Amelia’s Magazine | Lost Ocean by Johanna Basford: Exclusive Colouring Book Review and Artist Interview

Lost Ocean cover
Johanna Basford is the prolific illustrator behind Secret Garden, Enchanted Forest and now Lost Ocean, which was published in October 2015. For her latest underwater adventure Johanna has gone back to her marine roots to pull together a gorgeous volume full of intricately detailed drawings inspired by real creatures and ocean fantasies. It’s a must have for any colouring enthusiast!

Johanna Basford portrait
How long did it take to create your new colouring book, Lost Ocean, working on average how many hours a day?
Lost Ocean took about 4 months to complete. Average days don’t really come into play when you work from home and you have a little person to care for, but I have childcare 4 days a week so I cram as much as I can into these hours, then I work when she (finally!) takes a nap or goes to sleep at night.

Lost Ocean colouring by Johanna
Lost Ocean coloured by Johanna Basford.

What are you favourite memories of growing up on your parent’s fish farm, and how have these influenced the making of Lost Ocean?
My parent’s fish farm is a fresh water one and is located about 20 miles inland (not on the coast), so my experiences there didn’t influence this book so much, apart from seeing tens of thousands of fish every day! My parents are both Marine Biologists though so my sister and I spent a lot of time visiting scientific aquariums and on research vessels as children. We could barely make it through a seafood dinner without someone having their main course dissected and an impromptu biology lesson taking place. I think these kind of things all just help open your eyes as a child and expose you to a vast array of different experiences that form the foundation of your imagination as an adult.

Johanna Basford in studio
Your studio looks wonderful (very jealous!), I believe it is in your house? Where is it located, what is the view, how long have you been there and is it always as tidy as it looks in your videos?
We live in a converted farm building in the Aberdeenshire countryside. We are so lucky to be out in the wilds and I really love that feeling of looking out our windows and seeing the changing seasons. Due to the incredible amount of toys Evie began to accumulate (why do small people have so much stuff?!) we converted my old studio which was next to the kitchen into a playroom and I moved into the space in the attic. It was no hardship though as the view from the apex window out across the surrounding fields is so beautiful and it meant I was tucked away when I needed to work and out of ear shot of little people.

Lost Ocean by Louise Chagger
Lost Ocean coloured by Louise Chagger

How long did you stop working for when you had your daughter, and when during the day do you find it easiest to work now, and why?
I took 6 weeks ‘off’ social media when I had her, but was still checking in on email throughout as my second book, Enchanted Forest was about to go to print. My publishers were super understanding though and we all worked around the craziness that is coping with a new born. I worked around Evie’s schedule until she was 6 months, after which we had a wonderful family friend who is a nanny come and help me a few days a week. It wasn’t till then that I really got stuck back into things properly. I work best in the morning, always have done.

Lost Ocean by nijnaa
Lost Ocean coloured by nijnaa

What kind of work commitments are your priority now your time is more limited?
Now that there’s more to cram into a day I’m a lot more selective about what I can take on. I’d rather turn down a job or rejig a deadline than deliver bad work late. I’ve scaled back a lot on commission work and focused on the books and long term projects – the lead times for commercial illustration work are often just days or in some cases hours long and more often than not required immediate amends to meet print deadlines. I just can’t offer that level of flexibility anymore so I’d rather pass up on a job or recommend someone else, than take it and be unprofessional.

Lost Ocean Fish by Maria C Crowdey
Lost Ocean DPS by Maria C Crowdey
Lost Ocean coloured by Maria C Crowdey

What have been the most difficult and the most wonderful things about continuing to work and being a mum at the same time?
The most difficult thing is the guilt. I think all Mums experience this though whether they are working or not. You always feel you could do better for your child. I feel bad for not being with her every day, for letting her watch Cbeebies when I’m trying to answer urgent emails at 6am and for not serving her up a delicious, organic meal I’ve prepared myself every night.

Lost Ocean by Naomi Russell-Baugh
Lost Ocean coloured by Naomi Russell-Baugh

That being said, I wouldn’t change our situation. I love what I do and I’m so lucky to have a job that truly makes me happy. After a day of work or a trip away, I’m so delighted to see her. We make the very most of all the time we have together and I never take a day off for granted. Having that space to do a job I love and fire up my creative and intellectual side means that when I’m back in Mum mode I do so with a fresh head and a happy heart.

Johanna Basford Lost Ocean 1
Where is your favourite place to walk when you want to clear your head and reinvigorate your creative sensibilities?
We live in the middle of nowhere, so I love to bundle Evie into the carrier, grab the dog and walk around the fields and woodland the surround our home. I love the fresh air on my face, to see Simcoe our dog bounding about enjoying the outdoor time and to show Evie the changing seasons.

Lost Ocean by toomuchgoodfood
Lost Ocean coloured by toomuchgoodfood

How are you sharing your love of nature with your daughter Evie?
We spent a lot of time our doors playing, I want to give her the same sort of free range childhood that I had as a child. In the summer we pottered about in the garden, picking strawberries we had grown and smelling the flowers. As Autumn fell we gathered leaves for painting projects and looked for conkers.

Lost Ocean by Tamila Kushnir
Lost Ocean coloured by Tamila Kushnir

You have said that being scared inspires your best work, what situations are most likely to scare you the most nowadays?
Scary deadlines! Now that time is so scarce, anything that involves a short deadline terrifies me. I worry that I’m taking too much on, then I worry that I’m not pushing myself hard enough…

Lost Ocean front plate by Patricia Grund
Lost Ocean front plate coloured by Patricia Grund

You initially trained as printed textile designer (like me!) Now, do you consider yourself an illustrator, a designer, an artist or all the above?
An illustrator. I draw pictures, nothing more, nothing less.

Lost Ocean by laurengunnart
Lost Ocean coloured by laurengunnart

Where do you screen print your artist editions, and how often do you get to do that now?
Dundee Contemporary Arts. I love it there. These days I rarely print, but when I do it’s a treat to be surrounded by so many wonderful artists and to have the excellent facilities and staff at DCA on hand.

Lost Ocean by Rebecca Honeybee Swan
Lost Ocean coloured by Rebecca Honeybee Swan

We first met you when you launched your #TwitterPicture project: you have been very adept at using social media and the internet in general to raise your profile, when and why did you start doing so?
I didn’t want to move to London (or any big city for that matter) and knew that in doing so I was isolating myself. I wasn’t going to bump into art directors and commissioning editors at swanky exhibition openings and I certainly couldn’t just pop round their office with my portfolio to tout my wares. To get around this I used social media and the internet to allow me to open up my studio and connect with these people from my little studio in the Scotland. I tried to think of imaginative ways of getting people’s attention and making my work memorable. An email with a PDF or a link to a portfolio is so boring. I tried to be a little different and to think up ways of presenting my work that was a little more imaginative.

Lost Ocean by Amanda Steele
Lost Ocean by Amanda Steele

Why do you think that sharing work online has become such a major aspect of the adult colouring book phenomenon? 
Because we are all so proud of our creations!! For me colouring books are a collaboration. I create those black and white outlines, but it’s not until the owner of the book adds the colour that those illustrations are ever complete. We need to work together to create the final artwork. So when someone has completed a picture, they quite rightly want to show it off! Who wouldn’t?! The best part of my job, without a shadow of a doubt, is seeing all those amazing pictures on social media, in the facebook colouring groups and on my colouring gallery. It’s humbling to think I have the incredible opportunity to collaborate with literally millions of people worldwide and that we get to share our work with the world. I never see the same illustration twice, every time someone colours a picture they make it unique. It’s like a giant game of consequences; I do my part, then hand the books over to the world and everyone picks up the baton (or should I say the pencil!) and completes the pictures.

Johanna Basford Lost Ocean jelly fish
How much time do you have to upload stuff to your blog and various other online platforms these days? Your Pen Geekery section on your blog is so fabulously… geeky!
Not as much as I would like! Social media and my blog is so very important to what I do, so I try to schedule time for it every day. Whether that’s just posting a quick WIP on Instagram or uploading a new Vlog to YouTube, I feel the colouring community online are so important to what I do, so I want to connect with them as much as I can.

Lost Ocean by renatagclementino
Lost Ocean by renatagclementino

New Designers is one of my favourite places to discover graduate talent, what did taking part in the show do for you?
It was great for me, coming from a relatively small art school in Scotland, to just be in amongst the chaos. It’s good to be a bit scared and New Designers can be an overwhelming place! There’s so much talent, so much energy. Everyone is keen and fresh and unjaded, you don’t get that same feeling again! For me New Designers was a place to make connections. I spoke to lots of people, organized some internships, some freelance work and even had a couple of job offers. Ultimately, it all helped me decided what I did and didn’t want to do going forward.

I love your opinion that technicians are the unsung heroes of art schools! what was the best thing you learnt from them?
The nitty gritty. Like how to get a stubborn stain off a screen. Which inks would last longer than a week if I stored them right. How to make sure my paintings didn’t stick to the inside of a heat press… Not super glam, but it’s practical knowledge like that that you just can’t gleam from a lecture theatre. In my mind, infinitely more useful.

Lost Ocean by jamairanolasco
Lost Ocean coloured by jamairanolasco

Do you or did you ever feel isolated in Aberdeen? How often do you have to travel for work, and have you ever been tempted to move for work reasons?
No. I’m a country girl and I don’t function well in big cities. I can’t draw blossoms and hummingbirds surrounded by concrete and tarmac. I venture down to London about once a month, cram in a whirlwind of meetings then fly north again at bedtime.

Lost Ocean by insolitecass
Lost Ocean coloured by insolitecass. You can download this image for free here

Can you tell us any more about your upcoming collaboration with Staedtler?
Yes, we’re starting to post details of this now. I was approached by lots of different pen and pencil manufacturers this year, asking if I would partner with them. Although I loved all the products that were highlighted to me, I’ve used Staedtler pens since art school and they are the brand that I’ve been recommending for years, so working with them seemed the most honest and natural collaboration. We’ve made a series of videos, a super cool little adult colouring website and there are some special edition products and bundles on the way. I’m also speaking to them about a few top secret colouring projects that I’d like to see realized (watch this space!).

Lost Ocean starfish by dreammaker_kelly
Lost Ocean seahorse by dreammaker_kelly
Lost Ocean coloured by dreammaker_kelly

How do you feel when you see the huge piles of colouring books in book and gift shops across the country?
SUPER PROUD. To see the adult colouring category blossom is the biggest thumbs up you can imagine. What better sign that you are doing something right, something that people truly want in their lives? I love that with every new book that appears, more and more people around the world are putting down their digital devices and picking up pens and pencils. We’re onto a good thing here!

Johanna Basford Lost Ocean whale
I feel as though this Christmas we are about to hit “peak colouring book” for want of a better phrase, do you think the interest in adult colouring books will fade away, and do you see an end point for your (immense) contribution to the genre?
No I honestly don’t. I think adult colouring is just a new form a creativity, one that for whatever reason hadn’t risen to the forefront of popularity yet. The exact format may change and I’m keen to see how the discipline evolves, for example onto new materials, new applications, different techniques (have you seen those pan pastel artworks coming out of Brazil?!) but essentially, I think it’s something we’ve all been craving for a long time. An accessible way to be creative, a digital detox, a stress buster, a warm shot of nostalgia – whatever your reason for initially picking up a colouring book, I’m sure they will become a staple part of your creative life.

Lost Ocean by tatianecandido
Lost Ocean coloured by tatianecandido
Finally, what are you working on now and next? (and any clues as to what another colouring book might contain?)


A charity Christmas project I’m launching on 1st December, more details coming soon!
A new colouring book next summer (details are top secret for now I’m afraid).
More Christmas!
The list goes on and on…

You can tour Johanna’s gorgeous studio in the video above. Lost Ocean is available worldwide. Thank you so much for taking the time to give such brilliant and informative answers Johanna! I can’t wait to see what you do next. Images thanks to the members of Facebook group Colouring Companions and the lovely people who share on Instagram.

Categories ,#TwitterPicture, ,Aberdeenshire, ,Adult Colouring Book, ,Amanda Steele, ,Colouring Book, ,Colouring Companions, ,dreammaker_kelly, ,Dundee Contemporary Arts, ,Enchanted Forest, ,Evie, ,Exclusive Interview, ,insolitecass, ,instagram, ,interview, ,jamairanolasco, ,Johanna Basford, ,laurengunnart, ,Lost Ocean, ,Louise Chagger, ,Maria C Crowdey, ,Naomi Russell-Baugh, ,New Designers, ,nijnaa, ,Patricia Grund, ,Rebecca Honeybee Swan, ,renatagclementino, ,scotland, ,Scottish, ,Secret Garden, ,Staedtler, ,Tamila Kushnir, ,tatianecandido, ,toomuchgoodfood, ,Vlog, ,Youtube

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Amelia’s Magazine | Record Store Day: Let’s Celebrate

VOD Music Record Store Day
Record Store Day is like the Christmas of the music world. Music lovers from all over the world come together in unity to support their local record stores and favourite artists. In an age where digital music is overtaking the market at an incredible speed, it’s wonderful to watch people celebrating actual, real, records and all that they embrace.

Luck would have it, records are back in fashion. Hipsters, we salute you. This is good news for the independent record store market and according to the official Record Store Day website more than forty new shops have opened in the UK high streets in the last 5 years, with sales of vinyl albums already up 74% this year alone. Despite the recent increase in vinyl sales, the digital transformation of society and the music industry is progressively replacing our physical music collections with online streaming services, which we now rely on to hear our favourite tracks. Let’s hope the internet doesn’t do a dinosaur on us and become extinct.

Record Store Day poster
Record Store Day was founded in the USA back in 2007 when over 700 independent record stores came together to celebrate their incredible culture. A year later the UK followed suit. Artists, record store owners and music fans rally together to acknowledge and support a culture and art form the world would be lost without. Watching the passion on music lovers faces as they queue for hours on end to join in the celebration and take the time to indulge in the physical act of finding their favourite record is something downloading an MP3 will never replace.

The culture of how we listen to, and our interaction with music has changed dramatically since the internet became a player in the industry. We want our music like we want our food- fast. We don’t think about the ingredients, where it came from, who made it. We want it cheap and to satisfy our immediate needs. We’ll pay £3 to a company with questionable ethics for a skinny, no whip, decaf, hazelnut latte without much thought. We’ll even queue for ten minutes to receive the monstrosity. Pay a few quid for a record that someone’s spent years perfecting, not to mention the years and money spent mastering instruments, that has helped you through that difficult situation or always puts you in a great mood? It’s like you’ve asked someone a complicated maths problem. It confuses them. A new generation of music consumer has been born, and in their mind, music is free. Most of the arts are free actually. Is it time for a society overhaul yet?

Banquet records
Most adults can remember the first album they ever bought. They can remember the artist, the album title, their absolute favourite track, where they bought it. How excited they were when they had it in their hands. They remember what the cover looked like and the smell of the freshly printed sleeve. It was a memorable moment. It was sacred. The interaction we once felt by owning music has been replaced with online playlists and ‘likes’. The artwork on the album cover is looked at as an afterthought as is seeing who wrote and produced each of the tracks. Music has become a fly on the wall. It’s there whilst we are busy doing everything else. With so much new music flooding the internet every day, its shelf life, and our attention, is becoming much shorter too. What are our children going to remember? The first time they opened their own Spotify account? The first music video they watched on Youtube? Streaming services definitely have their pros. They have made the music industry accessible for smaller, unsigned artists. Artists no longer have to rely on major record labels to release their music and it can be heard all over the world for free. That’s a fantastic opportunity. But this new era is also killing off the need to buy records and CDs.

Record Store Day is a little like the Valentines Day of the music world. Record stores can’t survive on one good sales day a year. Just like your love can’t survive on a bunch of roses every February. It’s important to show your significant other all year that they are appreciated and that you love them. Why wait for a commercial day to buy flowers and whisper sweet nothings? Record Store Day will see record stores flooded and my, will it be a beautiful sight. Thousands of music lovers stroking handsomely designed record sleeves and paying hard cash for creations that are full of blood, sweat and tears. But just as every day should be full of love, every day should be filled with the desire to pay for your music.

Artists have always been at the bottom of the money ladder when it comes to revenue, with record labels right at the top. With the advent of streaming, it’s actually still the record labels that are winning, not the streaming hosts and definitely not the artists. The big labels receive millions in licensing fees so that companies like Spotify can stream the artists signed to the labels. The artists receive pittance, regardless whether you pay subscription fees. It’s a similar situation with record sales, the artist receives the least in the financial equation, but it’s still more than the pennies they receive via streaming. Steve Albini wrote an insightful article back in 1993 in The Baffler, pre streaming, entitled ‘The Problem With Music’ where he highlights these financial disparities. Perhaps the real answer is addressing the distribution of revenue in a fairer manner.

More and more musicians are having to resort to full time day jobs on top of writing, recording and touring, just to afford to continue making music. Many musicians can’t take the heat and quit because it’s just too much of a struggle. Streaming isn’t creating revenue, the current economic climate means many fans aren’t going out to watch live music, touring is expensive… That’s just the tip of the enormous iceberg. But as challenging as the music market may feel at the moment, music itself is far from doomed. People have been creating music since the beginning of documented history and will continue to do so until our planet explodes. We need it for our souls. Rather than resisting the digital transition, we should absolutely embrace it but in a positive and responsible fashion. As consumers we need to find new ways to use technology to support musicians and build exciting new communities. Crowdfunding websites like Patreon might be the future. Patrons pay artists monthly or per creation, as much or as little as they like. In less than a year and a half over 125,000 people have signed up and are donating over a million dollars every single month. From these figures alone it is apparent that a lot of people want to pay their favourite creators directly. Perhaps the new generation of music consumers aren’t so bad after all. Maybe they just need a little education. Eat that Doom.

Music is a collaboration, a journey, a communal experience. Just as Facebook can’t replace the feeling you get from a real physical community, digital music can’t replace the magic of owning your favourite artists craftwork. Looking at your favourite piece of artwork on the computer is an entirely different experience to seeing it on your wall. If you’re streaming your new favourite artist every day on Youtube, go out and support them and your local record store. In a matter of seconds you’ll remember just how much you appreciate the entire experience. Gosh, you might even make a friend.

Categories ,2015, ,hipsters, ,MP3, ,Patreon, ,Record Store Day, ,Spotify, ,Steve Albini, ,The Baffler, ,Vinyl, ,Youtube

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