With National Stress Awareness Month starting tomorrow, I thought I’d focus here on colouring: a way many people ease stress creatively. Awareness of stress has surged, particularly during the pandemic, so awareness of ways of reducing stress, or setting cares aside for a while, is equally important now.
And just as stress awareness has grown, so too has colouring. I remember thinking four or five years ago how colouring was booming when I saw some colouring sheets on a table in my local library for people to enjoy together or alone. And now it’s everywhere.
Colouring is a very flexible art form. Some people colour quickly, maybe smaller images. Others enjoy experimenting with more complex techniques, such as layering shades of colour using lots of colouring pencils. Colouring has moved on a long way over the years. It used to be mainly a children’s activity and there was usually a limited range of colouring books and styles to try. Now the possibilities seem endless. As adults have got into colouring, there’s been an explosion of different books and themes. There’s botanical art to colour, fantasy scenes and images from films or novels. Some colouring books tell a story as they go, so that you illustrate a narrative as it unfolds, and some form entire series of books. Then there’s a whole variety of different art media to use, colouring pencils, crayons, pastels, paints and colour pens.
Mindful colouring has become helpful to many people. Any art can be mindful. There’s something about focusing your attention on paper and pencil, or canvas and brush, or clay, or wool, that closes out the pressures that dog us and opens up a space away. For a time, it’s all that matters. But colouring has become particularly known as a mindful activity, a way to calm down and ground yourself. Is this because it’s specific, focused on colours and shades? Is it because it seems less of a hurdle to get started if the outline image is there for you to plunge in?
Colouring can be empowering, opening up art to people who don’t like drawing or find it too difficult to be enjoyable. With an outline there before you, you can concentrate on transforming it with colour. I’m actually the opposite. I really enjoy drawing, and find it far easier than painting with colour, for example. But I can still see how colouring is inviting. Then there are people who used to draw and paint but now struggle to visualize an image or to physically draw. Maybe they have some sight loss, or dementia, or find their motor skills have declined so that they can’t hold a pencil to draw exact lines anymore.
But colouring is absolutely an artform in itself: really skilful, it demands full attention and concentration, and it creates strong and beautiful images. You can follow the colours suggested by example images – or you can let your imagination fly and use any colour at all, placing your own stamp on the picture. As hand and eye work together, colour becomes image.And the person colouring can grow calm.
Do you enjoy colouring and find it eases stress? It would be great if you would like to share any thoughts on colouring – or any images! – in my Facebook group which explores how art can help mental health, Think Art (1) Think Art | Facebook Thank you!