Adult colouring books fly off the shelves

Colouring for Adults: Mandala Art by Liza Beekman features 10 hand drawn mandalas for you to colour in. (

Colouring for Adults: Mandala Art by Liza Beekman features 10 hand drawn mandalas for you to colour in. (

Whether for relaxation, an escape or as a means of entertainment, adult colouring books are surging in popularity and South Africans have eagerly joined the queue with their khokis and crayons. Just don’t confuse it with professional art therapy.

“It’s like botox for my soul,” says retired art teacher Marelize Wiese.

“It’s actually fantastic and I feel 20 years younger. I am quite addicted and sit colouring in till 1.30am in the morning!”

After hearing about it from a friend in February, Wiese went in search of adult colouring books to buy, but they were all sold out.

Far from discouraged, she gathered drawings she had sketched over the years and compiled her own book.

She is now about to release her third such book and says both men and women have been lapping them up. 

Her latest collection features intricate, symmetrical designs and has been ring-bound to allow people to tear the pages out to frame or use for other projects.

“With colouring, you de-stress totally and go into a mind-set where your brain is working with positive thoughts.”

High turnover
Major retailer Exclusive Books released its first adult colouring book in October for Christmas and the demand was so high it went out of stock “quite a few times”.

At least two of its adult colouring titles have been on the top 20 sales list every week for the past eight months or so.

There is a wide variety of topics for such books, but the most common designs feature animals, nature, geometric or organic shapes, landscapes and mandalas, which are circular figures representing the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism.

Relaxation vs therapy
Samantha Davis, an internationally trained art psychotherapist from Sea Point, says colouring in offers an opportunity for people to feel creative.

“Some people find it relaxing, some people find it meditative and some find it is an escape or a stress relief,” she said.

The books give adults “permission” to go back to a childlike space and feel in control.

They can make their own decisions about colours and areas to fill in or leave blank.

She said that in the same way a child might use a self-soothing item such as a dummy, colouring in might help people feel calm, comforted and contained.

But “just like a dummy doesn’t replace a mother, a colouring book can’t replace a therapist”, she said.

Some books claim to be “art therapy” or have therapeutic benefits.

Big difference
Davis says there is a big difference between colouring in someone else’s designs and the work and interactions that emerge between a client and a trained art therapist.

“In art therapy, I would have blank paper and facilitate the process where a client is able to learn to start to play on their own,” she said.

“It’s about building a relationship and working through issues and concerns, and through what is known and unknown.”

She said the images created in art therapy become symbolic and a means of communication between the client and therapist.

It allows both people to start understanding the client’s internal world and is beneficial for people of all ages.

But she felt colouring definitely has its benefits and encourages people to create their own outlines or designs if they are up for it.

Wiese said her designs are bases that people can decorate with textures, doodles, stickers and their own words and inspiring quotes.

“I always wanted to make a difference in this country,” she said.
“The only way I can do that is by doing something I enjoy and by trying to make a positive contribution with my books.”

Singer-songwriter Lize Beekman has released an adult colouring book featuring her hand drawn mandalas.

She started drawing the circular patterns without really knowing they were mandalas, after her soul mate fell ill and took her life in 2012.

“Personally, I kept drawing them because it almost saved my life. I noted that it helped me to breath,” she said.

“Over time, that developed and my thoughts weren’t as scattered. It took me to a place where I could look at one thought at a time and deal with it.”

Beekman said she progressed to where she could quiet her mind while drawing.

Her book contains 10 mandalas and has sold around 5 000 copies to date.

“I think what people get from drawing or colouring or walking to the beach or sitting in front of a fireplace will be different for everyone,” she said.

Prices for adult colouring books range from R50 to R250 and they range in size from pocket to poster books. –

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