Zen and the art of stay­ing in the lines

Adult colour­ing books prom­ise calm and sell like crazy

Cape Breton Post - - IN MEMORIAM/LIFESTYLES/ADVICE - BY BETH J. HARPAZ

Adult colour­ing books are giv­ing Harper Lee a run for the money on best­seller lists this sum­mer.

Dover Publi­ca­tions has sold more than 3 mil­lion adult col­or­ing books with ti­tles like “Flower Fash­ion Fan­tasies.” Quarto Pub­lish­ing will have 1.3 mil­lion in print this year rang­ing from man­dalas to fairies. “Se­cret Gar­den: An Inky Trea­sure Hunt,” by one of the genre’s most pop­u­lar il­lus­tra­tors, Jo­hanna Bas­ford, re­mains a top seller on Ama­zon two years af­ter its ini­tial pub­li­ca­tion.

In fact, adult col­or­ing books oc­cu­pied as many of eight of the top 20 slots in a spot-check of Ama­zon’s best­seller list this week, in­clud­ing “Cre­ative Cats” and “Adult Col­or­ing Book: Stress Re­liev­ing Pat­terns.”

“We can­not print them fast enough,” said Amy Yo­da­nis, Quarto’s head of mar­ket­ing. “We are get­ting or­ders of 60,000 at one time from some of our big­gest re­tail­ers.”

There are col­or­ing clubs, col­or­ing con­tests and a frenzy of col­or­ing posts on so­cial media. Pa­rade mag­a­zine de­voted a Sun­day cover to the trend. Dover plans a na­tional col­or­ing book day on Aug. 2.

“Peo­ple are stressed and anx­ious all the time,” said Jean­nine Dil­lon, Quarto’s pub­lisher. “Colour­ing is a way to calm down and un­wind at the end of the day.”

But art ther­apy is not the only rea­son col­or­ing has taken off. As hob­bies go, col­or­ing books are in­cred­i­bly sim­ple: por­ta­ble, easy to pick up and put down, old-school ana­log pur­suits with no bat­ter­ies or mes­sages, no calo­rie-count­ing, skill-build­ing, classes or scores.

And the fin­ished prod­uct is per­fect for min­i­mal­ists. Pot­tery and paint­ings de­mand shelf and wall space; knit­ted scarves cry out to be worn or be­stowed as gifts. But a col­ored-in page takes up al­most no space at all (un­less you frame it).

I can at­test to the trend’s al­lure. I’ve been spend­ing my spare mo­ments col­or­ing a book called “Splen­did Cities: Color Your Way to Calm.”

Not that I’ve got much to show for my work. It took me more than two months to com­plete a sin­gle page of “Splen­did Cities” be­cause I never spent much time on it in one sit­ting. I’d colour dur­ing a stress­ful mo­ment at the of­fice or at home, or use it as a break from a com­pli­cated or bor­ing task, or to tran­si­tion be­tween tasks.

My long­est stretch col­or­ing was an hour while await­ing de­liv­ery of time-sen­si­tive doc­u­ments that I feared were lost. Col­or­ing dis­tracted me from wor­ry­ing about some­thing I couldn’t con­trol or fix. I chan­neled the book’s sub­ti­tle, “Color Your Way to Calm,” and could feel anx­ious thoughts wan­ing as I con­cen­trated on the pic­ture. Col­or­ing re­quired just enough at­ten­tion to dis­rupt the ob­ses­sive loop play­ing in my mind. It wasn’t so much re­lax­ation as im­mer­sion in some­thing else.

The page I com­pleted de­picts a San Fran­cisco streetscape of Vic­to­rian row houses with geo­met­ric pat­terns form­ing gabled roofs and arched win­dows. I limit my equip­ment to just four crayons and three col­ored pen­cils, pre­fer­ring not to com­pli­cate my pal­ette with too many choices, and I en­joyed de­cid­ing which of my seven colours to fill the tem­plate’s tiny spa­ces with. Blue or yel­low? Crayon or pen­cil? Fin­ish the win­dow or start the roof ?

When ev­ery space was col­ored in, I started over, rub­bing crayon over pen­cil, pen­cil over crayon, mix­ing colours to make new ones and lay­er­ing for a mot­tled ef­fect.

Jason Keyser, 42, a stay-athome dad from a sub­urb of Sacra­mento, Cal­i­for­nia, picked up the hobby a year ago in a pro­gram to help him with anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion af­ter a friend passed away. “I’ve been do­ing it ever since,” said Keyser, who placed third in a col­or­ing con­test for a pic­ture he com­pleted from Dover’s “Asian Tat­too De­signs.”

“It’s re­ally re­lax­ing,” he said. “Takes your mind away from stress­ful things in life.”

This photo shows a coloured-in page from the adult colour­ing book “Splen­did Cities: Color Your Way to Calm,” by Rosie Good­win and Alice Chad­wick, Ha­chette Livre (Edi­tions Marabout). It’s one of dozens of adult colour­ing books be­ing mar­keted these days as a way to re­lieve stress.

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