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Putting Colors in the Places You Live

Updated: Apr 9, 2020

by Cailin Riley, Sag Harbor Express

There is a popular saying that seems to apply perfectly to Manhattan resident Jake Rose: “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Rose, 25, has been doing just that for the past several years, turning his passion for photography, architecture, and travel into a full-time occupation that continues to grow.

He is the creator of the “Color Our Town” series of coloring books, coloring postcard sets, artistic postcards and coloring guidebooks that showcase beautiful vistas and important landmarks in both big cities and small towns across the United States. Rose, who spends summers and weekends with his family on the North Fork, takes his time traveling to the locales for his coloring books, photo-graphing points of interest, landmarks and other scenes that are integral parts of the town or city’s fabric, but also translate well into coloring book templates. He then sends the photographs to free-lance line drawers, who create the images for the coloring books. Detailed historical information is added at the bottom of each drawing, making the books not only an outlet for artistic expression but an educational entry point into the history and traditions of the towns and cities. So far, Rose has produced an extensive collection, with several books focusing on his hometown of New York City as well as the Hamptons, the North Fork, Philadelphia and Miami, with plans to add more cities over time. The books are available for sale in more than 20 locations in the Hamptons, such as Steven-son’s Toys, the Wharf Shop in Sag Harbor, and Hildreth’s, among others, and are available in nearly as many locations on the North Fork as well.

The coloring books check a lot of the boxes for those looking for unique gift ideas for the holidays. The variety of towns and cities offered creates a lot of options, while the books are also a “gift that keeps on giving”— once they have been colored, they remain valuable as guidebooks for those specific towns or cities.

Rose’s personal story is compelling as well. The fact that he is a young entrepreneur who has turned his passions into a successful and growing business with five years to go until his 30th birthday is impressive enough, but he has done it while living with Asperger’s syndrome.

Rose’s latest project is getting a boost from a group called Adapt Lab Filmmakers, a group of young innovators who, like Rose, have Asperger’s or are otherwise neurodiverse. Rose and his father, Ronald Rose — who helps support his son in his business endeavors — pitched an idea for a new coloring book: “The Coloring Book Of Really Bad Ideas,” and then worked with others at Adapt Lab to come up with terrible ideas that would translate well to line drawings, and to promote the new book as well.

“The idea was to sort of subvert the notion that there are no bad ideas,” the younger Rose explained. “Because of course there are bad ideas, like surfing a tsunami or inviting a T-Rex over for brunch.”

Adapt Labs was on board, and they’ve been working on a promotional video that was set to launch, along with a Kickstarter campaign, on November 8. Rose said he believed the new coloring book would hit shelves and be available for purchase online (either through his website, or in mid-December, just in time for the holidays.

Rose describes his coloring books as appropriate for all ages, and said that while the adult coloring trend seemed to hit its peak a few years ago, drawing in coloring books is still widely accepted as an activity that anyone can enjoy.

Rose isn’t getting rich making the coloring books — at least not yet — but he said he’s pleased at how his business has evolved, especially considering his simple motivations for getting started.

“I would say it’s grown fairly well,” he said. “It’s pretty successful for just coming out of a hobby.”

There are many aspects of the work that Rose enjoys, and he added that there are two important factors he considers when scouting scenes for his books.

“It’s about how important it is and also if it’s aesthetically pleasing,” he said of his process for choosing the buildings and landscapes for his books. “It has to be aesthetically pleasing and historically interesting.”

Rose added that part of his process includes engaging with people who live in the towns and cities, whether it’s chatting with them at a local diner about what they think are the best places to see and visit in their town or city, or asking what aspects maybe fly under the radar in favor of other typical tourist destinations.

Aside from the new coloring book of bad ideas, Rose has other plans in the works for expanding his business. He will be putting out a series of notecards next summer, with colored art from his books, including of the windmill, cinema and whaling museum in Sag Harbor. He’s also hoping to make mini giftcards, and is in talks with hotels and resorts to make custom coloring books, including a scavenger hunt book for the Palomar Hotel in Philadelphia, which he cites as his favorite city.

Ultimately, Rose feels very well-suited to his work.

“I’m very good at researching, I love to travel and I love taking photos,” he said. “It’s incredibly fun. The process is hard and arduous, but the end result is very satisfying.”


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