City College illustrator on the rise with release of new children’s book

Illustrator Anthony Mata sketches original artwork at the City College Mission Center Library on Tuesday, March 10. (Photo by Natasha Dangond)
Illustrator Anthony Mata sketches original artwork at the City College Mission Center Library on Tuesday, March 10. (Photo by Natasha Dangond)

Patrick Cochran

The Guardsman

There are a few pitfalls to being talented and creative, and City College student Anthony Mata, who illustrated the recently released children’s book “Akiti the Hunter”, is well versed with the problems that can arise for an up and coming artist.

“I run into so many people who pitch ideas that never come through,” said Mata. “They disappear before it starts. I try to encourage them, a lot of these people are friends, but they don’t have the initiative to finish. I don’t get angry at them, just disappointed. I used to get angry when I was younger, but now accept it as what it is.”

Recently released childen’s book “Akiti the Hunter,” illustrated by Anthony Mata. (Photo by Natasha Dangond)
Recently released childen’s book “Akiti the Hunter,” illustrated by Anthony Mata. (Photo by Natasha Dangond)

Having so many potential clients end up being listless in the end can be disheartening for Mata. When he received a message on Instagram from someone saying that they liked his art work and wanted to hire him to do a children’s book he all the right to be skeptical at first.

Bolaji Ajayi, a Bay Area resident, who, after seeing Mata’s work online decided that he would be the perfect person to illustrate her story, “Akiti the Hunter” which is  based on many Nigerian folktales.

After talking with her a few times Mata could tell that Ajayi was serious.

“She had the story already mapped out and had a good idea of what she wanted to create,” said Mata. “It’s funny that the author was one of the few people who actually followed through. Total strangers come through usually, friends and family flake off and end up not contacting you back.”

Mata and Ajayi worked together on the project from March until October 2014. It was their first time creating a children’s book, despite this they had excellent rapport.

“I like working with clients like Bolaji, who are deliberate about their project all the way through. She was the perfect client,” Mata said.

The main character in the book is Akiti, and Ajayi portrayed him in the classic hero archetype to make the character more attractive for young children. This detail caused Mata to envision how the main character Akiti would look on the page.

“When I designed him I did a lot of research on Nigeria. I didn’t know that there are over 100 ethnic groups there, and just as many cultures, it was really eye opening to me learning so much about Nigeria. I wanted to make sure that Akiti was representative of as many of the different diverse groups as possible,” said Mata. “The one thing none of the groups would of worn is a cape like Akiti wears in the book. The author wanted him to have one so he could be more similar to super heroes, since research shows childrens look upon super hero characters more favorably.”

Illustrating the book was very rewarding work for Mata.

“The author has told me that the kids she has talked to have enjoyed the book and my niece loves it,” said Mata. “It (illustrating the book) was fun and right up my alley. I love to illustrate. There were some tough moments, but the two of us were able to constantly communicate. Also it taught me to work faster.”

Another benefit is the change of pace and the more lighthearted content matter.

“It’s better than drawing for newspapers or magazines, since they have to be newsworthy or political. I don’t really care about politics, and with children’s books it’s all for the kids. Make the colors vibrant and the characters relatable. A lot more enjoyable and fulfilling.”

With Mata’s recent work on “Akiti the Hunter” he hopes to find more work in the field of children’s books, or in comic books.

“Hopefully this leads to more people who are serious about their work contacting me,” said Mata.

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