Colouring Books, Russell Brand and the End of the World

Can we talk about the fact that I just bought a colouring book for adults.  Yes, that's right - for adults.

I felt the need to justify it at the checkout because they didn't have any of the other books I wanted so this was the ONLY thing I was purchasing.

"I have a 5 years old who LOVES to colour, " I explained, "this way I'll be able to colour with her without having to colour Hello Kitty or My Little Pony.  I swear there are only so many of those you can do before you start to lose your mind."

"Actually," said the clerk, "they're really popular.  The adult colouring books have been selling so well.  I think we all miss being able to colour like we did as kids."

I nodded sagely and completed the transaction.

Hmmm, is that what these books (there are lots to choose from) are really selling?  A piece of your childhood?  Permission to play?  A path back to the part of yourself that would sit and colour a picture and see this as a worthwhile use of your time?  If so, then it would seem lots of us are saying count me in.

Just in case your adult brain needs some more convincing and you don't have the lovely excuse of a child to colour with like I do...

Here's the book I bought.


Designed by someone with more letters behind her name than I have.  (I feel like putting letters behind my name would be pretentious plus there's nothing particularly impressive about a couple of bachelor degrees).

The colouring pages are designed to be intricate and detailed enough to appeal to adult dexterity and this particular book is also supposed to be calming and meditative.  They even give you tips on how to use calming colours and a short intro on each section.  Here's the one on mandalas to give you an example:

The word "mandala" comes from a Sanskrit word meaning "circle" or "round" and has even been translated as a "container of the sacred space".  Essentially, a mandala is anything represented within a circle.  The circle shape itself is considered to be whole and uniform, and is generally perceived to be a more calming shape to draw within than more straight-edged forms.  The circular, or spherical shape is often found in nature and has been used throughout time and history as a meditative shape, especially within eastern and Native American cultures.  Even today, Buddhist monks create their intricate mandala sand patterns in public forums for others to observe.  The use of the mandala in art became especially popular after the psychologist Carl Jung incorporated it into his professional and personal lives.  While some find open mandalas and the freedom of drawing whatever they desire to be contemplative, the coloring of predesigned mandalas has been shown to help reduce anxiety, especially those mandalas with symmetrical, repetitive and/or geometirc patterns.  In this chapter, a selection of predesigned mandalas has been included for you to color, with an open mandala template at the end to design as you wish.

Not Hello Kitty is it?

If you happen to do creative work like me I think this might also count as creative cross-training.  At least it's going on my list along with playing the piano and singing in my car as loudly as possible (surprisingly cathartic that last one).

The concept of creative cross-training has been talking about in a lot of places but essentially it goes like this.  If you do something creative for work (like writing) then by pursuing other creative endeavors (painting, music, dance, etc) you can increase your creativity across the board.  And if you're a writer like me this means less chance of the hitting the dreaded writer's block - which feels more like hitting your head against a brick wall or scraping out the insides of your skull with your fingernails looking for any morsel of a good idea.  Gross.

So there you have it.  I may have just justified buying a colouring book as a work expense.

But I went home to check out the popularity of these colouring books and further ease the guilt of paying such a ridiculous price for a colouring book and found the CBC talking about it too.  They largely echo what my book says about it being calming and relaxing and what the store clerk said about it being a way to reconnect with your childhood.

Russell Brand has a rather glorious rant where he likens the adult colouring book phenomenon to a sign of the apocalypse and a form of consumeristic (apparently I just made up that word but I like it) control.  He worries that maybe if adults everywhere are too busy colouring they won't bother engaging in or paying attention to the larger world problems that actually matter.

Personally, I don't plan on colouring say...10 hours a day.  But I sort of like the Orwellian imagery of masses of people dutifully colouring, perhaps with the glow of a television in the background, oblivious to all else.  To that I would say this is no more a passive form of consumeristic (my made-up word again) escapism than say...going to the movies Mr. Brand?

But for now, when my daughter asks me to colour, I'm going to get out my adult colouring book with it's intricate mandalas and sit at the table with her, chat about her day and herald the apocalypse with shades of cerulean and apricot.

And because I know you're just dying to see what my long dormant colouring skills are's my first mandala ;)



What do you think?  A relaxing piece of childhood nostalgia or sign of the apocalypse?  Do you colour?