Adults Who Color Tout Tranquility, Mindfulness, Stress Relief


Johanna Basford’s coloring book, titled “Secret Garden”, is aimed not at children, but adults. The 96-page collection of ornate black and white ink drawings of flowers, leaves, trees, and birds has sold over 1.4 million copies and is marketed as a creative, meditative pastime.

Alexandra Alter, writing for The New York Times, says there are lots of adults who love to color, and Basford’s book has become a favorite with grown-up coloring aficionados.

The main comment the illustrator hears from those who have purchased her book is how relaxing it is to color her drawings. Others have shared that they meet with friends over coffee or at each other’s homes for “coloring circles.” Secret Garden has made Basford a celebrity in South Korea where her book has sold more than 430,000 copies, mainly because Korean pop-star Kim Ki-bum has shared her love of the book on her Instagram account.

“People are really excited to do something analog and creative, at a time when we’re all so overwhelmed by screens and the Internet,” Basford said. “And coloring is not as scary as a blank sheet of paper or canvas. It’s a great way to de-stress.”

By working on her book at night and doing freelance illustrating during the day, in nine months the illustrator completed her work. Other artists have joined in on the trend including Patrick J. Wynne, whose nature-themed coloring books, Creative Haven, are “designed for experienced colorists.” Also, Chiquita Publishing’s “Coloring Books for Grownups” is a big hit with more mature crayon-wielding types.

More publishers are promoting the health benefits of “mindful coloring,” especially its contribution as a stress reliever.

Ms. Basford’s book is outselling even Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman.” Her second coloring book was released in February and has already sold 225,000 copies. International Business Times’ Barbara Herman reports that the pleasure of coloring in a book, which all have experienced as a child, is just the sort of activity that people who go on “digital detoxes”, and those who turn off their phones at the dinner tables to force themselves to engage with each other, are looking for.

“The first illustration I finished coloring in this book, I actually sent to my mom — and I’m a grown woman!” wrote one Amazon reviewer. “I can’t wait to do more. Get yourself this grown-up coloring book and a set of nice colored pencils. You’ll find the process meditative and rewarding.”

What is it that makes coloring a choice for adults instead of drawing, painting, or doodling? Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan of Gizmodo theorizes that it may be about nostalgia, or a comforting return to a soothing childhood activity. Or, perhaps, it is an action that the colorer does not have to control, or the fact that there is no pressure to perform the activity in a certain manner.

The author thinks it is because coloring is a task that does not require the ability to paint or draw to be creative. She adds that there is no logical thinking necessary to color, so the artist can psychologically zone out.

Also, it can take you back to the days when paying the mortgage, worrying about climate change, or working for a horrible boss did not exist.

Basford modeled her drawings after the Brodick Castle Gardens on the Isle of Arran on the West Coast of Scotland, says Priscilla Franf, reporting for The Huffington Post.

“My grandfather was the head gardener there so we spent every summer and Christmas there,” she wrote to The Huffington Post. “The formal rose gardens of the castle, the Bavarian summer house and lily studded ponds were wonderful places to play as a child; a great place to cultivate a wild imagination!”

There is even a list of things to find in the pictures at the front of the book so the book is like an intricately drawn treasure hunt as well.

Psychologists, including Carl Jung, have touted the benefits of this tranquil activity. A mindful task and a tranquility booster – what more could harried moms, busy doctors, or entrepreneurs ask for?

04 1, 2015
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