NUTLEY, NJ — Last week, the Nutley Public Library managed to offer an outside-the-box event while staying solidly “within the lines,” when the library embraced the international adult coloring book trend.
On one Thursday per month at 7 p.m. and one Friday morning at 10:30 a.m., this hot new movement is being offered for free at the library.
The trend began in 2011, after a British publishing house created a coloring book for adults, based on the work of Johanna Basford, a Scottish artist and commercial illustrator. The first book was “Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book,” produced in a print run of only 13,000 coloring books.
By 2013, this book and a companion collection were top sellers on Amazon, with more than 2 million copies sold, and the two biggest sellers on Amazon today are adult coloring books.
Librarian Jeanne Sylvester, who designs and runs programs at the Nutley Public Library, is a humble, quiet lady, but her cutting-edge programs at the library are well loved and well attended. Sylvester said she decided to launch the monthly adult coloring event after hearing about the trend and doing some research. If you expect this activity revolves around clunky cartoonish characters on the new adult color book pages, think again. Instead, the images are sophisticated, detailed and surprising.
“I saw that some of the other … libraries also had classes, and that interested me,” Sylvester said, adding, “It is a new program for us, and we are thrilled to offer it.”
At the first adult coloring event Jan. 7, the room quickly filled with eager adults. The mood was jolly and the focus was intense. On the tables were plenty of supplies, such as markers, gel pens and sharpened colored pencils. Books with all types of designs were on also on hand, and included a popular book with cats, a “Game of Thrones” coloring book and others.
Lorraine Broughton of Nutley was the first person to show up, and I asked what attracted her to the event.
“This is so relaxing,” Broughton said. “It is very freeing to color, and it really can take your mind off anything.”
It turns out she is onto something; the therapeutic properties of coloring are actually scientifically proven.
Numerous studies report coloring is not only relaxing but also helpful for those dealing with cancer. A 2006 study of 111 women conducted at Jefferson University reported that such mindfulness-based art showed strong results in helping those dealing with a large variety of cancer diagnoses. The group making such art had, “significant decrease in symptoms of distress … and significant improvements in key aspects of health-related quality of life.”
And another study conducted at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago backed up those results, noting, “There were statistically significant reductions in eight of nine symptoms measured, … including the global distress score, as well as significant differences in most of the domains measured. … Subjects overwhelmingly expressed comfort with the process and desire to continue with therapy. This study provides beginning evidence for the efficacy of art therapy in reducing a broad spectrum of symptoms in cancer in patients.”
In Nutley, the happy participants at the library appeared soothed by calming music and the act of focusing on the simple, creative act of applying color to paper, albeit within specific and often complicated lines.
Simone Galik, who sat next to me, said she was thrilled to be coloring again, saying, “I haven’t done this since I was a little girl.”
Nearby, Joe Maschio echoed the sentiment, saying “This really brings me back to my childhood. Also, when I worked in the newspaper industry, I would sometimes find myself doodling.”
And the younger generation, such as 24-year-old Laura LaBadia, was also present. “I first discovered this on Pinterest,” said LaBadia, who was coloring alongside her mother. “It is so soothing to be coloring!”
And, on a recent Saturday night, I found myself embracing the notion that sometimes you have to wander outside the lines to stay within them. As my children whipped up some decadent desserts, I sat at my kitchen table listening to Maria Callas and got to work on my own new coloring book.
To learn more, visit www.NutleyPublicLibrary.org.