Arts | July 2016
Until recently, coloring was considered an activity exclusive to one’s childhood years. But thanks to artists like Memphian Jenean Morrison, adults get to relive their youth.
Designing coloring books for adults since 2012, Morrison is a pioneer of the popular trend hitting shelves worldwide. “I had the idea for a coloring book, researched the best way to produce and sell the book, then published it on Createspace within three weeks of having the idea,” she recalls. “By the time the craze hit the U.S. in early 2015, I’d already published six coloring books.”
Today, Morrison has sold hundreds of thousands of books on Amazon, with more than a million copies in print in North America. Her books are also found in Brazil, France, Japan, Italy and Poland, and on Amazon’s Best-Seller list. “My best-selling book, Flower Designs Coloring Book, reached number 16 and it stayed in the top 100 for over eight weeks,” she explains. “Four of my books have also reached the Amazon top 100 in Italy, two of which have remained on the Best-Seller list for over six months.”
An Oklahoma native, Morrison moved to Memphis after high school where she earned a communications degree from the University of Memphis before studying art and graphic design at Memphis College of Art. She worked with surface and textile designs for nearly a decade prior to stumbling into the coloring book world. “I’ve always loved to color,” she says. “The thing that sparked my interest in coloring books initially was that I came across a design-based coloring book I’d had as a child. I was instantly reminded of the joy of coloring and knew the moment I saw it that I wanted to make a coloring book.”
Initially marketing to her fan base created from her fabrics work, Morrison saw sales double each month as more and more people caught onto her books. Though she admits to knowing there was a market for her product, Morrison “had no idea it would grow into the market that exists today.” Excited to have followed her passion, Morrison says she most enjoys the floral designs best. “I like designing pages with geometrics, repeat patterns and mandalas, but my favorites are the pages featuring birds, butterflies and flowers.”As an artist, Morrison’s art ranges from rugs, stationary and scrapbooking kits to paintings adorning the walls of hundreds of Vegas hotel rooms. And she’s even been featured twice in New American Paintings, a juried exhibition-in-print, an honor that led to exposure and connections, she explains. Though of her accolades, it’s her coloring books and fabric work she relishes. “In both cases, I am sending my art into the world almost half-finished and the consumer takes my work and runs with it,” she explains. “It is a real thrill to see pages that people have colored in my books and to see quilts and garments people have made with my fabrics. It feels like a genuine collaboration with the consumer, and I love it.”Morrison’s accomplishments have garnered yet another honor this year, as she was named the poster artist for this year’s Cooper Young Festival. Tamara Cook, executive director of the Cooper Young Business Association, notes that poster artists must live and work in the CY area and the winner is chosen by a committee. “Jenean’s coloring books have gone global this year, and we are excited about a local artist’s international success,” she continues. “We thought she would give us a new twist on the festival poster we haven’t seen before.” Morrison’s poster will be unveiled Aug. 6 at CoWork Memphis, located at 902 South Cooper St., from 6 to 8 p.m. during the Cooper Young Festival Kickoff Party/Poster Unveiling.Offering only a hint, Morrison says this year’s poster will incorporate many of the things she loves about Cooper Young, and those familiar with her work will be able to pick up on her style. “I’m happy that I’ll be joining a long list of awesome artists who’ve created the festival posters before me,” she concludes.
Midtown coloring book artist named poster
artist of 2016 Cooper-Young Festival
Story by Christina Morgan
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