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Coloring with Chris Garver

Jul 28, 2016 By Jo-Ann
Coloring with Chris Garver

What do you get when you combine a tattoo artist, a man who loves to spend creative time with his daughter and mother, and adult coloring books? Chris Garver!

Well known and respected throughout the worldwide tattoo community, artist Chris Garver garnered mainstream attention after appearing as a regular on the reality-TV show Miami Ink. But you may know him best as the artist behind the popular adult coloring book Color Odyssey, in which he translates his tattoo-inspired illustrations into gorgeous coloring pages the whole family can enjoy.

A native of Pittsburgh, PA, Chris attended the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts High School and later, New York’s School of Visual Arts. An avid traveler and aficionado of all styles of tattoos, Chris has visited and worked in such locales as Japan, Singapore, England, and the Netherlands. These days, he lives in New York City with his daughter, where he enjoys coloring as a wall to unwind from the daily stresses of life.

Just for our readers, Chris is sharing four free downloads of coloring pages from his books! Click here and here, to download printable pages from Color Odyssey, as well two sneak peek pages from his upcoming book Tattoo Style. 

Sneak Peek Page 1
Sneak Peek Page 2

We recently caught up with Chris to learn more about his creative process, inspiration, and love of adult coloring…

Chris Garver-NACBD

Q: Please tell us a bit about your background as an artist.
A: My mother is an artist and teacher, and our home in Pittsburgh was filled with art and music. I attended the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts High School and later studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York. I was drawn to tattoo art at an early age and started tattooing professionally when I was just eighteen.

Chris Garver-NACBD

Q: When and how did you get into creating adult coloring books?
A: Really it all started with my mother. She was visiting me and suggested I should do one. And then, in a very strange coincidence, the company that became my publisher approached me about doing an adult coloring book. One of the editors there had seen me and my work on the TV show Miami Ink and thought I might be interested in doing a book.

Chris Garver-NACBD

A page from Color Odyssey, colored by Joe Vior.

Q: What are some of your favorite pencils, pens, markers or other tools for coloring?
A: When I’m working in one of my coloring books, I like to use colored pencils. I also really like Gel pens and Micron pens. When I’m working up a tattoo design, I usually use paint, which is a very traditional approach.

Chris Garver-NACBDA page from Color Odyssey, colored by Joe Vior.

Q: Can you share any special techniques you use to get great results in your coloring?
A: Black is almost always the foundation for a tattoo, and I take that approach in my coloring as well. I generally fill in the areas I want to be black first, and add the other colors I’ve selected in layers, using white to highlight. When I’m tattooing, my work becomes a permanent part of someone’s body and has to please that person. When I’m coloring on the page, I have total freedom, so I can take the opportunity to express myself any way I want.

Q: What is your process like when you create a coloring book?
A: I create the art for my books in between working as a tattoo artist and taking care of my daughter. I do have to be very careful to make it a priority and work on it consistently so the art hangs together as a cohesive work and not just individual pieces. Fortunately, I’ve been in the habit of drawing every day for years now, so I can be very focused on what I’m doing. Plus, I’m a workaholic!

Chris Garver-NACBD

A page from Color Odyssey, colored by Joe Vior.

Q: What’s the most challenging part of the process? The most rewarding?
A: Deadlines! Books are a lot of work—I do many more drawings than actually end up in the book, and of course I revise and rework a lot of my ideas until they are perfect, so it can be a struggle to get everything done on time. But, it’s totally worth it when I see the amazing things people are creating with the drawings. I’m really impressed with the beautiful work people have shared with me.

Chris Garver-NACBD

A page from Color Odyssey, colored by Joe Vior.

Q: Why do you think adults love to color?
A: I think it’s because anyone can do it, and it can be as easy or as difficult as you choose. On one page you can try a new technique and really concentrate on mastering a new skill, and on another you can let your mind go, relax, and let the colors just happen. And it’s new and fresh every time.

Chris Garver-NACBD

Q: What’s your favorite creative activity to relax and unwind?
A: I’m very lucky because creating art is my job and one of my favorite things to do. I really do relax by coloring and drawing with my daughter. It’s always a source of inspiration to see the way she looks at the world.

If you’d like to try your hand at coloring Chris’ tattoo-inspired images, check out his free downloadable coloring pages here, here, here and here, and check out his book Color OdysseyBe on the lookout for Chris’ new upcoming book, Flash, later this fall.

And for coloring tips and techniques from Jo-Ann click here!

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