“Grandfather Color” Wants the World to Get Well

“Grandfather Color” Wants the World to Get Well

Free coloring kits for COVID-19 quarantine

By Abby Chatfield
Current Contributor


Grandfather Color, otherwise known as Richard Stocker, is a wild-bearded, twinkly-eyed man who is behind myriad efforts to heal the world, person by person, by guiding them through their healing process using color. An artist for more than a half-century, he is most recently the facilitator of the new “Color COVID Away” and “Get Well, World” campaigns that are just unrolling across Benzie, Grand Traverse, and Leelanau counties. 

Stocker enjoys helping others to find joy and solace while feeling nostalgic for simpler times. Long before the recent “coloring book” trend swept the nation—engaging adults and children alike—Stocker created coloring books, hosted group coloring sessions, and shared his own fine art coloring illustrations with many others. He led coloring outreach programs in many locations around Michigan and found coloring to be an effective form of meditation for most people. 

He continues to do the same today, now through efforts to distribute his coloring illustrations to people who are stuck in quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This perfectly fits his mission to serve community health, creativity, and communication, while remembering that we are alive together. 

“Color brings out a living spirit that ends up making the room happy and beautiful,” Stocker says.

Color COVID Away     
When Stocker himself got COVID, he spent a lot of time alone in his studio thinking about how to reach people with his illustrations and message. Then a representative from the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department called to check on how he was doing and expressed frustration about so many people stuck at home—in many cases stuck in one room—with not much to do to ease their nerves. 

“I got her attention with my coloring ideas,” he says. “I suggested she call the project ‘Color COVID Away,’ and thought, ‘This might be the way for our story to evolve.’”  

The health department accepted his offer to supply coloring kits—including illustrations and colored pencils—to anyone in Benzie and Leelanau counties who is quarantined for COVID-related reasons. 

The kits are beginning to be delivered this month. 

Grandfather Color Richard Stocker artist Color COVID Away Get Well World Benzie Leelanau Health Department Grand Traverse county The Betsie Current newspaper Abby Chatfield
Leelanau County-based artist Richard Stocker, also known as “Grandfather Color,” with one of his designs. An artist for more than a half-century, he is most recently the facilitator of the new “Color COVID Away” and “Get Well, World” campaigns that are just unrolling across Benzie, Grand Traverse, and Leelanau counties. Photo courtesy of Richard Stocker.

Get Well, World
As the new year rings in, another endeavor that Stocker is taking on is a series of jumbo-sized “Get Well, World” cards, featuring 30 of his designs. These 17-by-22-inch cards will be available to sign at numerous locations around Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties. The cards are meant to unite our intentions to create positivity, which Stocker believes will develop awareness to support our planet. These cards will be incorporated into an art exhibit and shared in other ways, as well; possibly as framed artwork or strung together like prayer flags.  
           
For Stocker, the “Color COVID Away” project and the “Get Well, World” cards have nothing to do with money. None of his projects do. 

“Everything is a giveaway. Money is not the aim” he says, adding that, in Native American culture, a giveaway is the practice of sharing to help a community remain in good health, and giving things away informally is common when someone enjoys good fortune.

Some of Stocker’s most influential life teachers were Native North American elders and healers whom he lived close to for years. Thus, Stocker is inspired by the American Indian community to share his own good fortunes with others.  

“It all began with Santi,” Stocker says of his young son, who battled with leukemia. Santiago—called Santi by family and friends—was a gifted spokesperson. Through public speaking and radio interviews, Santi shared his experiences with leukemia and how the medicine of color helped to heal his spirit during a dark time. 

While Santi was hospitalized, Stocker brought his son hand-drawn illustrations to color. Every day, Santi spent hours coloring his father’s drawings and proudly hung them on the hospital walls. Stocker then began sharing his designs with hospital staff and other patients throughout the hospital, and it became apparent how uplifting the coloring process was for so many. Stocker learned that many families needed something easy and creative to do as a unit and also when they were trying to unwind as individuals. 

After Santi died, Stocker started a nonprofit called Hospital Art for Kids to share his art and coloring supplies—along with the healing properties of coloring—with cancer families in hospitals all around the United States and in Latin America.

It was during this time that Stocker met his wife, Cathy, who he says is a great listener, writer, and editor of many projects. Together, they co-founded The Coloring Well, a project to spread the healing benefits of coloring by sharing Stocker’s black-and-white designs and inviting adults to color them. Although not active now, their efforts brought relief to hundreds of people in the past.

It was this type of innovative work—creating community through coloring—that landed Stocker a role as a featured artist at the Detroit Institute of Arts and the University of Michigan’s Museum of Art. His work has also appeared in the 2015 Art Prize in Grand Rapids  and, most recently, at the Old Art Building in Leland over the course of two art exhibits—one was an outdoor exhibit highlighting his designs on weather-proof vinyl canvases that were designed to hang on building exteriors and trees. Stocker also created an Art Walk that he shared with the public at the Old Art Building’s Artists’ Market last July; the Art Walk contained 40 of his designs, arranged in a long line on vinyl and displayed lying flat on the ground. People were encouraged to walk on the art, like a sidewalk.   

Stocker began visiting Northern Michigan on a regular basis during the 1960s, around the same time that he started drawing in earnest. Since then, he has completed more than 500 fine art coloring illustrations that he utilizes for his unique and effective approach to art therapy, and he is now a full-time Leelanau County resident.

You can find Stocker’s work at Twisted Fish Gallery in Elk Rapids, Main Street Gallery in Leland, and occasionally in art exhibits at the Old Art Building of Leland—his next exhibit there is called “The Fine Art of Coloring,” where he will share current work and fine art coloring illustrations. Anyone who has attended one of Stocker’s art shows knows that the artist will be on site, coloring with his visitors. The exhibit runs from January 14 through January 27, 2022. 

Richard Stocker invites those who are interested in learning more about his projects and artwork to email him directly at PartlyCloudy@RStocker.com, and he would like everyone to know that “Grandfather Color” is a nickname bestowed upon him by some young students during one of his coloring classes. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: There is another “Get Well World” campaign, sponsored by YouWillRiseProject.com; this is not the same as Stocker’s campaign.

A version of this article first published in the Glen Arbor Sun, a Leelanau County-based semi-sister publication to The Betsie Current.


Featured Photo Caption: Grandfather Color, otherwise known as Richard Stocker, is a wild-bearded, twinkly-eyed man who is behind myriad efforts to heal the world, person by person, by guiding them through their healing process using color. An artist for more than a half-century, he is most recently the facilitator of the new “Color COVID Away” and “Get Well, World” campaigns that are just unrolling across Benzie, Grand Traverse, and Leelanau counties.  Photo courtesy of Richard Stocker.

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