The Aquarium: Marine Creatures to Colour – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
The Aquarium is published and was kindly sent to me to review by Michael O’Mara Books. This is the third book created by the super talented illustrators Richard Merritt and Claire Scully, known for The Menagerie and The Aviary. This book is exactly the same size and format as the predecessors (it’s non-perforated like The Aviary) but in case you missed those here are the specs. The book is huge at 29cm square, it’s paperback and has beautiful blue and magenta foiling on the cover. The pages are not perforated but they are easy to remove by cutting as close to the spine as possible so you can still frame them if you wish. There are 31 images, all printed single-sided and very little of the image enters the spine so hardly any of it is lost. The paper is bright white, fairly thick and lightly textured. My water-based pens barely shadowed and didn’t bleed through at all and there was no sideways bleeding so these images are ideal to be coloured with fineliners or fibre-tipped pens as well as coloured pencils, you could also use alcohol markers as long as you pop some protective sheets of paper behind your work. Each image is just like a portrait of a person but each one is of a fish or sea creature instead, some are zoomed in a little, some are drawn side on and others are pictured front on or even in pairs or shoals. The images are beautiful and if you are a fish or underwater creature fan then you’ll love this book! Michael O’Mara are incredibly proud of this new title and quite rightly so, it’s just gorgeous and a worthy sequel to The Menagerie and The Aviary, this series is really different from any other books I’ve seen in the way it’s presented and the content of the images, I think this might actually be my favourite so far because you can use such an array of bright colours.

Each picture (except the walrus, clown fish and seal) has a bit of colour added to the background in the form of blue or purple bubbles, red seaweed, turquoise waves and lilac jellyfish silhouettes but the animal itself is always colour-free ready for you to make your mark. These images would look stunning framed on their own or as a set and I’m already making grand plans for some of my favourites! I have put a photo below of the list of sea creatures included but some of my personal favourites are the orcas, lined seahorses, chambered nautilus, and common octopus, but that’s just to name a few. Unlike in the previous books where a few of the animals were naturally black which made it difficult to colour them realistically if you so chose, in this book only the orcas and penguins are naturally black and as you can see from my finished page, I decided to go all out and use as many colours as possible to create rainbow orcas which I really wish were a real thing!

In terms of mental health, this book is fabulous! As seasoned readers of my reviews will know, I think natural images and those of things in nature are by far the most relaxing to colour and animals are absolutely top of my list for that so this book is ideal! I found it really calming to colour ready for review and this is sure to be one of my go-to books when my anxiety peaks and I need to get control of it quickly. Because the images are of something real, you can either colour them realistically meaning you can have a quick google and find out exactly what pens and pencils to use to make it come alive and practice your blending and shading, or you can do what I did and really spice things up with your brightest pens and wildest colour schemes. There’s no right or wrong way of colouring this book and having seen other people’s finished versions of the pictures online, I’m still not sure which I prefer out of realistic or outlandish and I’m intending to mix and match through my copy! The sea creatures themselves are drawn with a varying line thickness which ranges from thin to medium but none of it is spindly thin which is ideal. The intricacy and detail levels also vary throughout but mostly these images are pretty intricate and are made up of lots of teeny tiny sections. However, because the images are of fish, you don’t have to colour in each section a different colour and could easily colour whole chunks and just use the black lines as texture behind that rather than guides for where you must colour within. A number of the images really lend themselves to beautifully blended pencils and I most certainly won’t be colouring within every section and will instead be using those to colour over and look like scales through my coloured pencil. There are loads of possibilities with these images so this is one book that you don’t need to be put off from just because at first glance it looks too intricate. You will need a moderate level of fine motor control and good-ish vision but neither need to be perfect for you to be able to create a scaly, tentacled masterpiece! These images will take ages to colour so they’re great for keeping you distracted from difficult thoughts and calming you down when your mind is racing and your anxiety is off the chart. The size of the images means that you’ve really got something to get your teeth into and you can just colour small sections on bad days when your concentration isn’t so great, or the whole image on days where you’re feeling more focused.

I would highly recommend this book if you love sea creatures, like colouring natural things, or if you really like intricate, detailed books with plenty of different sections to colour. This is one of the nicest colouring books of fish and marine life that I’ve seen. The Aquarium is a fantastic book for keeping you focused and distracted from mental illness and I found it really helpful for calming down my anxiety and slowing down my thoughts so I could focus again.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available for less than the RRP here:
Amazon UK – The Aquarium
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Aquarium-Richard-Merritt/9781910552322/?a_aid=colouringitmom

A Fourth book has also been announced called The Labyrinth which will be filled with mythical creatures and can be pre-ordered here but you’ve got a long wait as it doesn’t publish until May 2017!
Amazon UK – The Labyrinth
Book Depository Worldwide – http://www.bookdepository.com/The-Labyrinth-Richard-Merritt-Claire-Scully-Sabine-Reinhart/9781910552612/?a_aid=colouringitmom

I scoured the internet looking for places that sold frames that fit these images and found these ones on Amazon were perfect and are available in various colours to suit your image no matter how it’s coloured.
White 11 inch square frame
Oak 11 inch square frame
Beech 11 inch square frame

The image below was coloured using Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners and Stabilo 68 Fibre-tips.

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4 comments

  1. Arghhh! Lucy, you shouldn’t have told us–well, me, lol–about the Laybrinth! It’s just too long to wait until May, and since I know it’ll be mythical creatures, I want it NOW. Lol.

    I’m curious about something-just my nosiness in action as always. Haha. I’ve noticed you use fine liners a lot in the pages you color for reviews. Do you enjoy using markers more than pencils? Or do you often use markers so you can tell us how they perform in relation to the specific paper in each book? And too, if you do use markers more often when coloring for yourself (not for reviews), do you most often use staedtler and stabilo fine liners and the thicker nib markers that match each set, or do you have another brand of water based markers you use?

    Thanks for another great review, as always.

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    1. Tammy, I’m so sorry! I feel your pain! I have a dated spreadsheet with all of the books I’m looking forward to on it and it’s dated up to June the 1st 2017 with entries! It’s torture isn’t it?!

      The fineliners, in all honesty, I haven’t coloured anything for me that wasn’t for a review since Christmas, I’ve just been swamped with books! When colouring for anxiety I absolutely prefer pens, I don’t have the patience for all that shading and blending and it taking forever and I love just colouring in blocks and focusing on what to put where rather than how to colour. I also love very intricate books like this one as I keep focusing on each section and what’s looking good and how to proceed. Rainbow is my favourite colour scheme as it’s easy and I don’t have to think about it and in my opinion, it always looks fabulous! I always test pencils and pens on each book regardless of what I use to colour the image so that I can review it properly for everyone. My personal favourites are Stabilo fineliners and fibre-tips and if I could be sponsored by them I would be! I absolutely love the colours and how they perform. I do use Staedtler plenty too, both the fineliners and the fibre-tips and I tend to use them when they have a colour I prefer or I need extra colours. They’re great pens but I’m not as keen on them as Stabilo. I also use cheap ones from local UK shops like from The Works and WH Smith, again to pad out colour numbers etc. I do love using pencils, I love the effects they give and the finish but I’m quite impatient and find them much slower which is no good for my anxiety so when I’m calm and patient they’re fabulous but when I’m anxious I just want to throw them across the room! 😀

      What do you like to colour with and what’s your favourite book? I know that’s like asking which is your favourite child but even a list would be great. I love hearing from my readers about what they like to colour and use to colour it. 🙂

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  2. Will there be any new books this year like this one I love coloring them I’ve bought the past three menagerie , aquarium and the other . If you happen to know this answer plz let me know asap

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    1. As far as I’m aware there won’t be more, at least not for a while. However, if you like the art of Richard Merritt and Claire Scully then do look on my blog for my reviews of Nordic Wilderness by Claire Scully and Tierzauber and Abenteuer Natur both German titles by Richard Merritt, the artwork in all three of those is very similar to that in the Menagerie series, they’re all beautiful, I’m sure you’d like them! 🙂

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