Intelligent Life Magazine – A Colouring Book For Grown-Ups

Intelligent Life — December 1, 2010

How many cheap, productive, morally responsible pleasures can you count in your life? One or two, perhaps? None? Don’t feel bad. They’re not easy to come by.

A second question, related: when was the last time you coloured in a colouring book?

RxArt, a New York-based nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of patients through art, answers both queries with “Between the Lines”. That is, their series of colouring books featuring black-and-white line drawings from star artists, such as Sol LeWitt, Takashi Murakami, Ed Ruscha, Robert Crumb and Tacita Dean, among dozens of others.

Proceeds from the books help RxArt in its mission of installing art in hospital settings, as experimental therapeutic environments for patients. The outfit has installed colourful works by Will Cotton and Rob Pruitt at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee, decorated the Schneider Children’s Hospital in New York with William Wegman polaroids and, most recently, installed a series of fanciful drawings and prints by a handful of contemporary artists at the pediatric unit of Gouverneur Hospital, marking the organisation’s first project for a New York City public hospital.

The appeal of “Between the Lines” lies in the way it distills each artist’s signature style into a basic two-toned rectangle that invites—demands, really—user participation. The pages are labeled with the name of each artist, but it’s equally fun to cover an artist’s name and flip through anonymously, guessing at each contributor along the way. It’s no surprise that Sarah Morris, for example, offers geometric abstractions reminiscent of an urban planning grid, or that Takashi Murakami invites readers to tint the smiles of six anthropomorphic daisies. Kudos to RxArt for this project—a beneficent collectible that makes as fine a gift for ambitious kids as it does a replacement for your evening crossword puzzle.