NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Ink evangelist Johanna Basford makes it big

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Media captionWhat makes a great adult colouring book?

Two months to go, and it looks like being a crayon-crazy Christmas. With the turkey leftovers, much of the country will be busy colouring in intricate designs.

As books are launched with the target of 25 December, a big stocking-filler for 2015 is clearly going to be colouring-in books for grown-ups.

This week sees the global launch of the latest book from an Aberdeenshire artist, Johanna Basford.

She's not quite JK Rowling yet, but at the growth rate of sales, she's heading in that direction.

Basford already has two books on the market - Enchanted Forest and Secret Garden. Together they have sold more than 10 million copies.

At one point earlier this year, they held the top two spots in the Amazon UK bestseller list. Both are still in the retail giant's top 20 for book sales in the USA.

Image caption Johanna Basford was inspired by the gardens of Brodick Castle

Secret Garden was based on the artist's memories of holidays spent in the gardens of Brodick Castle on the Isle of Arran, where her grandfather was head gardener.

It was published in 2013 and by a year ago, it had sold 200,000. Then sales took off. By last March, it had sold 1.4 million copies.

Six months on, and it has now sold more than eight million copies worldwide. Its few words have been translated for 40 foreign editions.

The Enchanted Forest was launched by Laurence King Publishing last February, taking "colour-inners" on a journey, with hidden objects to be discovered. It too was inspired by Arran, in this case the darker woodland behind her grandparents' National Trust for Scotland house.

That second book has sold 2.5 million copies worldwide, and its few words have been translated into 33 foreign editions.

In China alone, two million copies of Johanna Basford's books have been sold. Sales figures released in late August showed that Brazil accounts for 1.16 million copies, the USA for 650,000, Korea for 500,000 and the UK for 477,000.

With a new and much bigger publisher, Penguin Random House, the 32-year-old has taken her many fans deep into the Lost Ocean: an "inky adventure and colouring book", with high expectations of repeating the sales magic.

Image copyright Penguin Random House

Johanna Basford grew up in the village of Auchnagatt in Aberdeenshire. She attended Duncan of Jordanstone art school in Dundee. Ten years ago, she had chosen to avoid computer-aided design in favour of making wallpaper. Her designs were also used for commercial products, including beer bottles.

The book was an idea intended for people like her - something she thought she'd like to own. So she is astonished at how many people have responded to her "ink evangelism".

"People like it because it's a chance to be creative," she told the BBC. "A blank sheet of paper can be quite daunting. But colouring in, the outline is there. So if you've got a creative spark, it's an opportunity to let it flourish.

"With colouring in books, I'm only doing half the creation. It's a collaboration. I draw the outlines, and whoever buys the book, and colours it in, they're bringing the colour, and finishing the piece, so it's like we're working as a team."

The illustrator goes on to explain how it appeals to people looking to slow down: "With colouring in, you're not plugged in. You can turn off. You're not looking at a screen.

"You have that chance to lose yourself in that activity. You're not going to be interrupted by a Tweet or an email or a new article you have to read. It's a chance to filter that out."


Despite inter-continental success, Basford is not Britain's biggest-selling colouring-in illustrator. Millie Marotta, based in west Wales, has been Amazon UK's biggest-selling author this year, with Animal Kingdom and Tropical Wonderland also high up the rankings.

The Amazon UK top 100 best-selling list currently includes 10 colouring-in books for grown-ups. On 5 November, Warner Brothers launches a book themed on Harry Potter. Before becoming available, it has been in the best-selling list for six weeks, and is now at number seven.

Other themed books waiting for the pencils to be sharpened include the original illustrations for Alice in Wonderland, Dr Who, Game of Thrones, Tolkein's World and Sherlock, the BBC drama series.

Another best-seller is The Mindfulness Colouring Book: "anti-stress art therapy for busy people", which points to one of the reasons why the phenomenon has taken hold.

"Working with your hands is one of the best ways to soothe anxiety and eliminate stress," say the Mindfulness publishers. "This practical exercise in mindfulness draws on your creativity and hones your focus."

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