By Rose Chen
Adult coloring books are far from novel at this point. Introduced in the 1960s, they have been around ever since. Until recently however, the books accrued much criticism.
The first books were propaganda-motivated and mocking in theme. Published in 1962, The New Frontier Coloring Book, for instance, criticized the government’s lack of action. A drawing of a rocking chair was captioned, “This is the symbol of New Frontier. It gives a feeling of motion without getting us anywhere.” John Birch Society Coloring Book was even more controversial during the Red Scare. He included a blank page with a caption reading, “How many Communists can you find in this picture? I can find 11. It takes practice.”
In 2015, Johanna Basford changed the outlook of adult coloring. Popularity and sales of adult coloring books soared for the first time. Her books, the Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest, which composed of intricate designs, some abstract and some of detailed flowers and trees, remained bestsellers for weeks after hitting the market. Modern coloring books yield less dubious responses to their supposedly soothing abilities, but nothing is yet set in stone. Reviews on Amazon show that the effects vary from person to person.
In fact, one review said that coloring was nothing if not taxing: “Most of the pages are full of pictures that are so small I can hardly see the details to color them, which causes more stress than if I hadn’t tried to color in the first place.” The constraints of having to color in the lines can add like a project, extra work to worry about. While the effects of coloring are very individualized and not yet confirmed, the effects of art are more thoroughly investigated. Many clinics have incorporated art therapy in their treatments for dementia, anger issues and PTSD etc. There is clear evidence of improvement in patients’ behaviors. Therefore, coloring in the sense that it is a work of art is mainly beneficial.
The advantages of coloring go beyond health. It’s simple being an alternative activity is a benefit in itself. Without being strenuous, coloring engages our attention and diverts it from our phones and computers. Like any other hobby, coloring also naturally creates interaction. In many cities such as New York and Denver, people have formed coloring groups that meet at cafes and parks. Libraries and bookstores have also responded to the craze with coloring events.
Brooklyn Tech has recently took note of the trend. Librarians set out a table with coloring pages and art supplies in the front center of the library. “The coloring pages stimulate the artist within each student. While nurturing creativity, they also give a medium to work together, escape from the stress of schoolwork, and make productive use of a free period,” comments Sukhman Singh 17’, “So check it out!”