Q&A: Sarah Brobst, Organizer of The Big Kids Coloring Club at Ijams

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Sarah BrobstRose Kennedy

Sarah Brobst, organizer of the Big Kids Coloring Club

Sarah Brobst is the visitor services manager at Ijams Nature Center (2915 Island Home Ave.) and organizer of its second meeting of The Big Kids Coloring Club on Tuesday, Dec. 8 at 6 p.m. Cost is $5 per person, coloring pages and tools supplied, and the event is recommended for ages 12 and up.

So there’s already been one very popular coloring event at Ijams?
Our first Big Kids Coloring Club was Nov. 10 and it was amazing! Seventy-eight people came to color and socialize and just enjoy themselves.

How did this all come about?
I loved the idea of people coming together and just being creative—bouncing ideas off one another, chatting about their days. And coloring is accessible to most people. You don’t have to have a major in art—but you can. You don’t have to buy fancy coloring tools—but you can if you want. There is something for everyone: easy to extremely difficult, young to old, men or women.

How long have you personally been “adult coloring”?
I have been coloring and drawing all of my life. I hadn’t really ever thought of it as “adult coloring” until it started popping up everywhere over the last year or so and it officially had a name. I was always incorporating it in part of my classes I taught—and it was part of my art journaling and something I did to relax.

Do you have any favorite books or tools?
I recently found a book called Calming Therapy: An Anti-Stress Coloring Book that is beautiful. And everything that Johanna Basford does, including Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest. As for tools, a really great pack of colored pencils goes a long way in my coloring world. I like to blend colors.

Did you stay within the lines as a child?
Only part of the time. 

What was your favorite coloring endeavor back then?
I was always doodling and then coloring in what I had drawn. Lots of swirly, overlapping abstract shapes with lots and lots of bright colors!

Does coloring have any direct link to Ijams?
Over the past year we have really worked to launch our creative series here—bringing the arts to the park for people to learn new skills and make new creative masterpieces of many different types. Nature can be so inspiring.

Do you have any official training as a colorer?
I took many art classes in high school and college but I don’t think you have to have formal training to enjoy coloring or even to be good at it. Everyone has their own style and that is the best part of it all.

Can the supplies get expensive?
Yes, or coloring can be super affordable. It just depends on what you want to spend. There are colored pencils that you can get for a few bucks for a pack or you can spend hundreds of dollars. You can tell a quality difference if you get into the better brands, but you can color with anything. You can also spend lot on coloring books or you can find print-at-home pages from the Internet.

Do you struggle with limiting your coloring purchases?
Not really. I have a few books that I enjoy but I am actually working on designing a coloring book, so my mind goes from coloring to designing. Plus, I have other artistic interests too—I own my own jewelry design business—so that keeps my focus moving around so I don’t rack up too many coloring books. But I do love looking at them in the stores.

Do you have a coloring mentor?
I don’t think they are so much coloring mentors as they are artistic inspirations. I have lots of artistic inspirations from artists—M.C. Escher is my favorite—to wonderful teachers I have had over the years. And there’s my mom. She inspires me as a quilter who does amazing things with colors and patterns and puts them together in the perfect way to make the composition all come together.

Do you see lots of coloring in Ijams’ future?
I do. We are planning on holding this get-together monthly so we hope this will keep growing and that people will continue to find the joy of coloring with their friends, old and new. We can definitely hold more people than the 78 we had the first time, but if it keeps growing we might have to have to tweak it a bit—and get more chairs.

For more info, see the events calendar at ijams.org.

Rose Kennedy

Rose Kennedy came to Knoxville to work as an editorial assistant on 13-30’s Retail Appliance Management Series and never saw a reason to leave. Her “so uncool I’m cool” career among the alt weekly newspaper crowd has led to award-winning articles on Dr. Bill Bass and the Body Farm and cyber-bullying at West High School, and treasonous food columns about preferring unsweet tea and feeling ambivalent about biscuits.

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