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Brandon Bird Explains it All: The Origins of Brandon Bird’s Astonishing World of Art

This week, we’re excited to have Brandon Bird guest posting on the blog! Read on for his post, and if you’re heading to San Diego Comic-Con, make sure to stop by the Chronicle Books booth, 1506, to meet Brandon, pick up an advance copy of his new book, and score a sweet DIY Christopher Walken mask!

Hello, this is Brandon Bird, artist (and now author)! You might have seen some of my work floating around the internet, such as this:

Or this:

Or (this one’s my favorite):

And now these guys (and a bunch more) have been collected into Chronicle’s soon-to-be-released book, Brandon Bird’s Astonishing World of Art.

An art book has been something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time. I came close with a couple other publishers, only to be stopped by questions like, “Does your name have to be on it?” And, “Does it have to have so much art in it?” At least to that last one, they kind of had a point: art books can be boring. How do you make an art book that’s actually fun?

Well, to me making art is pretty fun. So I thought, how about an art book that lets the reader make some art? This one still has the typical art book business, luscious full-color plates and such… but it also has pages YOU can color. There are postcards, stickers, Michael Bay pin-ups, SVU Valentines you can cut out and give to your mom, etc. Imagine a coloring book beloved from your childhood that’s been hit by the ooze that mutated the Ninja Turtles, and that’s Brandon Bird’s Astonishing World of Art.

In addition to my existing drawings and paintings, Astonishing World required the creation of brand-new material exclusive to the book. To accomplish that, I sought inspiration from the classics:

My research told me I had to include a world scramble:

And at least one complete-the-picture:

The thing about coloring book tropes is that, even when you’re mocking them or trying to be deliberately funny…

…you can almost never match the silliness of the real thing:

Of course, there were ideas that didn’t quite make it into the book. Here’s a page that would have been captioned, “Two Scamps Roll Up Cumberbatch.” I scrapped it because I felt I could never get the inking quite right; it turns out Victorian etchings are a lot harder to mimic than a 1980s coloring book:

And here is the one thing Emily Haynes, my editor, absolutely put her foot down on:

Come on, Emily, what kid wouldn’t want to paint their own Sears-scape? But she was right, it’s got a lot of dead white space. I’ve linked to a larger version here if you want to download it and have some fun coloring it in (color key: 1 – beige, 2 – sky blue, 3 – blue, 4 – white, 5 – brown, 6 – light beige, 7 – black).

The final element that really tied together the whole “70s/80s coloring book” approach was the cover, put together by the book’s designer, Michael Morris. A few months after the book was finished and on the press, I came across this at the Nicolas Cage estate sale:

I’d have to say he nailed the look, no?

Anyway, that’s my inside scoop on the Astonishing World of Art. I hope you’ll give it a try. Making it was… a blast!

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