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Coloring not just for children anymore

BEAU CABELL/THE TELEGRAPHKristie Lanier, of Bonaire, looks at coloring books for adults at Barnes & Noble in Macon, where store managers say they're having a difficult time keeping up with the demand. Lanier said she was buying them for her two children -- ages 20 and 16 -- who are studying for final exams. "They're kind of a de-stresser," she said of the therapeutic effects.
BEAU CABELL/THE TELEGRAPHKristie Lanier, of Bonaire, looks at coloring books for adults at Barnes & Noble in Macon, where store managers say they're having a difficult time keeping up with the demand. Lanier said she was buying them for her two children -- ages 20 and 16 -- who are studying for final exams. "They're kind of a de-stresser," she said of the therapeutic effects. bcabell@macon.com

Adults are tapping into their inner child by turning a favorite childhood pastime into a grown-up hobby.

Coloring isn't just for kids anymore, and adults have their pick of thousands of detailed, complex books created just for them.

Coloring books for adults actually have been around for a couple decades, but they've found newfound popularity in the past couple years.

Binky Strickland, a retired public relations specialist from Georgia College in Milledgeville, said she and a co-worker at a radio station used to color with crayons on their lunch breaks in the 1970s.

When Strickland saw a segment on the "The Today Show" in April about Johanna Basford's "Secret Garden" adult coloring book, her interest in coloring was reawakened. Her boyfriend bought the book and some colored pencils for her birthday in September, and she's completed three pictures so far. She posted one of them on Facebook and was surprised to get feedback from more than 100 people. She said she might display the book like a coffee table book when she gets done coloring all of the pictures.

"I thought that it was relaxing and it really is, especially with the cold weather coming. But it also is very time consuming, and it's very intricate," Strickland said.

She said the coloring books are "like a long range project," and each picture can take a few days to complete.

"If you have a copy of this book, you know how intricate the designs are," she said. "They have tiny leaves and just a lot of detail. You really have to have some time to sit down and concentrate on it. ... You can color and just let your thoughts wander."

"SELLING LIKE CRAZY"

Michael Odom, store manager of Barnes and Noble in Macon, said the bookstore has carried adult coloring books for at least the eight years he has been working there. The retailer now stocks 30 to 60 different ones.

Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft in Macon began offering the books about six months ago and has 30 to 40 kinds available, store manager Robert Lumpkin said. And Katie Whelan, director of trend and design for Michaels craft store, said her company has sold them for more than a decade, but they've really taken off in the past year.

"They are selling like crazy," Whelan said. "We've seen a one-third jump in sales so far this year over last year and expect that to continue through the holidays and into next year."

Amazon.com has nearly 4,000 titles in the "Coloring Books for Grown-Ups" category, and two of them -- "Stress Relieving Patterns" by Blue Star Coloring and Johanna Basford's "Secret Garden" -- made the top 10 in the company's best-selling book list this week.

VARIETY OF THEMES

Coloring book themes range from animals, gardens, city skylines and anatomy to paisley, mandala and geometric designs to popular movies, TV shows and books. "Game of Thrones," "Harry Potter" and J.R.R. Tolkien coloring books are set to be released later this fall, and a "Doctor Who" book comes out in early 2016.

Some of the books revolve around emotions, such as the "Color Me" series authored by art therapist Lacy Mucklow and illustrated by UK artist Angela Porter. Mucklow said she chose artistic subjects that would connect people with a specific emotional response. She focused on water, wooded scenes and natural patterns for the "Color Me Calm" book and drawings of whimsical scenes, well-known art, food and babies for "Color Me Happy."

While coloring helps children with writing, hand-eye coordination, and shape and color recognition, adults are using the activity as a means to decompress, find peace and increase concentration.

"(People) find it very relaxing, and it's a very purposeful way to spend a period of time that's low stress but highly focused," Odom said.

Returning to pencil and paper can offer people a much-needed break from today's technology-driven world, said Mucklow, who has created three books in the "Color Me" series and has two more coming out.

"The repetitive motions and detailed designs help to induce a meditative state for most adults, and allows them to tune the world out for a little while as they focus on the images they are coloring," she said.

TeMika Grooms, organizer of the Coloring for Adults meetup.com group in Atlanta, said it's important for people to have a creative outlet, and coloring books are an easy way to find that. The books are cost-effective and have a high rate of artistic success, Mucklow said. Each coloring page becomes a unique piece of art, and people like that they can do this hobby anywhere they need to pass time, such as the airport or the subway, Whelan said.

"It gives each person the freedom to be creative and develop that side of themselves, as well as provides a visual, mental and emotional escape from the stresses of everyday life," Mucklow said.

Any performance anxiety that might come with sketching or drawing a picture is eliminated, since the design is already provided, Mucklow said. But on the other hand, coloring could also be the spark that encourages someone to try creating their own original artwork.

"I think it just gives people the freedom to express themselves. It allows people to be social," Grooms said. "The activity of being creative without being judged, I think that's what a lot of people are attracted to."

BONDING AND THERAPY

Mucklow said coloring books can also provide adults a unique and effective way to bond with others. Friends, communities and businesses are coordinating coloring parties, parents are coloring in their grown-up books while their kids work in simpler books, and adult children are coloring along with their older parents.

Mucklow said coloring can be therapeutic.

"We see the joy and excitement that children have when they color a book with cartoon characters that they love to see, and we tend to get away from doing things like that when we are adults, due to added responsibilities, a tight schedule or even thinking that coloring is just for kids," she said. "That could actually be the furthest from the truth, and we need to schedule self-care or 'me' time to unwind."

Coloring 101

Lacy Mucklow, author of the "Color Me" coloring book series, offered these tips on making the most of coloring as a hobby:

Schedule time to color, maybe even the same time every day.

Find a special place to color where you feel comfortable and can keep your supplies at the ready.

Figure out which materials/supplies and types of pictures you love so that you can stay focused on the task and avoid frustration.

"Color the pictures the way you want to color them; there is not right or wrong way to do it, and don't worry about what anyone else thinks."

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