donna fischer | the artist next door | march 2016
Take a crayon and put it to work on paper. Within minutes, you can be on your way toward a happier plane of existence, fueled by the ease of letting color flow into curvy shapes or geometrical fanfares. If we loved to color as children, why shouldn't it be fun for anyone with a driver's license? That was apparently the thought behind the nascent craze in coloring books for adults. Release your inner creative spirit. Relax and let go. Some books are hippie in nature and offer a fair share of philosophy and lotus flowers on every page. Others are simply coloring adventures for anyone with crayons or markers.
Heather Peterman is a local artist who digs coloring, so much so that she's released her second coloring book and looks forward to getting more out to the public. Her buoyant personality is impossible not to admire as she recounts how friends wanted her to turn her artwork into coloring books many years ago. The notion of adults purchasing coloring books seemed unlikely at the time. “And then when I heard they were becoming popular I thought I could put one together. The more I got into it, the more I just kept drawing and drawing, and then I put one together."
Gifted a large supply of paper, she got to work on her first book last fall. “Just so you know, when a drunk guy in a bar tells you that he has 500 pounds of paper for you, he's not lying!"
Peterman draws every image by hand. “I allow myself to color the inside cover sheets and the covers. I don't actually get to color very often. I do find it super relaxing because I'm not working on a commissioned piece where I have to make it sellable. There's no wrong way. I love how people use different color schemes I normally wouldn't use."
You will find a lively array of peacocks, owls, mystical ladies and abstract designs in Peterman's books. Her lines are thickly drawn, allowing for ease in coloring. “The other reason I like doing these coloring books is that it brings me back to my roots of just making black and white drawings like I used to," she explains. “That's how I started back in high school. Doodling. I'm not very good with words but I can just sit and doodle my thoughts away, so then eventually instead of just filling up whole sheets of paper with doodles, I'd leave space and make things. It just naturally comes out. It's just supercool that I can make coloring books now because I can just sit back and draw like I used to."
Even the least talented person can appreciate the value of art and the enjoyment from making it. The coloring craze seems to break down the barriers between non-artists and art. “I think a lot of people are intimidated by art," Peterman adds. “I can't draw people realistically either, but a long time ago I realized I love to draw and I love to paint, but I can't do it realistically. I thought, 'I'm just going to do it my own style,' and I kept on doing that. So I think coloring lets you explore your creative part and not be, 'okay, this has to be perfect.' Just like if you buy watercolors, the paper is really expensive. You don't want to start the watercolor because it's an expensive piece of paper. If you're just doodling on scrap paper you don't have the pressure."
Peterman adds that coloring works as a group activity or a solitary endeavor. “People color alone at home and it gives them something to do. I've been thrown parties and it's really cool how people get together and talk and exchange stories and they don't even know each other, and then after a while they're not strangers anymore, they're friends. That's what's cool with coloring parties; people don't have their phones out! People are communicating with the people they're with. Even if you're at home it's great because you can watch your stories on TV and color away, or listen to tunes."
A frenetically fast talker, Peterman admits that she was blessed with more sunshine on the inside than most, and she feels the need to share that energy with others. “Especially in the long winter months, I like to share it with others. It makes me feel so good that I have so many friends and they have so much of my work in their homes and around town." Peterman has been creating acrylic paintings for years, with a long list of local establishments hosting her work. A born innovator, she has worked in polymer clay jewelry and painted fabrics, among other things. “I like color and I like abstract and the psychedelic stuff. My stuff is really curvy and that's where my Boobie Girls come about. It's an expression of being fun. It kind of un-sexualizes them a bit, making them a bit cartoony. I like to make people laugh; it's really important for me. That's why I call my company, Good Energy Art."
The irony of how her high school art teacher told her to stop doodling isn't lost on Peterman. She's managing to make art her livelihood now, though she admits it can be challenging. “I can't help but do it and I'm very fortunate I get to do what I love. I like to share it with people. I don't know when I'm going to get my next meal ticket but I keep on working." With a new batch of new canvases at home, Peterman looks forward to creating more vibrant images to boost the mood of art lovers everywhere.
Look for Heather Peterman at Arti Gras this month, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or look her up on Facebook under Good Energy Art.
Donna Fischer is an avid fan of music, film and art. When she's not writing on these subjects you'll find her gardening or snowshoeing around Green Bay.