Words (and Art) From an “Ink Evangelist” | Coloring and Zen Doodle Art

When you’re an artist with clients such as Nike, Hallmark, and Crabtree & Evelyn, you know you’ve made it to the big time. Allow me to introduce you to Johanna Basford, an illustration artist and ink evangelist. Her work is so beloved by her fans that she even has some asking her to design tattoos. Her intricate drawings can be seen on a range of famous brands, and she has also illustrated two fascinating coloring books for adults.

Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book and Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest and Coloring Book are receiving rave reviews, and for good reason. Even if you don’t color in the pages, the books are a delight to behold. Johanna’s inspiration is as dreamy as her art–scroll down to see how she comes up with her ideas.

Illustration art by Johanna Basford, author of two beautiful coloring books for adults.

Johanna’s Inspiration for Her Adult Coloring Books: Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest

“The books take their inspiration from my childhood holidays spent on the Isle of Arran on the West Coast of Scotland. My grandfather was the head gardener at Brodick Castle gardens there and we would visit him and my grandmother for summer and Christmas holidays.

“The gardens were an amazing place for a child with a big imagination to roam free and play. There was a formal walled garden, complete with precision planted flower beds, honeysuckle-clad pergolas, and a beautiful sundial at its center. I have a vague recollection of beehives hidden in gaps in the walls, but I can’t remember if this is fact or just the imaginings of a curious child! Outside the walled garden lay acres and acres of forest peppered with spectacular blossoming rhododendrons, ponds with lily pads big enough to stand on, a half-hidden summer house lined with pinecones, and row upon row of greenhouses.

“While the gardens influenced my first book, my second book, Enchanted Forest, has its roots in the sprawling forestry and woodlands that surround them and creep up the mountainside of Goatfell–an extinct volcano studded with crystals! The woodlands were dark, mysterious places with lots of fallen trees to climb and curious little leafy hiding places for beasts of the real or imagined variety.

“When my grandfather passed away I inherited his library of botanical reference books. These are an invaluable source as they detail so many weird and wonderful species, many of which I’d never seen growing here in Scotland. I often take a leaf from one plant, a petal from another, and perhaps a seed pod from a third and combine them in a drawing to create an imaginative botanical hybrid. This type of fanciful horticulture ensures I always have plenty to draw!”

Pencil and pen versus digital art:


“I have a lot of contemporaries who produce amazing work digitally,” Johanna says, “but for me personally, I just love the imperfect circle and a slightly crooked line. I think there is something natural and soulful about the little intricacies which are evident in a hand crafted illustration. Vector artwork is so precise, almost clinical in it’s make-up, whereas something created by the human hand has character and depth (and wobbly bits!). I’ve always felt this way, perhaps in part to my inability to use a computer, but also because so much of my work is nature inspired. It seems jarring to try and capture the beauty of nature using a machine.”

Don’t you want to go to Scotland now? If traveling to the gardens isn’t within your reach, you can get Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest through the Interweave store.

And in case you’re wondering, the “ink evangelist” doesn’t do tattoo art commissions, but she welcomes you to use her existing work. 😉

Happy coloring!

Have you heard? Cloth Paper Scissors is proud to announce the Zen Doodle Drawing Contest! Enter your best work, and you could win $1,000 and publication. Good luck!

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