Meet the Spanish artist who really, really loves doves
Barcelona-based illustrator Carla Siso has found her muse in a therapy dove she rescued and grew to love – now she’s on a mission to make you fall in love with birds too
Spanish illustrator Carla Siso is the creator of Dovemania! – a children’s book and Instagram account dedicated to her friend, Usita the turtle dove.
While she may have rescued the bird and raised her, the bird supported her right back, through a mental health condition. Such was her connection, that years after Usita’s death, in 2020, the 26-year-old was inspired to create a project dedicated to her friend. She began to draw the image of Usita, first on cloth bags and then on paper. While all of the illustrations are different, the turtle dove remains the same, as a legacy to Usita.
What the “lover of animals, especially turtle doves”, wasn’t expecting was the popularity of her Instagram (@dovemania.oficial), which now has nearly 70,000 followers. This success encouraged her to compile her illustrations and publish, with the help of the Caligrama publishing house, a book aimed at children.
In the book, Usita educates young children about various sports and jobs, thanks to pages full of hand-drawn illustrations accompanied by short poems. “The book is a tribute to Usita and all birds. I hope that thanks to him people can get to know them better.”
Q&A: Carla Siso
What do you love about doves?
I have always grown up with animals at home and I adore birds, specifically doves, I love them because they are affectionate, and they give me peace, joy and love.
Tell us about Usita, how you met and your relationship.
A few years ago, My mother and I found a young collared dove chick on the ground that has been attacked by a raven. We rescued it and took it to our house and raised it as our pet. It gave us lots of love. At that time I was going through a serious depression and when I was sad I leaned on it. As a therapy bird, she helped me recover. While she might have passed away years ago, she has continued to be my magnificent inspiration to create Dovemania!
She created a nest in a piece of furniture and would often sit on my shoulder. She was free to fly around the home and was very much the darling of the house. I leaned on her, on my parrot and my blackbird to get through the situation.
And why art – what moves you to do what you do?
I have always liked art, drawing, movies, animation etc. When I was kid I used to draw the cartoons while watching them on TV, so I suppose fate wanted me to do this, a tribute to my dove.
Which is your favourite dove picture?
To me all of my illustrations are important and mean a lot, but if I have to choose one, it would be the one with the sneakers, since it was the first one I created, and the whole Dovemania! journey start from there.
What has been the most surprising outcome from your work?
The reaction of people, and the outpouring of affection and love as a response to my art. People wrote to me on instagram from different countries all around the world saying that they really liked my illustrations.
What have been the biggest lessons you have learned over the last year or so?
Enjoy the creation process and the journey. My illustrations give me joy and happiness as they are a beautiful legacy of a life. The goal of Dovemania! is fun. But also, I simply want people to love and respect birds and doves as I do.
What is one thing you do regularly, a simple ritual or hack that brings you joy or elicits a sense of self care?
To disconnect and relax I like to swim, it gives me peace and tranquillity.
Do you have a favourite quote?
“Live and let live.”
Pay it forward: tell us about three outrageously good people who inspire you.
The World Wildlife Fund because they do an admirable job in protecting our planet and all the living beings that inhabit it; Pixar because it represents my childhood and my passion for drawing, cartoons and animation; and Frida Kahlo, who is a strong and talented woman who has had many adversities, which is reflected in her art. I admire her greatly.
I create bags, caps, mugs and stickers with the image to carry my message of love and respect for the animal world further. I would love to collaborate with brands and organisations to create dove products that can spread Dovemania joy.