Brain Pickings

5 Quirky Coloring Books for The Eternal Kid

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What gangsta rap has to do with children’s healthcare and mid-century illustration.

We love coloring books and genre-benders of kinds, so today we’re turning to five favorite coloring books that transcend the genre’s typical numerical age range and instead reach out, with quirk, humor and inspiration, to the eternal kid in all of us.

THE INDIE ROCK COLORING BOOK

British illustrator Andy J. Miller and Montreal-based creative nonprofit Yellow Bird Project capture the true pride point of indie music — quirky, colorful character — in the lovely Indie Rock Coloring Book — a wonderful collection of hand-illustrated activity pages, mazes, connect-the-dots, and coloring pages for indie icons like Bloc Party, The Shins, Iron & Wine, Broken Social Scene, Devendra Banhart, MGMT, The New Pornographers, The National, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

All proceeds from the book, which we originally reviewed in 2009, go towards Yellow Bird’s inspired mission to raise awareness and funds for meaningful charities and help independent artists find their audience.

GANGSTA RAP COLORING BOOK

From illustrator Anthony “Aye Jay” Morano comes Gangsta Rap Coloring Book — a witty line-drawn hall of fame of gansta rap, featuring 48 pages of the genre’s superstars, from Notorious B.I.G. to Compton and just about everyone who’s anyone in between.

It’s also worth noting that Morano self-published the book, an admirable feat as we continue to contemplate the future of publishing models.

The book is part of a trilogy, including Heavy Metal Fun Time Activity Book and Punk Rock Fun Time Activity Book.

BETWEEN THE LINES

Nonprofit RxArt is out to harness the healing power of art in helping sick children feel better by placing work by leading contemporary artists, from Jeff Koons to Will Cotton to Jason Middlebrook, in children’s healthcare facilities. Every year, they publish Between The Lines — a lovely coloring book 100% of proceeds from which go towards funding these inspired hospital projects. The latest edition of the book features over 50 original line drawings by some of today’s most celebrated contemporary artists, including Takashi Murakami, Ed Ruscha and Cynthia Rowley, plus a series of delightfully vibrant stickers designed by Nate Lowman and Mickalene Thomas.

Catch our full review, with background on RxArt’s phenomenal work, here.

THE WUGGLY UMPS AND OTHER DELIGHTS

We love the Tim-Burtonesque work of prolific midcentury illustrator Edward Gorey (1925-2010). There’s something darkly delightful about the mismatch between his grim aesthetic and his proclivity for “children’s” books. We recently gushed over his fantastic alphabet book, but it doesn’t end there: The Wuggly Ump and Other Delights Coloring Book is an eclectic menagerie of 22 beasts and creatures from Gorey’s most beloved books. The title comes from on of Gorey’s best-known monsters, an Ump renowned for its Wuggliness.

THE SNEAKER COLORING BOOK

The Sneaker Coloring Book for grown-ups invites you to reimagine the 100 most popular sneaker designs from 1916 to the present by 18 major brands, including Adidas, Converse, New Balance, Nike, Onitsuka Tiger, Puma, Reebok, and Vans. Each full-page silhouette is removable for framing, and a fascinating introduction traces the history of the “sport shoe” from Charles Goodyear’s 1840s invention of vulcanization to its pivotal role in skate and hip-hop culture.

The Sneaker Coloring Book is the work of Daniel Jarosch and Henrik Klingel of Berlin-based design studio PKNTS.

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