PIONEER for the adult colouring book craze Millie Marotta spoke with The Herald last week (Feb 17), a few days after she released her latest collection, ‘Wild Savannah’.
Millie Marotta is the UK’s best-selling non-fiction author of 2015, the NY Times Bestselling author and her book, ‘Animal Kingdom’, spent a record 20 weeks as the official paperback non-fiction number one on Amazon.
On February 11, the Pembrokeshire-based artist released her third book, ‘Wild Savannah’, which offers beautiful and intricate illustrations of the Savannah grass lands. The colouring book is already being flagged as one of the biggest releases of 2016.
Speaking with Millie last week, she said that she has adored art for as long as she can remember and that she has always gravitated towards creative activities.
After studying Art and Design in school, she went on to do a degree in Wildlife Illustration and then became a teacher at Bush School, where she taught for a number of years.
In 2008, when the economy was taking a down turn, Millie decided to take the plunge and leave her stable, well paid job to become a freelance illustrator.
“I was really scared,” she told us, “People were like, ‘Oh my gosh, are you a bit mad?’ but I felt like it was the right time.
“I always carried on with my own projects outside of my job and my desire grew and grew. Teaching over time and nurturing other people’s creativity made me miss being more creative myself.
“My plan was to do freelance illustration and I had to make it work. I was deadly serious about it – I made sure it was going to work. It was really scary and it was a bold move, but it worked out.”
We asked Millie whether she planned to create colouring books from the beginning, or if her art style paved the way for her.
Before creating her colouring books, Millie worked on a variety of different projects; textiles, food packaging, book illustrations, editorial… The list goes on.
Millie told us that her publisher’s had seen her work a year before they got in contact with her. The publisher’s had bought a screen print of the artist’s work to give to a colleague who was leaving their office.
A year later, they contacted Millie proposing the idea for an adult colouring book because her style of art seemed perfect for the craze.
“We met for a chat first of all and it seemed like a great idea – it made sense. I took in some drawings, which I thought would be good for the book and we had similar ideas.
“It all happened so quickly. I came away from the meeting and started drawing for my first colouring book the next day.”
We asked Millie whether she plans her books before starting. She replied: “I plan quite meticulously; I don’t make it up on the spot.
“My books are planned really well so that there is plenty of diversity. There are lots of different types of drawings; when you’re drawing in excess of 80 pieces, it’s important to think abou it carefully so that the whole book is beautiful and engaging.”
Millie told us that she is not one to wander around and she works best when she is in her studio. As her work is so meticulous and accurate, the artist likes to work at home in her usual, relaxed environment, at a desk surrounded by materials she loves to work with.
She draws every day, whether she is planning pieces as little thumbnails or creating a very accurate and precise final piece. Drawing is the largest portion of Millie’s day.
All of Millie’s work is nature based, and the natural world is what inspires her. She said: “I’ve always been fascinated by the natural world, it’s an inherent thing and it seems obvious for me to focus on it. I don’t have to think about it.”
Fellow artists who create nature-based pieces are the people who inspire Millie most. The artist loves Charlie Harper’s flat, clean stylised graphics and the intricate and scientific work of Ernst Haeckel. Millie went on to talk about Pembrokeshire artist John Knapp Fisher, whose monochrome style has always been an inspiration to her.
“Why do you think adult colouring books have become so popular?” we asked.
“Overall, it’s down to the fact that we all lead such busy lives. We cram so much into a day and there comes a time when we need to shut out the outside world.
“People need a simple and accessible way to be calm – to concentrate one thing instead of 100.
“Colouring is something we’ve all done as children, so it isn’t a new hobby, it’s inherent in all of us. There’s an element of nostalgia and familiarity.
“We kind of leave colouring behind – as children we love to be creative, but life takes over and we don’t allow ourselves time to engage in creative activities. Colouring is an easy way to be creative.”
We asked Millie what advise she would give to anyone thinking of pursuing a career in art. She told us that the most important thing is to take time to develop your own style.
“The illustration world is a busy market and it’s easy to look at other people and try to work like them.
“It’s important to do what comes naturally to you because your work is then honest and genuine. This makes you stand out and you will produce better work.”
Millie is already working on book number four, which will be released later this year, and is about to release a homeware range, which she tells us is “new and exciting” for her.
The artist is incredibly busy, but she’s happy to be – she tells us she would be doing this much even if she did not have deadlines to meet.
Millie has also recently become a patron for the Born Free Foundation, a charity whose aim is to keep wildlife in the wild. Funding for the charity goes towards stopping the suffering of wild animals and protecting threatened species in the wild.
By selling a limited edition print of the lion piece in Millie’s new ‘Wild Savannah’ book, the artist will help to raise money for the charity, and raise awareness while doing so. The print will be sold exclusively on the Born Free Foundation’s website.
Millie told us that she cannot wait to do more work with the charity in the future.
You can now buy Millie’s latest book, ‘Wild Savannah’ in most good book stores and online, and we at The Herald suggest you do that right away.