Thursday, 19 May 2016

Visions of Johanna: Ellon's illustrious Johanna Basford

Photograph: Johanna Basford|Laurence King Publishing

'I'm an illustrator and ink evangelist who prefers pens and pencils to pixels. I create intricate, hand-drawn illustrations predominately in black-and-white.'  Johanna's website.

Inky treasure hunt colouring book for grown-ups.. Tumble down the rabbit hole and find yourself in a black-and-white wonderland. These interactive activity books are global bestsellers. Take a ramble through gardens and forests.

Laurence King Publishing say that Secret Garden has sold 6.8million copies around the world, with 3million sold in China, where it was published on June 1st 2015. It became the bestseller with the fewest words - only 264 Chinese characters - according to Hinabook, its first Chinese publisher.  Secret Garden adult colouring-in book sells 3million copies in China. Read on for more Chinese reactions to Johanna's work.

Secret Garden has also been a major hit in Brazil, where it has sold just over 1.1million copies, with 650,421 copies sold in the US, half a million in South Korea, and 477,658 in the UK to date.

Enchanted Forest took colorists through a forest to discover what lies in the castle. It features hidden objects and fun mazes. Beginning at the entrance to a fairy-tale forest, the journey progresses through highly embellished woods and through intricate flora. Castles, treasure chests and other magical elements add a fairy tale narrative to the designs. Special features include a gate-folded two-page spread, and a colorable jacket.

Johanna's work has roots in the flora and fauna that surrounded her when she was growing up on her parents' farm near Ellon. Following the success of Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest, her 2015 book was titled Lost Ocean: an inky adventure & colouring book. It contains 80 pages bound in a softcover. Lost Ocean will make you feel as though you have entered an enchanting underwater world hidden in the depths of the sea. This interactive book will take you on a journey beneath the waves through intricate pen and ink illustrations. Visit coral reefs and barnacle-studded shipwrecks where you'll encounter pirate treasure, exotic fish, curious octopi, delicately penned seahorses, mermaids, coral reefs and tangles of seaweed.

Johanna studied Textile Design at Duncan of Jordanstone College  of Art and Design in Dundee. Her work is inspired by childhood holidays on the Isle of Arran on the West Coast of Scotland and her gardener grandfather's library of botanical reference books, with roots in the flora and fauna that surrounded her when she was growing up in rural North-East Scotland. Johanna still lives in Aberdeenshire with her husband (James Watt, Brewdog founder), baby daughter and dog Simcoe. 

Her magical illustrations have captured the hearts of people across the globe. Her books have been translated into 24 languages. 'I get emails from people saying that they wait till the kids go to bed, then get their books out and had a sneaky colouring session!' 

Global craze. Singapore Lifestyle mag interview.

'I think everyone has a creative spark; they just need the opportunity to let it flourish.' 

Johanna advises that one of the best pencils for colouring-in is the Staedtler Ergo Soft Triangular Coloured. “Most artist’s quality coloured pencils work well; I like these ones in particular for their soft blendable colours and the nice hand feel of the triangular barrel. Derwent also do a great selection. Coloured pencils have zero risk or smudging or bleeding, so the safest option if you have ink anxiety. Unlike with pens, you can blend and gradient pencils to create some really beautiful effects. Keep a sharpener to hand to assist with those intricate bits.”
Johanna also swears by little grey pens called Staedtler Pigment Liners.  How to draw .. an enchanted forest'- Johanna Basford. Guardian article from April 2015

Forget the old jokes about readers needing crayons. Colorists learn the importance of gradient ramp, color matching and light sensation. Each painting is a unique work of art, respite from a modern world in front of a screen. Psychiatrist Carl Jung prescribed colouring to his patients to relieve anxiety. According to the Irish Independent, Cork-based psychologist Sally O'Reilly is delighted about the current craze for colouring in. She used art tools for expression and therapy when she worked with bereaved children at Barnardos, but found she missed working with art when she left the job. "It helps people to wind down, it's contemplative, evocative of childhood and almost meditative. I've since invested in markers, crayons and sketch pads, which I have at home and in my office. Regardless of whether or not you're artistic, engaging with colour and images can be enormously therapeutic."

Many of Johanna's Chinese readers describe her book as 'a pressure-reducing valve'. "There is something mysterious about coloring in that lets me slow down from the fast life and forget about some daily routines," says Li Yaming, a 34-year-old middle school teacher in Guangzhou, Guangdong province. "Every reader is actually a 'co-author' of the book, or a gardener, when we participate in the 'gardening' process with Johanna. In the participative reading, I feel I walk into a secret garden, and I become its owner when the whole coloring in is complete."

"The graphic patterns of plants and animals put me into nature, awaken my childhood memories, and intrigue my passion to explore the beauty of the world," says Wen Wen, a real-estate sales agent in Harbin, Heilongjiang province. Characterizing her life as stressful, the 30-year-old Wen adds: "That's why Secret Garden is more than a book to me. I am simply addicted to it. Coloring in is a creative process that concentrates my spirit and calms my nerves."

Chinese reaction to Johanna's work, the nostalgia factor, plus a warning about eyesight problems and a lack of exercise!

Artists without borders: why adults are taking to colouring. Apoorva Sripathi's article in The Hindu

Millie Marotta was Britain's biggest-selling author in 2015. The top 100 best-selling list currently includes 10 colouring-in books for grown-ups. On 5th November 2015, Warner Brothers launched a book themed on Harry Potter. Other themed books include the original illustrations for Alice in Wonderland, Dr Who, Game of Thrones, Tolkein's World and Sherlock, the BBC drama series.

Johanna Basford is set to publish two new colouring books in 2016. The two new "inky imagined worlds" are Magical Jungle and Johanna's Christmas.

Magical Jungle offers a world of flora and fauna wherein lies "an exotic rain forest teeming with creatures large and small", including "speckled tree frogs and dainty hummingbirds, prowling tigers and curious monkeys". Johanna's Christmas includes "flurries of delicate snowflakes, to deliciously decorated gingerbread houses and reindeer-led sleighs" as a celebration of the holiday season.

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