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Mir Cortez-Cáceres, Illustrator Interview: Pt 2

NOAH: What motivated you to take the first step of many to complete this work?

test_miriam_cover_art_dec3.jpgMIR: When I was younger, I thought my life was perfect, and my life was far from that; unless perfectly traumatizing is the goal. I was experiencing a lot of abuse and I didn't know any different. I never thought there was something abnormal about my life, but it was an intense childhood.

I didn't realize how bad it was until we went into the foster care system. You can imagine the shock of a child who believes that everything is fine, and then police officers show up to your house to separate you from your parents and siblings. That was the first instance of perspective for me that something was wrong with my life.

While in foster care, I began experiencing abuse from my caregivers. If I had been removed from my house for these reasons, then why would they abuse or neglect me as well?

NOAH: If you say something about it, then you become the problem.

MIR: Yes, it's like — "You're getting 7-dayed, good bye!" or "Do you want to be separated from you sister again?" In retrospect, it is so crazy, who does that? Holds siblings hostage?

when you enter the foster care system you might as well be on a different planet

NOAH: It is wild because kids in the foster care system have particular rights and protective policies, like a "Foster Youth Bill of Rights" and Foster Care Ombudsperson, but they don't always work as intended; you can't access something you don't know exists.

MIR: I literally had to write a little "help me" note to my therapist, and it was those brief instances as a child that made me realize there was something terribly wrong with the system.

My life was transformed by this moment; years of trauma, tossing and turning, and not knowing what the solution is. Then I found Peace4Kids, and ROCMove came into play. Since this is not an individual problem, we must reimagine "the system." How do we create a world where children actually have a chance? ROCMove motivates me to tell stories with pencils that spark conversation and draw attention to narratives like these.

NOAH: No pun intended! Illustrating a book from scratch is an achievement and narrative its own worth celebrating. Once you started on the journey of this book, what challenged you the most? How did you pull through?

MIR: As it pertains to the book, the challenge was actually doing the work; drawing, conceptualizing, researching, referencing images. I essentially had to make an entire world. The drawings had to be cohesive, and the characters had to fit into the world.

For each scene: What colors am I going to use? What are the houses or the town going to look like? What about the color of the sky? Are there clouds, how many? Is there sun, or grass, or a dirt road?

Pointless Forest Book Art

At times figuring it all out was a bit tedious and even a little discouraging, and not really having a solid deadline was not the best 🥴 It wasn't easy; a lot of people would ask me "omg is it fun?" and honestly, it wasn't! It was so much work! As I never worked on a project like this, I had to learn how to illustrate by trial and error, which sometimes can be frustrating.

I didn't leave my desk for weeks, I didn't talk to friends, it was a lot! I had to be on hyper focus mode... It wasn't fun, but that's what I had to do to push through and get the work done. I binge-watched a lot of dramas while I was working, and it was a good time marker.

[Editor's Note: We went on a tangent about failed attempts to take a break from foster care-related work just to watch dramas with characters who were in foster care and became murders, murdered, or otherwise deranged]

NOAH: What's something you did not know before starting the journey of illustrating a book that you know now?

MIR: I have struggled with believing that I can make a difference; that my voice matters, that my art can matter. Although I have big dreams, I have trouble believing in them once they materialize. I never thought I would reach this age; I never thought I would reach this point in my life. Seeing things I've worked really hard for manifest into reality still amazes me!

I still don't believe it's real that I finished the book; it's one of the most important and grand things I've ever done. Because people tell me it's real, I know it's true. Despite the challenges, I'm learning to take ownership of my accomplishments.

Throughout life, I have learned to break through barriers and make the most out of nothing. Even when there was nothing, I invented things or created new solutions. It's how I got to go to private school, it's how I got to meet people I know now, and really it's about taking risks.

Quote GraphicThis book was one of the biggest risks, because it really felt like, what if people don't like it? What if the drawings aren't in alignment with the message? Then what? It's a lot a fear, and this book taught me to think past myself, because these dreams don't just belong to me; they are collective dreams...

It's not just my project — this book was written and created by all the people I've met at Peace4Kids. The illustrations were all inspired by the entire community. This was a collective dream, and I'm really owning that we did something great right now!



NOAH: You shared that you referred to a number of classic children's books for technical insights and inspiration: which of those books influenced or inspired you the most? In what ways?

MIR: As a kid, I loved folklores, and fables, and losing myself in the artwork. Those were all major inspirations that I referenced, as well as:

One Book Cover

"One" by Katherine Otashi — seemingly simple watercolor visuals but each small circle has feelings and emotions that translate well. To simplify and make it complex at the same time.

"The Rabbit Listened" Corey Doerrfeld — again simple illustrations, but the author captured the story in a way that was "just enough" so that younger readers feel compelled to stay on a page and ask questions.

NOAH How, where, why can people find THE POINTLESS FOREST?

MIR: We have a buy one, gift one campaign of autographed, limited edition books. Each book purchase gives you the option to gift a copy to a family at Peace4Kids or a local public school, or public library. The intent is to ensure the community has access to its own stories.

Though it is categorized as a children's book, it is important to note that you may find aspects of yourself even if you haven't had a foster care experience. I learned a lot from Pointlexia and what a world could look like if we all imagined it together, and supported each other! So take those lessons and make what you will with them.

*End "Mir Cortez-Cáceres, Illustrator Interview" Part Two

Mir Cortez-Cáceres is the Program Coordinator and Artist-In-Residence at Peace4Kids. Prior to her current role as Co-Founder of ROCMove, Miriam volunteered at P4K. The root of Miriam's artistry is storytelling; she is driven to tell stories in ways that give them the most justice and represent the story best. Miriam explores and works with as many mediums as she can, from stop-motion to watercolor to illustrating her first children's book! Noah is also a Co-Founder of ROCMove and P4K volunteer. Noah's interview with Miriam took place September 2021 in Los Angeles and is edited for clarity.

📚 Gift and Get The Pointless Forest Here!