Filling in the blanks

The urge to colour was lurking within adults - lurking until this year. Who knew?

When publishers took a chance on marketing a line of colouring books to adults, the urge erupted. In an article written for The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom, journalist Heather Schwedel called this "the year of the adult colouring book" and the trend is indeed global. Guardian scribe Zoe Williams discovered that five of the top 10 selling books on Amazon were colouring books for adults, while in Brazil, adult colouring books occupied six of the top 10 slots on their non-fiction bestseller list.

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The movement has finally come to Prince George.

To be clear, adult colouring books were already for sale in this city. What has finally come to Prince George is the commercial production of adult colouring books. Spotting the trend, but also partaking in the fun, was locally-raised artist Witek Radomski and his fiance Carrie Wong. Together they set to work creating sketch images that others could colour in, and they called in the services of other artists to help out.

The result is a heavy book printed on thick paper with dozens of original monochromatic images just waiting for colour to be added.

The added benefit, said Radomski, was the celebration the images represent of the province of British Columbia and the nation of Canada. It is entitled Legendary Landscapes and while it has images ranging from science fiction to floral, it is smattered with pictures of our own national culture - everything from the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City to the Stanley Park totem poles.

"Carrie and I spent a lot of time hiking together this year and we were always amazed by the wonderful landscapes in B.C.," said Radomski. "I've done many hikes in Prince George myself after reading Exploring Prince George by Mike Nash. Some that come to mind are Evanoff Park, Kristi Glacier, Longworth Lookout, the Inland Rainforest, Eskers Park, and plenty in Prince George where I've had some encounters with moose and bears. During our hikes we realized that there was not a single high-quality landscape colouring book available anywhere."

Wong had already been using adult colouring books to relax, like many in the sudden trend. What has been revealed by this movement is a feeling alive within adults similar to playing video games or baking cookies: we loved to do it as kids, so why would we not do it as adults?

Some have claimed it is therapeutic and mental health experts have now stepped forward to debunk this notion, but the follow-up point is, you don't need it to be clinical to be valid. It is certainly relaxing, just like a crossword or sudoku puzzle. It can certainly be a lot of fun.

And there is the added bonus of how these colouring books are drawing attention to the processes and skills at the next levels of art. Adults are now exploring the different kinds of pencil crayons and ink pens and felt-tipped pens, learning about different kinds of paper, and other implements of colourful creation. These colouring books might just be the gateway to other art skills. It also means this trend has the ability to become not only bigger (most adults are only hearing about it in the last few months as Christmas marketing kicks in), but permanent.

"Carrie and I started holding a colouring meet-up in the library every two weeks and we love meeting new people there every time," Radomski said. "It's a wonderful way to relax, have a coffee, and colour and chat with interesting people."

The community element also played a role in the book being published. An online crowd-sourcing campaign was held by Radomski and Wong to raise funds for the publication of the book. The money (and a bunch of art ideas) came pouring in.

"To our amazement, people all over the world loved the idea and our campaign quickly blew past our goal," Radomski said.

That meant they had to actually produce the book - source a printing company, invest in the special paper, do the design of the layout, etc. - so with the Kickstarter financial backing came a lot of work. Hence the additional artists being needed to share the efforts. Radomski and Wong call the team the Legendary Landscapes Group of Seven because they were joined by five others: Kamala Melzack, Al Sayers, Anonymous, Adrienne Drozdowski and Ratbath.

"We all drew as much as we could, hours every day, penciling and inking new landscapes inspired by B.C. and our imaginations," said Radomski. "We fed off each other's creativity and came up with what I think are some very cool illustrations to colour.

"Some Kickstarter backers also gave us commissions and ideas and somehow we managed to completely finish the art, do the book layout, cover, and have it all out to the printers on the deadline day. I think we slept for a whole 24 hours after that."

The big rush was all because of a special order that came to them unexpectedly. Small bookstores and general interest stores were already agreeing to stock the book, if they went ahead to print it. But Radomski and Wong got set back on their artistic heels when a chance encounter blew away their own previous expectations.

"One day out of the blue we got a call from Kenny Vannucci, the merchandise manager for London Drugs," Radomski explained. "We were living near Trail at the time and by a strange stroke of luck he was in Trail himself. We had a coffee together and he took a look at our unfinished artwork. He told us that London Drugs wanted to take a chance on us, and he thought our book could make it big in Canada. But we had to get it finished and printed in a short deadline - under a couple of months. I didn't want to let him down and we wanted this opportunity really badly."

The Kickstarter campaign and the independent stores which pre-ordered Legendary Landscapes ensured that first run needed to be 1,000 copies. The art couple did not disclose the amount of the London Drugs order, but it certainly meant a bigger print order than just the first 1,000.

Legendary Landscapes went on sale in Prince George on Monday at London Drugs. Other local bookstores may join soon.

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