TORONTO, Canada — When one thinks of colouring, the image we often see is a pre-schooler sitting in class, learning about colours and shades and mastering the art of staying within the lines. However, a new trend emerging in the literary world has adults sitting down with a set of their favourite colour pencils, to add shades and hues to the intricate and attractive patterns in adult colouring books.
The trend emerged as illustrators, such as Johanna Basford, launched a wave of colouring books with alluring titles such as Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book and Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest & Coloring Book. The books quickly gained international popularity and well-known publishers signed these illustrators for larger book deals. Since then, every book store you walk in to is likely to have a section dedicated to these interactive works of art.
Aside from being beautiful works of art (sans colour), what is it about these books that have helped them garner international attention? Their popularity is likely due to the benefit these books offer as a past-time, creativity outlet and a relaxation, meditation and therapeutic tool.
This exercise of creativity is a great workout for the more creative right side of the brain, leading to potential benefits professionally and personally.
Many of the books are made up of gorgeous patterns or visuals that are both fun to colour and allow the user to express and develop their creativity. The themes of these books range from fashion sketches, to illustrations of nature, water scenes or other locations, to post-modern geometric designs. For example, UK-based illustrator Mel Simone Elliott released Colour me Good, which allows you to colour celebrities like Ryan Gosling and Beyonce, and US-based comedians Ryan Hunter and Taige Jensen released a humorously titled book, Colouring for Grown-Ups. With recognisable or abstract patterns acting as a template, the user or artist has a chance to add their own unique palatte to turn black and white pages into a colourful art piece. This exercise of creativity is a great workout for the more creative right side of the brain, leading to potential benefits professionally and personally.
As art therapist, Andrea Charendoff (BA, BSc, DTATI) highlights: “The use of adult colouring books is a creative activity which requires no training, and has no minimum or maximum age. Adult colouring books contain pre-drawn images designed to appeal to our adult sense of fantasy. They help us to escape the myriad of thoughts racing through our minds, allowing us to focus on a simple creative activity which yields immediate results. The structure, provided by the pre-drawn lines, allows us to by-pass our inner-critic, which tends to judge our artistic talent negatively.”
However, another subset of the books are based on the Buddhist and Hindu practice of creating mandalas. A great example is The Big Book of Mandalas Coloring Book: More Than 200 Mandala Coloring Pages for Inner Peace and Inspiration by Adams Media. Mandalas are circular, symmetrical designs featuring human faces, florals, mythical creature and abstract designs. These books feature designs that are not only fun to colour but also act as a source of inner peace and inspiration.
A statement such as the one above begs the obvious question: How does a colouring book do this? Charendoff explains:
The structure provided by the outlines also provides containment a sense of security, allowing us to relax emotionally and intellectually; we are free to focus on the joy that comes from being creative.
According to Charendoff, colouring the attractive images can provide self-gratification, have a positive effect on our mood, outlook and self-esteem because “we have created a pleasing image which contains colours that make us feel good, and we have done something productive.” In fact, famed psychologist Carl G. Jüng first used mandalas as a relaxation technique as early the 20th century.
In an age of multi-tasking and on-the-go activity, the act of putting technology down and focusing on any one task can have a multitude of physical and mental benefits. Therefore, these colouring books are being used as a counterattack against the constant stimulation we experience in our own lives. Moreover, numerous studies have led to the conclusion that adults who participate in creative activities can delay the development of memory-related issues. A recent study published in the journal Neurology found that having an artistic outlet reduced the likelihood of developing mind cognitive impairment by 73 per cent as compared to those that did not have a creative outlet.
Regardless of the type of books you choose, the end results of the act of colouring can be beautiful and self-rewarding.
The idea is that when a person focuses on a specific template, their focus shifts from the plethora of daily tasks to the solitary act of colouring, allowing the mind to relax and the individual to focus on the present moment.
Gone are the days of colouring books being exclusive for the youngsters in your lives, this new age of colouring books is allowing colours to improve lives in a rather unexpected way. So maybe it is time for you to dust off your colour pencils (or buy a fabulous new set), buy an adult colouring book from the Arts or Religion and Spiritualism sections of your local bookstore and start colouring your world, one page at a time.