The Storyteller


I am so excited to announce that my debut as author/illustrator, 'The Storyteller', is now out in stores! Take a look at the trailer below:

Featuring music by NYC-based Moroccan gnawa ensemble Innov Gnawa.

It's been amazing to see the great reception so far! I hope you will check it out. There will be a book launch party at Books of Wonder on Thursday, June 30 from 6-8PM, so I hope you can come down and celebrate with me! There will be book signing, original art, a window display, and light refreshments. Check out the event here:

For more information about the book, its inspiration, teaching resources, and reviews, check out the website:

The Storyteller Website

Get your copy at:
Amazon | Indiebound | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | Simon & Schuster
Or better yet, at your local independent bookstore! 

Morocco: The weaver as storyteller

I've been busily working on preparing for the release of my new book The Storyteller and have been neglecting my blog! But there are many new posts on The Storyteller website to read about the creation of the book and its art, as well as reviews, event announcements, and educational materials as the release gets closer (June 28!)

I'm so excited for everyone to finally see the book! It has been a long but rewarding process. And the book has been met with a wonderful reception so far! It has received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly, as well as an amazingly thorough and thoughtful review from Betsy Bird at Fuse #8 over at School Library Journal. It is also a Fall 2016 Junior Library Guild selection. 

I am also very excited to announce that original artwork from The Storyteller, as well as some of these reportage drawings from Morocco and preparatory sketches, can be seen at the Brooklyn Public Library as a part of author/illustrator Pat Cummings' show "The Turn of the Page". Pat was one of my favorite teachers at Parsons, and is having a well-deserved residency at the Library. She has invited some of her former students who work in children's books to exhibit with her, and I am so honored to be included! I hope you'll come by and check it out! Opening reception the evening of May 9.

The post below is from The Storyteller website and features drawings from a research trip I took for the book in the fall of 2014. 

In October 2014 I took a trip to Morocco to do research for The Storyteller. One of my favorite experiences was spending a day in the village of Anzal in southern Morocco and meeting the women carpet weavers there and their family. These drawings (aside from the illustrations from the book at the end) were done on-location in Anzal and the nearby Oasis de Fint.

I arrived at the village of Anzal and met, Naoual, a twenty two year old woman from the village who translated for me and told me about her village and the weaving association. The village is nestled in a valley between harsh, dry mountains. The landscape is both empty and calming. The ground and sky seem to extend in all directions for eternity. It is said that the top crossbar of a loom is often called “the beam of heaven” and the bottom bar, “the earth”, with everything between as “creation.”
Naoual led me the short distance to the Association where I met Aicha, Fatima, and Rahma, Naoual’s mother-in-law. Aicha and Rahma were seated in front of their looms, made out of red steel I-beams and heavy wooden crossbars. A net of vertical yarns, the warp, stretched between the two crossbars in front of each weaver. Beside them were bags and cans of brightly colored, short pieces of yarn that would be knotted individually around each of the warp threads into a colorful design, the weft.


Fatima sat nearby Aicha, taking tufts of wool and winding them into yarn on a spindle, whirring between her fingers.


Aicha’s hands worked quickly, knotting each row, and then smacking the knots down with a comb called a taskaa, which resembled a big spider.


Spiders are often associated with weavers, and their magical creative ability in forming webs. The act of weaving feels both magical and utilitarian. When you see a finished carpet, the staggering amount of work is both hidden behind the beauty, but also evident in each individual knot.
Patterns spread across the warp, slowly appearing as the weaver moves from side to side, row to row. Symbols, triangles, diamonds, zig-zags, and other shapes emerge. The symbols are infused with historic meaning, but also with the individual whims of the weavers.


I watched as Rahma struggled in contemplation in the early stages of her weaving, trying to decide on a color and a direction. The dreaded “blank page syndrome” that plagues all artists at some point, manifests in the even more daunting “blank loom” which will be the home for her hands for the next many hours and days.


Naoual showed me her family's sheep pen (who's wool is taken for the carpets), and led me to her own house for tea and lunch with her mother-in-law, Rahma, and Fatima, the spinner. I listened as they all spoke back in forth in Tamazigh, as Naoual tried to keep me up to speed on the conversation. We discussed the growing presence of Tamazigh people in the national conversation, as it became an official language in Morocco, in addition to Arabic. Over 80% of the population of Morocco has Tamazigh ancestry, but their language was not recognized until recently. New possibilities are growing as the diversity of the country is embraced.


Naoual and her friend then took me on a small tour of the gardens behind the town. She showed me the water source, where Anzal’s water is filtered in from a nearby spring. The water descends from the spring into two divergent paths, towards the reservoir, or off towards the village. Trees line the cement channel made for the water. Twinkling olive trees baked in the sunlight, and shriveled pomegranates littered the ground with their seeds. The gentle breeze flowed through the valley, as if it had come from far off mountains, and the eternity of ground and sky. We talked about our lives, the differences and similarities, hopes and possibilities. As the sun began to set, we made our way back to the Association.


We left the open valley and returned to the unadorned room with the weavers.


A new weaver, Fatima, joined them with her carpet stretched on the loom. Undulating mountainous forms (or are they clouds?) overlap and emerge as she worked. The pattern grows, creating both ground and sky within the confines of her warp, but extending in all directions into infinity.

Sketch © Evan Turk

We then went to her mother’s house where I met her mother, brother, and sisters as we ate bread, honey, almonds, and ground dates, and laughed while sipping our hundredth cup of delicious mint tea.


She took me to her aunt’s house where her cousins, aunt, and grandmother were doing household chores and weaving.


Her grandmother, with high, bronze cheeks and a warm smile, cracked almonds from their trees out of their shells with a stone in the back. She laughed as she saw her portrait, saying she couldn’t wait to tell her son that today she met a man from America who said she looked like his own grandmother.


The act of weaving is often related to that of speech, or storytelling. A tale is referred to as a “good yarn” and stories are “woven” in twists and turns. The words "text" and "textile" even come from the same Latin root, texare, which means "weaving." The looms serve as repositories for words and thoughts not necessarily spoken. Patterns and symbols come together across the landscapes of the carpets, often with stories of pregnancies, births, deaths, and weddings. Like scrapbooks, created over months, the knots are woven in time as life events unfold. Older carpets seem to have been formed organically, with no plan in mind. There is just the warp to hold it together, and life to fill in the spaces as it comes.


In the ebb and flow,
In warp and weft,
Cradle and grave,
An eternal sea,
A changing patchwork,
A glowing life,
At the whirring loom of Time I weave
The living clothes of the deity.

Goethe, Faust

For more of Evan Turk's travel illustration, check out the link below: 
Evan Turk Travel Illustration


It's been a while since my last post, but there have been many wonderful exciting things happening! First, at the end of June, I got married! It was amazing and surreal, and feels like a beautiful dream already. In between the relaxing on our honeymoon in Provincetown, I did a few thumbnails of a sunset that was too amazing not to draw.

In less romantic but still exciting news, my reportage of Jerusalem was a part of an international exhibition of reportage illustration for the Reportager Award at the University of the West of England. So wonderful to be included and to see reportage work being appreciated!

I am also very honored to be representing Dalvero Academy and Canson on one of a new plein air drawing pads, all featuring Dalvero Artists! So exciting! My drawing is on the Illustration pad, with the beautiful work of Margaret Hurst on Canva Paper, Julia Sverchuk on Mixed Media, and Veronica Lawlor on watercolor. So exciting! Go check them out!

 There's also a blurb about Dalvero Academy on the inside cover!

And finally, in a sneak preview, I just received the first round of printed proofs from my upcoming book The Storyteller!

Can't wait to share the whole book with everyone! Many exciting things to come!

People of Marrakech

I just returned from a trip to Morocco where I was exploring, drawing, and researching for an upcoming children's book about Morocco. I met amazing people, saw amazing things, and left feeling bewildered and inspired. Most of the work I did there, I will be posting closer to the release of the book (2016!) but I couldn't resist posting a few snapshots of people in Marrakech.

For more of Evan Turk's travel illustration, check out the link below: 

Writing Process Blog Tour

Thumbnail drawing from The Storyteller

I was asked to be a part of the Writing Process Blog tour by my new booking agent, at The Booking Biz, who is an author herself, Carmen Oliver. You can read her post HERE. It's sort of a blog chain letter that asks authors to explain a little bit about their how they write.

I'll be answering four questions about my writing process, which was a fun prompt for me, since this blog is mostly about my illustration and animation. But I love creating stories, whatever the medium.  I'm in the process of creating my first children's book as author and illustrator, so this seemed like a great kickoff.

What am I currently working on?

Thumbnail drawing from The Storyteller
As I mentioned above, I am in the process of writing and illustrating my first solo children's book tentatively called The Storyteller. While reading in preparation for a 3 week trip to Morocco a couple of years ago, I learned about Morocco's rich storytelling history. In a nearly one thousand year old tradition, public storytellers gather a growing audience reciting all the tales from 1001 Nights, hundreds of Moroccan folktales, and stories from the Qur'an, all from memory, and weaving the tales together to impart lessons and entertainment to their audience. This tradition, though, is in danger as less than a dozen storytellers remain in Morocco, often with no apprentices. Inspired by this, I began writing a story in which a young boy unknowingly becomes an apprentice to a storyteller and uses those stories to inspire hope and community to rescue his city from a looming sandstorm.

I am also currently working on an animation and illustration project in conjunction with Dalvero Academy, at Mystic Seaport. I am documenting the restoration of the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaleship in the world, which was built in 1841. This summer, I was one of 79 voyagers selected to sail aboard its 38th voyage, and first sail since 1921. My animation, although still in the early stages, deals with the emotional and cultural impact of whaling on whale and human populations today, and how we can strive to live and grow from that history and use it as the catalyst for healing and a new attitude towards whales and nature. It is a follow up project to my award-winning animation "Patterns" about the global cultural history created by the industry of whaling.


How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think that my work differs from other children's literature because I have a very serious interest in culture and history, but a very loud, playful, and experimental approach when it comes to art and illustration. I often find that with children's books, more serious or historic topics are often dealt with
in a very somber way, and I like to think that I have a fresh, exciting, and diverse approach to a range of topics from serious to silly. But I am still very new to the children's book industry, so I guess it remains to be seen what will set me apart!

Why do I write what I write?

I write what I write usually because some piece of information, or art, or a story will interest me and I can't help but want to learn more about it and tell that story to others. It is always amazing to me when working on a project how so many different elements all seem to fall into place in one story, and I can discover new ways to tell stories and explore topics. Often I just get excited by the idea of creating art around the idea of a story, and the rest of the pieces come together in the words. I have an interest in folk tales, culture, and art from around the world, and I think there is an immense amount that we can learn from relating to, learning from, and telling stories about traditions and stories that have stood the test of time.

Thumbnail layouts from The Storyteller

How does my individual writing process work?

I usually will begin in an aimless research phase, where I go to museums and draw, travel, or read books and make thumbnails, and just go wherever my interest leads me. Usually, a thread will pop out somewhere along the line that will excite me to learn more, or make more drawings. As a story begins to form in my mind, I usually write it in a shorthand way, just figuring out the layout of the story itself, while making notes, thumbnails, and exploring the art along the way. This is always the most exciting step, when there are infinite possibilities for the art, and I have to sift through them to figure out how best to tell the story. When the story begins to get fleshed out, I will work on creating the page layouts in a series of of thumbnails and working on the actual manuscript for the story. Sometimes, though, the project will turn towards an animation, rather than a book, and I'll have to change gears (or vice-versa). It is all about getting the story across in the best way possible.

Next week, author Tim Anderson will join the Writing Process Blog Tour. I just finished his new book Sweet Tooth, and it was hilarious! I highly recommend it.

Tim Anderson is the author of Sweet Tooth and Tune in Tokyo: The Gaijin Diaries, which Publishers Weekly called "laugh-out-loud funny," Shelf Awareness called "so much fun," and Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times completely ignored. He is an editor and lives in Brooklyn with his husband, Jimmy; his cat, Stella; and his yoga balance ball, Sheila. Tim also writes young adult historical fiction under the name T. Neill Anderson and blogs at His favorite Little Debbie snack cake is the Fudge Round.

Morocco: Return to Fes

After the Sahara, we returned to Fes for a couple days and then headed back to New York. Morocco is an amazing place, but not always an easy one. It's exhausting and magical at the same time.

There aren't a lot of places in the world where you can make a drawing like the one above: There is a man riding side-saddle on a mule, who is stepping daintily over the cobblestones of a precariously narrow medieval street perched on a steep hillside, while a man in the distance twirls silk into thread down the long winding streets, as the sun begins to set, turning the whole street to gold.

I certainly can't wait to go back.

Morocco: The Desert

Our final excursion out of Fes was to the Sahara near the border with Algeria. From Fes, it was a 9 hour drive to the dunes through some of the most amazing landscapes I've ever seen. We passed through Mediterranean rolling hills, an Atlas cedar forest, a French ski village, a whirling dust storm, one of the world's largest oases, and a high desert plateau surrounded by soaring peaks that were about to receive their first snow of the year.

We arrived at our hotel after a long drive across a desolate black plateau in the middle of a sand storm. We could barely see 5 feet on either side of the car, and even then it was only parched black earth. Our hosts came out to help us scramble inside as the blowing sand proceeded to wedge itself into every mouth, eye, ear, and otherwise.


After a tasty meal, our hosts treated us to some Berber drumming and we turned in for the night as the sandstorm blew on.

We awoke to a serene breeze through the window, and the wall of blowing black sand outside had settled to reveal endless golden dunes only 20 feet away. We ate a quick breakfast and went out to start our journey.

We met our two camels, one brown was brown and wooly and the other beige with a nose ring. Of course we named them after our brown and beige cats at home, Bert and Pica (We eagerly asked the camel drivers if they already had names, he answered "No. They are camels.").

The back view of Chris on the camel in front of me.

 After a long, beautiful camel ride through the martian landscape (through which the blustering wind and camel jostling made drawing close to impossible), we settled into our Berber campsite for the night, hoping to see the amazing starry skies you can only see when you're miles from civilization.

Pica the camel.

Naturally, as the sun was going down, the storm clouds were rolling in. As we were lying in our tent, trying to sleep through the booming thunder, we began to feel the pitter-patter of rain drops on our faces. The carpet/bamboo roof of our tent was not exactly waterproof, and as the frequency of the drops began to increase, we scrambled our things together and ran into the main tent where we huddled with a nice Australian family under the more substantial roof. We were treated to a torrential downpour in the middle of the Sahara desert as the deluge of water poured into the tent on all sides of our little mattresses in the center.

We didn't end up seeing any stars at all, but I feel like a rainstorm in the Sahara is just as unique of an experience, and we can see the stars the next time. Plus the sunrise the next morning made all the rain worth it, as the dunes that had been faded and shifting yesterday became crisp, solid, and vibrant after the rain.

Morocco: The Iron Worker

When we returned to Fes, Chris and I went out into the souks and happened upon a tiny, unusual shop on one of the many alleys of craftsmen. The man, dressed in black and grey with salt & pepper hair, was making black iron work with silver wire hammered into intricate designs. The iron-worker was such a sweet man, and a real artist. We found out later that the technique is one called Damasquine, and is a Moroccan version of a Syrian craft that originally used gold wire in much more formal Islamic designs. This man, while he created the more formal Moroccan style work as well, had walls of beautiful and whimsical animals that he had drawn himself. They felt like little Picasso drawings made out of iron and silver.

After picking out all of our Christmas gifts for the year, we asked if we could stay and draw him while he worked. We were able to see him create one animal from, from start to finish, in his tiny 5x5 shop.

He began by sawing the iron into the shape of a fish.

He then scored the iron and polished it with a jade-tipped utensil.

Then he heated the iron in a burner and it came out hot and jet black.

Then, using a tiny hammer, he hammered the silver wire into a design, like drawing.

 Once he finished, he polished it again with the jade, and gave it to us as a gift. It was so wonderful to see someone so passionate about what he was doing. His father had done Damasquine in gold, and he was the 5th generation of Damasquine workers in his family. He is the only one to practice the craft in Fes (although a dozen or so others do in the nearby city of Meknes), and he said that while his children enjoy drawing, they didn't like the hard manual labor that goes with creating the iron work, so he may be the last.

Morocco: The Blue City

We took a short trip from Fez, through the Rif mountains to the beautiful blue city of Chefchaouen. The small town lies perched on a hillside in a valley surrounded by soaring, jagged peaks.

Since the 1930's, the walls of Chefchaouen's medina have been washed with blue pigment (possibly as a result of Jewish immigrants fleeing Europe). Thick layers of every color of blue imaginable coat the walls and streets of the city.

Because of the sheer cliffs of the Riff mountains, the city is connected by a web of incredibly steep stone staircases, which surprise you with bizarre, twisting, otherworldly views.

Some streets have so many colors at once that they feel like an abstract mosaic instead of a real city.

 Down one long staircase at the edge of the city, you find the Ras el-Maa river trickling down the stone steps into the valley. Here the women do their laundry on huge concrete beds in the river, in some of the most beautiful surroundings you can imagine. I couldn't help but want to draw, even though I felt a little intrusive drawing people just doing their laundry. My broken French was enough to get us through most of Morocco, but here on the eastern coast, they only speak Spanish and Arabic. Not knowing a word of Spanish, I mimed my way into asking whether or not it was okay for me to draw them.


Initially they seemed wary, so I contented myself with just drawing the scenery and leaving the women out. The old woman of the group came over and sat next to me while I drew for a while, and smiled as I struggled to ask her questions. Eventually, I successfully gestured my question, and she consented to let me draw them. They went on with their business, laughing and singing together over the sound of the trickling stream and the soft breeze rustling through the hillsides of morning glories.

As I was drawing the teenage girl above, she seemed bashful because she was in her laundry clothes, and the old woman laughed and started asking me something in Spanish. I couldn't understand a word she was saying, or why the girl suddenly started blushing and laughing until I heard the word "matrimonio" pop out. Once I realized she was asking me, jokingly, if I was planning to marry her after such a tender drawing, I blushed and instinctively blurted out "No!". We all burst out laughing, and my cheeks turned more and more red as I frantically tried to make a more diplomatic decline of the offer (I don't think she took it personally).

The view out of our room at Casa La Palma

Our wonderful hosts, Ana and Carlos, at the beautiful bed and breakfast Casa La Palma were originally from Spain (only a couple hours away), and fell in love with Chefchaouen and moved there. With the incredible beauty, the calm, soothing air, and slow, trickling way of life, it's definitely a difficult city to leave.

Morocco: The Tanneries

In Fes, one of the main attractions are the leather tanneries. Here, in the oldest leather tannery in the world, they produce leather using the same methods that were used nine centuries ago. After climbing the stairs, we emerged on a balcony overlooking sprawling rooftops perforated with giant vats of foul-smelling mixtures and vegetable dyes. The tour guides often give their groups sprigs of mint to hold in front of their noses to combat the smell (caused in part by large vats of acidic pigeon excrement and the raw hides themselves). Men worked in and in between the vats, scraping, cleaning, dying, and drying the mountains of animal hides.

Morocco: Tile Workshop

While in the city of Fes, we had the wonderful opportunity to tour and draw at the Moroccan architectural decoration workshop of Arabesque (Moresque). While at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, I noticed the brand name in the videos of the construction of the new, very beautiful Moroccan court in their Islamic Art wing. I contacted Arabesque, the creators of the court, and they welcomed us to come and draw in their workshop for a day.

The factory was in the Ville Nouvelle, the modern city outside the medieval medina. It was a sprawling three floor establishment, with the dozen or so zellij tile workers huddled together in one small dusty corner on the first floor.

 The other floors housed incredible in-progress display rooms that were created using modern designs and techniques as well as replicating each individual period of Islamic decoration with perfect attention to detail. The colors, glazes, patterns, and shapes were created using the original period-specific methods. The detail, precision, and beauty were incredible to see. All of the carved plaster, stained glass, intricately painted wood, and zellij tile were all created by the master craftsmen there.


I spent most of my day watching the workers on the first floor, listening to the repetitive tinkling of the chisels on tile. The incredible amount of work involved in creating just one tiny tile is awe-inspiring when you consider the scope of an entire wall. Each shape must be traced out onto the tile in a white paste, and then every extra piece chiseled away to perfection. The glazed ceramic tiles are held against a cinder-block and tapped precisely and delicately with a surprisingly hefty chisel until it has been chipped into the specific shape to fit into the overall design.

Each man had a specific task. One would draw the design onto a tile; some would chisel the raw tiles into large squares;

 some chiseled the squares into smaller pieces; 

 some chiseled them into even more intricate pieces;


some stopped to sharpen their chisels;

some stenciled designs on tiles and chiseled away scrolling pieces of a larger pattern;

and all together they worked like pieces of a machine to create beautiful, mind-boggling work.

It was a wonderful experience to be able to spend the day there, and to see the whole process. Many thanks to Adil M. Naji, the President and CEO of Moresque/Arabesque, for agreeing to have us come and for his wonderful hospitality, and to all of the craftsmen for their warmth, kindness and willingness to let me impose on their work.

Morocco: Children

While we were in Marrakech there were a few times when kids would come by and watch us draw. One little boy found us near the Koutoubia, and helped make the drawing above. He even drew our portraits! I'm the monkey, and Chris is the one next to the cube with the big ears.

The next week, after coming back from Essaouira, we saw him again and he sat down to draw with me. Chris gave him a sheet of paper, and soon more and more kids crowded around. Chris gave them each a sheet of paper, and they were so excited to draw and play around with my pastels.

Last week, Dalvero Academy had an open house, and many of the artists brought their kids to draw as well. Looking around, it was amazing to see how much their drawings looked like the Moroccan kids' drawings. The same set up, but minus the minaret or a Moroccan flag in the background. It is the same joy, love, and play that kids have no matter where they are born.

My thoughts are with those children and parents in Newtown, Connecticut this week. I grew up in the neighborhood where the Columbine tragedy happened in 1999, and I can still only imagine what the community there is going through. My hope is that the children from that school who survived will still find the same joy, love, and play, and will find a way to heal and still be kids.

Morocco: Jemaa el-Fna and the Halqa

 As we headed back to Marrakech, there was one more thing I wanted to find. I had read books about the storytellers of Marrakech, and how this thousand year old tradition was not too slowly fading away. These men turn storytelling into a public art, with a catalog of hundreds of tales to choose from, stored away in their minds, each one shifting and growing depending on their audience. In 2006 it is said that there were less than a dozen storytellers left in Marrakech, and they often getting older with no apprentices. In Marrakech, their stage is The Big Square, Jemaa el-Fna. Here western tourists and Moroccan tourists alike come to see this flurry of energy full of hissing cobras and snake charmers, horse-drawn carriages, apes on chain leashes, water-sellers in flamboyant costumes, and pushy throngs of women doing henna tattoos.


At night, the square transforms. As the sun sets behind the Koutoubia minaret, the center of the square unfolds into a series of temporary restaurants with loud auctioneers competing for the attention of the hoards of tourists and locals that flock there at night. Where snake charmers sat before, musicians and performers take their place, and I was hoping, maybe a storyteller.

Smoke from the open flames of the grills fills the air.

We searched all over the square for several nights, behind every orange juice stand and date seller, and on every hidden corner we could find, but we couldn't find a single storyteller. Perhaps we weren't looking for the right things to find them, or perhaps they weren't there that night. What we did find, though, was the lifeblood of the storyteller, the halqa. A halqa is the circle of people that forms around the storyteller (or halaiqi) and other performers.

After standing on the edge of a circle of people surrounding some musicians and drawing, they eventually pulled us into the center. Although I couldn't understand the stories he was telling, or the words to the music, I began to feel a part of the halqa. They laughed at my portraits of them, and gave Chris and I some Berber whiskey (mint tea).

We may not have been able to find one of the storytellers, but the feeling of the halqa is one I won't forget. It's a spontaneous connection with people, and you can feel the energy of it and how it feeds both the performers and the audience.

Morocco: On the bus

The bus rides between cities often showed as much about the country as the cities themselves. Groves of olive trees stretched for miles across endless landscapes as men rode by the roadside on donkeys (or in trucks full of donkeys).

While waiting in one of the bus depots with a gaggle of European and Moroccan tourists, we fell in love with a tiny stray kitten (of which Morocco has no shortage) who we named Bertouche (after his American cat uncle Bert). He wandered around the cafe outside mewing and squeaking for food (we gave him some chicken on our way out) and then nestled into a flower pot for a nap.

Morocco: The Fishing Port

After a few days in Marrakech, Chris and I took a short trip to the seaside town of Essaouira. Swirling with seagulls, the beautiful 18th century is famous for its ramparts upon which Orson Welles shot his "Othello". The city, with its French, English, and Italian built architecture, feels both very European, Moroccan, and African all at once. The people felt more conservative than in Marrakech, in both dress and attitude towards the swarms of tourists trying to take their picture.

Usually I have not encountered the same resistance from people towards drawing as I have seen towards photography. With drawing, you are in a more vulnerable position since you have to wait and finish, so it feels less predatory and more reciprocal to me than photography. But in Essaouira, the people in general felt very hostile towards it, and one man was furious and ripped up the drawing I had done of him.

The only place this was not true, was in the fishing docks where everyone was very friendly, and interested in what I was doing. As an international port, the center of the city is the fishing dock where fishermen go out in bright blue fishing boats all through the day and bring back their fresh catches to sell on the docks and into the medina.

Early in the morning, the men prepare their boats and repair their nets to go out to sea.

Men wait as the fishermen bring in the latest catch.
Men and women along the docks wait to sell fish, rays, sharks, eels, lobsters, crabs, and any other type of sea creature you can think of.

Also at the fishing docks is the shipyard where a dozen ships are put up on dry-dock for repairs.

After drawing so long at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, it was wonderful to be able to see a completely different type of shipyard.  Here the men were repairing a sardine boat, with ribs exposed.

Morocco: The Red City

Our trip began with Marrakech, The Red City. Surrounded by African desert and thick red walls, Marrakech was more foreign even in the approach from the airport than I had been expecting. Because Morocco is so diverse and so close to Europe, I had begun to think before leaving that it would be more like a trip to a European country than an African one, but Marrakech quickly shattered that idea.

In a country as foreign as Morocco, it can often be difficult to break down the barrier between tourist and local: you don't want to be seen as another tourist, and they don't want to be seen as an exotic native. Being blonde and white makes me visible to every salesman from halfway across Morocco, so every person on the street is competing to try to sell something by the time I get there. It's often an overwhelming experience, and one that made us shut down a few times just from the stress of finding a restaurant.

I think that drawing on location often offers a unique experience to be able to interact with people in a different way. Because you are doing something new and exiting, people often drop their usual tourist routine and both groups let down their guard a little. While wandering around in the medina, Chris and I came upon a neighborhood that was completely residential, with not a tourist in sight, but still bustling with people. The walls of the quarter had been freshly washed with "Marrakech Red", and bright red and green flags hung from every building.

As we started to draw, people would smile as they passed, which was very reassuring in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Soon a gaggle of kids began to crowd around us, hopping up to see the drawings and asking to have each one of their portraits drawn. Some men and women came by to peek as well, and one man even shooed some of the kids away to help when he thought they were getting too boisterous. It is one of my fondest memories from Morocco because when you can engage with people on a personal level, where the differences aren't so great, it makes you feel more at home.

We stayed and drew there until sundown, under the latticed roof of the tiny maze-like alleyways, watching people and mopeds pass by, and kittens scamper down the dusty streets and across the rooftops.

Morocco: The Eid

I'm back from a wonderful and intense trip to Morocco, and to start off I thought I'd post some drawings I did of the preparation for the Eid al-Adha which took place this Friday (Eid Mubarak!). The Eid is a major Islamic holiday that celebrates the story of Abraham and his willingness to sacrifice his son to God. In response to Abraham and his son Ishmael's willingness, he gave Abraham a ram to sacrifice in his son's place, and so Muslim people sacrifice an animal for their family as a celebration and remembrance of that sacrifice.

All throughout the trip we saw little glimmers of the coming holy day's approach: On bus rides we passed shepherds tending their flocks by the side of the road and trucks full of sheep being shuttled to town, and shopkeepers were more willing to give a good price to a blonde-haired, blue-eyed tourist to get a little extra money to buy a sheep. By the time we reached Fes near the end of our trip, the preparations were in full swing.

Outside the medina, sheep grazed in a nearby stable, chomping away and stumbling into each other, oblivious to their impending fate.

Families came to look at the sheep, and sometimes to select one for purchase.

Then came the parade of sheep down the tiny, maze-like alleyways of the medina. Sometimes they were rolled down the streets in carts, but often men picked up the hind legs and wheelbarrow-ed unruly rams down the hill, while children laughed and pulled their tails.

It was exciting to be able to see a part of Moroccan culture that tourists are not really a part of. The Moroccan/Tourist barrier sort of broke down when people talked about the Eid, and I got more of a feeling of what people were like outside the tourist industry. Little kids were just as excited to see the sheep as I was, and sat around watching me draw in the stable. Although the traditions and symbolism are different, the energy felt very much like the approach to Christmas with people shopping for last minute gifts, picking out the perfect Christmas tree, and the buzzing excitement of the coming celebration with family.


Today I leave for Morocco, and it will be three weeks of new sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. There will be a lot of drawing to come, but first here is a thumbnail I did imagining our camel ride through the Sahara.

'Till I return!