Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Grandpa Cacao

More and more, over the past twelve years or so, I've wondered to myself every time I take a bite of a piece of chocolate: "What if the chocolate in this bar came from my own grandfather's cacao plantation?" I first had this thought during my sophomore year at RISD in one of my illustration class assignments. I interviewed my dad about his childhood in the Ivory Coast, and created an artist's book based on his memories. The page that stuck with me the most in my artist's book was the illustration of my father walking through a cacao tree plantation with his mother and brother.

My father shared more and more memories with me about his father's cacao and coffee plantation in the Ivory Coast. I became more and more obsessed with chocolate and cacao beans and the cacao fruit and the cacao-harvesting process, that cacao or chocolate became the centerpiece of many of my projects during my junior and senior years and RISD. (Sorry, professors!)

I lived in the Ivory Coast until I was twelve years old, but never visited the plantation (which my father had taken over) and never saw a cacao tree in real life. My family and I ate (and still eat) plenty of chocolate though! I never had a stronger desire to walk through a lush field of cacao trees and pluck a ripe, red cacao pod from a branch, until now that I've lived in the United States for almost twenty years! Mind you, the Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cacao and coffee, so it's in my blood!

We consume so much chocolate here, but I'm not sure that children know where chocolate actually comes from... so I decided the subject of chocolate would be a great picture book! The first version of my chocolate picture book was my senior year illustration project at RISD, and I'm very happy to say, ten years and many changes later, with the push from my fabulous agent Lori Nowicki at Painted Words, and the faith of editor Mary Kate Castellani, that my little chocolate story will be published by Bloomsbury Books!!!! Wohooo!!!!!!!! 
I'm an Author/Illustrator!!!!! 

I'm calling it Grandpa Cacao, and it is set to be released in May 2019!

...Grandpa Cacao will be illustrated with paint, collage and silk-screen...

I am very very grateful and proud to have illustrated nine books in the past eight years or so, all written by a very talented, generous and diverse group of children's book authors. I look forward to continuing to bring to life others' stories, as well as embarking on the journey of bringing to life my own. My Grandpa Cacao, who passed on way before I was born, and whom I've imagined, whom I respect and hope to be like one day, is my first story.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Tuesday Tablescape... Words "en Francais"

This week, I finally broke in my newest sketchbook.

When I visited France in July, I realized that I had forgotten some French... actually a bunch of French words and expressions. I decided to illustrate them in my sketchbook!
So here's a little French lesson (and forgive me for omitting the accents in my typed versions, I can't figure them out in this blog format):

"pasteque" = "watermelon"
- Found in summer salads, ice cream flavors, and of course, at the markets.

"menthe a l'eau" = "mint (syrup) with water"
- A popular drink that I forgot I loved! It's literally mint flavored syrup, mixed with water. The perfect treat on a blazing hot day in the south of France! I ordered it at every chance I got.

"fard a paupieres" = "eyeshadow"
- It was too hot to wear eyeshadow... would've melted off. I brought home some nice soaps, though! Which I've already used up :)

"ras-le-bol!" = "up to here!"
- Literally "up to the edge of the bowl" - like, my bowl is filled up, I've had enough! Very expressive. I love when emotions are verbally expressed with imagery. I guess that's just the Visual Learner in me.

"pecheur" = "fisherman" but also "sinner"!
- I wonder what's up with that one... does it have Biblical origins? How can fishing be the equivalent of sinning?

Shout out to the nice lady at Dubois art supply store in Paris for giving me two of the lovely purple markers I used in this illustration for free! I always love buying random art supplies in new places.