DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!


Sep 22 2017

Coloring For Adults

by Camille B

MuralAs a child growing up, one of my favorite pastimes was coloring. I couldn’t get enough of it. Coloring books, colored pencils, the works.

Even as I grew older the fascination remained, and every once in a while I’d still find myself picking up a page or two because I found it so relaxing. Of course I kept this to myself for fear that I’d find myself on a psychiatrist’s couch somewhere pouring my heart out.

Turns out my fears were unfounded, because little did I know that while I was secretly having the crush of the crayons, coloring had become quite the craze, and a very popular form of relaxation among adults. Great! No more coloring in secret.

I finally shared my love of coloring with a co-worker who quickly brought me up to speed with all that was out there in the world of adult coloring. Until that point, I had no idea they even made coloring books for adults! I was still buying the basic ones at the dollar store.

It was amazing to see the wide variety of coloring books out there, from simple designs to very intricate mandala prints; some of them so widely popular they actually made it onto bestsellers’ lists. The Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book made it onto Amazon’s bestseller lists in both the U.S. and Toronto, alongside books like Girl on a Train and All the Light We Cannot See.

There are also entire websites dedicated to coloring, like The Color.com and Online-coloring.com where you can color online as well as print the pages, and countless apps  for your phone and tablets  dedicated to your coloring experience. One of my favorites is Teazel Ltd which provides over 500 pictures from which to choose.

There are giant, table-size coloring sheets that can be done as a family or group effort, and which can probably be used Muralas murals afterwards. There are elaborate wine and coloring parties and now even a National coloring book day dedicated to this latest trend.

So what makes such a childlike pastime so appealing? Coloring can be therapeutic. It helps to calm the amygdala, the part of the brain that controls the way we react to certain stimuli or emotion that causes us angst. The amygdala can lessen the effect of these negative emotions while you engage in a coloring exercise

According to clinical psychologist Dr. Scot Bea, when thoughts are focused on a simple activity, your brain tends to relax. We are not disturbed by our own thoughts and appraisals. “It has everything to do with refocusing our attention,” he says. “Adult coloring requires modest attention focused outside of self-awareness. It is a simple activity that takes us outside ourselves in the same way cutting the lawn, knitting, or taking a Sunday drive can all be relaxing.”

Even cancer patients are now turning to coloring as a way to manage the stress of their treatments, admitting that it makes the hours go by faster and relaxes their mind and body when they concentrate on just that one task.

Many public libraries are now hosting coloring events as well, including DCPL. You can visit our participating branches: Chamblee, Covington, Doraville, Redan, Stone Mountain and Wesley Chapel to attend upcoming events like: Coffee and Coloring, Color Me Relaxed, Art Expressions and much more. Click here for further details.

And maybe coloring just isn’t your cup of tea, here are some other suggestions for hobbies and interests you might also find relaxing and appealing:

Get a Hobby! : 101 all-consuming diversions for any lifestyle– Tina Barseghian

Practical course in drawing and painting– Martin Roig

52 more scrapbooking challenges– Elizabeth Kartchner

Stylish sewing: 35 patterns and instructions  for clothes, toys and home accessories– Laura Wilheim

Contemporary quilting: exciting techniques and quilts  from award winning quilters– Cindy Walter

The beginner’s guide to growing heirloom vegetables– Marie Iannotti



Jun 19 2015

Art or Life?

by Rebekah B

Hello readers,

I love watching movies–the kind of movies which explore the dilemmas and dramas of human passions and desires. Cinema is an art form that, when well done, can fully engage our hearts and minds. When we get down to what brings meaning to our everyday lives, I think most of us would like to feel that by being in the world we have somehow served our families, friends, and co-workers by sharing some essential aspects of our own being. For the artist, the need to create meaning through art is more often than not a compulsion–a need more important than building family or career. We may ask ourselves the question: Which is more important–to live one’s life in a compassionate manner, adding value to the relationships we nurture at home and at work, or to isolate oneself to a certain degree from society in order to produce work that will allow future generations to continue to relate to the workings of our heart and mind, long after our personal death?

HumblingBirdmanA few recent (2014), somewhat literary films in our DCPL collection, I feel, illustrate this theme well. Birdman, written and directed by  Alejandro González Iñárritu and starring Michael Keaton, and The Humbling, directed by Barry Levinson, starring Al Pacino and based on the next to the last novel written by Philip Roth, both feature aging screen and stage actors struggling to remain relevant, to prove to themselves and to the world that they still possess the magical power that grabs the viewer by the emotions and reels them in. Both protagonists are terrified by a progressively tenuous relationship with reality, with friends and family. Yet their desires remain powerful, and they fight the demons of death and chaos as vigorously as they engage the remains of their personal genius in their art.

WhiplashWhiplash, written and directed by Damien Chazelle and starring Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons, is, I feel, the most powerful of the three films. Teller plays a young and ambitious drummer enrolled in a New York City conservatory. In a telling moment, he squashes a budding relationship with a young woman to whom he is obviously attracted, feeling that his overriding desire to become a famous drummer will cause him to inevitably dissatisfy her–and that she, as an ordinary young woman, will never understand or be fulfilled by him. In his youthful arrogance, he somehow knows that his need to excel as a musician dominates any other desires. As we watch the scene, the painful question, “art or life?” is illustrated. In Whiplash, the relationship between Andrew, the young drummer, and his mentor, the verbally abusive and manipulative Fletcher, is intense and fascinating. Fletcher uses any means he deems necessary to bring to fruition the talent he sees in his young charges, and Andrew’s vulnerability and passion stir in the viewer an ambiguous desire to see him succeed.

In all of these films, the viewer experiences the angst-ridden desire of the artist to remain relevant as he ages, as well as our own fears about the loss of vitality. We share the struggle of the artist to straddle the fine line between his own vivid imagination and the demands of conventional reality. We observe the dedication and work required to develop and maintain the necessary craft which is the armature of any successful and compelling art form. Watching these films, we can experience with emotion the conflicts and difficulties caused in the artist’s personal life by his or her focus on an art form to the near exclusion of all other responsibilities and relationships. You could say that the artist is egocentric, a narcissist. And it is true to a certain degree. Art is an unforgiving mistress or master, requiring uncompromising devotion. As a mere human being, the artist is nearly always at the mercy of art itself.

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May 25 2015

Seriously Silly!

by Joseph M

Knuffle Bunny by Mo WillemsFans of best-selling children’s book author and illustrator Mo Willems may be interested in a new exhibition at the High Museum of Art. Seriously Silly! The art & whimsy of Mo Willems is a retrospective featuring over 100 works by the artist. It opened May 23 and will run through January 10, 2016. To find out more, see the event page on the High Museum website.

Whether you’re already a fan or if you just want to know what all the fuss is about, DCPL has a substantial collection of works by Mo Willems. Click here to take a look!

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Feb 3 2014

Smaug the Paper Dragon

by Jesse M

Smaug book artWe’ve showcased art crafted from the pages of print books in the past (check out those posts here and here), but it’s been awhile, so when I came across this intricate paper Smaug (and Bilbo) made from pages of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic book The Hobbit I just had to blog about it. The paper sculpture is a project by Denmark-based artist Victoria of VMCreations; take a look at her deviantART page for the full gallery of images.

Although the film that inspired the artwork (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) hasn’t yet been released on DVD, you can get the first installment in the film series (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) from the library!

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Nov 15 2013

The Employee Expo…check it out!

by Dea Anne M

Have you ever wondered what sort of interests and hobbies DCPL employees pursue in their spare time? Well, many of us enjoy making art and creating crafts of all sorts. You can see stellar examples of these at DCPL’s annual Employee Art Expo, now in its third year. Pieces on exhibit include photograpy. drawings, and needle work of all kinds. The display is up through November and many of the pieces are for sale. Proceeds from items sold will go to the DeKalb Library Foundation.

I will be participating in the Expo this year with a few knitted and crocheted pieces. I love both forms of needle work and regularly try to carve out some time to devote to one or the other.  Are you interested in learning to knit or crochet? Do you already know how but want to expand your needlecraft horizons? If so, DCPL can help.

crochetopediaIf you’re a beginner at crochet, consider Simple Crocheting: a complete how-to-crochet workshop with 20 projects by Erika Knight. Each project will teach you a particular stitch or technique. Projects range from simple hats to laptop cases and lace. For a more exhaustive reference full of instruction and fun projects ranging from easy to complicated, try Crochet-opedia: the only crochet reference you’ll ever need by Julia Oparka.

principlesBrand new knitters and knitting veterans alike will find an invaluable reference in The Principles of Knitting: methods and techniques of hand knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt. This book has long been considered the authoritative manual on knitting technique. It has also been long out-of-print up until last year’s newly revised release. If you are interested (as I am) in color theory and how it applies to knitting, don’t miss The Alchemy of Color Knitting: the art and technique of mastering exquisite palettes by Gina Wilde.

Finally, for an excellent guide to needle work of all kinds, take a look at Michael’s Book of Needlecrafts: knitting, crochet & embroidery edited by Dawn Cusick and Megan Kirby. I have owned a copy of this for a number of years now, and I use it often.

Some branches of DCPL also offer free needle craft classes. At Decatur,  Crochet Club meets on the third Wednesday of each month. All skill levels are welcome. Every second Saturday, you can join the Creative Expressions Crocheting Group at Covington between the hours of 10:00 am and 1:00 pm. Bring your current project to Clarkston on November 16th from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm for a meeting of the Knit and Crochet Club. The meeting is open to the first 15 participants but you must contact the branch to register.


Sep 13 2013

Drawing from Life

by Rebekah B

Drawing of a woman by Pierre BonnardI like to think about drawing as the art of seeing.  Have you ever noticed that very young children can see so much better than adults do?  And I am not talking about acuity of vision as measured by an optometrist!  Very young children (below age 3) actually see more and better than everyone else, because they look with their eyes and not with their minds.  In other words, young, pre-verbal children are not yet limited by the conditioning of images, symbols, and language.  Many years ago, I caught a glimpse of this ability through my friend Elizabeth’s daughter Melina, then a toddler, perhaps 18 months old.  Melina was in her parent’s bedroom, and I was watching her.  A tall armoire with mirrored doors lined one wall of the room, and onto one of those doors was taped a reproduction of a Pierre Bonnard painting (Drawing of a woman, right) representing a woman standing in front of a mirror.  I observed Melina adopt the exact same pose of the woman in the painting as she looked in the mirror.  Amazing!

When my son was small, I quickly noticed that he was very observant of detail.  He would remember our friends’ apartment numbers and knew which button to press on the elevator when we visited their buildings.  Close to the ground, his line of sight was naturally low, and we would enjoy walking together and pointing out patterns, colors, signs, objects that we would find.

drawing from life Left: Some of my own life drawings and sketches

And so, for a person who has already received a lifetime of conditioning, learning to draw is the equivalent of learning to see once again.  No longer will you look at a tree and see a lollipop on a stick, or some variation on that theme.  No longer will you be able to look at a face and not embrace each feature with your eyes.  There are many books and classes whose purpose is to teach you to draw.  There is technique, and there is expression.  Above all, there is seeing.  Even if you never learn to draw properly—and it is a skill that can be learned by anyone who so desires—learning to see will bring you great satisfaction in your life, from moment to moment. Careful observation will also improve your memory.  When you are waiting in line, you can observe everything around you in great detail.  Drawing is a form of meditation, a love poem to the present moment, and the connection of self to the world.

drawingsRight: More of my own drawings & a DCPL book about drawing hands

If you are interested in connecting to the present moment and your experience of the real, then pick up a nice sketchbook, a few graphite pencils, colored pencils, sharpies, watercolors…whatever suits your fancy, and keep them with you in your car, your purse, at home.  Take the time to observe your surroundings and to caress them with your eyes and your  mind.  Although I have been very near-sighted most of my life, I am so very grateful for my ability to see, and when I sit down to draw, I really feel at home in the world and in myself.

DCPL has some nice titles that replicate artist’s sketchbooks as well as instructional books about drawing.  Other books are more philosophical, relating to the theme of seeing and drawing.  Have fun opening your eyes!

Here are a few titles to peruse at your leisure:

Below:  Sketch of reclining figure and face from a session at the Apache Art Café

reclining figure


May 22 2013

The Library of Unborrowed Books

by Jesse M

The Library of Unborrowed Books

The Library of Unborrowed Books, a project by Stockholm-based artist Meri?lg??ingborg, displays hundreds of books that have never been borrowed from the Center for Fiction’s library, calling into question what subjects in any contemporary moment have ?urrency’ or desirability, and bringing attention to topics and stories that have been temporarily overlooked.

The concept made its debut in 2012 at the Stockholm Public Library in Sweden, where it aroused great public and critical interest. For the project’s second iteration, Meri?lg??ingborg will make selections of unborrowed books from the Center for Fiction. These books will then go on institutional loan to Art in General for the public to access.

The artist explains:

“This work…comprises books from a selected library that have never been borrowed. The framework…hints at what has been disregarded, knowledge essentially unconsumed, and puts on display what has eluded us.

For more information and photos, follow this link to Art in General’s exhibition page on the installation.


Mar 13 2013

Filament Mind

by Jesse M

At Teton County Library in Wyoming, designers Brian W. Brush and Yong Ju Lee have created a stunning art installation which provides visualizations of library searches conducted by users throughout the state, displaying them as pulses of light on a network of forty four LED illuminators and over five miles of fiber-optic cables. The installation, known as Filament Mind, activates when a person searches for specific terms using online library catalogs. 904 subjects including social sciences, arts, languages, history, and philosophy each correspond to a text label with its own fiber optic cable that lights up when a search is performed. If a person then clicks on one of the results of their search, another cable will light up.

The designers hope that Filament mind will encourage people to interact with each other, share ideas, and explore content new to them.

“Some of the best moments I’ve seen with the project have been when a flash of light in a fiber optic cable catches a person’s eye and they see it is illuminating a category of knowledge they never even knew existed,” Brush says.

To see photos and read more about Filament Mind, check out this Wired article on the subject.

To get a glimpse of Filament mind in action, take a look at the video below:


Jan 23 2013

How I spent my fall vacation

by Dea Anne M

Back in October I took a “staycation” with a specific purpose in mind. There’s a spare room in my house that, over time, had become an impossible mess. Towering piles of paper sat on every available surface, and I do mean every available surface. I’m including the floor. Yellowing, long unread paperbacks jammed the book shelves. Craft supplies were stowed neatly in plastic boxes but I never used them because getting them out was an exercise in frustration. Dust and disorder reigned in that room and I hated going into it or even looking inside. My mission was to get the room cleaned out, organized, and ready for use as a dedicated art and craft studio. I am fully aware, of course, how fortunate I am to have enough space in my home to even contemplate such a project and this awareness served both to increase my frustration with what I had allowed the room to become and provided an impetus to get the project finished.

Tackling all that paper was the first step and it took me three full days to sort through, shred, organize, and file everything. Allow me to let that sink in with you for a moment. Three. Full. Days. I’m talking years worth of paper here – unopened junk mail, bank statements, long paid bills, stacks of receipts, tax returns – stuffed into canvas bags or stacked all over the previously mentioned surfaces. I guess the good thing is that if some official type had suddenly demanded that I produce the water bill I paid in February of  2005 then I would have been able to do so. Maybe. Finding said bill would have been a very different matter. Somewhere around the middle of the second day, I started feeling a lot of negative emotions about the whole process. “How did I let it get this bad?” I moaned. “What kind of person does that?” Fortunately, I realized that this sort of thinking wasn’t going to make the paper disappear by itself. I was lucky enough too to have access to fast and sturdy home paper shredder and finally the job was finished.

Do you need to wrangle your papers into some semblance of order? If so, then I trust you aren’t facing the same sort of disorder that I did but even if  you are, just know thatfinancial you can do it. You really can. My advice would be tackle the project and when it’s done keep it going. Go through your mail at least once a week and toss, shred, pay or respond, and file. Once a year, go through your files and do the same thing. Find out what records you need to keep and for how long and, honestly, I think going paperless when you can really helps although not everyone is comfortable with this and that’s okay too. Two resources from DCPL that I have found helpful are One Year to An Organized Financial Life: from your bills to your bank account, your home to your retirement, the week by week guide to achieving financial peace of mind by Regina Leeds and Russell Wild and Get It Together: organize your records so your family won’t have to by Melanie Cullen.

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Jun 15 2012

ShareReads: The Art of Tearing Up

by Jimmy L

ShareReads intro

Admit it, we’ve all cried at the movies. Many have cried at the end of a book. And some may have even cried at the cancellation of their favorite TV show (OK, so I’m stretching the category a bit here). But how many of us have cried in front of a painting in a museum? That is the subject of a book I recently borrowed from the library purely because I found its unconventional subject matter intriguing. It’s called Pictures & Tears: A History of People Who Have Cried in Front of Paintings by James Elkins. Elkins claims that we have lost touch with our emotional reaction to paintings, and whereas previous generations had a highly emotional relationship with art, the past 100 years of art history have been the driest in terms of tear-duct/facial interaction.

One of the things I loved about this book is that it is a non-academic humanist look at art history by an academic. Elkins wrestles with the idea of art criticism caught between intellectual distance and emotional investment, and wonders if the two approaches had to be mutually exclusive. Are they not both valid? Time and again he runs into the problem where other academics and art historians simply wouldn’t talk to him. And many of them who did talk to him wanted to remain anonymous so as not to ruin their credibility. He constantly heard the following reaction, slightly paraphrased by me: “Crying (and other more base human reactions) are not a proper way of interacting with art. In fact, the phenomenon doesn’t even deserve to be studied.”

"Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun" by Van Gogh

But study it he does. Being an academic, Elkins has loved paintings for all sorts of reasons, but has never cried in front of one himself. So the phenomenon is not foreign to him, but at the same time he is too knowledgeable in art history for a painting to catch him unaware in that welling-up-weepy way. So he decides to ask other (normal-ler) people: “What paintings (if any) have you cried in front of, and why (or why not)?”

I won’t go into them here, but it turns out there are many reasons, and some of them are enlightening while others not so much. Though not perfect by any means, I really enjoyed this book because of its unconventional treatment of its subject. Another book comes to my mind when speaking of books that think outside the box, Freakonomics (though I could write a whole blog post on why I disliked that book). To this end, I will pose a question: “What books have you read that treat a subject in a completely new or unconventional way?” Alternately, you may also answer Elkin’s question: “What paintings (if any) have you cried in front of, and why (or why not)?”

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