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Relearning to color inside the lines: Adult coloring books surge in Winona as hobby, therapy

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You might find them on kitchen tables and coffee tables, in backpacks and purses. They’re well-loved, treated with the privilege of a private journal, but displayed with pride when finished.

Adult coloring books don’t have the most glamorous name, but they’ve become wildly popular during the past few years, thanks, perhaps, to their diverse range of topics and designs, from movie stars to enchanted forests to complex mandalas — and, yes, sex positions.

Unlike the blank pages of a sketchbook, coloring books present their users with a welcome mat to artistic expression. They’re also touted as therapeutic, promising to relieve stress and promote relaxation.

So far in 2015, four of the top-20 Amazon bestselling books were coloring books for adults.

The trend has made its way to Winona as well, and local bookstores have had trouble keeping up with the demand.

Shelley Olsen, owner of Paperbacks and Pieces, said she stocks more than 50 varieties of coloring books and coloring supplies, and she is amazed by their popularity. As word spread earlier this month, the store almost ran out between shipments.

Olsen said she stocks books for a range of interests, including flowers, cats, meditation and Ryan Gosling. Some people like to color detailed designs, while others prefer more space to include their own ideas.

Bookstore employee Grace Welle said she keeps a coloring book by the phone at home, so if she’s stuck on hold, she has something to do. She’s also a middle-school teacher and said she uses a few minutes of coloring as a way to help the kids wind down for silent reading time, especially on Friday afternoons.

Welle said coloring allows each person to express something different, even with the same black lines.

“That’s why we have the variety, because everyone is so different,” Olsen added.

Winona resident Connie Styba first read about adult coloring books in Parade magazine earlier this summer.

“I thought, oh geez, that’s something for me to do,” she said, and she set out to find a few for herself.

Styba chose “Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt,” which happens to be the most popular adult coloring book on the market and features intricate, detailed pictures.

Styba has finished just a couple pages so far, because she works on it a little bit at a time.

“It’s very soothing, very relaxing,” she said.

Styba said she enjoyed art projects as a kid, but hadn’t picked up colored pencils in ages.

“It’s something I’ve rediscovered,” she explained. “I liked to do art projects in school — it’s something I’ve always loved to do.”

Styba said she enjoys the freedom the black lines give her — to choose the colors she wants, and erase them if they don’t look right. In each picture of the Secret Garden coloring book, there’s a hidden object, which also makes it fun.

“It’s one of those things where I don’t get uptight about doing this,” she said. “It’s a crazy quilt of pictures and you just color them in the way you want them colored.”

“You don’t have to be a super artist to do this — you just kind of do what comes natural.”

Joanne Ahrens, another local colorist, said she, too, liked to color as a kid — and then forgot all about it. She finds the activity calming, and she likes that she can do it for a few minutes at a time.

“All the color books are so much fun, it’s just hard to resist them,” she said. “Each one is so different.”

For Ahrens, the activity also links her with other coloring-book aficionados.

She said her granddaughters, ages 17 and 24, color as well, and it’s something they enjoy sharing with each other.

The coloring books also allow creativity without the stress of staring at a blank page. Ahrens said although she would never sit down and draw, and doesn’t consider herself an artist, coloring gives her a chance to create anyway.

“I can’t draw,” she admitted. “That’s why this is really fun.”

“I can’t draw. That’s why this is really fun.” — Joanne Ahrens,
on adult coloring books

“I can’t draw. That’s why this is really fun.” -- Joanne Ahrens, on adult coloring books


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