Everything Dies! A Coloring Book About Life!

Posted by: Roy Wilbur

What began as a personal grieving process has turned into a celebration of life and death for Moore alumna Bri Barton ‘11 through a coloring book.

Bri has just self-published the second edition of Everything Dies! A Coloring Book About Life!

The 100-page book depicts funeral rites from around the world, soil biology and decomposition, mourning loved ones, the murders of human rights leaders, and modern embalming.

“I wrote and illustrated the book after six loved ones died within an eight-month period,” she said.

The journey to publishing began after she attended the funeral of her mentor, Art History faculty Professor and Curatorial Studies Director Dr. Janet Kaplan, in December 2014.

“On the day of her funeral, I went into the woods with a friend and we just grieved together,” Bri said. “We went back to the house of another Moore alum, Brit Brennan ‘11, another of my closest friends, and she showed me a black and white drawing I had given her, but she had colored it all in.”

“I had this moment of divine inspiration, I don’t know what to call it – I knew at that moment that this is what I needed to do,” she said. “To see her put so much life and color and beauty into this bone-dry drawing was just really overwhelming.”

Some people tried to talk her out of making a book about death.

“They would say, ‘Maybe you want to make something that’s not so depressing,’” Bri said. “But I needed to work through my grief in a tangible way, in a creative way, and in a way that I could share the outcome with others, and it really did start as my own healing process.”

Bri describes herself as a ‘plant dweeb,’ and so some of the coloring book’s pages include the role that plants play in the death cycle.

“There’s a lot about grief and loss and what someone can feel,” she said. “A large section pays homage to people who have lost their lives in order to protect life around them.”

The intricate drawings include a skull with a spiral of vertebrae that look like roots.

“To me, the look of the book goes off of the adult coloring book trend and takes it to another level,” said Suzanne Kopko, manager of The Art Shop at Moore, where the first edition of Everything Dies! has sold out. “You’re learning something while coloring.”

The second edition includes more text about the sensations of grief, sections have been rearranged to create a nuanced emotional arc, and the ending has been changed.

What surprised Bri after publishing the first edition is how many people wanted her to continue to speak at events about the coloring book.

“Death does touch us all, and I think there is something beautiful about sharing a story with a group of people,” she said.

“Since the first edition came out, I’ve had lots of people offer their testimony as to how they used the book in their grieving times, and how they’ve used it to have difficult conversations with loved ones about mortality,” she said. “It’s been a really humbling experience and has made me realize that I do need to keep this book alive – no pun intended – and that I do need to keep sharing it with people.”