"Kids like to see detailed images, they can actually appreciate serious art, and a good way to introduce them to it is to look through what coloring books are being sold for the adults."
The sudden upsurge in the popularity of coloring books for adults has fascinated everyone from researchers to art therapists to yoga and meditation connoisseurs.
Mitsui said he's excited about the trend, because it may mean that more adults are acknowledging their desire to express themselves creatively.
"It seems there's an idea that a lot of adults have that drawing or making art is something that you do when you're a child, and then unless you become a professional you kind of give it up," he said. "And I think that's just sort of a poverty...I don't know why there's a reluctance on the part of so many adults to create artwork."
Drawing used to be the fashionable thing for adults to do in the Victorian era, he added. Many adults, particularly women, had their own sketchbooks and honed their drawing skills. Some of these sketchbooks have been preserved, and some of the work is quite good.
"I think what that demonstrates is that a lot of what goes into being an artist is skill that is learnable with practice," Mitsui said. "People have this idea that somehow when it comes to art, you're given this measure of ability from the beginning and you can never do anything to increase or decrease that, and I don't think that's true."
For Catholics in particular, a Catholic adult coloring book is a way to become familiar with the rich tradition of Catholic art in a way that is different than viewing a painting in a museum, he said.
"The Catholic church has such a superabundance of wealth in terms of its artistic tradition, that sometimes it can get lost when it's just sort of viewed as data," he said.
"I'm interested in medieval religious art, and I think the art of that era certainly is very rich in terms of what it can teach you about the Catholic religion in that it's very precise theologically, it corroborates the writings of the Church fathers, it corroborates the liturgy. So you see all of the Catholic tradition more clearly if you're familiar with its presentation," he said.
Having a book that you're able to look at closely, and an image that you're engaging not just with your eyes but also your hands, forces you to slow down and really concentrate on the image, he added.
"It's a way to train yourself to really look at art and I think to really look at anything," he said. "That more concentrated vision is something that is quite peculiar to a mass media age."
This article originally ran on CNA July 10, 2016.
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