Some thirty years ago, our household temporarily turned into a proper workshop. It was a family affair. My father, a graphic designer and illustrator, had taken on a project. It was a colouring book for children. He worked on the illustrations diligently, day and night. Back then, even though he had brought in our first computer and quickly learned to use it in his work, he still did all drawing by hand. My mother, sister and I watched every step of this endeavour of my father’s and were frequently consulted on the outcome of the first drafts. When the drawing part was done, and the colouring book was printed, it was time to assemble the loose pages, bind them all together and fit them into their covers. I still remember the day when the printed A3 sheets got back from the printing house, ready to be creased in the middle and bound into actual booklets. All four of us had our own posts and tasks to do. Being the youngest in our family, I was in charge of handing the sheets, five by five, to the older members, who then proceeded to align, crease, bind and fit into covers. It was a proper bee hive. You see, the client had ordered 1000 copies. Perhaps not too many for today’s standards, but for our little self-fashioned workshop, it was no mean feat. I don’t remember anyone complaining, though. We took regular breaks, and kept on until all 1000 copies were done and ready to dispatch.
Years passed, no – flew by, and I find myself back in my home country, visiting the above-mentioned ‘gang’, aka my family. (For clarification, I moved to Greece in the meantime. Obviously, this wasn’t the only time I visited.) While we were sitting at the table, having just finished lunch at home, something caught my eye on the bookshelf. There was no spine as it was a thinnish booklet and it stuck out from the shelf. It was the colouring book. I hadn’t seen it for thirty years! My face lit with excitement as I turned round to show it to the others. Everybody smiled and nodded in mutual understanding. It was touching, really. Each of us briefly relived some of the moments we had spent back then in our old house/workshop. That night, I was lying in bed, replaying scenes from that period in my mind over and over. I just couldn’t stop thinking about the colouring book. As I flipped through the pages I couldn’t shake off the feeling these drawings induced in me. They were so familiar, and yet so different from what my eyes have become accustomed to over the years, what with all the technology and the digital world in general. There was something so refreshing about looking at the lines of my father’s drawings, with their perfect imperfections. You can almost see the hand that drew them. At a closer look, most of these drawings are seemingly unfinished, with lines ending abruptly and lots of space around. This, to me, was pure bliss. Every page leaves you room to ‘breathe’. There are no frames or harsh boundaries. And that’s when it hit me. Suddenly, I had an epiphany. It is the freedom that emanated from them. After all, my father always told my sister and me not to be afraid to draw imperfect lines or shapes on paper. “Draw and keep drawing those lines, look for them until you’ve found them. Go on, you don’t need an eraser.” And so we did. It was so liberating that I decided there and then to bring this colouring book back to life in the hope that today’s generations will discover their own sense of freedom. But of course, I couldn’t possibly do this on my own. It simply had to be another family affair…
Fast forward thirty (ish) years, and I find myself surrounded by printed paper strewn all over the living room, two printers clicking and whirring, and occasionally beeping, pleading to be ‘fed’ some more paper or toner, two laptops working at full steam. Quite a familiar set-up, you’d say, and it most certainly is, but with a couple of differences. More people are involved. My parents are still watching every step of the way while we ‘children’ (my sister and I) have taken on more active roles, this time around. My nephew, our partners, friends (from around the globe) and their children have all respectively chipped in with their advice and insight. And also, this time, we decided to take the aspect of freedom to another level. Namely, this time, there is no creasing or binding involved in the process whatsoever. There is a new step instead and it’s puncturing. All pages are left loose and free and they are punctured so as to fit straight into four-ring binders. The idea is that you can take any number of pages you like with you and, similarly, take out any of them as easily without having to rip them out of a book. The plethora of space allows for extra drawing, doodling, poetry writing, you name it, while the grey contours are easy to draw over because, no, you don’t need to stay within the lines and yes, you can draw – just follow the grey outline!
So, what you’re holding in your hands is not just another colouring book, but a drawing lesson, a diary, your space to unwind, be mindful and creative.
Lana & Vika