ST. FRANCIS — In a world surrounded by devices and technology, one publishing company is encouraging adults to engage in a simple activity from their past: coloring.
HCI Books, publishers of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, publishes Inkspirations, a series of adult coloring books.
“We are not engaging or writing anymore and it is something that we are craving. It’s physiological; the brain needs that kind of stimulation,” said Kim Weiss, director of communications. “Studies show that when a person is using their hand and writing, drawing or painting something, part of the brain is stimulated.”
HCI Books developed the line of adult coloring books, some faith-centric, to offer a fun way to relieve tension for about the cost of an average bottle of wine.
Softbound books with titles such as “Inkspirations- Garden,” “Fruit of the Spirit,” “Christmas Joy” or “Greeting Cards” are filled with pages of intricate, detailed patterns.
“Part of the appeal is that people are looking to be unplugged,” said Weiss.
The publisher, Peter Vegso, is Catholic and a graduate of St. Francis Xavier University in Canada; he was asked by an editor to consider publishing coloring books, as they have become a popular market among adults. She hoped they could develop a line of books. While Weiss said Vegso wasn’t entirely convinced of the concept, he agreed to give them a try.
“We are doing the coloring books in a similar way we did the Chicken Soup books and going after certain niches, as well as in the field of recovery, then women and then the animal kingdom,” she said.
Intricate drawings fill the pages
Unlike the simple line drawings filled in as a child, the images in these books are packed with black-and-white inked curlicues, spirals, swirls and paisleys that invite adults to begin embellishing with pencils, crayons or felt-tipped pens.
It’s easy to lose track of time while filling in the multiple sections of a lion’s mane or the circuitous circles and rays of multiple flower petals. Scripture passages alongside the pictures can assist in deepening faith life, explained Wanda Aker, a resident at St. Joseph’s Home and Rehabilitation Center in Kenosha.
“I color all the time; it relaxes me,” she said. “Coloring is an extension of my prayer. Each page, there is a passage that has a Bible verse underneath. It really lifts my heart when I do this.”
Aker began coloring six years ago when she received some coloring books as a Christmas present.
“My brother takes me shopping and my daughter got my last three books for me online,” she said, joking, “it becomes quite an addiction.”
Elsie Watkins moved to St. Joseph’s Home a year ago and became hooked on coloring after her granddaughter gave her a couple of books for Christmas.
“I like coloring pictures of animals, flowers, birds and anything inspirational,” she said. “It makes me feel good to color pretty pictures. My preacher actually told me to start coloring and once I started, I really fell in love with it. I do it for my faith and it helps with my arthritis.”
Art helps alleviate loneliness
Nancy Schneider, director of resident services at St. Joseph’s Home and Rehabilitation Center, noticed coloring helps dementia patients feel a sense of accomplishment, as well as alleviates loneliness and depression.
“Coloring takes concentration on performing the task, which in turn redirects a person’s thoughts away from the things that are causing them stress,” she said. “Relieving stress is good for the body and the mind. It helps them focus, which also helps with memory issues.”
St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care offers weekly adult coloring sessions and has done so before it was popular, said Yolanda Jones, arts and crafts instructor. She often utilizes mandalas or pictures of animals or flowers in her sessions.
“In the beginning, some thought it was odd to color, but I would do it first so they could see it done,” she said. “They would learn to study the picture and, for example, if it was a picture with birds in it we would see how many there were, what kind it was and discuss what they might use for colors. Doing this keeps them focused and it helps with their creativity.”
As Jones works with individuals with memory issues, she uses the coloring books to boost memory.
“I might talk about a bird or a flower and ask them what colors they are and when they saw them for the first time,” said Jones. “One woman, who saw the picture of the daisy, remembered that her mother used to grow them. Coloring works different parts of the brain and it helps that they can share these experiences together.”
Kenosha native Robyn Henoch illustrated the “Inkspirations for Cats” coloring book. Her second book, “Inkspirations for Dog Lovers” comes out this month.
“I create these pictures through my own eyes, which is relaxing and challenging,” she said. “I had a lot of fun drawing these pictures and coloring offers many benefits for people. It takes your mind off things and is relaxing.”
She lives in Florida, but Henoch has great memories of living on First Avenue, which back then, was a sand dune from 73rd to 71st streets. She graduated from Kemper Hall in 1967, and designed the school graduation cornerstone. She enjoys drawing pictures of cats as she has had them all her life.
“Between my children and I, we rescued kittens for years and all the cats we have had, have been found,” she said. “My cat book (came out in July) and I am keeping my fingers crossed that stores will stock it and people will enjoy it as much as I did creating it.”
Illustrator Lorrie Bennett used her love of old Bibles and books to move into faith illustrating. Her first coloring book, “Inkspirations Fruit of the Spirit,” is her interpretation of Scripture passages.
“I really want to honor the Word, so it is pretty serious business,” she said. “The process of inking a page is slow and detailed so I am certainly focused on that Scripture for a while. It’s like a meditation of sorts and a connection with God. I do find myself talking with God while I create.”
Bennett, a Florida native and graphic artist, got her start in faith illustrating several years ago after a friend told her about the attic of an old wood house he was renting. It was filled with boxes and stacks of ancient papers, books and other items, including some old Bibles.
Drawn to nature and mesmerized by God’s creations, such as trees, mountains, waters and wildlife, Bennett is enamored with the shapes and designs God has created throughout everything.
“You have to stop what you are doing in order to see them and we don’t always do that. We are engaged in our phones or other things, so I hope this coloring book may even help us connect to those things, too,” she said. “I hope that the Scriptures I have chosen for this book may actually be new to some people, opening the door for even more connection with God and his Word.”