Today though I will be nice again. Here is another little essay about the past and how I was shaped into who and what I am by decades of life and influences that began when I was very young.
Along with the magic of the written word, the idea of coloring pictures and patterns has been a big part of my life since very early childhood. The ritual of reading me a bedtime story—or very often some bedtime verses-- goes back to my earliest memories. I had a couple of favorite books. One was A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. I loved those poems! Actually I still do. The other, perhaps even more favored for a reason I will explain in a moment, was a big book of Mother Goose Rhymes.
The neat thing about it was that almost every page had a line drawing to illustrate one of the verses. They featured women in the “Gibson Girl” styles and children in turn of the century garb (19th, not 20th) and cartoonish creatures that were really not at all ridiculous. Part of the ritual was watching mom or dad color one of those drawings. My dad always had a good set of colored pencils. Though not an engineer, he did do a lot of schematics and laid out plans for many of his projects. For a long time I could not do the actual coloring but it was fun to watch a drawing somehow come to life with colors.
Before long I had crayons and coloring books of my own. At first I did not do a very neat job but my coordination quickly improved and I learned to stay inside the lines, at least most of the time. Before I reached my teens I was doing a lot of drawing myself and also making paper dolls, a hobby that I kept for many years. I had been started on this activity by one of my few baby sitters. I later grew dissatisfied with the “Kewpie doll” figures she had made and learned to draw girls and guys in proper eight heads high proportions and designed clothes for them, colored of course!
At one time I wanted to be a dress designer, especially of the flashy “western” styles popular in the late 1950s and early 1960s. This later fell by the wayside as I made other career choices but I did learn to sew and could combine pattern pieces to change styles. I always drew and colored a planned garment before I made it.
Even as an adult I would occasionally color a picture in one of the kids’ or grandkids’ color books and began to wish there were some mare sophisticated line drawing books for grown ups. Lo and behold, I finally found some. Most of them were made by a firm called Dover Books that did a lot of reprints of ancient books and classics. I am not sure where or why they began to do color books but they did. There were flowers, animals, ethnic and native costumes and geometric patterns. After I got some of them, I decided colored pencils were often too pale and began to use felt tip markers which came in increasing ranges of colors.
After my husband passed away, I spent many hours coloring some books I found that had Mandela patterns. There was something comforting about both the designs and choosing the right colors—at last what seemed right to me—to fill them in. There were still not a lot of grown up level coloring books around, though, and it seemed that even those for children were falling out of the vogue, replaced by stickers and other paper crafts and then all the electronic things.
The last few years this has changed! I now see coloring books everywhere. Not a gadget and gizmo catalog comes to my mailbox that does not have color books in it, many with a set of colored pencils. I look askance at them still, but perhaps they are better than the kiddy quality I tried and discarded. Good artist quality pencils are far from cheap so I still mostly stick with the ‘magic marker’ style felt tipped pens. The worst thing about them is they tend to bleed through but fortunately the books I use are normally only patterned on one side of the pages.
Now I have to laugh when I go on Facebook and Pinterest and find that a cousin and many friends and acquaintances are now coloring. They all seem to feel they have discovered something marvelous and new. I do not laugh at them but at myself for being either ahead of or behind the times which seems to be a family trait. All of us seem to start too soon or too late and miss the perfect timing that brings success and recognition.
I have also used the ‘Paint” program on Windows (computer graphics) and created designs there. I stumbled almost by serendipity onto some basic patterns like zigzags, Greek key, stepped pyramids and such which can be combined to make designs that look very much like Navajo and other native rug patterns. I have a whole bunch of these now and have even used them on my website and some of my promotional material since my sig line for awhile was “romancing the southwest in tales of love and adventure,” with a gecko for my totem creature. Two of those designs appear above.
Although I will never be an artist, I do enjoy playing with colors and patterns and sometimes taking liberties with where the hues go, in or out of the assigned lines… After all, I can often be found shoving smoke or herding cats, figuratively speaking that is. What is the fun of only doing easy, current faddish kinds of things? Be a leader even if no one follows!