2016-11-03 / Life in Leelanau

Adult coloring crazy comes to Leelanau County

By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff


MAPLE CITY artist Charlotte Davis created a coloring book that has been very popular with grown-ups, especially as the adult coloring craze catches on across the nation and in Leelanau County. MAPLE CITY artist Charlotte Davis created a coloring book that has been very popular with grown-ups, especially as the adult coloring craze catches on across the nation and in Leelanau County. Having a stressful day? Getting a little anxious about life?

Grab a coloring book and chill out while deciding whether that flower petal should be pink or yellow.

Experts say that concentrating on those simpler decisions can let a person momentarily forget about the bigger things that will, at best, keep them awake at night and at worst, lead to depression, obesity and heart disease.

Plus, it’s just plain fun.

Charlotte Davis is the author and artist of “Leelanau Love - Color on Art Book,” which has proven to be a hit with adults and children alike.

The Maple City resident said she doesn’t market it as an adult coloring book, but many adults have bought it.


ARTIST SUSAN Anderson, owner of Area Posters, created this poster of Leelanau County about two years ago. It has proven to be a big hit with adults as well as children. ARTIST SUSAN Anderson, owner of Area Posters, created this poster of Leelanau County about two years ago. It has proven to be a big hit with adults as well as children. “It’s just that it’s very therapeutic, but it’s sort of quietly therapeutic,” Davis said. “This just feels like they’re having fun, but their body quiets down, their mind quiets down.”

Davis has some ideas why people enjoy coloring so much. While focused on coloring, she said, people don’t worry about their problems and the stresses of life.

“You’re so focused on that activity that you don’t think about other stuff,” Davis said. “It takes just enough of a level of concentration that it filters everything out.”

Tara Carroll, an art therapist for Munson Medical Center, often recommends coloring for her clients as it can reduce stress and anxiety. The activity is used as a distraction and can take their minds off their problems, Carroll said.

“It allows them to get outside of their head and focus on something else,” Carroll said. “It allows them to get into a different space and let all that stuff go.”

Carroll also has clients color while they are in group or one-on-one therapy sessions, as the act of coloring lessens the pressure and can make it easier to talk about what’s going on.

“With the way the world is now, anything that makes people stop and be present in their lives is excellent,” Carroll said.

Davis’ “Leelanau Love” was used at weekly adult coloring sessions held last winter at the Leland Township Library, which supplied all the materials for the group.

The event had a small but regular following, said Sylvia Merz, library director.

Merz said the library is considering continuing the event again this year.

Deb Stannard, director of the Leelanau Township Library, says a lot of libraries have coloring groups and she’s thought about starting one up.

“I’m not sure how it would go over,” Stannard said. “It is a nice relaxing way to get together and share, and it’s not a big commitment.”

Davis was about one month into her drawings for the book, which is inspired by nature and by scenes from around the county, when she heard a news segment on NPR about the success of the “Secret Garden” coloring book, which has been credited for starting the adult coloring craze.

The craze started in 2011, when an editor for a small publishing house in the United Kingdom came across the work of Scottish illustrator Johanna Basford and thought her intricate drawings would make the perfect coloring book.

The hand-drawn book, “Secret Garden,” was marketed for children, but adults began buying them — for themselves. Nearly 7 million copies of “Secret Garden” had been sold worldwide as of last August and adult coloring books can now be seen at book stores and in book departments everywhere.

According to Nielsen Bookscan, which compiles point of sale data of book sales, 2015 was a break-out year for adult coloring books with an estimated 12 million sold. In 2014, just 1 million of the books were sold.

Davis’ coloring book has sold about 1,300 copies in the last 15 months.

Susan Alexander started her business, Area Posters, about two years ago with a poster representing Traverse City. It proved so popular that it was soon followed by a poster depicting several sites in Leelanau County.

“It was a huge hit,” Alexander said. “I sold over 1,000.”

Alexander now has four coloring posters, which are a standard 18 by 24 inches and are drawn by her in soft pencil.

“So you can have three or four people working on them together,” Alexander said. “They’re really designed to be a group event.”

The latest Leelanau poster features the Grand Traverse Lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula, the Crystal River, the Empire Area Museum and Spörck Tile Art, where Alexander works as a glazer.

Alexander takes her posters to several events, including the recent Heritage Day hosted by the Empire Area Museum Complex, where she sets up coloring tables.

“I probably sell as many or more posters to the adults than not,” Alexander said. “I know they enjoy coloring my posters. It connects them with their experiences, places they’ve been, things they enjoy.”

Davis said she recently got a letter from a 98-year-old woman who told her how much fun she had coloring the book with her great-grandson.

“It doesn’t matter what age you are,” she said. “It really brings people together.”

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