The Mindless Colouring Book

A post by illustrator and cartoonist Oslo Davis



Last year I devised and drew This Annoying Life – A Mindless Colouring Book for the Highly Stressed. Major part piss-take, minor part colouring book. It features 45 or so line drawings depicting scenes of everyday angst. Hitting your shin on a tow bar. Being accosted by a charity mugger. Finding a hair in a banquet of food. (For one week it was number one on the Readings bookshop’s bestseller list, then and #27 on their top sellers list for 2015, despite being released in December. A stocking stuffer for just $9.99!)


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I came up with the idea and pitched it to a couple of publishers who told me the colouring book craze was over (I later found out they had their own, earnest colouring books in production). Black Inc loved the idea instantly and gave me few weeks to draw it, cover and all.


I wanted This Annoying Life to be as anti-mindfulness as possible, and would be disappointed if people actually coloured it in. No, that’s not true. I’d be impressed. I’d be impressed if someone bought the book as a kind protest against the ridiculous abundance of colouring books, but then still took out the pencils and gave it a go.


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I don’t understand the colouring book thing. For me, who colours in for a living, I’d want to get paid for it. Colouring as a pastime is a mindless, sorry ‘mindful’, activity that, to me, seems most akin to doodling on the yellow pages while you chatted on the landlines of yore. Nothing wrong with that I guess. Why not!


What kills me most about these books however are their inane illustrations. Multi-patterned vines? Give me a break! Childlike stick figure bird with squiggly-lined wings. PLEASE! Emma Farrarons’ The Mindfulness Colouring Book was the fifth best selling book in Australia last year and is full of daggy foxes, bad wallpaper patterning and glumpy mushrooms, all adorned with zigzags, scribbles, arches, dots, and concentric circles. Power to her, but it’s not my cup of tea!


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So This Annoying Life ended up more than a piss-take book. It became a book that you would actually enjoy looking at, you would laugh at and then maybe colour in. It would say something to you. It would, hopefully, ring with identifiable life angst in the same way Curb Your Enthusiasm or Ricky Gervais’ The Office do. Ultimately it would be funny.

Black Inc have got me doing a sequel which will come out in April. This Annoying Domestic Life – A Mindless Colouring Book for the Whole Goddamn Family. $9.99 in all good bookshops!


Oslo Davis is a widely published illustrator, cartoonist, occasional writer and sometimes broadcaster. Oslo draws regularly for The Age and his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian and Meanjin, among many others


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