Sammy Nickalls
March 24, 2015 1:13 pm

We don’t care if you’re 6 or 96, coloring is just the best. The feeling of a fresh pack of crayons or colored pencils and a great coloring book . . . it can’t be beat. And now, coloring for grown ups is quite the trend, and such a happy trend for those of us who crave a creative outlet that takes us back to our kid days.

Artist Johanna Basford is at the forefront of the grown up coloring trend and is responsible for gifting us with another reason to totally love coloring; she made the most gorg coloring book ever for grown ups. Her whimsical artwork just makes us want to drop all our responsibilities and color forever.

We at HelloGiggles got the opportunity to speak with Johanna about her beautiful work and awesome coloring book Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt, published in 2013.

The idea for Secret Garden came to Johanna about four years ago, when she created desktop wallpaper calendars for her website to be downloaded for free. “One of the people who downloaded my Owls in a Tree calendar was my editor at Laurence King Publishing,” Johanna told HG. “She liked my work and dropped me a line to see if I’d like to create a coloring book. Sometimes, the most valuable thing you can do is to give your work away for free.”

At the time, coloring for grown-ups wasn’t exactly the trend it is now. “I pitched [my publishers] a coloring book for grown ups . . . They were understandably a bit skeptical,” said Johanna. “I created the first five pages, sent them to my editor, and they loved them and told me to just go for it, so we did!”

Johanna created the book in about nine months, in the midst of working as a commercial illustrator creating artwork for book covers, websites, and packaging. (You might have seen her artwork at Starbucks or Nike.)

As for the coloring book itself, “The artwork was inspired by Brodick Castle Gardens on the Isle of Arran, on the West Coast of Scotland,” Johanna said. “My grandfather was the head gardener there, so we spent every summer and Christmas there. The formal rose gardens of the castle, the bavarian summer house, and the lily-studded ponds were wonderful places to play as a child . . . a great place to cultivate a wild imagination!”

The book was almost instantly a hit. Secret Garden has been translated into 14 different languages and counting, and has sold over a million copies worldwide — “a fact that still noodles my brain!” according to Johanna. In fact, it even outsold the best-selling cookery book IN FRANCE. “I love the idea of chic French ladies shunning saucepans for coloring pencils,” Johanna said.

Johanna obviously created the coloring book so that people would enjoy it but she could have never anticipated the success. “The idea of over a million people across the globe picking up pens and pencils to color my pictures is just mind-boggling,” she said. It’s not so mind-boggling to us, because look how beautiful these illustrations are!

When we asked Johanna what her advice would be to young artists who are looking to get into the field, she responded, “Find your niche. Become a specialist at something. Don’t try and be all things to all people. Be amazing at something.” For Johanna, that “something” is hand-drawn black-and-white artwork, and it’s totally GORGEOUS. “Some people may say I’m a one-trick pony, but if the trick is good enough, you don’t need to worry!” said Johanna.

If you want to buy Johanna’s coloring book, visit her website — and make sure to check out her blog about the perfect coloring utensils to use. She also just released the second coloring installation, Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest And Coloring Book.

We’re off to have a coloring party now. Thanks, Johanna!

Photos via