In June of 2004, a Filipino couple moved their entire family to a suburb in Toronto, Canada from Paranaque City with the hopes of giving their kids a better education and a safer living environment. With them flew a young Jeatriz De Leon who found herself over 8,000 miles from home.
Like any kid in a new place, Jeatriz found it challenging to adjust to her new environment.
“The obvious challenges were definitely adjusting to a new environment and living in a culturally diverse society, despite the time change of course,” she recalled.
“In my case, coming here at 11 years of age, my main challenge was making friends. But because of the friendly neighbourhood here in Mississauga, I slowly overcame my shyness and made many good friends,” Jeatriz shared.
By “joining after-school activities and sports teams in elementary school and in high school, and also Youth For Christ Canada,” Jeatriz enhanced her interpersonal and leadership skills.
An Artistic Fascination
“I started drawing at a very young age,” the illustrator of the children’s book “Socks” mentioned.
“It’s always been an interest of mine because I have always been fascinated with images and colours. Watching cartoons and reading Japanese manga comics helped me a lot and became my drive for motivation to draw as much as I could until I had to stop for the day,” she shared about the humble beginnings of her fascination with visual arts.
She also shared about where she gets inspiration.
“Plants also helped me get into it ever since my grandma taught me how to take care of them since I was 5 to 6 years old; we would take care of mainly the tropical flowers because of their vibrant colours,” she said.
And like any kid, Jeatriz’s biggest influences were her parents and relatives.
“I also had people draw me pictures when I was little including my aunt and my dad and I took pride in the drawings they gave me, so I always tried to copy them because they were a big influence on me.”
Drawing for “Socks”
The book “Socks” is written by Pat Riccardi. It’s about a young girl who embraced being different by simply wearing her preferred socks in school despite the authorities’ calling her out (and even her parents). It’s a great book to teach children that being different, being yourself, is more than okay—it’s what we should all do, young or old.
Jeatriz felt more than pleased and honored to be part of this project that can influence kids to feel better about themselves, because once when she was young, she also had to adjust and fit in and at the same time learn to be herself in a new place.
Illustrating for “Socks”–or any children’s book for that matter–requires a lot of whimsical images and vibrant colors, so how did Jeatriz manage to create all those original artwork?
“In terms of creating the illustrations for Socks, there was a lot of trial and error, thumbnails, and character designing. My character designs were mostly made up from the top of my head. Some were inspired in combination by many cartoon and anime shows that I used to watch growing up, and other characters were inspired by nieces and nephews,” she smiled at the last part.
She also added, “I also made the characters as diverse as possible because Canada is a multicultural country and that was also a source of inspiration for the book.”
A Message of Hope and Courage
A month after Super Typhoon ‘Yolanda’ (international name ‘Haiyan’) hit the central Philippine islands of Visayas, Jeatriz shares her message of hope and bravery for her fellow Pinoys.
“My message for our fellow Filipinos affected by the Typhoon Haiyan is that even though all of you may have lost your properties, the smiles you all carry, hopes, and your positive energy is such an inspiration to many people, and to me personally, and it is very humbling. You are all such strong people and remember that God is always with you all. I wish that I can be there and be of help physically but I can only hope you’re all doing well. The author and I will be fundraising as much as we can to help send some money to help out. God gives the strongest battles to His strongest soldiers and you guys are definitely a few of the many strongest soldiers He has.”