The words that you’re reading now are black and are on white paper, but the story that they narrate is about colours, and their re-entry in our lives. If you thought it was only children who feel ecstatic on seeing a pack of crayons or water colours, you’ll be surprised to know that some adults couldn’t hide their joy, when some publishers recently in India introduced adult colouring books.
Some might think what’s great about having a colouring book for adults, and how different is it from a colouring book for children? Udayan Mitra, associate publisher, Penguin Random House India says, “There isn’t a fundamental difference, but adult colouring books are typically built around a theme that might appeal to a general readership, and require more focused, meticulous work in colouring the illustrations, which are more intricate and detailed than children’s colouring books. Also, it has been a trend to have thematic adult colouring books as this enables customers to pick a colouring book on a subject that appeals to them. Some of the most popular themes have been gardens, seascapes, landscapes, cityscapes, mandalas, etc.”
While Penguin has come up with titles such as The Sita Colouring Book by Devdutt Pattanaik and Bagh-e-Bahar (A Mughal Garden); Hachette India has introduced Dream Cities: Colouring for Calm, and Secret Japan; Harper Collins India has brought Game of Thrones to India whereas Mills and Boons has compiled sketches of its various covers.
“Children are given colouring books to streamline their fine motor skills,” says Dr Sandeep Govil, senior consultant in psychiatry. For adults, he says colouring books act as a diagnostic tool and are therapeutic. He says, “Depression, anxiety and stress are all due to the chemical imbalance in brain. It is to set it right that one is often advised to exercise. Alternatively, one can practice colouring too. The positive effects of colour therapy are proven.”
There are different books for different purposes. Take for instance the Giant Mandalas – a book of 21 poster-sized mandalas for meditation and relaxation. “Colouring books are great relaxing tools and also practice mindfulness owing to the nature of the books – the fine detailed drawings that need to be filled in carefully. The process is therapeutic and reader feedback is that it is meditative for them. Whatever be the subject of the colouring book – whether it is mandalas or foliage or floral patterns – the process of colouring and why people reach out for these books remains the same,” says Poulomi Chatterjee, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Hachette India.
Dr Govil explains that a particular colour or pattern stimulates a particular area of the brain. “While geometric patterns might have a different effect on you, colouring paisleys and petals will have a completely different outcome,” he adds.
However, artist-curator Alka Raghuvanshi feels these colouring books are nothing but “A complete killer of creative impulse.” She says that comic books for adults are still understandable because they evoke a different dimension of our imagination. “But a colouring book for adults is dishonest to the art of colouring. If one has to, do it freehand and after practice, eventually one will become better. We are surrounded by beautiful art, but we are just not focused on it. There is art even on the walls and floors of homes in small towns, but in cities, we don’t see it…”
Is this the reason why we need printed books to revive what we have forgotten?