Westword recently talked with Hoffman about his just-released book, the artists behind it, and how a coloring book might help bring us closer to national legalization.
Westword: Tell us a little about the inspiration behind The Stoner's Coloring Book and where that came from.
Jared Hoffman: I saw some of these adult coloring books out there, and I thought it was an interesting concept. I heard about people getting really excited about them and having coloring parties and what not, but I didn't see any of them that were my style — which would have been a lot groovier and a lot funkier, a lot more counter-culture than books like Secret Garden, which are much more mainstream to have all these very intricate flower-animal patterns that are really nice.
Around that same time I had been doing a lot of drawing, line drawing in particular. They were just scenes from my life. I have spent a lot of time around counter-culture people and I found those scenes and those visuals to be really interesting, especially in regards to people smoking pot. I thought it was a great idea to bring the two cultures together: this artistic sort of creative activity with the culture of smoking weed, which already embraces that sort of creativity.
I thought it could be a good match, so I started working on some drawings. I posted them on social media and asked if anyone had any contributions they wanted to make to this stoner's coloring book, and I got a great response. A lot of people were saying, "Oh, that's a great idea, so funny" — and from there it just snowballed.
I got ten other artists to contribute illustrations and then I did the rest myself. We just tried the whole time to focus on making people smile and giving them something that was really humorous around the coloring activity.
I also read that you have artists from all over the world contributing to it.
Yeah, when I started posting pictures on Instagram of the illustrations people started getting in touch with me, asking if they could put their art in the book. So we have an artist from Argentina who sent in a page, some artists from all over the United States — West Coast, East Coast — so it's really a global, collaborative effort.
What direction did you give the artists, if any?
There were two things. The first was just some pages that are really fun for coloring are not necessarily the best art, or maybe it's better to say that there's a style of art that works best for coloring. So I talked with all the artists about that and how certain patterns work and certain repetitive shapes work really well for coloring. I also encouraged everyone to color their own drawings as they were doing them: You know, do a test drawing and color it in and see how it feels to color it. Does it feel like a picture you'd want to color or are the shapes too small? Or something like that. So a lot of it just came down to testing it out.
I also occasionally got high and colored, so that was a really good test because that sort of changed my frame of reference around what was fun and what would maybe be a little bit anxiety-causing. We discussed a lot of different stuff, but generally tried to keep it on the theme of psychedelic, groovy — but it was open-ended. People could have whatever interpretation of that they wanted, and so there's not even that many explicit references to smoking within the book. There are plenty of pages that have no explicit references at all.
You mentioned Secret Garden and other coloring books, but I'm wondering how you think this differs from all the other adult coloring books on the market.
All of the pages are so different. There are so many artist contributions that this is a book you really don't need to color to enjoy. You can kind of just flip through it and kind of look at the pictures so it's almost like an art book from that perspective. And then on the other side, I think it can just be a good conversation starter — the way that most adult coloring books are kind of not. Most adult coloring books are kind of bland. This one is definitely going to be something that your guests might chuckle at or it might cause them to do a double take. The stoner title makes it more fun and transgressive than the typical adult coloring book.
A lot has been made of the therapeutic benefits of coloring. I'm wondering how you think pairing this form of relaxation with smoking enhances both experiences?
Well, I think everybody has their own smoking ritual. For some people, this might be a wonderful addition to that ritual, and for others it might not be something they want to do while they're smoking. But I think that if you are someone who likes to do art and color or be creative with visual arts, then you're going to have a great time. You almost crack yourself up because you find yourself doing it and you kind of want to stop but you can't really stop. You're in it now, you know, so little by little you color in the page and it really does relax you in a way that looking through Instagram or watching a television show will not do; it's just using a different part of your brain. So I do buy into the idea that coloring is therapeutic. I'm not sure that it's going to be a panacea for somebody or that it's going to completely change their life, but there are people who really grasp coloring as something that they use when they feel anxious or tired or upset.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
In Colorado, it's probably all too easy to have a conversation about marijuana and the effects of marijuana and the status of legalization and how it's viewed within society. I think it's an open conversation within Colorado, but there are a lot of places in the country and around the world where it's still not an open conversation — it's a closed sort of one-sided conversation. In addition to this being a harmless activity and just kind of a humorous book, I do think for some people it can start a conversation that they might not have had otherwise. And I hope that they do have that conversation, because I think it's worth it being out in the open, and hope that we're on the path toward legalization nationwide.
The Stoner's Coloring Book can be purchased through The Tattered Cover for $15 or Amazon and Barnes and Noble for $10.42. Find out more here.