Sunday, July 19, 2015

What's Up With Adult Colouring Books?

                                                 Why Are Adults Buying Colouring Books?

 As a kid I don't ever recall seeing a colouring book in our house. I may have been introduced to them in school perhaps. Or maybe I don't remember, because I was never impressed by them.  They actually really made me feel very uncomfortable even then. I was encouraged to create from my own imagination, and I am very grateful for that.

Colouring books only produced anxiety within me, because I felt restricted, having to colour within the lines. I deeply sensed whatever I did, wasn't going to measure up to this already determined, stereotypical, image. The underlying unspoken message I received from these colouring books was, whatever I drew or coloured from my own imagination, wasn't good enough, and never would be.

Lately adult colouring books are being talked about in the media. I could attribute my extreme annoyance around this fact to my high blood pressure, but it's not. I find it to be an insult to creative intelligence, a real undermining and an undervaluing of creativity and imagination.

 As an young artist studying art education in University, at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, I learned first thing, about Viktor Lowenfeld, often referred to, as the 'father of art education.' The required reading was Lowenfeld's book, Creative and Mental Growth.

The research of Viktor Lowenfeld, indicates that coloring books decrease creativity from 50-60% of
children. The other 40% may be effected as well. If children continually use pre-made images, they may never be satisfied with anything they draw, because their drawings look childish, and not at all like the drawings in coloring books.

 One of Viktor Lowenfeld's  known activities, that reflected his disdain toward colouring books for children, was to pull them from store shelves, and promptly throw them on the floor, and then left the store premises. It apparently infuriated him, seeing colouring books. I empathize with his reaction and response. I haven't taken to this kind of protest...yet.

And now we have colouring books for adults. Oh ya, brilliant.
I've read a few articles about this recent phenomenon. Mostly are positive commentaries regarding the so called wonderfully therapeutic benefits of adult colouring books.

The most recent article I read from the New Yorker is the only editorial piece I have seen that clarifies the other side of the argument very succinctly, with relevant points made by Harvard Psychologist Susan Linn, and Susan Jacoby, author of "The Age of American Unreason."

Colouring books for adults are simply a money making grab by certain parties and individuals, that has become a "new mass industry", under the guise of therapy that purports to provide the benevolent service of "inspiration and artistic fulfillment". Wow! Really? In my opinion this is simply a very ill informed, distorted, and perverse view of creativity.

This is a regressive development, and only constitutes and contributes to less creative thought, and does nothing to enable, foster or nurture imagination, and certainly is not my idea of therapy, inspiration or artistic fulfillment!

 Psychologist Susan Linn states this is a "cultural shift", a reflection of a society that is "not wanting to do things that require effort".

 Susan Jacoby states we are "experiencing psychological retreat instead of developing as mature adults."


thesycamoretree said...

I'll have to respectfully disagree with you about the adult coloring books. :) I have tried for years to incorporate a sort of "Zen art" as meditation. What I ran into over and over again was people couldn't relax doing it because they were so afraid that it didn't look good (even when I told them no one would see the result). Their inner critic shot them down every time. And then I came across the coloring books of patterns and tried them. It was like magic! Even people with attention deficit problems were able to focus, and do so without any critical background noise. I suppose seeing it as "art" might be a stretch, but it has worked wonders for many people who never thought they would ever be able still their minds!

Unknown said...

And I will respectfully disagree with you Bev! lol

Colouring may be "relaxing" for some, but it is certainly no substitute for being creative, inspired or artistically fulfilled and not therapy in my opinion.

thesycamoretree said...

No, it's not therapy. Just a way to relax your mind and body. :)

Unknown said...

Bev here's an article that clarifies.

Mam said...

There is a lot of discussions about adult coloring books - the bottom line is that they are fun and simply allow those that use them to have some "me time" and just relax away from all the busy stuff in their lives. Just gives them time where they can focus on one thing and that is it - enjoy

Unknown said...

Each to their own, and as an artist, art educator and a youth care worker with youth at risk, I would never recommend colouring books for fun, me time or relaxation. I would highly recommend creative endeavours.