BOOK REVIEW: One Year Wiser – The Colouring Book

If you’ve failed to notice the glut of mindfulness, de-stressing and relaxation-based colouring books that now live in our bookshops, often in their very own display section, how did you manage that? They seem to have become as ubiquitous as overfull rubbish bins on the high-street and an underperforming England football team. That’s not to say that the books don’t have any merit, just that they seem to be everywhere now. It’s with this in mind that I’ve taken a look at One Year Wiser – The Colouring Book, a book created by Zen Buddhist Mike Medaglia, to see if anything makes it stand out from the crowd.

Title: One Year Wiser – The Colouring Book

Author: Mike Medaglia

Publisher: Self Made Hero

Published: July 2015

RRP: £8.99

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Reflect on the wisdom of the world’s great thinkers while colouring in the beautiful hand-drawn illustrations of Huffington Post blogger and Zen Buddhist practitioner Mike Medaglia. The 52 illustrated meditations within this book will leave you inspired by the words of thinkers from Gandhi to Virginia Woolf, soothed by the meditative act of colouring and empowered by a more mindful, calm and creative approach to life. One Year Wiser: The Colouring Book will fire your imagination, improve your focus and help you stay creative, positive and relaxed.

The book begins with a page long introduction from Mike, where he sets out his aim of having wanted to create images to aid and give impact to the quotes and sayings of some of the worlds most well-known thinkers. He then goes on to offer advice as to how to approach the issue of colouring, recommending taking a deep breath, not rushing and generally taking your time to enjoy the process. All very sound advice. If you approach the colouring aspect of this book in the way that you might approach other tasks, you risk not getting much from the process besides some light distraction and a mild feeling of accomplishment when you’ve finished.

The book itself has a lovely textured cover which I found very pleasant to hold. Besides the 52 illustrations, there are a number of pages at the back for experimenting with colours, doodles, and to write down other quotes that you might find elsewhere. A nice touch. If 52 pictures to colour doesn’t sound like much for your £8.99, bear in mind that, if not rushed, each represents a fair few hours of colouring, especially if you opt for coloured pencils rather than felt tips. The images themselves show various things and scenes, some examples being objects, nature and an assortment of symbols. Each image is accompanied by a quote from a famous thinker, such as Henry David Thoreau, Oscar Wilde and Lao Tzu. The images are all pleasingly presented and have some nice intricate detail that gives plenty of scope for the colourer to play with. I also appreciated that the black lines weren’t monstrously thick. Some of the artwork in other colouring books aimed at adults present the pictures with such thick lines that they look more like the stuff I learned to colour with when I was little. It wasn’t to my taste then and it isn’t now, so thinnish lines get a thumbs up from me.

Taking the relaxed nature of the book in mind, I didn’t start at the first image but flicked through until one spoke to me. My mind settled on the image of a man looking down, possibly in astonishment, with flowers growing from the top of his head. Below the image was a quote from Allen Saunders: “Life is what happens to us when we are making other plans.” I’d come across the same saying only a week before while playing the excellent time-bending game Life is Strange. It resonated with me so I made a start.

I opted for coloured pencils over felt tips as I appreciate the more calming nature of the colour slowly building in small sweeping motions, rather than the, to me, overpowering dollop of colour a felt tip might give. I began with the man’s glasses, making them a nice see-through shade of blue. I did the frames next, realising that, if I really wanted to, I could make the different sides different colours. I didn’t intend to go full Timmy Mallet, but it was one of those micro-freeing moments that highlight how we can sometimes ignore options available to us, just by conforming to expectation. It then occurred to me that even colouring inside a book like this felt rather strange. I was brought up not to colour or write in “proper” books. There was an incident with some Button Moon books in which I got doodle happy with a Biro when little which didn’t go down too well with my parents, leading to a pretty stern telling-off if memory serves. Here I was, drawing in a published book, one worth almost a tenner no less. Even though I knew that it was the whole idea of the book, it still felt odd. So again, another moment of realisation unlocked by gentle colouring.

I moved on to the guy’s face, revelling in the idea that I didn’t strictly have to make his skin resemble any traditional skin-colour. Green, I decided, was what was called for, even though I know that this skin colour isn’t exactly unheard of in comic book art. I made sure to colour the larger space in a slow, measured way, even as I felt the desire to turbo ahead and let my pencil fly. I then felt a little bit smug about how I was doing so well by not giving in to the urge to speed ahead. I then felt a bit guilty for being smug. I then laughed at myself and focussed on my colouring. See, it was helping already. You can see the progressions of my colouring below.

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By the time I’d finished, I laughed to think that the poor man might be looking so dejected because he had woken up and seen what he was wearing and wondered why he was green. I should also add that I didn’t do the colouring all in one session. I think I spent an hour the first time, and then a few more 20-30 minute bouts to colour all the bits that I wanted to, before I felt happy that I was done with this particular picture. With this in mind, the book’s one-per-week layout feels just about right.

I enjoyed my time with One Year Wiser – The Colouring Book. It does provide a truly pleasant way of doing something for the sake of the enjoyment of it, rather than with any particular rush towards a goal. The artwork is lovely and the quotes add that extra dimension of giving you something to mull over too. I would say that I felt a bit calmer and a bit more relaxed after colouring, and that is coming from someone who suffers with an anxiety disorder and a chronic health condition, which might set the bar a bit higher compared to someone in good health and spirits. Either way, if you want a colouring book with a little bit extra to it, I think you would do well to buy One Year Wiser – The Colouring Book.

Rating: 5/5

Reviewer: Casey Douglass

One Year Wiser – The Colouring Book Images © Copyright Self Made Hero

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