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VEME Studios releases ‘Painting Vintage,’ the coolest coloring book you’ve ever seen

VEME Studios releases ‘Painting Vintage,’ the coolest coloring book you’ve ever seen

Melissa Gabrielsen (left) and Verona Peñalba with their new coloring book, “Painting Vintage.” (Photo credit: Lee Meyer)

With their workshops and art bar that encourage thinking outside the box, it’s perhaps no secret that VEME Studios owners Verona Peñalba and Melissa Gabrielsen’s latest project involves coloring way outside the lines. In fact, you don’t have to color anywhere near a line.

The newest offering at VEME Studios (214 Front St., Greenport), Painting Vintage, is one of the most unique coloring books you’ll ever find. It’s filled from front to back with gorgeous old black-and-white photo prints meant to be colored on. It’s a daring concept, considering the photos themselves are works of art, but one that comes from Peñalba’s own experiences.

Painting on photography started as a necessity for Peñalba when she lived in Miami and created art as a hobby.

“I would paint after work,” Peñalba recalls. “I would paint on my time off and it was such a small apartment that if I had paint left over, I’d need to throw it away or use it.” Peñalba started painting on photos in a GUESS catalog and loved it.

“I would go to sales and people would sell a whole box of old photos,” Peñalba says. “I started collecting them and painting on the photos, and then I was like, ‘I can’t keep painting on the photos because they’re so precious!’”

To preserve the original photos, Peñalba began printing them on various different forms of media, including paper and canvas, which she would then paint. Along the way, she shared the process at VEME Studios and at the Children’s Museum of the East End in Bridgehampton, and eventually she and Gabrielsen decided to print a book of photos for anyone to unleash their colorful creativity. 

“Coloring books are [made of] lines,” she says. “Imagine getting rid of the lines and you have the picture so you don’t have to color inside the lines. It’s a different approach.”

All of the photos were salvaged from sales around the North Fork, with the exception of a very cool photo of Peñalba’s mother in her home country of Nicaragua. Several photos are from one album that Peñalba and Gabrielsen found filled with snapshots that depict a woman’s entire life.

“It’s kind of sad because no one wanted it,” Gabrielsen says. “We’re breathing new life into them.”

And while every copy of the book has the same photos, no two copies are quite the same. The cover of each copy of the book, a striking photograph of a woman with a vintage camera, has been embellished by Gabrielsen and Peñalba using paint markers. The pages of the Painting Vintage are also perforated so they can be torn out.

(Photo credit: Lee Meyer)

The most important thing, for Peñalba, is that the book encourages creativity. 

“Color outside the lines,” she says. “And be free.”

Painting Vintage, which can be found exclusively at VEME Studios, is $26. VEME will host a launch party for the book on May 24 from 6–8 p.m., with Matchbook Distilling on-hand with craft spirits to celebrate.