Hindsight 20/20: Durango artist Dan Groth reflects back on his coloring book he created during the 2016 election
A woman emerging from water alongside a multi-headed sea monster. An enraged bird shaking his fists at the sun. A mustachioed train coming across a dying dog. The year 2016 was a weird year for everyone, but especially for Durango artist Dan Groth, who released his adult coloring book that year.
When we reached out to Groth about “The Colorin’ Book!!!,” he told us the timing of our inquest couldn’t be more odd, as he had just been reflecting on that project from two years ago, and whether he should create a new coloring book.
Here’s some of Groth’s thoughts on the process of creating an adult coloring book, why he hates making statements with his art, and if he would ever make a dark kids’ coloring book.
How did you end up deciding to create a coloring book?
Dan Groth: I’d never even approached an adult coloring book before. One night I was doing a trivia night ... I’m an incessant doodler and so I had this sheet and one of my teammates was like, ‘Oh, you should do an adult coloring book.’ ... So I went home that night and I did my first one, which didn’t make it into the book, but the next one did. ... It ended up being really interesting because a couple days later was the election two years ago. ... So I ended up channeling a lot into that. It ended up being a great creative exercise where I explored femininity a little bit more (and) dystopian themes. I even distanced myself from the coloring book label, just saying, ‘Here’s a book of art that you can color in.’Are you thinking of coming out with another one?
Dan Groth: I have not thought about that at all. But I think part of that, the time period that I did that, I had a burst of kind of creating different sort of stuff that I could mass produce. I’ve been out of that zone for a bit. I feel like I’d really approach it differently. And there was something special about the time that I made it, the fact that it was reflecting on this major event that happened. Even though it’s not super obvious except for the first (drawing). That one was two days before the election.What was the inspiration for this coloring book? There seems to be ones that lean more political but other ones that made us wonder where the inspiration came from.
Dan Groth: With my art, I try and find that zone where it intentionally doesn’t necessarily appear right away. I just had all these women friends who were freaking out a bit and I’ve been trying to bring in a more feminine element into my art. I’ve been reflecting on World War I and trying to capture the war machine type of stuff. It wasn’t like obviously, ‘Oh, I’m making a theme.’ It was more like, ‘Here’s a series of pictures.’ If I were to do another one, I think I would try to come up with an actual story.Would you ever do a kids coloring book?
Dan Groth: Some people tell me I should do kids books. I’m not interested in doing kids books because I’m just not interested in that. But in some ways, if I were to do a children’s coloring book, it would be a spoof, but it would also something that kids could get into. But it’d be almost like a real messed up story, but not like messed up where kids would be disturbed by.There’s all kinds of kids’ stories that are disturbing but you don’t realize it until you’re an adult.
Dan Groth: Oh yeah, totally. Fairy tales are so deep from the human conscious, so they include things like murder, shoving witches into ovens, and eating children. So it would be something more folk tale-ish because I’m interested in folk tales.What were some of the themes you explored?
Dan Groth: I wasn’t trying to make a political statement because I’m not interested in making political statements. I’m more interested in pointing out society undercurrents and why things happen and that’s kind of where I was exploring, like femininity – like how women are mad. And I’m not trying to make a grand statement or anything. In some ways, it’s just a coloring book.Amanda Push