Take a look at any best-seller list, many of them are colouring books. The craze keeps growing, as well as the research showing that putting pencil to paper is an ideal way for us ‘busy bees’ to stay mindful. Many popular colouring books are sickly-sweet–think flowers and butterflies–but Kyle Hughes-Odgers’ book Off the Wall is different.
“I go through a sketchbook every six weeks. We went through the massive pile, and picked a thread,” says Kyle. Through a world of intriguing characters an idea that weaves through Kyle’s work is what the artist describes as the precarious balance between melancholy and optimism.
“Sometimes I make up elaborate backstories about the characters I draw and don’t tell anyone. I think it’s exciting for me to try and do that, so the characters don’t feel one dimensional.”
The artist’s creative process is highly patterned. “I like to get lost in the obsessiveness,” says Kyle. It’s this switching off that gets colouring books their high praise. Like artists immersed in their work, we too, can develop our own continual practice.
“Our brain really connects with repetitive processes. Whether it’s rhythm in music, or colouring inside the lines.”
We can often feel separate from art, but Kyle’s murals connect the artist to the public. “Not everyone goes to a gallery but on the street I have conversations with people I might not otherwise connect with. It’s pretty powerful.”
Kyle’s character creations are spotted throughout Perth, and Off the Wall features Kyle’s well-known murals, such as the ubiquitous blue figure on the Mitchell Freeway. Locals have also started to connect the murals to his children’s books.
“I have had a few comments on Instagram from families saying that every time they drive pass the mural on the freeway, their kid yells out ‘That’s Ari!’ from On a Small Island. Even though it isn’t Ari - it's really great that they notice a visual connection."
Colouring familiar sketches, particularly ones developed in local settings, allows access to our imagination, while strengthening our affinity to the city.
“People can see the mural in real life and re-design a whole new colour range. I like that idea.”