Thursday, March 17, 2016

"How's your next coloring book coming?"

One day last May I was at TCAF in Toronto sitting at the Drawn & Quarterly table signing copies of Poetry is Useless. Near the end of my allotted signing time the crowd had thinned and a distracted looking kid, maybe ten or eleven years old, approached and began absently turning pages in a copy of Big Questions. His mother, apparently desperate to interest her bored looking kid in something, anything at the show or in life noticed and her eyes brightened. "Ooh! It's a coloring book! You like to color! Should we get that for you?". I tried not to show it, but my soul crumpled slightly. Fortunately there's nothing like a parent's forced enthusiasm to dampen a child's interest in anything – he mumbled something inaudible, closed the book and they both wandered away.

Before my soul could completely uncrumple, my friend Jordan, who was at the table next door and had watched the whole exchange with interest piped up, grinning "Great coloring book you got there." he said. Later, back home in Minneapolis another friend got wind of the joke. "When's your next coloring book coming out?" Lots of laughs, all around. It became a thing.

Two months later I was at ComicCon in San Diego, signing again at the D+Q table, when Julia brought over a serious-looking, middle-aged Chinese gentleman and his interpreter, saying, among other things that he was a publisher in China, had been looking at my work and wanted to do a coloring book. My first thought was that Jordan or someone was playing a prank and I think I actually looked around. I'm sure some small mixture of annoyance and confusion probably flittered across my face, but I managed to have a short conversation with him and arranged to meet the next day for a drink to discuss the idea in more depth. But truly my initial thought was "How can I politely decline?".

The publisher is Ginkgo (in English) and it turned out that they make beautiful books. They've just started translating some literary graphic novels from the West (mostly France, but it looks like they are also picking up a few North American books – including Big Questions and Dogs and Water), and they were very fairly convincing. After turning the idea over in my head and thinking about what I might do I agreed. I'd had no idea that adult coloring books were a huge thing, and it turned out that several people I know use them, unbeknownst to me. It seemed like an interesting problem to play with, and Ginkgo was open to my ideas. The deal didn't get finalized until late January, and to get the 96 page book out in North America (D+Q is doing it over here) out in time for the holidays – done the way I want to do it – I have to basically do almost a page a day, with minimal chance for revision and none for preciousness. As I write this I'm just over half done, and am rather enjoying it. It's more drawing than I've ever done in a short period of time, but it's a genuinely interesting problem to work that fast, and has me pouring over books of plants and animals, visiting museums and conservatories for inspiration and looking at the world a little differently. I'll be posting pictures as I go for the next few weeks at FB and Instagram, and maybe a few more here as well, depending. Here's the cover and one more image:

The book is basically what it's title implies. I've done a bunch of drawings set in the Garden of Eden in the last few years, including the title/cover of God and the Devil at War in the Garden, and Adam and Eve Sneak Back into the Garden to Steal More Apples. The coloring book will basically be that version of Eden, populated with both real, fantastical – and long extinct animals, plants, and fungi, as well as various objects of human manufacture that might feel out of place. In a way I am picturing Adam and Eve's return in some imagined future after humans have disappeared and maybe even God has abandoned the place.