A recent craze of coloring books for adults has taken the country by storm and this year Aug. 11 was declared National Coloring Book Day. Coloring has been linked to art therapy and it’s become so popular that hotels and gyms are even offering exclusive coloring books as a way for their clients to de-stress.
Catholic publishers have jumped on the bandwagon. Ave Maria Press released its first coloring book in July featuring work by Chicago artist Daniel Mitsui. “The Mysteries of the Rosary: An Adult Coloring Book” ($9.95 at www.avemariapress.com) offers 30 8½-by-11-inch black-and-white images of the mysteries of the rosary done in a style reminiscent of medieval manuscripts.
Ave Maria Press will release Mitsui’s second coloring book in November. Taking inspiration from the same medieval manuscript style as the rosary book, “The Saints” will feature 30 images including Mary and Joseph, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, Francis and Lucy.
Mitsui, who attends the Shrine of Christ the King in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood with his wife and children, specializes in ink drawings. Since converting to Catholicism in 2004, the artist has focused most of his art on religious subjects.
The Vatican commissioned Mitsui to illustrate a new edition of the Roman Pontifical in 2011. In 2012, he established Millefleur Press, an imprint for publishing fine books and broadsides of his artwork and typography.
“The Mysteries of the Rosary” isn’t Mitsui’s first foray into coloring sheets. He has posted free coloring sheets on his website www.danielmitsui.com. A father of four, Mitsui wanted to offer a free resource for religious education teachers or parents that presented Catholic images.
“I found with my own kids that I couldn’t find a lot of good coloring sheets unless I printed something from my own book,” he said.
Later He was put in contact with Ave Maria Press, which suggested making his coloring sheets into a book for adults. The publisher wanted a quick turnaround on the project so Mitsui had to give them something already finished, so he chose images of the mysteries of the rosary that he did in 2011.
“They were a private commission that were for the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries. Each of those is reproduced in the book as well as a number of detail images out of them,” he said. Missing from the book are images from the luminous mysteries because they were not part of the original commission.
While billed as something for adults, the coloring book is for anyone of any age, Mitsui said.
“What I like about coloring, offering coloring materials, is two things. First, I think that a good healthy artistic culture — and obviously I’m thinking mostly religious artistic culture — only happens when you have a very broad participation in art by both professionals and by amateurs,” he said. “When it comes to adults, a lot of them feel self-conscious about drawing or about doing any sort of artistic activity.”
The adults remember coloring and creating as kids but have given it up in adulthood. If they haven’t reached a certain skill level they assume they can’t do it, he said.
“What I also really like about coloring is that it helps people to look at artwork more carefully and more deliberately. In my religious artwork I’m trying to draw on older traditions and there’s a lot to learn there. There’s a lot of theological content.”
In contemporary society, people are bombarded with images every day, so they just glance at them for a second and move on. Few take the time to stop and really take in the image, the artist said.
“If you’re given an image though, and you’re actually interacting with it, like coloring it, you’re going to notice the details. You’re going to think about it, think about the composition, the arrangement,” Mitsui said. “You’re going to just be present with it for a longer time.”
Unlike children’s coloring books, the ones for adults often offer intricate designs that require time and attention to complete. That can intimidate some adults.
“People shouldn’t be too self-conscious about it because I think that’s part of the appeal of the coloring book,” he said. “It’s important not to get discouraged right away. It’s a coloring book. If you make a mistake on one page, there’s 29 others and on final analysis it’s not that expensive.”
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