Adult colouring book puts focus on Kensington Market

For a new book about Kensington Market, The United Colours of Kensington, artist and curator Rafi Ghanaghounian did not add any colour.

That's because the architectural sketch tour of the Kensington Market neighbourhood is an adult colouring book, part of a trend to promote mindfulness by colouring.

"Kensington is like my lungs, it keeps me alive," he said. "I live, work and socialize here."

Ghanaghounia fell in love with the neighbourhood 20 years ago, and credits the neighbourhood with helping raise his 15-year-old son.

He had an attraction to the neighbourhood's architecture. He began a project called Blocks, comparing archive photos of the neighbourhood around 100 years ago to the photos from today.

He launched the project to see how Kensington has changed and how it has remained the same.

"From the photography we thought, what would be the next level?" he said. "What about a colouring book?"

The book is illustrated by Shengyu Cai and written by Bruce Beaton. United Colours of Kensington is meant to reflect the diversity of the area.

On trend

Colouring books for adults are a recent publishing trend that began in 2013 when a British publishing house released Secret Garden, a more detailed colouring book made for adults. It became an international bestseller, and is still on's top 20 bestsellers list, along with 11 other colouring books for adults. Publishers say they can barely keep up with the demand.

Ghanaghounia's intent isn't necessarily to be on-trend, but to get people to look at Kensington the same way he does.

"It gets people in the neighbourhood to slow down," he said. "You think about the place, the neighbourhood, the buildings — you use your imagination."

Ghanaghounia said he likes the effort involved in the colouring book — it's not simply looking at a photograph on a page, but more mindful.

"It's interactive. You have to do something to make it complete," he said. "People slow down when they're colouring."

Already, Ghanaghounia is getting requests to make colouring books for other Toronto neighbourhoods.

The book, The United Colours of Kensington, comes out Dec. 2 and is available for $20 here.