Over the past few months, you may have noticed fully grown humans donning some downright ‘childish’ art equipment. Colour Therapy is the burgeoning new genre of colouring books for adults – staying within the lines to let out the workday steam. Unabashed office workers and tube commuters have been spotted around town with their new stress remedies, doodling their worries away.
Creative expression has proven soothing for many buyers of these books, an easy fix for those needing a bit of inspiration. The casual availability of this kind of art is a big plus – you don’t need to take a painting class to find your inner Dalí. Colouring to your heart’s content is one thing, but the benefits of experiencing great art are also worth attention. With the wave of busy grown-ups heading back to their playschool days through Colour Therapy, could this be the time for the traditional picturebook genre’s big, adult break?
Tired of surfing Instagram or Pinterest for your fix of illustration? Don’t have time to pop down the Tate for a dose of surrealism? Don’t be shy, pick up a picturebook!
The traditional, marketed-to-children picturebook genre is a treasure trove of new and established visual artists waiting to be discovered and enjoyed by anyone. Here we list some of Turnaround’s artiest picturebooks, listed in order of maturity from ‘Very Serious Enthusiast’ to ‘May Still Sleep With Stuffed Animals’ – FYI, we’re fully on-board with the latter.
We Go To The Gallery: A Dung Beetle Learning Guide by Elia Miriam*
Dung Beetle Press, £8.99, h/b, 9780992834913
This title is just about the smuggest gallery trip a reader can make without leaving their couch. Not quite a picturebook and definitely not for kids, this Dung Beetle title guides you and your child through contemporary art, helping younglings to understand that there is nothing to understand and to embrace middle class self-hatred. An unparalleled amount of sarcasm makes this book the perfect segue into picturebook appreciation.
*We Go to the Gallery is due September 2015, but we think it’s worth the wait.
A Line Can Be by Laura Ljungkvist
Pow!, £6.99, Board, 9781576877531
This one actually is for young kids, but the sparse pages and cubist concept will ease even the most cautious adult into child-centred but adult-attractive reading. Follow Ljungkvist’s single line through pages of opposites, exploring the possibilities of what a line can do or be. Intended to introduce a child to the openness of artistic expression through simple techniques like drawing, this title might inspire a parent to take pen to paper, too. Ljungkvist’s final spread is filled with Picasso-esque portraits, making this style of visual art seem easy, accessible, and even heartwarming.
Indi Surfs by Chris Gorman
Pow!, £12.99, h/b, 9781576877654
Indi Surfs is the pared-back story of a girl catching her wave, but the artwork is what’s going to grab your attention here. Using block-print styles inspired from a life working with surf posters and t-shirts, Gorman ties simple typography with stunning illustrations of the young female protagonist – her face in the opening spread is breathtaking, all black-and-white eyes staring into your soul. Gorman “wanted every page to look like the poster for a concert at the Fillmore, a punk rock show, or a surf movie,” so you can think of this as a unique coffee table book with an empowering narrative.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Iassen Ghiuselev
Simply Read Books, £18.99, h/b, 9781897476420
Alice fans are found in any age group, and this illustrated edition’s earthy, muted tones make it especially adult-friendly. Ghiuselev’s sullen paintings are reminiscent of the art of Shaun Tan – a picturebook maker that any adult should be familiar with – and make a welcome change to the bombastic illustrations of hatters and hares we’ve come to associate with the stories. Alice is 150 this year – have a read of Ghiuselev’s interpretation and look further into Carroll’s character’s history with Library Mice to celebrate.
Sun and Moon by Lindsey Yankey
Simply Read Books, £12.99, h/b, 9781927018606
Moon is jealous of Sun enjoying the sights of blooming flowers and children playing, fed up of the dark night-time. In telling the story of how the moon grew to love his twinkly kingdom, Yankey tours around the globe from dawn to dusk through ornamental detailing and evocative, inky spreads. Her mix of styles make every page a heart-stopper, so this is book is one you’ll want to savour all for yourself – I’d hide it from the toddlers if I were you!
Wish by Matthew Cordell
Hyperion, £12.99, h/b, 9781484708750
Wish is dedicated to every parent who knows or will know “the joy that follows the difficulties that come when we wish,” a carefully woven story of parents struggling for a child. The concept of this book makes it worthy of any and every shelf, but the way it’s expressed makes this an outstanding title. Cordell’s language is deliberate and challenging, making you stop and think despite having a six-line-per-page maximum. Wishecstatically celebrates love between couples and families and should be assigned reading for all would-be parents.
Mo and Beau by Vanya Nastanlieva
Simply Read Books, £10.99, h/b, 9781927018637
Buzzfeed Animals can take a hike, let picturebooks fill the void in your heart where cutesy critters should be. Bears are a frequent star of the picturebook genre, and Big Beau takes over this title – literally, he’s too big to fit in the page. Vanya uses pencil techniques to bring the inner life of her characters out onto the page: thick, hazy lines for Beau the bear and measured strokes for Mo the mouse. The step-by-step storyline marks this as one of the more “standard” picturebooks on the list.
Big Bot, Small Bot by Marc Rosenthal
Pow!, £12.99, h/b, 9781576877500
Robots are at the same time evidence of the capabilities of humankind anda hilarious fact of life that should be enjoyed by all in Marc Rosenthal’s bright and boisterous flap-book. The opposites presented on each spread are snort-inducing and the final twist makes the fairly basic storyline somewhat metafictional all of a sudden – bonus points for this postmodern piece of childishness.
Most of our above authors are real, accredited artists of the highest order, so have a look around their work if diving headfirst into boardbooks is still a bit iffy to you.
If not, Turnaround invites adults of all ages and attitudes to be brave, and whip one of our list out over lunch or on your packed commute. Let us know how you get on over on Twitter or Facebook!