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  • Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine

The Art History Coloring Book

By Evy Warshawski

One of the highlights of visiting world class cities is the pleasure of spending hours in museums that house original works of art.

These days, however, hopping on a plane to view da Vinci’s Mona Lisa in Paris, Munch’s The Scream in Oslo or even Duchamp’s Fountain in Philadelphia may be fraught with trepidations about staying healthy and safe.

No worries!

Coloring Concepts, Inc. (CCI), a Napa-based company founded in 1980, is bringing these visual, sculptural and photographic icons into your very own living room – or wherever you choose to enjoy the art of coloring.

The sumptuous 320-page The Art History Coloring Book, fresh off the press, is the newest addition to the company’s growing library of educational and science-based coloring books.

“This book acts as an entryway to the world of art history, as an accessible review or study tool and as a reimagined means of interacting with some of the greatest artistic works of all time,” states writer Gabriella Davids in the book’s introduction.

CCI‘s mantra - “color the land of facts” – is based on a style of kinesthetic learning. Visualize something that has no color, choose and use a color that has meaning to you, and on completion, you’ve just absorbed what you colored!

The genesis of CCI occurred in a most serendipitous manner.

In l970, the late Dr. Lawrence McClellan Elson, an Assistant Professor of Anatomy, was preparing a lecture for a class of medical students at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

In the teaching amphitheater, Elson readied his talk by making drawings on five chalkboards. He decided to use multiple colors of chalk to represent arteries (red), veins (blue), nerves (yellow), bones (white) and muscles (brown). The outlines of these structures were drawn with white chalk and would be colored over during the lecture.

At the conclusion of the class, Elson’s lab coat was layered with a chalky abstract of mixed colors. A colleague noted that it was too bad that the students could not have experienced the “chalking” themselves as part of the learning experience.

Fast forward seven years when Elson and one of his former students, illustrator Wynn Kapit, created The Anatomy Coloring Book, a college-level coloring book in the natural sciences. Published by HarperCollins in 1982, the book is a consistent best-seller, has been updated four times and is now available in 13 different languages!

In 2016, Elson’s wife Ellyn Elson became a partner in CCI, and together decided to bring more offerings to their catalogue. CCI has since published coloring books on: the human brain; biology and marine biology; botany; zoology; human evolution; aquatic birds; and a forthcoming book on herpetology (reptiles and amphibians).

Gabriella Davids had been familiar with CCI’s books and contacted the Elson’s about writing an art history coloring book. She earned her MA in English and had been teaching English, literature and advanced placement art history classes for ten years in Central Florida. Davids felt strongly that kinesthetic and visual learning would be beneficial for her students.

It takes a small village and talented team of experts to create a CCI coloring book, and bringing The Art History Coloring Book to life was no exception: one writer; two editors; one art director six illustrators; and a publisher/distributor.

It was truly worth the effort. There’s art, heart and smart in this remarkable book.

A collection of 314 paintings, sculptures, architecture and photography works are replicated in line drawings arranged chronologically and geographically on 81/2 x 11-sized pages. Broken down into seven sections, the historical eras cover a time period from prehistory to modern art representing a variety of cultures with a focus on art from the Western tradition.

Two pages are devoted to each selected artwork. One page includes a line drawing that sits on a white background and begs to be colored! The corresponding page includes a small black and white photo of each work with historical context. “It is my hope, author Davids writes, “that increasing knowledge of the subject will encourage a more global mindset and understanding in readers.”

Near the end of the volume a two-sided, three-fold pullout displays each work in its original color.

“We want individuals to use their imagination and then compare their coloring to the original work of art,” said Ellyn Elson. “Kinesthetic learners will be able to remember the information if they color the illustration similar to the original artwork, but in reality, they can use any color they want!”

With The Art History Coloring Book in hand, you can now bring the remarkable world of art and history into your life without ever leaving home. While the book was originally conceived for art history majors, entry-level art students in higher education and arts lovers everywhere, kids can try their hand as well and create their own colorful museum.


All of the books in CCI’s library may be ordered through Amazon or any bookstore. For additional information, visit



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