"I like your sister's whimsical and intricate artwork," one person commented after ordering a copy of my sister's coloring book, In the Garden, off Amazon. "It is very happy."
I thought that was perceptive of her. My family has always been impressed with the way my sister, Megan, has a positive attitude and can laugh even when she's going through something difficult and painful.
And she can even turn a past unhappy experience into a bit of whimsy to delight other people. Take, for instance, the dragonfly she drew for her coloring book.
My oldest brother, Jamie, not to put too fine a point on it, was a beast when we were kids. For some reason his victim of choice was usually Megan. One day he decided to terrorize her by telling her that dragonflies had a poisonous bite. He described with scientific precision what the poison did to a person--I've blanked out the horrific details, but I remember it was graphic and nightmarish.
There was a method to his madness. He'd found a large, dead dragonfly, perfectly preserved, and his evil plan was, after filling her full of his bloodcurdling tales of death by dragonfly, to produce the preserved dragonfly, its wings frozen in flight, and chase her with it.
She ran screaming, with him and the dragonfly in hot pursuit, along the salmon spawning creek we grew up beside. I managed to catch up and tell her he was lying--though, to tell the truth, he was so convincing I wasnt entirely sure about that. Despite my reassurances, though, she was scared of dragonflies for a long time to come.
Yet, all these years later, she draws them with her characteristically joyful and quirky style.
While my sister visited us this year, from her home in Florida, she shared that she was going to do another coloring book, this one based on the Alaskan sights of our childhood.
As I watched her draw an orca (killer whale), I was suddenly reminded of the way she and I, as teens, used to draw dust jackets for imaginary books. We would draw and color a cover picture and then on the back, we'd summarize what the imaginary book was about.
These summaries were chock full of high adventure and romance. It cracks me up now, thinking about those outlandish tales. Growing up on the fringe of civilization, in the remote bush, gave us fairly extreme ideas of what "normal" life was all about.
My mom loved coloring long before the current craze for coloring books, and has perfected the art of it. We grew up watching her and wanting to be as good as she was. Her shading skills, in particular, made us despair of ever producing anything even remotely as fascinating. She'd always tell us, modestly and generously, that all it took was practice.
I've long since realized that no amount of practice will give someone the innate genius she has for capturing light, texture, and nuance with crayons, pencils, and pens. All the same, as children, we believed it and, as Megan wrote in her dedication to my mom on the first page of her coloring book, we spent many hours in our floathouse home in the wilderness lost for hours in stacks of coloring books.
My mom would play her books on tape (audible books) as we colored, exposing us to the classics. I still get images of the pages I colored when I think of those readings of H. G. Wells' The Time Machine, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World, and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (read by Basil Rathbone) and the more typical children's fare of Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, The Railway Children by E. Nesbit, and The Call of the Wild by Jack London. And so many more.
It does not surprise me at all, with our many fond memories of coloring that my sister would one day create a coloring book of her own and have my mom color the pages that she'd put on the front and back of the book.
Color, in all its forms, has always been a big part of our life.
More of Megan's art can be viewed at www.madartdesigns.com. Her coloring book is available on Amazon, and more pages to color can be downloaded at www.madcoloring.com.
8/28/2016 12:24:22 pm
Aha, the secret of why you own the largest collection of Basil Rathbone movies within 100 miles has been revealed! I should have realized the answer resided deep within your happy childhood memories.
8/28/2016 05:22:24 pm
It's funny, but I didn't even realize that Basil Rathbone was the one who narrated that audible book until I went looking and found it. Then I had to smile because, thanks to a particularly generous friend, I have an enviable Rathbone collection. I can add this to my library.
8/28/2016 05:37:41 pm
Ok, but you must promise to remember that one person's "embarrassing" can be everyone else's "omigod, that is so-o-o-o-o cute!"
8/28/2016 02:02:32 pm
I LOVE it! I have just added it to my Wish List, but that is only until I can add some cash to my book budget again. My mother would not allow me to have coloring books, claiming they stifled creativity, but I indulged in secret at my grandmother's and I love "grown up" coloring books to this day. I don't think they stifled anything, because I recall my grandmother's friends ridiculing me for coloring purple giraffes . . . and the scorn I felt for them that they could not imagine a world with purple giraffes.
8/28/2016 02:36:24 pm
I downloaded two of your sister's free pages, and I'm about to start coloring now. I'm soooooooo excited.
8/28/2016 05:31:22 pm
When I read comments like yours I'm always so grateful for my mom who loved anything creative we did and always found something interesting in it and made us feel like we always had something to contribute.
8/29/2016 04:36:44 am
I took last night of the page I'd colored, then realized I didn't have your email address on my phone. I'll scan it today and send it from my laptop, which will show up better anyway.
8/29/2016 04:24:17 pm
Ordered one for my mom yesterday, she loves to color but is not a confident artist. and i have no skills in ether area lol
8/29/2016 08:42:28 pm
Hi, Shannon, it's good to hear from you! I hope your mom enjoys the coloring book, how nice of you to think of it. I think it's really gratifying when you have skills at coloring, like my mom and my sister, but I also think that however you color it's relaxing and it's a way to express yourself and it has no real bad side effects. I love that about it.
8/30/2016 04:48:20 am
I'm working on my second coloring page now! I confirm that coloring is relaxing. I do find that creative endeavours are very effective in preserving and restoring my mental health.
8/31/2016 08:03:54 am
Thanks so much for sending me the two pages you colored, I thought they were delightful and showed how much you get out of coloring.
8/30/2016 01:18:57 pm
Thank you all so much for the great comments on my first coloring book! It's something I've wanted to do for a long time now and finally got around to finding the time :) Thanks for the write up Tara, and it's funny you mentioned the dragonflies and Jamie, I'm still terrified of them and have actually had them attack me for no reason on two separate occasions! No lie!! I still think they are pretty though...from a distance, haha!!
8/31/2016 08:07:37 am
I bet Jamie has found a way to radio collar dragonflies and control their movements and that's why they attacked you. :-) It makes it all the more impressive that your dragonflies aren't evil and menacing looking! Tara
8/31/2016 03:11:35 pm
hahaha...your are probably right!! He would do something like that, and if I was capable of painting something dark and menacing that would be it!
Mark T Morse
1/13/2017 01:33:22 am
As a man and former Marine I have to admit we spent hours upon hours coloring intricate Confucius books with our mom. Coloring in the remote woods to the light of a kerosene lamp has a very unique calming effect. Along with an 8 track hooked to a car battery producing sounds of the '70s. I may be the only 9 yr old boy that was into Joni Mitchell?
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Tara Neilson (ADOW)