July 6, 2017

COLOR SQUARED (my book!!)

My book is out! You can buy it! And color it! It’s fun!

Color Squared

So here’s the concept: every image page (50 of them) is a grid with numbers 1-5, and blank and x. Blank (zero) through 5 are lightest through darkest. x is the background. You color (or draw, or stamp even) however you want, to reveal the image and make a cool looking picture! Here are six more versions of the cover image all done with different coloring methods:

Color Squared Color Squared Color Squared

Color Squared Color Squared Color Squared

The book includes an intro/instructions section, which has recommendations and tips for tools to use, color choices, etc, and steps for a bunch of different coloring methods with pictured samples of each of them, using cropped-in book images like the ones below. And there’s a practice page of mini-grids for you to try out methods first before putting ink to a full page picture. (If you go to the amazon listing and click the cover, you can look inside and scan through some of those intro pages to get a sense of it.)

Color Squared

You can complete a picture (not including the background, which can be colored any way you want) with three to six colored markers—which are a range of light to dark—or with a single drawing pen, or you can kind of mix and match by using drawing methods with colored pens or fine tip markers, or use a black pen then go over it with colors. You can also use tiny stamps, or pencil erasers as stamps. I made some self-portraits to use as avatar images and stuff, to show some different methods. Here are (left to right) a black pen continuous lines method (with color added), a black pen drawn circles method, a three-color layered method with lines, and a stamped method with different sized stamps carved from pencil erasers:

Color Squared style self-portrait

And here is a book image colored with a bunch of different methods:

Color Squared

Want to see the process of a couple of the methods? Here ya go:

Color Squared Color Squared Color Squared

Color Squared Color Squared Color Squared

That’s one of the continuous lines methods. For all of these methods (there are five versions) you’ll draw lines through all the 5 boxes, then you’ll go down through each number and add lines in that number plus all the boxes that already have lines (so, through the 4 boxes and 5s, then through the 3 boxes, and 4s and 5s, and so on) so by the time you’re done, the 5 boxes have lots of lines, making them the darkest, and the 1 boxes each only have one line, making them the lightest.

Here’s the most abstract of all the methods:

Color Squared Color Squared Color Squared

Color Squared Color Squared Color Squared

For that one, you’ll draw shapes around groups of the same number, then color the grouped shapes lightest to darkest. Same as this:

Color Squared

And some coloring method videos! Here’s another of the continuous lines methods:

One of the three-color layered methods:

And a four-color layered method:

And here’s the halftone dots done with a brush tip marker (it’s the same concept as that stamped dots self-portrait above, dots ranging small to large):

For all colored images, seeing the picture is easiest when you hold it away from your eyes or step away from it, and/or squint a little. The pages of the book are made to tear out cleanly, so your favorite pictures can go up on your wall, where you can step far away and see them best! The special tear-out pages are paired with a spine that unfolds open like this, so the pages lie flat while still attached:

Color Squared

As for what to use to do your coloring/drawing, markers that can make both wide and thin lines are perfect, so this means either dual tip markers (fine point & brush or chisel tip) or markers that start wide and come to a point, so you can use the angled side to make wide strokes. You’ll use the wide option for filling in boxes with solid color, so when marker shopping, make sure you don’t choose a chisel tip that’s too wide—PrismaColor chisel tips are like this, significantly wider than the book grid boxes. The markers I used in the book (or for my own book testing), which all work well in different ways, include PrismaColor dual brush/fine point tips, Tombow dual brush/fine point tips, Blick dual brush/chisel tips, and Crayola Super Tips (these work well and are mega affordable, so I recommend getting the box of 50 of these and then supplementing with some pricier individual markers if you’re able to).

markers used for Color Squared markers used for Color Squared

And then for the pen methods, there are so many kinds of nice drawing pens out there; I tried a bunch of different ones and they were mostly great. I recommend getting a variety of thicknesses, at least one .5 mm and one 1 mm. .5 mm is pretty standard; I think Sharpie pens and others that don’t specify a size are around that. Sharpie pens are great, and easy to find at places like Target. 1 mm is wider, sometimes a kind of brush tip pen—these are good for a few of the methods. The books tells you what sizes are best for each method. A finer point, like .2 mm is good to have too, for a few of the options.

My drawing pen collection just grew by six more. Do you have a favorite pen??

And the final category of tool is stamps, if you want to try that out. It’s probably my least favorite to do, but it looks cool. You can use stamps either like colored markers, using ink colors ranging lightest to darkest, or you can do the method shown up there in the self-portrait, one color ink with different stamp sizes. Here’s a closeup of six different ink colors, used with little letter stamps:

Color Squared

How about some background on my book process! Going way way back, to college, about fifteen years ago, I learned about the work of Chuck Close and was super into it. I made a lot of self-portraits in college, and I made a few inspired by Close. First, for a drawing class, with markers and circles drawn in a giant grid:

Color Squared inspiration

(These both show up better as you get farther away from them.) And the second one, for a painting class, with acrylic paint and kind of a double grid:

Color Squared inspiration

These are both BIG pieces. This is all I did with this concept, but I loved it. I think I kind of held onto it in the back of my head for all those years. In 2015, I was beginning to realize that my career as a knit designer was not continuing on in a way that was sustainable, I was beginning to brainstorm other things I could try. Sitting in a movie theater one day—May 24th, to be exact (I kept the ticket stub)—watching Mad Max: Fury Road… my mind tends to wander during action movies, anything with long scenes of little to no dialogue… an idea popped into my head and I fixated on it. The idea was color-by-number posters, in that style. The poster is a big grid with numbers, and the back of the poster has some instructions and a few different ways you can choose to color or draw it in. I think the poster idea was a natural way to think of it first, because the only way I’d done the art in the first place was large wall pieces, so I was thinking large.

I can't show you the project I'm working on but I can show you my pretty pretty tools!

I got started kind of playing around with the idea, still thinking posters, making some test images. This was a slow process, mostly just thinking about it. It was Thanksgiving day 2015 that I colored my first test image, and once I started coloring them and playing with different grid sizes, the idea evolved into a book. I realized it made much more sense as a book than as individual posters. So I kept on playing with test images until the idea was more sorted out, and then in early 2016 I was able to get myself an agent! That was exciting. Once I had an awesome agent, she guided me on how to make a good proposal. I spent several months of early 2016 making a proposal, and then she sent it all around, and the most exciting thing ever happened: more than one publisher was interested! That was a thrilling week of my life, just over one year ago from now. The book ended up being sold to Clarkson Potter and they have been absolutely fantastic to work with and I couldn’t be happier with how the book turned out!! It evolved a ton from my original proposal, but I think everything was for the best and the final product is awesome!

The images are all kind of nostalgia-themed, mostly objects you’d find at a thrift store, or vintage shop, or antique mall, or my house. There are also some images thrown in that are just like reminiscent of the 70s/80s/90s and/or childhood experiences, for any time period; I think it’s a good variety of images. All the book images started out as photographs I took; I then converted them into the grids using a series of manual steps, making artistic choices with each step. Meaning, these aren’t just computer generated grids. I created each of the 50 grid images, choosing every single box number myself, to create the best looking picture.

Color Squared

The back of each page has the answer key image, in a plain black and white grid, so you can flip through the book and see what images are included. But then when you start coloring one it, you can not look at the back, to keep it a mystery until it’s revealed! Once you’ve completed a picture, hold it away from your face, or prop it up and step about ten or more feet away from it, to see it really come into view!

Color Squared

Oh and, if you’re super crafty, you can even use the book grids as cross stitching patterns! This took me forever, and I’ve only finished the image, still have to fill in the background, but it worked well! I did it by choosing a number/color to stitch first, making dots with a sharpie pen every spot that number appears, then stitching every dot spot; repeat for each number.

Color Squared

Okay that’s it for now. I have a book related thing I’ll show you soon, and maybe I’ll do a follow-up post with other people’s feedback and colored pictures. There are already a few instagram posts up! Use #colorsquared if you post about it anywhere, so we can all see your work!

You can buy the book wherever is your favorite place to buy books—it would be great if you support your local bookstore. If they don’t carry it, ask them if they can order it for you, they probably can and maybe they’ll even decide to order an extra copy to put on the shelf! Oh and, word of mouth is like the most important thing with this kind of book, so tell your friends if you like it! Yay! Thanks! Happy coloring! :D

Filed under: books,Color Squared — Lee Meredith @ 1:11 pm
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