For every diehard adult coloring book lover, there is a challenge: do I color inside the lines, thus respecting tradition and the wisdom of those who came before me? Or, do I dare color outside the pesky black-and-white prisons, letting my wild creativity fly free like a rare bird?
Thanks to the zen trend of "blind contouring," you may not need choose. For the uninitiated, to blind contour is to draw without looking at your paper, and actively engage with your subject matter without worrying about what will come out of it. The technique is often used in art school to make budding artists break with old habits and self-conscious doubt, allowing their artwork to grow freely and organically.
"The goal of blind drawing," Sam Anderson explained in New York Times Magazine, "is to really see the thing you’re looking at, to almost spiritually merge with it, rather than retreat into your mental image of it. Our brains are designed to simplify -- to reduce the tumult of the world into order. Blind drawing trains us to stare at the chaos, to honor it. It is an act of meditation, as much as it is an artistic practice -- a gateway to pure being. It forces us to study the world as it actually is."
Of course, you don't have to be in art school to play around with blind contouring. For example, artist Ian Sklarsky is bringing the mindful methodology to the masses with his coloring book Yotel. Its black-and-white skeleton was created without eyes ever meeting paper.
Sklarsky's motivations are similar: to communicate that art is not about straight lines or exact replications, but presence, creativity and exploration. "My art simply shows that there aren’t any wrongs," the artist said in a statement. "It’s the enjoyment of figuring out how to get from point A to point B with one line without looking and creating what you see." As a colorer, you will be relieved of the burden of coloring precisely within perfectly straight lines, and it might prompt you to close your own eyes and see where your colors lead you.
Sklarsky's coloring book was made in collaboration with Yotel, a New York hotel, and iconic NYC imagery runs throughout the pages in drippy, skittish ink. Taxi cabs, subway riders, skyscrapers and tourists are among the standard tropes, all in jagged black-and-white lines just waiting for your coloring touch.
Blind contouring adds an additional layer of mindfulness to the already meditative practice of adult coloring, a ritual which continues to gain momentum. "There is a long history of people coloring for mental health reasons," clinical psychologist Ben Michaelis said in an earlier interview. "Carl Jung used to try to get his patients to color in mandalas at the turn of the last century, as a way of getting people to focus and to allow the subconscious to let go. Now we know it has a lot of other stress-busting qualities as well."
Artists and human balls of stress, I'm talking to you. Get out your colors, close your eyes and see what happens when you create from a place of pure presence.