natural

Menuet de Bonheur – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Menuet de Bonheur is illustrated by Kanoko Egusa, a Japanese artist, who very kindly sent me a copy to review. Kanoko’s work is yet to be picked up by a US or UK publisher which is a real shame because her work is truly stunning, it’s unlike anything we’ve seen before in the UK but is similar to many of the other beautiful Japanese books on the market, they have such a lovely quality to them and are very whimsical and cute with plenty of detail. Kanoko has created two books so far, this one and a second called Rhapsody in the Forest which I’ve reviewed here.

The book itself is just under 25cm square, paperback with very flexible card covers and a beautiful, thick, dusky pink, paper dust jacket with linework from inside the book. The pages are printed double-sided and the spine is glue-bound, the images are printed full-page and therefore do enter the spine so you’ll need to be careful when trying to reach the centre of the pages not to break the spine or you may end up loosening the pages. The paper is white, medium/thin and very lightly textured, it doesn’t bleed or shadow with water-based pens but do make sure you check this somewhere inconspicuous as we all colour differently, pencils blend and shade well despite the lack of tooth in the paper and sparing amounts of water were tolerated very well and didn’t cause bleeding when I used my Derwent Inktense Pencils. The images are a mixture of single and double-page spreads and the content is all heavily nature-based with lots of animal characters. The book is printed in Japanese so it’s not possible to read the text at the beginning of the book which I assume explains what’s happening through the pages but most of the scenes are pretty self-explanatory.

The illustrations contain all sorts of imagery from flowers to teacups, baby clothes to fruit baskets, fireworks to vegetables and lots and lots of animals in various stages of anthropomorphosis. This book contains many more human-like animals than Rhapsody in the Forest and it appears to show family life from bathing the children to hanging up washing, reading a bedtime story to food shopping, preparing dinner to going on holiday and even depicting a wedding! The images are very natural and filled with detail, objects, and plenty to look at and the content is really wide-ranging and very pretty. Animal family life is a really lovely theme for a book and the pictures are truly exquisite and beautiful, it feels like you’re taking a peek into their life and stepping into their story. Three of the pages have black backgrounds which is quite novel and a nice addition to the book. At the back of the book are two light brown pages, the first has two postcard sized images which can be cut out and coloured, the second has 5 illustrations each with dotted lines drawn around them so that they can be cut out and attached to cards or used as gift tags etc either coloured or uncoloured.

In terms of mental health, this book is fantastic, it’s so calming and distracting and there’s just so much to look at in each picture so it’s really absorbing. It also offers wonderful escapism because you can create stories about what the animals are doing and immerse yourself in their lovely world. The book feels really peaceful and reminds me of my childhood reading Beatrix Potter’s wonderful stories about animals, I’m sure Peter Rabbit and Mrs Tiggywinkle would fit right in with Kanoko’s creatures and you could have great fun naming all of the characters depicted in this beautiful book. The line thickness is pretty consistent throughout and is thin but not spindly thin so it’s perfectly colourable. The intricacy and detail levels vary throughout from very detailed sections with lots of intricate parts to much larger sections where you can really go to town with your blending and shading if you wish; this book would be suitable for those with moderate to good vision and fine motor control. This book will require a fairly good level of concentration but there are lots of natural stopping points so you can colour for as little or as much time as you want and still get a good sense of accomplishment. The amount of content in each page varies so some are centralised single page images, others are fully covered double-page spreads and a few have spaces where you could add your own imagery or backgrounds if you wish.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book and Kanoko’s first book, Rhapsody in the Forest, both are truly beautiful, really natural and calming and just charming to look through. Having seen lots of coloured images from inside, these illustrations are really brought to life with colour and they look spectacular when finished, they’re also ideal for practising colouring fur!

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it is available on Amazon but price varies so do check there as well as Amazon Japan (postage is steep but does reduce per item if you buy more than one thing) and check Etsy too where an increasing number of Japanese and other International colouring books are being stocked for a reasonable price.
Amazon UK – Menuet de Bonheur

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

Rhapsody in the Forest – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Rhapsody in the Forest is illustrated by Kanoko Egusa, a Japanese artist, who very kindly sent me a copy to review. Kanoko’s work is yet to be picked up by a US or UK publisher which is a real shame because her work is truly stunning, it’s unlike anything we’ve seen before in the UK but is similar to many of the other beautiful Japanese books on the market, they have such a lovely quality to them and are very whimsical and cute with plenty of detail. Kanoko has created two books so far, this one and a second called Menuet de Bonheur which I’ve reviewed here.

The book itself is just under 25cm square, paperback with very flexible card covers and a beautiful thick paper dust jacket with linework from inside the book. The pages are printed double-sided and the spine is glue-bound, the images are printed full-page and therefore do enter the spine so you’ll need to be careful when trying to reach the centre of the pages not to break the spine or you may end up loosening the pages. The paper is white, medium/thin and very lightly textured, it doesn’t bleed or shadow with water-based pens but do make sure you check this somewhere inconspicuous as we all colour differently, pencils blend and shade well despite the lack of tooth in the paper and sparing amounts of water were tolerated very well and didn’t cause bleeding when I used my Derwent Inktense Pencils. The images are a mixture of single and double-page spreads and the content is all heavily nature-based with lots of animal characters. The book is printed in Japanese so it’s not possible to read the text at the beginning of the book which I assume explains what’s happening through the pages but most of the scenes are pretty self-explanatory.

The illustrations contain all sorts of imagery from food to flowers, postage stamps to books, circus and nautical scenes and lots and lots of animals in various stages of anthropomorphosis from very animal-like, possibly wearing a hat, to very anthropomorphic and doing human jobs like decorating cakes, trick-or-treating, and even going to a ball. They are very natural and filled with detail, objects, and plenty to look at and the content is really wide-ranging and very pretty. I’m not entirely sure what the specific theme of the book is but it seems like it’s following the lives of lots of woodland and more exotic creatures and their travels, tales, exploits and even parties! It’s a really lovely theme for a book and the pictures are truly exquisite and beautiful! Five of the pages have black or grey backgrounds which is quite novel and a nice addition to the book.  Of the two books, I personally prefer this one as it’s more natural and less anthropomorphic which suits my tastes more, however, both are just gorgeous! At the back of the book are two light brown pages, the first has two postcard sized images which can be cut out and coloured, the second has 5 illustrations each with dotted lines drawn around them so that they can be cut out and attached to cards or used as gift tags etc either coloured or uncoloured.

In terms of mental health, this book is fantastic, it’s so calming and distracting and there’s just so much to look at in each picture so it’s really absorbing. It also offers wonderful escapism because you can create stories about what the animals are doing and what they might be baking a cake or wearing their best outfits for and immerse yourself in their lovely world. The book feels really peaceful and reminds me of my childhood reading Beatrix Potter’s wonderful stories about animals, I’m sure Peter Rabbit and Mrs Tiggywinkle would fit right in with Kanoko’s forest of creatures and you could have great fun naming all of the characters depicted in this beautiful book. The line thickness is pretty consistent throughout and is thin but not spindly thin so it’s perfectly colourable. The intricacy and detail levels vary throughout from very detailed sections with lots of intricate parts to much larger sections where you can really go to town with your blending and shading if you wish; this book would be suitable for those with moderate to good vision and fine motor control. This book will require a fairly good level of concentration but there are lots of natural stopping points so you can colour for as little or as much time as you want and still get a good sense of accomplishment. The amount of content in each page varies so some are centralised single page images, others are fully covered double-page spreads and a few have spaces where you could add your own imagery or backgrounds if you wish.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book and Kanoko’s second book, Menuet de Bonheur, both are truly beautiful, really natural and calming and just charming to look through. Having seen lots of coloured images from inside, these illustrations are really brought to life with colour and they look spectacular when finished.

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it is available on Amazon but price varies so do check there as well as Amazon Japan (postage is steep but does reduce per item if you buy more than one thing) and check Etsy too where an increasing number of Japanese and other International colouring books are being stocked for a reasonable price.

Amazon UK – Rhapsody in the Forest

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

Lost Ocean Artist’s Edition: 24 Illustrations to Colour and Frame – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Lost Ocean Artist’s Edition is illustrated by Johanna Basford and published and kindly sent to me to review by Virgin Books. This book contains 24 of the original images from the Lost Ocean colouring book all printed single-sided. The book is 25x33cm, paperback with thick card covers with beautiful gold foiling accents on the cover and blue text on the spine. The book has a lay-flat binding meaning there is no spine to contend with and that you can reach the whole image to colour it. The pages are all removable, they’re not perforated so there’s no risk of them not being fully perforated and you ripping a page when trying to remove it, they’re all glued onto the spine in the same way as postcard books so they’re easy to remove if you wish but they’re not stuck very strongly and in the process of colouring my page I’ve managed to detach nearly half of the pages so this book won’t stay together unless you’re extremely careful with it. The removable nature of the pages is ideal for two reasons, firstly, its main purpose, which is so that they can be displayed, framed, or gifted to friends or family so your colouring is no longer destined to stay hidden away in a book; secondly, it makes it much easier to colour if you remove the page first – the book is very large when fully open which makes it difficult to colour on your lap or even on a clipboard because it’s over A3 size when opened, but when you remove the page you can turn it to any angle you please so that you can colour each section easily without having to have your hand hanging off one corner or be rubbing over previously coloured areas and accidentally smudging bits. The pages are made of thick card which will hold up to just about any colouring medium (this is the same card as used in the Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest Artist’s Editions). I tested my Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners and they didn’t even shadow onto the back and they also didn’t bleed sideways or into the card, they seemed to glide on top instead of saturating the paper like so often happens with thick pages. The card is cream which I know isn’t everyone’s favourite, however, I love it because it makes it feel like a classic book with age and luxury. It also means there’s a less harsh contrast between the colouring and the background if you leave the background uncoloured and also allows you to easily add white as highlights or as a colour where white paper simply doesn’t.

The images included are from the original Lost Ocean book and I think they’re a really good selection. There aren’t any pattern or filler images this time and they’re all definitely frame-worthy. Of the 24 illustrations, 5 are landscape and the others are portrait orientation, 3 are printed smaller than the original illustrations but the others are all printed larger to varying degrees from 4mm to the largest being the skull at an extra 7cm larger, 5 of the images are taken from double-page spreads where a section has generally been enlarged (a couple have been shrunk but not drastically so) and the rest are from single page spreads. Because the majority of the images have been enlarged, at least a little bit, they mostly have larger spaces to colour which allows you to really go to town and the possibilities for blending and shading are increased. If you’re new to using pencils and want to learn about blending and shading then the slightly larger print would be ideal for practising these techniques.

As with all of the Artist’s Editions, this book doesn’t have a treasure hunt aspect. The Secret Garden Artist’s Edition arrived wrapped in thin plastic film, but this one didn’t, however that may be because it’s a review copy so do be aware that it may have plastic film on it in the shop and you may not be able to look through it in stores, this means that the cover is well protected and won’t be at risk of staining or marking which I personally think is pretty sensible, though it’s a shame they didn’t do a preview on the back of what images are included. Because of this, I have included pictures of all of the images from inside the book below so that you can “see inside” before you buy it, as well as comparing the size to the original images.

In terms of mental health, this book is wonderful. Colouring this book ready to review it has provided countless hours of calming distraction and the card is such a joy to colour that I’ve enjoyed every moment of colouring it and was almost disappointed when I finally finished my picture and had to move onto another review. This is a book where you really don’t notice the hours passing because you’re so engrossed and focused on colouring each section. Johanna’s books are not for the faint-hearted and are quite an undertaking and they’re not for those of you with poor eyesight or challenged fine motor control. However, for anyone who is mentally ill and doesn’t have poor eyesight, this book is ideal because not only are the images stunning but they’re also completely grounded in nature which is perfect for calming you down and relaxing you. When colouring these images, it feels like you’re going on a wonderful adventure into Johanna’s Lost Ocean, the journey is less obvious but the images are printed in the same order as they appear in the book so it does have a feeling of flow. It’s sure to lift your mood and focus your thoughts so that even the most racing of minds will be quietened, at least for a short while. The details and intricacies force you to concentrate and become immersed in a watery world filled with brightly coloured fish and enchanting sea creatures and you’re sure to feel your anxiety lessen and your dark thoughts soften a little. It’s by no means a cure, but this is a fabulous book for distraction and the fact that you can remove the pages and display them means that all of your hard work and creativity can be prominently displayed and used to brighten up your darker days and remind you that you can create beautiful things which I often find gives me a huge self-esteem boost.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. If you liked Johanna’s original books or want to delve into her inky world for the first time then I’d strongly recommend purchasing it. With the best paper quality that I’ve come across in a colouring book, it contains the most stunning images and the feature of removable pages is one that I personally love because it means you can decorate your walls with your work or give wonderful, thoughtful presents to family and friends. This book exudes quality and luxuriousness from its thick card pages, to the signature gold foil accents on the front cover and the small selection of shells printed on the reverse of each picture, it is a work of art in itself and will be transformed into a masterpiece once you unleash your creativity upon it. I truly can’t enthuse enough about this book, it is a must-have and one that if you have been umming and ahhing about whether you should purchase it should be bought at once because I can just about guarantee that you won’t regret it. This book is ideal for anyone who is struggling with their mental health and anyone who just wants something truly beautiful to colour. Do check the images below to ensure the selection is one that you’re happy with and then get ordering because this is a book you definitely need in your collection, it’s gorgeous and one I can’t wait to get working on again!

If you’d like to purchase a copy of this book, it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Lost Ocean Artist’s Edition
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Lost-Ocean-Artists-Edition-Johann-Basford/9780753548134?ref=grid-view&qid=1491572389812&sr=1-1/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Prismacolor Premier Coloured Pencils and blended with a Caran d’Ache blender pencil.

Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom Book of Prints – A Review and Comparison of UK and US Editions

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom Book of Prints is published in the UK by Batsford Books who kindly sent me a copy to review, and is published by Lark crafts in the US and I purchased a copy of this edition myself.

Comparison

  • The US edition contains 18 prints and the UK edition contains 20, the additional images are the octopus and the lobster.
  • The card in the US edition is MUCH thinner than the UK edition, it feels like school card and is very flexible whereas the card in the UK edition is thick and much less bendy, similar in thickness to the card used in Johanna Basford’s Artist’s Editions.
  • The spine on my US edition broke really quickly because it’s only very lightly glued and the pages are already completely loose from the book covers despite very careful handling, the pages in the UK edition are glued more strongly.

The book itself is 25 x 33cm, paperback with flexible card covers that have a re-jigged version of the Animal Kingdom book cover on the front. The book has a lay-flat binding which is quite stiff to begin with but loosens up over time, each card page is glued onto the spine and it’s therefore easy to remove them for framing or gifting so do be careful not to twist the spine if you wish for your pages to remain in the book. The images are each printed single-sided and are mostly portrait with 4 landscape images (2 in the US edition). The card is thick, white, lightly textured and lovely to use with any medium, my pencils were a dream to blend and shade with, water-based pens don’t bleed, shadow or spread and alcohol markers will work well too, just make sure you pop a protective sheet behind to ensure no bleed-through. The images are all taken from Millie Marotta’s debut colouring book, Animal Kingdom, and all are printed the same size as the originals. No text is added to any of the pages and the majority of them contain large open spaces around them so you’re free to add your own imagery or backgrounds if you wish but this certainly isn’t a requirement and with or without, the pages will look incredible. I’ve included photos below of all of the illustrations including the two additional images in the UK edition of the octopus and lobster. The images contain a good range of animals from the book and a really good range of Millie’s different illustration styles including full page designs, floral component parts, and centralised single animals.

In terms of mental health, this book is great because it offers a manageable project which you can frame or gift once finished, this is ideal for cheering up dark days or for boosting your confidence and self-esteem because you’ll have evidence and proof on your walls of just what you can create and achieve; the colouring projects I have displayed in my flat never fail to make me smile, even on really bad days. The line thickness, as with all of Millie’s work, is spindly thin and the images all contain really high levels of intricacy and detail so it’s really geared up for those of us with very good vision and fine motor control. The pages contain a range of amounts of content from a centralised animal to a page filled with leaves and a bird so there are some pages that will take much less time than others. Millie’s work has very natural stopping points but does require a lot of concentration so this is a book to either colour in small chunks or to save for your good days when you can focus well. While the images are all filled with huge amounts of detail, these sections don’t all have to be coloured individually and can easily be coloured over so that they show up as texture underneath (see my lobster below). The nature-themed imagery is very calming and distracting because there’s so much to look at on each page and Millie’s work is some of the best I’ve found to work on when I’m feeling anxious and need to really focus on something other than the thoughts swirling round my head.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to fans of Millie’s work and those who want to be able to frame or gift their finished pages. I would recommend the UK edition over the US edition as the card is much thicker, the binding is more sturdy and you get 2 extra images to colour. This is a lovely new format for Millie’s images and one that I hope will be reproduced for all of her other titles.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of either edition of the book, they’re available here:
UK Edition
Amazon UK – Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom Book of Prints
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Millie-Marotts-Animal-Kingdom-Book-of-Prints-Millie-Marott/9781849944014/?a_aid=colouringitmom
US Edition
Amazon UK – Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom Book of Prints to Color
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Millie-Marotts-Animal-Kingdom-Millie-Marott/9781454710318/?a_aid=colouringitmom

If you’d like to frame your work, you can find frames of the correct size here on Amazon.

The images below are coloured using Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners (Giraffes), and Prismacolor Premier Pencils (Lobster).

The Flower Year: A Colouring Book – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
The Flower Year: A Colouring Book is published and very kindly sent to me to review by Laurence King Publishing. This book is the second colouring book offering from Leila Duly who illustrated the hugely successful and utterly stunning, Floribunda, reviewed by me here. This new book is a different format, with somewhat different content and very different production however, rest assured, it’s equally beautiful and an absolute must-have! Below the review are photos of inside so you can have a sneak-peek and if you want to view the whole thing you can see my silent video flick-through here.

This book is quite small at 23 x 18cm, it’s hardback with a pale pink linen-style cover in a slightly different shade from Floribunda, with black floral line drawings on the front and back covers and beautiful moss green interior and first and last pages. The spine of the book is stitch-bound and it is glued onto a flexible fabric tape strip which makes it easier to access the gutter in the center of the pages though in some cases this is still tricky and you’ll lose a little of some of the images. The illustrations are printed double-sided and are a mixture of single and double-page spreads. The paper is medium/thick, cream and very smooth, it’s similar to the paper used in Swedish colouring books though it has less texture; it’s ideal for water-based pens which apply smoothly and don’t bleed or shadow (do always test in an inconspicuous place as we all colour differently), I coloured my page with oil-based pencils (Holbeins and Polychromos’s) and found that I struggled to get even coverage as they didn’t want to blend very well and I was left with a slightly patchy appearance, even without any visible tooth to the paper, until I used a blending pencil (see photos below), this may be user error, but as many of us know, certain papers work better with certain types of pencils and I found that it performed much better with wax-based pencils when testing my Prismacolor Premier Pencils. The book contains a sage green satin ribbon bookmark which is very handy for keeping your page and really adds an extra touch of luxury in addition to the pale pink foiling which adorns the title on the cover and the spine.

The illustrations contain images of flowers from throughout the year with a title page for each month, starting with January and ending in December, each bordered with plants and flowers from that month, following each are 7 pages of floral illustrations containing a range of content styles including double-page spreads, single page spreads, collections of individual flower images and 7 pages with a written quote and a smaller flower image. There is a huge variety of content from birds to butterflies, dragonflies to berries and of course, heaps and heaps of flowers including, a dog rose, foxglove, bluebells, fuchsia, hellebore and plants including mistletoe, holly, horse chestnut and English oak. Some of the pages show small scenes of a zoomed in flowering plant or birds perched on branches, others show a small section of a whole plant, similar to images found in spotters guides and old-fashioned nature books, these collections have the flower’s name added on the page so they’re easy to identify. One of the best things about this book is that all of the pages are shown as thumbnails in the index and underneath each is a list of all of the flowers and birds depicted meaning that those of us who wish to colour the flowers realistically can, with great ease. A number of the pages have centralized images or sweeping spreads with large spaces left where you could add your own backgrounds or imagery if you wish, however this is by no means necessary and the pages will look finished and stunning, regardless of whether you add extras or not.

In terms of mental health, this book is wonderful, just as Floribunda was. The images are so realistic and they’re just packed with detail so even just looking through the pages is very calming and it really feels like you’re taken on a journey through the flowers and plants of the British seasons. I particularly like the way the book is split into months and that all of the illustrations are grouped together in this way, it means that you could just work through it in order or even colour the pages from each month as you go through the calendar year and see if you can spot some of those flowers when you’re out and about, I’ve certainly been noticing lots of crocuses (apparently January flowers) and daffodils outside my flat recently, as well as lots of birds, though I’ve not seen any wrens which are pictured for March, maybe I’ll see one soon. Nature-themed imagery is one of the best types for mental health because it’s so innately soothing and calming, even with no colour added, Leila’s illustrations are an absolute work of art and they are truly brought to life once coloured. The line thickness is spindly thin throughout, and while this does make it quite tricky to colour the images, they just wouldn’t look right with a thicker line, their beauty is in their delicacy. The intricacy and detail levels do vary from larger open spaces on periwinkles and bindweed to much smaller spaces of berries and lily-of-the-valley, but really you will need very good vision and fine motor control to get the most out of this book; I have good levels of both and it required a lot of time and patience to stay within the lines, even whilst colouring over many of the detailed sections. You will also need a good level of concentration to enjoy this book, while it will certainly cheer you up and calm you down on your worse days, it requires a lot of focus in order to stay within the lines and identify each section so that you’re not accidentally colouring a petal in leaf colours so this book is one to keep for your better days. That being said, when you’re well enough to colour it, it offers wonderful escapism and is extremely absorbing, leafing through the pages is like taking a garden walk, it really transports you outdoors and through forests, meadows and hedgerows.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to nature-lovers and those with very good vision and fine motor control, Leila’s illustrations are second to none and while this book is absolutely beautiful as it is, it’ll be an absolute stunner when it’s full to the brim with colour. This is one book that I really hope I can colour from cover to cover in my lifetime because the end result will be incredible. While the paper can be a bit tricky with certain pencils, do persevere, I promise it’s worth the effort!

If you’d like to purchase a copy of The Flower Year, it’s available to pre-order here:
Amazon UK – The Flower Year: A Colouring Book
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Flower-Year/9781780679532/?a_aid=colouringitmom

If you’d like to purchase a copy of Floribunda it’s available here:
Review – Floribunda: A Flower Colouring Book
Amazon UK – Floribunda: A Flower Colouring Book (Colouring Books)
Book Depository Worldwide – http://www.bookdepository.com/Floribund-Leil-Duly/9781780677767/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using a combination of Holbein Artist’s Coloured Pencils and Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils. I also used a Caran d’Ache Blender.

Birdtopia: 20 Colour-In Postcards – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Birdtopia: 20 Colour-In Postcards are published and kindly sent to me to review by Laurence King Publishing. These postcards are of illustrations taken from the Birdtopia Colouring Book which was one of the most unusually formatted books I’ve ever seen during my time reviewing. This postcard book is paperback with card covers made of the same card as the postcards themselves, it’s bound with beautiful red tape creating a lay-flat binding meaning you can reach all of the edges when colouring. Each of the 20 postcards have a thin lined border around them and the main background of each is printed in cream, just like the original book, with white backgrounds for all of the colourable sections on the birds and plants. The card itself is white, thick, and lightly textured, it’s a little tricky to build up layers with pencils but patience helps and it doesn’t bleed, shadow or spread with water-based pens; alcohol pens will heavily shadow and bleed to the back but won’t bleed through onto the next design though do always pop a protective sheet behind your work, just in case! The binding allows the postcards to be kept in the book if you’re careful not to twist the spine, or remove them if you wish for gifting or framing. All of the postcards are portrait orientation apart from one landscape image. The illustrations themselves are all taken directly from the book with very little editing of the content, a few are drastically reduced in size, others are smaller but much closer to the original size, none appear to be larger. On the reverse of each postcard is space to write, four address lines and a beautiful floral bordered space for a postage stamp, in the bottom left corner (when looking at the back in a landscape orientation) the birds illustrated are named so that if you wish to colour them realistically you can. Each image contains one, or more, birds and usually a plant of some kind so there is a good variety and plenty of interest in each picture. Some of the birds include the European Robin, the Plate-Billed Mountain Toucan, the Pileated Woodpecker, and Chilean Flamingo, there is a good range of British and exotic birds to suit all tastes.

In terms of mental health, these postcards make the ideal manageable project, they’re small enough to manage in one sitting but the images are also made up of lots of component parts so you could colour just one section if you wish. The line thickness is spindly thin throughout and you will have to have very sharp pencils or fineliners to avoid going over the lines. The intricacy and detail levels vary a little but all of the postcards have high to very high levels of intricacy so you will need exceedingly good vision and fine motor control to enjoy these as the majority of the images are printed on a much smaller scale than in the original book. The content of the images is very natural and realistic and I found it quite calming just looking through the images let alone actually colouring them, the illustrations are very good at grounding you. Because the drawings are of real birds and flowers and the birds are all identified, it’s easy to look up the colours of each and colour them realistically if you wish so that you don’t have to worry about choosing colour schemes when you’re feeling stressed or anxious.

I would highly recommend these postcards to bird-lovers and those who love to colour nature and natural images, who don’t mind a bit of the surreal. The images are beautifully drawn and if the cream background doesn’t bother you then this book is sure to be a winner and the card quality is great!

If you’d like to purchase a copy of the book, it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Birdtopia: 20 Colour-In Postcards
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Birdtopia/9781780679419/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Holbein Artists’ Colored Pencils.

Nordic Wilderness – A Review and Comparison to the German Edition, Nordische Wildnis

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Nordic Wilderness is illustrated by Claire Scully who co-illustrated The Menagerie, The Aviary, and The Aquarium, and is published and very kindly sent to me to review by Laurence King Publishing. This book was originally published in Germany under the title Nordische Wildnis, you can find my review of that edition here, I expected the UK publication to be identical but I couldn’t have been more wrong, despite the content being almost identical, almost all aspects of the publication are different including the image order, formatting, paper colour and book size to name a few, therefore I will first review the UK edition here and then go on to compare the UK and German editions so that you know which to purchase if you want just one, or whether to buy this UK copy if you already have a German copy so buckle up, this is a long one folks!

Review

Nordic Wilderness brings us exactly the content you’d expect, beautiful images of animals and scenery from the Nordic countries, it’s gorgeous, drawn in Claire’s signature intricate style and really lovely! The book is just under 25cm square, paperback with flexible grey card covers with images from inside the book and silver foiled text, the spine is a dark teal/blue colour and the inside covers are also this colour. The spine is glue and string-bound and fairly strong but also pliable so you can get the book to lie quite flat. The pages are mostly printed double-sided but the book contains 9 fold-out pages each containing a single-sided double-page spread which is a fantastic feature as the spine doesn’t get in the way of colouring the centre of these pages and they could also be carefully removed to frame if you wish. On the backs of the fold-out pages are a unique small motif so there are no truly blank pages in the book. The paper is thick, cream and lightly textured, I’ve tested it with pencils and these blend and layer nicely and I coloured my double-page spread with water-based pens which didn’t bleed or shadow at all; alcohol markers will bleed through so either keep these to the fold-out spreads or avoid using them in this book. The images are a mixture of single and double-page spreads and those that are most affected by the spine being down the centre have been printed on the 9 fold-out pages so you can finally colour the beaks of the two owls which disappeared into the spine in the German edition.

The images are beautiful and so cohesive! The illustrations are all of things you’d expect to find in Nordic countries from polar bears to pine martens, various species of owl to wolves, whales to horses, and squirrels to salmon. There are also a number of beautiful scenic images of fjords, log cabins, lots of trees, underwater creatures and even a stunning double-page spread of the Northern Lights over some icebergs which I can’t wait to get blending pinks and greens on to really make the scene come to life. Some of the images are animals on their own, others have backgrounds or objects with them, some are shown in groups and there are also a few double-page spreads of collections of natural items including lots of mushrooms, pine needles and pine cones, palm fronds, feathers, snowflakes and leaves. There are no filler images in this book and each illustration has absolutely earned its place, Claire’s style is beautiful and her hyper-detailed drawings of nature are just perfect to be coloured with pencils or fineliners. A fantastic new feature of the UK edition is that it contains an image key at the front, annoyingly this isn’t printed in the same order as the images in the book but it’s easy enough to find the picture you’re wanting to colour and find out what type of bear or fish it is you’re embarking on colouring, this is ideal for those of us who like to colour things realistically as it really aids with searching for the right colour schemes!

In terms of mental health, this book is wonderful, it’s absolutely jam-packed with nature imagery and so it’s really calming and grounding. It also offers wonderful escapism as it creates a real sense of place from the first page and truly does transport you to the Nordic countries where it’s cold and snowy and bears and furry creatures are everywhere. Claire’s illustration style is very realistic so it’s well suited to colourers who like to stick to realistic colour schemes but equally, her images look fabulous in neon colours, metallics, or rainbows for those with an adventurous streak! The line thickness is consistently thin throughout but it’s not particularly difficult to stay within the lines as long as you have moderate to good vision and fine motor control. The images are highly detailed and intricate (on a par with Millie Marotta’s and Johanna Basford’s books) and there are lots of tiny spaces making up each image whether it be hundreds of leaves, or blades of grass, or feathers, fur or scales, there is a huge amount of detail in these illustrations which makes them so beautiful and a joy to colour but this does mean it’s not so suitable for people who don’t have good vision or fine motor control. However, while the images are really intricate and detailed, most of this detail is drawn into much larger spaces including landscapes and animals so you could very easily colour over these details with pens or pencils so that the linework shows up as texture rather than having to colour each tiny section separately so there is scope for most ability levels to really enjoy this book. There are also a number of larger spaces in some of the images that will be really well suited to using your pencils for blending and shading to really bring the animals and landscapes to life. There aren’t any designs for you to finish drawing but there are natural spaces left in a few of the designs where you could add your own creatures, foliage, scenery and backgrounds, this is a happy compromise for those who can and can’t draw because there is space to draw if you want it, without any written hints.  You will need a fair amount of concentration to really get the most out of this book as each image will take a good long while to colour but because of the subject matter you can always colour a few leaves or a flower to get your quick colouring fix on a bad day and tackle a whole image on days when you can cope with colouring for longer. I really can’t express how beautiful this book is or how amazing the production is. You’ll get absolutely lost in the Nordic Wilderness and if you like The Menagerie, you’re sure to love this book filled with Claire’s beautiful illustrations, the German edition made its way straight onto my list of favourites and this new formatting has possibly made me love it even more!

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves colouring natural images of plants, animals and scenery, this book is beautiful and the added features of removable card pages, bookmarks and postcards is such a wonderful touch. The paper is great quality and If you love detail, intricacy and realistic images then this book will be perfect for you.

Comparison

  1. German edition has covers that open out revealing a colourable design, the UK edition has blue coloured inside covers and no design to colour.
  2. The covers are totally different between the editions.
  3. The UK book is almost 2cms larger in both dimensions than the German edition.
  4. The paper colour is very different, it’s bright white in the German edition and cream in the UK edition, it seems to be equal thickness and similar texture, neither bleed with water-based pens but pencils blend and layer better on the UK edition.
  5. The UK edition has a key at the front of the book with a thumbnail of most of the images and a written description of what they depict, there is no key in the German edition.
  6. In the UK edition many of the double-page spreads are printed on fold-out pages, especially those most affected by the spine in the German edition. The German book has no fold-out pages.
  7. The German edition contains postcards and 4 perforated card pages with single-sided images to colour. The UK edition does contain the images of 3 of these but there are no postcards or perforated pages in it.
  8. The images are either the same size of a little larger in the UK edition due to the larger size of the book, this isn’t a huge difference but if you have slightly poorer vision or fine motor control then you’d be best getting the UK edition rather than the German.
  9. The image order is completely different in each edition.
  10. The UK book is missing about 3 single pages of artwork compared to the original German edition, these include the twigs next to the beaver page and the fox tail but I’m yet to discover the third page that hasn’t been included, it’s not an obvious one though.
  11. The whale is printed totally differently, in the German edition it’s a double-page spread showing just half of the whale, in the UK edition it’s a triple-page spread spanning a single page and a double-page fold-out and it shows the whale in its entirety so it’s printed a fair bit smaller in terms of the detail and intricacy.
  12. The cover image of the German edition is a colourable page in the UK edition with the title removed, in the German edition is has the title intact and is the title page of the book.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of either of the books then they’re available here:

Amazon UK
UK – Nordic Wilderness
German – Nordische Wildnis

Book Depository Worldwide
UK – https://www.bookdepository.com/Nordic-Wilderness-Claire-Scully/9781780679099/?a_aid=colouringitmom
German – https://www.bookdepository.com/Nordische-Wildnis-Claire-Scully/9783833852626/?a_aid=colouringitmom

If you’re a fan of Claire Scully’s artwork then please join my new fan group and share your coloured pages from her book – The Menagerie and More

The image below was coloured using Stabilo 68 Fibre-Tip Pens.