Aimfully Books: Filling in the Pages of a Street Art Coloring Book

Written by T.K. Mills

Colorful and eclectic murals cover nearly every wall in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood. This ever-changing public gallery of art is what inspired the backdrop for the first of Aimfully Media’s coloring books. The man behind this nonprofit book publisher, Diego Orlandini, became disillusioned by major distributors’ lack of care and took it upon himself to found a company aimed at creating a positive social impact through art. Since then, Orlandini has found his niche in the cross-section of street art and coloring book publication, still pursuing his mission of social impact.

 

T.K.: Can you tell me a little bit about Aimfully Books and what your mission is? 

Diego: We are a crowd-funded art book platform. I created the first book a couple years ago with the participation of several street artists. And this project has evolved and morphed over the years. Now, we are relaunching, rebranding while expanding beyond street art and beyond coloring books into our books that are funded by our drive, our audience, other artists and other people that would like to see these books come to life.

A little bit like a Kickstarter kind of situation, but for art books in particular.

 

T.K.: What made you guys want to pursue the crowdfunding / Kickstarter model and what drew you do art books and street art books to begin with? 

Diego: That’s a great question. So, it’s based on my experience. When I launched the first book, I had no contacts, no money, no idea how to make a book. And the community supported the project. They came together. I started preselling the book even though it didn’t exist yet. I only had the cover. People were on board. Then for the second book, I actually launched a Kickstarter campaign. I ended up launching two campaigns, and they were successful.

And I realized over the years as I got into the book industry, and I work with distributors, and I try to promote books. And next thing I know, I have become a book publisher, and I have to deal with the sales, with the follow up and the massive monopoly that the major distributors have. And I was not happy. I was like this was not the end goal. This is not what I wanted to do. What I wanted to do is to create a social impact. Originally, with the second edition of the first book, the idea was to do a one-for-one initiative. For every book that I sold, I donated a book and in rural areas of the world.

That also has a lot to do with me, with my background, and how I came about this. Many, many years ago, I was backpacking. And I lived in Cambodia, India, and Argentina.  And I volunteered in schools. And so, the entire thing from the very first book that I created was for this. But over the last few years, I was managing and building the business, and doing the sales, and the distribution, and fees here, fees there. I didn’t have the time to create more art. Also, I transitioned to what I also love, which is writing.

Long story short, I realized that I cannot do it all. I realized that my creativity time was taking a toll on the analytic business-like area and that I could open it up.

I’m not the only one. I’m not the only one that can do some creative stuff. Other people can. I was living in Argentina. This wonderful painter reached out, and I don’t know how she found out about my books, but she wanted to see if I could publish hers. So she sent me her work. And this is called A Blooming Earth. It’s also a coloring book that is based on flowers from all over the world.

“I have become a book publisher, and I have to deal with the sales, with the follow up and the massive monopoly that the major distributors have. And I was not happy. I was like this was not the end goal. This is not what I wanted to do. What I wanted to do is to create a social impact.”

And it has her. A camellia seed originated the idea. Unfortunately, we could not illustrate her patterns well enough to make it into a coloring book, though there is a mention of her in the book, but that’s what gave me the idea.

And I said, okay, I cannot do it all. There are other artists that would like to publish their books that don’t know how to get into the book business. I’ve sacrificed my own artwork in order to do this. So, I said, “You know what? I can give up or I can double down and utilize the time that I put the effort on what I’ve learned to help other people.” And here’s the other element that I found important because anybody can come up with a book and put it up on Amazon, like print of demand. And I try to do that, and I realize that the quality is not there.

And so, I’m turning this into a nonprofit. And eventually, my goal is to pass it along to my nephews, my nieces and nephews, they love books. They’ve grown with books, and they know that I’m into books as well. I think that there’s gonna be a nice synergy going with them. And they are homeschooled. My sister has always talked about expanding, and she’s an educator. She wants to eventually have a school. So, I thought this is the social impact that I can do with this.

In my head, it covers everybody. It covers all the elements, the artistic element, the social impact, the entrepreneurship element, and the more important one, which is like the let’s do it together element.

“In my head, it covers everybody. It covers all the elements, the artistic element, the social impact, the entrepreneurship element, and the more important one, which is like the let’s do it together element.”

 

TK: What year was Aimfully Books founded?

Diego: The parent company, Aimful Media, which is my business, is a little bit of everything that I do all at once. Marketing, teaching, creating. It started in 2016. Officially February 2016.

Unofficially in 2015. I basically incorporated when it was time to launch the first book. That was 2016.

T.K.: With the book sample you sent me, how did you curate which artists were in it? Did you do an open call, or did you reach out to them? How did you figure out which artists would be involved? 

Diego: Oh, my God. That was one by one. One by one. At first, when the first idea came— You know, I used to live in Wynwood.

I have this thing that I want to do authentic stuff. When I first came with the idea, I said, “Okay, I want to reach out to the local artists first.”

“I have this thing that I want to do authentic stuff.”

I looked online. I recognized various murals, saw names here and there, and I started reaching out. And I remember that Chris Riggs was the first one I pitched the idea. And I say, “Hey, I love your murals. I would like to make a coloring page out of it and put it in a book.” And he said, “Yeah, man, totally. That’s cool.” He was such a nice guy. And I remember I posted that. I opened up an Instagram account, and I posted the picture. And immediately Christina Riggs, who I later find out is his wife, was messaging. “Oh, this is copyright violation. You’re taking his work, you know?” And I was like “whoa.” It came like a wave. Like cold water. I didn’t know how to react.

I messaged her and I say, “Hi, Christina, you know, thank you for looking out for artists.” At that time, I didn’t know who she was or the relationship.  And I said, “I spoke with Chris. He gave me permission.” And I sent her the screenshots of the emails, right? And then she was completely on board. She’s like “Oh my God, this is amazing, I love it” and started sharing it.

 

T.K.: So, in terms of curation, it’s just what works you think will resonate’?

Diego: Initially. After spending an entire year studying art, and illustrating the work, and realizing what works and what doesn’t work. I got a little better educated.

I remember I was talking to Mr. Doodle. And I said, “Hey, I like your work. You know, this could be a great coloring book page. I’m making a graffiti coloring book,” I said. This is when I didn’t know a thing. And he educated me. He’s the one that said, “You know what? You could get in a lot of trouble with the street artist because graffiti and street art are two different things.” In my head back then, it was just stuff on the walls.

 

T.K.: People kind of think of street art and graffiti interchangeably. But once you learn the culture, you realize the nuances and differences between.

Diego: So I was very lucky that that was right at the time of Wynwood’s perhaps most culturally interesting era. A lot of entrepreneurship, a lot of art, a lot of young people trying to make something happen. And I was very coy about it. I always felt like an imposter or like a— How do you call these? People that forge. I felt like a forger because, in essence, that’s what I was doing. I was forging their artwork and turning them into coloring page, of course, with their approval always. This is how they like it. I’m doing all the revisions. Some artists that you would not believe were super cool about it — They’re completely unattached about their work. Some others were like you would know a little bit more, divas about everything. So, I spent 2 years contacting artists one on one. I talked to hundreds, hundreds of street artists. Like I even got hold of Banksy’s team.

I got a few nos, but most were yes. They loved the idea, and it was painstakingly very meticulous paperwork with absolutely everybody. Very clean, clear upfront of what I was trying to do. And I learned a ton on the process, like a ton about art, which was not my area of expertise at all.

So that was Wynwood Coloring Book 1 and 2, which later I merged into the anthology. At the same time that I was doing this one, I was doing the Brooklyn Coloring Book. These ones are all the same concept, murals from Brooklyn. This is when I started getting a little bit more “Okay, let’s add a little bit of graffiti in it too so like it’s a little bit more urban.”

And then the one that I sent you, like the ultimate serial coloring book that has like hundreds of pages, and art, and artists. And I made a big    one. So, this is the little one and this is the hardcover edition.

You can learn more about Aimfully Media from their website.

T.K. Mills is the Editor-in-Chief of UP Magazine, a street art publication based in New York City. After receiving a Master’s Degree in Global Affairs, he discovered a love for graffiti while backpacking through Cuba and pursued life as a writer. Outside of UP,  T.K. enjoys writing poetry, personal travel essays, and occasionally short stories. His work has been published in The Smart SetThe Vignette ReviewGenre Urban Arts, and Eternal Remedy among others. Beyond art, T.K. loves reading and traveling.

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