I got hooked into the "adult" coloring book craze about a month ago when my sister Michele showed me the Johanna Basford book she had ordered. Luckily for me, she had one to spare and I was on my way. On a recent trip to Europe, I brought my book and pens–never mind that it added to my hand luggage weight, the coloring kept me busy on the plane and on the nights when I was by myself.
So why do I color?
1. It’s relaxing.
It’s just me, my books and my pens. Sometimes I ask my sister her opinion on a particular color combination but mostly, it’s just me. I generally spend an hour or two coloring before I go to sleep. Getting into a rhythm is quite soothing. In France, the section for the coloring books is actually called "Art Thérapie!"
2. It’s a channel for creativity.
Do I use pens or pencils? (My personal preference is brush-tip pens). Do I go primary, earthy or pastel? Do I follow standard/accepted colors or do I go wild with blue squirrels and fuchsia trees? How do I shade properly? Did I just say this was relaxing?
3. It’s a great way to pass time.
As I mentioned earlier, I occupied myself on the plane coloring instead of watching movies or sleeping. And boy, did time pass ever so quickly.
4. It’s comforting.
On those days when you get home after a long day at the office or another night of nasty traffic, coloring can calm those jangled nerves.
5. It’s an alternative to being online.
Most nights, I spend my time in front of a computer screen–reading news, checking social media, playing games. The coloring gives me a chance to unplug.
6. It’s an exercise in discipline.
Coloring sounds so simple and we associate it with an activity kids do. But if you’ve seen the intricate designs in the adult versions, you’ll soon realize that its takes a good deal of focus and discipline to produce nice coloring art. The word "mindful" is used quite often–you can’t quite be on autopilot as you have to make decisions while coloring.
7. It allows me to channel my inner wabi-sabi.
Wabi-sabi is a Japanese aesthetic centered on acceptance of imperfection. In other words, beauty that is imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. I tend towards symmetry so this is a good opportunity for me to experiment and break away from my natural compulsion to match colors.
8. It reminds me that it’s ok to make mistakes.
Related to the previous point on wabi-sabi–it’s ok to make lampas. To use the wrong shade first and then try to correct it with another. And in the process, create a new shade or hue that turns out to be exactly what you’re looking for. Which leads me to the next point.
9. It’s a voyage of discovery.
Who knew there were 20 shades of green and that you could use them all in one tree? Or that purple, brown and red could come together in a rabbit? And that what starts out as just individual colors can coalesce into a beautiful finished product? You should see some of the stuff posted on IG–people have used Basford’s designs for embroidery and even tattoos!
10. It’s FUN!
Once you start, it’s so hard to quit. Especially after you’ve completed a couple of pieces, posted them on FB and IG, and have people admire your work! Then you start checking online for supplies and pre-ordering books (our favorite is obviously Basford), following the artists on IG, scouring the pen sections of all the bookstores, going to craft shows–it never ends!
I know what some people are thinking–this is just another crazy fad that will disappear. Those coloring books will end up gathering dust on a bookshelf and all those expensive pens will eventually dry up. That well may be but in the meantime, adult coloring books are on the top of Amazon’s bestseller lists with many of the popular artists sold out. And yes, there will be a Game of Thrones version out later this year (though that might be a little too "adult" for me).
Barbara J. King, an anthropology professor at the College of William and Mary, might have said it best–"Maybe it offers me the very mix I wasn't able to value in my 20s: the combination of remembering the comforts of being a child while incorporating the creativity of an adult."
*Interested in trying this out for yourself? Here in the Philippines, those who would like to get into the coloring craze can try Color Me Doodle: Coloring Sheets for Grown Ups by Mark Dean Lim and Beginnings: A Hand-Doodled Coloring Book for All Ages by Kankan Ramos. You can also check out Spot.ph's 10 Awesome Adult Coloring Books for Every Personality!
PHOTOS: Debbie Tan, Instagram @markdeanlim