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Color craze
Adult coloring books create a new kind of therapy


May 2016

If the words burnt umber, periwinkle, raw sienna or pine green bring a smile to your face as you remember spending hours with a coloring book as a child, then you’ve just hit on the root of the current adult coloring book craze.

Adult coloring books are exploding. Although first spotted in 2012, they’ve become more visible the last year, especially in medical art therapy situations.

"It’s familiar — most people have colored — and nonthreatening," says Carrie Danhieux-Poole, art therapist and licensed counselor with Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin cancer network. "It’s a very calming thing."

Danhieux-Poole uses coloring books with her cancer patients to take them back to a simpler, more carefree time in their lives with fewer responsibilities. The benefits — relaxation, lower blood pressure, slower heartbeat — can help patients calm their minds and sleep better. And all of that, in turn, can help them to better battle cancer.

"Cancer patients sometimes feel they have no control of their lives," she says. "This is a nonthreatening way to have a positive experience to balance out the bad."

Danhieux-Poole says not all art therapists are on board with the adult coloring book concept. Some view it as simply making choices and using someone else’s design with not enough creativity. But she cites two studies, one in 2005 and the other in 2014, that show how the art process can influence mood states. Plus, Danhieux-Poole finds the adult coloring experience an entrée to more advanced therapy. "It provides an opening dialogue," she says.

The therapist and licensed counselor also points to the benefits of adult coloring books for cancer patient caregivers. "They say, ‘This is my respite,’" she says. "‘This is my time to take care of me.’"

But if crayons or markers are too low-tech for you, try Colorify, a coloring book therapy now available on mobile devices. And our old friend Crayola of childhood schoolroom fame now has a complete guide that shows how to take your coloring tools up a notch by blending colors, shading, and adding highlights and lowlights to your newfound masterpieces.

And, yes, you can create masterpieces. Door County graphic artist and toy inventor Aaron Moriarity has produced "Color Door County," the first coloring book featuring the sights and flowers of one of our state’s top scenic gems. It’s billed as all ages, all art levels.

Moriarity didn’t set out to produce an adult coloring book. He stumbled on the adult coloring concept after he took his own Door County photos and used a filter to remove color but leave shading. What remained was a beautiful Door County image with lines but no color. It was then he saw an adult coloring book.

"You can have a masterpiece in a matter of minutes," he says. "It’s the world’s first high-definition coloring book."

Moriarity says the pages in the coloring book are 8.5 by 10 inches — perfect for framing when completed.

"If anybody doubts that coloring can help you relax and maybe cut down on meds and therapy sessions, just try it," he urges. "You might discover your own break-time mini-vacation."

You can purchase "Color Door County" at select Door County shops or online at Moriarity’s website, m



This story ran in the May 2016 issue of: