Friends' adult coloring book resonates with Vermonters young and old

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SHAFTSBURY — The idea came to Liz Capen while she was recuperating from a broken foot. A multimedia artist, she had lots of time to practice Zen doodling. Sometimes, she and her best friend and neighbor Everley St. Peter doodled together.

One day, Capen thought, "Why not a coloring book?"

There were plenty of adult coloring books already on the market. But to Capen, most looked mechanically drawn and not very artistic. With their combined talents, Capen knew she and St. Peter could do better.

So St. Peter and Capen took filling in the lines to a new level, collaborating on "Two Vermont Artists Coloring Book — The Country Comforts Edition," a coloring book that holds special appeal to Green Mountain State residents.

Capen, who has pursued art since high school, is mostly self-taught, and always looking for her next creative project. Her portfolio includes painting in acrylic and tempera, metal sculptures, gardening, and creating fairy gardens. St. Peter also took art classes but, she too, is a mostly self-taught photographer, writer, and reiki master.

Their joint effort is a 50-page coloring book filled with native flora and fauna, local businesses, landmarks, and nostalgic memories that convey a love of all things Vermont. The drawings are based on photos they took, and range from simple to complex. The drawings include a cat mesmerized by a hummingbird (based on an award-winning photo Capen took), the Silk Road Bridge in Bennington, Kings Bakery, which attracts people far and wide to their food truck in nearby Cambridge, N.Y., and antique car and tractor-themed pages.

The artists first started working together in 2013 on the Catamount Prowl art project, put on by the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce.

"We've been friends, deeper than ordinary neighbors," said Capen. "I can't imagine anyone else doing this and still be friends. We didn't fight, bicker or get mad. We were pretty agreeable."

In this symbiotic relationship, Capen and St. Peter tossed ideas around, whittling down the choices of drawings to 25 from each artist. They each put their expertise to work, such as St. Peter's digital photo editing skills and Capen's printing knowledge. Input from husbands was welcomed, too.

St. Peter provided inspiration for the diagonally-designed cover, in a way that represents each of their work.

"We got to do something together, and it is something that stays around a while," Capen said. "It is nice to start something and finish it."

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"I think art collaboration is pretty cool," St. Peter added. "More artists should do it."

It isn't just adults that indulge in coloring in this book either. Older children who still like to color but feel silly seen coloring in children's books find an "adult" book cool. And, the artists received thank-yous from parents because it teaches children about things from the past, such as the jar of marbles or a pile of Grandma's sewing buttons - see if you can find the word "buttons" hidden in the pile.

Copies of the page of two local Holstein oxen, William and Henry belonging to Cheyanne Hall of Cambridge, N.Y., were passed out to children at fairs. The farm in the drawing is actually based on the farm that Liz grew up on in Rupert. Her farming roots run deep, having hosted tractor pull contests along with her husband Dave at their Shaftsbury property for two years.

Capen did some test marketing with the book, strategically placing copies in family restaurants and returning later to see what the young clientele colored. More often than not, pages would be ripped out to take home and Liz would think things like, "Yay! They liked my truck!"

Capen and St. Peter said elderly people like the drawings because the lines are thick so they can see them and they bring back memories of activities in their past, such as finding woodland flowers or maple

sugaring.

St. Peter found that traveling to places like Southern Vermont College or the Silk Road Bridge to take photographs for the book was a form of therapy for her after her mom's death. It helped her relax.

"It forced us to go out," Capen said. "As artists, we are a bit introverted and get too involved in chores and work. This was a break. That was fun."

They self-published the book for two printings. The advantage was that they could place the book in independent bookstores that hosted book events, in the Southern Vermont Medical Center where it was enjoyed by patients, the Bennington state office complex.

Just as every craze has its time like Sudoku or word search, the coloring book craze has died down, but there are still those who find coloring books reduce stress. For the die-hard fans "Two Vermont Artists Coloring Book" may still be found at the Chocolate Barn in Shaftsbury, or by emailing Capen at lizcapen101@outlook.com or writing her at 588 Shaftsbury Hollow Road, North Bennington, VT, 05257.

"If the craze returns will do another printing." Liz and Everley agreed."They make great gifts."

Cicely M. Eastman is a freelance writer living in southern Vermont.


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