The Secret History of Coloring Books for Grown Ups
"For those who fancy coloring books, and lots of people do..."
The opening words of My Coloring Book, written by lyricist Fred Ebb and composer John Kander in 1962, hinted at a well-kept secret. Adults loved coloring books as much as children. Many found it a relaxing and undemanding hobby that could be enjoyed while watching another new craze - color television.
The song was recorded by such luminaries as Barbra Streisand and Andy Williams, and as it flooded the airwaves, the idea of coloring books for adults began to take hold. The first publisher to popularize the concept was Dover Publications. Rather than adapt children's coloring books, Dover went all out and created coloring books that reflected grown up interests, based on history, science and literature.
These coloring books featured more intricate and detailed drawings than those in children's books. The simple outlines of cartoon characters and bowls of flowers gave way to detailed botanical studies, ladies and knights of the middle ages and sweeping vistas of the old west. Felt tip markers and pens, another new product, also grew in popularity as they proved perfect for more sophisticated coloring.
For most devotees, the craze continued through the 70s and 80s, with Dover Publications continuing to produce coloring books for adults. But while the books were available well into the new millennium, the wave had peaked and the golden age had passed - until 2013.
The reinvention of coloring books for grown-ups started in a modest way with the publication of Secret Garden by British artist Joanna Basford. The first print run was a mere 16000 copies, but by 2015 was a full-fledged publishing phenomenon with sales into the millions.
As more adult coloring books hit the market, the genre is outselling such books like the latest edition of Fifty Shades of Grey and topping best seller lists. Coloring books have been lauded as art therapy for people who can't draw, and are being marketed as anti-stress aids. But are they really a cure for modern anxieties, or even trauma, as is often claimed? Or is it simply another relaxing hobby, like knitting or walking the dog?
The main problem with coloring as art therapy, according to art therapists, is that it isn't art. It is simply staying within the lines of someone else's art and that can be more harmful than not.
Doctor Jo Kelly, the Australian and New Zealand Art Therapy Association (ANZATA), speaking to ABC News, pointed out that art therapy is a post graduate profession, inaugurated in Australia in 2006. It is a genuine therapy practiced by professionals, not just coloring in. Art therapist Cathy Malchiodi PhD said on the website Psychology Today that coloring is not "art therapy by any definition." It does not compare to genuine creative art expression, "using one's hands to create from imagination."
Most users, however, report that it does have a calming, anti-stress effect which would put it in the category of a relaxing hobby. Whatever the real value of adult coloring books, they are not a new genre as claimed by publishers today, and they are not going out of style again in a hurry.
Article From Inter Valley Health Plan