It was a fateful January evening when two artists attended the same women-in-design event in Miami. Photographer Jeanne Canto and graphic designer Aviva Atri got to talking and quickly forged a friendship that would later blossom into a business partnership.
The two artists, currently sheltering in place in their respective homes, have collaborated on a new digital coloring book, paraSOL. The book, available online, features more than 30 pages of black-and-white lines just waiting to be filled in.
The spark of an idea turned into a raging flame in less than 24 hours, Canto tells New Times. On her Instagram Stories, the artist posted an image of a doodle she was working on, and cheekily asked if she should take the time to create a full-length coloring book. Atri saw the post and immediately reached out to her friend.
"We went through a cycle of questions," Canto says. "Like, would it be a for-profit coloring book, how many pages would it be, who would be involved? All via Instagram DM."
It felt like the right thing to do, Canto says. "As designers and as artists, we sometimes feel like in this particular situation we can't help as much. We realized that the coloring book was a great way to bring joy to people and also give back to the community."
Adds Atri: "We felt Feeding South Florida was a very universal organization and one everyone can relate to." Not only does the organization give to those less fortunate, but it also provides a service to community members who may be out of work because of the novel coronavirus.
ParaSOL launched one week after its inception, on Friday, April 24, and in less than five days, the creators had tripled their initial $500 goal. They've since upped their goal to $3,000, and as of May 4, they were only $400 shy of reaching it.
Pre-quarantine, Canto and Atri had busy schedules that often saw them traveling for their work. In March, clients began to cancel en masse, and work became scarce. Collaborating on paraSOL has kept both women busy, providing a positive distraction from the anxiety-inducing news cycle.
"We're both still working, but paraSOL has been a fun way to connect with people [during this time]," Atri says.
The women say the best part of paraSOL is that you can download the coloring book multiple times and fill in its blank pages in various ways. You can color it on your iPad or phone, or you can print it out the old-fashioned way and dig into your markers or crayons.
"You can even frame the pieces after," Atri adds. "It's really cool to see all the different ways people are playing with it."
The partners believe the paraSOL brand has the potential to evolve into something more than a coloring book.
"We're both designers, so we wanted to brand it as a whole vibe," Atri says, noting that in addition to the GoFundMe project page, they've created an Instagram profile. The pair are adding content regularly on social media, including live videos and scheduled coloring sessions. Each week, they put out a call for contributing artists with an eye toward releasing additional coloring pages on a weekly bases.
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The first edition featured 19 local female artists and designers, including Canto and Atri, but the initial fundraising success allowed Atri and Canto to nearly double the number of pages and contributors. Although the original idea was to include only Miami-based artists, the pair say they hope to open it up beyond South Florida.
"What we've learned from this was that this is an outlet for artists who want to make the most of their talent and aren't sure how to help," Canto says.
"If the demand is still there and we know we can continue to raise money and create a product that people and enjoy and makes people happy," she adds, "we're going to keep going."