How many of us remember getting our first pack of colors or crayons held protectively close, one of the first things in life that felt like a personal belonging to us. Stacked neatly, how we looked at them with awe and admiration and how we would take them out and carefully put them back in the same manner and never quite use them. That is until we got our favorite coloring book, after which our day mostly comprised of spending hours on it just coloring away. I remember it to be one of the joyous moments of my life. The time when even the worst of us felt like a true artist.
Coloring books have been with us through the years. Whether we craved a little peace and quiet or needed to divert our minds and relax or when we felt nostalgic and wanted to go back to an easier carefree time if even for a little while, those wonder books were always there to cure the blues.
Abdullah Syed is a multimedia artist, designer and illustrator from Karachi based in Washington DC. He has worked in non-profit youth empowerment and Ed-tech sectors like the UNICEF and USAID. He is currently working as Communications Manager at Level up Village. He is also passionate about startup, youth, tech, travel and social media.
His latest endeavor “Rangeen Pakistan” is one of a kind coloring book featuring the magnificent city of Lahore. It has the honor of being the first Pakistan themed adult coloring book. Abdullah himself describes it as,
“A coloring book designed for adults which will take you on a journey through Lahore, the cultural capital of Pakistan. More than 30 intricate, detailed hand-drawn illustrations to keep you engaged for hours- helping you relax, focus and de-stress. Lose yourself in the black and white inky, squiggly lines. Spill stuff on these pages. Use whatever media you may.”
On how it came into being, he shares,
“Coloring books are a big deal in popular culture suddenly. I bought one, enjoyed coloring, and drew a Minar-e-Pakistan coloring page for myself one day.
And then it clicked. There aren’t any Pakistan themed adult coloring books.
So here we are. “
“Oh and Lahore because I love Lahore. No other deep reason.”
Here are some other interesting things he told us,
How big of a success Rangeen Pakistan has been? And is it what you expected?
The book received a fair amount of success, in our opinion. Unlike many other projects that we’ve done over time, coloring books for adults was a relatively new idea for Pakistani consumers, and there was a certain challenge of creating the market need. The book has only been out for a little over a week in Pakistan now, though, and we are looking at very good numbers. Combined with a couple social media activities that we have in mind, and a launch event sometime this summer, I think we’ll be ok. The product isn’t quintessentially commercial though, and while we are looking at making some profits, I think a lot of it is so purpose driven that even if we hadn’t made any money, we’d still be very happy with creating this conversation about mindfulness, art therapy, flow and meditation while appreciating the beautiful city of Lahore.
Was there anything you found particularly challenging with the whole process, from composing till publishing of the book?
I think the usual challenges of working in Pakistan: bijlee nahi hai, publisher committing to one date and not delivering, political climate, etc. was definitely the only area where we felt a little bit of frustration. Rest of the process was pretty smooth. The book was first published in Washington, DC where I live, and I just picked a local press and self-published the first edition which sold out pretty quickly. In Pakistan, though, the process took longer than a month and we sold out two small batch editions before the first big edition in Pakistan was even ready.
Is Rangeen Pakistan your ultimate dream project? If not then what is your dream project?
I am not really sure if there’s a thing like a ‘dream project’ for me honestly. I think I’ve been in the state of flow for a long time, and the endless cycle of creation, the beauty of that is the perpetuity of it. I think every project is a dream project, while I’m doing it and working hard on it. Then it works or it doesn’t work, or a part of it works and a part of it doesn’t, but usually very quickly, I move on to the next project and this is how life/my process is.
What’s the most unique and memorable feedback you have received yet?
I’m so thankful that all my friends, family and people in my social circle came forward to support the project not only by buying the book but also thinking of ways to promote it, tell other people and provide feedback. A friend of mine connected me with a teacher at a school in Karachi where I skyped with the students about the book and they used it as a model to pick out various elements of Karachi, drew those and added them to their final year project which was similar to a thesis about where they live and their relationship with the places they are in, and the people/sights/sounds they surround themselves with. I think that was a really great process to go through, to not only look at my work through the lens of 15 year olds, but also to see that someone sees enough value in my work that they want to make it part of a conversation.
What message would you like to give to people who also wish to pursue a similar goal?
Will there be more volumes of Rangeen Pakistan possibly featuring other cities?
Yes! Karachi is definitely happening, plus I’ve already started working on a children’s book series. Lots to come.
Finally, what’s next for Abdullah Syed?
I guess I’ll continue to make more and share more. Art is an extension of who we are: as people, as society, as a country. All of these things will continue to exist. I’ll continue to make more stuff and so will other people and we’ll all continue to live. Let me try and sound less woowoo-ey, I definitely am thinking about moving into more product-oriented work, and thinking about taking more elements from around the world and putting a local twist to them. Onwards and upwards! I try to do a good job at telling everyone about my processes and you can stay connected via twitter and Instagram on @abdullasyed.
Interviewed and Published by: Asma Zainab (Leader Talent Hunt)
Tags: Abdullah Syed, Asma Zainab, Coloring book, creative minds, Interview, Lahore, Rangeen, Rangeen Pakistan, talent hunt