I remember my mom taking me to the local store, buying me that box of 64 Crayola crayons, holding the box in my lap on our drive home, and cracking open that lid. I remember the smell. It was distinctive, and no, Prang or Roseart crayons didn’t smell the same.
Usually the box of 64 crayons was purchased because it was on my school supply list. If I wanted to color at home, there was a box shoved in a cabinet next to an old soup can decorated with macaroni and glitter that held pencils. Some of the crayons were broken or the paper was peeled off so I had to guess at the color I was about to use. Was it Navy Blue or Midnight Blue?
My coloring books were well used, and it was obvious at a glance who had colored the completed pictures. I was three and a half years younger than my sister, so my pictures usually looked like crap. She wasn’t afraid to tease me about my coloring skills either, or lack there of.
So I quit coloring, even if I still loved the smell of those crayons and the process. I declared myself a crappy artist. Decades later I still assess my drawing skill as subpar, but not my coloring.
In my twenties I rediscovered coloring, but I not with crayons. I was traveling in Italy at the time, studying Art History, and I couldn’t resist the art paper and tins filled with various coloring tools that seemed to be at every tourist stop, so I indulged myself.
I now use colored pencils. Around my house, there are at least 5 sets of high end colored pencils that my husband and I use. Our kid has now realized how much better they are than her Crayola pencils, so we got her a set of her own.
When I was writing about active tasks that my character, Gil, could do to help him relieve stress caused by his PTSD and anxiety, coloring was a no brainer. It’s a simple thing anyone can do. We don’t need to have artistic talent or forethought. We just color and can get lost in the act of moving our hand, shading, filling in spaces.
In Silver Scars, Gil needs to find active means to relax rather than passive, and he can workout only so many hours in a day. He struggles with anxiety, which often makes him ruminate. Coloring helps him refocus on those concerns he does have control over.
Coloring was introduced as a therapy when Gil was in a rehab center, recovering from an explosion that nearly killed him. Gil was not amused at first when a therapist suggested it, until he gave it a whirl. Art therapy is used for a reason. It works in a different way than other therapies, and it can help us make connections so we can heal our wounds, even if they are minor.
When was the last time you picked up a coloring book? Do you prefer crayons, colored pencils, markers, or something else? I’d love to hear.
Heck, I’d love to see. Here’s a mandala for you to color, just like one Gilbert would love to get his hands on.