By Connie Leinbach
Mary Vankevich’s quest to find a suitable, commercially-made coloring book for her elderly mother bloomed instead into her own creation of a 24-page coloring book.
The books, titled “Island Village,” are available here at Books To Be Read, the Ocracoke Preservation Society museum and the Island Ragpicker. Off island, they are available at Village Books, Buxton.
Vankevich’s mother, Dorothy Lorraine Skerritt, had progressive dementia and died in Maine July 23.
The book is dedicated to her, and Skerritt did have the opportunity to work a little on her daughter’s book.
“She never did art in her life, but as her dementia progressed, she always wanted a pencil or pen in her hand,” Vankevich explained. “She got a lot of satisfaction from that. I wanted to give her something purposeful.”
When Vankevich discovered this interest of her mother’s, only children’s coloring books were available, which Vankevich thought weren’t appropriate.
She found that coloring afforded a way to engage her mother.
“An activity such as coloring presents an opportunity to bridge generations,” she said. “Coloring the pages can stimulate conversation.”
At first, Vankevich thought she’d draw her own pictures, or make simplified renditions of Old Masters’ works, both for her mother to work on and for her own enjoyment.
“But then I came back home (from Maine) and thought I’d make it Ocracoke-themed,” she said.
Although photos of the island were used as inspiration by the book publisher’s in-house artist, Vankevich thought of the many artists on Ocracoke and contacted them for contributions.
Those island artists are Len Skinner, Robert Chestnut, Carol Bullard, Naomi Benn and Karen Rhodes.
“I was encouraged and energized by the art I got from these five artists,” Vankevich said. “Each one has a unique approach.”
The many drawings depict Ocracoke scenes and are suitable for people of different abilities.
Amazingly, Vankevich said, as soon as Dorothy received the book, she said, “Oh, good,” and started coloring the wave on the title page.
“She chose a complex one by Naomi,” Vankevicch said.
Preferring marking pens, her mother only completed one or two pages, and Vankevich and her family have kept that book as a keepsake.
“Everyone would remark how she chose her colors really well,” Vankevich said. “She was the best colorist, extremely neat and never went outside the lines.”