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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Coloring in tiny circles, triangles, squares and other odd shapes is the latest fad adults are using to escape from grown-up responsibilities.

Adult coloring books have exploded in popularity, with many varieties available at local bookstores. (Dean Hanson/Journal)

Adult coloring books have exploded in popularity, with many varieties available at local bookstores. (Dean Hanson/Journal)

Adult coloring books have flooded retail stores around the country, including local bookstores and larger retailers like Hastings, Target, Barnes & Noble and Michael’s.

According to the Amazon website, several adult coloring books were among its bestselling books in 2015. Currently an adult coloring book sits in the number one slot and four others occupy the top 10.

Bookworks co-owner Wyatt Wegrzyn said he can understand the appeal of the books. He said coloring is relatively easy and accessible to almost anyone.

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“There’s a lot of ways to take a break from life – exercising, watching TV, drinking or smoking,” he said. “Now this. What happens when you color is you are only focused on this one activity.”

The coloring books range from nature to shapes to themes such as Day of the Dead and Harry Potter. The books feature intricate patterns, with one page taking an hour or more to complete. They can be colored with pencils, markers or crayons and most books feature coloring examples and tips.

‘Self-soothing’

Licensed professional art therapist Lisa Graff said in the 10 years she’s been practicing she’s seen an increase in patients with anxiety disorders. She said coloring can help people deal with anxiety and she sometimes suggest her clients try coloring.

From left, Sally LaFaver and Kathleen Dull, the Cherry Hills adult services librarian, color using pencils and markers. The library provided the supplies and the coloring pages for the inaugural meetings of the adult coloring group. (Marla Brose/Journal)

From left, Sally LaFaver and Kathleen Dull, the Cherry Hills adult services librarian, color using pencils and markers. The library provided the supplies and the coloring pages for the inaugural meetings of the adult coloring group. (Marla Brose/Journal)

“The repetitive movement with the hands is very self-soothing,” she said. “It’s almost meditative.”

In addition, she said she thinks coloring books are so popular because they offer structure.

“Some people are afraid to do art on their own because they think they aren’t good enough,” she said. “There is less chance for failure when using a coloring book.”

Although Scottish artist Johanna Basford didn’t invent the concept of adult coloring, it was her book “Secret Garden” that launched the fad, according to local book aficionados.

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She has since created other books. According to her website, she does all the drawings in her books by hand as opposed to using a computer program.

Basford was creating images for clients such as H&M, Hallmark, Absolut Vodka and Starbucks before publishing adult coloring books. The images in “Secret Garden” feature various scenes of nature as does her work for her big-name clients.

“My creativity is cultivated by a curious imagination and a delight in the fantastic,” she says on her website. “Much of my work has roots in the flora and fauna that surrounded me growing up on my parent’s fish farm in rural Scotland.”

First bestseller

Colored pencils are available during an adult coloring group meeting at Cherry Hills Library. (Marla Brose/Journal)

Colored pencils are available during an adult coloring group meeting at Cherry Hills Library. (Marla Brose/Journal)

Wegrzyn said adult coloring books have been around for a long time but were not extremely popular until Basford’s book came along.

He said he’s not sure why that one coloring book caught the attention of so many people but it was selling so fast, even the publisher was having trouble keeping it in stock.

“Everybody wanted it but then nobody could get it,” he said. “It was phenomenal. Even the distributor was out of stock three or four times. They never had enough.”

The store has even started an adult coloring club that meets the second Monday of every month at 6 p.m. The group was organized by Connie Griffin, who said she got the idea from a customer who called in looking for “Secret Garden.”

“She suggested ‘Wouldn’t that be fun to have a coloring group?'” Griffin said. “I said yes. It would.”

The club started six months ago and Griffin said she was wringing her hands during the first meeting because nobody was speaking to each other. She kept trying to start a conversation and her efforts fell flat.

“I was nervous,” she said. “People were virtually silent. Then I looked around and realized it’s because they were all concentrating.”

The informal meetings fluctuate between four to eight participants, and not always the same people. Griffin said she no longer worries about the silence and realizes people are still being social just not in a verbal way.

Coloring in groups

Retired North Valley resident Judy Schaab said she started coloring about six months ago.

“It’s a de-stressor,” she said. “And it’s fun.”

She colors for about an hour every few days and sometimes attends the meetings at Bookworks. She said she enjoys seeing what other people are coloring and learning about their techniques.

Displayed on the walls of the Cherry Hills Library are pictures colored by the staff. Many libraries around town have started offering adult coloring book meetings. (Marla Brose/Journal)

Displayed on the walls of the Cherry Hills Library are pictures colored by the staff. Many libraries around town have started offering adult coloring book meetings. (Marla Brose/Journal)

Sandra M. Williams, the community manager for the Barnes & Noble in Coronado, said adult coloring books were one of the most purchased items this holiday season, with the most popular being Harry Potter. The store has also seen an increase of sales of markers, colored pencils and crayons.

She noticed an increased interest, she said, in February 2015 when customers, like at other stores, started buying up “Secret Garden” faster than the store could stock it. She said the trend continues gaining momentum.

“The publishers just keep sending more and more titles,” she said. “The interest has expanded.”

Even the city and county library system is getting in on the fun. Several branches have started holding free coloring groups once or twice a month, including the Cherry Hills branch in northeast Albuquerque.

Kathleen Dull, the adult services librarian at Cherry Hills, said her branch had its first adult coloring book meeting Jan. 2 and plans to do it the first Saturday and third Tuesday of every month. The library provides all the materials including the coloring pages.

“There has been a groundswell of interest,” she said. “A few other branches have tried this and are getting a good response.”

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