The Time Garden

Title: The Time Garden: A Magical Journey and Coloring Book

Author and Illustrator: Ji-Hye Song (in English she goes by Daria Song)

Translated from Korean by: Min Jung-Jo

Published By: Watson-Guptill in 2014

the time garden

I’ve always loved to color. There, I said it. Crayons are my favorite tool by far, and markers my least. I’ve always found coloring with crayons in a coloring book comforting because the objective – finish coloring in the picture without making a mess of it – is achievable within 30 to 60 minutes, depending on how meticulous you are and what you leave uncolored. This is a time in the U.S. when people frequently cannot meet goals: we struggle to pay for school, so we cannot attend; we seek full-time jobs, but they don’t seem to exist; we want to lose weight, but the food industry is pretty twisted. Therefore, completing any goal feels like a miracle, and to me, that’s what coloring can do.

Adult coloring books, however, are far different from the kid versions. The images are tiny, complicated, and finishing one picture may take hours, days, or never be finished at all. This past Christmas, my husband surprised me by gifting me with this adult coloring book. At first, I couldn’t use it because there were no colored pencils in the stores. Since the grown-up coloring trend started, stores can’t seem to keep on their shelves the only tool that makes sense for such tiny details. I was skeptical, but once I got my colored pencils I gave it a go.

Like the pragmatist I am, I started on page one, planned on coloring the whole thing, then moving to the next page. I didn’t completely finish:

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I got close! The wallpaper pattern nearly killed me.

I really struggled with how many lines there were on the clock. I’ve had this rule about not having the same color touch in different parts of a coloring project, but with The Time Garden it was an impossible standard. I felt like a failure when the colors touched, and I felt worse that I didn’t finish the tedious fleur de lis on the wallpaper.

Instead of giving up, I chose one thing to color on all the pages: the little girl’s skin. I had my one color and I filled in her skin on every page, happy that I hadn’t promised myself I would color in all the crazy details:

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It was speedy to flip through and color the girl’s tiny body among all the details.

When I finished with the girl’s skin, I started to wonder if I was being lazy. The point of coloring is not to hurry, right? Well, I was never getting that sense of accomplishment I wanted, so yes, I was speeding! I then decided to add some color and have some fun with it:

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I had some awareness of what color a thing might be, like the brown wood of the chair, but played in other places, like making the cuckoo clock totally orange.

Part of what reinvigorated me was reading Lynda Barry’s book Syllabus in which she talks about the connection between moving our hands and how our brains work. She starts her students with crayon, and they are required to leave zero white background (which means they have to color very hard). I played around with coloring hard and soft, but I still avoided most of the detailed stuff:

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Do you like my mini typewriter? It’s a pencil sharpener I bought in 1996 to include in a school project. The assignment was to decide what we wanted to be when we grew up (a writer), research information (didn’t really have internet…) and create a diorama of our work space (desk + typewriter, of course).

I’ve colored in other bits and pieces here and there, but ever since I moved The Time Garden and my colored pencils off the kitchen table, I haven’t really revisited it. I can’t stand all the little tiny lines and details, which now makes me wonder if adult coloring books are increasing stress for those who sought a way to calm down and relax! I would not buy another one.

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Lucky for me, I also own crayons and a coloring book. Task complete!

What do you think about adult coloring books? Have you tried them?

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18 thoughts on “The Time Garden

    1. That’s how I felt, too, TJ. I thought about using crayons, but the images are too small. There are videos online of people using watercolor on these books (assuming they get the right book that has a very thick paper weight), and those are gorgeous! But, I’m not really looking for an “art project.” If I was, I’d get into collage.

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  1. Ha! This post made me laugh.One of the best things about having kids has been that I got to continue colouring, which I have always loved to do. But now that my kids are older, we don’t colour together very much anymore, which has been sad for me. But, then out came the adult colouring books and we all got one for Christmas (from my brother). I was very happy, and my daughters and I spent some time colouring over the holidays. I think the best part, though, is colouring together. I’m not sure I’d be as into it by myself. Like you, since clearing them off the table, we haven’t used them much since, but I can see it being a new holiday activity.
    My sister also got one, and she finds it stressful. She says she worries too much about the colours she uses – she wants it to look just right. I worry about that, too, but maybe not as much. 🙂
    Just in case you’re interested, one of the colouring books we got is a lot easier than the others. It’s full of patterns, like wallpaper, and a lot of them could be coloured quickly using crayons.

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    1. Naomi! You have no idea how stressful it was! (I haven’t picked up the book since it was taken off the table). I’m wondering how detailed your books are if you can use crayon. There is no way I could use crayon in the Daria Song book unless I was coloring in the sky, or something like that. I’ll bet it would be fun to color with someone else, though. Do you all have the same book? I’m a jealous weirdo, so if I were coloring the same page as someone else, I would constantly be comparing how different theirs was from mine–and jealous. “You thought to put green and yellow together! Jeez! I just did black and brown! Ugh, I’m so uncreative!” (Why isn’t “uncreative” a word yet?). Can you send me a link or picture of the book you have that is less detailed? Thanks!

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  2. I haven’t tried colouring – it wasn’t something I even enjoyed much a a child. My form of achieving a goal is cross-stitch – working to a detailed pattern where someone else has chosen the colours, since I have no artisitic eye. It’s almost entirely brain-work free and I don’t think anything gives me a greater sense of achievement than when the thing is done, pressed and framed. It makes me feel creative even though it’s not at all…

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    1. You don’t feel a sense of accomplishment when you’re finished? That’s interesting; even though someone else has chosen the colors, you put a lot of time into completing the task. And, cross-stitch is something you can hang on your wall, too! I do like mindless art projects. My mom used to have me make pot holders with one of those frame things. You just go up and down and up and down–not much to it! Speaking of my mom, she HATES coloring. When her granddaughters want to color, you can see this pained look cross her face (right before she volunteers me to color with them instead!).

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  3. Your typewriter pencil sharpener is GORGEOUS!! I’m with you with the whole adult colouring thing. I quite like to draw and don’t mind colouring/painting my own stuff. But I tried just colouring like this and ended up stressed because I didn’t feel like I was really creating/achieving anything. I think I’d rather do a jigsaw puzzle or something.

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    1. Oh, and thank you for my comment about the tiny typewriter. For the diorama, I remember I cut a little piece of paper that would go in the typewriter (the little bar thing spins) and I wrote a few words on there in pen to look like someone had been writing. It was funny to me 🙂

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  4. I love coloringgggg! I like to pretend that I’m giving life to the images as I’m coloring them in. Weirdnessss. I feel like I wrote on your site before about this same book, but now I can’t remember- anyhow I saw it in a store and nearly bought it once- there are sooo many details though it might drive me crazy!

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