So I have this adult colouring book, and well, I’ve tried hard to bond with it but so far it’s been a lose-lose situation. I bought it at the beginning of 2016 (when adult colouring books were hip and happening and literally flying off the shelves) along with a set of fancy, imported colouring pencils (which I think have since been commandeered by a wily Jack!).
Thing is, this relationship was doomed from the start: Take one obsessive-compulsive, anxious perfectionist and give her a book of teeny-tiny, intricate patterns that take forever (and ever) to complete and you’ve got two things – trouble and tension.
But the title was so seductive: The Mindfulness Colouring Book – Anti-stress art therapy for busy people (Boxtree). And I was lured by the dust jacket which promised that artist Emma Farrarons‘ “templates of exquisite scenes and intricate, sophisticated patterns” would prompt me to meditate on my artwork as I mindfully filled the pages with colour. Nirvana here I come. What’s not to love?
Discovering that Emma Farrarons (check out her lovely work on her website) is a French illustrator and book designer based in London sealed the deal for me and things got off to a promising start.
But with most relationships I realised pretty quickly that this one was going to require hard work and commitment – and more patience than would be even reasonable to demand from Job.
When contemplating a page I would fret about colour and balance and symmetry and uniformity and pattern and neatness – and how long everything was taking, too! For example, the drawing above seemed to take ages. And ages. I know, I know. That’s the point, right? To slow things down, to be mindful of the moment, to relax, ruminate … but for me it seems to be a case of Colour Me Crazy instead of Colour Me Calm.
Wondering what was wrong with me, I turned to Google for solace – and found this fascinating article on TED Ideas on Why grown-ups love colouring too. Art therapist Marygrace Berberian, director of New York University’s Art Therapy in Schools Program, says grown-ups have fallen for this art form because, in our mad and unstable world, we need to find something that’s restorative.
“Engaging in self-care is important for everyone … we need to find things that are restorative. Coloring in a mandala allows a person to turn down the volume of ruminations and focus on the task at hand. There is mindfulness when we are not looking at our phones and focused on the here and now.”
In the same article, Richard Carolan and Donna Betts of the American Art Therapy Association say colouring books “provide a controlled, contained use of art for self-soothing purposes …. they can be completed with minimal risk.” Colouring is therapeutic, but it’s not therapy.
Hmmm. All good and well. But I still wasn’t feeling assured. Fortunately, the last line of the article was written with ever-anxious me in mind:
“And yet, some adults find picking out the right colors and getting the shades just right to be too stressful. For those people, Berberian suggests working with more forgiving material.”
So, as I was going on holiday (you can read about it here) I packed my little book (it really is a great handbag-friendly size) and gave myself a talking to: I would have a more forgiving approach and cut myself some slack! It worked and I completed an entire page.
For what it’s worth:
- Sales of adult colouring books have slowed dramatically this year and the trend has reached its plateau.
- Here’s a lovely line-up of 10 of the Best Colouring Books if you’re still interested and your pencils are poised and sharpened!
- On our recent holiday, Kate, who has a huge colouring book, was tending to a very fussy octopus and at one point she exclaimed with dismay: “Oh no! I’ve got the wrong colour there …” Guess who’s her mother?