There are few art forms as meditative, nostalgic and all-around blissful as the coloring book.
There's just something magical about the ability to transform black-and-white pages into full blown works of art, without ever once undergoing a creative meltdown in the process. The process is intuitive, carefree -- the artistic equivalent of a low-stakes game of freeze tag.
Yes, we're waxing poetic about our third grade creative outlet of choice, the unassuming booklet of canvases that turns even the most reticent of artists into budding creative spirits. And although most practitioners of this enchanting art form haven't yet hit puberty, there are ways for adults to participate in the glorious art of the coloring book. Enter Johanna Basford, the intrepid soul behind two adult coloring books, Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest, spreading the gospel of the coloring book to aspiring artists of a certain age.
Basford, a commercial illustrator based in the UK, modeled her first book The Secret Garden after the Brodick Castle Gardens on the Isle of Arran, on the West Coast of Scotland. "My grandfather was the head gardener there so we spent every summer and Christmas there," she wrote to The Huffington Post. "The formal rose gardens of the castle, the Bavarian summer house and lily studded ponds were wonderful places to play as a child; a great place to cultivate a wild imagination!"
Dubbing herself an "inky illustrator," Basford uses monochromatic lines to create wild naturescapes waiting to be filled with vitality. "The artwork is all super intricate with lots of hidden little details such as rogue butterflies and curious squirrels to find in the pages. There’s a list of things to find at the front of the book making it an inky treasure hunt of sorts!"
Judging by Basford's success, we'd say adults are hungry for a creative outlet like this. The artist has sold over one million copies of Secret Garden worldwide, which has been translated into over 14 different languages. There's something undeniably accessible about the semi-blank pages of a coloring book that provides the training wheels so many budding artists crave. "I think everyone has a creative spark, they just need the opportunity to let it flourish. A blank sheet of paper can be daunting, but a coloring book has the outlines already there, making it easier to pick up a pencil and begin making your mark. I think of the coloring books as collaborations, I create the artwork and the owner of the book brings the color."
Basford isn't the first person to catch on to the de-stressing benefits of coloring. Since the early 20th century, psychologists including Carl Jüng have preached the tranquil advantages of the technique.
"Being 'in flow' or immersed in a task like coloring seems to help soothe many people, from investment bankers to busy mums," Basford added. "Some time spent with the simple task of adding color to the page and creating something beautiful really seems to appeal to people. There’s also the nostalgia factor. Chances are last time you spent an hour or so coloring in you didn’t have a mortgage and you weren’t worried about a nagging boss or the financial crisis! Coloring in seems to help people think about a time when life was simpler and more carefree."
Consider trading in your yoga mat for a set of markers and peruse the gorgeous gardens of Basford's imagination below.