Perforated

Queen of the Skies Cross Stitch Kit by Hanna Karlzon and The Folklore Company - Click through to read the review and see photos

Queen of the Skies Cross Stitch Kit – A Review

This kit was created and very kindly sent to me to review by The Folklore Company, who create fabulous embroidery and cross stitch kits. I’ve loved cross stitch since I was a child but haven’t done any in nearly 10 years but when I found out that The Folklore Company had teamed up with one of my favourite colouring book artists, Hanna Karlzon, I just knew I’d have to start up again! This design is available in two formats, the normal cross stitch format which is what I’m reviewing here or a tote bag with a special dissolvable plastic that allows you to sew on it as if it were aida fabric and then dissolve the plastic in water afterwards just leaving the stitches in place on the bag. I wish I’d asked to review that kit now because this design is beautiful and would look stunning on a bag!

The kit arrives well packed in a clear plastic packet and contains everything you need to get started apart from a small pair of scissors and an embroidery hoop, I’d personally recommend one that’s around 26cm in diameter, mine is this size and I haven’t had to move it once as the design fits within this space preventing lots of creasing and possible damage to stitching by having to move the hoop around whilst working. The kit contains Aida fabric, more than large enough to fit the design on and with plenty of space to fit whatever size hoop you have to hand, a needle (in a small plastic packet), 3 sheets of paper including the pattern and instructions, printed in colour and double-sided, and 10 different colour embroidery flosses. The instructions give clear guidelines for newbies as well as seasoned stitchers about where to begin, how to sew without using knots and handy tips about not getting show-through from dark threads and trailing colours when needed. The pattern is clear and printed just about large enough for those with most levels of visual acuity. I don’t know what everyone else’s technique whilst cross-stitching is but I always like to colour over the pattern when stitching to be sure that I know what I have and haven’t sewn which helps me avoid mistakes. I didn’t want to do this on the pattern itself so I photocopied it and have scribbled my way through that instead. The pattern is divided into 4 quarters each printed on a single piece of A4 though these are printed double-sided so unless you photocopy it, you can’t lay out the whole pattern at once and match it up. The pattern also doesn’t reach the edges of the paper which can make lining things up a little tricky, you certainly won’t want to swap quarters whilst tired or you’re likely to make mistakes. Each thread is allocated a symbol in the key and these are then shown on the pattern, all of these are well chosen and differ strongly from each other so you won’t get confused or accidentally misread the symbols and start sewing in the wrong colour. My only niggle with the symbols is the black square used for the dark grey thread as this is very difficult to colour over/around to indicate that I’ve sewn those areas and I do keep having to really study the pattern to check exactly what I have and haven’t done rather than being able to check with a glance like I’m able to with all of the other symbols and thread colours. This is a very minor criticism and will likely only affect people who cross-stitch in the same way as me. The only other difficulty is that the crossover sections on each page of the pattern aren’t totally clear, the lines for the edge of the diagram cross halfway through the symbols and these can be a little challenging to see and decipher but again, this is a minor issue and only affects the central crossing vertical and horizontal line so it is pretty minor in the grand scheme of the diagram and pattern.

All of the stitches in this pattern are full crosses, there are no quarter, half, or three-quarter cross stiches and no running/back stitch outlines either so the whole design is neatly made from full crosses which I personally prefer as I can never neatly sew partial cross stitches. The instructions suggest that you start in the very centre which is the middle of the bird and this is indeed where I started. It then suggests that you work through each quarter but I don’t work so well like that so I did the majority of the bird, then the outline of the top of the frame, then the bottom, then filled those in and then did the flowers outlining them first and then filling them in and finally finished off with the flower centres. There’s no right or wrong way of sewing, just make sure that you’ve centred the design correctly and that you double check your counting if you do separate sections to ensure that they will join up in the right places later. Having now finished the whole piece, I have a lot of thread left over so you’re given plenty of each one and don’t need to worry about running out. The darkest two colours were used by far the most and I don’t have a huge amount left but as long as you’re not very wasteful with them or trailing them across the design a lot, you definitely won’t run low on them and the others I’ve got loads left of.

In terms of mental health, cross stich generally is really good because you have to focus fully on the pattern to ensure you sew it correctly and the motion of sewing is very calming and therapeutic. This pattern is great for mental health because it’s a really good level of difficulty, it’s not so small that you can complete it in a day or two but it’s also not so big that you’ll get bored or feel like you’re not making progress. There are quite a lot of colour changes and not so many large blocks of the same colour but while this means you have to swap threads a fair bit, it also means that it keeps you interested and there isn’t lots of repetition. The colour choices are lovely and quite muted but not dull, they’re a great choice for aiding calm feelings and they’ll go nicely with lots of different décor if you want to frame and display it after you’ve finished. The design does require a pretty good level of concentration, especially the frame sections so you will need to sew on good days and those where your functioning is high. Alternatively, you could just sew for short periods of time to avoid making mistakes but still get your stitching fix. My anxiety disorders mean that I often struggle to concentrate for long periods of time and my vision is often affected which makes reading and following cross stitch patterns a real challenge, to combat this I tried to make sure not to sew when I was tired and to always sew in good light, either daylight or with a bright light near me and I double-checked all counting and regularly checked that what I’d sewn was correct with the pattern, as well as colouring over the pattern in pencil for every few stitches I’d done. This meant that I only made one mistake in the whole thing and that was just one stitch that no one would ever notice so I’m really pleased, this is the first time I’ve ever managed to do a whole project and not make a noticeable mistake!

If you photocopy the pattern before scribbling all over it like I did then it would be possible to reuse it in future and you could even change the colour scheme to create personalised projects that would match your own décor or favourite colours. Each colour only needs one skein of thread so it would be very easy to reuse the pattern and make heaps of beautiful birds if you wished. For those of you who are from the colouring community, you might be interested to know that this design isn’t an exact replica of one of Hanna’s drawings but rather a combination of two, both from a double-page spread in Magisk Gryning (Magical Dawn), her third colouring book and a photo of these can be found below. Before you ask, yes, I did spend ages trawling through all of her books to find it because I was almost certain I’d seen the image before!

Overall, I would highly recommend this cross stitch kit, it’s a beautiful design, lovely colours, and a great level of difficulty that’s not too simple or too challenging. I like it so much that I’m hoping to recreate it in future with a totally different colour scheme but for now, I’m hoping to frame this one and have it in pride of place in my flat, it’s a great reminder of what you can accomplish, even whilst very poorly. This kit would suit seasoned stitchers, as well as complete beginners who are up for a challenge!

If you’d like to purchase a kit, they’re available here: Queen of the Skies Cross Stitch Kit

Gift Boxes to Colour and Make: A Year of Celebrations – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Gift Boxes to Colour and Make: A Year of Celebrations is published and was very kindly sent to me to review by Nosy Crow Publishing. This book is unlike any other because it’s not a normal colouring book, each page is a gift box which can be removed and folded into a box to gift to friends and family, this is the third in the series with a Christmas-themed one available HERE and a Birds and Blossoms one HERE. The book itself is paperback with flexible card covers, it’s just under 30cm square and has a pale blue cover with splashes of pinks and dark blue, and gold foil accents. On the inside cover are diagrams and written instructions about how to remove and fold the boxes and on the back inside cover are three recipes so you can create edible treats to go in your boxes – Peppermint Chocolate Truffles, Gingerbread Men, and Coconut Macaroons. The spine is glue and string-bound making it durable but it’s also quite easy to press flat so that you can colour the whole box, or remove it via the perforations before colouring if you find that easier. Each of the 24 pages contains one double-sided box with different matching designs for each of the sides and the inside base and then a small repeating pattern on all of the other edges, there’s heaps to colour in on each one! The card is medium thickness, bright white and lightly textured so it’s perfect for pencils and water-based pens which didn’t bleed and only slightly shadowed with the darkest colours; alcohol markers will bleed so I’d avoid using these. The perforations are well-made and the parts do mostly come out easily, I would advise caution as a very small section of my actual box started splitting so you may prefer to use the perforations as a guide for scissors or just work slowly, a few of the parts have quite large perforations which do leave large bumps rather than smooth edges on the box but again, these could be tidied up with scissors if you wish. The boxes are individually designed and contain themed illustrations to celebrate various celebrations as well as some more generic designs that could be used for any sort of gift, the themes include – Valentine’s Day/Anniversary, Easter, male and female themed cards, birthday, and Christmas. The content is very wide ranging from cars to swans, snowmen to deer, balloons to cakes, kites to flowers, Christmas trees to shells, stars to boats and so much more, this is by far the widest ranging content of any of the three gift box books now published. The images are very cute and have a naïve quality to them which makes them look really charming and they’ll look lovely coloured by adults or children and gifted to others. At the back of the book is a page of gold foiled stickers each with lines on where you can write names to and from, and each with a small celebration-themed motif. The set is really well-made and thought out, this book is produced by the same publishing company who created the Colouring Books of Cards and Envelopes so you can be assured it’s good quality though the illustrations are created by a different artist (Eilidh Muldoon) from those (Rebecca Jones) and the other colouring gift box books (Sarah Walsh and Felicity French).

In terms of mental health, I think this book of gift boxes is pretty great because it offers up a project with a very clear purpose and end point, ideal for those of us who struggle to get motivated or see the point in things sometimes. Sharing is always good fun and when colouring these boxes you know you’ll be sharing the love with someone you care about and that’s a great thing to be able to do! The line thickness is consistent throughout and is thin. The intricacy and detail levels are pretty high with lots of small sections so these boxes will only really be suited to those of you with good vision and fine motor control. The boxes take ages to colour so you’re certainly getting lots of colouring hours for your money, however, each box consists of lots of small colourable parts which is ideal for any level of concentration or amount of symptoms, you can colour for 20 seconds doing just one or two flowers, or hours and hours doing the whole internal repeating pattern or somewhere in between. The images on the boxes are sure to get you in the mood for any celebration. These boxes will be perfect for sharing treats with family and friends and they can be filled with small gifts or sweets or chocolates and they’ll be the perfect packaging for anything handmade, the possibilities are endless!

Overall, I would highly recommend these colourable gift boxes, there’s loads to colour on each one and they’re sure to be received well, they give a wonderful personal touch to whatever gifts you decide to put inside them.

If you’d like to purchase a set, the book is available here:
Amazon UK – Gift Boxes to Colour and Make: A Year of Celebrations
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Gift-Boxes-Colour-and-Make-Year-of-Celebrations-Eilidh-Muldoon/9781788000093/?a_aid=colouringitmom

You can find the other two gift box books here.

The box below was coloured using Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners and Stabilo 68 Fibre-Tip Pens.

Hem Ljuva Hem (Home Sweet Home) by Emelie Lidehall Oberg, click through to read my review, see a flick through and photos

Hem Ljuva Hem (Home Sweet Home) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Hem Ljuva Hem (Home Sweet Home) is illustrated by Emelie Lidehäll Öberg and published and kindly sent to me to review by Pagina Förlag. This book is only available in this format and is similar to the Swedish Artist’s Editions (Tavelboks), it measures 29.5x21cm (A4), it’s paperback with thick but flexible card covers which are white with green imagery from inside the book. The book has a green tape binding meaning the pages lie completely flat when the book is open and they can be removed for framing. The pages are made of thick cream card which is lightly textured and absolutely fabulous for using pencils on as they layer really well and blend seamlessly. Water-based pens also work really well on this card and don’t bleed through or sideways and there isn’t even a hint of shadowing either. The illustrations are all single-page designs and are printed single-sided so you can use whatever medium you fancy without worrying about bleed-through and mine didn’t even shadow when colouring the black sections of the image. The 20 illustrations are all posters, 19 contain text, 7 are written in Swedish, 12 are written in English, two of them include swearing (one English and one Swedish). The posters contain varying amounts of imagery and text with some just being beautifully drawn text and others just having a subtle message placed within a large colourable image. The phrases range from romantic to funny, exclamations to sayings, you can see them all in the images below. The illustrations also vary a lot from animals to flowers, objects to houses, scenes to collections and more, they are all drawn beautifully and are each packed with content so there’s loads to colour in each one. The posters would be ideal to remove and frame either for your own home or to give as gifts.

In terms of mental health, this book is great, I’m always a huge fan of books that offer a project that can be gifted or displayed because these are fantastic for showing us what we can achieve and for giving us a goal to work towards and afterwards, a reminder of what we can do. You could easily colour them to match the theme of a room or to stand out a look fabulous and I can’t wait to frame my finished page and brighten up my walls with it! The line thickness is consistent throughout and remains thin but not spindly. The intricacy and detail levels vary a little within each image with most being fairly intricate but having a few places with larger open spaces, therefore this book would be ideal for most levels of vision and fine motor control. The content is pretty uplifting and positive and sure to make you smile or laugh, even on your worst days and it looks even more fabulous once you’ve filled it with colour! The images are all a manageable size and will take varying amounts of time to colour depending on what mediums you use and how much blending and shading you want to do but none are overwhelming or likely to require weeks of dedication! Most of them consist of lots of component parts so you can colour them in sections if you wish, particularly useful if you’re having a bad day.

Overall, this is a fab book, it’s filled with beautiful artwork just begging to be coloured and displayed and it’s sure to perk up even the most symptom-filled days. The card is ideal for all mediums and the posters lend themselves to all types of colouring styles.

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available here: https://www.printworksmarket.com/p/shop/books/all-books/hem-ljuva-hem-20-posters-to-color-and-frame.html

I run a fan group for the artwork of Emelie, please do join us and share your work.

The image below was coloured with Holbein Artist’s Colored Pencils, Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils and a black Sharpie.

Tillsammans Målarbok (Together Colouring Book) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Tillsammans Målarbok (Together Colouring Book) is illustrated by Hanna Karlzon and published and kindly sent to me to review by Pagina Förlag. This book is in an artist’s edition format but this is the only format it’s available in, it’s not a full-size colouring book or postcard book. It is identical in format to the artist’s editions (tavelboks) of Hanna’s other books, Daydreams (Dagdrommar), Summer Nights (Sommarnatt) and Magical Dawn (Magisk Gryning) and therefore my review is mostly identical apart from the content section and the photos, skip to paragraph 2 for information about the content. The book measures 29.5x21cm (A4), it’s paperback with thick but flexible card covers which are a pale lemon colour with a black and white line drawing of one of the portraits (found inside) with gold foiling accents on the front and back. The book has a black tape binding meaning the pages lie completely flat when the book is open and they can be removed for framing. The pages are made of thick cream card which is lightly textured and absolutely fabulous for using pencils on as they layer really well and blend seamlessly. Water-based pens also work really well on this card and don’t bleed through or sideways and there isn’t even a hint of shadowing either. The illustrations are all single-page designs and are printed single-sided so you can use whatever medium you fancy without worrying about bleed-through.

The 20 illustrations are all portraits of women and 15 of these have been chosen from Hanna’s 4 previous colouring books and 5 have been newly created for this book specifically. The images Hanna has chosen are a really good cross-section and seem to be some of the favourites of the colouring community, none of the previously published images have been printed in artist’s edition format so while it’s not all new content, it is all newly published in the single-sided format printed on card. There are a range of different portraits from two women together to single women face on, some in side profile and others showing a whole person. Each image contains various different objects and accessories including gems, metal, jewellery, mushrooms, flowers, birds, shells, moths, crowns, and candles, there is a really good variety despite them all being portraits of women. Those images taken from previous colouring books are all printed the same size as the originals so if you’re able to colour those, you’ll also be able to colour these with no difficulty. The pictures would all look amazing framed for yourself or gifted to others and because the faces are mostly quite large they’re great to practice skin tone colouring on and really push yourself out of your comfort zone. All of the images are pictured below so you can check that you’re happy with the choices and see if your favourites are included.

In terms of mental health, this book is great, it’s very absorbing and ideal for those who want to colour realistically and learn how to colour people. The line thickness is consistent throughout and remains medium/thin so it’s definitely manageable to colour. The intricacy and detail vary a little throughout from medium to high and this is part of what makes Hanna’s work so special and beautiful, if you’re wanting to colour within each teeny tiny section then you’ll need to have very good vision and fine motor control but if you’re happy to colour over some of it and use it as texture underneath then moderate vision and fine motor control would be absolutely fine! I found this book and the illustrations within it great for my mood, just looking through it and noticing all of the different details, patterns and objects makes me feel calmer and the images are just charming so they’re sure to lift your mood and keep you distracted from any difficult thoughts or persistent symptoms. The images do vary a little in size and difficulty but unlike many of Hanna’s images that consist of lots of component parts, these are all portraits and scenes and therefore they don’t have such natural stopping points for those wanting to just colour in short bursts, you can still colour just one flower or just the eyes but it’s not so easy to come to an obvious point to stop, however, if you don’t mind stopping part-way through an image then this book would be ideal for using on good and bad days. The fact that the pages are printed single-sided and are removable is fantastic because it means you can remove your works of art and frame them or gift them which is a great way of reminding yourself of what you can achieve and brighten up the darkest of days.

I would highly recommend this book to those of you who are already fans of Hanna’s work and have her previous books and really want to colour more people, while 75% of the artwork can be found in Hanna’s previous books, this gives you the opportunity to colour those pages again and use different colour schemes or wetter media without ruining a reverse image and you can also frame them for wonderful gifts or beautiful decoration for your own home. This book is ideal for those who use wet media and alcohol markers and the illustrations are a great cross-section of Hanna’s portraits.

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available from Printworks. A Dutch edition will be published in March 2018 by BBNC Uitgevers and it will be called Karakter.

The image below was coloured using Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils and a White Sakuara Gelly Roll Gel Pen.I used the skin tone tutorial from Colorist’s Special Effects by Helen Elliston.
Buy on Amazon UK – Colorist’s Special Effects
Buy on Book Depository – goo.gl/CrS7DU

Ivy and the Inky Butterfly – Unboxing and Flick-Through

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available to pre-order here:
UK Edition
Amazon UK – Ivy and the Inky Butterfly
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Ivy-and-the-Inky-Butterfly-Johann-Basford/9780753545652/?a_aid=colouringitmom
US Edition
Amazon UK – Ivy and the Inky Butterfly
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Ivy-and-the-Inky-Butterfly-Johann-Basford/9780143130925/?a_aid=colouringitmom

Magnificent Animals: A Coloring Book – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Magnificent Animals: A Coloring Book is published and kindly sent to me to review by National Geographic. The book is 24 cm square, paperback with flexible card covers with 1/3 French flaps, the cover has green foiling embellishments and the inside covers and first and last page have a continuous pattern and animal image that is fully colourable. The spine of the book is glue bound and fairly stiff to begin with, the images are printed single-sided and are perforated so none of the images enter the spine. All of the images are single-page spreads printed on the righthand page. The paper is bright white, medium thickness with a small amount of texture allowing a few layers of pencil to be built up for blending and shading; water-based pens shadow but don’t bleed, alcohol markers will bleed through so put some protective paper behind your work to protect the next page. The images themselves are each of a different animal and are hugely wide-ranging including a: horse, peacock, koala, seahorse, armadillo, mandarin duck, sheep, preying mantis, meerkats, zebra, heron, bears, ants, scorpion, panda, stag beetle, cow, butterflies and so many more creatures. The image style varies hugely and while the cover states that it was created by one illustrator, these images don’t look hand-drawn and my guess is that they were created digitally as a number of them have the same patterns or backgrounds as each other. The illustrations are very similar in style to many of the Shutterstock images that we’ve seen and while none of them are the same as any I’ve seen before, they do feel quite similar to a number of books I’ve seen in the past. Sadly, I’m disappointed by the artwork, I expected the illustrations to be very realistic due to being published by National Geographic but only the outlines are realistic, the majority of the animals have patterns added to them which don’t look remotely like the texture of their fur, feathers or skin and I’m guessing have been added for interest and extra colouring space, normally I don’t mind this but it seems like a wasted opportunity when we could have had a realistically drawn book with such a wealth of different animals pictured, many of which I’ve never seen in a colouring book before. Many of the backgrounds aren’t remotely related to the content especially the peacock with snowflakes and it just seems a bit haphazard and thrown together, the only continuity seems to be the animal theme as the way the animals are drawn as well as their patterns and backgrounds is so varied. I do think I’d have been much more keen on the content if I hadn’t known who the publisher was and imagined the type of content first so others may well be much happier with the contents than I am.

In terms of mental health, this book offers a lot of distraction, there is heaps to colour in each image and the patterns add a lot of extra spaces if you want to colour each section separately, there’s plenty to keep you absorbed and focused which is great for those with an anxious or racing mind. The line thickness is fairly consistent throughout and remains thin, the intricacy and detail levels are high in the majority of images and therefore you’ll need pretty good vision and fine motor control to enjoy this book and get the most out of it. You will also need a very good level of concentration for the vast majority of these images as there are a lot of component parts to identify and lots of fiddly bits to colour so you’ll probably want to save it for your better days rather than getting frustrated by it on days where you can’t properly focus. There is a huge variety of imagery and some really quirky and unusual animal choices which is a nice change from a lot of animal-themed books which tend to stick to the cute, fluffy, cuddly types, it’s nice to see a good range or insects, reptiles and wacky mammals. The single-sided printing means you can use any medium you fancy and the perforations make the pages easy to remove to stick up and brighten your walls or frame for your kids’ bedrooms if you like.

Overall, I was disappointed by the lack of realism in the images but the content is very wide-ranging, quirky and fun and you’re getting a lot of images for your money. The production quality is good and very useful for those who like to use wet media and alcohol markers, it’s certainly a book that’s grown on me but it does still feel quite generic and haphazard.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Magnificent Animals: A Coloring Book
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/National-Geographic-Magnificent-Animals-An-Adult-Coloring-Book-Hayrullah-Kay/9781426218156/?a_aid=colouringitmom

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

Abenteuer Natur (Adventurous Nature) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Abenteuer Natur is published by Christophorus Verlag GMBH and illustrated by Richard Merritt who very kindly sent me a copy to review. You may not know his name but you’re sure to know his work because he’s one half of the incredible duo who illustrated The Menagerie, The Aviary, The Aquarium and The Labyrinth and he also solely illustrated another German published colouring book, Tierzauber (Animal magic), last year. He’s well-known for his stunning drawings of highly intricate, hyper detailed and patterned animals and these have been featured in the Art Therapy series of books which was where I first discovered his work. Abenteuer Natur translates as Adventurous Nature and the content really doesn’t disappoint with a wide range of exotic and unusual animals pictured inside.

This book is 22.5cm square, a little smaller than the bestsellers, paperback, with thick card covers that are double-thickness and open out to reveal pairs of animal images at the front and back that are contained within the book. The covers are soft-feel and have gold foiling accents on both the front and back images. The spine is glue and stitch bound so it’s durable but a little tight, however this will ease up with use. The formatting inside is different from Tierzauber and this time the images are printed single-sided and all are perforated meaning they can easily be removed for colouring or framing but these perforations are quite subtle and therefore the pages will only come out if you remove them, not accidentally.  The paper is bright white, medium thickness with a bit of tooth, you can get a few layers with pencils but it’s a little tricky to blend and shade, water-based pens do shadow but this isn’t a problem due to the pages being single-sided and you could use alcohol markers as long as you put some protection behind the page to avoid bleed through. The 27 images are of a huge range of exotic and unusual animals including Mandarin Ducks, Warthogs, Humpback Whales, a Bushbaby, Bison, Grasshopper and loads more. Everything is pictured from insects to sea creatures, land mammals to tree inhabitants, birds to reptiles and everything in between. So many things from the animal kingdom are pictured including lots of animals that aren’t often found in other colouring books.

In terms of mental health, if you love animals, or at least love colouring them, then this book is sure to help! I have always found Richard’s illustrations wonderful for my own mental health because there are so many small sections to colour and really focus your mind on which is ideal when I’m very anxious and need to get out of my head. The images are all filled with lots of patterns creating small sections that you can colour within or colour over and leave as texture behind your work so although this book is very intricate and detailed, it doesn’t have to be used in that way so it’s ideal for almost anyone, regardless of vision or fine motor control depending on how you wish to use it. The line thickness is consistent throughout and is medium/thin so again, it’s suitable for almost anyone but not those with particularly poor vision or dexterity. Unlike in The Menagerie series, there is no added colour so you’re free to add your own backgrounds and colour schemes to every image. While a number of the animals are featured in the Menagerie series, they are all drawn differently (see comparison photos below) so you won’t be getting any duplicates if you want copies of both. Images of nature and animals are fantastic for calming you down and these images are particularly good because there are so many sections to attend to. The size of the book means the pages are a bit more manageable which is great for those of you with poor concentration as these pages will take less time to colour than The Menagerie which is much larger. While these illustrations are all of realistic animals, the patterns within allow you to use natural or totally outlandish colour schemes as and how you wish and both will look equally fabulous! The images are really cohesive and great fun to colour and they would look amazing removed from the book and framed for a really funky office or a cutesy nursery.

I would highly recommend this book to people who love colouring animals, to fans of Richard’s work and The Menagerie or Art Therapy series, and to anyone who likes intricate and detailed images. This is a beautiful book with fabulous and unusual imagery, even the inside and outside covers are colourable with alcohol markers so this book is a true example of a fully colourable colouring book.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Abenteuer Natur
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Abenteuer-Natur-Richard-Merritt/9783862303786/?a_aid=colouringitmom

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

I recently created a dedicated Facebook Group for artwork by Richard Merritt, Claire Scully and all that found in the Art Therapy series, Menagerie series and those books illustrated singly by either of them. This group can be found here and I’d love you to join and share you work!

Magical Jungle: 36 Postcards to Colour and Send – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Magical Jungle: 36 Postcards to Colour and Send is published and was kindly sent to me to review by Virgin Books. It is with a heavy heart that I have to write a less than positive review of these postcards. I had high hopes for them after detailing my criticisms of the Lost Ocean Postcards and raising these issues with the publisher and hoped things would be changed, but when they arrived I’m afraid to say I was very disappointed. This set of postcards contains 36 scaled down images from Johanna Basford’s hugely successful Magical Jungle adult colouring book (reviewed by me here). Each postcard is printed single-sided with a leaf-outlined stamp space and space for an address (left blank with no lines) on the back so that you can send them to family, friends and loved ones. The postcards arrive in a sort of box that doesn’t have a top or bottom and opens out to reveal the postcards inside with three black images drawn in a white line from inside the book, in two designs. The cover is cream with beautiful gold accents and a scaled down version of the book cover. The postcards are attached to the inside back cover of this box and have a glue binding which isn’t attached to anything other than the cards, it’s very sticky on the outside and also not very hard or strong, after the first careful look through the postcards I had already loosened a few and by the fourth time looking through them over half had completely detached. I’ve only had this set for two days and I’ve already had to completely remove the glue binding because so many postcards had fallen out and they’re now all loose in the box-type cover which they fall out the bottom of.

This time there is only one size of set including 36 postcards rather than the 50 we were offered for Lost Ocean. Of my 36 postcards, one was duplicated meaning I got 36 postcards with 35 designs and of the duplicated cards, one had a printing error with a centimetre gap of unprinted design at the top (see photo below), I’ve been in touch with a fellow reviewer whose set also has the duplicate. Four of the postcards didn’t have the design printed centrally and were drastically shifted to one edge of the card (see photo below) and a further one had some text printing at the very top which I assume should have been cut off during manufacturing. The majority of the postcards are landscape and a few are portrait (7 including the duplicate image twice), they measure 16×11.2cm (a little smaller than the SG and EF postcards). Some are of the whole original image scaled down (8) and others are of sections of the original image that have been shrunk so there is a variety of intricacy levels from very intricate to virtually impossible to colour – the majority of the postcards are nowhere near the same size as the original illustrations with some being shrunk from 22.5cm across to just 9.5cm so you can imagine just how small these are. All but one of the designs are unique and they’re a beautiful selection of images from the book.

The postcards are made of thick, cream card which doesn’t bleed with water-based pens. The cards are a much yellower colour than the Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest Postcards and books. There were issues with white circles and patches on the Lost Ocean postcards which haven’t continued with this set, however, the card is identical and as before, water-based pens don’t colour smoothly or evenly and are repelled by the surface causing a much paler colour and a patchy appearance (see photo below – I will definitely be avoiding pens on these cards because of this). The postcards are lightly textured but don’t take pencils well, when covering larger areas the pencils almost clump and won’t apply smoothly, no matter what brand I’ve used, and it’s difficult to get smooth coverage over any size of area. I’ve found my Holbein pencils the best on this card but even they struggle and burnish quickly. There isn’t much space within the designs to blend or shade unless you want to colour over the lines. The line thickness is spindly thin, I have very good vision for small, close things, and also have very good fine motor control but many of the images on these postcards are so tiny that they’re almost impossible to colour and I went over the lines a number of times on my card which was one of the larger designs. Fineliners would be best to colour such intricate images but can’t be used due to being repelled so you’ll need some super sharp pencils and patience to colour slowly and sharpen very regularly. It’s such a shame because I’m a huge fan of Johanna’s images and I just love her books but scaling down the images to postcard size really wasn’t a sensible choice because it’s so limiting. The postcards are beautiful to look at and would be gorgeous to send or display as they are but given that they’re sold as colouring postcards, I expect to be able to colour them and I just haven’t found that possible to do as neatly as I’d like to. I had assumed that the images would include full-size zoomed in sections of the original images so that you can still blend and shade with pencils but because the images have been shrunk, many of them are just too small to colour (see the photos below where I’ve shown a 0.4mm Stabilo nib for scale).

Unfortunately, from a mental health perspective I really can’t recommend these, I really struggled to colour them and found it quite stressful because I just couldn’t get it to look right. They require a huge amount of concentration and while they’re less intricate than the majority of the Lost Ocean postcards, this is because Magical Jungle was Johanna’s least intricate and detailed book and therefore had larger spaces but when scaled down this doesn’t make a huge difference. Though they’re really interesting to look at, I would have to say that they’re really not well designed for colouring (I coloured one of the largest, least detailed images and still really struggled). All in all, I’m afraid I’m really disappointed. It’s such a shame these postcards didn’t follow the format of the Secret Garden Postcards, or those of Millie Marrotta’s Animal Kingdom and Tropical Wonderland which had very few uncolourable images due to them being zoomed in sections of the illustrations, a much more sensible and usable format. My recommendation would be to get the book of Magical Jungle instead, this is a fairly expensive set of postcards when you factor in that many of them aren’t colourable. These postcards would look beautiful framed as they are but for me, they’re just not suitable for colouring, a real shame!

If you’d still like to purchase them or view them online, they can be found here.
Amazon UK – Magical Jungle: 36 Postcards to Colour and Send
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Magical-Jungle-Johann-Basford/9780753548158/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The book of Magical Jungle can be found here:
Review – Magical Jungle
Amazon UK – Magical Jungle
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Magical-Jungle-Johann-Basford/9780753557167/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Holbein Artist’s Colored Pencils and blended with a Caran d’Ache Blender Pencil.

Tidevarv (Seasons) Målarbok – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Tidevarv is the fourth instalment of colouring books illustrated by Hanna Karlzon and published and kindly sent to me to review by Pagina Förlag. I have previously reviewed Hanna’s first three books, Dagdrömmar (Daydreams), Sommarnatt (Summer Nights), and Magisk Gryning (Magical Dawn). The latest book is identical in format so if you already have a previous title of hers then skip to paragraph two, for those of you who are new to her work, this book is hardback and just a little smaller than A4 at 21.6 x 25.8 cm. The covers are a beautiful lemon yellow colour with a black and white design from inside the book with gold foiling accents and lettering adding a touch of luxury! The spine of the book is black with gold lettering (these books look really luxurious on the shelf and look like classic tomes). The pages are glue and string-bound and the pages are attached to a sturdy ribbon which is flexible rather than being rigidly glued to the hardback spine; the spine is durable and hard-wearing but it can be a bit difficult to get to the very centre of some of the pages though this does ease up with use. The paper is thick, cream and smooth and pencils work fairly well on it, with it being relatively easy to build up layers for blending and shading; water-based pens don’t bleed or shadow (always test somewhere inconspicuous because everyone colours differently). The illustrations are printed double-sided and consist of single and double-page spreads.

The image content is gorgeous, varied, and possibly the best yet! This time, they’re organised into four sections of season-themed images starting with Spring and ending with Winter. The vast majority of the images are heavily nature-centred and realistically drawn but with Hanna’s signature quirkiness and magic added to them with gemstone fruit, anthropomorphised animals, and hair morphing into fruit, florals and even migrating geese. This book contains the second largest number of women (18) with seasonal accessories, beautiful headdresses, piercings and tattoos, these are in my opinion, the best drawings of women that Hanna has given us so far, they’re beautiful and so inventive, and in keeping with the seasonal theme, however, if you’re not interested in colouring people then don’t despair, these are not the majority of the images and there are loads of images of animals, flowers, plants, fruit and lots of gemstones as always! There is so much content in each of these books, it’s hard to sum it all up in a written description but the book contains everything from potion bottles, birds, mushrooms, seedlings, beetles, and mice, to snakes, fish, berries, cats, candles, houses, lanterns, Christmas baubles, presents and stars, it’s absolutely jam-packed with content. The illustrations are all highly decorative and ornate, they are beautiful in black and white but they’re completely brought to life with colour! Hanna’s work has always been beautiful but the added theme of seasons is spectacular, it’s really brought a new dimension to her work and has led to some really creative and beautiful illustrations.

In terms of mental health, this book is just wonderful, it offers escapism, natural imagery and lots of whimsy and it’s perfect for distraction even just by looking through the images! The line thickness is consistent throughout and remains medium/thin so it’s definitely manageable to colour. The intricacy and detail vary throughout and mostly range from medium to high but a few have much larger open spaces. The detail is part of what makes Hanna’s work so special and beautiful, if you’re wanting to colour within each teeny tiny section then you’ll need to have very good vision and fine motor control but if you’re happy to colour over some of it and use it as texture underneath then moderate vision and fine motor control would be absolutely fine! Unlike Hanna’s first book Daydreams, this book doesn’t contain any outline images or written prompts. This may be a welcome change for those of you who don’t like to draw. A number of the images are centralised and have large surrounding spaces so there are plenty of opportunities to create your own backgrounds if you wish, though of course this isn’t a requirement! I found this book and the illustrations within it great for my mood, just looking through it and noticing all of the different details, patterns and creatures makes me feel calmer and the images are just charming so they’re sure to lift your mood and keep you distracted from any difficult thoughts or persistent symptoms. The images do vary in size and difficulty and they consist of a mixture of collections of components, portraits and scenescape images. This makes it ideal for good and bad days because you can work on one gem or potion bottle on a bad day, or a whole page on a good day so it’s ideal for those with fluctuating conditions or concentration levels.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves natural images, highly ornate illustrations, and anyone who likes all things pretty or magical. Hanna’s books are genuinely stunning and some of my favourites, I love just looking through them and this is definitely my favourite with the seasonal theme, it’s added another dimension and gives the book more flow.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available right now from Sweden from the site below and if you use my exclusive discount code Lucy_PW you’ll get a 10% discount on all items in the Book category until the 8th of June 2017.
www.printworksmarket.com

The image below was coloured using Holbein Artists’ Colored Pencils and Prismacolor Premier Coloured Pencils.

Twilight Garden Artist’s Edition (Blomstermandala Tavelbok) – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Twilight Garden Artist’s Edition is published and very kindly sent to me to review by Gibbs Smith Publishing. Twilight Garden is the English title of the hugely successful series of colouring books called Blomstermandala by Swedish artist, Maria Trolle. I have previously reviewed the Blomstermandala Colouring Book HERE and this is the Artist’s Edition of that book, it’s identical in format to other Artist’s Editions published by Gibbs Smith and Pagina (the Swedish publisher of all of these books) and therefore much of my review is identical to those, this Artist’s Edition is also identical to the Swedish version of it apart from the language. The book measures 29.5x21cm (A4), it’s paperback with thick but flexible card covers which are black with muted coloured flowers from inside the book and gold foiled text on the front, back, and spine. The book has a matte gold tape binding meaning the pages lie completely flat when the book is open and they can be removed for framing. The pages are made of thick cream card which is lightly textured and absolutely fabulous for using pencils on as they layer really well and blend seamlessly. Water-based pens also work really well on this card and don’t bleed through or sideways and there isn’t even a hint of shadowing either. For my page I used Derwent Inktense Pencils activated with minimal water which worked brilliantly with absolutely no buckling or warping at all. The illustrations are all single-page designs and are printed single-sided so you can use whatever medium you fancy without worrying about bleed-through.

The content is a little strange, the book contains 20 pages, 16 of which are illustrations from the original book, 1 is a floral alphabet where each letter shape consists of a single flower (oddly the letter W is missing), and 3 of which are black-background images with full colour printing of what look to be photographed petals, leaves and flowers so these 3 pages are unable to be coloured, a strange choice I feel. However, the other 17 images are lovely choices and are all single-page spreads from the book printed either the same size as the originals or a little larger. 7 of the images have white backgrounds and 10 have black backgrounds (some of these were printed with white backgrounds in the original book). The images are all of flowers and plants and none contain any animals, birds or objects so if those were you favourites then this Artist’s Edition may not be for you. A huge range of flowers are included from daffodils to tulips, lupins to forget-me-nots, foxgloves to grape hyacinths, and fuchsias to peonies and so many more! I’ve included photos of all of the pages below so that you can see the range and make an informed choice. None of the images reach the edges of the page and those with a white background have space where you could add your own backgrounds or imagery if you wish, though this is by no means a requirement, and this will make all of them very easy to frame for yourself or to gift to others.

In terms of mental health, this book is just wonderful, seasoned readers of my blog will know that I strongly believe that natural images, and those depicting nature are the best for mental health and calming you down and this book is no exception, the images are very relaxing and very realistic and details have been added to these that weren’t in the original illustrations (see photo comparisons below). The line thickness is consistent throughout and remains medium/thin so it’s definitely manageable to colour. The intricacy and detail vary throughout from medium to high and this is higher than the original book due to the added details in the larger spaces of each section, these are easily coloured over if you prefer larger sections to colour or they’re manageable to colour within so this book is good for a range of levels of vision and fine motor control depending on how you want to use it. I found this book and the illustrations within it great for my mood, just looking through it and noticing all of the different flowers and leaves made me feel calmer and the images are just beautiful so they’re sure to lift your mood and keep you distracted from any difficult thoughts or persistent symptoms. The images do vary a little in size and difficulty and they mostly consist of a collection of components which is ideal for good and bad days because you can work on one tiny flower or leaf on a bad day, or a whole page on a good day so it’s ideal for those with fluctuating conditions or concentration levels. The fact that the pages are printed single-sided and are removable is fantastic because it means you can remove your works of art and frame them or gift them which is a great way of reminding yourself of what you can achieve and brighten up the darkest of days.

I would highly recommend this book (despite the inclusion of three uncolourable images) to those of you who like to colour flowers and plants, those who have the original book, those who love to gift or frame their colouring, and those who like to use alcohol markers or wet media as there’s no worry about ruining any reverse images. The illustrations chosen are beautiful and very calming.

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Twilight Garden Artist’s Edition
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Twilight-Garden-Mari-Trolle/9781423647072/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Derwent Inktense Pencils activated with water.