Courtesy photo by Rob Wilson

Coloring books seem to be taking over the world, but most are sizable books of geometric patterns or simple nature scenes. Most are also mass produced with drawings unattributed to specific artists. 

Howdy Doodles Coloring Book Launch

Howdy Doodles: A Coloring Book of Southern Drawls and Drawings, a coloring book collaboration between the Nasher Sculpture Center and four Dallas-based artists, is different though. The book is really more of a curated and specially created piece of art that for $20 you can take home for yourself or to gift this holiday season. 

The project began this summer when Carolyn McGlennon, the buyer and manager of the Nasher Store, was working with artists on selecting new prints to sell in the store. 

"The coloring book was born of how wonderful the drawings look in color and in black and white," she said.

She pitched the idea of a coloring book to Will Heron, a visual artist, Shamsy Roomiani, a printmaker and illustrator, Lily Smith-Kirkley, who simply describes herself as a graphic designer but in reality she does much more, and Rob Wilson, an illustrator and graphic designer. 

The four artists, all native Texans, immediately jumped on the idea. They worked together with Carolyn roughly from August until November mostly through email to decide on a theme and share their selections for the book.

The theme: Texas.

Each artist has five pages of the book and each took the theme and applied their own experiences and style to it. 

"Each artist played with stereotypes and perceptions of Texas," Wilson said. "Everyone included personal ideas about what Texas represents to them."

Wilson for example grew up in West Texas. His first drawing, a jackrabbit in a dust storm, is an ode to that. His other illustrations highlight the lives of big hair (because it does have a life of its own) and Texas celebrities, who as it turns out also have distinctive hair.

"My illustrations generally have some wit or sense of humor to them," he said. "They look really loose, but they are completely planned out." 

The entire book has a certain humor to it. Will Heron's work is displayed first. You may recognize his signature Dallas pegasus illustration from T-shirts and murals around town. If you haven't seen them, don't worry, it's in the book as well as his interpretation of various creatures made of cacti. 

Heron said he likes to make visual puns rather than realistic depictions in his illustrations. He takes a couple of visual cues for inspiration and then mashes them all together to make something new.

"We brought such crazy perspectives on Texas," he said about the coloring book. "Hopefully everyone will connect with a page." 

Lily Smith-Kirkley took the Texas theme quite literally and outfitted her pages in boots, spurs, cowboy hats and Texas beers. 

Breakfast of champions! #howdydoodles #pentel #brushpen

A photo posted by Lily Smith-Kirkley (@lilcopress) on

"I generally think of myself as a little bit folksy," Smith-Kirkley said. "I try to embrace the imperfections."

In contrast, Shamsy Roomiani's drawings are precise, almost to the point of belonging in a textbook. Her work is mostly inspired by the flora and fauna of Texas. For the coloring book, she researched local grasses, trees and bugs. There's even an entire page of mosquitos — West Nile not included — if you're into that. 

All four artists said they were impressed at how seamlessly the collaboration went. 

"We are all Texas natives and we didn’t delegate what subject matter we should all work on," Roomiani said. "I think we just went with what we all use as our natural subject matter so there were no duplicates."

The artists are celebrating a release party for the book on Nov. 28 at the Nasher Sculpture Center from noon to 3 p.m. Guests at the free event are encouraged to sip warm beverages and shop the print collection at the store. 

Only a limited number of books were printed and McGlennon, the Nasher store manager, said they will have to see what the response is like before deciding to do another press run.

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