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Step Away From The Box
By Jaime Adame
Concept To Coloring Book | Spread 'Em

Aye Jay Morano, like many art-minded young parents, found among the perks of fatherhood a chance to get reacquainted with an early love: the coloring book. But Morano found the typical books rather uninspired, so the longtime poster artist and sometimes rapper began to work on creating something a little more relevant that both he and his son, Cohen, could enjoy. Combining a longtime love of music with his newfound interest in children’s art, Morano, 26, created the Gangsta Rap Coloring Book—17 portraits of rap mainstays and pioneers like Snoop Dogg, Eazy E and Schoolly D.

The rap coloring book became a labor of love, with Morano handling not only the penciling and inking duties, but also self-publishing the book. His hard work paid off, with the book selling more than 4,000 copies, according to Morano, and generating enough buzz to inspire a sequel, of sorts. Morano’s next book, Indie Rock Connect The Dots, will continue with the musical theme, spotlighting the non-mainstream music world for kids and giving music-loving grown-ups a chance to revisit their youth.

From concept to coloring book
The Gangsta book wound-up bringing national notoriety for Morano, 26, after its release in September of last year. But three months before that, it was just an idea. With no blueprint on how to put together such a project, Morano worked hard and learned as he went.

First, Morano came up with a list of rappers who he thought should be included in the book, getting opinions from friends and others knowledgeable about the rap scene. This part was easy, as Morano has been a mainstay on the concert scene in his hometown of Chico, Cal for years, either performing or making concert posters.

Then, Morano began the work of drawing the individual portraits, using pencil and ink. Finding time was a struggle, between his day job clerking at a local music store and parenting duties. Morano worked during his lunch break, although he found the best time to work was after his son went to bed. Each drawing took between an hour and a half to five hours, depending on the complexity.

Once Morano finished the portraits, he had to figure out how to physically put a book together. With a limited budget, Morano just made photocopies of his art at a local copy shop, bought a fancy stapler, and began to put the books together himself. “I didn’t have a lot of money, which is why it’s so short, basically out of necessity,” said Morano. He quickly made one concession, however, realizing it was worth the money to pay a copy shop to actually staple the books together. Even then, “it was relatively affordable to make the first couple of hundred…it was a couple hundred dollars, not a huge risk. Paying for the books was my only real goal,” said Morano.

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