A Colorful Comeback


Thinking back on my younger days, some of my fondest memories are of doodling and drawing designs and creatures on anything from a restaurant’s beverage napkin to yards of construction paper. With every scribble and color splashed onto a page, I was proud of my creation – and I presented them to my parents and friends with such gusto you would have thought I believed I was the next Picasso. Those freeform drawings later evolved into more outlined drawings, as I learned how to “color inside the lines.” When given an image to simply color in, the stress of ingenuity was lifted, and I could then focus on the imperative matching of harmonious colors and texture techniques. Mind you, I make it sound like I could/can draw – when I tell you my illustrations are tortured, please believe me.

Though I still catch myself doodling from time to time, whether it is in an effort to keep myself awake – I mean focused – during a lengthy class or just to spruce up a little note for a friend, I haven’t actually sat down to draw or color something since those “youthful” days.

That all changed when the coloring book craze populated my birthday presents and began filling my desk. I acquired books like the mindfulness-coloring book and the Parisian fashion one, but the most revered of all - the Vogue coloring book of course! This gem of a book landed in my lap after a brief dry bar blowout and cocktail encounter with Dani, one of my sister’s college friends, in New York. Dani works for Knopf, the publishing house of the Vogue coloring book, and she graciously sent me a early-released copy after a conversation about my blog and general catching up when I saw her at my sister’s golden birthday party (25 on March 25th!).

A few days after that, the book arrived in my college mail center, and instantly became the highlight of my day. In my hands I held the brand new Vogue coloring book! Filled to the brim with opulent designs and nods to previous magazine covers. Oh how excited I was to actually color it! Flashbacks of my childhood doodle days came flooding back as I purchased pocket-sized coloring pencils from a local tchotchke shop (I figured teeny tiny pencils would supplement this whimsical activity).

Once I was set with my pencils in tow and my book carefully packed in my backpack, I was ready to finally enter the craze of adult coloring. What I didn’t anticipate, however, was getting so wrapped up in finals period and spending more time in the dark hallows of Lamont library than sitting on the Widener steps and coloring Vogue designs like I had dreamed.

In hindsight, I probably should've taken advantage of the coloring book’s soothing effects during finals. Instead, I was slumped in the library nursing the small iced coffee I accidentally purchased instead of a large, trying to make it last long enough so I didn't have to *shudder* go downstairs to get another.

After surviving finals, what ended up happening with the dreamy coloring books? I ended up using them in social zones as a fun activity to gossip with friends while keeping occupied. I guess trying to catch up on each other’s lives was more taxing than expected – everyone's brutally specific relationship details or college-centric extracurricular stories caused uncontrollable fidgetiness among an audience of friends. Apparently coloring is a more palatable antidote than simultaneously scrolling through Instagram and nodding, "Yep, I'm listening. Continue." So I busted out my three coloring books with friends and instantly added color and whimsy to these hour-long talks.

This sharing motif actually ended up spreading from small social circles to as far as a whole coloring book event at a bookstore in Newbury St. last night! I rallied Sara, my go-to-adventure buddy and soon-will-be-missed roommate, and with childhood dreams in tow we checked it out. The event couldn’t have captured this coloring book craze any better – this shift of culture back to the youthful activities we all once relished. Black and white pages were sprawled across dining tables as "grown-ups" colored their way back to their childhood.  

However, due to entirely underestimating the volume of millennials with the same Thursday evening activity in mind, Sara and I were sadly turned away from this coloring (and cider!!) event, and had to shuffle our ticket-less selves through this if-a-bookstore-was-a-candy-store type haven and onto the streets (of Newbury). So we snagged some smoothies and had our own coloring event - my Raven Symoné like instincts had nudged me to grab my coloring books and some Crayola from my apartment just in case. 

Turns out my graphic designer and all around "arteeest" of a friend truly colored the Vogue book like it deserved to be colored - with draping, shading, layering, the works! The amount of detail she spent in achieving lifelike shadowing on this red dress justifies the amount of photos I took of her working on this particular design. Plus, the Vogue coloring book itself is already a masterpiece, and being able to color in such iconic imagery imparts an air of importance onto the craft - as if the act of coloring has an official, grown up, mod stamp of approval. 

Checkout the carousel of photos below for some inside peaks at the glamorous eras that populate the inspiring Vogue Coloring Book!

Regardless of the setting, be it an official community coloring event or a casual gathering with friends, there's something quite whimsical and rather soothing about grasping the rainbow and channeling it into designs that are a bit more sophisticated than outlines of kiddie characters. So, what's my take on coloring past your youthful prime? I'm all for it. There are countless songs, and poems, and elders woefully pondering, "why is youth wasted on the young?" It's not wasted my friends - it's gifted onto the young. For the young bumble through their days with all of this imagination and excitement, and wielding a sharpened Crayola becomes the vessel between their ideas and their tangible representation. Maybe that's a broad claim on my part. And maybe coloring books aren't the end all and be all determination of a creative and happy society. But, for a brief moment, they can be. And regardless if they are or if they are not, I encourage you all to pick up a coloring book and scribble all over it. You can even add another (rather educational) layer to your "childish" endeavor by rekindling your fondness of the alphabet from Vogue’s Automobile to Zebra!

Xx, Maia