Children typically throw themselves at the colouring book – I’m not exaggerating, it’s surprised and delighted me each time. In the case of Luana, age 4, nobody had colouring pens to hand when she received hers… but luckily my partner had a pencil and with this she started happily colouring the merry-go-round picture grey.
Another nice thing is that most kids can find “themselves” in one of the drawings. Buying sweet buns, riding a dolphin, chasing a pigeon, on dad’s shoulders, wearing a silly animal hat or teasing their brother – just look carefully and you’re in there.
Check this out, grown people from the ages of 22 to 72 having a whale of a time colouring in Sancris street scenes! Accompanied by tea, mezcal, campari, espresso, chocolate and fruit panna cotta, but most importantly by good people!
This double-spread image for my colouring book shows a typical street. I had in mind Almolonga here in Sancris, with its verdurerías (greengrocers), carnicerías (butchers) and abarrotes (corner shops). I also wanted to draw someone who pulled up next to me at a red light once: a young mum with her two kids, all on one Italika vespa, all wearing their favourite helmets. It’s typical here to see whole families on vespas but normally the driver is a man and nobody has helmets on.
And the third element is the fruit salad guy with his portable stall (a tooled-up wheelbarrow). You see these guys on street corners selling varieties of fruit in a cup. The jicaletas in the picture are slices of jícama on a stick, with a lick of jam or chili. You see juice guys, the orange-juice people with a nifty little orange-lathe for peeling. The mango seller uses a useful no-hands innovation for mango peeling: you stick a sharpened screwdriver into the base of the fruit and peel.
Just because I’m publishing a colouring book doesn’t mean that it doesn’t come with references!
I’ve found in-depth background for my drawings in these excellent books. (You can find many of them at the bookshop La Cosecha.)
Aubry, Andrés: San Cristóbal de las Casas. Su historia urbana, demográfica y monumental 1528-1990.
Segunda edición, Colectivo Bats’il K’op, San Cristóbal de las Casas 2017.
This is a masterpiece about Sancris, covering the city’s history through its architecture, using poetic language and solid sources. Although it doesn’t try to entertain it often does, with anecdotes like the fine ladies’ church strike when the Bishop tried to stop them drinking hot chocolate during Mass. I used it for points about the orientation of the town, San Nicolás being the church of the black residents, the eggs in the stucco of the Cathedral, and la Merced (including the detail about the disturbing-sounding institution for detaining “obstreperous women” that was run on the square in the 1700s.) A lot of the decisions taken here at the city’s initial founding are still relevant today, such as the orgins and crafts of the different barrios. Since Sancris is an old, colonial city (only the second founded by the Spaniards in the Americas) we tend to look around the pretty centre and think that this is what it’s always looked like. But Aubry writes about things like the shifts in colour from the mudejar (Moorish) to the Neoclassical styles, reminding us that nothing is immutable.
Morris, Walter F; Martínez, Alfredo; Schwartz, Janet & Karasik, Carol: Guía Textil de los Altos de Chiapas, A Textile Guide to the Highlands of Chiapas.
Segunda edición, CONACULTA y Na Bolom, Ciudad de México y San Cristóbal de las Casas 2014.
This photo-packed book charts the different local indigenous weaving styles with a tongue-in-cheek commentary that comes from real earned insider knowledge. I especially enjoyed the tidbit about the cardigan being introduced to Chamula by evangelican fanatics trying to bribe their way into peoples’ faiths. I used the book for the information about the embroidery from Zinacantán. Morris et al tell us that the striking Zinacanteco flower embroidery was inspired by Guatemalan refugees who came through in the 1970s. Again, you look at something that looks traditional and assume it’s always been that way…
The flower designs on the Zinacantan family’s clothes in the colouring book are my own improvisations.
Guess, Virginia Ann: Spirit of Chiapas: the Expressive Art of the Roof Cross Tradition.
Museum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe, 2004.
I came across this scholarly book in Oaxaca and bought it for big money. Guess does a great job of cataloguing San Cris’ roof crosses and talking to their owners and blacksmiths about them, but she doesn’t actually manage to get to the root of where they came from and what they mean.
Montaña Barbano, María M., Huicochea Gómez, Laura, & Mejía Lozada, Diana (2015). Being “coleto”: plants inside the houses of “El Cerrillo”, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico.
Culturales, 3(2), 181-207. Instituto de Investigaciones Culturales-Museo, Mexicali
Here’s an article about Coleta women talking about their houseplants. Coletos is a name for the locals, but it’s fraught with meaning: it refers to the dominant class who’ve lived in San Cristóbal for centuries and claim Spanish ancestry. When the Zapatista rebellion took San Cristóbal in 1994, three civil society movements arose in response: two in favour, and the grouping los Auténticos Coletos, against. Our other neighbours are known as Sancristobalenses, meaning locals who don’t consider themselves coletos, and foraneos, or “outsiders” like me who come from other parts of Mexico and the world. The article about the plants also gives insights into how traditional houses are organised, with their central patio for decorative flowers and their backyard “sitio” for urban farming – and how the subdivision of houses as families grow makes this trickier.
I haven’t read these other books yet but they are very intriguing. Zapantera Negra contains stories by Black Panthers who have visited the Zapatistas in solidarity – the urban-rural clash came out very vividly in one of the testimonies I read, with the aged Black Panther being expected to ford streams and balance on narrow mountain paths. ¿Dónde Están? or Where Are They? is about Afromexicans. You can buy the PDF print-at-home version of the whole colouring book on my Gumroad page.
Here in San Cristóbal de las Casas, 2200 m above sea level, when it gets cold it gets cold. The locals seize the opportunity to sell shawls, hoodies and knitted hats to the unwary tourists who left home in the sunny afternoon without enough layers… well, knitted goods and these synthetic, imported animal hats. You sometimes see whole families where everyone’s bought a different hat. Very sweet! I wanted to include this in my Sancris colouring book and now you can also decide which colour the sheep, canary and snake hats will be.
These felt souvenirs, made in neighbouring Chamula, are a ubiquitous sight here in San Cristóbal de las Casas. I find them very cute and endearing, even though they aren’t exactly cuddly. I prefer the ones made from rough woollen felt rather than the bright synthetic felt you see more and more. The animals sometimes have bright red rings around their eyes, giving them a hungover or even deranged look. As part of the great Sancris colour anarchy, you can colour these in any (and I mean ANY) combinations you like, each panel a different hue, and remain totally true to the original style. I wanted to include these animals in my Sancris colouring book – I originally got the idea of the colouring book when I started notcing the subtle differences in the Sancris felt giraffes, and thought that it would be fun to be able to colour them to my liking.
I have a soft spot for La Merced plaza in San Cristóbal: you often see people being free and active there, doing sports and smooching their boyfriends, like in European parks. We in the capoeira group CECA used to train* on the outdoor stage at La Merced, watching the clouds lit up by the setting sun while stretching. In the photos we are practicing a sequence with Treinel Cavera (in the rasta-striped knit hat). The capoeira, breakdancing and dog-walking is what I had in mind when I drew the image of la Merced for my Sancris colouring book.
This is a very exciting project for me – something I’ve been chipping away at for several years – an expression of the visual marvels of my adopted home town, San Cristóbal de las Casas in Mexico. “Sancris” as it’s known has an abundance of picturesque detail just in its streets and squares: multicoloured colonial-style houses, indigenous inhabitants in embroidered dress, dignified ladies in shawls, skilful graffiti, hippies with spectacular clothes and tattoos, imposing churches, two gangs of breakdancers… The more I look the more I want to draw it. This colouring-in book is a way to share the joy over the Sancris street visuals.
My nearest and dearest get to enjoy illustrated presents. If they’re to your liking, I’d be delighted to customise similar things for you too!
1. Mother’s Day paper doll
My siblings and I collaborated on a paper doll of mum, with outfits that she likes in real life… or imaginary ones. This was fun since all of us contributed, siblings, inlaws and nieces. Even though we live in different places, we delivered the PDF files to be printed at home by dad on stiff paper… and my sister-in-law glued the doll to a strong magnet so mum and her outfits can be displayed on the fridge door, as befits kids’ art. This could be taken further by printing everything on a thin magnetic sheet, making it easier to change outfits.
Doubles as a Mother’s Day card…
Streetwear, some to be coloured according to the model’s tastes
Pride of place
2. Ex Libris stamp
My husband owns many books and he asked for an Ex Libris stamp for his birthday. I made him some sketches and we developed the design together, even though it meant that I lost the element of surprise. The element of satisfaction is more important! I had the stamp made at one of San Cristóbal’s several rubber stamp shops.
The Ex Libris stamp
The birthday card to go with it.
Ex libris design with Mexican plants
The card to go with the rubber stamp.
3. Personalising an online gift
In order to get that element of surprise, I gave my husband another present: an upgrade to Spotify Premium to stop the regular comments by Spotify’s friendly-enough-sounding, yet enervating, adverts guy. To make it a bit more personal than just a pop-up in the app saying “You now have Premium!”, I made him an accompanying card:
Spotify Premium card.
4. Personalised colouring-in pages
Favourites with small girls: colouring-in pages featuring themselves in magical or adventurous situations. I’ve made these for nieces and god-daughters to good effect, and they can be revealed at birthday parties for example, letting everyone colour in the birthday girl/boy…
Sketch of the day: a woman about to start selling deep-fried snacks. She was carrying her stock, hot sauce bottle, trestle and toddler while having a phone conversation. This was in San Cristóbal’s central plaza.
For the past three years I’ve been chipping away at a little project of mine: a colouring book featuring street scenes from San Cristóbal de las Casas in Mexico, the picturesque town I live in. There’s so much detail and colour going on that it’s hard to take much in while we stroll around… apple blossoms peeking over a wall; a house painted in turquoise and peach; Chamula women’s blouse embroidery fashions; a courtyard from the 1500s; a garage opened to sell multicoloured pastries; the breakdance crew at La Merced; street dogs rolled up to sleep; the spectacular piercings of an Argentinian hippie.
With this colouring book, I want to give us fans of Sancris a chance to sit down and contemplate it, one scene at a time. And here we can finally paint a house in magenta and purple.
It’s great to be able to liven up books with illustrations. I’ve illustrated books for NGOs, a Church organisation, and academia.
1. Sustainable coasts maps
For the book “Seas of Hope“, ocean researcher Dr Andrea Saenz-Arroyo asked me to draw old-style ink maps showing the places mentioned in the text, and an iconic drawing.
I did these with Victorian-era tools, that is, nib and ink. Andrea gave me photos and ideas of what she wanted; then I presented her with the drawings. Then she selected which ones she wanted on her maps. The other drawings can be sprinkled in the text to lighten up the pages.
2. Abstract concepts for an NGO
Monitoring and evaluation, or M&E, is a simple concept (working out whether you’re going according to plan, and whether your work is having an effect) that tends to become more complicated the more we try to simplify it. I spiced up INTRAC’s book “Rethinking Monitoring and Evaluation” with some irreverent illustrations in nib and ink. In this case it helped that I was also editing the book – familiarity with the messages makes it easier to come up with striking illustrations.
3. Colouring-in pictures for an activity book
The youth section of the Finnish Evangelic-Lutheran Church, Nuorten Keskus, commissioned an activity book to introduce young people to some of the less “famous” Bible stories. They chose ten verses that are relevant to everyday life, to make us think more deeply about forgiveness, exclusion, loss, identity… The activities include games, podcasts, meditation texts and colouring-in images by Development Cartoons. The idea is that the participants could colour during the listening parts of the programmes.
For me some of the images were straightforward to draw – Genesis with its animals, for example – but others like the Good Samaritan or Psalm 139 (about how God knows us) were trickier. My brief was to give a present-day interpretation to some of the drawings, so some feature bronze-age life and others, hoodies and smartphones.
Another enjoyable commission: painting some pictures for the 2020 calendar of the Building Learning Foundations education project in Rwanda. The project is a large operation, running communites of practice and self-study modules for teachers; printing books and ordering mathematics learning aids, and much more, all with the aim of improving the skills of 2.6 million schoolkids in English and mathematics!
…both marble and plaster busts, of course. The Royal Academy of Arts has a nice feature – a room where they’ve busted out (ha) (sorry) their old …busts, and made them into a pleasure/education feature by adding benches and free paper and pencils. You can sketch the busts and practice drawing. Or if you’re me, you sketch a few busts, and a few sketchers.
The mauve Uni-Ball is a very unforgiving pen for sketching, especially moving tragets like the bearded art lover. But the HB pencils provided by the museum were even less satisfying when I used them for the readers on the bench.
These guys stood still for their portraits… very still.
A small and delightful project: drawings for the office swap meet (which I’m also organising). My dayjob office is by far the most diverse place I’ve worked, but there are still subcategories of colleague. So I wanted to draw people who’d look like real colleagues… but not exactly like any one colleague. I think one or two (or three) did end up being very close to real individuals. I’ll see if they spot themselves!
I’m part of the excellent participatory action research project “Diversification strategies in smallholder coffee systems of Mesoamerica” where we find out what Mexican and Nicaraguan coffee farmers live off – aside from coffee. 2018 was a bad year for coffee farmers: the price of a pound of coffee fell below one dollar in August. Considering climate change, volatile prices, competition and rigging of the coffee market by Wall Street, coffee farmers do need other income sources too – and this project is about finding out which ones make the most sense for them. Between four universities, two coffee cooperatives, and my NGO the Community Agroecology Network, we’re asking coffee farmers about their vegetables, apiaries, fruit trees and milpas; what they sell, buy and exchange; during which months they’re short on money and what greens they eat then… It’s fascinating and I’ve certainly developed lots of respect for my coffee grower colleagues who marshal small armies of coffee pickers during the harvest, getting organic, top-quality coffee to the roastery and their clients overseas.
As a welcome bonus my team asked me to design a logo, that could also be printed on the project t-shirts. They gave me a draft:
I made a new version:
I presented the sketch to my colleagues and took comments:
The next version, a vector drawing done in Inkscape, was like this… among other things, I’d forgotten to add an arm representing the milpa:
And after changing the colour of the chicken and, by popular demand hand-lettering the text, we have this:
More croquis from the EZLN International Festival for Women who Fight! (Although the verb luchar in Spanish in this case means “struggle” as in “the ideological struggle” , rather than actually fighting. It also means wrestling, as in lucha libre. Fun with etymology.)
I drew these women during a really confused lecture on “Dismantling The Man into Things”. Hence the sceptical faces.
More sketches from the women´s encounter in March.
I drew these during talks on masculinity in childhood (halfway through which two boys in the audience started shooting us with imaginary pistols) and on social organization as love. There was a whooooole range of talks, some weirder than the rest…
These croquis are of varying quality depending on how still the “model” was and how much time I had to draw her. I chose faces that interest me.
7000 women make a noise like a low-frequency beehive. Every morning when we crawled out of our tents in the freezing, clear air, the hum was already going and it kept getting stronger as more people woke up and started looking for breakfast. The festival was organized by the Zapatista movement and hosted by Caracol 4 in Morelia. Nobody knew quite what to expect. I arrived with a contingent from Ama-Awa, the women agroecologists, carrying tents, food and water for three days. We were pleasantly surprised to find abundant flushing toilets, food outlets (although the queues did stretch out), showers and drinking water taps… all without the presence of a single man. And no alcohol either. My friend’s ten-year-old daughter could attend any session she liked without her mum having to worry. And there was plenty to choose from, ranging from lectures on land rights, Indigenous lesbianism, masculinity in childhood to art, dance and theatre and workshops for making reusable menstrual pads. And a Colombian batucada.
I sketched participants during the lectures, amazed at the sheer range of women there… tall, short, skinny, round, old, young, lawyers, hippies, gorgeous, ugly, of all colours, made-up and rolled-out-of-bed. Here are some of them.
History of the festival: http://luchadoras.mx/mujeres-zapatistas/
This was just one of the hardcore women who brought their babies to the event and stood with them in the hot sun for hours during the first day’s plays. Wearing layers of heavy clothing and knitted black balaclavas.
Would you buy a multi-coloured felt cow with goggly orange-rimmed eyes? Of course! They are endearing! These marvels of creativity are sold by scores of handicraft sellers in San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico, and once you start looking, you start noticing how amazing they are. The quality of the felt, the sense of colour combination, the finishing, the creativity… Felt bulls and chickens are classics, and the current fashion is for felt unicorns and Tyrannosaurus Rexes.
Sketches from Calle Pedregal around the corner from the embassy. People glimpsed on the street or in the juice bar, me trying to pay attention to the detail in glimpses, without staring, drawing without them noticing…
Smoking ladies on a tiled bench outside a sex shop.
I drew the cover illustration for Hanna Laako’s book about midwives, “Mujeres situadas, la partería autónoma en México”. It’s published as an Amazon e-book through the research institue ECOSUR’s publishing wing.
Hanna wanted a strong, dark pencil drawing in this style showing a midwife without succumbing to stereotypes: not a superstitious hippie, not a grimy backwoods witch, not a snooty middle-class yuppie… but her toolkit could include “Bach flowers” drops in addition to the stethoscope and books. Hanna specified the down-to-earth clothes with a touch of traditional finery, and we settled on a generic Latin woman as the midwife. To liven up the map of Latin America I added vignettes of midwifery demonstrations and humanized childbirth. Hope you all enjoy the book!
The week-long carnival in Tenejapa in the Chiapas highlands includes several colorful elements, such as this “chasing of the cow”. The men dress in red ceremonial finery and, among other things, chase a woven-mat “cow” around the town plaza. (Later there’s “chasing the bull” at another plaza, looking exactly the same as “chasing the cow”, but at that event cameras aren’t welcome… so I figured sketchpads aren’t either). It’s a day full of symbolism and prehispanic references and local pride – also lost of whooping at jokes. It’s very contagious and after we left we spent the rest of the day going “i-e-e-e!!”
Special costume including a stuffed ocelot.
Even though he was standing still it was hard to get all the textile detailes!
Nuorille suunnattu kirja “Jumalan Niskalenkissä“, johon tein värityskuvat, on julkaistu! Lasten Keskuksen ja Kirjapajan 85-sivuinen kirja on toimintapaketti seurakunnille, jossa käsitellään Raamatun “vähemmän tunnettuja” tarinoita pelien, meditaatioiden, keskustelujen, kuunnelmien – ja värityskuvien – kautta.
Tarinat tuodaan ajankohtaiseen nuorten elämään. Verenvuototautinen nainen oli aikanaan syrjitty – kuten koulukiusatut. Antaako oma vanhempi minulle anteeksi – kuten tuhlaajapojalle? Mikä saisi nuoren naisen lähtemään anoppinsa matkaan ja jättämään kaiken tuntemansa – kuten Ruut, ja meidän aikojemme pakolaiset?
Kirjassa on myös mielenkiintoista taustatietoa Raamatun teksteistä toiminnan vetäjille. Nautin sekä värityskuvien keksimisestä ja piirtämisestä että muuhun materiaaliin tutustumisesta. Kannattaa investoida €35!
Some sketches from the art festival CompArte at the zapatista centre Caracol Oventic. The festival took place for a week at the campus of CIDECI with concerts, changing art shows, workshops, documentaries and theatre; and at the weekend there were performances at Oventic too.
EZLN soldiers holding the crowd barrier
An intrigueing experience for sure. This time I had a bit more time for sketches as most people stayed put watching the performances of theatre, dance, poetry and music.
A “bailable” dance
The girl band – like all the zapatistas, wearing Indigenous traditional dress and balaclavas – were a riot of energy and power.
Zapatista girl band singer
Zapatista girl band bassist
As always, people couldn’t resist filming instead of watching. Or, in my case, drawing.
Bullying, refugees, forgiveness, outsidership and support, the wonder of being alive – the Finnish Evangelican Lutheran church is evoking these important current issues and linking them to stories from the Bible in a publication aimed at engaging young people. They’re publishing an activity pack re/introducing young people to Bible stories such as the good Samaritan, the creation, the resurrection, Ruth and Noomi, the prodigal son – and in the mix of games, meditation texts and music they’ve included colouring-in pictures by Development Cartoons.
My brief was challenging: drawing colouring-in pictures of Biblical stories that teenage boys would also want to colour. Boys!!! The book hasn’t been published yet so I don’t know whether I succeeded in that… Another, self-imposed, constraint was freshness. These stores have been depicted for centuries, from Ethiopian rock churches to kids’ books, so how could I draw Zacchaeus in something that wasn’t a tree, Jacob and the angel in something that wasn’t a greco-roman wrestle step and the road to Emmaus without it just being three dudes on the road?
Luckily the book team had prepared the ground and drawn parallels: the woman with haemophilia compared to sufferng from ostracism and bullying. Zacchaeus the rent collector as an outsider facing racism, and as a sinner who changes his ways. Ruth and Noomi compared to refugees leaving everything behind. For the Creation I was told “go ahead and put some dinosaurs!”.
The niche of Development Cartoons is illustrations for development, and I’m happy to include the Evangelical Lutheran church as a client. The EVL is, in my experience, a progressive force for good. It’s a solid institution, the state religion, and although it includes the word “evangelical” it has little in common with these fly-by-night churches that are such a foolproof business model, charging 10% tithes and exorcising demons… the EVL is very straight-laced and has been Lutheran since the time of Luther, the mid-1500s. The churchy people I know are as a rule kind, tolerant, supportive people who take “loving your neighbour” seriously (and have an excellent sense of humour). Its development arm, FinnChurchAid, is also a well-functioning NGO. So yes, I was proud to have this commission!
I used a mix of contemporary and iron-age settings and included a varying amount of details. There’s a fine line (ha) between putting enough detail to keep it interesting, and so much that it’s impossible to finish a picture. These are drawn for kids with about 30-45 minutes of time and pretty sharp coloured pencils.
These maps for a friend’s book draft came with the extra bonus that I got to read a few draft chapters about how Californians can enjoy their beaches now thanks to a peoples’ movement in the 70s, how Icelanders are managing their cod quotas and how Galician women are managing their estuaries to keep the shellfish coming.It’s been a real pleasure and a privilege. It was a pretty excting and positive read. Fingers crossed that it finds a publisher!
Meanwhile, here are some sketch versions of the maps. They’re done in nib and ink. Just imagine the book that includes puffins, otters, coral reefs, electronic fish quota swaps, a successful protest movement, whales, divers, adapting tradition, clams and abalone. You want to read it right? Yes!!
I was waiting for someone outside a mall in eastern Turkey and started noticing the women’s fashion, specifically the clothes of the ones following an Islamic dresscode with hair and limbs covered (lots dressed in the same way as women in secular places). At a first glance they all looked like they followed the same dress code: headscarf tucked in, overcoat buttoned over dress. But it quickly became apparent that the details matter. Older, more conservative-looking women had the ends of their scarf hanging down under their chin, younger and trendier ones tucked the ends into the scarf. Some had cardigans, others that strange overcoat with a double row of buttons, some floaty long vests. Skinny jeans and ballerinas were much in evidence. Muslim dresscode – here’s yet another example of how it’s not an oppressive imposition. Here are my three-second croquis done standing up in a little notebook.
I took a pile of my colouring-in pictures to a work party recently, reasoning that not everyone would like to join the bachata class or read a poem and this could be a nice activity for the less extroverted of us. It worked a treat! The table with the pictures and box of coloured pencils quickly became a centre for chatting and colouring.
I was also surprised over how different everybody’s style was. Antonio started by colouring the whole elephant an even grey, according to me the most boring part of the picture. Lupe coloured all the shoes and was the only one who finished in the sense of covering her whole picture in colour. Giovanna added patterns and psychedelic details to the forest scene. Both she and José Luis gave the little girl in the picture a green or blue elf skin tone. I think this could be a hit at other events too.
All We Can, the Methodist NGO, hired me to do graphic recording at their partnership conference in Ethiopia. I produced a variety of pictures: recap diagrams, sketches from the ‘Marketplace’ for networking, live posters to illustrate the discussions and presentations as they happened… And a bit of nonverbal communication at the field visit!
From the organizational development session by William Ogara from CORAT: the stages of organizational development, the onion model (“you peel and you cry”) and underlying vs presenting issues.
One of the fundamenals to follow in the monitoring and evaluation of All We Can partnerships: the quality of the relationship.
The discussion about All We Can’s partnerships with churches focused on the story of the Good Samaritan and the church’s responsibility to do social work.
Partner CDVTA’s work with the elderly in Cameroon and partnership with HelpAge UK – in sketch form.
Monitoring: ‘What were we supposed to build again?’
The graphic recording of the feedback session on participants’ lessons learned and future commitments… using the methodology ‘the River’ a.k.a snowball a.k.a cascading!
ADHENO’s community workers seeing the croquis of themselves.