The Colour of Grief

We spent last weekend at the cottage and while it was something I wanted and needed, it was also slightly overwhelming because with twelve people and three dogs both space and quiet time came at a premium. In the past I may have rolled with the punches and stayed with the group, not allowing myself the down time I required but fortunately I’ve become much more attuned to my own needs and made it a point to forge some time for myself, which is when I did most of my colouring. Yes, colouring, as in the activity that most of us participated in during grade school and one that has surprisingly re-entered my life again.

Colouring for adults has been a trend on the upswing lately and I am hardly the first or only person to engage in it. It’s hardly novel and I would argue that it is in fact becoming fairly mainstream with Amazon dedicating a category on their website to colouring for grown-ups, which carries a great selection of adult colouring books. The one I’ve been using lately is called the Secret Garden by Johanna Basford and is perhaps one of the more popular offerings, and I can certainly see why with Basford’s beautiful, inky designs of swirling leaves and flora interspersed with a variety of fauna. My mom had bought both books in Basford’s series available at Chapter’s and was kind enough to give me one, and slowly I’ve been working my way through the intricate pages little by little. Colouring has been an incredibly calming experience because during my time I think of nothing but my pen/pencil crayon filling in those empty spaces and the rest of my problems seem to quiet themselves, if only temporarily. I have to admit that this wasn’t always the case because when I first received the book I had a mini freak out when my pencil crayon smudged outside of the lines and I became disappointed with how I had done some of my flowers. D calmed me down by saying that it was all about the process, that part of the enjoyment came from looking back later on and seeing how much I had changed, how much I had accomplished, and with that I tried to accept that imperfection is part of the process (although you should try telling that to a hyper strung out perfectionist like myself). This past weekend fortunately there was none of that and the colouring provided me a mental space to reset and retune, which was precisely what I needed. Regrettably I had to play the role of mean aunt at times and tell my nephews that no, they could not use my art store markers but that they could borrow my pencil crayons if they asked nicely. Aside from that though, everything went off without a hitch.

Lately, with my return to colouring, my attention feels more concentrated, focusing on the colour and line without as much worry for composition, balance, and so forth. While I find the process of painting and creating to be a gratifying experience, the work itself requires a significant amount of awareness and observation. Art has been a big part of my life for many years and even academically, I’m trained as an art historian (sorry, that was super eye-rolly and pretentious, wasn’t it?), so I’ve studied the importance of art’s function not only in the communication of certain messages but also in the creation of the work itself and now I get to experience the latter for myself.

My current work space aka our dining table is the messiest it's ever been
My current work space aka our dining table is the messiest it’s ever been, even my poor flowers are suffering.

On a separate note, for some reason I decided to re-read several of my previous posts and realized that I’ve been going around in circles lately with my mood fluctuating between “I swear I’m doing better'” to “I’ve finally accepted that I am indeed very, very sad”. I promise to do better and not repeat myself so much. From here on in, let’s just assume I’m not doing quite as well as I purport to be, which will save me some time from pretending I’m somehow in the clear.

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3 thoughts

  1. Your books sounds better; I just could not get into coloring mandalas; but honestly the dollar book – color by number – I picked up at the dollar store – of a butterfly – for my granddaughter, who loves them, but then wanted me to color with him, I think served the purpose just about as well – at least I, too, felt the calming. I also think it’s cool you’re an art historian – I love history through art, which may not be exactly what you mean

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    1. I absolutely agree with you. I think the value of colouring comes from being able to quiet your mind and focus on the task at hand. Nowadays we’re used to constantly being overstimulated, which can be good periodically, but we don’t give ourselves enough time to unwind and focus. Colouring has allowed me to do just that. And yes, art history or history through art is exactly what I mean! I got as far as my Master’s degree so now my love for the subject is less academic!

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