Clever Animals

As last Friday's Sketch of the Week implied, I've got a secret project to share with you: Clever Animals.

For the last three months, I've been working on a coloring book for adults, which I've just published through CreateSpace. Today, I'm going to tell you about the project. 
You could say that Clever Animals actually started two years ago.  Anyone who follows this blog will know that I enjoy creating and sending old-fashioned mail to my friends and family, and for the last couple of years, I've been mailing one particular friend silly pen-and-ink drawings, usually animals making witty one-liners. Sometimes their dialogue related to conversations we'd had in real life, other times they were entirely random, but they were fun to draw and it gave my friend something to look forward to in the mail. One day he suggested that I take these sketches and develop them into a coloring book, so I opened an account on CreateSpace and gave it a shot. Over the next several months, I perused my old sketchbooks and created over forty illustrations. Several were based on the original sketches I'd mailed my friend, but most of them were brand-new works.

Let's take a look at some of these pictures. The original captions for these pages are a bit small, so I've included them here so you can get a sense of the humor:

"I decided to go meta and wear bunny slippers today."
"I don't know, seems excessive to me."

This drawing is my response to a photo I saw online of a rabbit wearing bunny slippers. As an art historian living in a post-modern world, the idea of meta-concepts and self-awareness comes up fairly frequently, so this is my way of lightly teasing it. The rabbits here are based on some wild bunnies I sketched at Bottomless Lakes last summer.

"I had the flowers planted because they add curb appeal."

This drawing is a reworked version of one of the sketches I'd mailed my friend. He had been telling me about the maintenance work he'd been doing in his yard, planting flowers and such, when he encountered a rather disgruntled-looking toad who seemed displeased with all the recent disruptions. I found the story so amusing that I decided to draw a response to the anecdote.

"I got into the tiny house lifestyle way before it went mainstream."

This drawing reflects several personal interests of mine. When I was a kid, my sister gave me a hermit crab as a present. Though the thing only lived for a few months, I became utterly fascinated with hermit crabs as crustaceans, an interest I maintain to this day. I've also been researching the tiny house movement for the last couple of years, as I find it has viable arguments for more sustainable living. I'm admittedly mocking hipster culture here as well, with its claims of discovering cool things before everybody else. 

"Contrary to what 'crabby' suggests, we're actually jovial types who love to dance!"

You should recognize this image from last Friday's Sketch of the Week, and in some ways it's a self-portrait. I don't consider myself a crabby person, but the idea of being more lighthearted than you initially appear is definitely something to which I can relate. Most people tend to find that I am reserved when they first meet me, and are often surprised to discover that I do, in fact, have a more humorous, extroverted aspect to my personality.

"I've always been confident in my appearance. You have to own your assets."

This anteater was first drawn in Dallas at the World Zoo and Aquarium. I'm no self-help guru by any stretch of the imagination, but the anteater essentially reflects my own opinions regarding our perceptions of beauty. The way I see it, the beauty industry wants you to feel badly about yourself because that will get you to buy their products, so really, you should ignore them and embrace yourself as you are. A naive perspective, perhaps, but it's saved me a ton of money that might have otherwise been spent on cosmetics.

"I'd describe my tastes as rustic."

What's been so great about this project is that it's enabled me to make use of several sketches that I'd never gotten around to using. This scene of the donkey by the ruins, for instance, is a pastiche of sketches I'd made in rural France back in 2007. I liked the sketches just fine, but I never bothered to do anything with them after I returned to the United States. I generally don't indulge in nostalgia, but going through my old sketchbooks and reworking these old drawings definitely brought back a lot of pleasant memories for me.
"Although my previous 457 experiments yielded the same result, scientific thoroughness mandates that I push this glass off the counter."

Not everything is based in the past, however; this illustration is a caricature of my cat, Gustave. The wallpaper is invented, but his mischievous penchant for knocking things over is most definitely real.

All in all, I've had a great time working on Clever Animals, and I sincerely hope that readers will enjoy coloring its pages. If this little project can bring a smile to your face and brighten your day, then I must be doing something right.

In short, buy my book and enjoy it! You can find online, or, in the near future, your local bookstore.