Decades ago, coloring books used to be about fairy tale characters or cartoon icons, just for kids. But now, the concept of coloring books for adults is well established, with themes that include nature, wild animals, landscapes and even “swear words.”
Given the soothing sensation of filling in patterns with color, it was inevitable that stress reduction and relaxation would become popular common threads for the books. So what could be more logical than a “Coloring for Meditation” book?
Created by Tibetan artist Tashi Dhargyal, working at his studio and gallery in Sebastopol, the book is an offshoot of a project that’s been in the works for the past four years: a 15-by-20-foot scroll painting on canvas, or “thanbhochi,” depicting Buddha and including some 30 different deities. He hopes to finish the piece within the next year.
“If you don’t have patience, you cannot do this work,” said Dhargyal, 41, a traditionally trained Tibetan master artist who has lived in California since 2011.
The step-by-step process starts with geometric patterns, followed by detailed drawings and, ultimately, completing the work with paints the artist mixes himself.
“It’s very traditional. Everything is made by hand,” the artist said.
The meticulous process continues at Dhargyal’s studio at The Barlow, Sebastopol’s food, wine and art center, while the coloring book offers an easy introduction to his work.
Issued earlier this year by Wisdom Publications, a Boston-based imprint devoted to Buddhism, the coloring book includes 50 illustrations — black and white designs ready to color.
What makes this book stand out is the fact that the images are taken from Dhargyal’s ambitious work-in-progress, instead of just a general collection of examples from traditional Buddhist imagery, said David Kittelstrom, a longtime senior editor for Wisdom who lives and works in Santa Rosa.
Kittelstrom collaborated with the artist on the book after Dhargyal initially contacted the publishing company’s Boston headquarters.
“There are so many coloring books out there already, so it’s difficult to get attention for yet another one, especially now, when the adult coloring book fad seems to have peaked last year,” he said. “But I think this is a great idea.”
The coloring book and Dhargyal’s scroll can complement each other, attracting a broader audience for the book while publicizing the original work, which is eventually destined for donation to a monastery.
“It’s a wonderful project, and the coloring book can serve to bring more attention to what the artist is doing,” Kittelstrom said. “Once his project nears completion, there will be more publicity around that, so it was a way for us to tie in with what he’s got going on.”
The coloring book aims to appeal to devoted students of Buddhism, as well as those who simply find the images relaxing to color.
“We wanted to produce something that is appealing to a Buddhist practitioner, because these are sacred images,” the editor explained. “Unlike other coloring books, which are just designs or pretty scenes, this book has a spiritual component. The books could be used at various levels. One could use it as a mindfulness practice, as a way of being in the present moment.”