Initially I was going to write a post mocking this trend. It was a layup: As our culture becomes more liberal, and liberalism is nothing but the rationalization of perpetual immaturity, it therefore means our culture becomes more childish. Ergo coloring books for adults was but just the latest demonstration of this syllogism.
But I couldn’t do it. Not that the intellectual scourge of liberalism isn’t infecting more and more of the populace; and not that our adults aren’t becoming more and more infantilized—for certainly both statements are true—but the fact is that I actually believe there’s something to this art therapy stuff.
My wife and I took an introductory art class a few years back. The professor (it was at a college) was fantastic: day one, we walk into the room and there stood a naked chick. Instructions? No instructions; we just looked around and saw everyone drawing away in perfect silence. So we started to draw as well. The prof would circle around while we worked and give us some vague pointers (“get closer to the model”), but basically we figured it out for ourselves.
After an hour of this, I was exhausted. The concentration required to try to adequately represent via your hands what your eyes see is really quite demanding. And that intense period of concentration becomes almost like a meditation—you eliminate all the distractions and just hone in on our koan—i.e., the model and its representation.
(BTW, key learning: hot models are much more difficult to draw than those you’re not attracted to. Remember, it takes concentration to draw well. A hot naked chick standing 10 feet away from you is not a situation that lends itself to concentration…at least not on one’s drawing.)
Anyway, I was not only mentally fatigued after these art sessions, but simultaneously spiritually revived. Not only did you spend an hour not thinking about all the stresses in your life, but you actually have a piece of work at the end of it that you can take some pride in, even if it sucks.
Subsequently, my wife has done a few “paint and wine” events with friends and had a great time while bringing home not terrible paintings of cityscapes or still lifes or whatever. (I’ve never kept up with it, even though the prof advised that I should or otherwise I’d go crazy. I think he was onto something.) Once we move out of the city, I intend on dedicating a room to a studio so we can continue to paint on a regular basis. It really is a great thing.
So for those feeling a bit stressed out and looking for a productive, non-substance way to find some relief, you may want to consider fiddling with some [visual] art. As my professor demonstrated to us, there’s really nothing to it outside of having a big pad of paper, some oil pastels, and the willingness to take at least an hour to focus on nothing but your subject. (And as for subjects, for the couple “homework” assignments we had, I would just browse pictures on the internet until I found something I liked, then “paint” it [with oil pastels] with it up on the screen.)