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Innumerable children have over the years been enthralled, entranced and entertained by coloring books; books from which spaces of white of all shapes and sizes, bordered by thick and thin black lines beckoned irresistibly. Most of us remember the joy of seeing one of those pages, ripe with potential, with a fond nostalgia.
It is perhaps partly because of that nostalgia that adult coloring books have found such a large and ready market today - it takes us back to a simpler time in our lives, days when keeping the nib within the lines seemed a mammoth task, and mountains, people, faces and buildings could be any color we wished, and occasionally depended on which color pencils from the set hadn't gone missing.
Today, the adult demographic is seeing to it that adult coloring books top best seller lists as a veritable adult coloring craze sweeps the nation and the globe. In fact, there are over 3000 titles available on Amazon alone!
There seem to be no bounds of gender as men and women are indulging in this bit of artistic expression in equal numbers. This fad has even become the foundation for adult coloring classes and courses being offered by libraries and community centers around the country.
Crayola, the crayon-manufacturing giant - and another aspect of childhood many of us fondly remember - gave the trend a major boost with the launch of a collection of coloring books for adults in late 2015. Together with a set of markers and colored pencils, Crayola's Coloring Escapes adults' coloring books are the first by a major manufacturer.
However, despite how novel the idea may initially seem, adult coloring was not unknown before it took off on such a large scale. Almost a century ago, noted Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl Jung used coloring therapy as a tool for calming patients with stress and anxiety issues, and this was eventually termed art therapy. Doctors today continue to follow the innovative pioneer's lead, and this was the case even before this recent upsurge in popularity.
Some of Emma's art therapy books have Mandalas. Coming from the ancient Hindu language of Sanskrit, the term Mandala means Sacred Circle. Mandalas feature concentric circles filled with a myriad of repeating patterns and are proving to be one of the most popular themes of adult coloring books today.
Variations of the circular patterns feature prominently in Hindu, Buddhist, Native American and Christian art and architecture where they have been shown to be conducive to concentration and to also aid in meditation, but coloring books do not necessarily have to limit themselves to that theme for individuals to enjoy the benefits of art therapy.
The coloring designs of today literally know no bounds, with TV show versions, including that of cult hit Breaking Bad proving popular. Animals, nature, random patterns, holiday-specific themes and even story line coloring books abound and find favor just as easily as the more traditionalist notions of art therapy.
There is no shortage of Top 10 Reasons to Start Coloring lists on the internet. There seem to be a multitude of benefits to this seemingly simple activity that go beyond simply relaxation.
Science has discovered that coloring, while outwardly rather straightforward, actually compels the two hemispheres of the grain to coordinate and interact to produce desired results. The myriad of choices we are faced with when attempting to decide upon color combinations to arrive at an aesthetically pleasing end result and trying to imagine what the final product might look like work one side of the brain.
After that decision is made, the fine motor skills required to keep the pencil tip within the lines and to ensure that the color is spread evenly without gaps and with pressure that is applied evenly throughout activate the other side of the brain. Together, these two processes are constantly at work as the coloring progresses and we are faced with new decisions.
Another benefit of coloring seems to be that it succeeds in convincing otherwise artistically-reticent individuals to express themselves creatively. From personal accounts, this is in itself a very liberating process and something that works wonders for a person's self-confidence.
Maybe the most simple benefit of coloring, and one that requires not much explanation at all, is the fact that coloring is an intrinsic part of practically every childhood, and memories associated with that carefree activity of our early lives, regardless of other factors, is necessarily a pleasant one. The mind is lightened through the release of these happy memories and the inevitable result is better mental alertness and health.
Some resistance has come from certain segments of the professional world who argue that coloring books are not quite art therapy. While this may be true in a strictly academic sense, adult coloring books are undeniably a form of therapy that relaxes the mind and which is achieved through the colors and shapes which constitute art. Furthermore, many coloring enthusiasts say that the exercise of coloring introduced them to aspects of art and that it acted as a gateway through which they started to create their own patterns and drawings of objects.
It seems like art will always find a way.
There are scores of coloring book authors and creators, and thousands of publications available in both hard copy and online through downloadable pdfs and Kindle editions. One of the most popular is Secret Garden by Johanna Basford. Though this dense mass of both amateur and professional artists has emerged a name that has received more attention and more accolades than most others - Emma Andrews.
Emma currently has twenty-two different adult coloring books on Amazon alone. Her amazing talent of combining interesting patterns, objects, and designs has seen her star rise to unprecedented heights.
None of her books are complete without the inclusion of meticulously drawn and intricately designed patterns. Even when the theme of a book might be something that would otherwise feature rather flat surfaces like fashion, Emma's pages will involve the use of elaborate patterns, repetitive or otherwise that transform an otherwise plain and virtually featureless surface into a canvas composed of countless smaller shapes that beg to be colored individually.
The result is that Emma's intricate designs are capable of evoking the creative soul of even the most artistically uninclined individual.
She also creates books that focus on patterns alone. With names like Doodles and Sketches, Zen Garden, Relaxing Patterns and Stress Relieving Designs, these books feature abstract drawings with exquisitely detailed and minutely drawn flairs and embellishments that transform a blank page into a journey of discovery with your color pencil point as the explorer. Create a psychedelic fantasy of a kaleidoscope of colors if that takes your fancy or color them in stages with individual sections of a particular color. Either way, the end result is a creation that is entirely your own.
In Mandalas, we see Emma's personal twist on the popular art therapy theme. The concentric circles are the essential element. Budding colorists will find that Emma's Mandalas teem with a host of tiny embellishments that will help hone their powers of concentration and capacity for color management.
The fashion-related themes referred to earlier can be found in her two books Dazzling Dresses and Fashion Frenzy. The former is a series of drawings of dresses whose outlines vary slightly. However, the full spectrum of her creations is realized only upon closer inspection of the dresses - each is composed of a staggering array of patterns composed of geometric shapes and symmetrical forms reminiscent of the most wonderfully vibrant runway creations.
Emma has also produced holiday-themed coloring books, which might work just as well for children as they do for adults. Spooky Halloween, Easter Surprise, Christmas Delight and Valentine Hearts put a creative spin on traditional themes with repeating motifs that elevate the mundane into something spectacular, waiting only for the delightful touch of your colored pencils to complete the magic.
Emma's creativity is evident from simply the covers of her individual books. The cover of Valentine Hearts is twenty-five hearts in a five by five grid. Each of these hearts is enclosed in a box of its own. No two boxes are alike, and neither are any of the hearts exactly like another on the cover. The background behind each heart is a combination of a plethora of geometric shapes. Boxes, hearts and geometric shapes - they can all be colored in virtually infinite combinations.
Perhaps, for next Valentine's Day, you just might present your sweetheart with a truly unique creation made with your own hands.
For the artist hoping for a less abstract canvas to indulge his aspirations of color, there is Emma's Cities & Places coloring book. This book is perfect for watercolor painters too, as the subject matter is often represented in that medium. Of course, the very appeal of coloring is that you have the freedom to choose what you would like to use.
If you love fauna, perhaps Emma's Animals coloring book will appeal most to you. A delectable teaser of what lies within it is given on the cover - an owl, majestic in its sweeping pose, wings outstretched and eyes locked on yours hangs in the air. Each feather is broke up into segments. From simple trapezoidal and rectangular shapes to intricate designs, the bird's body is a work of eye-catching symmetry that entrances the eye and enlivens the mind. Inside, all manner of animals, including elephants, bears, wolves and lions receive the same treatment.
Flora and Fauna puts a unique spin on the familiar by making each page an elaborate amalgamation of many plants and flowers into a mass that will be unrecognizable at first sight. Delve into the patterns and be filled with wonder at Emma's creativity and imagination as individual leaves, trees, and flower petals appear where there seemed to be none before.
Zentangles by Emma Andrews takes a slightly different approach, as you will be able to tell from its cover. A chameleon sits looking cheekily up at the observer, its skin a detailed fusion of repeating patterns and unusual shapes that come together in beautiful unity.
Ocean Odyssey is another of Emma's creations that follows that general theme of image design. A whale dominates the ocean blue cover, suspended as if in the depths below. Emma has broken its surface into smaller segments and colored them in such vibrant hues that it is reminiscent more of a songbird. The sweeping S of the curve of the whale's magnificent body is sheer poetry in motion and yet another indication of the artist's amazing abilities with a pen.
Somewhere between the realm of the abstract and yet not quite inside the dominion of the material lies Emma's transcendental, if perhaps hauntingly beautiful coloring book Sugar Skulls. On the cover of Sugar Skulls, an appropriately black background sits behind a skull surrounded by blooming roses of various hues and leaves. The skull itself is the most decorated element, with the eye sockets punctuated by flowery flashes of symmetrical designs.
Who knew that skulls could be so delicately treated and beautifully decorated?
For the dreamer, young at heart, or your child, Emma Andrews has created Fairytale Adventure. Her flair for playful creativity becomes evident when you look at the cover closely - what may initially seem like a random series of uneven and unrelated patterns turns out to be a depiction of a girl lying on a bed under a patchwork quilt, locks of her flowing hair colored just as creatively.
Emma Andrews' paperback adult coloring books are works of art even as they are printed, and they offer the excellent opportunity for individuals, regardless of artistic ability, to explore and nurture their personal talents.
It takes a true master of any type of art to appeal to people of all ages and Emma Andrews is, by that yardstick, a very talented individual. Go on a journey with her wild imagination and discover why she has become such a force in the coloring trend that is changing the way adults are choosing to express themselves around the world.
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