The Daily Zoo

by Chris Ayers

               

The Daily Zoo 1 (Amazon)            The Daily Zoo 2 (Amazon)

I own both of these as paperbacks, but Amazon is currently saying that Daily Zoo 2 paperback is only available to pre-order – so maybe it’s a reprint or something.  The links above lead to the currently available versions.

Chris also has a website with artwork and information, as well as a store.

In a nutshell

Character designer Chris Ayers was diagnosed with leukemia on 1st April 2005.  Exactly one year later, he decided to “commemorate” this and celebrate the fact that he had made it through, by drawing one animal a day for a year.  He then did it again the next year.  These books contain the results.

Rating

Entertainment  
 Inspiration  
 Instruction  n/a
 Technical  n/a

Key quotes

“I looked forward to challenging both my creativity and self-discipline.  But most importantly it would be an opportunity to celebrate the gift of each healthy day.

“Life is Short. Life is Precious. Do what you love and love what you do.”

“The more people are pursuing their passions with determination and enthusiasm, the more it can inspire others to do the same.”

My thoughts

I find these books pretty inspirational.  Not only with the quality and variety of work on display, but the circumstances in which these books were conceived.  Each picture is a celebration of another day alive, which is a very special thing when you stop and think about it.

The actual, physical, quality of these book is great – they’re a nice compact size, and I love the details on the cover of the embossed/slightly raised pictures.  The pages inside are nicely designed and laid out with images and text in various layouts.

The pictures themselves are just amazing.  If you want to know the definition of appeal, just flip through this book.  Chris’ ability to draw is incredible – he is a very talented artist.  But the thing that impressed me even more than that, is the fact that he can do so in any number of different styles.  Realistic, cartoony, graphical, caricature – all done in a variety of mediums.  Some beautifully rendered in black and white, others a simple line drawing, some fully coloured.  You have animals acting like animals, animals acting like humans, hybrids of one or more animal, fantasy creatures.  I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea, and it’s more fun for you to just take a look yourself!

The main book consists of a selection of the pictures drawn through the year, with a short explanation about each one.  Sometimes it’s where he was or who he was with when he was drawing it, other times where he got the idea of a character from, sometimes it’s the reactions of others when they saw it.  Then at the end, you get to see ALL of the year’s work in a small, calendar style layout, with a short explanation of the environment he created it in.

These are a couple of really beautiful books, containing the wonderful imagination and creativity of a man happy to be alive.  And I think that his creativity is contagious – looking through these images makes me think about the types of projects that maybe I could do, or creating backstories in my head for some of the characters he has created, or wishing that I could animate them!  Chris’ sense of humour shines through in both the drawings, and the words, so it’s a pleasure to read as well as look at.

Highly recommended for lovers of animals, art or life.

Contents

The first book contains a Foreword by J.J. Abrams, and an Introduction explaining the genesis of the idea, and then a chapter for each month from April to March, Year One Review (which contains all of the year’s drawings) and an Afterword by Gary Schiller, M.D.  Book 2 contains an Introduction and then a chapter per month, April to March and a Year Two Review (all 365 drawings).

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