Employee Art Becomes Coloring Book Pages

Arts & Health at Duke is printing second iteration of coloring book for adult patients

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Floyd Adams, an HVAC mechanic at Duke Regional Hospital, contributed his photograph, "Butterfly on Yellow," to the Arts & Health at Duke coloring book for adult patients. Courtesy of Arts & Health at Duke

Floyd Adams has spent more than two decades working at Duke, most recently as an HVAC mechanic who takes care of the heating, refrigeration and cooling of Duke Regional Hospital.

Adams has considered himself a photographer much longer than that. He’s wielded a camera since he was 12 years old, and his self-taught skills have materialized as photographs of flowers and farm silos on display at Duke Regional and Duke University hospitals.

One of his works will appear again in Arts & Health at Duke’s second iteration of its coloring book, which is designed for adult patients and features artwork on display in the Health System. The coloring book first appeared in December after patients often requested coloring books and crayons.

“I’ve got several copies of (the coloring book) for myself and I give it to my family,” said Adams, 52. “I never envisioned a photograph of mine going into a coloring book like that. It’s pretty cool. I hope it makes patients happy, because it makes me happy doing it.”

Arts & Health at Duke staff look through the Health System’s art collection, of which some of the pieces were contributed by Duke employees, and determine if the painted portrait or photographed scene can translate into a coloring book page. Adams contributed his photograph, “Butterfly on Yellow,” to the collection a few years ago through the Annual Duke Employee Art Show. Patients can add color to his photo of a butterfly perched on flowers at Sarah P. Duke Gardens. The coloring book’s 24 pages also include art of water lilies, a Mandarin duck and Chinese drums.

Arts & Health at Duke will begin distributing the second volume of its coloring book by the end of July. The department added a fish quilt piece created by a former staff member in Duke University Health System Risk Management and a “Draw Your Own Picture” page.

Arts & Health staff give watercolor, journaling, crossword puzzle, origami and necklace-making kits to patients, but the coloring book art kit has become their number-one requested item, said Sharon Swanson, program coordinator for Arts & Health at Duke.

“Our kit requests have more than doubled since December,” Swanson said. “I think there’s something about holding a crayon in our hands and coloring that’s very comforting. It’s very distracting, and I think it takes us back to a simpler time in our lives.”

The coloring books also have been requested by Duke Regional Hospital, and Arts & Health plans to print 10,000 copies for distribution.

At home, Joanne Penning, a pre-op nurse at Duke University Hospital and self-taught artist, sits at a drafting table in the breezeway of her house and paints to help her relax. Some of her work hangs in consult rooms and patient rooms at the hospital, and her watercolor painting of her family at the beach has become a page in Duke’s coloring book.

“I’m very flattered, for one thing, because there are so many good artists,” Penning said. “Watercolors are very unforgiving. It’s not like oils and acrylics, that you can go right over top of it. It’s a lot more vibrant. There’s a lot more skill involved.”