Adult Coloring Books, All The (not so new) Rage

 

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There is a general buzz around the water cooler and for the first time in a while it’s not sport point spreads or Pinterest boards…well, kind of.

This latest and greatest rage was actually brought to my attention from a friend who mentioned the growing popularity of Adult Coloring Books on Pinterest. At first I was aghast, then sort of guffawed. It just seemed so out of the ordinary, but, if true, what an amazing relationship between what we are doing at The Crayon Initiative and this new rumor. So I went and checked. THOUSANDS upon THOUSANDS of pages and pin-boards dedicated to adult coloring! So I dug a little deeper. Turns out that this movement has been going on underground, for fear of being laughed at, for a very long time.

It also seems that within the last few months, this topic has gained steam like a 100 car freight train approaching a 10% grade….(did I ever tell you that I am a model train enthusiast?) I digress. Most of the pages dedicated to adult coloring books have just as many different places to purchase full books. These are not slightly more challenging pages from the movie Frozen we are talking about, these are often artist inspired templates replete with the details of a Sanskrit Mandala. The are designed to look like the type of meditative walking mazes you might find at a monastery, and for good reason, they serve the same purpose.

Psychiatric professional and Art Therapist Cathy Malchiodi said, “coloring books are a path to mindfulness, meditation and some kind of psychological nirvana” and medical professionals are seeing medical improvements in cancer patients and anxiety disorder patients. We kind of hate to say, “we told you so”, but…

But seriously, this is wonderful news. The benefits of art are not relegated to the youth. Many fortune 500 companies have begun putting coloring books in their break rooms and some college professors have been noted as incorporating them into their syllabuses.

If you really think about the timing of this therapeutic surge, it makes a lot of sense. Studies indicate “most people take a break from their creative hobbies during their transitional years of high school and college, but often return at the age of 26.” Who are these 26-year-olds? Well, they are the Millennials, the very group of people that are shaping all facets of business today. They are outside the box thinkers who are so technology savvy that they demand attention and are getting it. They are also extremely plugged in but know when they are reaching a max capacity for tech activity. Is there really any better way to unplug literally and figuratively than staying inside the lines with bright colors?

We for one applaud the movement and have always stood by the healing properties of art and coloring, heck we are building a company on the principal, but to see the thought of coloring books take center stage and not be scoffed at is more than we could have hoped for.

 

[BLANK] As ART #4, Space

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Simply as a very quick qualifying statement as to not mislead, this blog is not about OUTER space as “art”, but rather wide-open spaces. While I cannot discount the fact that outer space holds many artistic parallels, I have never been there and can’t speak emotionally about it. Perhaps one day I will be able to write from experience on the topic, but not today. Proceed with this knowledge.

 

We have all witnessed that overwhelming feeling when you arrive at an empty beach. That moment when you get to kick off your shoes for the first time and run (and you know you run) over the vastness of the sand towards the waves. Often times and inexplicitly a pirouette, cartwheel or any other physical form of happiness will find it’s way into your romp. This is ART! The feeling of happiness that taps energy so deep in you that it cannot be contained is not unlike hearing the right song at the right moment or witnessing a painting that transcends explanation. This is the exact goal of artists all over the world, to move a person with their creation in an effort to recreate these primal emotional moments.

 

I recently moved my family to farm country. I was not leaving “The Big City” by any stretch, but certainly a hub of commerce, traffic and noise. So much so that for years I have not really seen the stars. Yes the commute is long and yes we are re-learning how/where to shop, but the feeling I get when I truly smell earth, or hear cows somewhere (close) in the night, or see a vast expanse of stars overhead on a crisp fall night have led to emotions that I have been unfamiliar with.

I equate the time we have spent here so far as coming up for air from a multi-year deep-sea dive. My arms want to stretch as far as they can and grasp nothing and my feet want to run forever at full speed and get nowhere. This is art to me.

 

The above picture is taken from my commute shortly after leaving my house. After this was taken, my phone goes away and I am left on this road to think about my day, my week, and my life and by the time I plug in, I begin to write. It feels effortless as the thoughts are untethered by the grind that had their claws in me for so long.

 

Open space is why we vacation in the mountains or the beach. We need to recharge our batteries away from the pollutants in our everyday life. This is the very environment that artists have been recreating with communes and workshops since the beginning of commerce avalanches.

 

I am not trying to start a movement, otherwise you might all end up back in my space, but I am championing the notion of finding your own vast horizons. To quote Joe Versus the Volcano, “away from the things of man”, GO! You really won’t believe how many stars there are!

[BLANK] As ART #3, Nature

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So at this point we have reached the understanding that “art” is emotional. If for some reason you have not been privy to the first two posts in regards to redefining art, then please take a moment to scroll back through the blogs, don’t worry we will wait.

[Blank] As Art #1                      [Blank] As Art #2

Ok, is everybody back? Let’s proceed.

Art is so much more than colors on canvas, a sculpture of a figure in time or a charcoal sketch of a bowl of fruit. Art is where we go to escape, to take a break from the daily grind of life and find the peace and solitude needed in order for us to tune back into our soul. By this simple criterion, is there anything in the universe more fitting to be dubbed “art” than nature? We think not.

Nature is the very essence of art. When one communes with nature the points of conscience and sub-conscience are alerted in our bodies as they align and tune. Our chakras open up and a steady circular current of positive energy flows in a snake-like pattern from one to the other. Sorry, I actually just slipped into mini-mediation.

Buddhist monks use the mantra and meditative chant of Ohm, but do you know what Ohm is? Ohm is the natural sound that our planet makes when one quiets their mind enough to hear it. It is literally the electrical hum of energy that radiates from our planet. Guess where the monks came to hear this sound? NATURE, correct.

Mother Nature herself is the world’s oldest artist and everything she touches is her brush to canvas. A sunset over a mountain range or the wind swept patterns in a sand dune, are exactly the feeling that millions of artists have been trying to recreate for centuries, and she nails it every time without trying.

Watch any documentary on any animal species in our kingdom and report back to me if their existence is not art. In the animal world, there are instincts and patterns of how they manage their survival and often their intricate markings as a painter’s pallet. Our human skin is boring by compression.

There will be naysayers always, and while I believe that to argue against nature as art is as feeble as arguing that fire is not hot, or water not wet, I do reserve one final example that is a “drop the mic, walk away” moment. The Aurora Borealis (The Northern Lights) is the sweeping green, yellow and red lights that swoosh across our magnetic poles. “Auroras are produced when the Magnetosphere is sufficiently disturbed by the Solar Wind that the trajectories of charged particles in both Solar wind and magnetospheric pressure, mainly in the form of electrons and protons, precipitate them into the upper atmosphere (thermosphere/exosphere), where their energy is lost. The resulting ionization and excitation of atmospheric constituents emits light of varying color” (thanks, Wikipedia).

 

So there you have it, nature is art in the rawest and untethered sense. Anywhere you look in nature, you are sure to be emotionally swayed in one direction or another, and that is how I define “art”.

[BLANK] As ART #2, Food

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Welcome back to our monthly series of BLANK as Art! As a recap, this is where we uncover, rediscover and often redefine what “art” is.

In our first post, we stated the sheer definition of “art” as: “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”

While the definition suggests that painting and sculpture are the common visual forms, we understand, as a people, that many other categories can fit into the art definition. Our aim is to get you to look at the world a little differently. Walk past a specific cloud formation and be moved emotionally or hear a piece of music and sense the beauty.

Today we explore the sheer art form of food.

This is a hot-button topic that has been lighting up the chat rooms for a few years now. One could make the argument that the birth of Food Television created a band of Celebrity Chefs that all use creativity and the desire to move emotion in order to stand out among the many in their field. For me we need look no further that painters use a palette to express themselves and chefs use your palate to do the same. This coincidence cannot be overlooked.

I myself come deeply rooted in the world of food and beverage. 15 years in the trenches of fine dining management have given me an intimate connection to the plight of executive chefs and their desire to move you emotionally.

 

Here then are 4 reasons that food is art!

 

Plating

Nowadays, in almost every setting outside the cafeteria line, chefs are using the plate as their canvas. The preparation of the food is but a footnote in the overall presentation of what your senses are about to receive. Some use large plates with small portions of food to suggest the expanse of the dining experience, the vastness of possibilities and the gentle application of color, texture and layers to unveil their long thought out masterpiece to the recipient. Not unlike real art, the greater the thought in plating is the higher price you are going to pay for it.

 

The Dance

If you have ever been lucky enough to get a sneak peek into a fine dining kitchen on a Saturday night at 8 pm, you have been privy to “the dance”. This is the carefully orchestrated and timed movements of the kitchen staff moving in every direction imaginable in order to stay on top of the relentless ticket machine spitting out demands. Each member responsible for the two-three foot workspace in front of them, but invariably needing items outside the designated area that require ducking, diving and swirling rhythmically as to not upset their neighbor clad in all white and focused on their own personal task at hand. Bodies flying everywhere, some holding knives, and never coming into contact. With the executive chef at the helm like a conductor monitoring all the movements in the ant colony closely for any room for improvement and efficiency. The scene is awe-inspiring and true art in the purest form.

 

Wine Pairing

This is where the rubber hit the road for me in food as art. Before my first stint in fine dining, I had eaten great food and I had sipped fine wine, but I had never taken the suggestion from the brainchild born from two mighty artisans in their craft and married the two. When the Executive Chef and the Sommelier get together to discuss flavor profiles and ingredients in their own respective inventories, amazing things happen. When a perfectly cooked rib eye steak is paired with an old vine zinfandel and the black pepper notes from the wine swirl on the palate with the butter richness of the beef, the term cathartic is inept. If you go into a place with a sommelier be sure and utilize their suggestion based on your appetite that evening. This is art in the purest form.

 

Ratatouille

Leave it to Pixar to simplify our own thought processes and present them in a way that we can all understand. The catalyst of this movie is that the ice-cold curmudgeon of a food critic serves one purpose in his lonely existence. That is to pick apart all forms of food and exposé the flaws to the public. That is until he has the peasants dish prepared for him of ratatouille. On the first bite, he is whisked back to his childhood, to an easier happier time. The surrounding light is golden and suggestions of his mother and her maternal love envelop him. Immediately his impenetrable exterior is shattered and he is reintroduced to his love for dining. This is the power of food as an art form and is replicated in individuals daily all around the world.

 

There is no doubt that food is art. Anything that attacks one, or more of our senses and causes a severe redirection of that sense is certainly art. Anything that requires such planning, thinking, and practice in the hopes of flawless execution and emotional appeal is art. The only problem now is where am I going to find a steak and glass of old vine zinfandel at 9 am?

[BLANK] As ART #1

what is art?

 

Admittedly, Googling “what is art” was an exciting venture for me. At first I thought the simple script would cause smoke to begin pouring from my hard-drive. I imagined that this is the type of question you would use against a cyborg to cause it to self-destruct, but then again, I am an artist. What exactly does that mean? I am the type of person that sees art in almost anything without having to cram the square peg into a round hole. I was prepared for even Google to fall short of my own personal definition of “what is art”, but then, like a fortune cookie, Google nails it with a broad net. For just a minute the cynic in me was screaming for them to BRING IT ON, then they disarmed my internal time bomb with two words: “emotional power”. This is exactly what I think “art” is, and why I truly believe that art can be found in the most unsuspecting of places.

 

If you recall, we recently posted an “ongoing” exposé of music as art, and began with Flowers Are Red by Harry Chapin. After careful consideration, we (as a committee) became convinced that the greater picture was being ignored and that a great injustice was inadvertently being done to every finger of creation and happenings that fit into the art category by definition of things that hold “emotional power”.

 

I have been an artist all of my life. So much so that when I “grew up” I was convinced that I was supposed to do something else because it was never work to me until I realized that there is a way. However, I first became aware of the emotional power of art in my early 20’s. Here is that story.

 

I was lucky enough to be in the Guggenheim in New York. My friend and I were on a cross-country tryst. This was a last minute adventure to really get to know each other by escaping the ills and obligations of west coast life. While there, we decided to fit as much “New York” into our short time as humanly possible. The itinerary was ridiculous, even by a youthful standard. In a 48 hour period we went to Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, ate at Jerry’s Famous, saw a taping of the David Letterman Show and Kelly and Regis, picnicked in Central Park, took the subway (at midnight), walked to the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge and went to the Guggenheim. It was here at our last stop that I entered the stark white hallway displaying multiple artists and their masterpieces. From a hundred yards away I could see that the end of the hall ended in an abstract two-tone piece with a bench in front of it. I didn’t really care about the bright orange and deep blue painted boxes on the wall; it was the bench in front of it I needed. I just wanted to sit down as the weekend was catching up to me. I made it to the bench, sat and began to look at this painting. My mind was blank, which in hindsight served me well. The painting was by Mark Rothko and as I began to stare at it, something inside me stirred. It started in my belly then slowly moved in both directions towards my toes then my head, leaving that “prickly skin” feeling in its path as it traversed my insides. As I got lost in the deep blue and contrasting orange, and without any warning, I began to cry. Not sob, but simply allow my tears to free fall in homage to this work of art against all of my better judgment, and I did not care, this moment was out of my control and was the true essence of “emotional power” of art!

 

This day taught me more about art than my previous 22 years on the planet. I became aware that art is anything that takes over your momentary perception and makes emotional decisions on your behalf, with or without your approval. That “art” can be music, nature, children, or anything else that moves you without the necessity of a paintbrush or crayon. Our only duty then is to recognize that moment and properly label it as “art”.

 

We are going to attempt to share with all of you the things that we see as art on a monthly basis, and really open up the discussion. We employ you to go to our Facebook Page and post your own thoughts on art. Where were you when art got redefined? What then is your new definition of “art”? Are you listening to what you see?

 

Hold onto you hats and glasses, this could get emotional because it should!