Coloring books have been wildly popular among the elementary school set for years.
I’ve spent plenty of time coloring between the lines alongside my young nieces, who spend hours coloring in fish and castles and horses and heroes with nubby Crayons or those markers that smell like fruit.
And while I always have a grand time coloring with them – choosing just the right colors, methodically filling in eyes or fins or petals or car doors, chatting about each picture’s back story (the fish is clearly on his way to the eye doctor, the castle was built for a Queen who hasn’t moved in yet because shed rather live near the beach), it has not once occurred to me to color in their absence.
Because I’m a grownup. And grownups don’t color.
Except grownups are coloring. And in increasing numbers, too, judging by the number of friends I hear talking about it and the number of articles BuzzFeed has published on the subject.
“Coloring allows me to escape, to relax and to exercise my creativity (which is often lost in the hustle and bustle of everyday adult lives),” said Abbie McGilvery, social media strategist at From the Nest Social in Portland (and an adult). “I concentrate on only the page, the image and the colors – nothing else exists.”
Adult coloring books are a real thing (and just to clarify: “Adult” means the books are intended for grownups, generally because the line drawings and patterns are more intricate, and not because the books are X-rated). Some adults who color say it’s a great way to unwind . Others like the chance to be creative…with some guidance.
McGilvery also appreciates that coloring comes with some specific parameters: “Coloring is wonderful because there is a beginning, an unfolding process and a foreseeable end – all in my control, “she said. “Also, coloring reminds me how bright the world can be if I choose to make it that way.”
Adult coloring books have become quite the trend – Scottish illustrator Johanna Basford’s “Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book,” published in 2013, has sold over a million copies around the world.
And right here in Maine, artist Becky Chase has created a Maine-themed adult coloring book, so locals and visitors alike can color to their heart’s content and express some between-the-lines affection for the Pine Tree State.
“Downeast Daydream: A Maine Coloring Vacation” includes 25 Maine-themed line drawings – from the classic L.L. Bean boot and Munjoy Hill to a pattern of lobsters and buoy mandala.
Chase, who lives in Portland, said she’s been line drawing for a few years, but it wasn’t until she noticed the growing popularity of adult coloring books that she decided to tackle one of her own.
“It started as a fun idea,” she said. “A way to apply my artistic style in a way that would be more meaningful that just a drawing to hang on the wall in a frame.”
“I just thought, ‘I’m in Maine. People love Maine.’ I looked it up and there hadn’t been a Maine-themed coloring book since 1988. I thought, ‘Ooh, I’m going to do that.'”
So she got started on vacation and kept working during evenings and weekends, using photos as references, drawing in pencil before going back over the lines in pen. “I find (line drawings) easy,” she said. “They’re very concrete and straightforward…but they can also be fun and cute and full of character.”
Chase included some of Maine’s most iconic landmarks, symbols and sea life. The Victoria Mansion is there, along with moose and blueberries and Pemaquid Point Light and puffins and the State of Maine Seal. Locals will recognize familiar places and visitors will have a Maine souvenir they can put their own stamp on.
And like McGilvery, you can make those pages as bright as you’d like them (and maybe enjoy a glass of wine while you’re at it, because you’re a grownup, and you can).
“Downeast Daydream: A Maine Coloring Vacation” is currently available on Amazon.com and locally at Nonesuch Books (Update: Nonesuch is sold out!) in South Portland and Biddeford, Bull Moose locations, Sherman’s Books & Stationary locations, Longfellow Books in Portland, Letterpress Books in Portland and L.L. Bean Home Store in Freeport. List price is $11.99.