Coloring books are the hot holiday buy this season.
Not for Junior and little Zora either. Santa, the grown folk just want to color for Christmas, so fit a stack in your sleigh.
I thought coloring books for adults were a passing trend when I bought “More Than a Woman” by Mike Coley from Urban Outfitters almost two years ago. But two such books made the top 20 of Amazon’s 2015 best-sellers list: “Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest and Coloring Book” by Johanna Basford (No. 13) and “Adult Coloring Book: Stress Relieving Patterns by Blue Star Coloring” (No. 15.) That’s never happened.
Last month, Barnes & Noble hosted the All-American Art Unwind, an open invite for adults to come color their stress away. Go there today and you’ll find a big table of coloring books and art supplies for grown-up kids to buy. Crayola even crafted a coloring kit for adults that includes colored pencils and markers.
If that’s not enough to convince you, Oprah Winfrey featured coloring book artist Andrea Pippins in O Magazine. Her coloring book, my newest fave, “I Love My Hair: A Coloring Book of Braids, Coils, and Doodle Dos,” caught Erica Wilson’s eye too.
The Kansas City stay-at-home mom tried the “Enchanted Forest” everyone is crazy about. But it didn’t tickle her coloring fingers. Then her favorite hair blogger featured Andrea Pippins’ coloring book, and she can’t get enough.
“For me it’s been tough to find my balance as a stay-at-home mom,” says Erica, 33. “I’ve learned to run on empty because sometimes you have to, but it’s not healthy or sustainable. Coloring has quickly become an easy way for me to relax and recharge during downtime. Turn on some music, light a candle, add some wine if you want, and it’s a legitimate good time.”
Carrie Bolin, Hallmark’s editorial strategist who worked on developing the company’s line of coloring books for adults, explains the popularity: “It’s a great way to refuel yourself.”
“We are always on the lookout for trends. Coloring books have been on our radar for a little while, and it really picked up traction in a big way this year. I think part of it is nostalgia. People loved coloring in their childhood and now they are able to do it again. The other part seems to be the ability to zone out, to escape from the stress of daily life and relax. Expressing yourself creatively brings happiness.
“We had a customer who lost her dog and went through some tough times. She had one of our Maxine coloring books and said she shared it with her family at Thanksgiving and they laughed out loud together. People are buying these coloring books to bring themselves happiness or to make someone else happy.”
Some call the books art therapy.
“Coloring books and even coloring circles, similar to sewing circles, are very popular now,” says Janice Mead, a Lee’s Summit art therapist. “They have become the latest self-help fad. I must ask, is it the social engagement that is brain-changing or is it the act of coloring? Whatever makes life better is a good thing.
“If coloring allows a person to slow down after a long hectic day, if coloring in the lines helps ‘contain’ the emotional release or provides a pseudo-sense of accomplishment, then do it! But let’s call it what it is, coloring in a book and not art therapy.”
It’s all good. Galadriel Thompson, a Kansas City artist, says these books are about nurturing creativity and having fun.
She created a coloring book for Spirit Marketing that hit Amazon last month and is already sold out there. “Home for the Holidays” is filled with elaborate wreaths, holly, ornaments and all that jolly stuff. (You can find copies at Timeless Traditions, 8200 W. 151st St. in Overland Park.)
Now she’s working on inspirational coloring journals to be released next spring.
“There have been a few times people have texted me a finished coloring, and it feels good,” says Galadriel, 37. “A coloring book facilitates creative freedom. It’s a really safe way for people to tap into their creativity. Sometimes a blank page is too vast, and people don’t know where to start. Sometimes people don’t trust themselves to begin. Coloring books have been around forever, but making them for adults gives permission. It says this is for you.”
Kristy Ladd, 29, wanted in on that creative freedom this year. She saw friends on Instagram coloring and went on a hunt to find a book she fancied.
“It took about 30 minutes to pick out the perfect coloring book at Barnes & Noble,” says Kristy, a brand manager for the region’s Girl Scouts. “It was $7. My fiance was out of town and I colored these intricate floral designs for four hours. I literally colored the night away. When I was done my hand hurt. But it was like, ‘Oh my gosh. I love this!’ I had the soft lights on and I felt so proud of myself.”
At the top of her Christmas list: Prismacolor pencils. She wants to upgrade from her elementary art supplies.
And that’s exactly where the coloring book trend is expanding, says Kirsty Melville, president and publisher of Andrews McMeel Publishing book division, based in Kansas City. Look for fancier art supplies, pocket-sized coloring books, calendars, journals, note cards and a revival of calligraphy, she says.
“It’s not about staring at a phone screen or television screen. It’s a social thing. People get together and drink wine and color their books. It’s easy, it’s portable and it’s simple. It’s an expansion of what we did with puzzles several years ago. This is an adult activity that involves pencils and pens. People want to relax and get in touch with their creative side.”
Adult coloring books could be the new happy hour. Color your way out of the blues of busy days and into your fun, artsy self.