Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


WTF is this? You may well ask. Keep reading...

My long-time bloggy friend Leslie - she who drives the Omnibus - posted a piece on Farcebook about coloring pages for adults, which (along with the comments appended thereto) reminded me of the ancient and estimable art of Coloring by Numbers.

Painting by Numbers, with its sibling Coloring by Numbers, were massively popular amusements a half-century ago. You had a piece of cheesy artwork - a jumping fish! a tribe of Native Americans! a sunset in the mountains! a horse race! - deconstructed into its component colors, the various segments and slivers delineated by light blue lines. Each segment would be marked with a number to indicate which little cup of paint or which pencil you would use to fill it in with the appropriate color. And when you were done, voilĂ ! You had a piece of artwork on heavy paper or - in the case of the paint-by-numbers sets, a thin canvas-covered board - suitable for framing.

A typical Venus Paradise color-by-numbers set. [Photo credit: The Fancy Tail.]

I loved those damned things. I cared not whether they involved paint or colored pencils (although I strongly suspect my parents had a strong preference for the far less messy pencils). All I knew is, coloring by numbers provided hours of semi-idle amusement, a fine way to pass the time during warm afternoons in Florida while visiting the grandfolks. You couldn’t stay at the beach 24/7, after all.

There was another way to waste pass the time, and that was with a kit that bore the delightfully spelled moniker “Kopeefun.” The principle behind Kopeefun - a product that dates back to the mid-1930’s - was simple: You took a page of newspaper comics (or the specially provided cartoons that came with the Kopeefun kit - see above), laid a sheet of specially treated Kopeefun paper on top of it, and rubbed the paper with a popsicle stick, thus transferring the images to it. You then would use the same method to transfer your images from the Kopeefun paper to a blank sheet. Those with a perverse turn of mind could put Dick Tracy’s head on Nancy’s body, or have Charlie Brown duking it out with Snuffy Smith. Hours of hilarity, I tells ya.

Kopeefun. This package design (circa 1952) mashes up the crappy typography of the early 1950’s with charming artwork from the late 1930’s.

For all of the wonderful electronic amusements today’s kids have at their disposal, I wonder whether they’re really any better off. Nowadays you could get the same results using Photoshop, but you’d be missing out on the tactile pleasure of holding a pencil in your hands or scraping a damned popsicle stick over that glorified piece of wax paper.

Ahhh, those were the days.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, I believe that "adult coloring books" are making a resurgence. If you look at Michaels, Zentangle and other type of "adult" coloring books are available. I recently ordered a paint by numbers from Amazon to fill my time after my husband goes to bed early, especially since we're heading into no-man's zone in summer t.v.