Friday, August 07, 2015

Experts Warn Adult Coloring Books Are Not Art Therapy

As an art therapist and author of adult coloring books, I anticipated this subject being broached at some point, especially since some coloring books are titles with "Art Therapy" in their name.  Coloring most definitely has its benefits, in allowing people to de-stress and calm themselves in an easily accessible manner.  But as I have made clear in many interviews, coloring is good for everyday maintenance, but it is not clinical art therapy and is not a substitute for professional help when needed.


 Sarah Cascone, Friday, August 7, 2015

An adult coloring book. Photo: Passion for Pencils, YouTube screenshot.
An adult coloring book. 
Photo: Passion for Pencils, YouTube screenshot.

Experts are questioning the therapeutic benefits of adult coloring books, one of 2015's biggest and perhaps most-unexpected art trends, widely touted for its stress-relieving benefits.

According to Jo Kelly, president the Australian and New Zealand Arts Therapy Association, however, adult coloring books are no replacement for an in-the-flesh art therapist.

"An arts therapist is a qualified, trained individual who helps people and uses creative processes," insisted Kelly to ABC. She admits that by encouraging people to set time aside for their own enjoyment, adult coloring books have their benefits, "but to sort of suggest that it's a sort of creative art expression, you're actually using other people's designs—why not make your own?"

Color Me Stress Free. Photo: courtesy Race Point Publishing.
Color Me Stress Free. 
Photo: courtesy Race Point Publishing.

Publisher's Weekly traces the current popularity of coloring books for adults back to 2012, when Art-thérapie: 100 Coloriages anti-stress, by Hachette Pratique, was published in France. The first book to really hit the mainstream, however, was Johanna Basford's Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt & Coloring Book, currently Amazon's number one best-seller in self-help books.

The follow-up from the so-called "queen of coloring," Enchanted Forest, was released in February, and a third volume, Lost Ocean, is slated for an October release. Even fantasy author George R.R. Martin is getting in on the action, with plans to release a Game of Thrones coloring book.

"We've never seen a phenomenon like it in our thirty years of publishing. . . . Just can't keep them in print fast enough," Lesley O'Mara, the managing director Michael O'Mara Books, which has no less than 24 adult coloring book titles, told the New Yorker.

An illustration from Johanna Basford's Enchanted Forest. Photo: Johanna Basford.
An illustration from Johanna Basford's Enchanted Forest. 
Photo: Johanna Basford.

The San Jose Mercury News recently counted coloring books as part of an "ever-growing list of kid things co-opted by adults (video games, mini golf, Legos, Pez dispensers)," but adult coloring books are often marketed based on their therapeutic value.

There is Color Therapy: An Anti-Stress Coloring Book, and Adult Coloring Book: Stress Relieving Patterns, Amazon's top seller in Graphic Design Color Use. The Zen Coloring Book series, which includes Color Me Happy and Color Me Calm, is actually authored by art therapist Lacy Mucklow, with art by Angela Porter.

"We imagined the books would appeal to adults looking to relax. But we never expected the responses we've received from people battling serious medical conditions," editorial director Jeannine Dillon told PW of the Zen series, which sold over 275,000 copies over just six months this year.

Susanne Fincher, art therapist and author of the Coloring Mandalas series, sees coloring books as a useful supplement to art therapy treatment. They "can empower a client to manage thoughts and feelings on their own with the positive activity of coloring, instead of, for example, overeating or abusing substances," she said to CNN.

Coloring a postcard by adult coloring book queen Johanna Basford. Photo: Susan Tripp Pollard, courtesy Bay Area News Group.
Coloring a postcard by adult coloring book queen Johanna Basford. 
Photo: Susan Tripp Pollard, courtesy Bay Area News Group.

The PTSD Survivors of America, in particular, have embraced the trend, hosting a nationwide "Color Across America for PTSD Awareness" event on August 2, National Coloring Book Day.

Erin Maynard, the organization's president, credits coloring books with counteracting the hyperactivity of the region of the brain called the amygdala, which controls the fear response. "Coloring actually reduces the activity of the amygdala, so that's part of the reason that it helps calm you down," she told the Lancaster Bee.

"Adult coloring is absolutely a growing trend and consumers are really taking to the idea," Matthew Lore, of the Experiment publishing group, which released The Mindfulness Colouring Book in January, said to CNN. "Not only is it calming and good for your health, it's just fun!"

But how much can coloring books really do for your mental well-being?

"It's a nice technique really that some art therapists sometimes use as a way to get started with someone, but art therapy is a lot more involved than that," Jane O'Sullivan, who runs the masters in mental health program at the University of Queensland warned ABC. "I think if someone was to say coloring-in books are art therapy, [that] is not accurate."

Follow artnet News on Facebook.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Carl Jung’s Psychological Diagnosis Using Mandalas

Here is an interesting article from Fractal Enlightenment that talks about Carl Jung and his use of mandalas in his personal and professional practice:

Mandalas have been used in many ancient cultures like Buddhism, Hinduism, Native American, Australian Aboriginal as a symbol of the universe and wholeness. Literally speaking, mandala is a geometrical form – a square or a circle – abstract and static, or a vivid image formed of objects and/or beings. It’s a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our connection with the infinite. 

Interestingly, Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist, explored the psychological effects of mandalas, while studying Eastern religion. He is credited with introducing the Eastern concept of the mandala to Western thought and believed its symbolic of the inner process by which individuals grow toward fulfilling their potential for wholeness. 

According to Jung, “In such cases it is easy to see how the severe pattern imposed by a circular image of this kind compensates the disorder of the psychic state– namely through the construction of a central point to which everything is related, or by a concentric arrangement of the disordered multiplicity and of contradictory and irreconcilable elements. This is evidently an attempt at self-healing on the part of Nature, which does not spring from conscious reflection but from an instinctive impulse.” 

Jung used mandalas in his psychotherapy by getting patients, who had no knowledge of it, to create individual mandalas. This enabled him to identify emotional disorders and work towards wholeness in personality. 

He realised there was a great deal of similarity in the images they created. “In view of the fact that all the mandalas shown here were new and uninfluenced products, we are driven to the conclusion that there must be a transconscious disposition in every individual which is able to produce the same or very similar symbols at all times and in all places. Since this disposition is usually not a conscious possession of the individual I have called it the collective unconscious, and, as the basis of its symbolical products, I postulate the existence of primordial images, the archetypes.” 

Mandala is like a design that triggers something within us, a sacred geometry in which we recognise our self and our place in the cosmos. It is an ancient and fundamental relationship from which we have strayed and the mandala is the key that can help us return to it. Especially, when the inner self is challenged by ego, harmony has to be restored. During such times, mandalas can guide you to listen to the inner voice and find yourself. Like Jung stated, “It became increasingly plain to me that the mandala is the center. It is the exponent of all paths. It is the path to the center, to individuation.” 

Mandalas represent connection with the infinite

Carl Jung's first mandala

Carl Jung’s first Mandala

Read more at: |

A great deal of Jung's psychotherapy dealt with the 
interpretation of individual mandalas created by his patients.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Happy National Coloring Day!

By Amy Kuperinsky | NJ Advance Media for
 Email the author | Follow on Twitter
 on July 31, 2015 at 10:08 AM, updated July 31, 2015 at 11:39 AM

Good news for those who grew up with elementary amusements like crayons and coloring books — you know, instead of digital doohickies like tablets and smartphones. They're ba-ack.

Just in time for the first National Coloring Book Day on August 2, coloring for adults is not only acceptable — it's trendy. Funnily enough, to those who spend most days "staying inside the lines" at work, coloring (inside the lines, or out) has proven a welcome escape.

Zen Coloring Books' 'Color Me Happy.' (Race Point Publishing) 

Though a pretty page may be the ultimate prize, the value of coloring can be found in the process itself. Many adult colorers, who are buying up these books in New Jersey and across the country, vouch for the power of the creative ritual to distract from daily stress and electronic overload.

"I view coloring as a simplified version of art therapy, almost as like a meditative behavior," says Francine Rosenberg, a clinical psychologist in Parsippany.

Of course, coloring books are historically associated with crayon-carrying children filling in pages adorned with images of their favorite cartoon characters. But Rosenberg says coloring can legitimately function as an "active" form of meditation, one that involves a physical activity, like origami or yoga.

"You're focusing on this one thing and the rest of the world starts to melt away," she says.

Since 2012, more than 3 million coloring books have been sold from Creative Haven, a line from Dover Publications, the company sponsoring the coloring book day.

Dover, a company based in Mineola, N.Y., published "Antique Automobiles Coloring Book," its first book for adults and more experienced artists, in 1970. Today, its Creative Haven collection, part of a stable of 150 coloring books, includes edgier picks like "Steampunk Designs" and "Modern Tattoo Designs." In 2014, the company published a Grumpy Cat coloring book. The tagline: "Color outside the lines? Good."

There are also classic themes like flowers and geometric shapes. Some of the pages are printed on translucent paper vellum, to mimic the look of stained glass when held up to a window. Pages are "perfed out," meaning they can easily be torn out for display, or printed on one side only, on heavier stock than the grainy coloring books of yore, says Ken Katzman, Dover's vice president of marketing.

While coloring can be a very solo activity, it can also work very well with social media — and socializing in general.

"We have thousands of people in the coloring community," Katzman says. They use hashtags to share their work on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram, as well as meet in person.

"People get together to do coloring in the way they do book clubs," he says. The sense of camaraderie in following an art directive parallels other trendy stress killers, like paint and sip studios where friends and family meet for wine and easels.

Since coloring can be such a universal activity, the range of adult colorers varies. A college student looking to unwind during final exams. A hospital patient in rehab trying to strengthen motor skills. A 9-to-5'er pouring a glass of wine after work.

People would like to be creative and they just don't know how to go about it. The work of Susan Bloomenstein, a graphic artist from Englewood, can be seen in both Creative Haven and Dover coloring books.

"I like visualizing what people can do with them," she says. She says she's noticed the surge in the popularity of the books, both on Pinterest and Instagram, where people post their finished pages, and through fan mail.

Bloomenstein says she's been wowed by how those who use her designs transform them completely, simply through the use of color and shading. All they needed was a pattern.  "People would like to be creative and they just don't know how to go about it," she says.

As for the relaxation potential of coloring, the actual idea of de-stressing is the theme of some coloring books.

One selection from Art Therapy transports its audience to an "enchanted forest," while another uses Buddha himself to guide you to artistic nirvana. Mandalas — designs of Hindu and Buddhist tradition that symbolize the universe and act as meditation aids — are a hot theme for coloring books, too. Zen-brand coloring books have titles like "Color Me Happy" and "Color Me Calm," boasting 100 pages of therapeutic scenes.

"Just on Monday, I went to see a patient in the waiting room and there she was, just coloring in a coloring book," says Francine Rosenberg, psychologist at the Morris Psychological Group in Parsippany.

That particular patient said coloring helped allay her anxiety, but Rosenberg sees the practice as a helpful tool in any effort to relax.

A Buddhism-themed coloring book from Art Therapy. (Jacqui Small LLP) 

Plus, it doesn't hurt that coloring, a mainstay of childhood, may conjure memories of more carefree times, Rosenberg says. Memories potent enough to power a wave of creative nostalgia.

"In the last six months, it's just exploded," says Lizzie Auer, a category buyer at Chicago-based Blick Art Materials.

"The number of adult coloring books that are out there right now has increased, like, tenfold. We're in the process of adding a lot right now."

For both hobbyists and more advanced artists, with adult coloring books, the more intricate the designs, the better, she says.

Katzman, from Dover Publications, says the popularity of adult coloring books spurred the company's addition of a line of Spark coloring books for children.

"Within the past few months we've been getting a lot of people coming in asking for coloring books," adds Philip D'Martino, a store associate at Blick's retail outlet in Paramus. "It started around Christmas time."

Auer says it probably helps that more adults are learning that it's socially permissible to color, and not just in idle doodle time, but on purpose, and for coloring's sake.

"Maybe they're less embarrassed about doing it," she says.

Amy Kuperinsky may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @AmyKup. Find Entertainment on Facebook.

Click below to download these coloring book pages


Labels: , ,