This current craze of Adult Colouring Books is getting so big that I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I had to work out what it is all about, so over the last few weeks I have gotten hold of a few popular titles and want to share a few thoughts with you… and more importantly, I would love to hear your opinions and ideas.
I haven’t actually started colouring in yet, but I have four books that I am going to review before starting. Those of you who regularly follow me will know that my work is very loose. I rarely draw neat oultines and find it impossible to stay within the lines when I am sketching, but with my architectural background I am able to do precise and neat work. So in reviewing these books I feel as if I have more of my architect’s hat on than my sketchers one!
Note: despite the American spelling of coloring in the title of this post, I am going to stick to the English version of colouring – with the ‘u’.
Ok – lets get going… this is a long post!
Walk into any bookstore in Sydney and you will easily be able to find a huge range of Adult Colouring Books. Dymocks has gone to full promotion mode… you can’t walk into the store without passing the display. Perfect for Christmas presents – hey?
In the city store, upstairs there is are two row with many many titles. I have decided to look at four titles and not bother with any of mandala – ‘mindfulness’ type books, instead focusing on the more illustrative ones – I am an Urban Sketcher after all!
I don’t have Johanna Basford’s first book “Secret Garden” (the No. 1 book). Because I was ordering online I didn’t want to risk getting a copy of the earlier edition with the thinner paper, so I have gone with her second book instead, Enchanted Forest.
The line work is very precise in this book – in fact I feel a little too precise. The areas to colour in many places are very small (too small!) and the author states “you may find some parts of certain drawings are too detailed to colour in every tiny little section, and so you may choose to simply colour over the top of these areas”.
This might be ok for some of the textured areas but I am not sure what you do with these areas in the floral animals. I feel like the drawings were drawn large and scaled down too much for this size book. Also the line thickness is inconsistent across various pages, some are very fine and some are significantly thicker – something that doesn’t happen in Johanna Basford’s books.
Also in some places the ink details made the areas a little too black for my liking. I think in a colouring-in book there some be very clean and crisp shapes to add colour to and I don’t like shapes that are too heavy with inklines.
I rather like this mix of subject matter, however I am not overly excited by a lot of the linework in this book. Some reviews on Amazon say that they like the ‘hand drawn’ quality of this book… I am tempted to say that is ‘sloppily drawn’! Now I know that as a sketcher I have very loose lines, but if I am to get into colouring in books I want clearly defined shapes (this might be a personal preference… and I could possible change my mind after I tackle a few pages in this book). It is not so much the character of the linework that is a problem for me in this book as it is the inconsistency.
The Paris scene pages however are rather disappointing, and these pages are the reason why I bought the book. There are so many shapes that are not defined – in a way that feels very hesitant – and there are many inconsistencies in the way objects are drawn. For example look at the windows in this scene – why aren’t they all drawn the same way?
Maybe I might change my opinion after I have done some colouring in (maybe???) but right now, the book doesn’t inspire me to start.
The fourth book, Fantastic Cities by Steve McDonald is fantastic! Wow! this book has really gotten me excited and itching to start colouring in. Of course the fact that I am an architect might have something to do with it as well!
Incredibly precise drawn city scenes and building drawings and a number of insanely head spinning city mandalas! The quality of these drawings is outstanding and I just love the fact that these are real scenes.
What I really like about this book is that you could render these to indicate light hitting these city scenes – they are real scenes not stylised illustrations. In fact the examples on the inside cover show this and at least one of the pages actually outlines shadow shapes.
I have a few more photos of books that I flicked through in Dymocks the other week. I wasn’t overally impressed by the linework in these books. Some of them look like bad trace of photos and very patchy line weights and scrappy cross hatching.
And finally, before I share a few general comments about colouring-in in general, I am wanting very much to get a copy of Colouring the Lion City by William Sim – one of my Singapore Urban Sketchers friends. This book looks great and here is a great review by Parka!
So what do I think of this latest colouring-in book craze?
– I think it is great that people are putting down their smart phones/tablets and doing something more tactile with pencil, pen and paper. And that they are creating beautiful coloured images
– I am interested in the whole meditative – art therapy angle that has been used to promote this. Is that a way to justify having a little bit of fun doing what is perceived as a childish activity? Is it a clever marketing push? I have read a few interesting articles that are critical of promoting colouring-in as ‘art therapy’. It might be relaxing, but something a little less precise (such as zentagles or loosening up exercises) might be more appropriate?
– I do worry a little bit about ‘perfection pressure’ which might be generated by these precise images. Why do adult colouring-in books have to be so ‘difficult’?
– I also worry about the obsessive, repetitive, time consuming nature of completing one of these books. If any of us has exisiting problems with ‘ipad neck’ and wrist RSI issues, then this type of activity isn’t the best form of relaxation!
– Is the colouring-in community competitive? I have no idea about this, so would love to hear about what this community is like.
The bottom line for me is that I’m so glad I discovered the sketching community 9 years ago and am drawing (and colouring) my life using my own lines as the base, rather than getting obsessive about colouring in someone else’s lines. Yes, personality is expressed in the way you colour-in someone else images, but when you put down your own marks on the page there is really something special and unique about that! I love that I am creating a narrative of my real life as it is, rather than escaping into a fantasy world. This ‘real life’ aspect of keeping a sketch journal of my life has helped me to be more content and to find beauty in my own hum-drum life. (Note: because of urban sketching, my old hum-drum life has changed into a much more exciting life. Sometimes I miss the quietness of the old days …sometimes!)
I hope that this colouring-in craze will lead to more people wanting to learn to draw for themselves….
But is colouring-in a good lead in to this?
I worry that the precision and perfection that these books encourage will become a huge barrier for people wanting to start sketching. The expectation of perfection is the first thing you have to let go of and learning to think visually has to do serious battle against stylised images of objects. (BTW these are important things that I look at in my Foundations course!)
Well, this has turned into a long post and I haven’t even mentioned HOW am I going to colour in!
What media am I going to use?
– I could use my water colour pencils, but am thinking that getting a set of my standard 10 colours in the Faber Castel Polychromos might be a good way to start.
– Or should I try pen? The Staedtler Triplus seem to be a popular choice… or gel pen (can’t see myself colouring doing that!)
I’m open to suggestions …so please let me know what you think I should test/use.
And yes, I will start sharpening my pencils! I somehow think that my pencils will need to have a new shape to tackle these books! My favourite WCP (Cobalt Green) agreed to pose from these photos to give you a sense of scale.
Anyway, in closing… would love to hear your opinions and experiences with this new craze!
More posts in this series
Adult Coloring Books 2: Someone’s else lines, old insecurities and my style