Ross Duncan interviews Johanna Basford- World of Flowers/Secret Garden adult colouring books

In an article titled ‘Rebalancing Dyslexia and Creativity at the RCA’, the Royal College of Art, the world’s number one art and design university, claim that 29% of its current students identify themselves as being dyslexic, when compared to 5–10% of the overall population (RCA, 2018).

Coincidently, Johanna Basford, has a background including Art College and thrives in the creative arts.  Who is Johanna Basford?  Johanna grew up in Auchnagatt, Aberdeenshire and is better known for her colouring books for adults.  The idea behind colouring books for adults in itself may be alien to some people, but according to Johanna Basford she believes there are clear benefits particularly with hand and eye coordination. But the main attraction is that it can stretch people’s creative muscles, thus giving someone with dyslexia the chance to be creative. Different people from all walks of life enjoy Johanna’s colouring books but she believes that this would include people with dyslexia. While adults with dyslexia may lack confidence in picking up a pencil to write, colouring pencils may be a good way to get their confidence back.  It would allow them to do something they actually enjoy and increase their confidence whilst being creative.

In the book ‘In the Mind’s Eye’ by Thomas G West (1991), he says that, “There may exist, in some cases an essential and necessary link between some extraordinary abilities (especially those associated creative, visual spatial thinking) and dyslexia or some form of learning difficulty”.  He does suggest that this idea flies in the face of popular belief because there is still no evidence establishing a connection between dyslexia and creativity.  

By 2013, Johanna had acclaimed success with ‘Secret Garden’ and has become a worldwide seller.  By 2016, she was appointed Officer of the British Empire (OBE) for her services to art and entrepreneurship. Like Rossie Stone, Johanna Basford attended Duncan Jordanstone College of Art and Design. In an article for ‘The Skinny’, Johanna spoke of her own experience and how if you struggled with your dissertation, this could be the difference between a pass and a fail, regardless of whether you are a highly qualified artist. This could really affect people with dyslexia. Johanna’s article went on to say that research suggested that, proportionally, students with dyslexia attending Art College often exceeded the number of dyslexic students found in other higher education establishments. ‘The Skinny’ goes on to question whether a thesis should hold such sway in their practical disciplines.

Ross Duncan

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