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Malika Favre I think the first impression is not always the right one

When Malika Favre was invited on a week-long trip to the Canary Islands to create a series of illustrations for a project called On The Draw, she assumed it was some kind of scam. It seemed too good to be true. But the programme was legitimate, and Malika arrived in the colourful island of Tenerife excited to get to work.

But in fact, Malika wasn’t assigned to Tenerife; she was to fly on to the dramatic volcanic island of Fuerteventura, famous for its black beaches and lunar landscapes. Born in France and now based in London, Malika is used to capturing a sense of place in her work, but on this trip she decided to take a new approach and not actually draw anything while she was there.

“At the beginning I thought would do one drawing a day; I would sketch as I go along,” she says. “But we were on the go from 9am until 10pm. It was very intense and we were seeing so many things a day, I could not digest it fast enough. Your perception of a place completely changes from the first time you arrive to when you spend a bit of time there. I think the first impression is not always the right one. It always has something in it, but it’s not complete.”

On The Draw paired seven illustrators up with local artists who acted as hosts and tour guides, and Malika was taken all over the island. Wherever she went she took photographs, building up reference points for the images she would create once she arrived back in the UK.

“I was looking for little narrative elements that were really true to the place, rather than taking photos that I would then translate directly. None of the landscapes I did are of an actual place, they are a mental collage of lots of things I saw.”

Once she arrived home, Malika, who has a background in graphic design, says she approached the commission like a branding project. “I was trying to capture the essence of the island and translate it into the images,” she says. I started listing its different faces – volcanic beaches, the architecture, the wind, these big sand dunes.”

After she assembled moodboards using her photographs, she was struck by three images that were characterised by a similar curved shape.

“I thought, ‘What if all of my illustrations had the same backbone?’ So I created one single line going into the picture that would guide everything; this could become the trajectory of the beach, or a road in the mountain or the perspective of the architecture.”

But Malika being Malika imposed another set of rules on herself. She decided that each image should include the same four elements – something natural, something living, something man-made and some manifestation of the wind that buffets Fuerteventura. So we find a towel billowing in the breeze, a distant windmill atop a hill or a small bird hidden in a church.

“I started to have all these rules and test them very quickly,” she says. “It’s more something I do for myself. There’s a feeling of consistency people get when they see it but they don’t need to know that I use those rules. But on a subconscious level I think it brings things together.”

The resulting series became more than the sum of its parts, a poetic tribute to an island she clearly fell in love with and a skilful evoking of an unusual landscape.

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