Six Las Cruces artists are among 27 statewide chosen to create illustrations for the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs’ (NMDCA) 2022 New Mexico-themed activity book.
The artists and their letters are Katie Mena, A for Agave; Coy Lowther, M for Moon; Diego Medina, N for Nicho; Bob Diven, P for Pika; Collette Marie, Q for Quail; and Daniela Bogart, S for Scorpion.
“We are very excited about this project,” said NMDCA Public Art Program Director Meredith Doborski. “These artists come from all across the state and range in age from 12 to 66.”
Doborski said New Mexico educators and NMDCA staff “teamed up to create this year’s activity book, titled ‘A is for Artist,’ to encourage early childhood literacy through art creation and reading comprehension.”
The books will be available free of charge in libraries, museums and other sites statewide, Doborski said, and downloadable at dcaeducates.nmculture.org. (Find the 2021 activity book at https://dcaeducates.nmculture.org/dca-activity-book-tails-and-tales/.)
“We want to ensure our activity book reaches as many children across the state as possible, especially those in rural communities,” she said.
“I was thrilled to have been chosen to participate in this project and to do the very first illustration in the book for the letter A,” said Katie Mena, a tattoo artist and owner of Electric Sun Tattoo. “I worked up three sketches with different themes: agave, adobe home and agriculture. My agave sketch was chosen for the final illustration.
“My design process was very similar to my tattoo design process in that I narrowed down specific elements I would like to incorporate in the piece and pulled images for design reference,” Mena said. “I knew right away I would like to include agave plant pollinators such as a bat, bees, hummingbird, moths and butterflies to create a scene with the agave as a central focus. I then sketched the illustration to scale in red pencil on tracing paper, which is purely habitual to my tattoo design process. Next, I worked in a digital format to finalize the illustration. I enjoyed adding details such as little ant friends moving around the letter A, framed in the bottom left corner of the illustration.
“My inspiration for this piece stems from the amazing Chihuahuan Desert and the symbiotic relationships witnessed in such acts as pollination of agaves,” Mena said. “I envisioned the agave enticing in these very different pollinator types with an aromatic nectar and brightly colored flowers atop a tall stalk rising from a roseate of spiky leaves.”
“Mine was M,” said Coy Lowther, who chose the Moon for her illustration because it “moves to its own music over mountains, mesas and mesquite, revealing the many midnight moon dancers.
“This was a fun project to work on,” Lowther said. “I rambled through soooo many ‘M’ words and finally landed on the moon. I wanted to showcase my hometown of Las Cruces, New Mexico's beauty and the interesting creatures that dwell within it. I was inspired by a pack of coyotes that I live near and hear often. I enjoyed animating these rowdy creatures under the moon that we all live under, and hope people enjoy bringing them to life with color.”
“Through random selection I got ‘P,’” said Bob Diven. “I drew a pronghorn antelope, a porcupine and a pika, and the committee from NMDCA seemed to universally love the pika, so that was the finished art I gave them.
“The process was thinking about what the heck would start with ‘P’ that would be fitting for a coloring book,” Diven said. “It needed to fill the page and not be cluttered or too detailed. I didn't want to frustrate any kids with their crayons! The pika was nice because they are cute and very round, so I could fill the page with its furry form, with enough room around to show the high-mountain world they live in alone with a big fluffy cloud in the sky.
“I did the drawing at full size in pencil on Bristol paper to submit to the committee, then finished the drawing with brush and ink, scanning it into the computer for cleanup and final submission in the specified file format. It's a really cool project, and I can't wait to see all of the diversity of New Mexico artistic talent that this coloring book will show,” Diven said.
“Creating a vignette into a fictional New Mexico home interior was a fun way to explore the concept of the nicho – a devotional space built into the architecture of an adobe home to serve as a portal for spiritual practice,” said Diego Medina, an artist and writer who is a member of the Piro-Manso-Tiwa tribe and tribal historic preservation officer.
“The nicho is its own type of window, which offers its own view – a transcendent one – inviting in the presence of the divine,” Medina said. Nichos are an integral part of the practice of New Mexican mysticism, allowing room for both the seen and the unseen.”
“As an artist and former educator, I am a strong advocate of art education and early childhood literacy,” said Collette Marie, a multimedia artist who resides in the Chihuahuan Desert with her muse, Pantera the cat. “Having grown up with a learning disability that made reading comprehension difficult, my household did not encourage reading, and tools to improve literacy in school were inadequate. Art became my vehicle for self-expression when words could not. I am delighted to aid in the development of an educational tool which advocates cultural diversity. Honoring culture and preserving native languages, while supporting multilingualism is significant in facilitating the evolution of future generations.”
Marie said The letter Q illustration was inspired by her abuela, “who would make the most delicious quesadillas for her grandchildren.”
Some of her favorite mediums are digital illustration, printmaking, painting and creating public art. The majority of Marie’s digital work is created using Adobe Illustrator along with her Wacom pen tablet.
Daniela Bogart, who came to Las Cruces two and a-half years ago, is an illustrator who has created a number of adult coloring books and also has written manuscripts for six children’s books she is planning to illustrate.
Bogart works with a Sharpie, and said she her husband, painter Darien Bogart, are both “color fanatics.”
They regularly show their art at the Farmers and Crafts Market of Las Cruces.