The sharp earthy smell of pencils. The more acrid pungent scent of crayons. The unique perfume of newly used paper. All this transports us back to fond memories of our childhood, when colouring books, colours, sharpeners and pencils contained not only a myriad of entertaining hours of creativity and exploration, but also taught us the joy and fulfilment of feeling satisfied through making a thing of beauty, something which symbolised and described our inner moods and feelings.
Most of us consider colours and colouring books to be a thing of the past – an infantile fancy, a juvenile pastime and nothing more.
A couple of years ago, I got tired of venting my daily frustrations through Facebook mini-games such as Farmville, Candy Crush and Diamond Dash. So in order to unwind and make use of the extra time on my hands, I tried to think of something creative and stimulating yet not overly-industrious that could pass the time and assuage my insomnia. I was in the mood for some interesting enterprise to relax me and focus my emotions, but I can’t knit or arrange dried flowers or indeed draw or do crafts. I then remembered fondly how much I used to like my colouring pencils and books.
I admit, I felt really and truly embarrassed as I wondered from shop to shop searching for a colouring book which would actually stimulate my inventive juices. This was because my efforts were dampened by the usual array of enormous stupid faced teddy bears, flowers and babies typically portrayed in children’s’ colouring books. I was ready to invent some excuse about buying a present for a ‘child prodigy’ if asked what I was looking for by some over-zealous salesgirl (true story). I then turned to the internet, and a new world was revealed before my eyes.
It turns out I wasn’t so puerile and babyish after all! I wasn’t the only adult who missed my colouring books and crayons! In fact, there was a whole market and psychologically acceptable pursuit for my craving of sharpeners and drawing material! Yes, there is a new adult colouring craze which has of late inspired grown-ups the world over to borrow their children’s coloured felt-pens, and give voice, or in this case, shade, to their feelings and emotions.
In 1982, anthropologist Adrienne Zihlman of the University of California published The Human Evolution Colouring Book, aimed at students of biological anthropology who were invited to learn about DNA, genes, fossils, and tools by colouring in pages brimming with factual information presented both visually and in words. At the time, this publication was only shared amongst a few students. The medium was considered childish and yet the contents of the book was most definitely not. Today, adult colouring is gaining popularity and therapists the world over, such as clinical psychologist Kimberly Wulfer, maintain that the combination of remembering the comforts of being a child while incorporating the creativity of an adult, as well the rhythm that is achieved after colouring for a certain amount of time, produce a means of relaxation and stress-relief in adults.
There may therefore be some evidence that colouring has a calming and therapeutic effect, even for people who have long graduated from kindergarten. Personally, I prefer it to Farmville. Instead of clicking away at imaginary ducks and chickens, I open Joanna Bashford’s The Secret Garden, which since its publication in August 2013 has sold more than 1.5 million copies and been translated into 24 languages, and lose myself in the tiny birds, beetles and labyrinthine puzzles hidden in each charming page.
Other currently popular titles include Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom, Richard Merritt’s The Art Therapy Colouring Book and even Mel S Eliot’s Colour Me Good Benedict Cumberbatch. And to the delight of all Game of Thrones aficionados, Bantam Books has even announced that it will be publishing a Game of Thrones colouring book by the end of the year!
Finally, I can candidly admit that YES, I have joined the ranks of adult colourers, and I am not ashamed to say it.