It seems these days that there is a coloring book for almost any topic or theme that a coloring book fanatic could imagine. There is, literally, something for everyone. For coloring fans of the generation that grew up on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books and the Little House on the Prairie tv series, that something might just be the Little House Coloring Book.
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I was gifted Laura Ingalls Wilders’ classic series of books by my grandparents for holiday gifts over a series of years when I was in elementary school. I read them obsessively and became such a fan that our family visited the Ingalls/Wilder historic sites in DeSmet, South Dakota on a family vacation during my high school years.
So when I saw the Little House Coloring Book containing some of Garth Williams’ illustrations from the most famous edition of the series – the edition that I own in hardcover – I just couldn’t resist adding it to my library of coloring books! Williams’ illustrations are just as iconic as the stories themselves.
The book contains illustrations from all of the books that are considered part of the original Little House series (Little House in the Big Woods through The First Four Years). Since the Ingalls books were not heavily illustrated and some of the illustrations were small, the coloring book adds in text elements and combines some smaller elements to make repeating patterns on pages.
One of the challenges of working in a coloring book such as this is that you are working with and trying to emulate the style of a familiar artist. Most of the Little House illustrations from Williams that are included in the coloring book were published in black & white sketch form, so there isn’t a specific example to copy from for coloring them. But Williams’ style in the images that he did complete in full-color for the books (such as for the covers) is very beautiful and distinctive.
For those who grew up loving and admiring the Williams illustrations and want to color in that same look, you may be interested to know that Williams usually worked in colored pencil and ink wash for his children’s book illustrations (he’s also famous for illustrating other books such as Charlotte’s Web by EB White).
For the illustration above, from On the Banks of Plum Creek, I used watercolor with limited success to try to mimic the look of Garth Williams’ ink wash look. I should have diluted my colors more. For the illustration in progress below (from the same book), I am using colored pencil with a blending pencil. This technique has me much happier with the results compared to the look of Williams’ work, but I have still not entirely got it nailed yet.
This coloring book has been a lovely nostalgic walk down the memory lane of one of my childhood favorites, and also an artistic challenge.