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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Floating Worlds Japanese Prints Coloring Book - A Book Review

When Tuttle Publishing asked me if I would like to review a few books, I jumped at the chance - mostly because the books are complimentary, and I read a book a week (along with all that television I watch - oh yeah, and all that writing I do).

One of those books was Floating Worlds Japanese Prints Coloring Book, a coloring book for adults, with 96 pages - 23 of which are yours to color. Along with each page to color, the book offers a tear-out page for a full color representation of what the drawing should look like.

Don't let the name throw you, the images you color are not adult themed - IE pornographic. I really thought that at one time, so let me lay that untruth to rest.

Nope... these pages to color are black and white representations of famous ukiyo-e.

I love ukiyo-e artwork and have over a dozen original example from the 1840s on up, and one from the 1940s. The colors on my woodblock prints is high - I chose high quality printing even over subject matter, though subject matter is what caught my eye first.

Most of the images I purchased were of women in kimono. I don't know why, but at the tie I felt it was the true spirit of feudal Japan. Okay, I couldn't afford any with samurai, sumo wrestlers or anything with Mt. Fuji in it, except for modern reproductions... and I'm afraid I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to owning pieces from the actual time they were created and not modern copies.

Anyhow... I haven't colored since I was maybe 8 years old... using stencil paper to copy some dinosaurs from a book and then adding color to them. I wasn't very good then.
Is it odd that I still have this project I did in Grade 4? I use it to help me write about Japan. No... not really. How the hell could it possibly help me write about Japan? BTW, the white image of the Wooly Moose with the mark of old tape across it... it's from INSIDE the book. It fell out... something to do with tape from the 1970s.
In my teens and early 20s I purchased many model kits of airplanes, cars and ancient warships (I loved tying up the rigging... Hmmmm). My painting skills were adequate, but not spectacular, however.

The only time I had shown any sort of artistic promise with color was in my late 20s and early 30s when I was playing Dungeons and Dragons and purchased hundreds of lead figurines to paint. I was good. Very good.
A wingless cloud dragon pained from my D&D days in my 30s, and a Thunderbirds 2 model I painted while in Japan. I know... F.A.B. Note that the dragon is larger than 25mm... but a human figure would correspondingly be 25mm to sit comfortably on the dragon's saddle. The wings fell off while I was carrying it up the stairs to take a photo of it just now... something to do with glue from the 1990s.
I would hold the tiny 25mm tall figure in my left hand... and it would shake. Fortunately, my right hand holding the paint brush would shake at the same speeds, so I was able to crate some highly skilled pieces, drawing in complete eyeballs, painting silvery armor with black in the holes, learning how to dry brush, work with stains to create a wood look, and even use epoxy adhesive to string the glue from the mouth of monsters to make it look like slobber.

I figured I should be okay with the Floating Worlds Japanese Prints Coloring Book adult coloring book depicting ukiyo-e scenes.

Nope. Apparently an artist is only as good as his tools... or maybe I'm a better painter than I am a colorist.

Tuttle Publishing's own description of the book says: "Featuring elegant designs and high-quality paper, Floating Worlds Japanese Prints Coloring Book is the perfect stress-reliever for fans of classical Japanese woodblock prints."

A page from the book depicting what the ukiyo-e should look like.
Relaxing? I found it the opposite.

I've become a bit of a perfectionist - even though I clearly am not, and as such, every little stroke of color became a thing of anguish to me.

But that does not mean it wasn't fun.

It's like life. Fun but full of anguish.

My first mistake was that I used Crayola markers rather than pencil crayons or even the 128 box of Crayolas (the one with the cool sharpener in the back).

I had bought the markers for my son years ago - he hated to color and would only use one color per masterpiece, flattening the points in the process. I have no idea why I used them, and no idea why I continued... but once started, I had no choice.

The Floating Worlds Japanese Prints Coloring Book book offers a short and simple history of ukiyo-e, good facts on seals and stamps of the publisher et al, and a bit of background on what each ukiyo-e print is... but, it does not offer any guides as to how to color, probably figuring that adults already know how to color. Maybe... but that was a lot of decades ago in my case.

Here's my first attempt... an ongoing time-waster that takes a lot of concentration and lots of time, which is fun.

My as yet unfinished masterpiece that will not make it into a frame for posterity like a certain Grade 4 project. Did you know that in the project I predicted the existence of Velociraptors? No, I didn't. How could I do that? I was 8 years old... and besides the book was on Mammals of Yesterday, not dino-frickin'-saurs. Sorry... I'm just very frustrated. To do the hair on the woman in the center, I'll have to use a black ink pen to outline her head and then go over each individual hair strand. I began to do that with some of the figures on the left to make them really pop on the page. Maybe I'll get better by the time I get to the end of the book? Maybe I should invest in some better coloring tools. Maybe I should get stronger eyes... or maybe not color while sitting on the ground... or maybe get some better light... or just do this in the daytime. Aaaarrggh! Its probably more to do with me having used tape in the 1970s...
Yes... it is fun. No matter if my inner child is crying and sucking his thumb in the corner of my mind.

I have fun at everything I do. More importantly, I finish everything I start.

So... although this page was my first attempt, I am sure my second attempt will be better, as will the next one and the next one until I finish the book! Whoa! I'm getting a little worked up.

I do not find coloring to be a stress-free exercise.

I do find it to be stressful, because despite what appears here in these blogs, I try to do the best job possible every day.

Floating Worlds Japanese Prints Coloring Book from Tuttle Publishing is a fun coloring book for adults.... and worth the US$11.87 for the 23 opportunities to color.

To be honest, I would not hesitate to purchase another such coloring book at some other point in time, but I would ensure that I had the proper tools - IE, pencil crayons or crayons - to do the job.

Perhaps the coloring agents should be sold alongside these coloring books. That's not Tuttle's problem, but really... if you are going to sell a coloring book, maybe you should also sell some colors to color it with. I checked... and Tuttle does not.

Anyhow... Tuttle Publishing... thank-you for allowing me to indulge my inner competitive child.

Andrew Joseph
PS: One more book review coming shortly on a book I didn't think I would like at first glance, but... 

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