Digital illustration of Ana Solana

Lately I have been asked what inspired me to create Ana Solana and her other friends. In this blog, I share her origin story. Ana’s creation story narrates different challenges I have faced since starting my own business, which is a unique platform for my passions for archaeology and art. By sharing this story, I hope to inspire you to challenge yourself and work towards bringing your dreams to life.

Brainstorming Characters

When I first started Ancient Explorer, I was a participant in the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS). After almost two years of planning and a business course application rejection later, I finally gained entry into program with a business concept. My vision was to share my passion for archaeology, especially with children, and hopefully ignite curiosity and passion for science. In practical terms, I could see myself teaching classes and workshops, but I was determined to avoid writing and delivering boring lectures about ancient places: I wanted to afford my students a set of more hands-on experiences. While I believed I had a good business concept, one of the first mayor challenges I faced was making archaeology more relatable, especially to children. 

As a NEIS participant, I was required to attend a month-long business course, designed to help me write a business plan. I also was assigned a great mentor. She identified the same core challenges but instantly manifested a solution during a class: ‘Lisa, you could create a character!’ Her logic was simple: creating characters would help me market my products, resources and classes to one of my target audiences. While I understood her approach, I confess that the idea captured my imagination immediately because I dreamed of becoming a children’s author. So I enthusiastically took up the challenge and began to brainstorm.

Ana Was Born In Washington

First sketch of Ana Solana

Two weeks later, I boarded a plane to Washington, where I was to take up a short research award at a prestigious library, with a clear picture of what Ana would look like. Ana is inspired by a good friend of mine, who is an anthropologist, born in Ecuador, and now lives in Washington D.C. We first met in Cusco, where we worked on an excavation together. After my arrival in the States, I shared with my friend my plans and asked her blessing to use her as my muse for my first character. She agreed. One afternoon towards the end of my stay in D.C., I was walking home from the library and I felt a sudden surge of creativity. I quickly bought a sketchbook and a pencil and sat in a cafe and while drinking a chai, drew the first sketch of Ana.

Bringing Ana to Life Digitally

After returning home to Australia, I started to play with the black and white sketch and produced a second one which I preferred and then coloured it in to work out Ana’s colour schemes. I initially planned to paint watercolour illustrations of Ana, but while I adore this medium, it can be time-consuming and at that time, I was under pressure to bring Ana to life quickly! I had deadlines to produce bright and colourful promotional material for workshops. What to do? One afternoon, like a thunderbolt, the answer came to me: draw Ana digitally! I learnt how to use Adobe Illustrator as a student of archaeology in order to produce digital plans of archaeological sites. I set to work straight away. I scanned  my favourite sketch and used this as the base layer. Layer by layer, I added colours and detail. Not very long after, I saw Ana looking at me from the computer screen. It was an exhilarating moment! 

Now, a year later, Ana’s community is growing and I am happy to say that my passion still fuels me to move forward. My next challenge is to finish Ana Solana’s first adventure book, which is due to be released in the coming months.

First coloured sketch of Ana Solana

So, the moral of Ana’s tale is this: don’t be afraid to think outside of the box and use what resources you have to get started. I have also learnt the importance of adapting to changes and persevering above all, as each step takes you closer to bringing to life your vision.

Do you love to create characters? Share them with us by leaving us a comment below.


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