Photosyntesis is a personal illustration project made to celebrate the role that Cape Verdean music plays in my life right now. Through ten portraits of well-known musicians, I aimed to make a tribute to these people and to Cape Verdean culture in general. Through their wonderful music I received art, and through my illustrations, I give back art to the world. It’s a natural process.

A natural process is also Photosynthesis, which gives the title to the project for two reasons :

  1. Every portrait displays leaves or flowers in the background
  2. Every portrait is somehow a synthesis of several photos.

The musicians (5 men and 5 women) are : Bau, Elida Almeida, Jon Luz, Lura, Mario Lucio, Mayra Andrade, Nancy Vieira, Orlando Pantera, Teofilo Chantré, Cesaria Evora.

This is not an exhaustive list since many important artists are left. I would have liked to draw Mariana Ramos, Tcheka, Tito Paris and Sara Tavares, but I was unable to do it. Maybe I will expand the series in the future.


Drawing illustrations definitely allows us to listen music at the same time, and as a musician, I’ve always been a huge fan of so-called “world” music, even though this label sounds very simplistic to me. In this past year, without any reason in particular except for personal taste, I got more and more interested in Cape Verdean music, discovering little by little several different artists. It became my mantra, the soundtrack of my everyday life. Also, a two-month summer stay in Portugal strengthened my curiosity toward the archipelago.

I’m currently playing Cavaquinho in a duo that aims to mix traditional Mornas with electronic sounds. Many thanks to Hernique that fed my interest and curiosity, and that has been the best ambassador of his country I could ever meet.


I’ve always been fascinated by portraits, since they are an attempt to summarize the identity of a person in a single image. In particular, I love non-realistic portraits, because they allow the artist to place a filter through his style. I always thought that illustration should not reproduce reality but rather create new worlds.

However, portraits are by definition very simple compositions, since they display only one big element at the center of the canvas, so I needed something to make them more appealing. To enrich the layout, and reduce the contrast between the foreground and the background, I decided to use leaves and flowers. Plants are drawn without any reference in mind (although sometimes we can recognize a particular species) and serve only as a decoration, to find a good balance between lines and shapes. Textile patterns in the clothes are also used to achieve the same goal, but differently from plants. They needed some research and a couple of them are slightly inspired by the samakaka patterns from Angola.

All portraits were sketched by hand from several photo references, then scanned and colored digitally with my favourite software Krita + Linux + Cintiq graphic tablet, or Procreate on iPad. You can see all the final sketches below as well as some timelapse recordings that show the process step by step.

The set of portraits is released under Creative Commons License – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International, so you are free to share and distribute the work as soon as you credit me.  

Creative Commons License

Mascrinhas by Livio Fania is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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