Not so long ago, an adult filling in a colouring book on the MRT may have made it onto the “Singapore Seen” section of a certain citizen journalism website. A full-grown person wielding coloured pencils and a book full of line drawings instead of a smartphone screening a Korean drama? Waaaay weird.
But since Scottish illustrator Johanna Basford published her beautifully detailed Secret Garden in 2013 (which sold out after topping Amazon’s list of bestsellers – as did her second colouring book, Enchanted Forest, released earlier this year), colouring has become officially cool.
Why? According to medical experts, the simple activity helps us destress and relax by drawing our focus to the task at hand. It also “comforts us, gives us peace and lets us enjoy ourselves; even temporarily frees us from daily pressures,” notes the psychologist Luis Rojas Marcos in the preface of the colouring book Coloreitor by Spanish cartoonist Forges.
Celebs like Girls’ Generation’s Taeyeon have also boosted the trend by posting about it on social media.
So it’s no surprise that colouring is taking off in stressful Singapore too. At Books Kinokuniya, sales of colouring books have been “exponential and raging like wildfire since the beginning of this year, when Basford crossed the tipping point with her Instagram post on Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest”, says store and merchandising director Kenny Chan. More than 25,000 copies of the English edition of Secret Garden have been sold in Kinokuniya here alone.
To feed demand, the store now stocks over 100 titles of colouring books, including editions in French, Chinese and Japanese. Besides Basford’s works, other bestsellers include Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom and Tropical World, Time Garden by Korean artist Dara Song Ji-hye, Secret Paris by French artist Zoe de Las Cases and Colouring the Lion City, shares Chan.
The last, a local bestseller by artist William Sim, is Singapore’s first adult colouring book to be published here and is made up of illustrations of Singapore icons and places. Publisher Marshall Cavendish says its first run of “a few thousand copies” flew off the shelves within a month; a second run is on its way.
All those numbers point to one thing: Colouring books are working their magic on adults, whether that be helping to soothe a frazzled mind or transporting them on a trip down memory lane. Time to cancel that appointment with your psychiatrist – and pencil one in with a colouring book instead.