Fishermen in La Boquilla; marker, pen and colored pencil on paper; 36×29 cm, 2015
I had the opportunity to meet and interview the talented young Artist, Illustrator/ Visual Storyteller from New York, Sarah Shaw, who during her stay in the city of Cartagena de Indias for several months inspired her to make a play, with an exhibition currently showing in New York , which it was opened a few days ago.
Let’s know a little about Sarah:
S.S: My name is Sarah Shaw, and I’m from Maine, the most northeastern state in the United States. In 2010, I graduated from art school in New York, and ever since, I’ve been teaching in various countries and working on my own art and illustration projects.
A.S.B: How did you end up in Cartagena?
S.S: I arrived in Cartagena in 2013 to work with the United States Peace Corps. I was placed in the corregimiento of La Boquilla, and my main project was to collaborate with English teachers in the local secondary school. However, I also led photography camps with groups of students in various pueblos and collaborated with other teachers in the school, including the art and ethics teachers.
View of the gallery at my recent solo show
A.S.B: What was your experience like in the city?
S.S: Cartagena is a city of contrast, and as an expat, I had the privilege of bouncing between two worlds: the majestical city center with foreign restaurants, cultural events and air-conditioning, and the lower-strata communities, where there’s always life in the street, motos racing by, and champeta blasting from the tiendas. Working in the local secondary school and living with a host family were very challenging, but I’m grateful to have connected with so many people in the community. The heat, colors and energy of the city still inspire me.
A.S.B: What did you like the most?
S.S: Besides the friends I’d made, I really enjoyed living near the beach. In the morning, I used to jog barefoot along the beach towards Las Americas, watching the sunrise, and greeting the same people who also enjoyed the calm morning ambience. On the weekends, I’d often meet up with friends, eat lunch and go swimming. At school, the beach often became a classroom for countless video and photography projects with students.
I also learned to embrace the chaos– people on the coast are great at improvising and going with the flow. There’s an abundance of smiles, laughs and jokes. I like how people value quality time with their family and friends. And I miss the constant music and dancing!
Girl Working at the Tienda; marker, pen and colored pencil on paper; 61×46 cm, 2016
A.S.B: How were the colors of Cartagena de Indias?
S.S: The colors of the Caribbean inspired my choice of materials and style. I used art markers and pen to document my colorful surroundings, from the exteriors of houses to everyday fashion. I incorporated at least a few bright hues, like fuchsia, turquoise, and florescent yellow, in almost every drawing.
A.S.B: How many illustrations were based on the city?
S.S: I illustrated at least 30 full-color scenes from Cartagena and it’s surrounding pueblos, as well as many other small sketches and comics.
A.S.B: What’s your favorite?
S.S: My favorite illustration is “The Watermelon Vendor.” This drawing is based on a scene from a nearby pueblo, where a young vendor was whatsapping on her smartphone while waiting for customers beneath a crumbling structure. The irony of the situation reminded me a lot of my experience living and working in La Boquilla.
At my recent solo show “Sarah Shaw: Drawing + Teaching on Colombia’s Caribbean Coast.”
A.S.B: What inspires you about the city?
S.S: In Cartagena, I found inspiration in the hot, tropical climate, where people tend to congregate in front of their homes to catch the slightest breeze and socialize with their neighbors. In my neighborhood, kids would run barefoot through the small alleyways, and vendors would roam along the beaches and dusty streets, offering a small cup of coffee or fried snack from their cart. As a foreigner, I was intrigued by those simple, habitual activities. I sought to narrate my daily interactions with the people in my community and the space around me, highlighting positive aspects of Colombia’s Caribbean coast.
A.S.B: Tell me about some exposure you got from these works.
S.S: Recently, I had an opportunity to exhibit my illustrations, comics, sketches and selected student photography in a solo show at my alma mater, Pratt Institute, in Brooklyn, NY. You can see some photos from the show’s opening here:
and check out more images of my work on my website: www.saraheshaw.com
and instagram: www.instagram.com/saraheshaw .
The Watermelon Vendor; marker, pen and colored pencil on paper; 36×29 cm, 2015
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Alejandro Salgado Baldovino (A.S.B)