COLOR ME: Discovering Coloring Books for Adults

Coloring books are only for kids, right!?  Wrong!

This morning, I accidentally stumbled upon the fascinating world of coloring books for adults while surfing the net for information on the Korean idiom 담배를 피우는 호랑이/a pipe smoking tiger.  I became curious about the idiom after my husband’s students referenced it in regards to an unexpected and brief sun shower that we experienced yesterday.  The students explained that the occurrence of a sun shower is as rare and as strange as the sight of a smoking tiger, therefore it is a fitting expression to use when we witness something that takes us by surprise and that is difficult to believe.

담배를 피우는 호랑이

I thought it was both a curious expression and a delightful mental image, so I logged onto the net to do a little investigating.  After inputting a few appropriate keywords, I was directed to a 21-page student oriented pdf document about Korean Myths and Folktales that had been prepared by the San Francisco Asian Art Museum. On page 19 of the pdf document there was a short explanation of the smoking tiger idiom.

“Once upon a time, long, long ago, when the tiger smoked a pipe” is a
familiar phrase at the beginning of children’s stories.  The tiger-and-magpie
motif is popular in Korean folk painting, as Koreans once believed that tigers
embodied the spirit of mountains and had the power to ward off evil and harm,
and that magpies were harbingers of good news.

If Korea’s smoking tiger  is analogous to once upon a time in a land far far away, then it only makes sense that one might use it to describe something that could seemingly only emerge out of a fairy tale.

Beneath the above quoted passage lay an attractive coloring page that depicted a smoking tiger and a magpie of the kind that are commonly found in Korean folk paintings.  At the bottom of the page in capital and bold black letters was the directive, COLOR ME.    It was such a striking image that I really couldn’t help myself and as I teach children between the ages of three and nine years old, I always have crayons and markers at my disposal.  So, while I should have been prepping for my afternoon lesson, I grabbed a set of crayons and went to work.  I haven’t put crayon to coloring book in ages – let’s say 10 years or more. As I meticulously filled in the page I found myself becoming more relaxed; I even found myself smiling. And like a five year old, when I was finished, I proudly affixed my “masterpiece” to the refrigerator door with a magnet.



“Silly!” you say?

Maybe it is a bit ridiculous for an adult to find a little Zen in the pages of a coloring book, but I truly enjoyed the experience and became curious about what kinds of coloring books were out there for adults.  After doing a little web searching, I found a bevy of beautiful books that are best suited for older children and adults.  From the Fauvism of Matisse to the mathematically inspired M.C. Escher to decorative tile designs and Celtic knotwork, there is something out there for just about everyone.  These books are also often educational in nature as they usually contain information on the images contained inside.

So, why not have a coloring party?  Get a bottle of wine and some good food, invite a few friends over, and break out the crayons.  At the end of the party, you can hang everyone’s finished work in a makeshift “gallery”and play art-critic.  Don’t want to make coloring the theme of the party?  You could just put a coloring book or two on a side table and leave it at that.  At the very least, they might make an interesting conversation topic.

Need a unique gift for a special occasion?  For the right friend, a coloring book and crayon set just might be the ticket.  Sure, it won’t be up everyone’s alley, but I bet you can think of at least one person who would appreciate such a gift.

Plato once wrote, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”

Go ahead!  Give yourself permission to take just a little time out of your day to play and draw as you did when you were young.

You don’t even have to stay in the lines!


Coloring Books Mentioned Above: