Tickle me pink

Image via Thinkstock
Image via Thinkstock

The adult colouring craze

By Lauren Paulsen, Senior Columnist

Recently I went into Chapters for the first time in a while. The first display case that I saw was filled with colouring books. Off to the right, I saw an entire section of colouring books. I knew about the recent colouring craze, but I hadn’t realized it had gotten to the extent where bookstores had entire sections devoted to them.

I was kind of amused.

I’ve always been a fan of colouring. I find it soothing. However, all of the colouring books that were on the market had been for children, and colouring something that simple didn’t really fulfill my artistic need. It was too simple. I sometimes looked for complicated black and white pictures on the Internet to colour in, but pickings were sparse. Mostly what I found were mandalas. So the first time I saw one of these adult colouring books I was intrigued.

I can draw my own complicated swirls and scenes—I’ve been an artist all my life—but not having to spend a lot of time creating these and just spending the time colouring them in is really relaxing. I don’t have to worry about re-drawing lines because I’ve made a mistake. Instead, I can just focus on the colour of the picture.

It’s not the actual concept of adults colouring that I found amusing when I walked into the store. Rather, it’s the fact that it has become such a craze. Suddenly so many people are jumping in on the phenomenon. So many, in fact, that companies that create pencil crayons are having shortages and can’t keep up with the demand. I guess people just always thought of colouring as a childish thing.

Of course, some people still do. Actor-comedian Russell Brand made a video rant about his opinion on the craze. He questions whether the popularity of these colouring books is a sign of the apocalypse. He thinks that colouring in pictures is a waste of time, and that we should be doing something more meaningful with our lives.

I don’t agree with this point of view. I can actually attest to the calm and relaxing feeling that colouring gives me. It’s actually more relaxing than drawing, sometimes, because colouring in a picture requires less brain-work than drawing from scratch. If we look at it from Brand’s and other critics’ perspective then any relaxing activity—such as meditation, listening to music, fishing, golfing, or watching television—would be seen as a waste of time. We need time to relax, so why can’t colouring a picture be included as one of those activities?

These adult colouring books also give people who have difficulty drawing a chance to enter the world of artists. I have talked to friends who feel proud of their coloured pictures, but feel they could never draw picture themselves. It gives them a sense of accomplishment when they finish an adult colouring book. They are making works of art, no matter what critics may say, because they are colouring these pictures in uniquely. And who knows? Maybe it will spur them to draw themselves.

When Scottish illustrator Johanna Basford had the idea to create a colouring book for adults—instead of making the colouring book for children that her publishing house asked her to do—she couldn’t have had any idea how explosive it would become. No matter what critics like Brand are saying, there is no denying that there is definitely something special about colouring. If people didn’t like this activity, then 16-million copies of the first three adult colouring books by Basford would not have been sold in three years.