Art purists are apt to criticize the use of coloring books as one more step in the democratization of art. Which is a fair criticism—coloring books were developed in the late-19th century as a means for bringing art instruction to the broader populace. The idea was that everyone, not just the elite or well-educated, could stand to benefit from learning basic art principles, and coloring books were a great place to start.
Or "paint books" as they were also called. Developers of the new medium used it to teach both children and adults concepts like coloring, tinting, shading, etc., with the intent of helping them toward greater understanding, and therefore increased appreciation and use of hidden talents. The only people who would complain about something as nice as that are codgers and snobs.
There have been plenty of both, but that hasn't stopped the spread and evolution of coloring books from a form of art instruction to an art form in their own right. Dover Coloring Books, for instance, are beautiful to look at even before they're colored in. Not that the initial intent of coloring books has been forgotten: the number of kids who've learned to draw because they first learned to stay in the lines is doubtless staggering.
We're all for the "democratization of art" insofar as it is represented by coloring books. Edith Schaeffer, in the book The Hidden Art of Homemaking, makes a biblical case for each Christian discovering and putting to good use the creative talents God has given them as part of creating man in His own image. Coloring books can and do help many find their hidden talent.
At Exodus Books, no one wants to be assigned the Coloring Books section during year-end inventory because we have so many of them. At over 500 titles, we think we have the biggest selection in Oregon—and we're always adding more. They're getting easier and more fun to browse as we continue to arrange and rearrange and re-rearrange the area, coming up with better ways to organize and display each title. Have fun browsing, and don't be shy about picking up some pencils and a coloring book no matter what your age and talents.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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