I don’t think we ever really move beyond our childhood fascination with crayons.
When my illustrator, Donna Craft, and I created Reggie and Rocky, The Ring-tailed Raccoons, we couldn’t resist making it a coloring book as well as a story book. There’s something about a full-page line drawing that makes you want to grab a Crayola box and finger through all those colors that never seem to lose their appeal.
I think that’s why fellow passengers on the business flights I took all those years gave an appreciative nod when they saw me remove my coloring book and crayons from my briefcase, when everyone else was taking out their laptop.
I think there’s some kind of mystique connected with coloring, and that first whiff never misses putting a smile on my face. I wasn’t surprised to learn that Crayola crayons are the eighteenth most recognized scent in the world.
It was while coloring as a child that I first came across the words “Aquamarine,” “Cerulean Blue” and “Vermillion”—some of the most difficult but beautiful words I’d ever heard (“Charlotte Russe” was also a favorite, but that’s a story for another time.) As a kid, where else but on a crayon wrapper would you ever see such an exotic and powerful sounding name as “Raw Umber?” Umber! How wonderful that they never called it just plain brown.
Coloring is not a cut and dried thing. Some people color in a swirl of round strokes. Some people color with swift straight lines. Some make their lines side to side; others up and down. I’m of the up-and-down school. Well…sometimes I switch. Okay, I do all of them. Anyway…
Motivational speakers tell us to go outside the lines. That’s not a bad metaphor for being bold in life, challenging the boundaries and going beyond your comfort zone. But for me it really doesn’t work so well in a coloring book. Which is probably why I’m also an outliner. I like to trace my pictures with dark lines, then color them in. Dark purple was always my favorite outline.
I grew up in Brooklyn back in the early fifties, so no one should be offended when I recall out loud how, back then, we loved to mimic the adults by putting a crayon to our lips like a cigarette. Peggy Ann and I would slip into our mothers’ high-heeled navy and white spectators, throw our heads back dramatically, and blow out puffs of imaginary smoke…kind of the way Bette Davis and Hedy Lamarr did it.
My favorite smoking color was Burnt Sienna (another great name) because of its brown tobacco-like tone. As an adult, I never did become a smoker. I tried it once, but quickly discovered that Lucky Strikes and Chesterfields weren’t anywhere near as tasty as what came out of the crayon box.
Somebody once said that a truly worthwhile idea could be scribbled on a cocktail napkin with a crayon. I’ve attended my share of creativity and brainstorming sessions where the tables were scattered with crayons because just holding and sniffing a Crayola crayon is said to take us back to our inner child, where the source of our true creativity lies. Maybe that’s why children are such creative people. In the adult business world of blueberry and cherry scented markers, it takes only a couple of good whiffs to get a headache or a high. And I usually don’t see a lot of true creativity going on.
Think about it, if big time NFL players can crochet to clear their minds and relax, then why not color? It can help to re-connect with the kid in us, when the only care we had in the world was choosing which color to make the bunny’s eyes. Violet, right?