One of the reasons we launched Aimful Coloring Books is so that you and I could contribute to the education of children like Makgra here. She is the daughter of farmers in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and attends a school where I volunteered teaching English. Her laugh is so contagious!
What do I mean by that? Every book you buy is matched with a free textbook to children like her from around the world. While you discover your inner artist and relax with our coloring books, she learns something new--perhaps even a new language via a textbook we provide. This is only possible simply with your purchase of a coloring book, cool uh?
Before I tell you more about that, I want to share with you how I found myself creating the best street art coloring books in the world.
Sometimes what you are looking for is right in front of your eyes. As fate would have it, I was stressing myself out trying to create a product that would allow me to help in the education of children; some of the children who had touched my life dearly when I was backpacking around the world.
I have been a long admirer of socially responsible organizations like TOMS Shoes, Warby Parker, and State Bags. I admired how they were able to create beautiful products that people loved--and identified with--all while giving back in a meaningful way. Not just in the form of a handout, but as a tangible gift, a useful one. They match every product they sell with one they give away. There’s something powerful in that, I thought. Could I do the same? I was stressing myself keeping up with a full-time job, the duties of home, family, writing a novel, and dreaming of my quest of doing something for these kids.
I spent my free time researching possible products and worried that time was going by and I couldn't find something I liked. One day, my girlfriend at the time noticed it. She said, “Diego, you are too stressed out. I think coloring will help you.” She gave me my first coloring book--and it wasn't a joke!
I thought it was sweet but, come on, I’m a grown man, coloring is not for me. That’s for kids. I thanked her but, ultimately, the coloring book ended up in the drawer. A month went by, and I came back to the office. The excel spreadsheets were driving me crazy. I began roaming through my drawers and found the book she had given me. I had a marker with me I had stolen from the conference room, so I began coloring. I didn’t work for the rest of the day.
All I Did Was Coloring
I spent all day coloring; and the day after that, and after that. Soon I had a bunch of coloring books. I wasn't particularly good, nor was I trying to be. I was an active yoga and meditation practitioner. But work and hefty studio fees preventing me from practicing as often as I wanted to. I found coloring a form of active meditation. The motion of moving the markers from side to side, up and down and slowly working my way through the page relieved me from the million thoughts that were running through my mind. Coloring became a mindfulness technique I could do for free, from the office, and without disturbing anybody.
Back in the rural village in Cambodia where I had met Magkra and Salav, and hundreds of other kids who ran free in the fields, shoeless, with rice in their bellies, rags for clothes and unstoppable laughter, I meditated with Buddhist monks, sitting in the burning sun without moving in agony! Coloring was more fun!
The Wynwood Coloring Book Was Born
I live near Wynwood in Miami. It's an art district famous for the street art and murals. Block after block of impressive artwork covers what once was abandoned warehouses and garage shops. Now the neighborhood is one of the hottest districts in Miami, home of restaurants, bars, boutiques and art galleries. It is the largest street art district in the world.
My job became remote, and I spent a lot of time at cafes in Wynwood. One day as I skyped with the friend who gave me the first coloring book, we thought about how fun would it be to color one of the murals that were behind me. "You should do a Wynwood Coloring Book," she said.
I thought she was crazy. I didn't know how to make a book. I didn't know any artists. I didn't know how to publish a book either. But that night and the few after that I couldn't sleep. We were right at the peak of the coloring book fad, and this was too much of a good idea to pass. I started knocking on everyone's doors. Convincing one artist at the time to join me in this. I thought myself illustration, replicating the murals, extracting the color and leaving just the outlines. I mimicked the layout of my favorite coloring books, and without an idea how it would do, I launched the first Wynwood Coloring Book.
It was an instant hit. People loved it. Museums in Miami carried it; local bookstores stocked it, boutique stores in Wynwood sold it, and it was for sale even at the airport.
The community of Wynwood was supportive of the idea. With the help of many friends, we filmed a no-budget commercial to share Wynwood and the book with the world. I befriended great artists, talented entrepreneurs, and just about everyone who loved Wynwood.
I knew I had created something special. I spent the next year reaching out to more street artists. I improved my illustration skills, recruited the help of others and we began the slow process of creating the second edition of the book. We completed it and along with it, we created two more coloring book featuring street art: The Ultimate Street Art Coloring Book & The Brooklyn Coloring Book. Hundreds of street artists and muralists are participating in this project. Internationally acclaimed artists like Ron English, Okuda, Vhils, D* Face, Cryptik, Daleast and Kenny Scharf, along with local stars like Claudia la Bianca, Aquarela, Ernesto Moranje and Luis Valle. The last pages of our books have full-color pictures of the murals so you can see the originals. They also have sections with short bios of the artists so you can learn more about them. It was an extraordinary year of detailed work, and with the trust and support of incredible artists, Aimful Coloring Books was born.
I hope we can do a good job helping you relax, connecting you with your childhood, and teaching you to practice mindfulness one pencil stroke at the time while you discover your inner artist. I hope you enjoy the books and increase your appreciation and knowledge of urban art. I hope that our books entertain your guests since they double as excellent coffee table books.
And above all, I hope you are inspired by our mission to match every book we sell with one free educational textbook for all these kids who will be laughing, cheering and, thanks to you, learning, book in hand. Thank you for making this dream a reality.