Art · Growing Up · Inspiration

Should Flowers Be Red? – Revisiting Adult Coloring Books

A while back I asked the question “Are Adult Coloring Books Really Necessary?” because I had seen so many of them in stores and was trying to figure out if I should get one. However, I found that I did not like the designs I saw and therefore assumed that adult coloring books were not for me.

This past December, I decided to give them a try though and even bought some for my mom because she wanted one. I have since discovered what it is that I did not like about them. I like my coloring books to be more realistic so all the animal designs made up of flowers were not something I wanted. The designs I see within them tend to be rainbow colored and crazy, which goes against my desire to be realistic in my designs and coloring.

You see, I have unconsciously fallen into the trap of “flowers are red”.

“What is that?” you may ask. Well check out this video and pay attention to the lyrics.

While the song blames the teacher for it, I actually blame society. We teach kids that everything is a certain way, and it seems that we suppress creativity. I remember in kindergarten I used to play to learn. I had recess in elementary school, but with recent changes to laws and everything, we are so quick to test, test, test. With budget cuts, art, music, and gym are the first things to be eliminated. It isn’t fair, and it isn’t right.

As we grow older, I think we tend to try to blend in. We see the world as our peers say it lest we stray from what is acceptable. We struggle with time management and the next thing we know, five years have passed and we’re too tired to do anything else.

I know that I personally stress myself out trying to make things realistic when I do any sort of artwork. For many years, I’ve actually struggled with painting or drawing anything because I was in fear of it not being right.

I was afraid of being imperfect.

When I started coloring in my new coloring book, I struggled with deciding what to color. I actually Googled pictures of flowers and birds to make it look real. I cringed when I made mistakes and made it look different than the reference pictures. Eventually though, I started caring less and did whatever made me happy. I love the left page of the two page bird spread better, except for the bird itself, because I let myself color the way I wanted to.

I’m now embracing my inner artist. I’m now creating an art journal, participating in doodle a day challenges on Instagram, and watching videos on art tutorials online. (If you need an art tutorial by the way, I highly recommend The Art Sherpa. For journaling, I’d recommend Journal Wild if you need somewhere to start).

Basically, I’ve decided that 2016 is the year of creativity.

The decision to do these things wasn’t entirely due to the coloring book; I’ve wanted to create an art journal for a long time simply because I’ve always wanted to get over my fear of creating terrible art. I want to get over that perfectionism, and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t gotten better about it through coloring. There’s still a lot to work on, but I am getting better. The nice thing about these coloring books is that it’s very low stakes and easy to do. In other words, the images are already provided – all I have to do is color them, which is a lot less stressful than trying to come up with your own picture to color in. Plus, it’s easier to open up a box of colored pencils and a coloring book to color while watching TV than it is to get out all the supplies and create an art journal page from start to finish. I suppose that’s why I have more coloring pages finished than art journal pages.

That’s why I do actually love this adult coloring book craze, which my last post on the topic didn’t highlight very well. I think adults need to be allowed to express themselves, but it can be difficult to do so because of lack of time or not knowing what to do. Many adults can recall using coloring books in their childhood, so labeling them as adult coloring books suddenly makes them okay to use again. It makes them more inviting to purchase and use because it is no longer seen as a childish activity. Adults therefore get the benefit of using them again. Furthermore, for those of us who struggle with the “flowers are red” phenomenon or struggle with being afraid to do artistic things because they do not see themselves as artistic, these coloring books create a safe starting point. It allows people to color and create in a low stakes environment. It can also be used to train yourself against perfection and the “flowers are red” phenomenon as well, or at least that’s what I’m hoping.

We need that inner creative spirit in order to live happy lives and to improve our world. It is through creativity and thinking outside the box that we begin to create and invent new things. If we only ever thought of flowers as red and leaves as green, what things wouldn’t we have accomplished? All the inventions we take for granted now may not have existed if we didn’t push ourselves to think that maybe flowers can be green and leaves can be blue and the sky can be pink. Thinking abstractly can lead to so many wonderful things! Like I’ve said before, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.

However, we do need more options in coloring books. I know, I know. You go through the store and see bazillions of them on the shelves. However, so many of them are flowery or are so very similar to every other adult coloring book that the options aren’t as prolific as they seem. When I was looking for one to give to my dad, it was nearly impossible to find something. Actually, it was nearly impossible for me to find one since I’m not really big into flowers. As you can see, even my nature one has plenty of flowers. I think the Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and Star Wars inspired coloring books are just about the only ones I’ve seen that aren’t filled with flowers. Perhaps the zentangle and mandala ones are as well, but I don’t like those either. In a way, I almost feel the majority of adult coloring books are geared towards women only, which is nice, but let’s not forget that not all women enjoy flowers.

I’m hoping this problem will eventually go away as more and more adult coloring books become published.

So today, I encourage you to remember that the world is what we make it. Everyone has the potential to be an artist, and no one should be afraid that their art won’t be perfect. Remember to live a little. Remember to find something you enjoy to unwind and destress.

Most importantly, remember that children should be allowed to color outside the lines in whatever color they want – and so should you!

Your Turn

How do you feel about coloring books? What are your thoughts on “Flowers are Red” and the creativity of children and adults in the 21st century? 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these or any thing else that this post inspired you to think about.

Can’t comment here? Feel free to continue the conversation on Twitter or Facebook with me!


6 thoughts on “Should Flowers Be Red? – Revisiting Adult Coloring Books

  1. What a fortuitously timed post! At work yesterday someone was talking to me about adult coloring books. I’ve always dismissed this trend as an expression of nostalgia: over-stressed adults trying to relive their childhoods.

    But maybe there’s more to it than that. The person I was speaking with thought that adult coloring books could have therapeutic uses, and your experience adds credit to that.

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