Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Magical Jungle by Johanna Basford

Coloring fanatics, today marks the release of Johanna Basford's latest, Magical Jungle: An Inky Expedition and Coloring Book. If you haven't tired of the adult coloring trend (and why would you!?) you definitely need this one for your coloring book collection. Not only is it packed with more of Basford's signature gorgeous illustrations and hidden images, it's jungle themed!

If you're familiar with Basford's previous titles, then you know just how intricate and detailed her drawings are. And of course that translates into HOURS of coloring! My own first pick from the book is an ambitious one, especially considering how interested the kitten became as soon as I pulled out the coloring pencils (you can see a pic below - I'd barely gotten started when she knocked over an entire tray of coloring pencils!). But if she and the other cats allow, I plan to be spending ample amounts of time on all of the pictures in this one!

To celebrate today's release, the publisher has provided a great Q&A with Basford herself. Enjoy!

A conversation with Johanna Basford

In your previous books, you’ve invited colorists to join you for inky adventures in gardens, forests, and oceans. What attracted you to the jungle for this new book?

I’ve never visited a real Jungle, but the idea for this book came to me whilst visiting Aberdeen’s Winter Gardens with my daughter, Evie. The tropical plants are housed in huge glass greenhouses and whilst exploring them one day Evie pointed into the dense leafy undergrowth and shouted ‘Look Mummy! Tiger!’. The Jungle suddenly seemed like a marvelous place for an inky adventure; full of gargantuan leaves, exotic flowers and teeming with creatures big and small. A great place to let your imagination roam wild!

What about coloring do you think is so therapeutic?

I think it’s a great chance to unplug and indulge in a bit of a digital detox. We’re all glued to screens, be it our laptops, iPads or TVs, so to have the opportunity to lose yourself for a little while in something analogue and creative is often a welcome retreat. There’s no ping of a tweet or an email or the interruption of a new message to read, you can just spend some time focused on the task at hand and ignite your inner creative spark.

Who is your favorite artist? Favorite author?

We’re currently reading a lot of Dr. Seuss in our house. My favourite has to be Oh, The Places You’ll Go! It’s like an undercover self-help book with its motivational messages and no-nonsense advice – perfect if you are feeling a little lost or stuck in a procrastinating fog.

I could never pick one single favourite artist or creative practice, these things change like the seasons. My current obsessions are terrariums, brush calligraphy, flat lay photography (still life for the digital age!) and pantone colour books.

You’ve spoken about not being accepted to a post grad program. What about your life do you think would be different if you had gotten in? What are the benefits of a “real world” education as opposed to formal post-graduate programs?

To be fair, I applied to do a post grad at the Royal College of Art in London because I didn’t know what else to do after Art School. It wasn’t the best reason to continue in education and I’m lucky they rejected me! Instead of spending 2 more (expensive!) years in education, I just got stuck into work. I did some internships then set-up my own studio. I made a ton of mistakes, but I learnt from them all. I think there’s only so much you can learn within the bubble of Art School, sooner or later you have to go out into the real world, find your clients, your voice, your style of work and just start living!

Do you color in your own books?

Not as much as you would think! I often test pens and paper samples by coloring in small sections of the drawings, but I tend to think of the books as collaborations. I create the artwork and draw the outlines, then it’s up to whoever buys the book to bring the color and make their mark. My job is the black and white line work, then I hand creative control over to audience. I think perhaps if I started coloring the books it would disrupt the natural order of things!

In your bio you’re described as an “ink evangelist.” What does that mean to you?

I prefer pens and pencils to pixels. I use the computer right at the end of my creative process to rotate butterflies, erase tea spillages and perhaps flip some symmetry. I absolutely don’t use the computer to create. I think the natural world needs to be captured by hand, it seems counterintuitive to try and recreate the beauty of a jelly fish or a coral reef in little square pixels! I rejoice in the wobbly lines, imperfect circles and the odd smudgy finger print – they prove that the artwork was lovingly crafted by a real person and not just generated on a screen.

Your coloring books, Secret Garden, Enchanted Forest, and Lost Ocean, have been huge successes, with over 16 million sold worldwide. Were you surprised by that? What in your life has been different since the books took off?

The numbers don’t seem real! Day to day not much has changed in terms of work. I still sit at my desk in my house in rural Scotland, drawing pictures all day and dreaming up ways to share them with the world. I’ll never fail to be surprised by the way a little idea, to create a colouring book for adults, has snowballed into what it has become. It’s utterly bizarre but also incredibly humbling to have the opportunity to share my work and collaborate with millions of people all over the world. Some days I look at the amazing pictures people post online of their completed colouring pictures and just think ‘how did this happen?!’.

Now that your daughter is approaching two years old, have you started to introduce her to coloring?
Of course! Although it was less of an introduction and more sabotage! Evie loves to find a pen or pencil and add her own little contribution to whatever might be on my desk – whether I want her to or not! Her favourite creative projects are our ‘Big Pictures.’ I tape a long strip of wallpaper to the kitchen floor, grab a marker and draw whatever she tells me (usually this involves butterflies, mice and raspberries), then she lies on the floor and colours it in with her crayons whilst I cook dinner.

Traditionally, coloring has been considered an activity for kids, but obviously adults are big fans of coloring, as evidence by the success of adult coloring books! Your books are designed for adults, with very intricate and detailed illustrations, but do you see coloring as a family activity? Do you have suggestions for your fans who want to get their kids involved?

I think any creative activity can be enjoyed by people of all ages, you just need to adapt it a little, relax and have fun. The reason kids enjoy drawing and painting so much is that they aren’t too precious with it. They never doubt their own talent or worry they aren’t doing it ‘right’ – they just get stuck in!

I see so many great examples of my drawings coloured by kids – and they all look full of joy and energy and excitement! The best way to encourage little people to pick up a pen or pencil is to lead by example. Sit down and do some colouring of your own, don’t worry if you go over the lines and don’t over think your colour choice.

Remember, there are no wrong colours! Suggest to kids that they can colour several sections in the same colour if the individual shapes are proving to be a bit fiddly and always advise that they go wild when it comes to backgrounds - encourage them to add their own drawings and embellishments! For very little hands, get a blank sheet of paper and a marker pen, then draw a simplified version of the page you are working on – perhaps a couple of big leaves and a butterfly – this way they have their own ‘special’ version to colour and you can keep your book crayon free!

And lastly, remember collaboration is always the most fun way to work! Pick a page, then take it in turns to colour a bit!

If you could pick one of your environments to inhabit as one of its critters or creatures, which would it be? Why?

Oh I’d love to be a bee in Secret Garden! I just love bumble bees! Flitting from flower to flower, living with all your friends and enjoying the summer sunshine – what a life!

About the Illustrator: JOHANNA BASFORD is an illustrator and ink evangelist who prefers pens and pencils to pixels. Her intricate, hand-drawn illustrations are loved the world over by those who have colored in (sometimes more than once) her bestselling books Lost Ocean, Secret Garden, and Enchanted Forest. Johanna is a graduate of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee. She likes sugar mice, floral teacups, peonies, and bumblebees. Visit her online at JohannaBasford.com


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