Friday, March 14, 2014

Some Classics Whimsy: Coloring Pages

Some will tell you it is debt, corruption, and slackening moral standards that threaten the prosperity of today's children. I, however, point to a different scourge sabotaging childhoods throughout the land: inferior coloring pages. Oh yes, it's the high point of hot June afternoons and days when teacher just can't stiffen the sinews enough to teach, but what kind of pages are we giving our kids? Coloring should be a joy not bound by cheap photocopies.

Ah coloring. Whatever the means it's pure delight to open that box and take in the polychromatic splendor, watching one color fade into the next. There's no bad tool either. Who doesn't love the smooth roll of the crayon and its waxy sheen on the page. What a treat to watch a marker's ink slowly bleed into the paper, tincting it fiber by fiber. Pencils, though, were always my preference, with their superfine points you can nudge into every nook of the page. How soothing too their scratchy scraping on the paper.

Whatever your choice, you budge the little stick from its special rank and file and you're ready to color. Still we ought to support the joy of coloring not just with quality implements but worthy subjects.

I came across today, then, an old book of paper dolls, although both ignorant and indifferent to just what a paper doll is, I continue to refer to my findings as coloring pages. I noticed immediately their fine quality, especially the varying thicknesses of the lines which delineate the areas. More noteworthy though are their historical subjects, still more they're so far from the beaten path, and most of all that they're not simply generic drawings but sketches or composites of ancient artifacts. Take this page of Sappho, modeled off actual korai:

click to enlarge

To my astonishment its publisher, Bellerophon Books, is still in business and selling a variety of similar books which I hope are of similar quality. While Bellerophon offers a number of classically-themed books, their medieval alphabet looks perhaps the most fun to color. Imagine filling those swirling letters intertwined with their figures, bramble, and borders.

Here's another page from the volume I have, Great Women. Refreshingly it's not another bland picture of a leggy goddess frolicking in a tunic or toga. It's Boudicca, complete with authentic torc and carnyx.

She comes with a helmet and shield too, and Cleopatra with an array of headdresses. Again for you classicists, the Infamous Women volume includes Messalina and Agrippina.

Yes, these are probably too difficult for the wee ones, but better they scribble over Boudicca a bit, and perchance wonder about her, than fill in time-wasters. I should warn you, though, that these are definitely not for adults. It's not at all fun to look up the original art and artifacts and meticulously color in these pages. They're available on Amazon for about $5 each. Think of the children!

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