Coloring is an activity that many people would associate with childhood, but recently the activity has found a different demographic. Adult coloring books are topping bestsellers’ list worldwide, but it is not simply due to the enjoyment of the activity. Medical researchers have studied the therapeutic properties that the simple act of coloring in a drawing can provide; these health benefits include a decrease in stress and anxiety. And there are a wide variety of books available, including those dedicated to steampunk.
There is a very important distinction between creating unique works of art and the process of coloring in books that should be acknowledged right from the start. “It’s like the difference between listening to music versus learning how to play an instrument,” Donna Betts, president of the board of the American Art Therapy Association, explains. “Listening to music is something that everyone can do, but playing an instrument is a whole other skillset” (as qtd. in Schwedel, 2015). Indeed, researchers have studied the difference between creating a unique work of art versus coloring in a drawing with crayons or pencils, and the results are impressive.
Dr. Stan Rodski, a neuropsychologist who has created his own line of adult coloring books, explains that the act of coloring causes a relaxed mindset, similar to what a person could achieve with meditation. Coloring allows adults to focus on the moment and the task at hand. Tasks with predictable results, like coloring, can often be calming. In a study that monitored the effects of coloring on brainwaves, respiration, and heart rate, Rodski monitored the physical effects the act of coloring had on adult subjects:
“The most amazing things occurred — we started seeing changes in heart rate, changes in brainwaves,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, adding the positive neurological response comes from three key elements—the repetition, patterns, and detail associated with coloring” (as qtd. in Carter, 2015). The practice also stimulates brain areas related to motor skills, the senses, and creativity.
The Steampunk Connection
There are many different types of adult coloring books available. The Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book is on bestselling lists in both North America and Europe. Niche areas in this have sprung up, and steampunk coloring books and sheets are available. Several books have sample pages online, such as Nick Snels’s The Steampunk Coloring Book.
There are also several shops on Etsy, like Whimsical Publishing, that sell individual pages. There are events and groups focused on adult coloring books that meet on a regular basis. If you are interested, you can find more information at Cleverpedia: http://cleverpedia.com/coloring-meetups/
Emma Farrarons, author of the best-selling The Mindfulness Coloring Book, explains “It’s really nice to think that something that is just pen and paper — really basic like that — is so appealing. I think that might be it. We’re going back to basics” (as qtd. in Roy, 2015). Perhaps this idea of “going back to basics” is why the practice appeals to so many steampunk enthusiasts as well.
Disclaimer: I am not associated with any of these authors or products.
Carter, J.S. (2015). The science behind adult coloring books. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/booksandarts/why-are-australian-adults-drawn-to-colouring-in-books/6750808
Roy, J. (2015). Meet the adults who love to color. New York Magazine. Retrieved from http://nymag.com/thecut/2015/05/meet-the-adults-who-love-to-color.html#
Schwedel, H. (2015). Coloring books for adults: we asked therapists for their opinions. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/aug/17/coloring-books-adults-therapists-opinions