Doña Rosa

13 Oct

In 2015, Highlights High Five invited me to illustrate Doña Rosa, a bilingual series about a group of flamingo friends, written by Ana Galán.  

My very first Doña Rosa illustration. Doña Rosa is seen here shopping in her neighborhood for gifts for her friends. Art direction: Kelley Cunningham Lanuto.

When Doña Rosa was first assigned to me, I was a watercolorist. My illustrations were scanned watercolor paintings, modified in Photoshop.

A scene from the 4th episode of Doña Rosa, in which her brother Oscar is introduced. This early attempt at digital watercolor was created in 2016. Art direction: Kelley Cunningham Lanuto.

Seventeen Doña Rosa stories have been published—including the final episode which was released in mid-October of this year. Yes, it’s true! Doña Rosa has come to an end.

A photo of my Apple pencil in action, drawing a flamenco-dancing alligator character for a 2017 Doña Rosa story, in which the flamingos learn to dance.

My illustration technique changed a lot during Doña Rosa’s five-year run. I put away my watercolors late in 2016 and gradually learned to use digital brushes. Spoiler: I am impatient and am a slow learner. This is not an ideal mix of traits, but hopefully I get points for honesty. (o:

An illustration from the 8th episode, in which Doña Rosa’s friends throw her a surprise party. By this time I created this in 2018, I had begun mixing solid colors with transparent watercolor. Art direction: Kelley Cunningham Lanuto.

For a long time I tried to replicate the look of my watercolor paintings on my iPad, but eventually I had a “what am I clinging to” moment. From then on, I started experimenting. As I added a variety of different brushes to my quiver, my technique developed into something more solid… but I still use digital watercolor brushes from time to time.

I made this image in May, 2018, for the 10th episode of Doña Rosa. The flamingo friends have crafted holiday poems and are sending them off to loved ones. Side note, shout out to the United States Postal Service! Art direction: Yvonne Duran.
I was so busy in 2019 that I had to hire an assistant, Yuri Meister, to fill in colors for the flamingos for this episode. I painted the background with digital watercolor brushes. Art direction: Yvonne Duran.

Doña Rosa was a constant during my formative years as a digital illustrator. As would happen for any artist in a five year span, I made discoveries that affected my overall body of work. Doña Rosa grew with me, certainly, but I couldn’t stray too far from the series’s established look. This was a bit tricky to manage, but the challenge was completely worthwhile.

Created in 2019, this ice cream shop scene is one of my favorite Doña Rosa illustrations. I really like the otter character, introduced here for the first time. Art direction: Yvonne Duran.
Doña Rosa volunteers in her nephew’s classroom in the second-to-last episode, published earlier in 2020. Art direction: Yvonne Duran.

I have been blessed to illustrate three different series over the years: a monthly column for a nursing magazine way back in the early 2000s, followed by stylish “Elle Guy” and “Elle Girl” columns for Elle Canada, and most recently, Doña Rosa. I am sorry to see her go, but mostly, I’m glad that I had the opportunity to be a part of the Doña Rosa team. Drawing these flamingos, their animal friends, and their little Florida-ish world was a lot of fun.

In the final episode, Doña Rosa is feeling a bit nervous as she walk to her first class at adult school. Art direction: Yvonne Duran.


Check out Doña Rosa and tons of other cool content in old issues of Highlights High Five at AnyFlip.

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