Colouring craze for adults has descended in Malaysia, and it’s catching up fast!
Keen to unplug and return to mindfulness, adults are turning to paper and colouring pencils. As anyone who has seen an adult colouring book would know, this activity is no longer just for children. Much of its appeal is rooted in nostalgia, but it also acts as a tool for relieving stress and for relaxation.
Adult colouring books have been around for years; Dover Publications published the first book called Antique Automobiles Coloring Book in 1970. Sales were modest, and it wasn't until a couple of years ago that colouring books for adults caught on as a global trend. Dover now has hundreds of titles under its Creative Haven and Dover Masterworks series. Last year, the company celebrated the first National Colouring Book Day on 2 August.
Such is its popularity that on Amazon's bestseller list for 2015, five out of 20 books were adult colouring books. An adult colouring book, featuring mandalas and henna-inspired flowers, animals, and paisley patterns, was among the top three books sold, according to its annual post-holiday report at the end of last year. In Malaysia, MPH Online now offers 105 different titles for adult colouring books, while Popular bookstore has three racks dedicated to them.
As of October last year, Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden was reported to have sold eight million copies worldwide, with three million in Beijing alone, three months after it was published there. Unsurprisingly, with its voracious appetitie, Beijing has been dubbed the colouring capital of the world. Johanna followed up her mega-success with Enchanted Forest, which combines her trademark intricate illustrations with a built-in quest.
Illustrations in these adult colouring books are hardly childish; instead they are detailed and rich in patterns. Common themes range from flowers and animals to mandalas and geomatric shapes. Popular culture is getting into the game with Warner Bros launching adult colouring books themed on Harry Potter. Other themes include illustrations for Game of Thrones, Alice in Wonderland and Sherlock, based on the BBC drama series.
Lawyer Nadia Abu Bakar got into adult colouring books when she spotted a friend's post of a coloured-in page on Instagram. “It instantly hit me. The very next day, I purchased my first colouring book. Personally, I like colouring because there is a variety of mediums that I can experiment with, such as coloured pencils, pens or crayons,” she says.
With wanderlust in her heart, her favourite book is Colouring the World by William Sim. “As the title suggests, I like this book because I can re-colour the town that I have visited and it is a fun way to travel around the world,” she says.
Her friend, Thiya Arifin, is relatively new to the whole phenomenon, having only started on Basford's Secret Garden. “I have always loved art and it was one of my favourite subjects in school. With age and a busy life, I find it hard to take the time to draw or colour; therefore this helps to bring out the creativity in a small way,” says Thiya.
With the growing interest in adult colouring books in the country, Mushirah Mohd Yusuf, also known as Haliza, started the Malaysian sector of the Colouring for Adults Facebook group. The group, numbering almost 3,500 members, organises colouring contests and giveaways, while sharing demo videos, tips and information on new tools and books. Members who score hard-to-get colouring memorabilia get temporary bragging rights, but most are there to share information and advice. In 2015, they organised the first Colourist Gathering in Kuala Lumpur.
“Adult colouring has become the trendiest thing in the past years but countless colourists all over the world know that this activity is not a recent fad. It allows people to express their creativity, even if they feel they have limited talent and ability,” says Haliza.
For some, colouring has segued into exploring other avenues, such as creating illustrations. Olivia Julius Dunggat discovered adult colouring books in 2012 as she was browsing the Internet and stumbled across a website that was giving out free colouring pages. “The drawings were so beautiful and intricate. Needless to say, I was intrigued. We all heard about colouring books for children, but colouring books for adults? That is so cool!” she enthuses.
Having tried the sample pages, the mother of two was hooked. After colouring for several years, she recently published her first colouring book for adults, called Sarawak Tattoo Mandalas, illustrated with rich traditional motifs from her Iban culture. “I have seen a lot of beautiful designs from colouring book artists all over the world, but sadly none showcasing my people's rich traditional motifs. I took up the challenge and made my own designs, inspired by traditional Iban and Orang Ulu's tattoos.” Olivia has her own Facebook page called Coloring is Hip, where she showcases her own coloured-in pages as well as share colouring news and tutorials.
There have been some brickbats levelled against adult colouring books as a form of art therapy, but to the adults who colour, it is a fun and relaxing activity that allows them to unwind. “When I colour, I can forget my problems and just focus on the task at hand and colour away. It helps me to clear my mind. It makes me think better, which in turn helps me to solve my problems better,” says Olivia.
It was a matter of time, however, before this low-tech activity made its way onto our gadgets. Apps like Colorfy offer in-app purchases of drawings of florals, animals, patterns and mandalas, which you can then tap to colour in between the lines. The finished work can then be easily shared via social media such as Facebook and Instagram. Even Millie Marotta, of the Animal Kingdom colouring book fame, has launched an app called Millie Marotta’s Colouring Adventures.
Whether on paper or digitally, it looks like adults are going to continue to pick up their pens and colour their way to relaxation.