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Attendees at the colouring event at Gladstone Hotel’s Melody Bar (Charlotte Arnold/Ryersonian staff)

With brows furrowed and tongues poking out, groups of young friends hunch over tables scribbling furiously with crayons, concentrating on staying in the lines. Only the images are of pin-ups and shark attacks. And the attentive artists? They’re over the legal drinking age.

Adult colouring is the crafty throwback quickly gaining traction across the city. Indigo has introduced a whole section of colouring books geared toward adults — easily spotted for their more intricate detail.

A popular title by Johanna Basford, Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book, has topped bestseller lists and sold over two million copies since its publication in 2013. Many credit Basford with launching the craze.

Every Thursday, the Gladstone Hotel’s Melody Bar hosts an Adult Colouring-In, with live music and art supplies provided. On the night Ryersonian reporters went to check it out, tables were packed with young professionals who finished school or work for the day, chatting and doodling.

For one group, the appeal was obvious. “Stress relief,” said Brittany Burek. ”We’re all graduate students in psychology and we thought this would be fun … we’re relatively high-stressed.”

“And it’s like an activity, but it’s not rambunctious,” added Elizabeth McEwan. “It’s not like, ‘jump on a trampoline at Sky Zone.’”

The nostalgia factor is also key. For many enthusiasts, it’s a link to a simpler time. “I haven’t coloured since I was, like, nine,” said Talea Coghlin. “And it’s not a computer. It’s not staring at a screen all day.”

Ryerson psychology professor Alexandra Fiocco teaches a course called Adjustment, Stress and Coping.

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Adult colouring at Gladstone Hotel every Thursday (Charlotte Arnold/Ryersonian staff)

“We can hypothesize about what’s going on. Why is art therapy, drawing, colouring — why is this beneficial for us?” she said. “I don’t think it’s something that would speak to everyone, of course, the same that meditation isn’t for everyone. But your mind is probably on the present moment and what you’re doing … when you’re involved with an activity at that level, you’re not worrying about the future and you’re not ruminating about the past.”

It appears that it’s not just students who are catching on to the potential benefits, which Fiocco said also include a lowered heart rate and calmed nervous system.

The Ryerson Aboriginal Student Services Facebook page, for instance, recently posted a link to print-outs, encouraging students to de-stress. Back at the Gladstone, Katherine Stover cited the unique sense of accomplishment that comes from finishing a page.

“There’s no right or wrong … and there’s beer,” she laughed. “But you’re not going to be criticized for choosing purple over red or something like that.

“It’s creative, but without a consequence.” As any overworked and underpaid student can attest — particularly going into exam season — it can be nice to get out of your head.

This article was published in the print edition of The Ryersonian on Nov. 11, 2015.

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