Creativity

The Wellbeing Journal: Creative Activities to Inspire – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
The Wellbeing Journal: Creative Activities to Inspire is published and kindly sent to me to review by Michael O’Mara Books. This journal has been created in partnership with the mental health charity, Mind, all royalties from the sale of the book will be donated to them and thus, by purchasing it, you can not only help yourself (more on this later), but also the countless number of us who are mentally ill in the UK and further afield who are supported by Mind and their tireless work to raise awareness and reduce stigma about mental illness. The book itself is 14.7 x 19cm (just smaller than A5), paperback, with flexible card covers with pictures of brightly coloured birds and branches. The journal is printed double-sided and contains a mixture of single and double-page spreads. The paper is bright white, smooth, and medium thickness, it shadows and occasionally bleeds with water-based pens and pencils don’t work brilliantly unless you use graphite or soft leads due to the smoothness. The majority of the pages in the journal have space to write or draw, some are plain with borders or corner imagery and others are lined, scattered throughout are pages filled with colourful patterns or bright drawings of plants and animals. There are also lots of written activities and self-help suggestions including: relaxing your body, drawing how you’re feeling, organising your time, identifying your stress triggers, and lots more, all of these things may seem simple to people who are well, but it’s often the most basic of tasks, especially anything that involves self-care that those of us who are mentally ill struggle with and it’s great to have prompts all written in the same place for us to refer to when needed. A few colouring pages are scattered through the journal and a number of inspiring and uplifting quotes that might help you look at the world a little differently or remind you that it’s not quite as dark or hopeless as you might feel.

In terms of mental health, this journal couldn’t be much better, it’s been designed with mental health in mind and the tips included are genuinely useful for helping yourself to feel just a little bit better. Journaling is often credited as being great for mental health, it’s not something I’ve ever managed to regularly stick at but I certainly find blogging helps me make sense of things and writing things down can be really useful for this so having a dedicated space to do that interspersed with tips, quotes and activities to keep you perked up is ideal. This journal would be a great present for yourself (get started on the self-care journey by investing in this as something that can help you help yourself), or for others around you who might be struggling with self-care or mental health, it’s perfect for letting someone know you’re thinking of them and starting the conversation about mental health and letting them know that it’s ok not to be ok and it’s also ok to talk about it. The journal is not only a fabulous place to write down your thoughts, feelings, and symptom diary, you could also use it as a place to write down additional self-care tips, strategies, and activities, you could even get people around you who care about you to write nice messages in it for you to read when you’re having symptomatic days and need a boost! The journal is a great size for popping in your bag for journaling on the move or having a portable self-help guide. The tips included are sadly not likely to cure you, they may not even make a huge difference to how you’re feeling, but without trying them, you’ll never know, and starting to care about yourself and for yourself is notoriously difficult when you’re very unwell, therefore having written suggestions of basic things you can try can be a really useful tool for helping yourself feel just a little bit better, even just for a moment!

Overall, I would highly recommend this journal, the paper quality is slightly disappointing but other than that I can’t fault it, the content is great, with a good mix of activities and tips, and space for writing or drawing and if nothing else, the bright colours printed throughout might just brighten your day for the briefest of moments. It would make a wonderful present to yourself or others and better still, by purchasing it you’re helping support a wonderful mental health charity, it doesn’t get much better than that!

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available here:
Amazon UK – The Wellbeing Journal: Creative Activities to Inspire
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Wellbeing-Journal/9781782438007/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured with Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners.

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Exploratorium - Ideal for child and adult colourists, fans of Doodle Fusion and Kerby Rosanes's artwork will love this book. Click through for the review, video and photos!

Exploratorium: A Search and Colour Mission – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Exploratorium: A Search and Colour Mission is illustrated by Lei Melendres and published and kindly sent to me to review by Michael O’Mara Books. This book is 25cm square, the same size as the bestsellers, paperback with black covers and coloured elements from inside the book on the covers. The spine is glue and string-bound and relatively tight but it does become more pliable with use so that you can reach the majority of the image to colour it. The images are printed double-sided and all of them are double-page spreads. The paper is bright white, medium thickness and lightly textured, it takes pencil well and water-based pens don’t bleed but do shadow a little so you may not want to use these but it should get covered when colouring the other side. This book is primarily aimed at children, however, the images are pretty detailed and packed with content and therefore plenty of adults will love it too. The book starts with a short introduction explaining the premise of the book, it’s a search and find colouring mission so there are a list of objects depicted which can be found within the pages. Following this, each double-page spread is dedicated to a different world and these drastically range in theme from space and future-themed to prehistoric and historical, there are heaps and heaps of scenes from a circus to haunted house, alien invasion to science lab, candy land to the North Pole, skate park to volcano and time travel to under the sea and so much more, there is a really wide scope to the content and something to suit everyone. Lei’s art style is most similar to Kerby Rosanes’s and is very much drawn in a doodle style, the images are packed with alien creatures and strange forms and the content is really quirky, whimsical and fun. The search and find aspect is surprisingly difficult for a book that’s aimed at children, my boyfriend spent ages searching for the items in one of the spreads and in the end had to give up on the last one and look at the answers, luckily there are thumbnail pictures of the spreads at the back that identify where the hidden creatures and objects are so there’s no need for frustration if one or two elude you.

In terms of mental health, this book is pretty good, the pages are packed with content and are very distracting, there’s loads to look at, to hunt down, and then to colour and this book really will keep you occupied for hours. It’s certainly not a calming book so those of you with anxiety or a racing mind may want to keep this book for calmer days but the content is quite invigorating so those suffering from low mood may well be perked up by the humour often depicted and added into the scenes. The line thickness is fairly consistent within each page but differs between them as do the intricacy and detail levels, all have a lot of content but some are much more detailed and fine-lined than others so do check out the photos and video flick-through as you’ll need fairly good vision and fine motor control to get the most out of this book, it’s certainly not well-suited to young children, probably advanced 8 year olds and up. While the content isn’t nature-based, the fantasy elements and imagination of it all are great for absorbing you into a far off land in the past or future which is often better than the here and now and is great for keeping your mind busy and focused on the task at hand rather than any troublesome thoughts or symptoms you might be experiencing. A lot of the images are filled with wacky, surreal creatures and therefore don’t have a “real” colour scheme that you need to follow so you can really go to town and use any colour you fancy and it’ll look equally fabulous and even the realistic aspects can be spiced up by unusual colour schemes like trees with blue trunks and orange leaves, purple pumpkins or red rocks, just grab a pen or pencil and get colouring and you’ll soon be fully immersed in this intricate, doodle-filled world.

Overall, I would highly recommend this to older kids and adults, it’s great fun to hunt the hidden items and to colour and the different scenes make for a really varied colouring experience with each scene being different from the last and transporting you to a far off place. This book is surreal, wacky and a joy to colour for the young, the old, and everyone in between!

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Exploratorium: A Search and Colour Mission
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Exploratorium-Lei-Melendres/9781910552759/?a_aid=colouringitmom

You can see my silent video flick-through of the book here.

The page below was coloured using Staedtler Fibre-Tip Pens.

Johanna Basford 2018 Page a Day Calendar - Colour a small image every day of the year and display in the beautiful keepsake box - click through to read my review and see more images!

Johanna Basford 2018 Colouring Day-To-Day Calendar in a Keepsake Box – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Johanna Basford 2018 Colouring Day-To-Day Calendar in a Keepsake Box is published and was very kindly sent to me to review by Andrews McMeel Publishing. This page-a-day calendar arrives in shrink-wrapped plastic which keeps the keepsake box clean and free from damage. The keepsake box is made of thick ivory card which is covered all over (including the bottom) with a black line drawn flower and foliage pattern most similar to the flower scenes in Secret Garden, the top and all four sides of the box have gold foiling accents. The box opens with a hinge-style (the lid remains attached at the top) with two pieces of black ribbon holding it open at a >90degree angle; the inside of the lid and the box are lined with black paper with white flower and foliage designs drawn in Johanna’s signature style; the box is fully colourable if you wish. A black ribbon allows easy access to lift out all of the loose calendar pages which aren’t bound in any way so it’s easy to pick out which ones to colour, move them around, leave them out to dry if using wet media and so on. The pages are the same size and format as any other page-a-day calendar, the illustration is on the left and takes up two thirds of the page and on the right at the top is a leafy-lettered title of the month and at the bottom is the date and day, above this in small text are written the important festivals and celebrations and the country they’re celebrated in; as with all others, Saturday and Sunday share a page so there are approximately 312 pages of colouring for you to complete over the year. The pages are pale cream this time rather than bright white (they are less yellow than the Secret Garden book paper and more cream than the new ivory paper in Magical Jungle; see photo below of the different paper colours), thin (slightly thicker than copier paper), and lightly textured, pencils don’t build up many layers on this paper but I’m sure those of you who are more talented than me will have more luck with this and create wonderful masterpieces; water-based pens do heavily shadow and may bleed through if you’re particularly heavy-handed but the images are printed single-sided so really you can use whatever mediums you like, these pages would be ideal for testing out new mediums or trialling colour schemes.

The illustrations themselves are all taken from Johanna Basford’s five currently published colouring books, Secret Garden, Enchanted Forest, Lost Ocean, Magical Jungle, and Johanna’s Christmas, I have carefully looked through all of the images and there is one tree that I couldn’t find in any of her books and appears not to be from one and a couple of butterfly images that have been adapted from the originals to have line drawn butterflies and blacked out ones too but apart from these 3/4 images all of the images are directly from the books. Some of them are the whole page scaled down, others are sections of the page printed at the original size, others are zoomed in sections which are printed larger than the original so there is a really good mix of detailed sections, larger spaced illustrations to practice blending and shading on, and whole pages which you’ll need your finest of fineliners and sharpest of pencils to colour accurately. The lid is designed to display the current day’s page in but it will hold plenty more pages than this so you could easily place a month’s worth in there before having to move them under the proceeding days’ pages. At the bottom of the stack are 4 pages for you to test your colouring mediums on so that you can see how the paper behaves so you don’t have to accidentally ruin any proper pages.

In terms of mental health, this page-a-day calendar is fantastic because it provides you with a manageable size of project to attempt each day, you could colour the page in a few minutes or really take your time to try out new techniques and spend much longer, it’s entirely up to you. You could colour the day’s page ahead of time or on the day itself, you could even spend the next 4 months colouring the whole thing ready to look at your beautiful work throughout the coming year, or even to gift to someone else (what a labour of love that would be and it would make an incredible present if you could bear to part with your work, perhaps you could start if off for them to finish?). The pages are a great size to practice colour schemes for your copies of the actual books, or even to try out colouring mediums on a smaller page. The loose pages make it easy to access the page you need without having to move the whole block around all the time and it means you don’t have to worry at all about bleed through. At the end of the year you could even cut out all of the images and create collages, small framed pictures or gifts or even add them to cards or craft projects so this is a really versatile product that goes way beyond just being a calendar! There isn’t a treasure hunt element in this calendar and there are no written hints for drawing though there are plenty of spaces on a number of images to be able to add your own details or backgrounds to really make the pages your own but this of course isn’t necessary and it’ll look finished without the need to draw at all. This page-a-day calendar is perfect for fans of Johanna’s work and it is a beautiful new way of using her illustrations. The line thickness varies a little throughout from thin to spindly thin and the intricacy and detail levels are often much higher than in the books because many of the images are shrunk down to fit the pages so you will most definitely need very good vision and fine motor control to get the most out of this calendar if you’re wanting to colour it; you could of course leave it blank and just admire the illustrations because they really are beautiful to just look at with no need to add colour if that’s too challenging. The images aren’t arranged into any order and there are no duplicates, a number of the calendar pages show parts of the same original image but these are all of different aspects of it, with varying size or depicting different areas (see images below) and this is by no means the majority of the pages, most are of entirely separate illustrations or aspects within them, they also don’t appear to duplicate the images used in the 2017 edition of this calendar so those of you who already have that won’t be disappointed by duplicates. The page size is much more manageable and less daunting to colour and this is ideal for those of you with fluctuating conditions or concentration levels because these pages are much quicker to finish and likely to cause less frustration, they’re also fantastic for trying out new things without worrying about ruining a whole page in your books.

I would highly recommend this page-a-day calendar to fans of Johanna’s work and to those who love to be organised. It’s a great size and format, ideal for those who find the full-size book pages too daunting. It’s also great for practising colour schemes or using new colouring mediums and it’ll be a lovely keepsake to work through from beginning to end and see how you’ve progressed over the year it runs for; you can even remove the images afterwards and frame or gift them or even use them in craft projects and the box will make a wonderful keepsake.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of this page-a-day colouring calendar, it’s available here:
UK Edition
Amazon UK – Johanna Basford 2018 Colouring Day-To-Day Calendar in a Keepsake Box
US Edition
Amazon UK – Johanna Basford 2018 Coloring Day-To-Day Calendar in a Keepsake Box
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Johann-Basford-2018-Coloring-Day–Day-Calendar-Johann-Basford/9781449482787/?a_aid=colouringitmom

Can’t get enough of Johanna’s images? Below are my reviews of her new colouring planner and two new wall calendars so you can be fully organised and colour to your heart’s content for the coming year!
Magical Jungle 2018 Wall Calendar
Secret Garden 2018 Wall Calendar
Johanna Basford 2017-2018 16-Month Weekly Colouring Planner

The pages below were coloured using Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners and Magnetips Pens.

Johanna Basford 2017-18 Weekly Colouring Planner - a great combination of colouring and organisation, click through to read my review and see images of inside

Johanna Basford 2017-2018 16-Month Weekly Colouring Planner – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Johanna Basford 2017-2018 16-Month Weekly Colouring Planner is published and was very kindly sent to me to review by Andrews McMeel Publishing. This planner is the perfect combination of organisation and colouring with space to write plans, appointments and notes, whilst also having weeks and weeks of colouring for you to do too. This planner is paperback with flexible pale cream card covers which have a beautiful black floral and foliage design on the front and back with the negative image drawn in pale cream on the insides of the covers, the front cover has gold foiling accents and the front and back cover have removable brown card strips with the information about the planner and the barcode etc printed on them. The planner is spiral-bound and measures 21.6 x 19.6cm, the covers aren’t especially sturdy so I’d be careful about travelling with it much and you’ll want to keep it safe somewhere rather than stuffing it in a bag or it’ll get damaged very quickly. This isn’t the best planner I’ve seen in terms of features and organisation, but for the combination of colouring and organising, it’s perfect and strikes a really good balance. The planner runs for 16 months and starts from the 28th of August 2017 all the way to the 6th of January 2019. The planner is printed double-sided and starts with a one-page overview of the year 2018 and then the planner itself starts with an image on the left of each double-page spread from one of Johanna’s five colouring books, images from all five (Secret Garden, Enchanted Forest, Lost Ocean, Magical Jungle and Johanna’s Christmas) are included, and the week’s days and dates with writing space for each on the right (this is in the same style as normal planners with added leafy accents and leafy lettering for the month title at the top). Each week runs from Monday to Sunday with equal space to write for each day, the dates are on the right and important festivals and bank holidays etc are written in small text on the left of the page, as well as the country it’s celebrated in. After the planner pages, which make up the vast majority of the book, there is a double-page spread with sections for each month of 2019 for you to add your advance plans to. Following this is a full page of 2017 dates and a full page of 2019 dates, followed by 5 lined pages where you can write notes (all with added leaf accents) and the final page is a colouring test page where you can test out your mediums to check for bleed through.

The paper this time is pale cream rather than bright white (it is less yellow than the Secret Garden book paper and more cream than the new ivory paper in Magical Jungle; see photo below of the different paper colours), lightly textured and medium thickness, sadly it does shadow a fair bit with water-based pens but it doesn’t bleed through; I’d strongly advise writing in pencil throughout or you’ll ruin the image on the reverse either with shadowing or indentation from ballpoint pens. Pencils work well on this paper so I’d suggest mostly colouring with pencils and using water-based pens if you don’t mind the shadowing showing through on the planner pages. A great selection of images from Johanna’s books are included with some being sections of original images at the original size and others being the whole page shrunk down to fit on the planner page so some of the illustrations are quite tricky to colour neatly but almost none look impossible as long as you use a good set of fineliners or sharp pencils. Because this is the second planner and the publisher has tried not to duplicate images it means that a number of my favourite images from her first three colouring books haven’t been included as they were in the 2016/17 planner, however, we’ve got new images from those as well as from the newer two books and there are some lovely inclusions so there’s no disappointment to be had with this planner and it really is a great mix between organisation and colouring (two of my favourite things)!

In terms of mental health, this colouring planner is ideal. It gives you a manageable goal of colouring one page per week which could either be next week’s page so that it’s coloured ready for that week or this week’s page so you can colour as you plan. You could even colour it ahead if you’re quick but you’ll need to get a wriggle on as it’s already been running for a week. The pages are a great size to practice colour schemes for your copy of the actual books, or even to try out colouring mediums on a smaller page. The spiral-binding makes it easy to access the whole page and none of the images go into the spine, it’s also ideal because once you’ve finished using the planner at the end of 2018, the pages are easy to remove for framing or gifting if you want to get more use out of your works of art. There isn’t a treasure hunt element in this planner and there are no written hints for drawing though there are plenty of spaces on a number of images to be able to add your own details or backgrounds to really make the pages your own but this of course isn’t necessary and it’ll look finished without the need to draw at all. This planner is perfect for fans of Johanna’s work and it is a beautiful way of using her illustrations. The line thickness varies a little throughout from thin to spindly thin and the intricacy and detail levels are higher than in the books because many of the images are shrunk down to fit the pages so you will most definitely need very good vision and fine motor control to get the most out of this planner if you’re wanting to colour it; you could of course leave it blank and just admire the illustrations because they really are beautiful to just look at with no need to add colour if that’s too challenging. The images aren’t arranged into any order but a few have been cleverly chosen to fit celebrations like a heart for the week of Valentine’s Day, a skull for Halloween week 2018 and images from Johanna’s Christmas through December. The page size is much more manageable and less daunting to colour and this is ideal for those of you with fluctuating conditions or concentration levels because these pages are quicker to finish and likely to cause less frustration.

I would highly recommend this colouring planner to fans of Johanna’s work and to those who love to be organised. It’s a great combination of planner and colouring pages and the size and format is ideal for those who find the full-size book pages too daunting. It’s great for practising colour schemes or using new colouring mediums and it’ll be a lovely keepsake to work through from beginning to end and see how you’ve progressed over the 16 months it runs for; you can even remove the images afterwards and frame or gift them.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available below, there has been a delay in getting stock to retailers and therefore Johanna has released a free download of the pages for September which can be found here.
UK Edition
Amazon UK – Johanna Basford 2017-2018 16-Month Weekly Colouring Planner
US Edition
Amazon UK – Johanna Basford 2017-2018 16-Month Weekly Coloring Planner
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Johann-Basford-2017-2018-16-Month-Coloring-Weekly-Planner-Calendar-Johann-Basford/9781449482794/?a_aid=colouringitmom

Can’t get enough of Johanna’s illustrations and the ability to organise your life? Then check out the following reviews for two different wall calendars and a page-a-day calendar too.
Magical Jungle 2018 Wall Calendar
Secret Garden 2018 Wall Calendar
Page a day calendar

The image below was coloured using Holbein Artist’s Coloured Pencils.

Magical Jungle 2018 Colouring Wall Calendar – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Magical Jungle 2018 Colouring Wall Calendar is published and was very kindly sent to me to review by Andrews McMeel Publishing. This calendar is beautiful and is the same format as the previous JB wall calendars. The calendar itself is the same size as most others at 12 inches square, making it significantly larger than Johanna’s books. It includes 13 of Johanna’s signature and most well-known designs from her fourth colouring book, Magical Jungle (this calendar doesn’t include any new images), an illustration for each month of the year and one at the beginning for a 4-month overview of September to December 2017. I have included pictures of all of the calendar pages below so that you can decide if this is for you, as well as comparison photos of the book and calendar size. The whole calendar, including the covers, is made of thick pale cream paper which is good quality (it is less yellow than the Secret Garden book paper and more cream than the new ivory paper in Magical Jungle; see photo below of the different paper colours) – I thought it was going to bleed with water-based pens but there was no bleed-through at all and only some shadowing when using my darker fineliners. Do bear in mind, when writing on the calendar I’d strongly advise using pencil so that you don’t get bleed through onto the next month’s image, or indentation from using a biro. The images are printed larger in the calendar than in the book so this is a great purchase for those of you who found Johanna’s books just a little too detailed and small. You definitely can’t use alcohol markers because the images are all printed double-sided with the dates for the previous month on the back of the page which will get ruined by bleed-through if you colour ahead but would be fine if you colour month by month. The paper is quite smooth but has a little tooth and I didn’t have any issues with getting a few layers built up with my Holbein and Prismacolor pencils. The calendar is spiral-bound so you can easily fold it back on itself for easier colouring as it’s a little unmanageable when it’s not folded in half. Each page has a small hole at the top, this is smaller than on normal calendars and doesn’t fit a nail through it so you’ll have to very carefully hang it up with string (be careful so you don’t rip the pages). The cover has signature gold foil accents and is fully colourable, as always, and each calendar page has lots of tiny leaf accents and each month has a leafy lettering title.

In terms of mental health, this calendar is ideal because not only does it give you hours of colouring fun and distraction, you can also easily display it on your wall to brighten up even the darkest of days and you’ll get satisfaction every day looking at all of your beautiful hard work. The slightly larger image size means it’s more suitable to those of you who don’t have perfect vision or fine motor control. It’s a great project that will help motivate you with a deadline of making sure each image is ready for the first day of the following month. The pages could also be removed at the end of the year once you’re done with the calendar and could be easily framed or gifted to others to bring enjoyment for years to come. There is a small inky treasure hunt within the pages, like in the book, but I feel this was a bit of a pointless venture because some of the items you’re expected to find are the entire subject of the image e.g. one chameleon, one toucan or one tiger, rather than hidden within the image, two of the months don’t have this, January and November. Magical Jungle was Johanna’s least intricate and detailed book and while a few of the pages are quite intricate, a number of them have much larger, open spaces so there is a really good variety of images needing varying levels of concentration which can be used to keep you occupied and distracted when you’re feeling anxious or low, or requiring less focus if you need a more relaxing colouring experience. Johanna’s images are really good for practising mindfulness techniques because many require a lot of focus and time to complete meaning this calendar is ideal for those of us who are mentally ill and needing to zone out. The line thickness is thin throughout but it’s not spindly so there is a little leeway when colouring, especially in those images with larger spaces.

I would highly recommend this for any colouring fan who needs a calendar in their life. Johanna fans won’t be disappointed with this calendar, it’s beautiful with a lovely selection of designs and great paper quality and it will brighten up the darkest of rooms and moods. It would make a fabulous gift either as it is, or fully coloured for someone and it’s not only useful for the coming year as a calendar, but for years to come when you can frame your pictures to continue the joy.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it can be found here:
Amazon UK – UK Edition – Magical Jungle 2018 Colouring Wall Calendar
Book Depository Worldwide – US Edition – https://www.bookdepository.com/Magical-Jungle-2018-Wall-Calendar-Johann-Basford/9781449482800/?a_aid=colouringitmom

Can’t get enough of Johanna’s illustrations and the ability to organise your life? Then check out the following reviews for another wall calendar, planner and page-a-day calendar:
Secret Garden 2018 Wall Calendar
Johanna Basford 2017-2018 16-Month Colouring Planner
Johanna Basford 2018 Colouring Day-to-Day Calendar

The image below was coloured with Holbein Artist’s Coloured Pencils, Prismacolor Premier Pencils and a Caran d’Ache Blender Pencil.

 

Secret Garden 2018 Colouring Wall Calendar – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Secret Garden 2018 Colouring Wall Calendar is published and was very kindly sent to me to review by Andrews McMeel Publishing. This calendar is beautiful and is the same format as the previous JB wall calendars. The calendar itself is the same size as most others at 12 inches square, making it significantly larger than Johanna’s books. It includes 13 of Johanna’s signature and most well-known designs from her first colouring book, Secret Garden (this calendar doesn’t include any new images), an illustration for each month of the year and one at the beginning for a 4-month overview of September to December 2017. A Secret Garden Wall Calendar was also published in 2016 and I reviewed that too, none of the images are duplicates between calendars so this is an entirely new selection of images from the book rather than a differently dated copy of the 2016 calendar. I have included pictures of all of the calendar pages below so that you can decide if this is for you, as well as comparison photos of the book and calendar size. The whole calendar, including the covers, is made of thick pale cream paper which is good quality (it is less yellow than the Secret Garden book paper and more cream than the new ivory paper in Magical Jungle; see photo below of the different paper colours) – I thought it was going to bleed with water-based pens but there was no bleed-through at all and only some shadowing when using my darker fineliners. Do bear in mind, when writing on the calendar I’d strongly advise using pencil so that you don’t get bleed through onto the next month’s image, or indentation from using a biro. The images are printed larger in the calendar than in the book so this is a great purchase for those of you who found Johanna’s books just a little too detailed and small. You definitely can’t use alcohol markers because the images are all printed double-sided with the dates for the previous month on the back of the page which will get ruined by bleed-through if you colour ahead but would be fine if you colour month by month. The paper is quite smooth but has a little tooth and I didn’t have any issues with getting a few layers built up with my Holbein and Prismacolor pencils. The calendar is spiral-bound so you can easily fold it back on itself for easier colouring as it’s a little unmanageable when it’s not folded in half. Each page has a small hole at the top, this is smaller than on normal calendars and doesn’t fit a nail through it so you’ll have to very carefully hang it up with string (be careful so you don’t rip the pages). The cover has signature gold foil accents and is fully colourable, as always, and each calendar page has lots of tiny leaf accents and each month has a leafy lettering title.

In terms of mental health, this calendar is ideal because not only does it give you hours of colouring fun and distraction, you can also easily display it on your wall to brighten up even the darkest of days and you’ll get satisfaction every day looking at all of your beautiful hard work. The slightly larger image size means it’s more suitable to those of you who don’t have perfect vision or fine motor control. It’s a great project that will help motivate you with a deadline of making sure each image is ready for the first day of the following month. The pages could also be removed at the end of the year once you’re done with the calendar and could be easily framed or gifted to others to bring enjoyment for years to come. There is a small inky treasure hunt within the pages, like in the book, unlike the Secret Garden 2016 Calendar and the 2017 Enchanted Forest Calendar, these are actually properly hidden objects though there is no key so it can be a little tricky to know exactly what you’re looking for, only one or two are extremely obvious to find due to being the entire or central subject of the image (e.g. find one owl)! As with all of Johanna’s images, they are intricate and detailed and do require a fair amount of concentration which is great for keeping you occupied when you’re feeling anxious or low. Johanna’s images are really good for practising mindfulness techniques because they require a lot of focus and time to complete meaning this calendar is ideal for those of us who are mentally ill and needing to zone out. The line thickness is thin throughout but it’s not spindly so there is a little leeway when colouring.

I would highly recommend this for any colouring fan who needs a calendar in their life. Johanna fans won’t be disappointed with this calendar, it’s beautiful with a lovely selection of designs and great paper quality and it will brighten up the darkest of rooms and moods. It would make a fabulous gift either as it is, or fully coloured for someone and it’s not only useful for the coming year as a calendar, but for years to come when you can frame your pictures to continue the joy.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it can be found here:
Amazon UK – UK Edition – Secret Garden 2018 Colouring Wall Calendar
Book Depository Worldwide – US Edition – https://www.bookdepository.com/Secret-Garden-2018-Wall-Calendar-Johann-Basford/9781449484682/?a_aid=colouringitmom

Can’t get enough of Johanna’s illustrations and the ability to organise your life? Then check out the following reviews for another wall calendar, planner and page-a-day calendar:
Magical Jungle 2018 Wall Calendar
Johanna Basford 2017-2018 16-Month Colouring Planner
Johanna Basford 2018 Colouring Day-to-Day Calendar

The image below was coloured using Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners.

Millie Marotta's Beautiful Birds and Treetop Treasures, click through to see more images, read my review and see a video flick-through of the book.

Millie Marotta’s Beautiful Birds and Treetop Treasures: A Colouring Book Adventure – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Millie Marotta’s Beautiful Birds and Treetop Treasures is published by Batsford Books who very kindly sent me a review copy. This is the fifth book in Millie’s animal-centred adult colouring book series. It’s the same size and shape (25cm square) as her previous books, paperback, with flexible card covers with black and white line drawings that hint at some of the feathery and flighty creatures within the pages and the central illustration has highlights of colour added as well as gold foiling on it and the title. The spine is a lime green colour which compliments the other spine colours really well and they look gorgeous on the shelf together (see photo below). The covers have French flaps which each have a paired down version of the front cover on the outside and inside is a lime green background with white line drawings of birds (this isn’t colourable and is printed on quite glossy card). The spine is glue and string-bound so it’s very durable but it does mean that a little of some of the images is lost into it until it eases up with a bit of use. The images are a mixture of single and double-page spreads with a few being mirror images of each other. The paper is bright white and lightly textured, it’s the same paper as the previous titles and doesn’t bleed but does shadow a little with water-based pens; pencils work beautifully and blend and shade really well.

The book starts with a two-page introduction from Millie herself where she explains her illustration process and her love for birds from around the world. Following this are heaps of illustrations of everything you can imagine from truly exotic birds and creatures to the more mainstream and common and everything in between. The images include eagles, tits of all kinds, finches, butterflies, an American black bear, cicada, koala, veiled chameleon, Eurasian red squirrel, birds of paradise, pheasants, blue jays, and so much more. There are five matching spreads where there is a more detailed version on the left and a less detailed copy of the same image on the right where you can add your own details and patterns if you wish but there are no written hints so it’s entirely up to you what you do with these pages. A fabulous new feature at the back of this book (also featured in Curious Creatures) is a two-page list of all of the creatures in order of their inclusion in the book. This list has the English and scientific name (Latin name) for each creature and it makes identifying them super easy and also means that you can quickly google images of each creature so you can find out what they look like if you’re keen on the natural look in your colouring; it’s also a great way of finding out more information about some of the more unusual animals, I’ve already learnt loads of interesting facts! These images feel a little fuller and more finished than Millie’s first three books, more in line with Curious Creatures, there’s a little more scenery and a little more added to backgrounds such as clouds or leaves so the blank spaces are a bit less empty, this isn’t intrusive for those wanting to create their own backgrounds though, it just helps it look a bit more finished for those who don’t want to create their own. The content is particularly bird heavy this time, not a criticism and it was to be expected given that they’re mentioned in the title but it’s worth noting that around two thirds of the pages are filled with birds (59 bird pages vs 27 non-bird pages).

In terms of mental health, yet again, this book is fantastic. There is so much to look at, so much to discover, that it’s incredibly distracting and really focuses your mind on the illustrations themselves rather than any difficult thoughts or feelings you may be having. The image content is totally absorbing and nature-based images are the best for relieving symptoms of mental illness. This book is very intricate, but don’t let that scare you, you can use pencils, fine-nibbed felt tips, fineliners and gel pens, all with great effects and most of the images aren’t so detailed that you’re put off or overwhelmed. Many of the patterns drawn onto the animals can be coloured over in blocks as well making them less intricate and giving your colouring texture and pattern rather than outlined spaces to colour, so the possibilities are endless. If you have vision problems or issues with fine motor control then you may struggle with this book but for any of the rest of you I’d suggest giving this book a go and persevering into a more intricate world. The natural scenes of animals, flowers and trees definitely create a sense of calm and this will be one of my go-to books when I really need to focus on something and be distracted. It’s detailed enough that you have to focus and concentrate and this lends itself wonderfully to drowning out any anxious or disturbing thoughts you may want to shift. The line thickness is consistent throughout and is very thin so I’d advise colouring during the day or near a very good desk lamp. The images are really cohesive in their bird and treetop theme and they are truly fascinating to look through.

I can’t praise this book highly enough, I love Millie’s work and this book is absolutely stunning, it’s particularly bird-heavy this time but the title suggested that so I’d have been disappointed if this hadn’t been the case. The illustrations lend themselves to whatever colour scheme you fancy whether that be realistic, rainbow, monochrome, black and white, mixed media, or anything else you can dream up, it really is beautiful!

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available to pre-order here:
Amazon UK – Millie Marotta’s Beautiful Birds and Treetop Treasures
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Millie-Marotta-s-Beautiful-Birds-and-Treetop-Treasures/9781849944434/?a_aid=colouringitmom

If you’d like to see a silent video flick-through of the whole book then click here.

The image below was coloured using Magnetips Pens.

Magnificent Animals: A Coloring Book – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Magnificent Animals: A Coloring Book is published and kindly sent to me to review by National Geographic. The book is 24 cm square, paperback with flexible card covers with 1/3 French flaps, the cover has green foiling embellishments and the inside covers and first and last page have a continuous pattern and animal image that is fully colourable. The spine of the book is glue bound and fairly stiff to begin with, the images are printed single-sided and are perforated so none of the images enter the spine. All of the images are single-page spreads printed on the righthand page. The paper is bright white, medium thickness with a small amount of texture allowing a few layers of pencil to be built up for blending and shading; water-based pens shadow but don’t bleed, alcohol markers will bleed through so put some protective paper behind your work to protect the next page. The images themselves are each of a different animal and are hugely wide-ranging including a: horse, peacock, koala, seahorse, armadillo, mandarin duck, sheep, preying mantis, meerkats, zebra, heron, bears, ants, scorpion, panda, stag beetle, cow, butterflies and so many more creatures. The image style varies hugely and while the cover states that it was created by one illustrator, these images don’t look hand-drawn and my guess is that they were created digitally as a number of them have the same patterns or backgrounds as each other. The illustrations are very similar in style to many of the Shutterstock images that we’ve seen and while none of them are the same as any I’ve seen before, they do feel quite similar to a number of books I’ve seen in the past. Sadly, I’m disappointed by the artwork, I expected the illustrations to be very realistic due to being published by National Geographic but only the outlines are realistic, the majority of the animals have patterns added to them which don’t look remotely like the texture of their fur, feathers or skin and I’m guessing have been added for interest and extra colouring space, normally I don’t mind this but it seems like a wasted opportunity when we could have had a realistically drawn book with such a wealth of different animals pictured, many of which I’ve never seen in a colouring book before. Many of the backgrounds aren’t remotely related to the content especially the peacock with snowflakes and it just seems a bit haphazard and thrown together, the only continuity seems to be the animal theme as the way the animals are drawn as well as their patterns and backgrounds is so varied. I do think I’d have been much more keen on the content if I hadn’t known who the publisher was and imagined the type of content first so others may well be much happier with the contents than I am.

In terms of mental health, this book offers a lot of distraction, there is heaps to colour in each image and the patterns add a lot of extra spaces if you want to colour each section separately, there’s plenty to keep you absorbed and focused which is great for those with an anxious or racing mind. The line thickness is fairly consistent throughout and remains thin, the intricacy and detail levels are high in the majority of images and therefore you’ll need pretty good vision and fine motor control to enjoy this book and get the most out of it. You will also need a very good level of concentration for the vast majority of these images as there are a lot of component parts to identify and lots of fiddly bits to colour so you’ll probably want to save it for your better days rather than getting frustrated by it on days where you can’t properly focus. There is a huge variety of imagery and some really quirky and unusual animal choices which is a nice change from a lot of animal-themed books which tend to stick to the cute, fluffy, cuddly types, it’s nice to see a good range or insects, reptiles and wacky mammals. The single-sided printing means you can use any medium you fancy and the perforations make the pages easy to remove to stick up and brighten your walls or frame for your kids’ bedrooms if you like.

Overall, I was disappointed by the lack of realism in the images but the content is very wide-ranging, quirky and fun and you’re getting a lot of images for your money. The production quality is good and very useful for those who like to use wet media and alcohol markers, it’s certainly a book that’s grown on me but it does still feel quite generic and haphazard.

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Magnificent Animals: A Coloring Book
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/National-Geographic-Magnificent-Animals-An-Adult-Coloring-Book-Hayrullah-Kay/9781426218156/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners and Stabilo 68 Fibre-Tips.

Life Under the Lens: A Scientific Colouring Book – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Life Under the Lens: A Scientific Colouring Book is illustrated, self-published, and kindly sent to me to review by Jennifer Delaney. This book is A4, paperback with flexible card covers and a partially coloured image from inside on the front. The spine is glue-bound and the images are printed single-sided, the majority of them are centralised but a few are full-page and therefore do enter the spine which you may need to break if you wish to reach the entirety of the image. The paper is white, thin and standard Createspace type paper, it’s lightly textured and fine for a few layers of pencil and water-based pens shadow and do bleed occasionally so if using these or alcohol markers do make sure that you put some spare paper behind to protect the next page. The content includes 50 images of things you’d look at under a microscope and contains everything from bacteria and funghi to algae, cells and teeny tiny creatures. The images are printed single-sided but on the opposite page is information about the illustration so that you can easily identify it and find out some facts about each one. The illustrations each have a realistically drawn outline and features and all are filled with highly detailed and decorative patterns so that they’re fun to colour whilst still being quite accurate scientifically, this is a great combination and one that really brings the world of science and art together. Some of the pictures include: cyanobacteria, radiolarians, diatoms, volvox, female pinecone, tilia cordata, cup fungus, rotifers, shrimp zoea, mosquito pupa and so much more, there is a really wide range of content and something to please any level of biologist or budding scientist.

In terms of mental health, this book is very distracting, it’s not pretty but I wouldn’t expect it to be and it’s a really novel concept and unlike anything else I’ve seen in the nearly 300 books I’ve now reviewed. The information included is really useful, not only for identifying what’s in each image so you can colour it realistically if you wish, but also so you can learn something new and you could even use it to start off research into our microscopic world, it would be an ideal starting point. Of course, you don’t have to colour realistically, I’m really pleased with my rainbow coloured diatom and may have to make it my mission to colour the whole book in rainbows to spice it up! The line thickness is consistent throughout and remains very thin, the intricacy and detail levels vary a fair amount with some images consisting of lots of small details and others including larger open spaces so there is a range of difficulty levels but you will need pretty good vision and fine motor control to get the most from this book. The pages include varying amounts of content from component pictures to a large centralised image so they need varying levels of concentration and you’ll be able to find an image to suit any mood, symptom level or ability to focus. The patterns within each image are great for giving you something to focus on, ideal if your mind is racing and your thoughts won’t settle. Once you’ve finished colouring the pages you could carefully remove them from the book and frame them to make a cute and quirky gift for a scientist in your life, or to jazz up your office or study space.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to science-lovers, it’s unusual, quirky and interesting and would make a great stocking filler (yes, I’m already thinking about Christmas) or present for the scientist in your life who has everything! It’s great fun to colour, informative and interesting and different from any other colouring books.

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available to order here:
Amazon UK – Life Under the Lens: A Scientific Colouring Book
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Life-Under-the-Lens-Jennifer-Delaney/9781999742201/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured with Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners.

Fantasia – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Fantasia is illustrated by Nicholas F. Chandrawienata and published and kindly sent to me to review by Phoenix Amulet Publishing. This book is one of the most talked about in the colouring groups on Facebook and has been one of the most difficult to get hold of after early US editions were printed with very disappointing paper quality, however, these issues have now been rectified and the book is produced to an extremely high standard and is readily available on Amazon US (details about International purchase at the bottom of the review above the photos). The book itself is 27.4 x 25.4cm, landscape orientation, paperback with flexible card covers with a fully coloured image from inside on the front. The book is spiral-bound on the left side and the pages are perforated but don’t come loose unless deliberately detached from the book. The 61 images are printed double-sided onto thick white paper, it’s not bright white but not off white either, it has a great amount of tooth (see photos below) and is ideal for layering and blending pencils and it doesn’t bleed or shadow with water-based pens when used carefully; alcohol markers will bleed through and you should always test any pens including water-based markers in an inconspicuous area to ensure you don’t ruin any reverse images as everyone colours differently. The images are all contained to a single page, none of them are spreads. The illustrations are really varied in content and while the majority are of people including their faces, upper bodies and whole bodies, a number of them are quite random too and include Easter eggs, a dinosaur, dragons, koi carp, roses, snowflakes, skulls and all sorts more. The most iconic images from this book and the ones that really sell it and look most spectacular when coloured are the images of people and these truly are transformed with colour, whether you use realistic flesh tones or go all out with green or purple tones instead, these images look unbelievable! Nicholas is an extremely talented illustrator and his work really is perfect, it’s beautiful, and really detailed and due to him being from Indonesia, there is a real Asian influence on his work which we don’t often see in colouring books and is a really fresh thing to see and colour. His work really does have to be seen to be believed so do check out the images below so you can see some of the variety and wide-ranging content as well as the beauty of his drawings.

In terms of mental health, this book is great, it’s so distracting and unusual and on one page you’re transported into prehistoric times where dinosaurs roamed the earth and on another you’re face to face with a mermaid, pirate, or even death. The illustrations are realistically drawn but much of the content is mythical or fantastical so there are no “correct” colour schemes and this book is definitely one to push you out of your comfort zone and get you trying new colour schemes and learning to colour flesh, fur or metal accurately. This book isn’t for the faint-hearted but if you’re brave you’ll really reap the rewards because it looks just incredible when coloured! The line thickness is consistent throughout and remains thin but not spindly. The intricacy and detail levels do vary throughout each picture with most containing some large and some small spaces, for example a large open space of a face with much more detailed flowers around the edge; none of the spaces are particularly tiny apart from on the odd occasion so this book would be suitable for most levels of vision and fine motor control but do check the pictures of the pages below in order to ensure suitability. Three of the images have small text on them suggesting for you to add detail to a named section of the image which has been left uncharacteristically simple, these aren’t overly intrusive and you can always ignore the instructions like I did and just colour the image as it is. This book does mostly require a fairly high level of concentration but there are a few images that are made up of component parts which you could focus on when you’re feeling poorly and leave the full page portraits for day when you’re feeling better and up for a challenge. I really can’t rave about this book enough, it’s stunning and even though a lot of the content isn’t stuff I’d normally choose to colour, I can’t wait to work my way through every page in this book because the artwork is just so beautiful!

Overall, I can’t recommend this book highly enough, it’s absolutely gorgeous and a great challenge to get you out of your comfort zone, the paper is fantastic for pencil-lovers and the illustrations are incredible. It’s ideal for those with mental or physical health problems as it’s so distracting and isn’t ridiculously intricate so it’s accessible and if you’re prepared to sacrifice the reverse image, or you want to buy two copies so you don’t have to, then you can even remove your finished pieces and frame them to brighten up your darker days and remind yourself of all that you can achieve!

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s currently available on Amazon US and for those of you in the UK and elsewhere don’t despair as they do ship to other countries though I’m not sure exactly where they do and don’t ship to. I tried checking out to my address in West Sussex, UK and they do allow it and including shipping the book costs just £17 or thereabouts which is a steal so do check it out! International group orders are often set up and run through a dedicated Facebook Group which can be found here and they also share their finished pages from the book so it’s a great place to start if you need inspiration!

The image below was coloured using Holbein Artists’ Coloured Pencils and blended with a Caran d’Ache Blender Pencil.