It would bring me great pleasure to be able report on the therapeutic effects of my new colouring book. To be able to say that when I aim to fill the teeny tiny little spaces with different hues, my heart swells with warmth and my soul drifts up to cloud nine, would certainly be a nice thing to report to the world. Alas, such feelings appear to remain exclusively the effect of chocolate, a massage, and eating a hog roast.
That’s not to say I’m unhappy with my foray into the world of adult colouring via Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom: a colouring book adventure, I’m just not ready to bang the colouring book drum, and prescribe the activity as medicine for stress or anxiety. Marotta’s designs in this fabulous book really are something else. Intricate, beautiful, and unique, they are all inspired by the natural world, something that stems from the fact that the designer herself grew up on a smallholding in rural Wales. From tentacley octopi, to beautiful birds, patterned flora and fauna, and elephants that look as if they’ve been attacked by Cath Kidston, there isn’t a page that doesn’t delight the eyes.
In fact, I spent a great deal of time flicking through the book before I actually picked up a pen, gaping open-mouthed at the wonderful use of pattern and line. Having purchased my copy of Animal Kingdom from Waterstone’s (£9.99) last week after reviewing all of the other similar publications on offer, I made a quick stop off at WH Smith to pick up some colouring pencils and felt tips from the ‘Back to School’ section of the shop, and rushed home excitedly to begin my work of art.
I started with the first item in the book, a rather noble looking octopus, which I am yet to finish (I suspect this will be the case for many of the pages in the book, as the designs are all so beautiful that I keep flitting about all over the place). However, as I picked up a pen, initial nerves crept in. How, I thought to myself, even with my GCSE and AS-Level in art (the most rigorous of qualifications!) will I manage to stay in the lines? Some of them are uncomfortably close together, you see. Thankfully Marotta has an answer for this, as she states in her introduction that some sections are simply too detailed to facilitate the colouring of each individual section within.
I breathed a sigh of relief. It’s OK to ignore some of the lines. Phew. Panic over. Wait a minute – isn’t this activity meant to be a calming one? And here we come to the crux of the matter – if you don’t have a steady hand, or simply don’t enjoy colouring or drawing, then you are unlikely to find colouring books therapeutic because, in their ornateness, they can be a tad frustrating. Therefore, I would not recommend jumping on the adult-colouring-bandwagon merely for the sake of it. I have always enjoyed colour, art and design, and thus have honestly enjoyed the process of deciding how best to cover the different pages – I even thew in some gold pen (from my Christmas card writing supplies) because I’m such a maverick when it comes to things like this, dontcha know.
However, all jokes aside I wouldn’t necessarily call the process therapeutic. I’m yet to decide on a word that best sums up the activity. The book is great for boredom and, because it requires minimal brain power, you can work on it whilst watching TV and can certainly hold a conversation during scribbles. I plan to take it with me on my next flight or train journey to kill some time.
Marotta also advocates the use of colouring pencils, as these are better for shading and adding tone than felt tips. However I must say that I have used a combination of pencils and felt tips, because there is something so childishly forbidden about the latter that makes them incredibly exciting. During my school days, felt tips were the contraband of the classroom and as such, I’m making up for lost time.
My final word of advice is to invest in a colouring book (and the necessary supplies) if you enjoy art and design or fancy something new. Do not, however, go anywhere near one if you are prone to sudden outbursts of anger prompted by trying to colour between lines. Colouring: therapeutic for some, enjoyable for most, and I suspect intolerable for a few.