Drawn To Color

There’s been a surprising trend this year on Amazon: Adult coloring books ranking among the Top 10 best selling books. Marketed as stress relievers, the books feature intricate drawings that invite adults to color to their heart’s content.

It might sound strange to some but not to Denise Shaw. This artist from Kingdom City has spent countless hours drawing her own intricate designs and bringing them to life with color.

“I love using bright colors,” she says, “and I like having interesting shapes in my artwork. It makes me feel good — peaceful and calm — to sit and draw something.”


Shaw began drawing — she uses ink and colored pencils — less than three years ago. She wanted to do something special for her niece, who was getting married, “something that was totally mine and different, that no one else had done,” she says. She came up with the idea of drawing the bride and groom’s initials, J L & S G, and then filling them with colorful designs.

“Everybody said, ‘I didn’t know you could draw!’ and I said, ‘Neither did I!’” Shaw says.

She began receiving requests to create more letters and then full names. Next she began drawing birds, trees, faces and masks, all teeming with intricate designs and radiating with color. Today, she sells her work at The Art House in Fulton and through her Etsy shop, DS Designs.

In her artist’s statement for Etsy, Shaw describes her artistic process as a “meditative experience” and explains she chooses colors “to project a glowing quality similar in feel to a stained glass window. The patterns and design develop as I draw, each new piece unique, as each line drawn takes a life of its own.”

The result is a dynamic interplay between attention to detail and ceaseless imagination, and the black-and-white drawings — before Shaw fills them with color — would bring adult colorers hours of delight. At least, that’s what Jeff Berg, owner of Columbia’s Grindstone Digital Imaging, thinks.

“I saw something on the nightly news about the trend for adult coloring books, and I thought, ‘Wow, that looks like what Denise is doing!’” says Jeff, who does all of Shaw’s printing. He told her he’d like to make a book of her drawings before she adds color, and she has agreed to the plan.

Although Shaw only lately discovered her passion for drawing, she has always had a strong artistic side.

“I took art classes in school, but I didn’t like having parameters,” she says. “I like doing my own thing, coming up with my own ideas.” Unfortunately, her art teachers did not appreciate her need for freedom, which led her to believe she wasn’t good at art.

Still, she found other outlets for her creativity. In high school, which she attended in Riverside, Calif., she loved designing theater sets and sewing costumes. Once she graduated, she went to work as a hair stylist and worked in Beverly Hills for a while before she and her husband, Stirling, decided it was time to move somewhere with an easier pace. They settled in Kingdom City with their three children in 1995, after visiting Stirling’s sister who had moved to mid-Missouri.

Shaw continued to look for creative pursuits here. Her family began participating in Civil War reenactments, and then the Kansas City Renaissance Fair, and she sewed their costumes for both. She also got back into theater, volunteering to do hair for productions at William Woods University and The Little Theatre of Jefferson City. She also took up belly dancing, performing with the Columbia group Deva Dancers for several years.

“It was interesting and a lot of fun, and you do keep yourself in shape with that,” she says.

For the last 10 years, she has worked fulltime at Lasting Image, a beauty and hair salon in Fulton.

“Doing hair has always been an artistic outlet for me, being able to create something beautiful and make people look and feel beautiful,” she says. “But with hair, you see it and then it’s out the door. Being able to draw … it enhances the way you look at things. You look at everyday things a little differently — the bricks in a fireplace, the pattern in curtains.”

This new view of the world, she adds, has made life more interesting and fun.

“It makes me feel a little more fulfilled,” Shaw says. “Then, if somebody asks me to do a piece of art for them and I make them happy by drawing something they really like, that’s everything. It makes me happy to bring happiness to others.”