Al and Vicky Varga tried out a few coloring groups before settling on the one at the Chandler Library. "We got hooked by the camaraderie," Vicky said.
Kimberly Carrillo/AFN Staff Photographer

It’s a trend that’s been hot for a couple of years now, and it doesn’t seem to be going away. And now, libraries are joining in on the festivities.

Adults are gathering – colored pencils in hand – to attack books, sheets and bookmarks. And libraries around the East Valley are offering the artists a home.

Coloring is an activity that can be quiet and solitary or raucous and collaborative, enthusiasts say.

Chris Koeth, a library assistant at Chandler Public Library, coordinates one of the latter groups, a friendly collective called the Outside the Lines Adult Coloring Group. “You’ll hear that the noise because we’re not a meditative coloring group,” she said.

The group, which started meeting in February 2016, gathers on the first and third Wednesdays of every month.

“At first, it was once a month for one and a half hours,” Koeth said. “Pretty soon, participants said it wasn’t long enough, not often enough. Now, we’re twice a month for two hours.”

Coloring for calmness – or for community – has its benefits, according to clinical psychologist Scott M. Bea.

At health.clevelandclinic.org, Bea said, “Adult coloring requires modest attention focused outside of self-awareness. It is a simple activity that takes us outside ourselves. In the same way, cutting the lawn, knitting or taking a Sunday drive can all be relaxing.”

There’s a reason adults have been taking up coloring.

“We have a very stress-inducing culture, and I think individuals are always seeking new ways to reduce tension, restore feelings of well-being and reduce the toll that our stressful lives take on our health,” Bea said.

Some of the participants at the Chandler Library have been there awhile, and some are new.

Nicole Bateman has been with the group from the start.

“I love talking and having fun. We’re a laughing group for two hours,” Bateman said.

She said coloring comes naturally to her.

“I’ve always colored, ever since I was a kid,” she said.

Al and Vicky Varga joined the group two days after Al retired from retail management. His last job was with Safeway.

“We wanted something to do together,” Al said. “Vicky found it in the paper. I thought it was something to do, so I thought I’d give it a try.”

“It was in the SanTan Sun News,” Vicky interjected. “We were looking for something in common.”

“This is very relaxing,” Al said, with half-finished coloring sheets and bookmarks in front of him.

“It’s all very community-oriented,” Vicky said, finishing a conversation with a coloring buddy. “It’s important to do new and different things as we age. We needed to de-stress, to meet new people.”

One morning, Cheryl Young was one of the first-timers. She brought her friends Becky Maez and Lorie Thackery.

Young carried an selection of colored pencils and other supplies. She confessed that she had them for around six months before finally using them at the Chandler Library.

“I thought it looked like fun,” she said. “It gets you out of the house.”

Maez’s motivation wasn’t just fun; it was therapeutic.

“I’m going through some things,” she shared. “This is an outlet to a lot of grief in my life.”

She spoke of losing her 18-year-old son in a car crash in 2006. He was riding in a car whose driver had been drinking. She’s still grieving.

“This is helping me tremendously,” Maez said. “I never imagined I’d be in the Chandler Library coloring. But here I am.”

Another coloring artist fighting back from a low point was Maggie Kluck – “‘Luck’ with a ‘K,’” she said.

“I had Stage 4 colon cancer, and I was given two months to live on chemotherapy.”

After being given the news, she lifted hands to God and prayed that he’d take over.

Soon thereafter, she visited a second doctor. The cancer had disappeared.

“That was 17 years ago. And here I am!”

Kluck, who just turned 90, used to paint with watercolors. Now, she takes her coloring with her everywhere.

“It’s brought out a lot of artistic ability,” she said. “It brought my mind to a different level. I’m never bored. Coloring changes your life. It’s so relaxing.

“I’ve met a lot of nice people here. I thoroughly enjoy it. Just delightful.”

Vicky Varga summed it up: “Coloring is not just for kids anymore.”

 

– Contact Ralph Zubiate at 480-898-6825 or rzubiate@timespublications.

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