Sunday, April 17, 2016

Who says coloring is for kids?

If any of you are like me, school can stress you out and you look for any way to escape it. For a lot of people this is where the Netflix binging comes in or where your apartment suddenly becomes spotless, but for others, they color! This is no longer an activity attributed to little kids for occupying their time, but a big stress reliever for adults too. I know when I was looking for Christmas gifts this past winter, this was one of the number one items to get adults.

One artist that has been instrumental in this movement is Johanna Basford. Though she is a paid illustrator, she also doodles in her free time and found that there were plenty of people who were interested in coloring her doodles. She had put some of her doodles online for people to use as wallpapers and was approached by a publishing company to use her drawings for children's coloring books, but she took them in a different direction: adults. She has always believed that people have a creative spark within them, but that some need more of a direction than others. A coloring book is much less daunting than a blank page can be.

Johanna doodled solely because of the intrinsic motivation of the joy that she gained from her creations and freely shared her creativity with those online. This motivation allowed her to collaborate with a publishing company that loved her work and saw that clearly she did too. She states that she gains motivation for her different coloring books through fond memories of visiting her grandfather who was the head gardener at Scotland's Brodick Castle Gardens.

As it has been stated by Collins and Amabile, "creativity is motivated by the enjoyment and satisfaction that a person derives from engaging in the creative activity." Johanna delights in her work as she speaks on how she even enjoys coloring her own coloring books and enjoys collaborating with the people who color her books. Speaking on the collaboration, she says "I create the artwork and the owner of the book brings the color." On her website, she has colorers upload their creations and even picks the ones that she loves the most to post to her Facebook page. Clearly she is now paid to illustrate, but the dedication that she has to her fans and the love of creating the pictures shows how obviously she loves her profession and creations.

If you are interested in your own adult coloring book, you can find them at

Collins, M. A., & Amabile, T. M. (1999). Motivation and creativity. In Robert J. Sternberg (Ed.) Handbook of Creativity. New York: Cambridge University Press.


  1. I absolutely LOVE this article! I own one of Johanna Basford's coloring books, and it was nice to see the behind the scenes and creative element of it. I think it is important to take a step back and color, and like you said, it's not just for children anymore! I have heard many complaints, though, about adult coloring books being "too detailed" and "hard to color." To my understanding, the reason why children's coloring books have much larger spaces to color is because they do not have the fine motor skills to color within the lines. To help prevent error, the spaces are much larger. On the other hand, adults have the fine motor skills needed to color within the lines, so the added detail of adult coloring books puts that to the test. Instead of carelessly coloring in a 4inx4in space with one color, you are challenged to fill .2inx.2in spaces individually. This also helps one focus on the action, which, thus, helps one clear their mind. This is how the therapeutic element of adult coloring plays in! Adult coloring is great, and more people should take a break and do it. It could definitely help clear your mind! Maybe one of us will end up on Johanna Basford's facebook page!

  2. I think it is interesting you mention the intrinsic motivation of Basford, but I couldn't help but think of the motivation of the everyday adults coloring the pictures too. Although the college student or stressed-out mother coloring in a coloring book is no Big-C creative, they definitely have motivations to color--or else they wouldn't be doing it in their free time! I think this really stresses just how satisfying the creative process itself can be. People at home have to pay, rather than are paid, to take part in this creative experience, which requires even more intrinsic motivation than even Basford. While there are many who choose to watch Netflix, as you say, there is something equally relaxing in creating. Thank you for this fun post!

  3. I really enjoyed reading this. As a person that indulges in coloring to help relieve stress, I really related to this and it was definitely interesting to learn about the person on the other side of the page that does the drawings. I agree with her that sometimes people needed to be pushed a little and the creativity sparks. You did a great job talking about the creative person behind this and the process that they went through to create this. You also touched upon the whole reason she did this. You did a great job of incorporating some topics from the reading. After reading this, I will be looking into it and maybe purchasing one for myself!

  4. I, too, was so excited to see this post! I also own one of Johanna Basford's coloring books and greatly enjoy de-stressing in this way. It's funny Natalie mentioned the complaints about adult coloring books being "too detailed" and her insight into how this "detail" can actually help the adult colorer to focus in on what they are doing. The other day in my Mental Health Clinical Rotation I had the chance to sit in on outpatient group therapy for patients with a history of substance abuse. The focus of this class was what they referred to as "grounding." The idea of grounding was to find something simple a person can do when confronted with emotions that are difficult to deal with, personal triggers, or the urge to use their drug of choice. This group therapy was beneficial for many members in aiding with examples of something simple to bring a person back to a stable mindset. While not everyone may have as many stressors as a person trying to overcome substance abuse every day, the use of grounding, in something such as an adult coloring book, can prove a healthy outlet for many.

    I also found Basford's intrinsic motivation and love to create very inspiring. I'm so glad that she was able to share and spread her joy of creativity, so that we can each take a part in enjoying it!

  5. This was really interesting to read! I too do enjoy coloring books as a way to de-stress from the day. I did not know about Johanna Basford's history, and learning about her motivation was fascinating. Adult coloring books are not something that most people would have considered to be a logical investment, but obviously Basford has found a market. Even if it is one that no one knew had existed. I am curious if other activities that are considered to be aimed for children will make the transition towards adults.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.