- Associated Press - Sunday, January 24, 2016

TEXARKANA, Ark. (AP) - A time-honored, youthful pastime has found new hands to shade the shapes with colors of all sorts, whether through pencils, crayons or markers.

Adults are coloring in coloring books. It’s a hobby not just for kids anymore. Peruse a contemporary bookstore and you’re likely to find racks and rows of what previously seemed like simple fun. Now, it can be anything but simple. Coloring books are made for adults now, just as they’ve been for kids, and these new books feature intricate, elaborate designs.

Animal patterns, mandalas, paisleys, nature imagery, vintage shapes, flowers, gardens, Japanese themes_even books titled “Heroines of the Old Testament,” ”Lost Ocean” and “Color Yourself Calm” or “Color Me Stress-Free.” They indicate the full range of what’s out there with this latest fad. You can color almost anything.

Andrew Martin, a Books-A-Million manager, says the trend remains strong for these books. “Especially here recently the pop culture-related coloring books have picked up. We’ve been selling a lot of the Harry Potter coloring book, Game of Thrones, Sherlock, Star Wars,” he said.

The Texarkana Gazette (https://bit.ly/1OJs7dN ) reports that he’s unsure what ushered in the coloring book craze, but he suspects it could have something to do with the mindfulness trend. Zendoodle books were popular right before this trend took off, too.

“Because it’s a good way to kind of just zone out, get some Zen space,” Martin said. “I really don’t know what started it. But it’s here and it’s staying for a while, I really think so.” He’s seen more female customers get into it, but men have also taken up crayons.

“It’s also a lot of variety in age, as well. We have a lot of older customers coming in. We have a lot of younger customers coming in,” Martin said. All sorts of ages, demographics. “It’s kind of across the board.”

He’s noticed inspirational books sell well. Talking about it this past week, he’d just pulled books with angel patterns from the day’s shipment. Tattoo books are also popular. Tear-out postcards to color are on the shelves, too.

“The ones that sell the best are definitely the really intricate ones, too, for sure,” Martin said. Books-A-Million in Texarkana also supplies colored pencils sets, which sold out before Christmas.

The coloring books display is prominent, right up-front in the store. They started at the back in magazines but the display grew. “We’ve got them everywhere,” Martin said.

A new member to the coloring book-crazed club is local pastor Mindy Faith Zwirn. She’ll even color at Chapelwood United Methodist Church, where she pastors. But she does not indulge while preaching, she’s quick to say. For Christmas, coloring books were welcome presents.

“I think I was happier to receive coloring books than I’ve ever been to receive a piece of technology,” Zwirn said, adding that there’s something about mandalas and abstract designs that “takes you away from everything.”

As someone with a complicated career and life, coloring is soothing and takes her away from the stress of it all. “You have no choice but to focus on what you’re doing,” said Zwirn, whose Christmas haul included one prized gift: a Star Wars mandala coloring book.

She’s always colored, but she’s happy to see this trend develop with coloring books specifically for adults. It revived her interest. She used to have Celtic knot work coloring books before the trend developed. Are her friends and family into it now?

“As long as they’re sitting in my living room they are,” Zwirn said. And as a pastor, she likes having a finite task to complete, something hard to find in the ministry.

“Pastors can never see the end of anything,” she quipped. Coloring books give her something to complete, a project to finish.

Like Zwirn, April Phillips has always been into coloring, off and on since she was a youngster who enjoyed art. When her kids came along, she’d join them. For her, coloring performs a soothing function in her life.

“Some people have painting and painting relaxes them,” Phillips says. In coloring, she gets lost in the moment. Bills and dinner? Nope, not when coloring; they fall away for the time being.

“In that moment, you’re just creating something,” Phillips said. It’s physical, too, because she’s doing something with her hands and arms, just as painters may find soothing the act of painting.

When she started seeing adult coloring books in the stores, it was a welcome sight because she was ready to ditch the My Little Pony or SpongeBob designs. Her boys even like the adult ones. “They find those more interesting,” Phillips said, because there’s more detail, more to do.

Her love for coloring extends to those velvet coloring books, too, and working on 1,000-piece puzzles also provides the same sort of fulfillment, getting her lost in what she’s doing. She knows that’s sort of old school. “I’m old fashioned that way,” she admits.

One Texarkana-area artist has been asked to make coloring books from his art. Gabrielle Bachers’ husband Gary is one of the most accomplished of local artists, rendering flowers, trees and moons with dreamlike grace and wonder. He travels the country selling his art. His designs evoke mandalas and feature symmetrical depictions.

“I think it’s interesting,” Gabrielle said of the fad, but she’s not sure if it will last or if she and Gary will ever turn his art into a coloring book.

“Don’t you think that everyone is trying to find quiet in this crazy world?” she wonders. Coloring may provide a place to hide in a media-saturated age, she suspects. She sees a similarity between her husband’s work process and what people may yearn for with these new coloring books.

“Gary’s work is very peaceful and when they’re asking for a coloring book, they’re trying to get in the same place he is,” Bachers said.

Coloring books for adults: taking us to a place where, judging by the sales and rapt, child-like attention devoted to them, we long to be.

___

Information from: Texarkana Gazette, https://www.texarkanagazette.com

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