Diverging from the traditional coloring book mold, The Non-Binary Coloring Book challenges the notion of coloring within the lines both figuratively and literally. As one begins to shade and accent, lines converge and overlap, becoming a form-meets-function examination of norms and breaking them.
"Where do you start coloring, where do you stop coloring, where do you draw the line?" author and illustrator Anastasio Wrobel asks. "This partly started as an anti-coloring book, because many coloring books available are geared toward therapeutic sessions and the quelling of oneself; that never interested me."
The Non-Binary Coloring Book has more in common with queer and punk zines than with the recent rash of adult coloring books. "I want to see myself, to see my community, and images that were out of the ordinary," Wrobel says. "To me that's the umbrella of 'non-binary,' a term I sometimes use to include anyone who disidentifies from the societal standard." "Disidentify," "In Flux," and "We Defy" are just a few phrases and terms proclaiming non-conformity and gender neutrality encountered in Wrobel's 42-page interactive expression of gender transcendence. It initially began as a project to familiarize and educate others on the complex and fluid spectrum of identity that lies between male and female.
Wrobel uses "they/them" pronouns. "I am mis-gendered everyday," they say. "I've fought very hard for others to use my pronouns and, for the most part, have found some form of success, but I realized from this that there is so much work to be done, so I started generating text around this." After becoming disillusioned with this process, Wrobel chose to shift their audience. "My intention was to create visibility for the trans, non-conformist, queer, gender-fuck community; to make something explicitly for us," they tell SFR. "If it extends to those beyond that community, that's great."
A multi-disciplined artist, Wrobel describes their process at times as "remixing" creative flows that include photography, poetry, painting and collage. Santa Fe born and raised, they recently spent nearly a decade in Seattle and New York City, studying arts and operating under the moniker aung.robo. "What really solidified the fusion of poetry, theory, and art-making was gender; an all-encompassing topic I focus on," they say. "The necessity of written work to fuel the visual work, then being able to flip it around and read a passage of theory and paint something based on it."
An interest in abstraction and surrealism is evident as form itself is questioned on every page. The shapes of faces, body parts, and even other species chaotically meld in a whimsical fashion. Wrobel's visual representation of the non-binary is not out of negation nor opposition, but rather, boundlessness and opportunity. Aesthetically, this was a bold move for Wrobel, who typically works as an abstract and figurative painter. "Illustration and ink were completely out of my realm," they say. "When I came out as transgender, I realized I could remake everything for us, for my community."
There are no clear-cut definitions or descriptions of what each term means, varying from the specific representation of a group to general self-empowerment. This is not a guide, but an engaging representation and celebration of diversity. You can purchase this 42-single-sided-page coloring book from the artist directly. Its upcoming third printing, which is limited to 100 copies, features a hand-printed silkscreened cover. Go to aungrobo.us/nbcb for a copy.