What I’m Going to Say May Sound Indelicate: Adult Coloring

Posted 27 February, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in musings

adult coloring, really?

Confession time. I don’t get this adult coloring craze (or the crazy day planner thing for that matter). I’ve tried. My boss bought me the Art Therapy Star Wars coloring book for Christmas, and even my love of Star Wars can’t make me get into it. My favorite page is this one full of Yodas (the only page I’ve come even close to making any real progress on) that one of my best good friends J. and I colored while waiting for a verdict to come back (guilty on all counts, yay me!).

yoda coloring

Now, what I’m going to say may sound indelicate, is adult coloring the death of women’s intellectualism and creativity? It’s clearly been branded a ‘woman thing‘ and we are eating up the marketing like no one’s business (or perhaps more accurately big business). Now, I’ve seen the countless articles on how allegedly therapeutic it can be. But the fact is, that the science doesn’t seem to be there to support it.

“Some people are adamant that coloring books are a path to mindfulness, meditation and some kind of psychological nirvana,” Malchiodi said over the phone. “I find that many of the loudest proponents are actually those that create the coloring books.”

-Cathy Malchiodi, art therapist

The Guardian

So back to the death of women’s intellectualism and creativity, I certainly consider myself a work-a-holic in a relatively high-stress profession. What did women used to do to de-stress? I contend they used to read. They used to knit, crochet, play piano, and yes, create art through painting, drawing, sketching, or even doodling. They used to write. Work crossword puzzles. Now. We’re coloring. I’m not saying that moms and work-a-holics alike aren’t still doing these things, but for every hour we devote to coloring is an hour that we are not doing these things. We are spending our hard earned dollars on prefabricated art for us where our greatest thought is only to choose colors and shading to fill in at our leisure. To me it’s a bit of infantilization that my generation has been seeing it it’s men for a long time.

Is this our fate, ladies? Are we to continue to prop up large corporate publishers only to allow our minds to atrophy? I don’t know. I’m not a therapist or a doctor. This is clearly only my opinion and despite it, I have no wish to shit on people who this works for to help them relax from the increasing stresses of modern life. As usual, this is just me airing another unpopular opinion.

Finally, a word of warning to my dearest colorists out there. Remember my best good friend J.? She colored so hard she ended up with trigger thumb and is looking at the possibility of surgery (I laughed, I confess). So be careful.

coloring dangers

Gurl. I love you. Get some markers.

So, Reader. Thoughts? I’ll end with a paraphrase from the wise Amy Poehler. If this is your jam, that’s great for you! Not for me.

April @ The Steadfast Reader


  • I agree about the whole *craze* of it, but I still think it’s fun. There are a lot of people out there who wouldn’t otherwise being doing anything creative. I think if you find it replacing your other more productive and intellectual outlets, then that might be an issue. But there are lots of people who didn’t have such outlets to begin with. I have a lot of friends that don’t really read, knit, or make their own art. But they love colouring. And I think that’s a positive thing. It makes them feel creative and productive, and better than if they were just watching TV. I definitely don’t think it’s this great stress-relieving miracle, but I don’t think it’s 100% a negative thing. I don’t personally colour that much because I have carpal tunnel, but I do colour occasionally and quite enjoy the intricate pictures!

  • Savvy WorkingGal

    I don’t get it either. To de-stress I prefer reading and if I’m too stressed to read a good bubble bath usually works. And for creativity I always have my blog. Coloring no-thanks.

  • Not for me. It actually made me laugh like crazy when I saw the books – I can’t believe how much it’s caught on. Someone’s laughing all the way to the bank…. :-))

  • Hot DAMN, woman. Shots fired! Also, poor J. I hope she doesn’t actually need to have surgery.

    I think you make some really good points, particularly about it being potentially infantilizing, and I think I’m inclined to agree if a person does nothing *but* color. But hey, I think it’s OK for us to all have some mindless, possibly immature fun in our lives.

    Thanks for bringing the sass this Saturday. 😉

  • AMEN. I’m kind of over very intense positivity toward regression.

  • Cheers to the balls out’ness of it all, but of course I think “the death of women’s intellectualism and creativity” is overstating it. Many of the women who I know enjoy coloring enjoy it because it’s a great way to keep their hands busy while they’re listening to an audiobook, a great way to suck in the fam for some one-on-one time, or it’s an addition to their creative outlets of choice like crocheting or knitting. For me, it’s just fun. It’s something visually, creatively satisfying when I don’t feel like dragging out the art supplies (which is basically always…I hate cleaning up after an artistic jag). Sometimes I want to color and other times I don’t…take it or leave it as the mood strikes. To each their creative (or mindless) own. I suspect the trend is approaching its height on the annoying/oversaturated scale.

  • GOOD FOR YOU!!!! I actually considered writing a biting post called “two trends I do not get”…and guess what they were? Adult coloring and “planning” (maybe with all the time you spend decorating your planners with cutsie stickers, you could actually be checking some things off the to do list?!!). Anyway – I got totally scared I’d offend a bunch of bloggers since I know these are “things” in the blogging community, so decided not to write it. I’m so glad you did and took an angle that I wouldn’t have really considered….but, makes completely sense!

    • AMEN to the sticker planning. How can you even see what you have to do behind everything? I’m very much a paper planner person, but my planner looks like a giant mess because not ten seconds after I write something down it’s bound to change.

      • Not gonna lie, real excited to finally start using my new paper planner, but I think the stickers that confuse me most are the washi tape. It seems like it cuts out so much space for planning!

  • I loved reading this blog. Thank you. And, I am so glad to have discovered your website. 🙂

    I purchased an adult-colouring book last month. It has got a million pictures of cats. Just cats. Since last month, whenever I felt lonely, and felt tired of reading and doing Zen-doodling, I sharpened my pencils, and coloured. After an hour, I felt exhausted, and crashed.

    It helps. Sometimes. And, I find it entertaining. 🙂

  • I don’t get the adult coloring thing either. I suppose it’s comforting because it reminds us of our childhoods, but so does re-reading my favorite books from childhood (which is what I prefer to do when I’m looking to de-stress through a walk down memory lane).

    That said, it doesn’t bother me that others like adult coloring books. Some of its fans might not have been “intellectuals” in the first place. For others, I can see how a relatively mindless activity like coloring gives them the “space” (and time) to think about heavier topics (I do my best thinking while doodling, for example). Who knows.

  • This is why I love you. Infantilization is the perfect word. Children color so why not come up with a marketing tool to make women more child-like and less threatening? And make lots of money off of it. Forget foreign policy, if Hillary just bought a coloring book she could be president.

    If it makes you happy, great, but not for me.

  • More than anything, I hate the fact that there needs to be something different about “adult coloring” to justify adults coloring. Why do the designs have to be intricate and relieve stress? Can’t we just color with crayons in a kids coloring book because it’s FUN?

  • JeanPing

    I bought one coloring book, because I liked a particular picture for an embroidery pattern….actual coloring hurts my hand, but embroidery is very relaxing.

  • I love coloring. Probably not getting a cast because of overdoing it but when the craze started, I was… well, FINALLY. 😛

  • I agree on not getting “the craze” either. Coloring just for the sake of coloring seems mindless, but then again I guess that’s the de-stressing point of it all. I never really thought about it being a way to put us back 100 years. And funny, it is aimed directly at us women. Of course someone bought me one coloring book, that I thought was kind of cool because it not only was a coloring book, but a mystery book at the same time. I thought it had more merit that way, but I still haven’t pulled out any colored pencils.

    Great post!

  • Ha! I get your point, but oh, your poor friend J! That is not fun! Repetitive stress disorders are tough! Ouch! Ironically, the one activity that my mother and I could do as adults and which seemed to mellow her out to be a halfway decent human being for 15 minutes or so was…coloring! Though I honestly believe for her it was just a return to a time when SHE was in control since I was a CHILD and she was the PARENT! 😉 Anything done to an extreme is probably not good…although with that said I’m sure there are those who feel I take reading to an extreme. Though I don’t see this as a conspiracy to disempower females overall, I love your reaction. 🙂

  • Stacie

    I’m totally with you. I intrigued by it, but have NO TIME to do it. My time is so limited and can’t imagine sitting and coloring right now when I could be reading or catching up on other projects. But, at some point I’d like to try it. I did buy one, but it sits on my shelf…waiting. Our small town of 700 started an adult coloring group that meets once a week at our library. It’s mostly elderly people including one elderly man, who create some gorgeous pages. I think it is a great way to keep their minds and hands busy. But, I have other things to do.

  • I feel like the whole craze is some marketing plan that has gone extremely well for someone. It boggles my mind. And now that you’ve pointed out this whole feminist angle? I say get out there and CREATE!

  • I think the only problem I have with this is the idea that it’s a women’s thing. I mean, we could go on about how this is the death of an intellectual society but I think that’s overdramatic. I haven’t really gotten into the whole coloring thing, but I’m sure even if I did, it would replace my other hobbies completely 🙂