A Micanopy artist sketched in her renovated 1850s-schoolhouse home all summer long.
The original dark wood floors and white walls contrasted her colorful artwork hanging all around the house’s main room. The desk she drew at sat in the same place as students’ desks did more than 150 years ago.
Helen Suits was starting a new project – adult coloring books.
Amazon Publishing published her first book, “The Sweet Life: A Coloring Book for Grownups,” in October, and she now has two more in production.
The books are $15. On Amazon they’re $11.75, not including shipping. Suits chose to make the books cheaper on Amazon because buyers have to pay shipping.
Suits, 62, is on to something. A November USA Today article said adult coloring books are a new craze. The same article mentioned studies show creativity can relieve stress, and the repetitive nature of coloring can be calming.
Suits said she originally didn’t know there was such a thing as adult coloring books, but when she started noticing them in stores she thought, “Well, I could do one for Pete’s sake.”
Her first book has 30 coloring pages. All of her books are hand-drawn, unlike the computer-generated ones she sees in craft stores.
Suits said she puts thought into her books and tries to create images that are easy for adults to color. When Suits draws a flower, for example, she adds lines and other shapes to fill white spaces, like the petals.
She said she wants to make sure a white space never seems too large to color. She doesn’t want people who are new to coloring to be overwhelmed by too much white space.
“I thought, ‘I don’t really have a computer, and I don’t really do that stuff,’” Suits said. “I was just basically looking for something to do, something to draw.”
Laura Jupin, a hairdresser at Local Color Salon in Micanopy, has been coloring in her book while she waits for customers. Jupin also sells the coloring books at the salon. She said she has sold three for Suits so far, whom she knows from yoga and doing her hair.
She said the coloring is relaxing, maybe because of the pretty colors.
“What’s so popular about the coloring books is that people are discovering that you don’t have to be an artist, you can just color,” Suits said.
Suits designed them for colored pencils. She colored the image on the cover of the book to show people what the drawings could look like.
Greg Emerson, Suit’s common-law husband, came up with the title “Sweet Life” because all the characters, including creatures like cats, insects and birds as well as people, had a sweet quality.
“We wanted something sweet in this crazy world,” Suits said.
Suits has made a living with art for about 20 years, but she worked a lot of jobs across the country before that. She didn’t finish her college degree, and she said her dad, also an artist, told her not to go to art school. Her mother was an artist, too, and all four of her siblings are artists in some capacity.
Small squiggles, dotted petals and miniature leaves fill the pages of her drawings.
“When I’m drawing it, I don’t even think in color because I’m trying to get the drawing right, get every detail right, the way I want it,” Suits said.
She drew inspiration from more than 70 prints of her paintings, which she sells on her Etsy website, MicanopyMaidenArt.
Suits is making her next two coloring books with her sister, Thea Suits. She said they’re calling the operation Suits Sisters Coloring Books. Thea creates the compositions of the drawings, and Suits adds the details.
The second book will be called “Dreams of Home,” and the third coloring book will be about dogs, Suits said.
She sells the coloring books in the Local Color Salon and in the Mosswood Farm Store & Bakehouse in Micanopy.
She said the next two books will be on Ingram Content Group’s website, so big booksellers will have access to them.
“I just hope they have fun coloring it,” Suits said.