spirit.
In such times as these, I invite you to appreciate the color that comes into your life. Celebrate it. Play with it; have fun with it; and with joy, pass it on.