15-49 Segment 1: Coloring Books for Adults: Nostalgia with benefits

Synopsis: Remember how much fun it was to crack open a new coloring book and crayons when you were a kid? These days, adults are reliving that thrill in huge numbers, maybe even fighting their kids for that Burnt Sienna crayon! Adult coloring books are all the rage, and we talk to two of the most popular artists of these books about why and how they put them together, what the attraction is for adults and how it can benefit everyone to sit down, relax and color a picture.

Host: Gary Price. Guests: Johanna Basford is an artist and the author of a series of adult coloring books, with her latest titled Lost Ocean: An inky adventure and coloring book. Jenean Morrison is an artist, designer and author of a series of books she self-published via Amazon’s CreateSpace, the latest of which is the 2016 Coloring Calendar.

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Adult Coloring Books: Nostalgia with benefits

Gary Price: Everyone remembers when they were young the thrill it was to crack open a new coloring book and box of crayons and start making those black and white pictures come alive. It didn’t matter if you filled in Donald Duck’s coat in the same blue as it was in the cartoons, or if you made Super Girl’s outfit the traditional blue and red. You were in charge; you could let your imagination run away with you and make your pictures look any way you wanted. That freedom and the fun of seeing the drab page light up in living color made you feel artistic and confident – in addition to giving mom an hour or so of peace and quiet! Well, coloring is not just for kids anymore. Now the trend is in coloring books for adults, and there are plenty of them out there. We talked to two of the most popular artists who design these books about their processes, why they think adult coloring books are all the rage now, and how filling in a design with color is beneficial to “kids” of any age. Johanna Basford is an artist and the author of a series of adult coloring books. Her latest is titled Lost Ocean: An inky adventure and coloring book. She spoke to us from her home in Scotland, and said she was an “ink evangelist” because she enjoyed making her designs mostly by hand…

Johanna Basford: I champion the hand-drawn line over the computer-generated artwork. I think there’s nothing more magical and charming than a picture that’s being created by hand. You know I love that my circles aren’t quite perfect, and that my lines are a little bit wobbly and I think the hand-drawn line just captures so much more character and charm than anything that can be created on the computer. You know, computer-generated artwork is essentially a series of points joined up with straight lines, and you know to me that’s just got so little soul, it’s so cold and clinical. And I think if you’re trying to capture the beauty of nature you really need to find a way of recording that that reflects nature, and that means drawing it by hand, and pen to paper.

Price: When she plans a book, Basford says she begins laying out the designs in various ways, using pencil and ink…

Basford: I know how many pages I have to fill and then I just sit at my desk with my sheets of paper and my pencils and my pens. I draw the pages just one by one. So I just start at one point, I’ll know roughly, you know, what shape it’s going to take, if it’s going to be a repeat pattern or circle or maybe a symmetrical design. I draw the artwork out in pencil and when I’m happy with it I redraw in ink. For the books, I use fineliner pens, so not a dipping pen, so it’s a little bit easier. You can use ones of all different sizes — a zero point to a five is really tiny for all the little details – and once I’m happy with it, with the inked artwork, I scan it into the computer. So I use the computer right at the end as an editing tool, essentially because, you know, I need to tidy some of the artwork up, but more because publishers and clients just can’t use a big envelope of hand-drawn artwork. They need the individual files. So I use the computer right at the end to tidy up any bits where the dog has sneezed under the desk and my pen’s gone haywire, or you know if I’ve been eating a cookie and like smudged a bit of crumb into the picture.

Price: She also uses the computer to create symmetry after hand drawing a design…

Basford: Now I use a computer to flip those, so I’ll draw half by hand and then by a sneaky trick of using the computer to flip over the other side, or if it’s a repeat pattern I draw one tile and then I use the computer to help me just replicate that up, and that’s how the artwork is finished off. You know, it’s finished off digitally and then I send those pages over to my editor.

Price: Jenean Morrison uses the computer in much the same way for her coloring books. Morrison is an artist, designer and author of a series of books, the latest of which is the 2016 Coloring Calendar. Morrison draws a variety of subjects such as flowers and plants but she admits she does have a soft spot for mandala designs …

Jenean Morrison: That is a symmetrical circular design, so those are really fun to color and I think they provide some of the best stress relief. So the design just repeats itself all the way around the circle. And I think they’ve been around for a very long time. That’s one of my favorite things to design and color. When I’m coloring, I’m very focused on the coloring but I’m actually also thinking about things, I‘m organizing my thoughts. And when what I’m coloring requires repetition to maybe go all the way around the circle or something like that, that really sort of takes me out of any worries or takes me away from any stress.

Price: Both Morrison and Basford say that stress relief is one big reason adults are taking up coloring their intricate designs…

Morrison: It’s very meditative, and it’s also a creative activity. There’s a group on Facebook that call themselves The Coloring Club and every week they’re coloring another page in one of my mandala coloring books. And it is amazing to see the variety with which people choose the different colors, the different styles. Some people use colored pencils some people use markers so no two people do it the same way. I think that people are being really creative with their coloring. I don’t know if they would be that creative or that free or that bold if you just gave them a blank sheet of paper. I think having a little outline there really helps.

Basford: I think it’s just a chance to have a digital detox. You know we’re so busy in a 24/7 digital online life these days, it’s very rare to get a chance to unplug. And you know with the coloring it is that digital detox: you’re not looking at Twitter, you’re not checking in online, you’re not getting interrupted by email. You have this wonderful opportunity to lose yourself in a creative, analog task and to really focus on something and let the outside world just bounce away. It’s how I feel when I’m in the studio drawing. I also think we all have this creative spark within us, you know, this need to draw and create and we just have to have the opportunity to let that flourish.

Price: Morrison says that when she started designing the books, she began hearing from people who used her books to help themselves during tough times when they were carrying heavy burdens or had health problems…

Morrison: I did immediately start getting a response from people who would say, like, I heard from teachers who were using them in their classrooms. They said nothing keeps their kids calmer, more focused. Older kids, not necessarily children in the classrooms. College teachers and teachers of high school kids they just said it seemed to calm them down. And then as the popularity has grown over the last few years, I’ve gotten more and more letters from people and comments and things like that on my social media. People have told me they used it when recovering from surgery or when they’re grieving; I’ve heard from women’s shelters (that) are using them; definitely classrooms. I’ve had a request from a prison for some books because they were using it in the therapy sessions, so I definitely think it’s bringing a benefit to all different kinds of people.

Price: So how should adults approach the coloring books? Are there any rules to follow or any “best way” to color in the designs? Basford says that coloring is only ruled by your imagination…

Basford: I just say to people it’s all about getting started and not being too precious with it. I don’t think you even need to worry if you go over the lines. I used to go over the lines and still do all the time. The outlines are just there as a suggestion. I think you need to pick your color palette or, you know, look roughly at what you’re going to do and make your mark. You know it’s not about the pursuit of perfection; it’s just about enjoying the process. And if you don’t like how it’s going, you’ll just stop and start a new one. I think the less pressure you put on yourself, the more you will enjoy it and the more you’ll get wrapped up in your task.

Price: Basford says that she doesn’t color in her own designs very much, she’d rather leave that to others. She gets a lot of pleasure and relaxation out of making the designs, however, and especially enjoys the natural subjects that she pursues…

Basford: I think to create anything with love and authenticity you have to be 100 percent wrapped up in the imagery and in the scheme of it. And for me, I just love the natural world. You know I’m a country girl, I grew up in the countryside. I’m never happier than when I’ve got my boots on, I’m in the garden or down at the seashore, so I just wanted to pick themes to create artwork that I loved and I was completely enchanted by and I want to share that love with people through the drawings and through the book.

Price: Her latest book, Lost Ocean, is more than just a succession of underwater scenes. Basford says she adds a little mystery into the mix that her fans look forward to…

Basford: With all my drawings I like to hide things in there for you to find, little details and intricacies. So, you know, it might be a rogue robin, or a little butterfly. In Lost Ocean it’s as though I’ve taken the contents of a pirate’s treasure chest and scattered it throughout the pages: there’s goblets and crowns and jewels and gold hidden within all those drawings. And it’s an inky treasure hunt so you have to find each of the things hidden in those pages. And I just like the idea that the more you look, the more you see, and it invites people to pause and to not just scroll or flip the page. You know, just take your time, be gentle and see what you can find within those drawings.

Price: Morrison says the large adult coloring community out there, each with a different take on how to color her pictures, surprised her…

Morrison: These people are bringing a huge level of their own creativity to these designs. I’m really surprised with what I see a lot of times, choices that people make. Some people color in with dots and stripes and things like that. I saw a lady the other day in this coloring club mentioning she just, in her brain, saw little Santa Clauses in the design so she added like little Santa Claus faces all the way around the circle. And people are really getting creative beyond just what is in front of them. And through Instagram and Facebook and things like that, it’s really allowed me to connect with people in a way that I never have before. And then I see all of these other people connecting with each other over the art. If you look on Instagram there are just tons of posts that are coloring books for adults and people share their work. And it’s just all these beautiful images filling up people’s feeds, and people are complimenting each other, and like, “what markers did you use?” “What book is that from?” And I just love the creativity that has been spread through the community. And I love the fact that people are benefitting from this.

Price: Basford says that it’s just a natural conclusion that adults would want to share their coloring with others on the Internet just like they shared it with the family on the refrigerator as kids. And that’s one of the reasons she thinks coloring is so popular with grown-ups these days…

Basford: I think we just all want that opportunity to create, to have the digital detox, but there’s also a bit of nostalgia. You know that chances are the last time that you colored in you didn’t have a mortgage, you didn’t have an angry boss, you weren’t worried about the fiscal crisis. So there’s definitely this feeling that, you know, it helps you to think back to more carefree, fluffier times when you were a kid and I think, you know, that makes people happy and they enjoy that sensation,

Price: You can find out just how much fun coloring can be when you’re over 18, in Johanna Basford’s new adult coloring book Lost Ocean available in stores and online. She invites listeners to visit her website at JohannaBasford.com where they can read her blog, see more of her designs and even upload ones they’ve colored themselves. For more information on Jenean Morrison, her books and her 2016 Coloring Calendar with 300 designs to color in, you can log onto her site at JeneanMorrison.net. For information about all of our guests, visit our site at Viewpointsonline.net. You can find archives of past programs there and on iTunes and Stitcher. I’m Gary Price.

 

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