Getting to Know

Color it Blue

Meet illustrator Alizee Zimmermann.

By Alizee Zimmermann, Kathy Borsuk, and Zachary Musgrove

Adult coloring books are very much in vogue these days as a means to relax and rejuvenate. Alizee Zimmermann is a young artist from the Turks & Caicos Islands who is using her new coloring book Reefscapes to spotlight the unique underwater landscapes of the Turks & Caicos Islands — with the hopes of increasing awareness of the need for ocean conservation.

Alizee Zimmermann with her new coloring book, Reefscapes.

Alizee Zimmermann with her new coloring book, Reefscapes.

Alizee Zimmermann was born and raised in the Turks & Caicos Islands to a family of adventurers. (Her mother, Chloe, is the long-time owner of TCI-based Marco Travel.) Alizee says she spent a lot of time exploring in the bush and on the beach. “I always had a strong connection to the ocean. I did my junior open water PADI course with Big Blue when I was 13 and was part of the first-ever DEMA Junior Park Warden Program. We broke ground for the plot of land in The Bight that eventually became the Environmental Centre.”
After attending Richmond Hills Primary (where she read her way through the school library) and the British West Indies Collegiate (where she swam competitively), Alizee and several others in her class traded island paradise for chilly England to earn the International Baccalaureate. She recalls, “It was really hard going to boarding school after the freedom of growing up in the Islands in the 1990s. It was your movie-screen version of a nightmare, complete with scary matrons, strict rules, and a dress code. But I met some of my best friends there and the education was good.”
When Alizee was 17, she started a four year program in English Literature at the University of Edinburgh, spent her third year as an exchange student in Spain, and graduated with a Masters of Arts in 2008.
Happily returning home after six years in the UK, Alizee says she wanted nothing more than to be a bartender (to her mother’s great dismay). She held a trio of part-time jobs at Jimmy’s Dive Bar, Undersea Explorer (semi-submarine), and on the Atabeyra sailboat. Soon afterwards, she managed the Discovery Centre in Club Med and guided tours for French and Spanish groups. In 2011, Alizee went to China to teach English as a foreign language, after taking an online TEFL course. There she taught at a high-school in a small town (about six million people!) in Hubei province, later moving to Chengdu in Sichuan province to teach at the university. After two years in China, Alizee was longing to be warm and near the ocean again!
With her boyfriend Justin, Alizee moved to Vietnam, where she completed an internship program with Rainbow Divers and worked her way up from Rescue Diver to Instructor. She was offered a job on the Turks & Caicos Aggressor, so came home and spent six months working as a dive instructor and videographer on the liveaboard, often on the Silver Banks swimming with humpbacks, amassing more underwater memories that served to inspire the coloring book.
The next two stops in Alizee’s adventurous life were a teaching job in Vitoria-Gasteiz, the capital of the Spanish Basque country, and her current residence in Leiden, the Netherlands, where Justin is completing a Masters Degree in Archaeology. Alizee says, “We realized quite abruptly that I’m somehow not very hireable here in the Netherlands. I speak three languages but none is Germanic. My degree is in Literature, not Business. I’m a dive instructor but can’t see myself braving the North Sea and I’m an English teacher in a country where pretty much everyone speaks English.”
So she is spending her time doing translations online, dog-walking, and pet-sitting. She started drawing as a way to pass the day and keep sane. Alizee recalls, “Early last year, I got a job to help illustrate a coloring book. The pay was really low and I would have gotten no artistic credit. I politely declined but the more I spoke to people and showed them my illustrations, the more people suggested I just self-publish and create my own coloring book. I hadn’t given it much further thought until Justin encouraged me to get a book printed for the upcoming TCI Expo. And that was it, Reefscapes was born.”
All the scenes in Reefscapes are based on the underwater landscapes of the Turks & Caicos Islands, the images Alizee grew up with. “I tried to stick to animals found in the TCI both local and invasive (lionfish). Admittedly, a few of the fish are straight out of my imagination, but on the whole most of them bear resemblance to species seen when diving in the Islands. I’m working on a series of Humpback whale illustrations at the moment. Spending time in close proximity with them was life-changing and this time of year is generally when I get the most homesick. For my next collection I want to focus more on folklore and literary figures — still ocean- themed but this time there will be pirates and mermaids and Krakens galore.”
Reefscapes was well-received at the TCI Arts & Crafts Expo 2015 and several hotels, including Amanyara, The Palms, The Sands, and Blue Haven, have all picked up the book either as gifts for repeat/special guests or for the boutique. The coloring books are also sold in Anna’s Gallery, Dive Provo, Driftwood Studios, and Marco Travel, and available online through CreateSpace and Amazon.
What’s next for this adventurous artist? Alizee muses, “I love creating things and that won’t change, but I probably won’t limit myself to just coloring books. Raising awareness about marine conservation and finding a way to help promote environmental education are two of my motivations for focusing on the ocean with my illustrations. I’ve had ideas for educational coloring books that could not only promote the beauty of what we have, but also depict the repercussions of our everyday actions — from washing your face with cleansers containing plastic microbeads to the horrors of dynamite fishing which is still being used around the world. I am working on a series of illustrations showing the darker side of what’s going on in the ocean these days.”
She adds, “One of my motivations for illustrating sub-aquatic wonderlands is the awe of what is there and the fear of what will be left. The importance of the ocean and the threats it is facing have become abundantly clear and yet there is still so much unnecessary garbage being dumped into the seas. Working ‘underwater’ in both Turks & Caicos and Vietnam made the threat ever so real and personal. Education is the best defense and mass destruction can stem from an ignorance of the consequences.”

For more information or to order a copy of the coloring book, visit www.tradewindcolours.com. Alizee recommends placing a sheet of paper between pages if using paints or markers to avoid bleed-through.



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Hobbyist photographer and Assistant Director for Research & Development at the TCI Department of Environment & Coastal Resources Dr. Eric F. Salamanca took this rare photo of a Bahama Woodstar hummingbird enjoying the nectar of Moringa flowers.

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