Coloring Books for Adults! Why?

By Vivian Blevins - Contributing columnist

Some readers know that I use Blackboard Collaborate (on-line, real time) to teach telecommunication employees (AT&T, Avaya, Alcatel-Lucent) from around the country a variety of subjects from the fiction of Edgar Alan Poe to mediation strategies. Some might ask for my qualifications to teach such a diverse range of courses.

With the two I’ve just mentioned, I’ll indicate that I’ve taught Poe’s stories to college students for more years than I care to indicate, and I took a graduate course in Poe at The Ohio State University where I earned my Ph.D.

The mediation course? When I was chancellor of a college district in Orange County, Ca, I worked with five unions. I felt that I needed more than the two-day class in negotiations that I had taken in a graduate seminar at Rice University, so I took a 25 hour plus course in mediation and became a California-licensed mediator (Each state has different requirements for certification).

When telecom employees expressed an interest in classes in coloring, the company for which I worked called me as the president knew I had taught college courses in humanities through the arts and had a keen interest in visiting art museums as I traveled throughout the U.S. and abroad. She also knew that I had taken college classes in art since graduating from college, and on one occasion I had embarrassed an artist who had worked many days on a water color when I said, “I did about a dozen water colors of birds this weekend.”

Coloring is popular with both men and women for a variety of reasons, and I’d like to explain this to readers who are baffled by all the hype for coloring for adults.

• We live in a complicated world with so much of what is going on beyond our control — even in our own families. Coloring takes us back to our childhood when we went to the store, selected a coloring book with subject matter that attracted us, and colored, quietly and joyfully — unless we had an adult telling us not to color outside of the lines or to only use color combinations that appear in nature.

• Coloring reduces stress. I have my telecommunication participants measure their pulse rate, their respiration rate, and — if they have a blood-pressure monitor in their home because of problems in this area — their blood pressure. We check this prior to beginning coloring and after 20 minutes. The positive results are often dramatic. This is much better than booze or pills.

• I use coloring to teach mindfulness and include breathing and whole-body relaxation techniques before coloring. Again, the results are dramatic.

• Coloring helps develop or restore fine motor skills. Do you have a small child in your life who is in this developmental stage or an adult who through an accident or a medical condition such as a stroke needs to regain use of fine motor skills? Coloring helps. And if you think this is not a good way to share your life with a child or that disabled adult, think again. Physical closeness and communication are important to all of us whether we are kids or in a nursing home, hoping for visitors.

• I also focus on problem solving as I teach these coloring classes, challenging my students to select an image in their coloring book that represents the personality of someone they love or hate. We discuss color/animal/plant symbolism in the Western world as well as the cognitive skills involved in solving problems. They then articulate for the group what they did and the process they used for making the decisions.

Participants in my classes acknowledge that coloring is inexpensive (Books range from one dollar to over a thousand dollars); that quality colored pencil sets are inexpensive as well; that coloring takes up little space in the home; and that coloring can be done rain or shine, in the house, on break time at work, or while waiting in the parked car while a family member is shopping.

Is coloring art? Probably not. I, however, teach my students some of the basic terminology used in art, proportion, light sources and such as well as techniques such as hatching, cross hatching, shading, and scumbling.

Do my students give me high marks? Yes. The classes fill up quickly. I can tell in their comments as we review the causes of stress, come to conclusions about what we can and cannot control, discuss what the literature about coloring reveals, and color.


By Vivian Blevins

Contributing columnist

The writer is a consultant for the Training Solutions Group Inc. who teaches courses in writing and literature for major telecom company employees. Reach her at (937) 778-3815 or

The writer is a consultant for the Training Solutions Group Inc. who teaches courses in writing and literature for major telecom company employees. Reach her at (937) 778-3815 or