AMAZONA: The Process Behind the Graphic Novel

In Amazona, a graphic novel by author-artist Canizales, Andrea, a young Indigenous Colombian woman, returns to the land she calls home. She hopes to capture evidence of the illegal mining that displaced her family—and one of the area’s guards may be a help or a final obstacle. This story has a social conscience, but it will also strike readers with its stark visual style. Its pages feature textured grays and blacks with occasional bold flares of color, projecting a unique sensibility. Talking to the Lerner Blog, Canizales explained his process for creating such distinctive images and shared some behind-the-scenes art:

“Initially I make pencil sketches to plan the pages,” Canizales said. “When I am ready, I draw very lightly in pencil on watercolor paper, on which I then apply different shades of India ink wash. When it is dry, I apply pencil, pastel chalk, and crayons on top to finish the whole drawing. Then I scan it and make the necessary touch-ups digitally.”

He also shared looks at the earliest incarnations of a few of the book’s pages. The impact of his process is clear, with the sketches transforming into pieces that look and feel very different from their original incarnations:

Canizales is a Colombia-born author-illustrator living in Majorca, Spain. His books have been published in Spanish, English, Basque, Chinese, French, Greek, Italian, Korean, Macedonian, Polish, Portuguese, and Ukrainian. Spanish honors for his art include the 2019 Cuatrogatos prize (shortlisted), the 2018 Cuatrogatos prize, the 2018 Ciudad de Palma Comic Awards (honorary mention), and the 2017 Divina Pastora social graphic novel award. He also works as a professor of drawing at Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. Amazona, newly translated into English by Sofía Huitrón Martínez, is now available for purchase.


Interest Level: Grade 9 – Grade 12
Reading Level: Grade 7

“Simply powerful, Colombian artist Canizales’ illuminating, expressively rendered graphic novel translated from the Spanish contains moments of great beauty (particularly Andrea’s memories of her husband and father) among numerous scenes of deep anguish . . . A brutal, vital text.”—starredKirkus Reviews

“Canizales’s shadow-filled, jungle-focused, black-and-white art captures the pain of displacement from one’s physical and spiritual world . . . [P]resents teens with many compelling visual and emotional moments.”—School Library Journal

“[T]he story—part thriller, part political drama—will grip readers from page 1.”—Booklist

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