February 6 – Take Back Your Crayons

by Monica Devine

Remember when you were a little kid, and the actions of drawing and coloring flowed freely, without thought, angst or reservations? One of my fondest memories is getting a brand new box of 64 Crayola Crayons, usually at the beginning of a new school year, opening them up and smelling them! Yes, I smelled them, and have discovered that I’m not alone. Lots of “kids” my age would get a head rush from the smell of fresh crayons (I heard Crayola puts vanilla in their mix). Pair that with a brand new coloring book (I loved coloring within the lines) and voila…pure happiness! A few years ago, on a long…very long…ferry boat trip from Alaska to Washington state, I brought along crayons and a set of mandalas to color (mandala means center, circumference, or magic circle in Sanskrit).
I discovered again, the joy of coloring.

What I have known all along, but have most recently begun to REMEMBER is that there is supreme value in the exploration of color and design on a page, whether it be with crayons, markers, or paint. All of us have creative instincts or urges buried within, and are capable of discovering our voices through the creation of art and craft. (Sometimes it’s hard to choose; I love painting, drawing, sculpting, photography, & jewelry making…another lifetime, please). Did you know that doodling is actually good for your brain and creates a space for active listening (how many of you doodle while on the phone?)

I once took a Watercolor 101 class and had a strange experience driving home that afternoon. The colors on the trees exploded; I saw color within color, a radiance and brilliance missed on a normal, everyday basis. Somehow I was seeing differently, like my right brain had woken up from a very deep sleep. It was a short-lived experience, one that couldn’t be reproduced through my own will, but memorable enough to recognize the existence of another way of “seeing” through the creation and study of art.

“Deep greens and blues are the colors I choose.” (James Taylor). At a garage sale I bought a set of hinged panels, painted a dull gray. They were to be used as a room divider up in the loft at our cabin; a way to provide a little privacy for guests; but once I got them home and painted them (deep greens and blues), I decided to leave them right here in the studio because the colors make me happy and I want to see them everyday. Amazing what a few stencils and poster paint can do to a room.

It’s time to take back our crayons and doodle again. Color within and without the lines. Have a paint “throwdown”. And discover the many creations lying dormant within our hearts.

Monica Devine is the author of four children’s books, among them Iditarod: The Greatest Win Ever, a former nominee for the celebrated Golden Kite Award. Her adult nonfiction piece, On The Edge of Ice, won First Place in Creative Nonfiction with the New Letters literary journal. She currently writes fiction, memoir, poetry, and a weekly blog.


10 responses to “February 6 – Take Back Your Crayons

  1. Loved this piece. It’s been many, many years but as a little girl I also loved new boxes of crayons and brand new coloring books. Also Venue Paradise colored pencil kits and paint by number kits. I once wrote an article for teachers about letting kids color outside the lines, but as a child myself I mostly coloried within them.

    I’ve also discovered mandalas. I find using colored pencils on the mandala coloring books available work well for me. Putting on a little new age music and mentally getting inside those circles as I color is a great meditative and creative experience. In the mandala coloring books each mandala is faced with a blank page I use for journaling or writing poems after coloring.

    I’ve recently discovered doodling and found a few good books out there with creative ideas for usining doodling in your art.
    It’s great to be a coloring kid again!

  2. Jinni Turkelson

    Monica, thanks for bringing back the memory of the new crayons and coloring book. That was a big deal for me as well. These days my crayons are fabrics and the books are quilt patterns. When I became a quilter I looked at color differently and began to see so many more colors in nature!


  3. I had to get out my Crayola box and take a whiff. I think they are at least twenty years old, but still emit that fragrance. I’m about to do a search for printable mandalas to color. Thanks for the reminder!

    This fascinating and powerful post builds on recent experience I’ve had leading a couple of groups through visual memory-processing exercises that produced amazing results. Visual memory processing tends to cut through some of the verbal clutter to unlock truths and connections we may not find other ways. That can add huge depth and richness to memoir and zest to life.

  4. I have to admit, music is a core requirement when I am engaged in any art project. It pumps me up and keeps me going, feeling happy. Music is so powerful. And Sharon, I’m all for cutting through verbal clutter. There are other portals to the unconscious, and creating art is on the top of the list. It makes my writing better.

  5. What a blissful reminder that we all need to PLAY!

  6. Wonderful post! The sense of smell is so powerful, isn’t it? The smell of Play-Doh is another one that takes me back to childhood.

  7. PLAY, yes. As simple as that. I am not a grandparent (not yet; but who knows?) but I get to play with my neighbor kids…I’m so grateful they are in my life to remind me of that oh, so important, elemental feeling of play.

  8. Well Monica now I know we are meant to be friends! I am an unabashed colorer! I have several books of mandalas, regularly buy coloring books, and color the children’s menus at restaurants. Very relaxing! Have you tried zentangle?

    Nothing beats a new box of crayons but I love colored pencils and oil pastels too. There is something about working within the confines of a design that opens my mind to creating outside the lines. Yes?

    • Jude I’m with you. I just discovered zentangle and it brings me into that subconcious state where I can find stories and poems and the inspiration to write them. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only grown women who has regressed to her coloring book childhood. This is a wonderful thing to find in my later years!!!

  9. Hahaha! Hi Jude. What’s a zentangle? I’ll have to Google that one, but I sure like the sound of it. Yes, I love coloring within the lines. That’s where it all starts. You learn about color and form and the confines of an image; it is only then you can create freely, outside the borders. Oh heck, I’m just a big kid!

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