I’m working on my next coloring book, and I thought it might be fun to document the process on my blog as I go along.
In Part 1, I talked about some stuff that inspired me and got me thinking about creating a fun, beautiful world that people could escape into for a bit and fill with their own colors.
I started out by sketching some colorful critters. I wanted to create some interesting characters that had personality and charm, and would also be fun to color. I started thinking about colorful animals, or interesting parts of various creatures that I could combine into something new.
Things like: butterfly wings, curly antenna, floppy ears, giraffe spots and other patterns and markings, feathery/leafy/curly/fluffy tails, feathers and feathered wings, chameleon skin, fins, glowing angler fish lures, fat elephant feet, big, glowy, shiny eyes.
I also wanted a variety of kinds of characters - different shapes and sizes. I wanted them all to look like they came from the same world, but were also unique to themselves. I wondered: what if there were different “species” that lived together in harmony?
What if the whole world lived together in harmony?
I really liked this idea. What if the world functioned like a perfectly balanced, symbiotic ecosystem, where everyone did their part and contributed so everyone would benefit from a thriving and abundant natural “economy”…?
What would it take to create a world like that? How would a world like that naturally evolve?
I decided that in my world, there wouldn’t be any social distinction among “species”. They are all just considered “earthlings” (though this isn’t Earth, obviously. I haven’t figured out what to call them yet!). There are beings that are more like animals, and beings that are more like plants, but they all have a certain degree of sentience and they all hold each other in mutual respect. The animals would take care of the plants, which would produce fruit to feed everyone. Plants would be more than just providers of food or pretty things to look at – they could participate in society, be considered valuable allies – even friends! Plant friends! I like it!
The “animal style” creatures would have a variety of features and body types that I could mix and match. There would be some that looked more female, some that looked more male, some that were more androgynous. Some more cutesy, some more elegant. Some would be more mammalian, some more avian or amphibious, or combinations of all of those.
Because everyone considers everyone else their kin, they are naturally inclined to work together and share the resulting abundance with everyone else, so no one has to struggle to survive. No one would have to resort to crime. They would work, but the work would be rewarding and perfectly suited to each person. They would do their work with enthusiasm and have plenty of time for creative or relaxing pursuits.
Their technology would work in harmony with the environment. If you have cooperative plants that you can communicate with – there are all kinds of things you could do with this idea! Plants could be part of the architecture – supporting and wrapping around structures made of stone and earth and the only plant materials used would be stuff that wouldn’t harm the plants to harvest.
Energy would be generated with green technologies – wind and water power. Some of the beings could produce bioluminescent light. What if the plants could produce different useful compounds like medicines or glues or paints – just by communicating with them and feeding them different things…? What if some creatures could produce cloth like a spider spins a web?
I began coming up with benign, organic solutions to various needs. This helped shape the look of the world – natural shapes, rounded forms, curling vines. Decorated pots and baskets, fruits and flowers that look like cool, ornate lanterns. Stacked and standing stones with swirly carvings (just because I think they are cool looking!), pathways made of tree limbs, stairs made of mushrooms spiraling around a tree. Windmills with sails that look like leaves, or wings – or wings made of leaves! Waterfalls and bubbling streams, ornate tents and banners, colorful costumes and funky hats.
My world would be shaped by a form of evolution that relies on symbiosis and mutual benefit instead of “survival of the fittest”. A world where the people work together with the environment to create abundance instead of just carelessly using it. A kinder, gentler world that we can escape into from time to time when our complicated world gets us down.
After awhile, it dawned on me that I was working through some fears and frustrations about the current political situation in the U.S., as well as environmental issues and other problems facing the world in general. I think by creating my own little ideal hippie world that I could design from the ground up, I was exploring my own ideas of what I wished the world could be. No conflicts, no poverty, no greed, no crime.
I don’t want the book to be political – that’s not my goal at all, but I found that all the things I’ve learned about ecology and societies began to come into play as I began to fiddle with these ideas. I am creating my own cozy little Utopia!
And most of this information won’t even be explicitly mentioned in the book (I'm not even sure there will be any writing in this book. Perhaps some poems to go with each art page...if I can come up with anything decent!)...this is just stuff that sets up the world in my mind, that will come through in the design and artwork. These things will be expressed visually through the scenes I choose to present and the details of the pictures.
I’ve found that once these kinds of establishing ideas start fitting together and gelling, that’s when everything else starts to “bubble up” naturally. There’s a rhyme and a reason for things to sprout from.
Years ago, when I was deep into exploring visual symbolism from cultures around the world, I came across a symbol that really appealed to me. It’s an African adinkra symbol, one of a whole lexicon of icons used to decorate cloth and express specific ideas. It’s called Funtunfunefu Denkyemfunefu (easy for YOU to say!), and it depicts “Siamese crocodiles” that share a stomach, but have two heads that fight over food. It’s a warning about the dangers of infighting and tribalism, and a call for unity in diversity.
I think that’s a pretty good theme upon which to build a peaceful and thriving society.
Stay tuned for future updates!
I’m having trouble coming up with a name for my world and its inhabitants, which will also likely be the title of the book. Any ideas? Please share in the Comments section below!