Advanced coloring

Kids who like to color sometimes grow up into teens who like to color who sometimes grow up to adults who like to color. If you are fortunate enough to have one of the former, and be one of the latter, you will come to treasure the many opportunities for gentle, satisfying, quiet, relaxed interaction as you explore together the rich collection of coloring books from Mindware. Though you may very well want to keep them all to yourself.

These coloring books feature designs that are complex enough to appeal to adults as well as older children (school-age and above). The act of coloring is pleasing in itself. The opportunity to work with a complex design and decide what colors you want to use where adds a dimension of creativity as well as discovery. As a group activity for elder adults or families, as a solitaire activity to accompany listening to music or the radio or watching TV, as a bedside or travel companion, good coloring books like these can bring many hours of quiet satisfaction.

Mindware publishes an impressive variety of unique coloring books. In all their coloring books, each poster-worthy page is printed on one-side, on high-density paper. There are many different collections. We’ll try to give you a taste of each.

The Color Counts series (if you buy both, you get a free set of 24, good-quality markers) struck us as having the most play potential of the current collection. Each contains one- and two-page drawings. Eleven of the drawings come in two versions. In the first, the spaces are numbered (the color code specified on the perforated margin), in the second, they are not. This gives the colorist an opportunity to color-by-number and still experience an almost always surprising result (o, my gosh, it’s a Panda bear!), or, in the case of the unnumbered version, to color-by-whim. Having two different versions to play with opens a variety of opportunities for further play. You can solve the by-number version first and then try the by-whim version and see how closely you can come (without referring to the solved drawing) to the “correct” version. Or vice versa. Or give one version to one artist or team, and the other to a different artist or team, and see how much their interpretations differ.

Mindware does a brilliant job in identifying existing art forms that lend themselves so well to the art and design of coloring books. Take, for example, Mosaics. Of course, now that you think about it, every mosaic is made up of small bits of color – exactly what you’d most want to experience in a coloring book format. There are currently four books in the Mosaics series, each giving the colorist a wonderful opportunity to immerse himself in the art of a different culture: Classical, Celtic, Aboriginal and Aztec. Each book leads to yet another immersion in complex and very different relationships betwen color and design.

The Illumination and Lights series both focus on yet another art form perfect for coloring – stained glass windows. Each of the four books in the Illumination series and six in the Lights is printed on vellum-like paper, black areas surrounding translucent segments, heightening the illusion of stained glass. Taping any of the 16 images in each book onto your windows completes the illusion. The shapes that need to be colored are large enough to be easily colored, but the more controlled you are when you color them in, and especially when you reach the edges of each shape, the more satisfying the results.

The Design (six books) and Scapes (four books) series are more abstract. Each books includes two copies of twelve different works. Most of the books include a a range of designs, from the very complex designs, requiring lots of patient coloring of some very small areas, to the relatively simple. Because they are more abstract, the colorist has more freedom from the constraints of reality, and thus more of an opportunity to express and explore her sense of color and balance.

The Creature Camouflage (six books, each with 23 unique images) and Transformation (four books, each with 12 unique images) series are a bit of a departure. They are the least abstract in the Mindware coloring book library, but by no means any less innovative or challenging. In the Camouflage series, there are hidden creatures in each image. Depending on how you color them, you can make them very easy to find, or just about impossible. The Transformation series is Escher-like: tessellating designs that repeat and evolve. Again, depending on your approach, you can choose to ignore or accentuate the transformations.

When you go to the Mindware to learn more about their coloring books, you’ll also find a sample page for every book, free for the download. This gives you a good way for you to taste each book and determine its suitability. What makes one coloring book more suitable than another is really a question of taste, as each book offers its own unique, well-balanced experience. The only misleading thing about the site is that it  describes these books as “Coloring Books for Children.” We have found all their coloring books to be as appropriate for adults as they are for children.

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