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22 Mar '16

How did the adult coloring craze start anyway?

Relax, Renew, Revisit Childhood

 by Bradley K. Harris

It started out as the British Invasion, spread across the Channel to become the French Revolution, and has experienced epidemic growth in the United States. Fortunately this does not refer to war, or the 60’s musical style of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. We are talking about coloring books here….coloring books for Adults. That’s right – Adults.

When Scottish artist Johanna Basford released her amazing coloring book for adults in 2011 “Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book” (Laurence King Publishing), who would have believed it would sell close to six million copies worldwide and become a global best-seller? And when French publisher Hachette Pratique released “Art-thérapie: 100 coloriages anti-stress” in 2012, could they have envisioned their adult coloring book would sell more than three and a half million copies worldwide?  

With the help of Social Media, the Adult Coloring Book Craze has leaped across the ocean and onto Amazon’s Best-Seller list here in the United States. Fueling this phenomenon is the modern day adult’s need to Relax, Renew and Revisit Childhood. Baby boomers and adults of all ages find themselves today in the most fast-paced, constantly changing environment in the history of civilization. Is it any wonder that pharmaceutical companies and the medical profession in general have focused so greatly on stress and anxiety related illnesses over the past decade? And then comes along a stress reducer that is fun, low-cost and a remarkable therapy for children of all ages.

I once heard my 88 year old father, who still whips me on the tennis court say that his secret to great health and longevity is in not knowing how old he is. ‘I may grow older but I’ll never grow old’ has been his mantra for the past 30 years. He lives his mantra and in addition to solving cross-word puzzles, walking, tennis and wood-working, dad spends a lot of time drawing and coloring. A child at heart, a man that revisit’s childhood frequently and has remained forever young. Coloring isn’t just for the young in age anymore, but for those who seek to remain young in body, mind and spirit.

Phyllis Harris is the illustrator of over 35 children’s books and a lover of all things childhood. Throughout life, her place of peace and solitude was a return to childhood; a remembrance of simpler times. Joy filled days spent relaxing in a field of dandelions, riding a horse through sun-ripened fields of wild flowers and playing fetch with her best four-legged friend. Capturing the heart of childhood became her illustrative style in creating art for children’s books. Experiencing changes in children’s publishing 4 years ago, like many other artists and illustrators, Phyllis realized the need to reinvent herself and her business. Phyllis began focusing on creating wall art for Children’s Rooms and launched Phyllis Harris Designs in 2012. With a passion for illustration, and her love of childhood, Phyllis Harris Designs has experienced remarkable success. With her illustrations adorning thousands of children’s rooms across 6 continents, customers began asking Phyllis in early 2015 if she would consider publishing a collection of her illustrations into an adult coloring book. And that is how ‘the heART of Childhood’ was born.  Now heading into its 3rd printing in 6 months, “the heART of Childhood: A coloring book featuring the timeless art of Phyllis Harris” has garnered international success and has exceeded any expectation the artist had early on. This is just one Midwest U.S. artist’s story; and the story of many successful artists and illustrators in the United States and Europe.

When and where will the adult coloring book craze end? The answer may just be, never. Because the need to Relax, Renew and Revisit childhood will never grow old. And like my father, millions of others have found that it’s better to grow older, but never grow old.