Steve McDonald’s ‘Fantastic Cities’ Helps Us Unplug [REVIEW]


Adults are embracing coloring…again. Find out why grown ups are finding this activity so therapeutic.
(Photo by Andrés Nieto Porras, Flickr)

We’re all stressed out these days. Between our constant connection to social media and email, jobs that demand our time twenty-four/seven, and news cycles that prove terror can happen literally anywhere, it is no wonder that anxiety, depression and PTSD are on the rise. So what can we do to unplug, unwind, and let our imaginations run free? 


Chronicle Books

Kids have had the answer for years. Remember when you were little, and if not, when you watched your little children escape into the pages of a coloring book? There’s no screen needed. No blinding light that will make you go cross eyed after too much exposure. Kids simply grab their box of crayons, markers, or colored pencils, open a book to a new page and start to color, letting their imaginations take them on a kaleidoscopic journey with a favorite character, unraveling stories in their minds as they see the world how they want to imagine it. There’s no stress there when kids do that.

Over the past year, adults have started to color too and find the activity to be therapeutic in many ways. In fact, so many adults are coloring, stores can’t keep coloring books in stock. Paula Meng, 52, from St. Petersburg, Florida, told the Guardian, “It helps me” alleviate back pain, anxiety and depression.

Cathy Simocko-Smith, 59, is a professional gardener in Bridgeport, Connecticut. She recently told USA Today, “Coloring at night while I’m watching TV helps me quiet my mind. I can really lose myself in it, and it stops me from thinking about my work and the stresses in my life.”

One of the newest books on the market pairs coloring with people’s love to travel and explore new places. In Steve McDonald’s Fantastic Cities, the author takes us on a stunning aerial view of some of the most beautiful cities on the planet: London, Paris, Amsterdam, Strasbourg, Istanbul, and more.

Steve McDonald's FANTASTIC CITIES pages

In Steve McDonald’s FANTASTIC CITIES, Colorists will get lost in the intricate beauty of Steve McDonald’s kaleidoscopic masterpiece, FANTASTIC CITIES. Here are two of the images found within the book’s pages. (Drawings by Steve McDonald)

I found myself captivated as I perused the 60 page volume and the 58 creative images therein, all miniature masterworks that any colorist is bound to get lost in as they make cities come to life in vivid technicolor. Intricate and detailed, McDonald has a gift for creating architectural mandalas that seem to rise off the page as we add our own florid detail to each drawing.

If you’re looking to get in on the adult coloring book trend, this is an ideal book to begin with. You will feel your soul grow lighter as you paint the world the way you want to see it, imbuing the world’s most arresting cities with hues limited only by the boundaries of your imagination. Pick up a copy of Fantastic Cities and unplug today.

Steve McDonald

Steve McDonald creating one of his stunning line drawings. (Photo courtesy Chronicle Books)


Steve McDonald doesn’t just draw the cities of the world. A lifelong traveler since his family moved to the Middle East in 1979, he’s lived in Saudi Arabia, Italy, India, and Indonesia, visited dozens of other countries, and spent the better part of two decades traveling his native Canada from coast to coast via car, bus, helicopter, canoe, ship, and on foot. Everywhere he goes he soaks up the local color, the architecture, and most of all, the lines.

Steve’s process includes observing, sketching on-site, and taking photos for reference in the studio, as well as working from many noted photographers’ material. He lays down initial groundwork lines in pencil or on a tablet and then gets busy with the details. Although he works in many media, including acrylics, watercolors, and colored dyes, his favorite is simple pen and ink.

When he’s not knee-deep in the intricate details of his drawings, Steve is likely surfing (most recently in the waves off the coast of Bali, where he lived for two years with his family) or cross-country skiing in the snowdrifts of rural Ontario, which he currently calls home.

A graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design, Steve’s work has been showcased in many gallery exhibitions, television documentaries, and various publications, and can be found in many private homes and corporate collections worldwide. You can also find it online at

By Steve McDonald
60 pgs. Chronicle Books. $14.95.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

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