Photographs courtesy of Color Our Town
Under normal circumstances, most people could use an injection of Zen. When there’s a pandemic with no end in sight? Make it a double.
According to the most recent government numbers from 2017, about 14% of U.S. adults practiced yoga and 14% meditated, up from 9.5% and 4% respectively. But as wonderful as these disciplines are for many, for others (like me!), not so much.
And while I prefer to reduce stress and stay mentally and physically agile through a regular running schedule, I felt like I could still benefit from the emotional and creative boosts yoga and meditation bring. Which is where coloring comes in. As the mother of 7-year-old twins, I have come to understand, first hand in recent years, how much joy and inner peace simple coloring and doodling activities can bring.
Similar to meditation, studies show that coloring lulls your mind into a mental state of relaxed flow thought to increase creativity, lower stress and anxiety, boost levels of focus and reduce the prevalence of negative thoughts. My kids and I have become coloring book fanatics, which each of us going through streaks of preferring one genre — flowers, fairies, action heroes, mermaids, mandalas — over another, and then trading books when we get bored.
Recently amid social distancing and increased seclusion, we’ve been coloring our dreams of the world: forest, beaches, meadows...and beautiful cities near and far away. I sat down with the son-and-father duo behind our new favorite line of coloring books Color Our Town, Jake and Ron Rose, to find out more about their process, motivation, and line.
NEW YORK MAKERS: I’d love to hear about how and why you launched this line?
JAKE ROSE: We actually started it in 2016 as a one-time project featuring 21 of our favorite local places in Greenport. Color Greenport was a huge success, so when I returned to Drew University in 2017, my dad and I decided to see if we could make it a full-time project.
From left to right: Jake Rose with Scott Raulsome of Burton's Bookstore in Greenport
NYM: Tell me about the vision you had for the books and how it evolved.
RON ROSE: We always wanted it to be a representation of the best of our favorite places in New York and beyond, but we’ve found that the response has been much more than we anticipated. People who live in these towns love them, but so do tourists. Our coloring books are also guidebooks that celebrate landmarks and lesser-known locales. We interview librarians, store owners, historians, and other towns-people to get a sense of the town, and we really try to show sides of the town that most people don’t see at first. All told, we’ve put together 22 coloring books, including 5 books on different regions in the Hamptons, 3 books of the North Fork, and 7 on New York City alone.
NYM: How do you split the responsibilities?
RR: Jake does almost everything. He scouts out the towns, researches the areas, explores, visits, visits coffee shops, restaurants, and bars and talks to the locals to find out their favorite spots, finds the most beautiful places and generally gets a sense of how he wants to build out the book. From there, he talks to one of our artists — we work with about three — and figures out how the book should be laid out. I help with logistics and sales really. And I often go with him to check out the towns because that’s the fun part.
From left to right: Jake and Ron Rose
NYM: How do you decide which towns to feature?
JR: We pick places that we have a connection to and are historically interesting. We love Greenport because we have a house there, and we love New York City, because we also have a house there. Our roots there are deep, and those were obvious choices. We picked Philadelphia because my uncle lives there and it’s a great town, Miami because we have family there too and we’ve had so many great family trips there, and Washington, D.C., which is such an important historical town, and it has always fascinated me. We also chose to feature the Hamptons, because it’s also just one of our favorite places to visit.
NYM: How has the reception been?
JR: We’ve been surprised and really thrilled with the reception. Now we know people — adults, parents and kids — need creative outlets that don’t involve screens. The response was immediate. After graduating college, my first book was Color Sag Harbor. We started with an order of 12 coloring books and 6 postcard sets, and a few days later we had a re-order of 48 books and 24 postcard sets, which also sold out quickly. You can find our books at New York Makers, online on our site, and dozens of tourist-centric shops around New York and the cities we feature.
NYM: What should coloring fans know?
RR: We’re feeling cooped up right now, and we have a feeling other people are too. So, we’ve created a free coloring book that people can download. Just click here, download it, and print it out.
NYM: What’s next?
RR: We have a book on Austin in the works, and we are expanding beyond coloring books and postcards with large maps and notecards. My dad and I are just excited that we’ve been able to turn a personal interest into a full-time career that entertains, informs, and relaxes people.
My kids and I both appreciate the opportunity to visit new places at a safe distance...and I love the questions and dreams they spark about farms, carousels, museums, and monuments. Today, we’re drawing D.C. In a few months, perhaps we’ll be able to visit. And we already have a list of places we want to go.