Friday, 21 June 2013

Do you remember

those fat "colouring in" books? You know the sort of thing I mean I am sure. They were usually at least a half an inch thick ( I am allowed to use an Imperial measurement in this context) with large pages of the thinnest and cheapest sort of newsprint. 
There were simple (and often badly drawn) pictures and "connect the dots" pages. Sometimes there would be simple puzzles or words to fill in. 
You would usually be given the book by a doting grandparent or an harassed parent and you would use your school crayons or pencils to "colour in and make sure you stay inside the lines". 
I never spent much time on such things. I would rather have been reading a book or writing a story. 
We sometimes - but not often - had pages to colour in at school too. They seem to have them much more frequently now. Our colouring in pages at school were made on an old "spirit" duplicator. The printing on the page was purple. Later there were black and white pages printed on a "Gestetner" - the brand of printer - which had a drum roller. I spent hours turning that roller when we printed things like the end of year school magazine. We thought it was amazing that you could even print those fuzzy photographs with barely recognisable people.
But, back to the colouring in can still buy them and I doubt they have been updated that much. You can also buy much more sophisticated colouring in books. They are not something I would want to do but there must be a good many people, adults as well as children, who like that sort of thing because there are books of mandalas, geometric designs, folk art, old masters and modern art, doodles, paisleys, prints, flowers, castles, cathedrals, cottages, famours buildings, landscapes and other things. Some of them are even on very good quality paper with the idea that they will be framed or laminated - or just kept. The potential for printing them must be almost endless and there are "professional" tips for doing the "colouring in". 
I gave one to someone I know who has a limited life expectancy. She has very little energy to do anything. I gave her one earlier and she has taken her time over it. The pages could be torn out along the perforated lines. Her "colouring in" is artistic. She has arranged to have them laminated so that her family can use them as place mats. Her teenage daughter will have them as permanent reminder of her mother.
And yesterday I bought another one. I am going to give this one to her as well. I doubt she will live to finish it but it is an exquisite thing drawn by a Johanna Basford. It is called "Secret Garden". The cover is a clue to the contents but only a clue. Inside there are the most delicate and detailed black and white line drawings. Yes, it is a garden - although a fanciful one. There are tiny animals and birds hidden in among the complexities - ten owls in a tree anyone? I am reminded of Elizabethan embroidery designs but the drawings are much more complex than that. I know it is the sort of thing that will delight her and appeal to her still present desire to do the most detailed work - because she can.
It is also a reminder that life is rich and complex and, even if she leaves us before she finishes colouring inside the lines, she will have coloured our lives as well. 


Philip C James said...

Elegaic piece :)

On a mundane note, I used to draw illustrations for a (gaming) fanzine direct into the Gestetner stencil (with a 'pen' eith a tiny steel ball instead of a nib). Happy days...

JO said...

Oh yes ... when my kids were little it was the 'getting better book' - it was hidden until someone was well enough to sit at the table and do colouring for a few minutes, and grew to be a landmark in many recoveries (mumps was particularly memorable!)