Leia Pastizzo was waiting for a class to begin at Southern Oregon University last spring when the professor, Deborah Rosenberg, shared some exciting news: a Medford man and his wife were aiming to break into the publishing industry with an adult coloring book and they were looking for artists, ideally local student artists.
Pastizzo, like other students in Rosenberg’s concept art class, was both, so on a whim she decided to submit some of her artwork. Now, about seven months later, two of the drawings Pastizzo originally sent to husband-and-wife team Michael Kozak and Linda Lowe are part of Chickadee Creative Coloring’s first publication, titled “Wild Women Adult Coloring Book,” available now at www.chickadeecreativecoloring.com and Amazon for $14.64.
Seeing the finished product in all its spiral-bound glory for the first time was “a little bit surreal,” said Pastizzo, a 23-year-old sociology major who moved here from Redding, California, in 2014.
“I never thought I’d see the day when my art would be available for other people to consume, so to speak. My mom is pretty psyched. She works at the Ashland library, and she’s telling everybody who walks through about me. I have a friend who also loves art, and she’s sort of in the same boat I am where she’s never really been paid to do anything before. We’re like, ‘Wow, this is so bizarre. One of us actually made it.’”
Lowe said she and her husband were fans of adult coloring books before they decided to take on the task of making their own version and throwing their hat into a ring which has become a booming industry — at estimated 12 million adult coloring books were sold in the United States in 2015, according to Nielsen Bookscan. And there may be no end in sight. Indeed, the first thing shoppers who walk through the Medford Barnes & Noble double doors see (as of Tuesday) is an enormous shelf stocked three rows high with adult coloring books whose subjects range from Star Wars to Christmas trees and virtually everything in between.
Lowe recognizes the challenge of finding a niche in a saturated market and believes the quality of “Wild Women,” which includes 24 pictures of women in nature, is what sets it apart.
“It seems like a lot of the adult coloring books out there, a lot of the art inside them are computer generated,” she said. “So we just wanted to be able to tap into some of our local artists, and we wanted to be able to provide a high-quality book because a lot of the books are not printed on really good paper. Ours is 100-pound paper, and we’ve got it spiral bound so that when people are coloring they can lay the book flat or flip it over if they want to. And the pages are perforated, which is something for people that like to color … they tear it out of the book and then they either give it to somebody or they display it somehow.”
Lowe said once they decided to hire Pastizzo, the book became a collaborative process, with Pastizzo sending two to three rough drafts at a time, Lowe and Kozak offering their critiques and suggestions, and Pastizzo coming back with revised versions.
The diversity of “Wild Women” was the result of one of those suggestions.
“We wanted people of many ethnic backgrounds to be displayed in the book,” she said. "Just because that’s life. We’re all one world and we’re all one people and we just wanted to make sure that everybody knew that there are all types of beautiful women out there, and wild women. We just wanted to make sure that everybody was represented.”
Pastizzo, who was homeschooled until she hit eighth grade and grew up “out in the woods” in a small town in central California, said she drew her inspiration from mythology and admitted that she never got into coloring books as a child.
“I always just drew my own and then colored them in if I wanted to,” she said.
It was a challenge, she said, to collaborate on a project and to fine-tune a drawing in order to make it consumable, rather than for her own enjoyment.
“Well, usually when I just do it for myself I don’t worry so much if you can still see eraser lines or if some of the ink doesn’t … make a solid line,” she said. “I just ignore that kind of stuff. With this, I had to be careful to make sure that it was a really clean production. And the other thing, if you just work for yourself you can do whatever you want and if you decide you don’t like it you can just leave it half undone or add something crazy. But when you’re working with other people, you have to sort of meet their needs and sometimes that takes some conversations.”
Lowe said she and Kozak were very happy with the finished product and decided to go with an initial print run of 500. If it sells out, she says, they’ll print more, but in the meantime they’re working on releasing a second book, titled “Creatures of the Deep,” in about a month. “Creatures” was illustrated by another SOU student, Andrew Youngblood.
Chickadee Creative Coloring’s third offering, “Amazing Animals,” will hit shelves in about three months, Lowe said, and will include the work of several local artists, including Pastizzo, Youngblood and recent South Medford High School graduate Olivia Tomlinson.
“We’re just thrilled,” Lowe said. “Michael and I both have business backgrounds … but this has been an interesting learning curve for us because neither of us has been in the publishing industry before.”
The decision to self-publish, Lowe added, meant learning a new business from the ground up.
“It’s putting together our own website, marketing and learning the publishing industry and lingo, figuring out paper, font style and all that stuff,” she said. “So there’s definitely been a learning curve for us, but I feel very proud of us that we’ve tackled it, have a book to show for it and have several more to come.
“We’re learning on the fly and I think it’s going well.”
Joe Zavala is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 541-821-0829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @Joe_Zavala99.