Shaun Tan is an author-artist with a huge cultural following, whose stories and pictures have a fantastically surreal approach. In Metropolis he’s created a brand new piece of artwork that shows a mash up of organic and mechanical creatures that grow across the page into a living, pulsing cityscape. This is art as detailed and intricately imagined as any other, but the twist? It’s all in black and white, waiting for it’s new owner to add colour – to make it their own with their own unique layer of life.
Metropolis is just one example of a wonderful new range of art/colouring books, the Pictura collection. Unwrap the cover, open it up and fold it out – the Pictura books take the form of a long concertina that you can stretch out to make a long mural. Metropolis uses the whole length to tell a story, the birth of a city, it’s teenage years, adult years, and ultimate demise, while other Picturas seem to take the form of individual panels that you could separate into a collection of different images should you wish.
I may be in my thirties, but after a busy day at work, I find that stopping to do half an hour’s colouring just before bed settles my mind and I always sleep better on the evenings that I do this. Honestly! The only problem is that I’ve had Metropolis sitting on my desk for a couple of weeks now and I’m a little afraid to start colouring - because I’ve got a brain freeze around the fear that whatever I do won’t live up to the wondrousness of the starting artwork. The key to overcoming this fear, though, is printed inside the front cover: “Make mistakes; make it your own,” it says. And that’s the truth of the matter: there is no right or wrong, and the beauty of the Pictura is that whatever colours I choose, whether I colour lightly or heavily, that will give it its own, special life.
I do think this is such an inspired idea. When reading novels, we attach our own interpretation to them, take from them what we choose or what is important to us. Here, you can do that in a much more literal sense. What story does the Metropolis tell you? Colour it all, colour bits of it; use pencils, paints, pens, whatever you like; none of the above or all of the above. But, perhaps most importantly, whatever your age: relish it.
Check out www.picturaline.com to look at the different pictures to choose from.