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StoriesMichael Talbot ’18

Jamaica Native and Illustrator Taps into Images of Home

Children's book 'Jamaican Mi Seh Mi ABC's' is Michael's third collaborative project.

Cover of Michael Talbot's illustrated book "Jamaican Mi Seh Mi ABC's"

Michael Talbot is in the enviable position of being a young artist who has projects come to him.

Since winning the Illustrators of the Future Award in 2014, the illustration and graphic design major, who is also minoring in animation, has received a number of proposals from other creatives seeking his services.

For the most recent project, Michael worked with author Valrie Kemp-Davis on an illustrated children’s book titled Jamaican Mi Seh Mi ABC’s.

The Jamaican-born Michael was caught off guard when Valrie called him on New Year’s Day after finding his name through a Google search. But once he got his hands on the project, he knew it was a perfect fit.

“I was reading the manuscript and a lot of [the verses] sparked memories,” he says. "I’ve lived in various areas in Jamaica some of the different areas in the book, I could actually see."

Michael Talbot portrait
Illustration student Michael Talbot

Michael began drawing as a kid, often preferring to stay inside and color, rather than go out and play. By the time he was in the ninth grade, he knew he wanted to be an artist. So, it’s been gratifying for the Lesley senior to combine his love of Jamaica and illustration in a children’s book.

Michael and Valrie collaborated on the look and layout of the book for more than a year, both wanting the finished product to be "welcoming and vibrant."

Valrie uses the ABCs as the book’s backbone, with the 11-year-old narrator, Carradice, taking readers on a playful, rhythmic tour of Jamaica's landscape, culture and dialect. Michael, who moved to Massachusetts in 2012, could visualize many of the images in the book.

Using his own background as well as images of the author’s daughter, Michael created 44 illustrations for the book, even as he maintained his studies as a full-time student at Lesley. In addition to the illustrations, Michael also employed his graphic design skills, designing the layout of each page. He said it’s been his most involved project to date. For a book called Galactic Olympics, Michael designed the cover and contributed a few illustrations. Another book, Raising Nathan, involved designing the cover and layout.

“This last project was a combination of the two previous books in the sense that I was given the manuscript and I did the cover design, layout, format and illustrations,” Michael explains.

Through that process, he took into account the warp and woof of the book’s language.

“It’s actually a song,” he says of Valrie’s text. “I had to bear that in mind and see how things would flow and get the energy. The most enjoyable part of the whole project was figuring out what images would go with the different sections of the story and in a sense using personal experiences and memories to influence those.”

The book is now available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble and Michael is busy working on his own graphic novel series the Atlas trilogy, which centers on a "guardian of the earth' who discovers he’s not the only one on the planet. The soon-to-be author plans to complete the initial volume before his final semester in the fall.

See more of Michael's work on his website.