Adults rediscover the pleasure of coloring books

Coloring books for grownups like 'Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book' by Johanna Basford have catapulted to the top of bestseller lists. Coloring clubs have also sprung up.

Beth J. Harpaz/Little, Brown and Co./AP
A completed page in an adult coloring book

For those who look to exercise, knitting, cooking, and other hobbies as ways to unwind, there’s a new trend that is allowing adults to tap into their inner child: coloring. 

Coloring books for grownups have suddenly catapulted to the top of bestseller lists. Two years after publishing “Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book,” British artist Johanna Basford has sold nearly 1.5 million copies, climbing all the way to the No. 2 spot on Amazon’s Top 100 book list in March. Now other publishers are joining the trend by offering books of intricate black-and-white designs – ranging from abstracts to flowers to animals to cities – that anyone can transform into a dazzling kaleidoscope of colors.

The act of placing color on paper has proved to be a sought-after tactile antidote in this distracted age of social media, calling upon the artist to focus on small details, stay within the lines, and use creativity within predetermined parameters. Add in the feeling of nostalgia, and many find coloring to be a relaxing, stress-free experience.

But coloring is more than simply mindful doodling: It has become communal. Jenny Fenlason, who runs the blog “Bright Shiny Things,” started a Facebook group called Ladies Coloring Club, which invites avid adult colorers to expand their coloring habits and meet others, much like an online knitting club. Ms. Fenlason says coloring is the perfect group activity.

“You don’t have to be an expert to color, it doesn’t take a lot of time or money, and there’s a simple nostalgia to it,” Fenlason said via e-mail.

Ladies Coloring Club enables people to share not only their experiences and love for coloring but also community – plus they can Instagram their masterpieces. Many club members felt inspired to start their own coloring clubs locally, including in Minnesota, Texas, and New York.

“[I]t’s a low pressure, creative way to get together and connect with people,” Fenlason said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a young career woman or a grandmother, you can get a book, and colors, and a cup of coffee, and sit down for a nice time.” 

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