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Coloring books help adults find their happy place

May 27, 2016

Adult coloring books are everywhere and they're filled with images of just about anything. There are adult coloring books that feature owls, butterflies, secret gardens, dream doodles, lighthouses, mandalas, kaleidoscopes and fantastic cities.

Friends Barb Mobley and Diane Monschau are regulars at the Imlay City library's coloring club

Adult coloring clubs are also popping up throughout the state. They’re often affiliated with a local library. The basic idea is that for an hour or two adults can drop in and spend some time coloring, using coloring books and markers and pencils that the library provides.

The Ruth Hughes Memorial District Library in Imlay City started a coloring club in the fall of 2014. Adult services coordinator Diane Willick heard a story on NPR about the adult coloring books and she was intrigued. She’s also constantly thinking about new ways to help her patrons do things that are fun and social.

So she bought some books and colored pencils and invited people to come by. The group meets twice a month and there are snacks and fresh flowers on the table and Enya music softly playing on a small boom box.

It’s Diane Schueller’s first time coming to the group. One of her favorite childhood memories was coloring with her mother together in their living room when she was growing up in Detroit. Schueller says all these beautiful books and pencils and crayons have inspired her to color again.

“I enjoy the colors and how they go together. I mean I don’t do it for therapy, I just do it because I love the colors,” Schueller said.

You can also color bookmarks at the coloring club. Do you see the cryptic message in this one?

Attendees Barb Mobley and her friend Diane Monschau are regulars here. Today they’re coloring images in books that feature “mystical fashions” and “Victorian ladies.”

A few months ago Mobley wrote a list, a la David Letterman, called “The top 10 reasons why I color.” Here they are:

10. It’s more fun than using a vacuum or mop

9. Cheaper than a spa

8. Burns more calories than just sitting

7. Just sitting is the best position for it

6. Easier on my finger nail polish than scrubbing grout

5. Involves no harsh chemical

4. No make-up required

3. Bedroom slippers and old sweatshirt are the perfect attire

2. I can talk and sip wine and color at the same time

1. It’s more effective than psychology and group therapy is more fun.

To clarify, Mobley says the people in the coloring club end up sharing their problems with each other and giving advice, which she refers to as “group therapy.”

As children we all colored and doodled, and that desire is a very old thing, according to University of Michigan art professor Janie Paul.

“When we’re little we all scribble and make shapes and color. It’s a primal experience. It’s about satisfying a need to make mark on a surface, to assert that I have acted on the world,” Paul said.

She also says we spend so much time every day being passive and doing things like receiving emails and watching TV and movies. In short, we’re over-stimulated.

But Paul says making art is the opposite of that. “Art is generative. It comes from inside of us and so it connects us back to ourselves and affirms who we are.”

Paul says that can happen when you sit down quietly with a coloring book, open it up and begin shading in the shapes and forms.

There are plenty of places to do that with other people, if you’re interested. Including adult coloring meet-up groups throughout the state and at libraries in Lansing, Owosso, Ishpeming, Petoskey, and Auburn Hills.