Hold on to your colored pencils and coloring books, kids. Grown-ups are getting into the picture these days and coloring up a storm.
Adults need reasons outside of simply fun, though, so they’re likely to call it therapeutic or calming or centering, good for stimulating creativity or facilitating meditation. And when they get together to color, they may call themselves colorists, a term borrowed from comic books.
Whatever the reason, adults, coloring books and coloring pages have become more than a short-lived fad. Last year, coloring books regularly appeared on the New York Times Bestsellers list. Publisher Dover Books’ Creative Haven imprint features more than two dozen titles, with subjects ranging from geometric designs, animals and flowers to movies and television series. This last Christmas, one of the most requested books at Waco bookstores was the “Harry Potter” coloring book (and, no, it wasn’t 600 pages long, either).
“We couldn’t keep it on the shelf,” said Jolene Boykin, manager of Waco’s Barnes & Noble Booksellers. The “Game of Thrones” coloring book also was a hot Christmas item, and Publisher’s Weekly reported that illustrator Johanna Basford sold more than 240,000 copies of her coloring books “Lost Garden,” “Secret Garden” and “Enchanted Forest” in the week before Christmas.
Boykin said local interest in adult coloring has remained strong for more than a year. What once was a few titles on an Activities Book shelf has mushroomed into entire shelves filled with books awaiting grown-up colorers — sorry, colorists — to complete them. Craft supply stores such as Michael’s and Hobby Lobby feature expanded offerings of coloring pencils and pens, while some bookstores have added pen and pencil sets to their inventories.
“It’s a true phenomenon. It used to be for those who would let their inner child out. Now it’s socially acceptable,” Boykin said.
Interest isn’t limited to bookstores and art stores, either. Last month, the New York Academy of Medicine invited museums, libraries and art galleries across the country to create coloring pages from pictures of items in their collections. Participants invited their patrons to download those images and color them, with results submitted for posting on Facebook, Twitter (hashtag #colorourcollection) and other social media. Participation in the weeklong project soon snowballed as word spread, growing from about 30 special collections to more than 200 by week’s end.
Baylor Central Libraries, the Texas Collection and the Armstrong Browning Library were among those taking part. Jennifer Borderud, access and outreach librarian at the Armstrong Browning Library, helped coordinate image selection and participation at the Armstrong Browning Library.
Among the images selected was Jane Cook’s illustration of Browning’s “The Pied Piper of Hamelin,” which drew a collaborative coloring from library adminstrators and student staffers. Online visitors, however, preferred the Robert Browning Sr. sketch of an old woman with a wart on her nose, titled “Love Me, Love My Dog,” Borderud said.
“We had a lot of fun with it,” Borderud said, adding that the images are still available for downloading from the ABL’s blog site, http://blogs.baylor.edu/armstrongbrowning/.
The Texas Collection posted several images with the #ColorOurCollections hashtag and saw them go viral, becoming the collection’s most-viewed tweet of February, with traffic coming from around the country, said Amie Oliver, the collection’s curator of print materials.
Eric Ames, curator of Baylor’s Digital Collections, helped with images-to-color from other Baylor libraries and found it a project worth repeating.
“It was a fun exercise. Certainly, there’s no end of things to turn into coloring pages,” he said.
He also had a little experience from home. His wife, Amy, assistant director of Baylor’s Office of Career and Professional Development, fell into coloring when she received a coloring book as a Christmas present.
“I’m not a coloring enthusiast,” she clarified. “I randomly received this as a gift at Christmas. But it’s a nice, relaxing way to pass the time.”
That is, when there’s no competition for the pencils or the pages.
“Our 5-year-old has co-opted it as her coloring book,” she said.
Five-year-olds are part of the targeted coloring audience at Art Center of Waco’s weekly “Cookies and Coloring” sessions, aimed at kids ages 5 to 10. The series exposes children to works by famous artists, and they’re then allowed to color outline versions of some of those works.
While center operations manager and sessions leader Meg Gilbert said it is a cost-effective way to do arts education, she finds coloring is something that adults can’t resist.
“A lot of our parents color with their kids,” she said.