- Associated Press - Saturday, August 15, 2015

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho (AP) - Imagine a world with no rules.

Maybe lines, but no rules.

Get as wild as you want with the colors and take all the time you need.

Just open a coloring book and you’re there.

“You don’t have to be afraid of anything,” said Beverly Browne of Post Falls. “I can escape into the world of colors and know I am in the right place.”

Browne has discovered adult coloring books, which contain illustrations just waiting to be filled in, created by artists such as Johanna Basford (“Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book”) and Venezuelan-born Valentina Harper. They range from simple and serene garden scenes to psychedelic paisley patterns, abstract animals and inspirational quotes.

“I love colors; I think that’s what won me over,” Browne said Thursday afternoon while sitting at her kitchen table, a coloring book or package of colored pencils here and there.

“You look at this book where the illustrator does all of these pictures for you and then it starts you thinking, ‘Maybe this color, that color,’” she said. “That’s how you get hooked.”

Browne was introduced to adult coloring books by her daughter, Nicole, when she went to California in July to celebrate her son’s 50th birthday.

“She sat me down at the table and said, ‘I have something for you,’” Browne said. “Then she brings out this coloring book and I just was mesmerized by it, by the things you could do.”

Browne orders the books online and uses Staedtler Colored Pencils or fine-point markers to create brilliant pages that keep her occupied for hours.

“I did love to color, and as a mom that’s probably the one thing I did with the kids. I wasn’t real inventive with all these cool things parents do with their kids,” she said. “And (I loved to color) with the grandchildren, but then they grew up. Had to put the books away, nobody wanted to color anymore.”

Coloring is relaxing and therapeutic at the same time, Browne said. She gave pencils and a book to her friend who is recovering from wrist surgery because she feels the motion of coloring will help with the healing process.

“That’s why I got it for her,” she said. “It will be good for her when she can … I think it’ll be good exercise. I know at the end of the evening the hand does get tired.”

Nicole said she enjoys the social aspect of it. She spends time coloring with her children, ages 16, 18, and 21, who at first gave her a “funny look” when she told them about it, but now they’ll actually hang out with her and their grandma when she visits and have all kinds of conversations as they color. Nicole said it’s not competitive and it’s not mindlessly consuming social media, and that’s a good thing.

“It’s just something to do while you sit around the table and talk, instead of playing cards or a board game,” she said. “I feel like with technology, a lot of kids and teens have gotten away from that creative side of themselves. Teenagers still like crafts.”

While coloring is a fun activity to while away the hours and socialize, it does have some healing properties for the body and mind. It’s also beneficial for seniors.

“It’s a cognitive process,” said Jessica Logan, event director for the Lake City Center in Coeur d’Alene. “As we age naturally, we need that sometimes repetitive motion or concentration to keep those synapses firing and interacting with the rest of the body.

“Coloring is not just for kids.”

Lake City Center activities provide a number of artistic opportunities for its patrons, and someday social coloring groups may also be an option.

“They’re always interested in expanding their art and knowledge and expanding into other media,” Logan said. “Coloring should be an activity that should stick with you from childhood to adulthood and into our senior lives.”

Beverly said she colors just about every night, shutting off the TV and enjoying the peaceful and vibrant environment she creates as she experiments with shading and mixing different hues.

“You don’t think when you’re in front of the television. You just watch,” she said. “When you’re doing this, you’re thinking, if nothing else, of what color you want to pick out of 36 colors here to start off something.”

Browne enjoys the freedom of coloring — the freedom of color choice, what to color and how to color it.

“In coloring I don’t have to be perfect, I just have to be me,” she said.

And it’s not just a phase. Adult coloring books are topping the charts across the country as more and more kids and kids-at-heart once again experience the joy of popping off a marker cap and letting their colorful creative juices flow.

“I’m Italian. When you’re Italian, you like colorful things,” Browne said with a chuckle. “Being Italian makes you more excited about life, and color is an extension of that.”

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Information from: Coeur d’Alene Press, http://www.cdapress.com

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