| By Saralyn Collins (Images from Adventures in Form: Mandalas & More) |
Coloring is an activity we usually associate with kids. When a friend and colleague showed me the ‘adult coloring book’ that she and her husband had created and gave me one, I wasn’t sure what to think. I don’t consider myself artistic, and it’s clear I cannot create a beautiful work of glass, or photograph, or painting. I remain in a constant state of awe around my artist friends.
I also have ‘shaky hands’ and the idea I could do something as fine as coloring within the lines of one of these complicated designs was beyond the realm of possibility in my mind. That coloring book sat on my desk for a few months. Finally, out of shame more than anything, I bought inexpensive colored pencils and started. The feeling of peace and calm that came over me was totally unexpected. Color has always been a major factor in my life. It speaks to me on many different levels and has the power to completely energize me or completely drain me. Seeing colors I love begin to work together to create something of beauty was fascinating.
Would it surprise you to know that I Googled adult coloring books and found 1,740,000 entries (over a million and a half!)? Amazon offers 113,979 from which to choose. What? I went back to Carla Parvin and her husband, Mike, who gave me that first set of pages to color, to discover how they got involved and if they thought it could be more than a passing fancy.
“How in the world did you and your husband get started creating adult coloring books?
“What do you do with an engineer forced into retirement unexpectedly? How do you keep him healthy, happy and (somewhat) sane? Why, you give him a challenge, of course! This happened to my husband. He is an artist as well as an engineer, so in June 2015, I bought the best-selling adult coloring book on the market, showed it to him and said I thought he could better. Well, he took up that challenge and succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.”
“Do you see this as a quickly fading trend?”
“Coloring has grown tremendously over the last two years and shows no signs of slowing down. In April 2016, nine of the ten best-selling books on Amazon were coloring books!”
The interest is not just a phenomenon in the US. It has spread throughout Europe as well. According to NPR, there was a huge increase in the number of print books sold in 2015 and the majority of sales were due to the increase in adult coloring books. Even men and teens are participating – although not with the intensity of women.
I, for example, am in constant search of the perfect activity for evenings when I want to sit down and relax, get away from my computer, yet also want to talk about the day with my husband or watch a favorite TV show. I am just not wired to do one thing at a time and no matter how hard I try, I can’t. But it’s not easy to concentrate on a good mystery book, watch TV, and talk all at the same time. While it is a common attempt, it does not produce the stress relief often desired after a long day.
Much to my surprise, I can engage totally with my gel pens and beautiful coloring book, listen to TV in the background, look up when something exciting happens, and be totally aware when my husband makes a comment or asks a question. The feeling of peace and relaxation is astonishing. I have no trouble filling in the page with beautiful colors for an hour or more. Apparently, the practice generates wellness with quietness, and also stimulates brain areas related to motor skills, the senses, and creativity.
“The popularity of coloring books right now is part of that larger movement to break away from the hustle and bustle of life, and the internet, you know that urge to constantly look at our phones or computers or check email,” said Amazon artist Lisa Congdon, who has created three different coloring books and has three in the works. Congdon thinks the books are successful because they give people a chance to be creative without the intimidation of staring at a blank page, or the pressure of having to learn something new.
One of the first psychologists to apply coloring as a relaxation technique was Carl Jüng in the early 20th century using mandalas: circular designs with concentric shapes similar to the Gothic churches’ rose windows. They have their origin in India. In adult coloring, mandalas are a major design element because you are totally free to experiment with any color combinations you desire.
“How are your coloring books designed and where do you come up with the ideas?”
“The coloring book ‘Adventures in Form: Mandalas & More’ is a unique concept – the world’s first ‘Coloring Book in a Bag!’ The 40 images are printed on separate and loose high quality sheets, which are packaged in an envelope – no more damaging your art trying to tear out completed images. We focus on Mandalas and nature themed images for beginner to skilled colorists. In our Etsy store, Coloring Book Mania, you will find cards, coloring books, downloadable images, and combo packs of books, pens, and pencils.”
You will find adult coloring books on any theme many places in Asheville and online. If you are interested in supporting local artists, look for ‘Coloring Book Mania’ in local stores – VaVaVooom, Firestorm, West Village Market, NC Arboretum, Malaprops – the list continues to grow! Visit them at local festivals for special packages available only at the show – in Brevard at the White Squirrel, Saluda for ‘Coon Dog Day,’ NC Arboretum for ‘Fungi Fest,’ and Asheville for ‘Art in the Park.’ They have also worked with nonprofits to develop coloring pages for events and fundraisers.
One unexpected reason to use coloring as your relaxation technique as opposed to other strategies – you simply cannot consume late night snacks and color at the same time! I’ve tried and coloring wins every time!