María Ramos x Micro Animals: “The magic resides in creating the story”


4 minute read

Words by Aida Badosa | May 17, 2023

You may have started to see her creations in the Micro Animals by The Animals Observatory campaign, but you may also have seen her latest work, Tres luces (Blackie Books) on some bookstore shelves. Her name is María Ramos, and she is an illustrator as well as a children’s books storyteller. 

María Ramos is currently based in France, but she grew up in Cáceres, surrounded by the beauty of nature: flora and fauna, both elements have always inspired her work. After spending part of her youth drawing what she saw in her countryside home, she graduated in Fine Arts and kept drawing until today. María has already published a bunch of children’s books as well as some fanzines. Her most notable works are Tres luces, and Bubble gum boy (Fulgencio Pimentel).

María Ramos. Picture by Zazi White.

Furthermore, María Ramos is also the illustrator of the Micro Animals by The Animals Observatory campaign. This new capsule by Laia Aguilar is a fine piece of designer fashion that revolves around the beauty of the smallest things, in its most literal sense. The fascinating shapes and colors that the smallest creatures present are highlighted in Micro Animals, which also introduces new tulle and fantasy looks complemented by fluor tones and even some looks that also include elements that glow in the dark, all made with the comfiest organic cotton and knitwear.

But, let’s get back to María Ramos, and what she has to say about her work, both for The Animals Observatory and her books, which are also filled with cute little animals.

Interview with María Ramos

First of all, congratulations on the success of your book, Tres luces. You had been illustrating children’s books for a while before, and also published Bubble gum boy “solo”. Does it feel really different illustrating with another writer compared to creating all the book by yourself?

Yes, they are different things. When you handle both parts, drawing and text, you can choose which of the two media gives the information at each moment. You can also make incredible games, say one thing with the text and add another different thing with the drawing, you can even make that one piece of information contradicts the other one. That’s what I like most about picture books, there are many kinds of structures. If you draw someone else’s text, you will need to adapt to it. It’s not worse or better, it’s different. I’ve barely drawn for other authors, it’s not something that interests me that much at the moment. To me the magic resides in creating the story.

Illustration by María Ramos.

I read that you grew up surrounded by nature and animals, and that it was then that you began to draw inspiration from your surroundings. How do you remember those times?

I used to live with my family in Cáceres and on weekends we would go to my grandmother’s house in town. She was a farmer and had cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, cats, dogs, a donkey… We used to go to the countryside to spend the day there by going for walks and picking tomatoes and prickly pears from the vegetable garden. I felt like I was actually chewing happiness, especially during the summer. Everything smelled good, everything tasted good.

To me the magic resides in creating the story.

María Ramos

How would you describe your illustrations’ style?

It’s certainly not overloaded, I play with very few elements and with them I work a lot on the composition, the intensity of the colors if there’s color, the tracing… I play with all of it, until I get an illustration that works for me. It may resemble a little the style of illustrators of the 60’s or 70’s, as I am very influenced by authors of that time, like Richard Scarry or Remy Charlip.

Illustration by Richard Scarry.

Besides drawing these cute little animals, do you also get inspired by other elements in your daily life?

Yes! As I mentioned before about life in the village, I have many references from there: traditions, recipes, and even ways of relating to each other. Those have influenced a lot in Tres luces. Another big influence for me are the cartoons, especially if they are from past decades. For example, when creating Tres luces, I took inspiration from Los Gusiluz. But there are many other inspirational sources.  I’m a fan of Jim Henson, especially Sesame Street. I love how they used to show the colors in that show. Not only the colors, I also loved their character design and the textures. Adding contrast to very simple backgrounds is another influence in my work.

What about your Micro Animals campaign? How much fun did you have while working on it?

A lot of fun, actually! I could go on and on making more punch lines about little animals. It was kind of the perfect job. Besides, it has been really easy working with Felipe. I always wanted to collaborate with The Animals Observatory and this has been the best way to do it.

Illustration by María Ramos.

Illustration by María Ramos.

Did you get inspired by the prints of the Micro Animals capsule?

Of course I did, I feel I have a lot in common with The Animals Observatory, as I kind of share their philosophy and aesthetics. For sure, what the clothes and their colors convey has helped me find the tone of the illustrations as well as the mood for the campaign, without feeling that I was doing something too far away from what I can actually do.

To know that my book has been a part of someone's childhood is the best thing that can happen to me.

María Ramos

What do you like most about working with children?

I like getting to know their impressions. When someone writes to tell me, for example, how the book has reached out to their children, or that it was the first book with more text that they ever read. I even enjoy knowing that some children have cried with grief and joy after reading Tres luces. To know that my book has been a part of someone’s childhood in that way is the best thing that can happen to me.

Illustration by María Ramos.

Illustration by María Ramos.

Are there more projects on the horizon that you would like to share?

Now I’m working on two graphic novels, this time I’m just doing the script and world creation, as well as its aesthetics. I’m enjoying it a lot. One is going to be a fantasy genre book, with witches, warriors and vampires. The other one is going to be inspired by the soap opera genre. Its main character is called Cristal, paying homage to the venezuelan soap opera called Cristal, from the 80’s, which was a story by the great Delia Fiallo.

Micro Animals by Animals Observatory capsule is already available. Start surfing these colorful looks, filled with tiny creatures prints, and a lot of other funny fantasy elements.