Thursday, June 1, 2017

Coloring, Coloring

In my last post on the adult coloring book craze, I felt like I wasn't on the most solid ground trying to justify why I was writing about coloring for this blog. Well, that's changed. Over the past few months I've happily watched social media explode with new coloring related material, and it's been a lot of fun watching the evolution of the fandom.

As you might expect, there are now coloring groups on pretty much every social platform - Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and so on. Some are connected to specific books or artists, but most are not. Real world meetups at libraries and cafes are popular. Several blogs have sprung up reviewing coloring books and coloring tools. There are vloggers offering coloring tips and tutorials, and some even livestream coloring sessions. What I've found especially helpful are the "flip through" videos, that simply flip through a coloring book page by page, so you can see all the artwork before buying. There's not so much of a worry about piracy with these videos, because they're sized so small, and with the better books, you're really paying a premium for the paper and printing quality. Recently, the best-selling "Ink evangelist" Johanna Basford did flip-throughs for her latest coloring books, "Magical Jungle" and "Johanna's Christmas."

Speaking of Johanna Basford, she's been fantastic at using social media to connect to her fanbase. Through Facebook and her own website, she's held contests, posted previews of upcoming work, and maintains a lovely gallery of fan-submitted colored pictures from her books. More importantly, she's incredibly responsive to people, and endlessly positive. It's no surprise that she's easily the biggest name in adult coloring, and practically synonymous with the trend. I wish I could say I was a fan of her work, but I'm halfway through "Enchanted Forest" and the endless amount of leafy designs is starting to drive me a little nuts. I've found that I'm much more interested in coloring landscapes, figures, and tchotchkes. And I've quietly amassed a list of coloring books I'm itching to get my hands on after I'm done with "Enchanted Forest"

More than a few of the books on my list were originally published overseas, from Swedish, Korean and Japanese artists. There's a booming market for coloring books in several other countries, making the adult coloring trend a remarkably international phenomenon. I find I prefer a lot of the content from the Korean and Japanese books in particular - fewer mandalas and more baked goods. Several of the most popular volumes are getting U.S. versions soon, and why wouldn't they, with most coloring books hardly needing any translation? I've been happily keeping track of which of my wishlisted books have gotten picked up by publishers over the past few months. An aside - I've finally found something Pinterest is good for. If you don't want to wait, however, it's not difficult to buy the originals through import sites.

Then there are the titles that aren't so easy to find. It's been fascinating to discover that so many artist and illustrators I've admired have put their names on coloring books at some point. Many are limited edition, and long out of print. Jean "Moebius" Giraud did one. Charles Vess did one. Graeme Base released a coloring book version of one of his picture books, "The Watering Hole." "Lord of the Rings" concept artist John Howe has contributed to several, including the "Game of Thrones" coloring book. I'm regretting that I didn't go out on Indie Bookstore Day to nab a copy of the Neil Gaiman Coloring Book, which was a limited exclusive. More pop culture-themed ones seem to be announced every day.

I only know about many of these coloring books because I've been casually following some of the Facebook coloring groups for inspiration and recommendations. It's absolutely jawdropping to see the variety of images that people can create from the same template with a couple of colored pencils, pens, or pastels. I maintain that coloring is absolutely a legitimate hobby, one that you can spend as little or as much effort on as you like. I've seen pieces that clearly took people ages to do, that look spectacular. I, on the other hand, am content spending two or three nights on each piece with my old box of Crayola colored pencils, and leaving them not quite perfect.

It's quickly becoming apparent that adult coloring books aren't just a flash in the pan, and I'm so glad to see the colorists slowly, but surely becoming a community on the internet. It's always nice to know that there's somewhere you belong.


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