Graphic designer takes kids on a fairytale adventure

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Liseanne Martin-Subero reads to her daughter Zoe from her children's book Zoe the Fairy's Discoveries.  - PHOTOGRAPH BY AYANNA KINSALE
Liseanne Martin-Subero reads to her daughter Zoe from her children’s book Zoe the Fairy’s Discoveries. – PHOTOGRAPH BY AYANNA KINSALE

Zoe the fairy takes kids on an adventure to popular places in TT. Who is Zoe? She’s a Trinidadian fairy, and her creator Liseanne Martin-Subero told WMN that the idea of ​​writing a children’s book was inspired by her three-year-old daughter Zoe.

She said her intention was to write something exclusively for Zoe, but it grew into something she wanted to share with other kids.

“I wanted the book to be local and not something that already existed. I wanted the fairy to connect with the age group, so the character is a little girl who likes adventures and learning new things,” said Martin-Subero.

The book, Zoe the Fairy’s Discoveries: A Trip to Maracas Beach, is the first of many others that Martin-Subero plans to release for children up to seven years old, highlighting different places and adventures in the country and highlighting the five senses are explored – sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.

“I tried to expose children to their five senses. Throughout the book, Zoe would use her senses to have a full experience.”

Martin-Subero said the book focuses on local aspects of TT and hopes it will encourage children to read and parents to read to their children.

A Visit To Maracas Beach is colorful with drawings highlighting different aspects of the beach, such as the sun, sand and sea, totes and sharks and a drink of coconut water – things most people look forward to at the beach. While the covid19 restrictions have eliminated visits to many places, Martin-Subero said the book is interactive and can help kids use their imaginations and bring the adventure to life.

Graphic designer Liseanne Martin-Subero turned to Amazon to publish her children’s book Zoe the fairy’s Discoveries: A trip to Maracas Beach. – PHOTOGRAPH BY AYANNA KINSALE

Martin-Subero, 30, began her career in graphic design 12 years ago after receiving her associate degree in graphic design from TT’s College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts. She told WMN that there were a number of challenges in her career, the most important being the viability and opportunities for artists in TT.

Martin-Subero grew up in Cocoyea, San Fernando with her parents and four older brothers, all of whom were very artistic, but making a career in the arts was something her father worried about.

“My mother was a teacher and also taught art. Growing up, we drew a lot, and we appreciated a lot of artistic content at home. With all that in mind, I took art as one of my subjects for the CXC exams.

“My father was concerned about the job opportunities in TT for artists. He didn’t expect me to make real money from art or anything related to art. I was trying to find different ways to get creative and graphics really appealed to me.”

While graduating, she started working at the San Fernando City Corporation, as a graphic artist, and after seeing her work there, her friends and family encouraged her to start her own business.

“I was 19 years old when I started my company, Phixate Studios, which ran my house. I got a lot of referrals and the company grew into what it is today.

“I eventually moved and rented an office space in Cocoyea, but then I outgrew the space and had to move to another one in Padmore Street, San Fernando. Due to covid19 we closed that space and now the company operates from my home.

Three-year-old Zoe Subero reads the children’s book Zoe the fairy’s Discoveries written by her mother Liseanne – PHOTOGRAPH BY AYANNA KINSALE

Martin-Subero said it was a shame that Phixate had to downsize and that its staff had to be laid off.

“I had to let most of my staff go, the first year was really hard because we didn’t get a lot of work to keep the business running. The initial shock also forced us to limit our interactions and let people come to the office.

“The business was able to reopen some time later, but it was just design work and none of our other services, such as printing, were done because all our suppliers were closed as well. The design work also collapsed.”

She said she and her team were working on new packages and pricing options, but things remained sluggish to this day. Being at home during the lockdown periods, she said, was difficult as she could not generate an income and became depressed.

She said it was during this time that she was forced to face and work through the underlying grief and trauma that she had been hiding by working constantly.

“A few years ago I lost a brother and then my mother. Being constantly in business, I mentally blocked out all the pain and really had to deal with it. When everything slowed down, it hit me all at once. I didn’t want to do work; I was not motivated and I was sad.

“Seeing myself walking down this path made me pull myself out of a dark place because I had to work to help support my family. I decided to take some time off and recuperate and find myself again.”

Martin-Subero said the free time was a fruitful process and a blessing because she was with her daughter more than usual, where she found inspiration to write the book.

She remembered how her mother had created individualized books for her and her brothers via an online platform and thought she would do the same for Zoe.

“I read to my daughter a lot and she loved it. She also asked me to draw her. We enjoyed spending that time together and I just remembered the time my mother had with us.

“I started looking for ways to create something to generate income because it was so slow and then I thought I could write a children’s book.

“Zoe likes adventures and I thought this might be the idea behind the book. We love fantasies and fairies and Disney, but I wanted to do something that was local and unique. I wanted the readers to experience something they know with people like them. So I created a fairy named after my daughter and a visit to Maracas beach was born.”

Martin-Subero said that after writing the book and scribbling the artwork, the process stalled for about four months because she didn’t have the right tools to create the graphics.

She said there was a clear concept of how she wanted the graphics and illustrations, but the graphics tools she owned couldn’t do what she wanted.

On her birthday in April, she said her husband, Christopher, a mechanic, surprised her with the graphic tools for the book.

“He worked really hard to get me the procreate software and the iPad Air for me to achieve this dream. I was really excited about it and was finally able to get the look I wanted. I had the images in my head and knew exactly what I wanted it to look like.

Liseanne Martin-Subero used the time during the covid19 lockdowns to process her grief at the death of her mother and brother. – PHOTOGRAPH BY AYANNA KINSALE

“It was a challenge because I had to learn how to use the software myself. This took a few months as it had to fit between work and my responsibilities as a mother and wife. It felt like going back to school.”

The next step was to publish the book she said she knew nothing about and finding the right information was a challenge.

Locally, she said many of the publishers didn’t offer what she was looking for and had to resort to publishing on Amazon.

“I designed books, but never published them. I didn’t know what to look for or how to go through the process. I want to make a series of books and really hoped it would be a completely local production. So I hope I can get a local publication for the others.

“Hopefully the second book will be released next year. I want to capture the essence of our First People and learn more about their culture and traditions.”

She said it was too early to determine the sale, but the response was positive, encouraging her to continue.

“I need to push more marketing. So far about 30 copies have been sold and hopefully more will come.”

Zoe the Fairy’s Discoveries can be ordered from Phixate’s Instagram page @getphixated or from Amazon.


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