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A splash of colour

Adult colouring books

Colouring books are no longer just play things for children. Adult versions have made best-selling lists over the past year, offering stressed-out grown ups a creative escape from the pressures of the world. Molly Dyson interviews the experts to find out what makes these intricate doodles so popular

Remember the days when you were a child and couldn’t wait to get started on your new colouring book? You were an expert at staying in the lines – mostly – and had an impressive collection of crayons at your disposal. Those days are coming back for us grown ups.

Adult colouring books have burst onto the scene over the last couple of years and became a hot topic in 2015. In fact, recent research shows that nearly one in seven adults use colouring books at work. Most of them feature elaborate designs from some of the world’s top illustrators and while your colouring technique may have improved since you were young, these books offer more than just nostalgia.

“With the pressures of the digital age, social media and modern living, people like to have a restful focus,” comments Gill Hasson, co-creator of The Mindfulness Colouring and Activity Book. “Colouring books provide an outlet or a path into one’s own creativity.”

Hasson, along with illustrator Gilly Lovegrove, worked together to create pages full of tranquil scenes and simple activities designed to promote mindfulness and reduce stress. “Being mindful is about being engaged with the present,” says Hasson. “Instead of going back over past events or worrying about future possibilities, mindful activities keep you focused on what’s happening right now.

“Gilly chose pages with themes of plant life and nature, aimed to relax and transform one’s thoughts away from everyday stresses. She has also created some that have simple patterns, doodles and ‘finish off the drawing’ designed to motivate people to create their own artwork.

“I chose word activities and puzzles I knew would provide a different focus. They’re enough of a challenge to keep your mind busy, but not too difficult to be stressful.”

Johanna Basford is the artist behind several best-selling colouring books and has designed cups for the likes of Starbucks and Chipotle Mexican Grill. She came up with the idea when she was working as a commercial illustrator and had a publishing house approach her about creating drawings for a book for children.

“I pitched the idea of an adult colouring book because my signature style is super intricate and for years my clients had been telling me they wanted to colour in my drawings,” Basford says.

She has now sold more than 10 million books worldwide, but she believes adults have secretly been turning to colouring as an outlet for years. “Recently it has come to light and become socially acceptable,” she comments.

“It’s a great way to de-stress. That notion of being ‘in flow’ and completely absorbed in a task – particularly one that doesn’t involve a screen – is just so soothing. Colouring offers a welcome opportunity to unplug and allow yourself to be completely immersed.”

So go on; live a little. Buy yourself a book and some pencils and have a go – for the stress relief, of course.