Finding Solace by Staying Between the Lines

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A "rendering" of the Durrell Godfrey with her new adult color book, "Color Your Happy Home."
A “rendering” of Durell Godfrey with her new adult coloring book, “Color Your Happy Home.”

By Annette Hinkle

Despite being the shortest month of the year, the dull days of February can sometimes feel as if they stretch on forever.

Fortunately, East Hampton illustrator Durell Godfrey will bring some color back into our drab winter lives — literally — when her new coloring book for adults is released on February 8.

“Color Your Happy Home” is Ms. Godfrey’s second adult coloring book. Published by Harlequin (the press better known for bodice ripping romances) it comes on the heels of “Color Me Cluttered: A Coloring Book to Transform Everyday Chaos into Art,” which was published in 2015 by Penguin Random House.

While the first coloring book focused on scenes filled with objects that define busy lives, Ms. Godfrey’s second book is an homage to home and hearth — both urban and rural — from kitchens, attics and pantries to gardens, bedrooms and libraries. Both coloring books feature pages filled with Ms. Godfrey’s signature intricate illustrations which provide avid colorists ample opportunity to lose themselves in the page.

And that’s exactly the point.

“People meditate when they’re coloring,” explains Ms. Godfrey, a photographer for the East Hampton Star. “They go into a zone. If you can go to a zone that’s directed, whether it’s thinking about mother nature, plants or pickles, it’s just another layer.”

Infusing her imagery with those layers through the inclusion of specific and often subtle detail is key to the process. Ms. Godfrey notes that she likes to embed her compositions with the occasional clue. While there are no people in her images, evidence of their complex lives is ever-present. Her illustration titled “Morning,” for example, shows the bedroom of a city dweller with the early morning skyline visible out the window. A single woman’s dress shoe lay by the mussed bed, hinting at the fabulous evening she had the night before.

“We wonder where the other shoe is,” she says. “What is she going to have for dinner? Is that a cookbook on the shelf? did she feed the cat?”

In these illustrations, what is not included is often just as important as what is. Ms. Godfrey explains that the secret to a good coloring book is not only providing tantalizing objects that hint at a tale, but also giving colorists leeway to fill in some of the blanks themselves to truly make the piece their own.

“It’s more fun and more creative,” says Ms. Godfrey. “Instead of coloring another mandala, or the unicorn made out of triangles, you get to decide what kind of wallpaper is on the wall.”

Also adding extra layers to “Color Your Happy Home” are words. Specifically, the words of Barbara Ann Kipfer, author of the bestselling book “14,000 things to be happy about.”

Her first book didn’t have that and Ms. Godfrey notes this is the first adult coloring book she’s aware of in which text is offered alongside the illustrations. In this case, Ms. Kipfer’s words don’t form a story, per se, but rather offer a series of impressions and observations that set the mood of the page — in short, affirmations that relate to the imagery we see.

Typically, when illustrators work with writers it’s in the children’s book genre — the words come first and are designed to inform the visuals the artist will create. But in this case, the process was reversed, with Ms. Godfrey driving the engine, so to speak.

“I gave [Barbara] the drawings, she flowed her text based on what she saw and felt could go with the pictures,” explains Ms. Godfrey. “Had it been the word person generating the vision, it would never work. How do you draw ‘mediation’? It’s a concept, not a visual. If I could control what the art looked like, as a list maker, in her vast collection of thesaurus and dictionary references, she’d be able to come up with words to describe it.”

That’s exactly how the process came together. For example, in her illustration titled “Rainy Day,” Ms. Godfrey offers a view of a cluttered attic filled with stacked boxes, rolled rugs, suitcases, framed paintings, hats and photographs. A small window gives us a glimpse of a torrential rainstorm outside. Ms. Kipfer’s accompanying words include phrases like, “explore the attic,” “a picnic on the floor,” “listening to classical music,” “being lazy” — all descriptions that are not literally shown, but contribute to the overall mood of the page.

A page from Durell Godfrey’s new book with words by Barbara Ann Kipfer.

Though the art of coloring has traditionally been considered child’s play, there’s nothing simple in the ability of Ms. Godfrey’s many fans. She has found that the results some artistic souls have been able to accomplish with pencil, marker or through collage is nothing short of astounding.

“Some people say I don’t know how to draw — but I can color. How people interpret stuff is fabulous. Some fill into the edge of the pages, others put in wallpaper, or put in clouds on a blank window,” she says. “They really need the creative license not to have to draw the picture, but to bring their personality to it.”

Ms. Godfrey’s books have been sold around the world and she is able to stay connected with fans through Facebook, Amazon.com and various social media sites. She has also discovered that color selection is often culturally based and she learned from an Indonesian colorist that the application of Vaseline to the tip of a colored pencil results in a smoother tone.

One of Ms. Godfrey’s favorite colorists is Linda Stern Doyle, an Ohio woman whom she has nicknamed “Vermeer” due to her amazing coloring ability. While creating “Color Your Happy Home,” Ms. Godfrey called on Vermeer and other faithful fans to test pages in advance. In one illustration in the new book, Ms. Godfrey paid tribute to Ms. Doyle by including the logo of Purdue University, her alma mater.

While she now has legions of followers around the world who can’t wait to “stay between the lines,” for her part, Ms. Godfrey isn’t much interested in following their lead.

“I never colored one in until Canio’s said they would do a book signing,” she says. “This was for the first book, and they asked if I would bring a poster of a colored-in page. In the process, I realized there were tables with only three legs.”

“I had never colored it in to test it. I find it intimidating.”

When asked if she has advice for would-be colorists, Ms. Godfrey responds, “You don’t have to begin at the beginning of the book, you can jump around. Only do the flowers if you want. The one thing I tell everybody is, white is a color. You don’t have to fill it all in.”

“That’s relieving to people.”

Durell Godfrey will discuss and sign copies of “Color Your Happy Home” on Saturday, February 4, at BookHampton, 41 Main Street, East Hampton. The official publication date of the book is February 8.

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