• Colouring Books Are for Grownups

    in #82 Winter 2016/Art Books/Features by

    Professional illustrator Tamara Thiébeaux Heikalo weighs in on the power of play and the adult colouring craze

    From Hand Drawn Halifax, Emma FitzGerald


    From Sacred Feminine by Jackie Traverse

    Professional illustrator Tamara Thiébeaux Heikalo weighs in on the power of play and the adult colouring craze

    The East Coast Way of Life, Meghan Bangay

    Many of this season’s Atlantic Canadian bestsellers will come from an entirely new category of books: colouring books for grownups. Consider the array of new titles in this genre: Hand Drawn Halifax: The Colouring Book by Emma Fitzgerald, Colouring the Rock by Newfoundland painter Jackie Alcock, The East Coast Way of Life Colouring Book by Meghan Bangay, Colour Prince Edward Island by Nadine Staaf, Anishinabe artist Jackie Traverse’s Sacred Feminine: An Indigenous Art Colouring Book, Colouring Newfoundland and Labrador by Dawn Baker and The Colours of Newfoundland and Labrador by Bobbie Pike.

    Atlantic Books Today asked popular Nova Scotia children’s illustrator Tamara Thiébeaux Heikalo to weigh in on the adult colouring phenomenon; here’s what she had to say:


    An adult colouring book is an invitation to participate in a creative process; you are invited to bring to life a picture started by the artist who drew the lines. It is an opening into a world usually considered closed off from those less skilled in the art arena.

    The East Coast Way of Life

    I am a visual artist and I have, on occasion, referred to my artistic efforts as “colouring.” I am, after all, colouring in the lines I drew. I thoroughly enjoy the process of drawing. But then, the addition of colour seems to suggest play.

    Colouring is as much a a meditative process as it is play; while you are being an adult with the honourable pursuit of meditation, you are also practicing childlike play, an activity many adults may have lost connection with.

    What a delightful way to do it, too, with beautiful art. What a thrilling and sweet enticement.

    For any age, play has immense value. It is a terrific way to learn. For some of these books, the subject matter selected has a potential teaching aspect. I recognize in myself the strong need for visuals to facilitate any of my own efforts to learn. It certainly makes the process more fun. It is a known phenomenon that we learn and retain more when the learning process is a pleasure.

    I recall a book that was given to me as a teenager about the human body: you learn the different muscles and bones during the process of colouring. As a child, I loved colouring books. Some of these were not, typically, of recommendable quality. But others, thanks to the adults in my life who gave them to me, were truly beautiful. I also received stunning colouring posters.

    Hand Drawn Halifax

    I loved these. I remember them distinctly. I shall assume they had influence on my growing sensibilities as an artist.

    From Sacred Feminine

    The adult colouring book is a wonderful way for artists to exhibit their skills. While seemingly simple, in comparison with colour media, it does take careful consideration to present an image within the confines of pen and ink lines, mere black and white, yet still convey a recognizable picture. In many cases, what I am seeing with this trend of colouring books for adults, is an effort to present line drawings that can stand by themselves as pieces of art. They range from the exquisite and deeply sensitive, such as Sacred Feminine, by Jackie Traverse, to the whimsical and charming, such as Hand Drawn Halifax, by Emma Fitzgerald.

    I can easily imagine people choosing to not fill in the picture with colour. Line drawing is a genre onto itself, as observable with many artists past and present.

    We need art. We need visual stimulation. That need does not stop in childhood. The popularity of the adult graphic novel is a prime example of this.

    The interest in colouring books for adults is no great mystery: Adults need creativity and play.

  • Tamara Thiébeaux Heikalo is the illustrator of six books for children, including Driftwood Dragons and The Cat from Kosovo. She has been an artist from very early on in her life, creating whimsical, caricatural, and realistic imagery.

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