Don Shank is an Annie and Emmy awards winning animator. Pleasantly planted in California, he is currently working at Pixar Animation Studios. Shank studied animation at the renowned CalArts. Whose alumni include fellow Pixar patriots, John Lasseter, Brad Bird, and Pete Docter, to name but a few.
After university, Shank worked at a variety of studios including Nickelodeon Animation Studio, where he worked as a layout artist on the groundbreaking Ren & Stimpy Show, Cartoon Network Studios and later, Hanna-Barbera Productions where he worked as a storyboard artist on Genndy Tartakovsky’s Dexter’s Lab and Samurai Jack as well as Craig McCracken’s Powerpuff Girls. Shank also wrote for Samurai Jack, Powerpuff Girls and The Powerpuff Girls Movie.
Around 2004 Shank made the jump into feature films, joining Pixar, aiding them with the visual development of The Incredibles. He has since worked as an environment and production artist on two of the most stunning of all the Pixar movies, Ratatouille and Up. More recent projects include the runaway box-office success, Inside Out and the upcoming, Finding Dory.
Shank is an incredibly skilled draftsman and painter, as such, he enjoys experimenting with different styles, mediums and techniques. Shank’s personal work is very influenced by Cubism, especially the artist Pablo Picasso. A few years ago, about a year after the launch of the first iPad, Shank made the news for the beautiful paintings he was creating with the Brushes app. Which I assure you was a very novel concept at the time and had people perplexed by the implications.
Noumeda Carbone is an award winning illustrator based in Florence, Italy. Freelancing since 2006 she has worked with a host of clients including Leo Burnett, Vogue, Saatchi & Saatchi and The Guardian. Carbone’s detailed and surreal work has graced the walls of multiple solo and group exhibition and illuminated the pages of many magazines like Rolling Stone, Glamour, Computer Arts, La Perla Magazine, and Juxtapoz.
Carbone’s illustrations balance the fanciful with the forlorn. Finicky detail sit next to fancy-free water colour brush work. All the elements are collated digitally to give a coherent, layered and dazzling finished piece.
In little over a year, adult colouring books have made a monumental impact across the publishing world. You need only to take a look at Amazon’s Best Sellers Book list to garner how popular they have become. Various titles are sprinkled all over the top 10 list and beyond. They have well past their craze phase and transitioned to a staple in everyday culture.
However, colouring books for grown-ups is not a new concept. Ruth Heller, a children’s author and graphic artist produced many colouring books aimed at children and adults alike throughout the 1970s up until 2000. I also remember a rather tongue-and-cheek Gangsta Rap Coloring Book, which came out in 2004 to favourable reactions. So what has changed? Why is adult colouring books now a ‘thing’?
Well, I had the opportunity to find out for myself. Phoenix Yard Books are publishers of The One and Only Colouring Book series. They currently have five books in the series and I sat down with two of them, The One and Only Mandala Colouring Book and The Second One and Only Colouring Book for Adults. Both books have inspiring full-colour glossy covers. The interior pages are thick lightly textured paper, around 200gsm. The images are not printed in solid black, rather they vary from mid to dark grey. I am not sure why this is, perhaps grey is more calming than black, however, it is something that stood out to me.
The Mandala Colouring Book is, as you would expect, a collection circular Hinduism and Buddhism patterns. Many of the illustrations are very intricate with tiny details and appear to be drawn completely freehand. Colouring Book for Adults has a variety of subjects, mostly floral, but some abstract shapes and even a page of people, which appealed more to my representational sensibilities.
Colouring in has never been my strongest suit, staying within the lines was off the table from the get-go, but none of which hindered my experience. once you get started, you can very easily lose yourself. On first glance many of the images are daunting, I found myself dotting around the book, only colouring in the sections of the illustrations, then moving on to another page. Which is completely fine, you can always come back to an image at a later date.
I tested the books by using colour pencils, fibre tip pens and promarkers. Not being able to remember the last time I used colour pencils or felt tips I naturally felt more comfortable and grown-up using the promarkers. They glide across the page and left the most consistent solid colour behind. Their only downside is that the bleed, a lot. You pretty much kill the reverse of the page using them. Which may not be a sacrifice most people are willing to make.
Spending about an hour of my day with these books, I can easily see their appeal. They do a great job of zoning you out and really punch that nostalgia button. Though I didn’t actually feel like a kid again, I’m pretty sure looking at my face would have said otherwise. I had to regularly bite my lip to stop my tongue from sticking out. I would highly recommend having a timer nearby as you can quickly become engrossed by the process and lose track of time.
To address my opening question, why is adult colouring books now a ‘thing’? Some could argue, it’s their therapeutic qualities, helping you to switch off and de-stress in an evermore onerous world. But stress, like colouring books, have been commonplace in modern city life for over a century, so adult colouring books could have quite easily been just as popular in the 1980s, but yet they weren’t.
I believe the answer is we are experiencing a second Arts and Crafts movement. Just as the first was a reaction to industrialisation, we are seeing a strong response to digitisation. Just as the first Arts and Crafts movement had strong floral motifs, it stands to reason that much of the imagery in these books are inspired by nature.
Independent magazine publishing is proof of people’s reaction towards digitisation. Looking at its resurgence and growth in the last couple years emphasises the demand for a vessel of culture that is more tangible than the glowing screen of a tablet. For many years now there has also been numerous authors and practitioners, such as Matthew Crawford, Richard Sennet and Jonathan Openshaw, crying out about the virtues of craftmanship in the modern age. It would seem the populous are finally catching up.
Our fingers are itching to do more than just tap. Colouring books are the open door for grown-ups to enter the world of craft without the hindrance of facing a blank page. Adult colouring books let our hands run free. They reinforce, one does not need to be a creative to be creative.
English illustrator and designer Andrew Davidson graduated from the Royal College of Art in London. Known for his traditional wood engraving and wood cuts, Mr Davidson also paints more graphic artwork using gauche and wood blocks. All of his traditional work is printed using a 1859 Albion hand press.
I noticed his work at the AOI Illustration Awards 2014. On display were his hand engraved Harry Potter illustrations. They were fantastic, the details and textures had me staring with my nose practically pressed against the glass. I was excited to see the application of the illustrations but after I found them online, I was sorely disappointed. Resisting the urge to berate someone’s work, I will let you take a look for yourself and make your own opinions.
Mr Davidson’s skill of traditional printing methods has kept him in high demand. His client list include HarperCollins, Penguin Books, Rolex, HRH Prince of Wales Duchy Originals. He has also created postage stamps for Royal Mail, and designs for the glass doors at Wimbledon’s Centre Court.
I’d Love to Draw is a collection of work by the innovative American artist Andrew Loomis, previously unseen by anyone outside the Loomis family and available in print for the first time ever. Having been held in the Loomis family archive for decades after the artist’s death, I’d Love to Draw has been restored by a group of devoted experts, including the globally renowned comic book artist and Loomis devotee Alex Ross.
Andrew Loomis started this book with the ambitious intention of bridging the gap between those who “can’t draw” and hobbyist. Before he passed away, he completed much of the writing, annotations, and sketches. Though some of the sketches are quite rough, they more than convey their point. Alex Ross plays co-author, and adds extra annotation where needed. I initially though his part would be quite small, writing a forward and maybe some extra thoughts, but Mr Ross actually has annotations throughout which are very helpful.
An important thing to remember is that this book is aimed at the absolute novice and so Mr Loomis pays careful attention to limit the art terminology, and breaks down processes to their simplest. Mr Loomis’ main focus is to change how a beginner thinks about drawing. He States that an amateur will focus on the contours of an object and attempt to draw them. This is of course very difficult even for seasoned illustrators. He goes into great depth to explain the importance of construction lines, and breaking down an object to its most basic shapes. Mr Loomis proceeds comfortably to reinforce this idea with a few examples of complex objects with their basic shape counterpart. The book is filled with some great tidbits, like this gem:
“We can only fake things we know thoroughly—otherwise we just put down the evidence of what we do not know.”
After addressing preconceptions and hopefully easing some of any initial fear, Mr Loomis proceeds to explain some of the most central areas of illustration including perspective, light, faces and figures. He spotlights cartooning and exaggeration, in attempt to convey the fun of drawing. Which actually did just that. I found it a really welcome section after the more technical information. The book concludes with different techniques of sketching: tonal, accent, scribble, block and more. This was definitely my favourite section as it pretty much doubles as a showcase of how inspiring and adept Andrew Loomis’ sketches are.
In all, I’d Love to Draw, is a worthy addition to the Loomis book collection and it is wonderful to see more of his work in print. I should stress that it won’t suit everyone. For those who already have a foot in illustration and draw regularly, this book may be a tad repetitious. Essentially it is a more accessible version of Successful Drawing. However, what it does do well and what it set out to do, to relieve the fear of having a go.
I will admit I have not sat to draw much lately, but as soon as I put this book down I picked my pencil up. Something about the “Getting the fun out of it” section really motivated me.
Published by Titan Books, I’d Love To Draw is out now, retailing at £29.99. I would recommend it mainly for beginners, those interested in illustration (and willing to give it a go), and definitely the Loomis enthusiast.