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Water Cooler: A year for the coloring-book trend to come back

UPDATED: Wed., Nov. 18, 2020

Although the initial adult coloring book fad may have faded away, there are few times better than now to revive it.  (Pixabay)
Although the initial adult coloring book fad may have faded away, there are few times better than now to revive it. (Pixabay)

The adult coloring-book fad of 2015 came and went, which is really too bad since it makes a great quarantine activity. Coloring was heralded as a lighthearted way to combat stress, practice mindfulness and enjoy some simple fun, so it may be the perfect year for a coloring book resurgence. This time however, coloring books don’t have to be a stress-reliever trend only for adults, but also for kids who need to chill out in the midst of experiencing extra stress during the pandemic.

Coloring books might not be the height of creative freedom when it comes to arts and crafts, but they are a fantastic, low-maintenance and affordable option for families that want to spend a bit of quality time together doing something artistic, screenless and soothing. Coloring books actually took off originally as an activity for artistic training, so although they offer a bit of guidance, coloring books do have merit when it comes to learning how to draw and paint.

In the mid-17th century, one of the first coloring-book-like activities was brought about by the illustrations published alongside Michael Drayton’s long and descriptive poem, “Poly-Olbion.” The illustrations were engraved maps of counties in Wales and England that featured fantastical creatures, and eventually it became popular for people to color in the illustrations themselves. Some writings of the time indicate that this was done as a fun way to help readers memorize the maps, much like how medical students sometimes use anatomy coloring books for memorization.

Coloring grew in popularity. In 1760, Robert Sayer’s “The Florist” was published with engraved flower illustrations to be colored with great accuracy, providing instructions for coloring mixing and painting techniques to guide people to paint each flower as true to life as possible. Similar books came afterward and the vast majority were aimed at adults. Illustrated children’s books did not make it to the market until lithography was developed in the 1790s, reducing the time and cost to reproduce the outlined illustrations.

After that, coloring books became more popular across the general population and were even integrated into the U.S. education system. Originally being painted with watercolor, wax crayons came on the scene in the 20th century, eventually becoming the coloring book tool of choice.

With this long history of praise as a fun and enriching way to pass the time, learn and memorize new things and practice drawing or painting, coloring books still make a great option for families today. They are convenient for the average, busy family, requiring no set up and they usually require little clean up, unless of course your little one gets bored of the coloring book and heads for the nearest wall instead.

You don’t have to look far for local coloring book subjects. Community Colleges of Spokane recently released a coloring book, printed on The Spokesman-Review’s presses at Northwest Offset Printing, in order to spread the word to families about community college courses that can offer training for higher-earning job skills. The pages feature the Sasquatch mascot exploring various CCS program subjects, like aviation, culinary skills, medical science, education, welding, computer science and the arts.

The PNW Dream is a local business run by artist and designer Corinna Ren. The business’s website features a Spokane alphabet coloring book, its pages filled with intricate outlines that celebrate the scenes of Spokane, like “G” for the garbage goat, “F” for the falls of the Spokane River coursing through downtown and “B” for bridges that have long been praised as architectural icons of the area. The printed coloring book may be sold out, but you can purchase a digital PDF version that gives you the option to color your favorite pages however many times you want.

Quarantine has rekindled the coloring book trend a bit with several quarantine-themed books available online or through order at Auntie’s Bookstore.

With a year that has provided us with nonstop thrills of existential dread and stressful developments, consider picking up a coloring book and enjoy the zen of zoning out and staying in the lines.

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