Coloring outside the lines proves highly therapeutic

Granddaughter Adelaide is quite the artist. At a mere 3 years of age she has developed her own artistic style.

Reminiscent of Picasso’s “Blue Period,” she is going through her own “Purple Period.”

No need for the rest of the box of Crayolas, the purple one alone will do.

She grasps the color firmly in her fist, considers the page she has chosen from her coloring book (current favorite: Disney’s “Frozen”) and abandons herself to her muse.

Soon the page is a monochromatic masterpiece of random lines and smears, which have only a tenuous connection to the actual printed picture but remain true to her artistic vision.

I thought of Adelaide and her older sister Lorelei (also a master of the Coloring Book School of Art) as I was leafing through the latest issue of The Atlantic.

It seems coloring books are wildly popular in France. French adults, especially women, are turning by the hundreds of thousands to coloring as a means of relaxation therapy.

How popular? Well, currently, seven of the 15 best-sellers in the “Practical” category are coloring books. “Art-Thereapie: 100 Coloriages Anti-Stress,” which was published in 2012 and marketed as a coloring book for adults, is one of the most popular.

It is a collection of pictures to color in such categories as “Psychedelic,” “Medieval Art” and “Mandalas.”

If a 2011 study by the World Health Organization is to be believed, the French could use some relaxation therapy.

The U.N. survey showed France has a higher lifetime rate of major depression than any of the 17 other countries surveyed. Other studies reveal the French to be the top consumers of antidepressants.

Publishers in the United States have observed this French coloring phenomenon and are beginning to market art-therapy coloring books in this country.

Probably a smart business move considering the U.S. was No. 2 on the U.N. study on depression.

During a recent trip to Barnes and Noble, I found an entire display devoted to adult coloring books. (Hmm. That doesn’t sound quite right. Maybe “art-therapy coloring books for adults” would be better.)

I saw a variety of choices and some that looked like they might be fun to try even if I wasn’t feeling particularly stressed-out.

I first looked on the coloring books shelf in the children’s section but didn’t find anything that looked like they were designed with grown-ups in mind.

That’s not to say an adult couldn’t find therapeutic succor with “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” or “The Amazing World of Horses” or even “Frozen”; but the big sellers in France and on the B&N display for adults seem to contain mostly patterns of one sort or another.

Besides, the price goes way up if it is labeled as “Art-Therapy for Adults.”

Apparently there is not a lot of research on the efficacy of art as therapy, but a few studies have shown promise.

As an entirely unscientific observation, I can say that coloring with my granddaughters has shown very positive results in a few areas.

For example, when we color together at the kitchen table, the girls are relatively quiet.

This means they are not running around the house in one of those goofy, squeaky moods, which means there is less chaos, confusion and stress. In addition, all three of us have fun being creative and making art, which results in a calming satisfaction that, at least for me, is quite therapeutic.

I hope more study is done on the value of coloring books as art-therapy. My gut feeling is making art of just about any kind must be a good stress reliever.

It’s a good learning tool, as well. I, for example, have learned from Adelaide that it is not always important or even necessary to color inside the lines.