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The colors of Haiti

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In Auntie Luce, the car ride between a young girl and her aunt through the streets of  Port-au-Prince presented an interesting dilemma: how to capture all the sights, sounds, and smells flying past Ti Chou's open window in pictures?

In this Q & A, artist and illustrator Ken Daley breaks down his vision for the book's sweeping street scene of Haiti's capital, and how he brought it to life.

Q: You work in several different media. How did you decide which medium to use for Auntie Luce?

 

A: I primarily work in acrylics, and I thought it was the best choice for the scope of this project. Since most of the scenes are in the Caribbean, I wanted to use high chroma colors and it's easier to do that with acrylic than any other media. I like the immediacy without having to wait a long time for it to dry ,which helps with efficiency and getting the scenes painted under a tight deadline.

Q: How did you have the idea to illustrate the ride through Port-au-Prince with one large street view? Did you have to try other ideas before landing on this one?

 

A. The story line right here describes the sights and sounds of the city, and I immediately thought about my experiences driving through the capital city of Dominica, my parents' homeland. I saw the architecture of the old cities with wooden gingerbread houses and overlooking balconies, the churches that date back to colonial times, juxtaposed with modern concrete buildings, people rushing to work, buses jam-packed with passengers, women and men heading to market with baskets of fresh limes and oranges balanced on their head, the smell of fried fish, burning charcoal from small shops seeping into the air. All of those recollections came to mind.

The panoramic visual was so strong in my head that I decided that would be my springboard to create the scene to illustrate the text, but in a context that is specific to Haiti. I didn't have to try any other ideas - I knew that was the one. 


 Q: What about the process of going from sketch to color? Was it challenging to balance the use of so many vivid colors in an image with so many different elements?

 

A. No it wasn't really challenging. I guess it's an innate thing that comes from my Afro-Caribbean background. I love color and I enjoyed illustrating this scene as it gave me the chance to paint in the vivid color palette that the Caribbean is known for. 


Q: The National Cathedral in Port-au-Prince (the "pink cathedral" in Auntie Luce) is a national monument  with incredible significance for Haitians. It was destroyed by the earthquake that devastated in 2010. Tell us how you came to place the cathedral where you did.

A. I researched the cathedral to get a sense of how it looks and what the color of the building looks like. From the pictures I found, the cathedral is more white and punctuated with faded pink accents. So I decided to paint it a washed-out grayish pink hue to give it the illusion of being far in the distance. Because it's such an iconic landmark, I decided to center it in the scene to signify the importance of this national landmark to Haitians.