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Books: The Colors of My Past

July 28, 2011

As you may have read recently, I’ve uploaded all sorts of activity and coloring pages throughout the site and on my facebook page. This had me thinking about coloring books and the artwork created for these treasured tomes.

Its a certain style of illustration, that which entices little ones to color while allowing freedom to be creative while doing so. As the father of a four-year old, I’ve been reminded how relaxing coloring can be. Perhaps its because I can shut off my mind and fill in-between the lines of a completed image while basking in the scent of waxy crayons or inky felt-tipped markers.

I remember I colored A LOT when I was young. My mom actually made a deal with us DiTerlizzi kids that, “if you complete a coloring book, I’ll buy you a new one.” That was a pretty awesome deal and I took great pride in my colorized masterpieces. I’m excited to share with you a few of my favorites, thanks to a recent discovery exhumed from the strata of my parent’s old storage unit.

Like many grade-school boys, dinosaurs were alive and well in my bedroom. From the Aurora Prehistoric Scenes models on my book shelf to posters of Charles Knight’s lush paintings taped to my wall, you stepped back into the Mesozoic when you stepped through my door. Lying on the shag carpet, among the Hot Wheels cars and Marx dinosaur playset, you would have found the above gem published in 1975 by Whitman. The scenes inside were begging for you enter them with a box full of Crayola ammunition.

…hmmm, I’m not sure why Gorgosaurus is labeled as a horned dinosaur here…but then again, scientists didn’t know as much back in the 70’s as they know today.

Some years later my parents bought me this one beautifully drawn by Anthony Rao and published by Dover.

I loved the art in here so much I didn’t dare mar it with my sub-par coloring ability. It remains pristine to this day (spare for the colored pteranodon, a personal fav). Here’s a page for you to enjoy Anthony’s line-work (click the image for a larger file):

As I said, my Hot Wheels collection was right in this prehistoric mix, and the official coloring book (also published by Whitman in 1978) allowed you to dream about owning a tiny garage full of the Hot Wheels classics like “Poison Pinto”, “Spoiler Sport” and “Super Van” painted any way you like. A little over half of my copy was colored, and I think my rule then was only to color the cars that I actually owned. Too bad my parents didn’t find those bad boys in their storage unit…sigh.

Vrooom! Here’s a little 1970’s Hot Wheels action for you to color up (click the image for a larger file):

But the golden-tinted memory of coloring, for me, was in 5th grade. Now I know what you’re thinking, “That’s a little old for coloring books, isn’t it, Tony?” Not when it was one of Troubador Press’ cherished coloring albums.

The Troubador coloring albums debuted in the 1970’s and covered a wide variety of subjects, however, their main focus was wildlife – from North American Sea Life to Bird Life and even Ice Age animals. They were large in size (11×14″) and contained detailed descriptions to accompany the flowing line-work of artist, Gompers Saijo, who illustrated many of the books in the series.

They were available in the nicer indie bookstores and art supply shops where I grew up. I even saw them in the early 1990’s at the local The Nature Company store. Sadly, like The Nature Company, Troubador Press went the way of the dinosaur in the 90’s, but the memory of these beautifully designed albums still lingers. Here, give one page a try and see what I mean (click the image for a larger file):

Today, the Troubador coloring albums are available in the used and secondhand market, some with hefty price tags. As I poked around searching for my old favorites, I came across a 1979 coloring album for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons(!) How could 10-year old Tony have missed this?

Do you feel robbed too? Below is one of the pages for your enjoyment (just click the image for a larger file) . There are lots of images from this 70’s gem out there if you do a search (I even found a pdf of the entire book). Time to bust out my pack of rainbow markers!

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Never Abandon Imagination Tony DiTerlizzi: Never abandon imagination.

Imagination is a world of possibility that exists within each of us. It is what makes us uniquely human. It is our creative fingerprint that touches and influences the world around us. Imagination is essential to art and science; to innovation and prosperity. It gives us hope, calls us to action and leads to change.

Whether it’s fairies, dragons, robots or aliens, all of my children’s book characters are siblings born of my imagination – an imagination strengthened through years of encouragement from family, teachers and friends. While so many others abandoned it during their transition from childhood to adulthood, I fiercely held onto mine, hoping for a day when I could share it to inspire the next generation of dreamers. Innovators. World changers.

Imagination empowers us to envision and create a reality of what could be. We must hold it dear, foster it and never abandon it.