Travis Lampe's 'Rayola'
Adam Washburn says it all started when his kids took to coloring in photocopies that he'd made of his pen-and-ink drawings.
Actually, “kids” is misleading.
“They're 21 and 19,” admits Washburn, 48, an Oceanside resident. “But they're still kids to me.”
Washburn's children—more into Kid Robot than chewing on crayons—thought their dad could do something cool with his doodles. Their suggestion? A DIY coloring book filled with underground art.
“[My kids] have a good grasp of what the happening things are,” says Washburn. “That's probably why I listened to them and kicked the idea around. There's so much of that awesome art out there—street stuff, lowbrow, pop surrealism. A lot of the artists are really underappreciated. There's so much out there that people aren't seeing.”
Washburn mentioned the coloring book to his younger brother, Jason Washburn, an artist and designer who manages a comic-book store in the Redlands area. Jason, 33, couldn't stop thinking about it.
“I told Adam: ‘You're my brother, so I'm not going to steal your idea. But if you want to get involved, let's do this!'”
The publishers, “Bros. Washburn,” debuted their Color Ink Book at the 2008 Comic-Con. The preview issue, an anemic 28 pages, designed entirely in-house, was populated heavily by the brothers' artwork.
“Probably more of our art than we should have included,” Jason admits. “We just wanted to reach our page number and get it out. Now we have much more art than we have room for, so the last three issues haven't had any of our art in there. We'd rather push other artists and help expose them than do it for ourselves.”
The Washburns' quarterly publication, which sells for $10, is now a plump and professional 112 pages and features artists from around the world—some unknowns, some boldface within their niche. The artwork ranges from simple line drawings to ornate illustrations.
Though the magazine's subscriber base is still small—Jason estimates around 100 at last count—Color Ink Book is distributed internationally at galleries and design stores.
“It's just taken off,” Adam adds. “It's kind of a grassroots thing. We don't have advertising. We do conventions: Comic-Con, Wonder Con, the Alternate Press Expo.”
The most recent issue, Volume Six, features three different covers from artists Ron English, Jeff Lamm and El Gato Chimney, plus artwork by Andrew Council, Project Detonate, Vassilis Gogtzilas, Chuck Harrison, Pat Moriarity, Kool Skull, McFaul Studio, Jon Vermilyea and Ben Walker. (You can check out sample pages at colorinkbook.com.)
Color Ink Book caters to a clientele that covets blank slates—think designer Dunny and Munny toys, clean white and awaiting a fresh spin—perhaps would-be artists who can't really draw but know a thing or two about style.
“We wanted to fuse the artist and art enthusiast to either collect it or color it,” Adam says. “The idea behind that was also perhaps to get people to buy two instead of one. We do alternate covers and stuff to make it more of a collectible.”
Though the brothers interview artists and publish the occasional music review, blog-style, on their website, the print publication runs without any copy.
“We've seen a decline in people who actually read stuff,” Jason says. “We wanted to make our magazine purely art, so you can just color it, or have it as an art book that's not cluttered with text and that sort of thing.”
Ahem. While some writers might bristle at such a suggestion, Jason clarifies that Color Ink Book is simply devoted to the art. That may be why so many artists have clamored to get involved.
“Artists have been really open-armed in giving us their works,” says Adam.
“We've got tons of submissions,” Jason adds. “And readers will send us art that they've colored in.”
The Color Ink Book mascot, Rayola, a twitchy-looking fanged crayon, has proved particularly popular among the publication's contributors and fans. His various incarnations adorn T-shirts, totes and toys, and more Rayola swag is in the works. (“We've had at least 100 artists do versions of him,” Jason says.)
The magazine isn't just geared to grown-ups, either.
“People buy them for their kids,” Jason says. “We keep our stuff all-ages. It's edgy, but there aren't any drug or sex references. There are skulls, but the people who buy it don't care about that kind of thing.”
The Washburns have plans to expand their brand, including group shows at galleries and a color annual. This year, they're partnering with the San Diego Blood Bank to commission artwork for five custom surfboards that will be auctioned at Comic-Con.
But perhaps the best part of all is more together time. Adam, 15 years older than Jason, was nearly grown up by the time his brother was born. But the two always shared a love for art.
“I got his hand-down comics when he moved out,” Jason recalls. “[Adam] got me into that whole culture. He'd come by and we'd draw stuff together when I was a kid. That's what inspired me to become an artist.”
When Adam first brought up the coloring-book idea, Jason was happy to build his confidence during his regular visits to San Diego.
“I've always been a fan of my brother's art but he hadn't done anything in forever. I started showing him art magazines—Juxtapoz and Hi-Fructose—and I thought that his art was on par with theirs.”
Adam's kids, who clearly agree with their uncle, are part of the family business, helping out with marketing and at conventions.
And Adam wonders just how much Color Ink Book might someday change his life.
“I'm a plumber by day and publisher by night,” he says. “I want to be a full-time publisher and no-time plumber. That's the objective. The magazine is our passion and everything else is just our way of getting there.”