Cat Videos and Colouring: Consider All Boxes Ticked

Lulu Mayo is the illustrator making a name for herself in irresistible, stylised, animal-stuffed colouring books. With a lifelong passion for the planet’s cuddliest and best loved animals, the pages of Lulu’s books have been graced with owls, bears, cats, and – in this offering – the internet’s most recent obsession: dogs. And not just in their tens, or even in their hundreds: in the million-strong quantity of which your dog-addled dreams are made. Let us introduce you to Lulu Mayo’s A Million Dogs.

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In 30 double-page spreads that bring the animals to life in all their anthropomorphic glory, Lulu conceives of fanciful scenarios for the readers – adult and children alike – to bring into technicolour with their own colouring tools. Different breeds of dogs cavort around the book in unexpected scenarios: riding a carousel, playing music, sneaking food, and flying a hot air balloon…

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“You can tell that I love to tell stories through images. I guess that’s the most important thing about being an illustrator. I love to put as much narrative as possible in my art”, Lulu told The Plus when we caught up with her to pick the brains behind this book, one that joins a host of others contributing to a recent surge in the market of adult colouring books.

The Plus: What got you into illustration for colouring books?
Lulu Mayo:
It all started when I received a fountain pen as a gift from my Dad. The pen itself was a gift from his senior officer, dating back 40 years, and I started to create a lot of hand drawn black and white ink artworks. Then one day I thought,“Why not combine my love of cats and ink?”

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TP: And then?
LM:
Then I came up with the idea of creating a colouring book, A Million Cats, and started to approach publishers. Michael O’Mara got many positive responses from the book, so it was later developed into a series, followed by A Million Dogs, A Million Bears, A Million Owls. I was very grateful that they took a chance on me.

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TP: So what is distinctive about your style?
LM:
I would say my colouring books are rather whimsical, fun and full of humour. I hope they can make people smile and forget their worries when seeing my illustrations. I guess it is very imaginative as well. I think they provide readers an escape from hectic modern life to a relaxing world of quirkiness and imagination.

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TP: The way you do characters is very stylised; did you spend much time practising or researching before you started the images?
LM:
Yes, I do. It is like seeing the world through magnifying glass. See, observe, and then draw! This is the most crucial step in bringing my characters to life.

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TP: Colouring books have seen an adult revival; why do you think this is?
LM:
I suppose there is an inner child in every adult. I never do feel as if I have really grown up. Maybe being an illustrator does help! I think it is amazing that adults pick up their coloured pencils, and brushes, and splash colours. It’s not just colouring, it’s art!

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TP: Which one of your animal characters do you relate to most?
LM:
I would say I am more a cat person. The funny thing is that the more I draw cats, the more I am in love with them. Yes, you are right. I am the one who spends thirty minutes a day watching cat videos. Who doesn’t love these fluffy little things?

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A Million Dogs is available now from Michael O’Mara Books.