Now, I’ve been doing it myself.
Filling in a coloring book, that is.
Who knew that spending hours with a glass jelly jar filled with sharpened colored pencils and a for-grown-ups-only, complete-the-pictures pad could also help reduce stress; make my brain slow down, and sometimes, even be the catalyst to a good night’s sleep?
Given that I’m a foodie, it’s appropriate that the book I bought is called Color Me Delicious.
However, the contents appealed to me not so much because of the dishes it shows, but the world it portrays.
Turn the pages, and you’ll see hands happily roasting s’mores and a birthday cake with perfectly positioned frosted flowers. Other sketches show a front porch with silly jack o’lanterns; keep going, and you’ll see a jumbo mug of hot chocolate and gingerbread houses. This rose-colored version of life suits me fine, since I purposely didn’t want anything too complicated. (No surprise here that my selection is from Taste of Home, a publishing house known for comfy recipes that make you feel like you’re hanging with Beaver Cleaver.)
I’ve noticed a few of these books around for many months, but didn’t pay them much attention until I saw one at the home of my daughter’s tutor.
“Oh, a friend gave that to me,” she said. “She said I needed to relax, and she thought this would do it.”
The tutor hadn’t yet tackled any of its pictures, but given my issues with sleeping at night, the idea piqued my interest. When she suggested that my daughter might use one while tackling a specialized listening program, we decided to check out the biggest bookstore in our area.
There, we found displays on both the store’s first and second floor, easily totaling at least 40 choices. Who knew this coloring thing was so popular? I especially liked the city-themed ones, Paris and New York among them. However, my kid ultimately decided on a thick, almost hardcover one featuring lots of intricate mandalas that would make me nuts.
I wish I’d saved myself some time, and gas, by checking out our local supermarket first.
Yup, between the paper towels and frozen pizza, I found nearly two dozen books to choose from. A block away, our one-stop hardware store boasted a dozen different books, smack in the center aisle. Google some to buy, and a whopping 600,000 results come up.
What happened to what used to be an activity exclusive to the preschool set?
Well, like so many great ideas, it took just one person to turn the coloring book industry on its proverbial head.
And like so many who are chockful of creativity and imagination, this person is not only talented and did the work, but had luck on her side.
Her name is Johanna Basford, and prior to her breakout coloring book success three years ago, the 32-year-old Scottish artist peddled a different sort of merchandise.
In a studio located on her parents’ trout and salmon farm, also in Scotland, Basford’s medium was silk screening; specifically, she designed hand-printed wallpaper for luxe hotels and boutiques. But after the 2008 crash, Basford
was forced to close her workspace, and became a freelance commercial illustrator for clients that included Starbucks and Nike.
Then, in 2011, a United Kingdom-based publisher saw Basford’s work online and thought her sketches would be perfect for a children’s book. But Basford had another idea: how about a grown-up coloring book?
“It got kind of quiet for a moment,” remembers Basford. “Coloring books for adults weren’t much of a thing then.”
So, the artist spent the next nine months coming up with the template for her first book. A labor of love, she worked on the concept at night, keeping her paycheck career going during the day. The initial publisher decided the concept was worth the risk, and in the spring of 2013, debuted My Secret Garden.
A 90-page collection of beautifully intricate black-and-white ink drawings of leaves, flowers and birds, Basford’s first book has now sold 1.4 million copies around the world; been published in 22 languages, and last year, made the top 10 list of Amazon’s best-selling books. Her three subsequent coloring books--Enchanted Forest, Magical Jungle and Lost Ocean—are also doing very well.
And while Basford’s books focus on nature, it’s possible to now find a coloring books on dozens, if not hundreds, of other themes. In fact, much like knitting clubs, coloring book gatherings are now popping up around the world, meeting in cafes and in homes. Too, many aficionados buy more than one book so they can keep several going at any one time.
Once I began to color, often at night when my household is at its quietest, the runaway success of these books makes complete sense.
After all, the books take us back to childhood, when life, at least for most of us, was both kinder and simpler. And according to at least one psychologist, the relaxation that coloring gives us also lowers a specific and active part of the brain that’s affected by stress. Put another way, coloring has the ability to take us away from worrying, an activity that already takes up way too much of my time.
In fact, I think it’s time to find a few more coloring books. Lucky for me and so many others, I’ll have a whole lot to choose from.
What do you think about adult coloring books? I’m looking forward to your comments and stories!
P.S. Find out more about Johanna Basford at www.johannabasford.com.
P.P.S. One more thing: if you’ve never heard Barbra Streisand sing about her coloring book, here’s the best rendition yet: www.youtube.com/watch?v=pp-RgmR5KKg.