Saturday, July 25, 2015

My Sweet Score: Enchanted Forest by Johanna Basford

Before YCIYWT, I wrote an online series called Spotlight. I found interesting artists who had started making part or all of their living doing something creative that they loved—writing poetry, painting murals, crafting surfboards, designing custom tattoos—and then I interviewed them, hired a photographer to snap them hard at work, and published everything on my freelancing site. I did one article every month. It was the best part of my job.

Years later, committed to an entire website on young entrepreneurs, I decided artists would not be my focus. I wanted to write mostly about businesspeople who had actual storefronts—places consumers could go and experience. If not places, products that were accessible to everyone were key, and it would really benefit those products to have some sort of cause behind them.

I’m breaking my own rule today. I am so excited about the sweet score I made this afternoon that I have to include it on the blog. I think, though, that it still totally fits the theme of YCIYWT.

Enchanted Forest, by Johanna Basford, is what Amelia Davis (the owner of Folk Gallery, where I found my score) calls an “advanced coloring book.” The book is part “quest,” part pen-and-ink illustration. Intricate illustration.

“Apparently,” Amelia said, giving the book a flip-through, admiring the pages, “they’re all the rage.” She found Enchanted Forest at a trade show, and coloring books were all the vendors could talk about.

Having seen one, I know why. The illustrations in this unusual coloring book are imagination-invoking, in the most fantastic way. In a world where fantasy is for children, Basford has figured out how to break down grown-up brain barriers and tap into the part of the mind that once believed in magical things like talking woodland creatures, fairy homes in enchanted trees, fire-breathing dragons, and castles full of mystical secrets. Basford invites her audience to “tumble down the rabbit hole,” as she says on her website, and get lost in her rendition of a wonderland. 

I confess, I did a bit of cyber-stalking to get a better scope of Basford’s talents. In my mind’s eye, she was an artist waiting to be discovered, perhaps by this very book. In reality, she is a highly successful illustrator, who has landed gigs illustrating for all products ranging from rum bottles to boats, and accounts working with companies ranging from Chipotle to BrewDog. Videography of her hard at work, in a series called “Fringe” (by someone else), demonstrates how her designs resonate with thousands of people.

Basford’s autobiographical account on her website describes her inspiration as coming from the “flora and fauna” of her native Scotland. Her blog is mesmerizing. This woman is intensely creative and beautifully authentic. An entire section of her site is dedicated to the coloring accomplishments her admirers send her after interacting with her drawings. What an incredible tribute!

I myself have been trying to figure out how I’ll gather the courage to commit colors to Basford’s drawings. The pages just call out to be colored—but how should I do it? Colored pencils? Colored pens? Gel pens? Water color pencils? All of the above? And with so many colors to choose from, how will I choose just one for any given part of a picture?

I’m wondering if I shouldn’t share the book, as well. Maybe color one page, then open the next page to another person to color? It would be an interesting way to collect pieces of my friendships with others. I could have each friend sign his or her page, passing the book to and fro until the whole book is filled! 

In any case, I feel like I’m bound for an adventure. The $15 was easy to spend—and it will result in hours of creativity and entertainment. What would you call that if not a sweet score?

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