By Lyona, illustrator and producer
I read that there are more than one and a half million people in Spain that have to turn to a food bank and roughly 220,000 of them are children. It’s unbelievable that, right now, there are children without enough to eat so nearby. It’s shocking to think that this is still happening. I think humans always want to help each other, by nature, but sometimes in this hyper-speed individualistic society, we wear blinders when we should look around a bit more, stop and look, and try to help.
When the ”la Caixa” Foundation asked me to participate in their milk-collection campaign Ningún niño sin bigote (No child without a moustache), I said yes straight away. First, because I’ve always found it more interesting to participate in charity projects that those with purely commercial aims. Second, because it’s incredible that kids get so much out of just a glass of milk. And, third, because I’ve been working with children a lot lately and they’re the best!
“In this hyper-speed individualistic society, we should look around a bit more.”
I think art changes people, enriches them. That’s why I try to be very honest in everything I do, express myself just as I am, and give the audience a good feeling, something to enjoy, that will inspire them. I’m passionate about film, music, drawing… and I like to convey that passion in my work. That’s why I didn’t want Rita’s story to be based on pity. I wanted to show how great this little girl’s life is until the black hunger monster shows up and she can’t be herself. The idea was to talk about this tough topic in a beautiful, fantasy-filled way. Because I think excitement is more effective than sadness. I guess we’re immune to sad things by now. And, in any case, optimism is more my style.
“Excitement is more effective than sadness.”
I knew the main character was going to be called Rita as soon as I drew her. I think it’s a happy name, perfect for a girl with such a rich inner world and so many friends. I created the monster out of the o in emptiness (vacío in Spanish). I didn’t want a terrible monster from a nightmare (it already is in real life), so I gave it arms and legs and made it simple. Its power is that it grows and occupies more and more space in Rita’s world, until she can’t run around the playground at school, or concentrate in class, and she doesn’t feel like playing… But the story, which is called Todos contra el vacío (Everyone against the emptiness), by the way, has a happy ending. Rita’s friends realise what is going on and, one day, one gives her a bit of milk from their carton. Then all the kids start sharing with her and the emptiness starts shrinking. And Rita goes back to the happy, imaginative girl she was before.
In this story, the emptiness is hunger; but it could be many other things. Once I felt extremely empty, from a heartbreak, and the only way out was my work. And now I would say that our greatest social emptiness is the separation between us and our leaders. It happens in every country. It seems like we’re moving in a direction that terrifies me: self-centred, individualistic… But I also see, for example, what is happening and starting online. How people are expressing themselves through art. And it’s really exciting.
“Helping each other makes us more human.”
Artists, above all illustrators, tend to work alone and that can make us seem like we’re not interested in others. But that isn’t the case. For my work to change someone’s life in some way is the most beautiful thing that could happen. It is true that we should come together more. Not long ago, I did a charity workshop with illustrators Flavita Banana, Monstruo Espagueti and Cristina Bueno, and together we had some incredible ideas. Clearly four heads are much better than one. But not only artists. Together we can go further and achieve greater things. Plus, helping each other makes us more human. Really, if people could have been there to see the smiles on the kids’ faces at the milk drive last year, they wouldn’t give a second though to helping them out. And it takes so little. If we all come together we can make sure more little girls and boys end up like Rita in the last illustration in the story: shooting out into space along the Milky Way with all her friends, on top of a rocket.
Interview: Ana Portolés
Production: La Depensa, Guille A. Chaia
You can read more stories like this on ALMA, the social social media, a digital space devoted to the social field, which brings a new look at the present and the future of society, from an optimistic and diverse point of view, and from all the initiatives that “la Caixa” Foundation promote.