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Putting some color in Alexandria

The hometown coloring books are filled with pages featuring familiar sights from around the towns. The Alexandria one features Big Ole, Noonan Park and the Alexandria Area High School logo, among other Alexandria landmarks. (Beth Leipholtz | Echo Press)1 / 2
Steve Deitz, the choir director at Alexandria Area High School, has designed two hometown coloring books – one for Alexandria and one for Brainerd. (Beth Leipholtz | Echo Press)2 / 2

When Steve Deitz was young, he dreamed of being an artist when he grew up. He even pursued art in college, before deciding music was a better fit.

But now, as the Alexandria Area High School choir director, Deitz has been able to follow both his passions. This summer, he created an Alexandria-themed coloring book.

The idea came around In May 2016, when Deitz saw one of his former students coloring in her downtime. Just one month later, he had designed about 25 pages for the coloring book.

"I'm very proud of living in Alexandria and thought, 'I'm going to combine these two things, my drawing and my respect for our community,'" Deitz said. "It started when I saw one of my high school kids at a festival last year. They had some downtime so she brought out a package of markers and was coloring. I looked over her shoulders and it was like flowers or something, I thought, 'Oh, that would be fun to just kill some time and color.'"

So, Deitz set to work on the pages for the book, which are a combination of traced images and freehand work.

"I made a tracing table where light shines through, and sketched an outline," Deitz said. "An artist has to decide what lines to put in and what lines to take out. So it's a mixture of using photographic images and drawing."

After designing the pages, Deitz had to figure out the best way to assemble the book. Through some research, he decided the best route was to do it locally, through OfficeMax.

"I did my first printing there and bound it by myself using duct tape," he said. "Then the nice help at OfficeMax suggested I do a spiral bound and now the book can be all the way open while you're coloring."

Currently, the Alexandria coloring book is being sold at Cherry Street Books, Kindred People and the Arrowwood Resort bookstore.

After Deitz designed the Alexandria book, a friend from Brainerd contacted him and asked him to do one for their town as well. Deitz agreed, and now he is thinking even bigger.

"I was thinking maybe Park Rapids, Bemidji, wherever there's kind of a Minnesota tourist population," he said. "Then I was thinking maybe have a Minnesota one, and then have elements of all of these cities and maybe make it a little bit thicker."

Through this project, Deitz has found enjoyment himself in coloring.

"The other night my wife and I were coloring and we didn't talk at all," he said. "Then as time passed we realized we were coloring and turned our drawings around and looked at each other's. You kind of see each other's personalities in the decisions they make with how hard they press and what colors they choose. I think it's fascinating."

For Deitz, love of his hometown is what has driven this project, and he hopes others can find enjoyment in coloring places that may be familiar or special to them.

"This is creative," Deitz said. "It's not just coloring Harry Potter characters or bushes or birds, it's hometown stuff. It seems like if you've got that, there's a little more pride, a little more love, a little more care as you're coloring."

Beth Leipholtz

Beth is a reporter at the Echo Press. She graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in May 2015 with a degree in Communication and Hispanic Studies. Journalism has always been her passion, but she also enjoys blogging and graphic design. In her spare time, she's most likely at Crossfit or at home with her boyfriend and three dogs.

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