Kids will teach you if you let them and if you’re paying close attention. As an adult, I have a need for order and as a parent a need to set and obey the rules. It’s kind of my job. So when my daughter asked me to color with her, in this case in her Zootopia coloring book, I sat down and began copying what I saw in the movie. Like this:
Aside from some minimal shading, it’s as what-you-see-is-what-you-get as you can… get. But I was naive to think I could spend this long on every page. Maya worked at twice my speed and seemed much less concerned with capturing the scene verbatim. So I was forced to speed up which resulted in a lot of unfinished pages. At first I was frustrated that Maya wasn’t taking the time to stay in the lines, choose the right color, and give each object within the scene its due but then I started really looking at her pages and this is what I saw:
Do you see it?
It’s okay if you don’t. I’ll give you a second.
What I see is EMOTION. Poor Mr. Otterton isn’t his usual brown self. He’s BLACK and a chaotic BLACK at that. He’s feral and running on pure animal hatred. Contrast that with Nick Wilde and we see that Nick is all brown. He’s clinging to his identity, an identity that this feral mad beast calls into question. He’s painted all in one borderline color. Then look at Judy. Blue for the law. But those eyes. She’s seeing something shocking and those big purple eyes are expressing that. Okay, maybe I’m reading a lot into what could very well have been “he’s brown because that’s the color that was closest to my hand,” but don’t you FEEL something looking at this. Light and shadow.
So I began approaching Maya’s coloring books as an opportunity to play with light and emotion.
I didn’t have time for much else… I’m a work in progress.
I am particularly fond of Maya’s use of RED. In the scene at the press conference, Judy Hops is feeling the pressure to say something wrong and that red glowing microphone makes me feel her dilemma and the inevitable outcome. Later, she and Nick are finally the same color but his eyes ominously hint of his subdued feral nature. Then there’s my work which quite frankly, is trying too hard. Just as well, as soon as I start coloring Nick in Yellow Maya will correct me, “Nick’s not yellow. He’s orange, color him orange.” Pssh… artists.
Considering that adult coloring books are having a moment, I think it would be cool if we stepped back and at least tried to color with our feelings. The sky isn’t always blue after all.