EXOTIC birds, beautiful butterflies and intricately-patterned flowers.
Fantastical females in mystical settings, wild animals as you have never seen them before
All are contained in a series of stunning adult colouring books designed by Bradford-born illustrator and author Meg Cowley.
Inspired by nature, fantasy art, fiction and creative friends, the former pupil at Bradford Girls’ Grammar School, who lives in Queensbury, has created books to fire the imagination while also relaxing the mind.
Finely detailed, each picture is crafted to de-stress and offer hours of enjoyment as colour is applied to bring it to life.
Meg, 26, has her parents to thank for her vivid imagination. “They fed my early reading and drawing addiction,” she says. “I spent years in the school library and in bed with a torch, unable to stop reading. At home I had a ‘making table’, where mum and dad contained my arty mess.
“At school, if I wasn’t reading a book under my desk, I was getting told off for drawing in my classwork books.”
Yet she did not study art at school. “It was very prescriptive - we were told what to draw and how to draw it. It was not my type of art at all.”
She felt drawn to fantasy art but was realistic about pursuing a career as an artist. “I wanted to do something creative but it is one of those areas - you cannot just go and get a job as an artist, it is really hard.”
Meg’s went down a different path, working in accountancy, before going on to study primary education, gaining a first class degree in primary education at Leeds Beckett University.
But art was rooted in the back of her mind. “I used to draw on the train to work,” she says.
Meg decided that teaching was not for her. Her strong love of words and literature, led to her writing a fantasy novel, The Tainted Crown. “I had the characters in my head for ten years - they evolved gradually into little people,” she says.
The Tainted Crown is the first instalment of an epic fantasy for young adults and adults, filled with swords, sorcery, dragons and family politics, as the characters desperately struggle to find their place in the world and come of age.
“The first 25,000 words came without my even planning it,” she says. “I wrote the rest and then edited it. I really enjoyed working on the story and characters.”
A sequel - The Brooding Crown - in what Meg calls the ‘Caledan’ series, followed. “This one is stranger and I have had very good feedback,” she says, adding that she is working on the final book of the trilogy, The Shattered Crown, due for publication next year.
She likes to invent and learn languages. “I’m currently inventing the language of the Eldarkind for my Caledan series, which is based on northern European languages,” she says.
Meg now plans novels in great detail. “I briefly describe each chapter, then plan characters, feelings and atmosphere, so when I come to write it, it is easy. It is like having a detailed skeleton to flesh out.”
Art came back into her life when a friend asked whether she had come across adult colouring books. “Everyone was talking about Secret Garden by Johanna Basford,” she says. “That was the trailblazer.”
She adds: “I thought that it was something I could work at. I started a book and kept going.”
Spurred on by family and friends, she decided to pursue art as a career - it is not about getting rich quickly, it is more about having a fulfilling job,” she says.
Yet Meg’s talent has reaped financial rewards and brought her success. To date she has produced The Bumper Colouring Book, Fantasy Creatures, The Wild Colouring Book, The Exotic Colouring Book, The Calm Colouring Book and her latest, The Inspiring Colouring Book, containing 20 hand drawn motivational phrases, intricately decorated with floral, botanical and nature-inspired art.
The book contains two full-size copies of each image, plus a postcard-size copy. A pocket-size book contains two copies of each image. “A ton of inspiring, colouring goodness,” Meg writes in her blog.
Nature-loving Meg donates a pound from every sale of The Exotic Colouring Book to the conservation charity World Land Trust to help fund the ‘Buy an Acre’ program, where every £100 buys an acre of threatened rainforest in Mexico, Argentina and Ecuador, protecting the species that live in it for future generations.
“The Exotic Colouring Book showcases species from around the world. Some are familiar, and some less so, but they all have one thing in common: they are endangered. The thirty detailed illustrations are waiting for adults and children to bring them to life with colour,” says Meg.
Meg, who lives with her fiancée Stuart and cats Jet and Pixie, finds her career hugely rewarding. ‘I’m motivated to succeed at whatever I try, and I like to experiment,’ she writes on her website. “I usually work best when fuelled by Earl Grey tea and margherita pizza.”
Working from her home studio overlooking windswept Ogden Moor, her working days are firmly structured: “I plan my days and know how many hours I have got to do certain jobs,” she says. “I love looking out onto the moor where I used to walk as a child. It is very inspirational.”
Her vivid imagination knows no bounds - she has also penned two children’s books, Diary of a Secret Witch, with a third in the series due to be published shortly.
She markets her work through social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. “I have had interest from as far away as Australia,” she says.
“It is the most wonderful feeling to have found success in something I love,” she says. “I can pay my bills with my artwork and books.”
When she is not sitting in her studio creating imaginary worlds, Meg enjoys archery, hiking, gardening and cooking.
She inspires others at speaking events, workshops and masterclasses about illustration, writing and independent publishing.
Meg has definitely found her niche. “It takes over my life - when I am drawing or writing I zone out and go into a trance. I absolutely love it,” she says.
For more information on Meg and her work go to megcowley.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit facebook.com/megcowley.