Johanna Basford is the woman responsible for a movement currently taking over the art world: adult coloring. Before her book, Secret Garden, “coloring for adults” wasn’t officially a genre. It was just something parents did after their kids went to bed. Since the release of Secret Garden three years ago, the coloring book market isn’t just booming, it’s straight-up exploding. With proven stress-relieving and creativity-boosting effects, it’s the perfect low-key creative outlet for the busy, the timid and everyone in between.
We recently had a chance to chat with the woman behind the movement about how she stays creative, what her day-to-day looks like and, obvs, what her favorite coloring medium is. Her answer for that might surprise you.
B+C: What music do you like to listen to when you’re working?
I don’t often listen to music while I’m drawing, as I find the beat affects the way I draw. A very fast dance track has me drawing frantically and I can’t slow down to include all the usual inky details, while punk or rock can make trying to draw smooth lines a nightmare! I prefer listening to spoken word radio (BBC Radio 4 in the UK is great, lots of documentaries, plays and news) or podcasts and audio books are also good.
B+C: What goes on during a normal work day for you?
I tackle all my admin on a Thursday so that I can focus on creative tasks the rest of the time. I find it hard to switch between emails and drawing; they use different bits of the brain! On a drawing day I get to my desk around 9am, pick up my pens and pencils and start work. I stop around noon to have lunch with my toddler (we have a nanny who takes care of her in our home while I’m working, which is nice, but distracting!), then back to the drawing board.
I work best in the morning, so I get as much done as possible before lunch. After lunch, I do a few digital creative tasks, then always step outside and have a walk. I think I need the fresh air and daylight to stop me from getting into a post-lunch slump! I’ll create drawings and tweak artwork until around 5PM, when I stop work and switch to my mum duties! Evenings are spent checking in on social media, tidying the studio and writing never-ending to-do lists!
B+C: What keeps you going after a long day of creating?
I actually really enjoy the creating part of my job, so seeing an image I had imagined come to life in ink on the paper is often the reward in itself. The struggle for me has always been admin! After a long day of answering emails, accounts or organizing, I think a good dose of “real life” is always needed! Whether that’s baking cakes with my daughter, taking the dog for a long walk or meeting friends for dinner, I love to get out of the studio and leave my smartphone and laptop behind.
B+C: Okay, serious question time! What’s your favorite medium to color with?
I love black and white! There’s something so bold and graphic about it! I like to just add black embellishments to a drawing using a Staedtler fineliner pen and keep things super simple.
B+C: What are your thoughts on one day producing a digital coloring book?
Never say never, but for now, I prefer pens and pencils to pixels!
B+C: What have you been most inspired by lately?
The coloring gallery on my new website! It’s unbelievably inspiring to see so many beautiful creations uploaded by colorists all over the world. I never see the same picture twice; people always transform my black and white pictures into colorful compositions in a unique way that I find just breathtaking! It’s not every illustrator that gets the opportunity to collaborate with millions of people all around the world!
B+C: What advice would you give to someone aspiring to do fine art professionally?
Draw lots, share your work, don’t be too precious.
B+C: You were initially approached for a children’s coloring book and you pitched the idea of an adult coloring book. What was it that initially sparked the idea that this would work well for adults too?
I knew lots of adults that were “underground colorists,” meaning they loved to color at home, after the kids have gone to bed. Most kept their creative pastime as a secret, mainly because they were often coloring their kid’s books! It’s hard to post a picture of a Disney princess on your Facebook page, no matter how beautifully it’s colored, without raising some eyebrows. With my books, I want to give adults really beautiful, sophisticated artwork that they can color and be proud of. It’s not kid’s play; it’s a creative art form that allows people to make beautiful works of art that they can be truly proud of.
B+C: How do you get yourself out of a creative rut?
Just keep drawing!
B+C: What’s next for you? Anything exciting in the pipeline?
I’m launching my new book, Johanna’s Christmas, in October. It’s a festive coloring book with lots of great holiday images. I’ve also just teamed up with Canon to create four new coloring sheets that will be available for download [on Canon’s website]. Lastly, I’m working on a new book for 2017! That’s top secret for now though! ;)
What coloring book are you loving at the moment? Share with us on Twitter @BritandCo.
(Photos via Canon and Chris Andre)