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Coloring craze: Not just for the kiddos anymore

Remember when sitting cross-legged on the floor with a coloring book kept you happy and occupied for hours on end? There’s no need to stop just because you’re older.

Adult coloring books have caught on like wildfire, trading in the rudimentary outlines of cuddly kittens and cartoon characters for intricate patterns ranging from Tibetan mandalas and Japanese kimonos to American art deco and English gardens.

“Over the past six months, it has gone from little or no interest to tremendous interest,” said Chris Piontkowski, manager at Hyatt’s art supply store in Buffalo. “We’ve even seen actual artists buying them just to get their creative juices flowing again.”

In January 2016, Amazon’s top 10 best seller list included four adult coloring books — two by Scottish artist Johanna Basford, who many credit with starting the craze when her Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book was released in 2013. The compilation of hand-drawn illustrations has gone on to sell more than 8 million copies worldwide, according to BBC News.

“That was the one that really took off in a way that set the trend,” said Jonathon Welch, owner of Talking Leaves Books in Buffalo. With over 50 adult coloring books in stock, Welch added that his stores have always carried them. “There’s been a big explosion in the past year, but the idea of it isn’t new, just the marketing of it.”

Pitched solely to grownups, Welch admitted that the books are more sophisticated and more “serious art”-oriented. Color Your Own Van Gogh and Color Me Crazy: Insanely Detailed Creations to Challenge Your Skills and Blow Your Mind are just a couple of the books that can be found at Talking Leaves’ Elmwood Avenue location.

With literally thousands of selections out there, “color-inners” can choose from lighthearted titles like Martini Madness and Hipster to TV series and movies that have made the jump from screen to coloring page, including Game of Thrones, Outlander, Hunger Games and Harry Potter. Even the Queen City gets its props with local artist and historian Dana Saylor’s architectural coloring book of Allentown (available at the Museum Shop in The Buffalo History Museum).

Local historian and artist Dana Saylor created a coloring book featuring the architecture of Allentown, tapping into the demand for interesting, challenging art to color.

At MUSEjar in East Aurora, adult fashion and Turkish design are among the best sellers, said owner Vanessa Frost, who added that she is constantly restocking her most popular titles. Foregoing the usual inventory of big box stores like Barnes & Noble, Frost focuses on higher-end coloring pads with heavier paper that can hold up to markers, watercolors and inks.

The Bookworm, also in East Aurora, didn’t stock any adult coloring books until they started getting requests for them around nine months ago. Now they carry over 75 titles. “We sell some every day,” said manager Jen Reisdorf, who added that the small shop has sold close to 50 some weeks.

The call for adult coloring is so big that Bookworm held a book signing in October with Cosmic Doodles coloring book artist Tina T. Ames of Clarence.

Classically trained, Ames said she has always created art for its healing properties. Eventually landing in the corporate world, an illness forced her to stay in bed for several months, where she passed the time “doodling.” And her rediscovered passion panned out. Almost 1,000 copies of Cosmic Doodles sold between June and November of 2015 alone.

“Coloring allows you to get rid of the monkey chatter in your mind and zone out completely,” said Ames. “Meditation doesn’t necessarily have to be through something like yoga; it can be a walk in the garden, coloring, whatever makes your mind peaceful.”

Niagara Falls native Jennifer E. Drake, assistant professor of psychology at Brooklyn College, CUNY has conducted extensive research on the psychology of the arts.

“I think adult coloring is absolutely therapeutic,” said Drake. “It distracts us from something that is stressing us and allows us to focus on something positive. Creating something can be very pleasurable.”

Jill Gillan-Vavreck, owner of New World Gifts & Spa in Williamsville, said her daughter’s college friends stop in and buy adult coloring books whenever they’re stressed out. “It really gets their head out of their school work,” said Gillan-Vavreck, whose coloring book selection includes mandalas, angels, mermaids, constellations, dreamcatchers and fairies.

Even the colors themselves are therapeutic, claims Gillan-Vavreck, referring to how they promote spiritual healing and Chakra balance. “For example, using a lot of reds can help if you’re not feeling grounded, while greens and pinks are the ‘heart’ colors.”

“We’re definitely seeing an interest in art therapy in the adult population,” said Kathleen Skoog, co-owner of Monkey See, Monkey Do in Clarence. The bookstore has held adult coloring classes based on the Color Me Stress-Free, Color Me Happy and Color Me Calm series by Lacy Mucklow and Angela Porter.

Tina T. Ames, who also offers private parties (visit, said her adult coloring classes at local venues like the Newstead Library in Akron and Liberty Vineyards & Winery in Sheridan have drawn double the crowds expected.

“For many, it’s the opportunity to be creative without fear if they don’t necessarily have any real artistic ability. It’s kind of like the old quilting bees where women would just gather and have fun,” said Ames.

Tools of the trade

Any or all of these implements can be used to make your pages come to life:

  • Colored pencils
  • Felt-tip markers
  • Gel pens
  • Sharpies
  • Highlighters
  • Watercolors
  • Gold leaf pens
  • Ink

Where to find coloring books:

  • A.C. Moore: 3670 McKinley Pkwy., Blasdell
  • Asa Ransom House, Sunshine Square Gift Shop: 10529 Main St., Clarence
  • Barnes & Noble: 4401 Transit Road, Williamsville; 3701 McKinley Pkwy., Blasdell; 1565 Niagara Falls Blvd., Amherst
  • The Book Corner: 1801 Main St., Niagara Falls, NY
  • The Boookworm: 34 Elm St., East Aurora
  • Clayton’s: 5225 Main St., Williamsville; 75 Main St., Buffalo (HarborCenter)
  • Hobby Lobby: 3701 McKinley Pkwy., Blasdell; 2090 George Urban Blvd., Depew; 6743 Transit Road, Lancaster
  • Hyatt’s: 910 Main St., Buffalo and 8565 Main St., Clarence
  • Lily Dale Bookstore: 2 Melrose Park, Lily Dale (seasonal)
  • Michael’s: 1261 Niagara Falls Blvd., Amherst; 1740 Walden Ave., Cheektowaga; 5055 Transit Road, Williamsville
  • The TreeHouse: 793 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo
  • Monkey See, Monkey Do: 9060 Main St., Clarence
  • MUSEJar: 17 Elm St., East Aurora
  • Museum Shop at The Buffalo History Museum: 1 Museum Ct., Buffalo
  • New World Gifts & Spa: 5655 Main St., Williamsville
  • Talking Leaves Books: 3158 Main St., Buffalo and 951 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo

“Free” form coloring

While adult coloring books are relatively inexpensive (starting at around $6), limited printouts are available online at no charge. Here are a few places to find them:

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