This week marks the end of a very long summer semester and the beginning of my mini summer vacation. I am also celebrating my birthday this week—lots to look forward to! Growing up, I was always glad to have an August birthday—the day was almost always sunny, I was most often on vacation and out of school, and my family and friends were much more relaxed and ready to join in the celebrating. This year I was happy to be reminded of past childhood birthdays when I received a fantastic gift that also happens to be the biggest art trend of 2015—adult colouring books.
If you haven’t been in a bookstore lately (and you would be forgiven since it seems one is closing every other month around major North American cities), you may have missed out on seeing the tables of glossy and beautifully illustrated, and mostly hand-drawn and artist-made, colouring books promising a chance at a mindful and plugged-in activity. There is something at once nostalgic and of-the-moment about this trend, offering the mind and the imagination a reprieve from the omnipresent screen culture that surrounds us. Its like we all understand that soon there will be a generation of children that don’t remember a world of creativity before the computer. Digging a little deeper into the trend, I found some pretty serious consideration given to the discussion of these books. The New Yorker published an article last month describing the interest in colouring books as being fuelled in part by an interest in play as it “correlates with academic and reproductive success, stress reduction, and innovative performance at work.” Indeed, many of the claims for this activity relate to notions of mindfulness, meditation, happiness, healthy escapism, and even a form of therapy—ideas that have been endorsed by several art therapists as somewhat valid. Still, for many adults, I suspect the interest also stems from a longing to be artful and creative without judgement—an excuse to pick up art tools and make something creative and pleasing without worrying about labels and pretensions to being an artist. Why does this kind of art-making have to stop once you leave grade school?
The books chosen for me were especially fitting—Zoe De Las Cases’ Secret Paris is filled with pages of street scenes, opulent architecture, and a world of elegant food, design, art, and fashion, while Steve McDonald’s Fantastic Cities offers aerial illustrations of the world’s most interesting cityscapes, many transformed into intricate mandalas that potentially take hours and hours to complete. A quick search of the colouring books available to adults bears out that this trend is only growing and appears to cater to a diverse and dynamic set of tastes and interests. Many of the bestseller lists feature these books and it appears that hundreds of new titles will be on the market for fall. If nothing else, it will introduce many more people to the therapeutic aspects of art making while helping to keep book publishers and line artists in business. Next up on my wishlist—Secret New York and The Color Me Good James Franco Unofficial Coloring Book.