You might wonder what you’re letting yourself in for if you search for ‘adult colouring book’, but you’ll be relieved to hear it is definitely SFW. At the time of writing, four of the top ten bestselling titles are adult colouring books, and their popularity is not confined to the UK – this is a global phenomenon. 3.5 million colouring books were sold in France alone last year. I love the idea that people from all over the world are sitting down with a pack of colouring pencils and finding some peace and quiet from colouring in.
There’s something for everyone, which is just as it should be. Creative activities shouldn’t just be the preserve of designers and artists; the new wave of colouring books are accessible to everyone and are perfect for those who might be short on time and money. With that in mind, it’s not difficult to see why the appeal of these books is so broad, from a busy office worker who finds it difficult to switch off at the end of a long day to someone who is housebound and enjoys colouring as a creative outlet.
But forget the colouring books of your childhood. The best of the grown-up versions are highly intricate works of art, designed to be coloured and kept. For The Little Books of Colouring: Peace in Your Pocket, I approached Amber Anderson, a brilliantly talented illustrator from London, as we fell in love with the sophistication and beauty of her illustrations, most of which are inspired by the natural world. We wanted the books to be portable, to fit in a handbag or on a bedside table without compromising any of the design or production quality.
I think part of the appeal is that colouring acts as a kind of digital detox. Most of us spend the majority of our days in front of screens of one type or another, constantly refreshing and flicking between devices. But, even though it’s proven to increase our anxiety levels, going cold turkey on tech can be really difficult. It creeps into all areas of our life. We’ve all heard about the benefits of mindfulness, but it can be quite difficult to get your head round exactly what that means in practice. Activities like colouring are really helpful in encouraging busy minds to focus and draw attention. Colouring in an illustration is sufficiently distracting and allows you to simultaneously focus and switch off from the stresses of every day. And, it’s surprisingly satisfying, too.
There is very little opportunity to do something creative and to feel that sense of satisfaction that comes from producing something of real beauty. And people are proud of the designs they are creating and sharing them on Facebook and Pinterest. There are even colouring groups, like knitting circles, where people meet up and colour. There’s a nostalgia to it. I remember that quiet focus I felt when I was in school surrounded by paper, pencils, some pipe cleaners and maybe a pot of glitter if there was any left after you spilt it on the floor trying to open it. Colouring books have become an accepted way to replicate that feeling for grown ups, and I wholeheartedly approve.
Jane Sturrock is Non-Fiction Editorial Director at Quercus Books. The Little Book of Colouring series is available to buy online here.