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Reasons Adult Coloring is Interesting

Updated on July 11, 2016
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Tim Mitchell is an avid learner adventuring into many interests. He enjoys sharing those experiences and discovered knowledge.

Adult Coloring Today

Adult coloring is an immense trend now. Nielsen Bookscan reports over 12 million coloring books sold for 2015. The year before was one million. They give black and white illustrations from beginning levels to very intricate and complex patterns like topiaries - florals, fairies, and butterflies. There are manufactures of colored pencils of different quality and type while pens are used as well. People color at home, in airport lounges, during meetings, and in waiting rooms. They offer opportunity for creative expression while presenting therapeutic values. There are many reasons coloring is interesting and helpful.

History Reaches Back over 100 Years

The start of coloring and painting books was introduced through a series of lectures by British artist Joshua Reynolds in 1880. Swiss educator Johann Pestalozzi further developed them. At 1880 they were made commercially available by the McLoughlin Brothers with Little Folks' Painting Book. As early as that time educators believed coloring contributed to conceptual understanding, developing cognitive abilities, improving skills for professions, and for the spiritual edification of children.

With education they showed great promise as memory tools for children and college students. Today they aid communicating information and ideas where primary language skills are lacking. Graduate levels of study they are used for anatomy and physiology. One such author Wynn Kapit created The Physiology Coloring Book (2nd Edition). It provides extensive text together with illustrations using learning skills. They help students to grasp and retain complex ideas and information. There have been comprehensive books created for mathematics such as geometry and programming too.

Colored pencils are available by count of twelve to as high as 150 different hues.
Colored pencils are available by count of twelve to as high as 150 different hues. | Source

Creative Expressions

Many are introduced to coloring at pre-school or earlier. We each may remember the joys experienced completing a project and sharing it with mom, brothers or sisters, teachers, and friends. A sense of self-esteem is fostered growing with pride while happiness springs forth.

Today’s adult coloring books offer opportunity for those uninclined to draw outlines for picturesque renditions of art to achieve high levels of gratification. During the process of filling between the lines the prospects for the creative process is opened. Choices of colors are made, contrasts explored, and arrangements within the patterns achieve a completed work. The experienced projects blossom to fruition like a rose at springtime as the person becomes an artist completing a masterpiece.

Each illustration offers patterns ranging from simple renditions to complexities requiring hunting for patterns, fore thought, explorations, and careful planning. The abstract combines with organization as discovered ideas are brought forth mixing and mincing color combinations. Scenes with people, animals, and even fable or lore promote within the creative mind story development opening the doors of the imagination. Every project is unique, individualized, and promises contentment with achievement.

Values with Psychology

Infamous psychologist Carl Jung who founded Jungarian Analytical Psychology gave value to them. He thought art assisted with accessing the subconscious and provide for building new self-knowledge. There is a distinction that coloring books offer immense therapeutic values, yet is not art therapy. The American Art Therapy Association states with their Official statement, January 2016.

“Excerpt: The popularity of adult coloring seems to indicate a renewed public awakening to the use of this activity for self-care. However, coloring books are not “art therapy,” and AATA endeavors to promote accurate information that distinguishes between engaging with coloring for self-care and accessing art therapy services provided by a credentialed art therapist. We also acknowledge the coloring book trend as an opportunity for the AATA to help educate the public about the evidence-based integrative mental health profession, art therapy.”

Art therapy’s goal is “is to improve or restore a client’s functioning and his or her sense of personal well-being.” It uses art media, the creative process, and the finished work to:

  • Explore feelings
  • Reconcile emotional conflicts
  • Foster self-awareness
  • Manage behavior and addictions
  • Develop social skills
  • Improve reality orientation
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Increase self-Esteem

Coloring projects begin with the outlined illustration. Some need time to interpret them discovering the patterns of likeness while imagining the coloring schemes creating the image. (Copyright Sannel Larson, 2016)
Coloring projects begin with the outlined illustration. Some need time to interpret them discovering the patterns of likeness while imagining the coloring schemes creating the image. (Copyright Sannel Larson, 2016) | Source

Therapeutic Values for Self-Help

Many psychologists recommend coloring books for their therapeutic values. Therapeutic is having or exhibiting healing powers. Coloring books are best known promoting a means of relaxation and causing a sense of calmness removing symptoms of stress. The person focuses on coloring intricate patterns for hours on end contrasting intrusive troubling thoughts. The common psychological triggers they help with are boredom, lack of structure, and stress.

They are used by therapists for introducing and developing practices of mindfulness. Mindfulness is a recent approach to achieve “a state of active, open attention on the present”. Using coloring books is not mindfulness itself although may help with techniques. It seeks to achieve a mental state where one is focused on a present awareness while noticing feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. One goal is to recognize thoughts good or bad without placing a judgmental value upon them. The mind-body connection opens doors to the holistic approach. Eye hand coordination combines with a meditative state quieting the mind as awareness heightens. Each coloring experience is its own adventure and may be a tool for developing those techniques.

Thoughts may become more acute and clear while present opportunity for developing creative problem solving. Choices of colors achieve balance. Which part of the illustration to do first will help organizational skills. Searching for similar objects like leaves within floral arrangements develops pattern recognition. Focus grows more intense squelching automatic thoughts that may be negative. Both sides of the brain are used as concentration is enhanced and clarity emerges.

A Cuppa Tea, an Illustration, Colors, and Quietness

One such product I have used is a coloring book with a theme; Teatime Pastimes - Adult Coloring Book: Stress-Relieving with Fun Tea Themed Designs to Color (Volume 1) by Sannel Larson of Sweden. A talented author and illustrator she has authored / illustrated half-dozen children books. I discovered this book to offer 32 pages of delightful and intriguing illustrations tempting me.

Her illustrations range from easy to complex. Throughout the theme presented are a great variety of patterns with teacups, teapots, floral arrangements, people interacting, and abstract presentations. She incorporates various levels of challenging projects to develop experience.

Centered on tea time there is interesting information introduced and a delicious strawberry cupcake recipe. Wisely she left the back side of the illustrations blank preventing two images bleeding their colors together. She recommends added protection is achieved with two pages of printer paper beneath the picture being worked on too. A bonus is the blank page can be used for small swatches of colors for comparing contrast of hues.

Having a diagnosis of bipolar disorder a mood disorder I was experiencing a stage known as hypomania or an increased sense of euphoria. One symptom that may be troubling is rapid or racing thoughts. Experiencing that alongside them being automatic negative thoughts I sat down with this coloring book. To better help with the experience I first fired up the teapot, got out the rhubarb and strawberry loose leaf tea, and brewed a large mug of tea. Well, eventually two since I colored a little over three hours.

Wanting a comforting picture I picked a floral arrangement. The title seemed à propos saying, “I Love Days When My Only Problem is Tea or Coffee”. Excited for the adventure I was eager to begin. Armed with a set of 48 hues of colored pencils and a blending pencil I searched for those just right colors. Plus, this image added circular patterns providing abstractness to consider.

After hours of quiet time the completed project brings with it a heightened sense of achievement and gratification. (The completed coloring project from Sannel Larson's coloring book)
After hours of quiet time the completed project brings with it a heightened sense of achievement and gratification. (The completed coloring project from Sannel Larson's coloring book) | Source

My thoughts still rapid at first became more settled the further I progressed. As I chose the theme of colors for the flowers and leaves I saw the picture develop. The more I focused on the creating the art work those problems conjured by negative thoughts began to dissipate and were not as obtrusive. Her themed image alongside sipping the tepid brew together with time brought positive focused thoughts and a sense of calm.

Although not a cure for those symptoms I discovered an effective healing experience. Replacing negative thoughts with positive focused ones I could enjoy the creative process. Plus, when done I was gleeful and thankful I had created a work of art I was proud of and could share. I both recommend this coloring book and coloring for those times of distress, stress, and needing a sense of calmness to be evoked.

© 2016 Tim Mitchell

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