Space and Satellites artist | Cécile Simonis

Illustrator and visual artist, Cécile Simonis, is one of the five artists that responded to the call for proposals in March 2020 and participated in the Space and Satellites Artist in Residence programme at Inspace.

During the artist residency, Cécile created a graphic short story. The story is a poetic narrative inspired by and referencing the ways scientists measure biomass (the weight in carbon tons) of hectares of forest using satellite data and measures on the ground.

After talking with scientists about their work, Cécile wanted to weave it into a broader narrative and reflection on the weight of forests and people’s perception of the land and, through this, making the science personal as well as showing it as a neutral and essential mode of observation and monitoring.

The comic/graphic short story medium allows images and text to interact and present complementary aspects of a narrative.

The images are hand drawn, and the colour layers are created digitally.

Image from The Return by Cécile Simonis

The Return is available in digital form and is printed in an A4, 24-page comic/zine form using the risograph process.

Riso printing is an ecological process, where the inks are plastic free and made from rice production leftovers, and the printed on recycled paper. It is a process of printing by successive layers and taking advantage of the transparent colours overlapping to create nuances in the colours.

The paper books and an A3 riso poster describing the ground measuring of biomass will soon be available from Cécile’s Etsy shop. Out of the Blueprint, a social enterprise based in Leith, Edinburgh, is printing the zine. Copies of the zine can be purchased from Typewronger Books.


The Return references how the data necessary to measure biomass is gathered. Scientists measure the trees in several small sample plots of forest. They compare their measurements with satellite radar data and LiDAR (laser) data of the same areas. This allows them to refine their satellite data analysis in order to use it on vast areas of woodland. Thus they can measure how many tons of carbon are stored in a forest and precisely monitor changes in tree coverage.


After speaking with the scientists about their work and researching the subject, Cécile started writing the story. Once the text was written, she worked on the mockup, planning the pages and creating the images that would tell the story with the text.

Each image was then drawn more precisely on A3 paper, ready to be traced (and reworked) on the lightbox. The black line drawings and grey marker textures are hand drawn, and the colour layers (orange and green) are created digitally.


Cécile spoke to scientists who shared their work and offered advice and guidance and to give me great advice and guidance during the residency. These scientists include Prof Murray Collins, Dr Iain McNicol, Dr Keiko Nomura and Prof Ed Mitchard of the University of Edinburgh.

Cécile is an illustrator and visual artist who has lived and worked in Edinburgh, Scotland, since 2011.  She was born in 1984 and grew up in the countryside in the south of Belgium. She studied in Liège, Belgium and Perugia, Italy and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in illustration from Ecole Supérieure des Arts Saint-Luc Liège and a Master’s degree in illustration from Ecole Supérieure des Arts de la Ville de Liège (Académie Royale des Beaux Arts).

She has taught drawing and illustration in Belgium, Canada and Scotland, including Edinburgh College of Art and the National Museum of Scotland.

She makes zines and artists books, drawings, prints, and 3D objects.

You can connect with Cécile on Twitter @CecileSimonis and Instagram @cecile.simonis.