AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
We've learned about a secret some of you have that involve crayons, markers or colored pencils. We asked on our Facebook page last week whether you're an adult who likes to color in coloring books. To our surprise, we received hundreds of responses saying yes. And I thought I was alone. Thirty-five-year-old Aleesha Zappata told us filling in black and white outlines is a daily ritual.
ALEESHA ZAPPATA: First thing in the morning, my three-year-old daughter and I sit at our kitchen table. I grab my cup of coffee, and we each have a coloring book.
CORNISH: Others don't need kids as an excuse to color.
TERRY FRIDAY: I think it's very soothing.
CORNISH: Terry Friday was one of several people who told us they picked up the hobby while laid up in the hospital.
FRIDAY: It's nice, you know, when you're stuck in a hospital room where it's very sterile and fluorescent to have these gorgeous flowers and these neat trees to color.
CORNISH: And we even heard about coloring clubs, like Jenny Fennelson's in Minneapolis.
JENNY FENNELSON: I have always liked to color, and so I threw out the idea that we should start a ladies coloring club. A bunch of people I don't even really know responded really favorably to the idea, so we meet like once a month and just color at a coffee shop.
CORNISH: All of these responses - again, we received hundreds - came after we noticed the incredibly popular and sold-out work of Johanna Basford.
JOHANNA BASFORD: What I wanted to do was to make a book where every page was just beautiful, so it was, you know, almost like an art book, not a children's coloring book, where the drawings are quite simple, but something that was really beautiful - that you just want to own and to have out and to show your friends.
CORNISH: Basford is the illustrator of the new adult coloring book "Enchanted Forest," which came out in February. Her first, "Secret Garden," sold nearly one and a half million copies worldwide. We reached Johanna Basford at her home in Scotland. And she described for me the intricate black and white outlines featured in her book.
BASFORD: Everything is hand-drawn - just pen and ink - really floral, very intricate. Every illustration has little things hidden in it, so it might be a rogue butterfly or a little half hidden robin or, you know, a cheeky little squirrel gathering nuts. And that no matter what the picture, there is just layers of depth and detail.
CORNISH: Now, what surprised you about the response to this? I mean, obviously sales are incredible, but people also like send you copies of what they do, right?
BASFORD: Yeah, my inbox was getting absolutely jammed with people sending photographs of all the different pages of the coloring book. And it's just amazing to see how so many people can take the same collection of images and make them so different and unique. And so I ended up setting up a coloring gallery on my website where people can upload their images and share them with the world, and they tell us what kind of colored pencils or pens they used. It's a real online community, I think.
CORNISH: What do you think the appeal is?
BASFORD: Well, how many stressed-out seven-year-olds do you know? I think there's something quite charming and nostalgic about coloring in. And chances are last time you picked up pens and pencils, you didn't have a mortgage or like a really horrible boss or anything.
So yeah, it's just a really nice way to be creative. You don't have to sit down with a blank sheet of paper or, you know, have that scary moment of thinking what can I draw? The outlines are already there for you, so it's just something that you can do quietly for a couple of hours that, you know, is hand held and analog and quiet.
CORNISH: Can you describe your favorite picture?
BASFORD: Sure. In "Secret Garden," there is an owl. And I don't know why, but he just reminds me of my husband's grandfather. I think it's something to do with his stature or pose. But I love that little owl. And so many people send me that picture, so I guess he must have quite a good sense of charm to him.
CORNISH: Well, Johanna Basford, thank you so much for speaking with us. Best of luck with this next book.
BASFORD: Thank you so much. Thank you.
CORNISH: Johanna Basford - she's the illustrator of the adult coloring books "Enchanted Forest" and "Secret Garden."
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.