Page One

I like how my swamp ecology coloring book project has evolved. I’ve been frustrated with how slowly I’ve been moving forward, but I’m glad I allowed myself time to experiment with various media and work on my skills before I committed myself, because I’m excited about the changes I decided to make.

Originally, I wanted something simple for young fingers, something that educated, presenting the information in a storybook way. Now I’m leaning toward graphic novel, but still a coloring book. I’m far too excited about illustrating hydrochloric acid digesting a fly to keep thinking I want to target a younger audience. Thinking of it as something for young readers means I kind of hold myself back, while this perspective means I’ll feel more like I’m expressing myself.

Plus, thinking of it as a coloring book means I spent too much time trying to make my lines perfect and clear, I ended up overworking everything and becoming unhappy with my results. I always get so sad when the last of the sketchy lines are gone, I think it’s time I lived up to the fact that I like things a little messy, a little imperfect. So many graphic novels I have loved because there were often sketchy lines left behind here and there, it’s like peeking into the artist’s process, life, soul. Whatever it is, it means too much to me, I might like the challenge of refining my art to look better, but if I’m never happy with my art because I tried too hard to make it perfect and it became empty to me, I will never release it.

Anyway, here’s a draft/sketch of probably page one. I finished up the last bit of research for chapter one (How a Venus Flytrap Digests Its Prey), and I only have a draft, but it’s a chapter and this is page one, and I finally feel like I have begun. To commemorate the occasion, I’ll add a coloring page to my meager gallery of early offerings.

This project will cover a lot of info, and some of it (maybe all) will be animated as well. I’m still experimenting with my process, but it feels a lot less like fumbling around with a vague idea and zero confidence, and more like I’m moving forward on a project that will expresses what I want it to in a way that feels like me.

A is for Axolotl

Hello, and welcome. This new blog is mostly a space for me to distribute some coloring pages I’m working on. I want to do this to educate my kid, but might as well also help you educate yours. Mostly pages will be about nature and ecology, though later there may be a retold fairy tale or two. Some pages will be a block of text with information on one side for older children, others will have simple sentences for early readers, and there will be a few for even younger audiences, like today’s page. My daughter is going to be five soon, so for now I might do a lot of things for her to start reading, and the educational part will be me talking to her about the subject.

"A is for axolotl". Line drawing of an axolotl swimming in front of some plants over the text.

Pages may be released a little slowly at first, I’m meandering my way through this. I can’t help it, it’s who I am. Each plant, insect, and animal species must be studied in detail for a while. I need to sketch how it is built even before doing simple drawings, I must design a species info form and fill out all the blanks on habitat, lookalikes, uses/warnings, and propagation or control tips. I’ve done this before, and I used to have notes and sketches on a variety of local useful plants I can easily forage in my area. I no longer have those files. We won’t talk about the incident that taught me the importance of backing up your data, nor will we discuss the incident that taught me to back up even more frequently.

So I’m doing this from a blank slate (again), and I want to learn more about each topic than I did before. I want to do a full coloring book on plants to grow for pollinators, one on insects in general, and one on swamp ecology. I’ve been learning to grow Venus flytraps, and have been growing plants for pollinator seed bombs for a couple of years, so these subjects are always around me, drawing my fascination. I’m setting this up so I just go around having fun being myself, taking photos of things to sketch and research, maybe toying with a little animation, and I hope to end up with a coloring book or five in the process. While I’m at it, I might as well sling some mugs and whatnot with my art printed on them, because it would be cool to earn a dollar or two. Eventually, maybe some wildflower infused candles and soaps or seed mixtures could end up in my store.

I have heard that drawing styles for coloring books should have simple lines for young fingers, so far my style might be frustrating for children who don’t like to color outside of the lines, but don’t have the dexterity for fine lines. For kids like my daughter, happy being loose and free with her splotches, the pictures will be something more intricate to look at while they enjoy themselves. I’m still playing around with style and will likely produce a variety of things, but I’m currently a little challenged at producing a simpler style. That fascination with detail spills into a lot of areas of my life.

And naturally, it’s not just for kids. I certainly plan on spreading out on the floor next to her, sharing crayons while I talk about habitat loss as we color “A is for axolotl”. I’m kind of drawing the coloring books I would have loved to own back when I was teen. It’s the whole “write the book you want to read”, for my inner child. This is gonna be so much fun.

I printed out the layers of the page and colored them, then scanned them in and animated the axolotl floating a little in the water.