Adult coloring books and the creativity myth

“I love coloring! The other day, when my niece was over, I started coloring along with her in her coloring book, and I really enjoyed it. I think I’m going to order some adult coloring books soon,” declared a friend recently.

“Adult coloring book? Really?” I asked, somewhat aghast. “Why don’t you try painting instead? Keep it abstract if you like. I can teach you the basics and you’re good to go!”

“No darling, I’m not good at all that.”

There is so much more to creativity than adult coloring books. Explore art journaling with me.

And this, right here, is why I believe adult coloring books have become such a huge fad.

The idea of not being good at art or painting, combined with the pleasure of being creative without creating and de-stressing without addressing any underlying stressors is feeding the adult coloring book frenzy.

Combine this with the marketing hype, and you have people convinced that these books are also therapeutic.

Sample this blurb from The Mindfulness Coloring Book by Emma Farrarons:

Working with your hands is one of the best ways to soothe anxiety and eliminate stress. This stunning, pocket-sized colouring book offers a practical exercise in mindfulness that draws on your creativity and hones your focus.

Beautifully illustrated by Emma Farrarons, The Mindfulness Colouring Book is filled with templates for exquisite scenes and intricate, sophisticated patterns, prompting you to meditate on your artwork as you mindfully and creatively fill these pages with colour. Take a few minutes out of your day, wherever you are, and colour your way to peace and calm.

 Now, let me break this down a bit:

Working with your hands is one of the best ways to soothe anxiety and eliminate stress.

Then why not wash the dishes? You’re working with your hands, right?

This stunning, pocket-sized colouring book offers a practical exercise in mindfulness that draws on your creativity and hones your focus.

Again, washing dishes is a repetitive task that can help you empty your mind and enter the mindfulness zone.

As for a coloring book helping you to draw on your creativity, really? How? By choosing pleasing colors that go together? Surely that’s not the extent of your creativity.

I do understand my friend’s outright rejection of art, though.

I was like her until a couple of years ago {but that is a story for another day}. So I understand why so many people are thrilled with their coloring books.

I believe it’s because a majority of them have lost sight of their creativity. The act of coloring reminds adults of their childhood and their belief in their inherent creativity. And that is so important to regain!

So yes. Adult coloring books can be your training wheels. Just don’t confuse them for the real thing. Click To Tweet

If adult coloring books help to reignite your creativity, it is a good thing. But please, I implore you, progress from there! After all, even children soon tire of the restrictions of coloring books and move on to drawing instead.

And no, you really do not have to be afraid of picking up a paintbrush and paints. It might take you a little more time and effort to understand how to get your paints to interact the way you want them to, but this I can promise you: Art journaling is a much more rewarding and therapeutic practice than coloring books can ever be. Click To Tweet

It will be my pleasure to show you exactly how you can start your very own art journal. In fact, I believe so strongly in the therapeutic power of art that I created a free ebook to teach you just how to start an art journal.

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  1. I could use this, you know? I’m so stressed these days with a new project that might wreck havoc on my timeline and so many things that needs to be done at home. I need something that soothes me without appearing repetitive or something that I ‘have’ to do. By the way, I didn’t know about adult coloring books till reading this post of yours 🙂 So, thanks!

    • So here’s the thing. There are numerous ways to destress and this may be one of them. (btw – there are a lot of ways to destress that are free, soothing and not things you “have” to do – unlike coloring books, which are cashing in on a big time fad). My problem is with the way they are marketed as a “mindfulness” tool and a “creative” practice. If it helps you destress go for it! If it makes you believe coloring makes you “creative” or “mindful”, I say please stop and think. And if you believe you’re not creative, I say hooey! Everyone is creative!!

  2. i also have a copy the book The Mindfulness Coloring Book by Emma Farrarons. I have to do it and I thought it would be a great start of being mindfulness. Let me do it and get back to you with my feedback. Thanks for sharing this post.

  3. I am also guilty of feeling so and have picked up a couple of them along the way; not made much progress there yet. Sigh! maybe you are right!! I seem to have lost my creativity mojo a bit. But your artwork is amazing and very inspiring – love going through your blog posts to see what you have created next! Cheers

    • Yeah. You’re a great photographer. Let your creativity flow there. 🙂 And thanks for your kind words about my art. 🙂

  4. I have heard from some of my friends too that these are great stress busters. I really want to give it at try too… don’t know when it will happen but pretty soon..Thanks for the info 🙂

    • Drawing and painting sure are relaxing! Coloring – I’m not so convinced! I’d love to hear about the findings from your research 🙂

  5. I’ve gifted these books to people and that was the first time I came to know about these books. I completely agree with you that such books restrict creativity, I would prefer a blank notebook with a pen and take my doodler avatar !

    • Yay! Finally someone who agrees with me and is seeing what I am saying! Yes – doodling, even abstracts with a color pencil are so much more in every way!

  6. Adult colouring books are pretty much the same as kids’ colouring books but with more detailed pictures. I have finished coloring some 30 pages of Mandalas and I have a persian designs which I colored 5 of them but now with so many other things in life, adult colouring doesn’t solve any of these problems or make them go away. Rather, it supports the ideology that our problems and the way we feel can be addressed by making a purchase and doing something passive instead of engaging with the world around us.

    • Yes! I’m sure someone somewhere stumbled on this idea from kids coloring books only. And that’s my problem with adult coloring books – what you’ve said right there – that coloring a book does not make your problems go away. But a true mindful practice (that is not “glamorous” and can’t be bought from the store) like art journaling does help you to address your problems!

  7. It’s hyped. The marketing folks are in overdrive by creating jumbo colouring books which children use. But, it is also taking the focus away from kids colouring books as it’s more profitable to sell adult colouring books.

    • Yes, it is hyped! And I didn’t realize this angle. Imagine, adults taking over the children’s market. That’s how infantile people think they are! It’s really sad when people do not stop to think beyond the marketing hype.

  8. Well as a doctor I can not take the name of stress as we are “not supposed” to be stressed out..
    But ya whenever I feel heavy in my head, I just open up the newspaper or book and just reading it, that’s how I de stressed it.
    Not heared about the colouring books, but I suggest people that pish your creativity not bound it in easy things.

    • Oh my! Doctors are not “supposed” to be stressed out? I think you guys have one of the most stressful jobs. So I sure hope you guys know exactly how to deal with stress well! 🙂
      Reading is an excellent stress-buster. I’m not sure how effective the newspaper is, it gives me stress sometimes – but books, I agree wholeheartedly.
      And thank you – having a doctor support my stand feels good! Pushing your creativity is a much better stress buster than limiting it. 🙂

  9. Adult coloring is big here!! the books are mostly pre booked and they fly our of the bookshelves as soon as they are stocked. I guess people like the ease and convenience … of not drawing and just coloring as they wish. Art is therapeutic no doubt. How it is being sold by media is a whole different deal 🙂

    • Oh my! That crazy, huh? I find that they limit a person’s creativity…there are so many other things that people can do for mindfulness and creativity than color in shapes created by someone else. 🙂

  10. I know what a rage these coloring books are! Personally I find them very restricting! I prefer starting out on a blank canvas or paper and doodling away! But definitely, art in any form is the best way to destress!

    • YES! Thank you Kala! Adult coloring books are restricting, and it’s so sad that people refuse to understand just how it stunts their own creativity.

    • That’s the irony. Art is therapeutic. Therefore, the act of filling in shapes with color seems therapeutic. But it seriously limits your creativity. Art therapists also broadly agree with this. They say that adult coloring books can be used, in moderation, but they encourage their patients to move onto “original” art very soon.

  11. Pingback: Beat stress with art: intuitive painting | Modern Gypsy

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