Who we are, the botanical and zoological and digital photography teams at FLAAR Mesoamerica research facilities, Guatemala

FLAAR Maya comic book illustrators team animated movie zootopia Feb 24 2016 SM
February 2016,  our illustrators, photographers, web master, web designer, flora and fauna researchers in a group photo before we watch the ZOOTOPIA animated film of Walt Disney. Also in the photograph are the fathers of two of the students and two of their sisters (we are family oriented).

The film had segments so entertaining that I must admit I laughed so often that I had tears in my eyes. So this is clearly a great film concept for adults as well as college students. Obviously kids would like this as well.

Several of our staff had other appointments this evening, so this is not the entire team.

At present our Maya cartoon characters are focused on comic books (simultaneously for education and for entertainment). But our long range goal is to have an animated film to impact the entire world. Our strength is that we know the Maya world plus the plants and animals (and insects and every aspect that will appeal to people of all ages and all cultures).

FLAAR has decades of experience in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, studying especially the flora and fauna related to mythology, iconography, epigraphy, murals, painted ceramics, and other forms of Mayan art.

Dr. Hellmuth has two seasons experience in the archaeology of Peru (once for a Harvard project; the second for a Yale project). But his focus is definitely on Mesoamerica, including the Aztec, Mixtec, Toltec, Zapotec, and especially the Olmec, Classic Veracruz and Teotihuacan, since these three cultures had trade routes deep into Central America, thus bringing interaction with the Mayan civilizations of Guatemala.

The success of our cultural studies is in part based on our focus on gaining experience in high-resolution photography already 40+ years ago, and in the current era of course expanding into 3D scanning and 3D imaging software (and printers).

Due to the high resolution of our cameras, we have done research on what kinds of printer technology is the best to reproduce these images. We had Leica already in 1962, Hasselblad by 1966, 4x5” and up to 8x10” by 1997, and 28 megapixels already by the same year, 1997!

The tri-linear scanning back (1997) could take an image one meter high by six meters long already at this early date. Our evaluations of what inkjet printer was best for images this size has continued for 17 years to the point that the FLAAR Reports on wide-format inkjet printers are read by over half a million people a year. Dr Hellmuth is consultant for digital imaging technology in Dubai, Johannesburg, Istanbul, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and throughout China.

We are combining our experience in digital imaging together with experience with Mayan civilization to create a unique presentation format for people of all ages. During December 2015 and all through 2016 we will be presenting our friendly, happy, Mayan cartoon characters to the world.

All FLAAR 2015 Staff who we are
Our Team Here are many of our illustrators, photographers, and flora-fauna research team, late December 2015 (yes, in our part of the world in December you get heliconia flowers (behind the center).


In today’s multi-cultural world it is essential to have capable individuals who are bi-lingual. So within our office we focus on Mayan languages and Spanish (FLAAR itself is multi-lingual; you will hear up to four languages being spoken within the office). In this set of photographs you see our Mayan speaking personnel. They specialize in knowledge of local utilitarian plants, plus they also know the animals and insects and reptiles of Guatemala.

Our remarkable photographic archive of plants and animals is about 45% photos by Nicholas and 45% photos by Sofia Monzon. The other 10% are by Eduardo Sacayon, Jaime Leonardo and our newly hired team (shown below).

Of Nicholas and Sofia, each have both a scientific manner combined with a fine art photo style. Each has their own individual method (Sofia favors Canon, Nicholas favors Nikon but also uses Canon) yet they share many aspects (namely the goal of achieving the most remarkable in-depth, back-lit image possible).

For years FLAAR used 4x5 and 8x10 traditional cameras, (three) Leica and (three) Hasselblad cameras. When the digital era arrived, Nicholas evaluated Leaf, Phase One, Kodak, and Hasselblad medium format digital camera backs in past years.

This is Erick and Melanny, graphic designers, who are moving into doing more photography of flora and fauna.

Erick fotografia FLAAR Team 2016
Erick Flores is one of our team of photographers but he also does graphic design for FLAAR Reports on Neotropical flora and fauna. Erick does our video as well. Plus he will be working on publications of children’s books that we will be launching as part of our long-range program to teach family and cultural values, using the rain forest settings as a stage.


Elena FLAAR Staff guatemala 1503
Elena Siekavizza is the assistant for studies in flora and fauna. She's in charge of organizing the aspects for the field trips and investigations of plants and animals in Guatemala. Plus she catalogs the close to quarter million high-resolution photographs of Neotropical flowers and animals which are photographed by the various teams of FLAAR Mesoamerica.


All FLAAR 2015 Staff who we are
Melanny Celeste Quiñonez is a talented illustrator. She has illustrated the autobiography of Nicholas’s experiences in the jungles for decades. This part-biography part-novel will eventually be launched to document what it was like for him to live in the remote rain forests of Guatemala and be in Mesoamerica since age 16. Melanny is also a great cartoon illustrator, putting personal humor into her professional drawings. She has attended Photokina 2014 and SIGGRAPH 2015 technology expos.

Andrea Mendoza, student of industrial graphic design, does our 3D scanning, studies on 3D software, as well as research on the world of 3D imaging.

Ilse Castellanos Illustrator Flaar mayan characters 2016 Guatemala
Ilse Castellanos  also makes different types of 3D renderings based on Maya thatch-roofed houses. We go out into the mountains and rain forests to 3D scan the houses, and then we recreate them electronically in 3D here on FLAAR headquarters.

Here are Vivian Diaz, Marcella Sarti and Linda. They do research on flora and fauna and prepare the extensive bibliographies of every plant and animal species that Dr Hellmuth wishes to study.

Vivian Diaz Illustrator Flaar mayan characters 2016
Vivian Diaz is the chief storyboard director of the department of cartoon illustrators. She also does research on plants and animals. She takes the storyboards written by Dr Nicholas Hellmuth and turns these into visually entertaining MayanToons Comic Books.

Vivi also provides patient training for the Mayan-speaking interns who have the potential to develop into professional illustrators. In effect FLAAR provides an in-house scholarships for Mayan-speaking students.

Vivi specializes in drawing facial expressions (on monkeys, macaws, opossums, etc) which evoke emotions in our readers.


The present stage of our storyboards is featuring animals. However we have decades of experience doing high-resolution photography of the rare flowers of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.

We specialize in studying utilitarian plants, used by the Maya for thousands of years.

Senaida Ba Mucu Mayan Toons Staff
Senaida Ba  is a student intern from Senahu, Alta Verapaz. She was recommended by one of the directors of her school outside Senahu.

Senaida does scanning of documents to put onto our web site as PDFs. She has learned all the needed software.

Senaida is a photography assistant both in the studio and out on field trips. She has learned how to handle all the cameras, lenses, accessories, and studio lighting equipment.

She speaks Q’eqchi’ Mayan language and thus also assists in making lists of utilitarian Maya plants and animals for our research projects. She of course also speaks Spanish, and is learning English via DuoLingo.
josefina illustrator flaar guatemala
Maria Josefina Sequen Subuyuj  is a student intern who has significantly advanced in learning the software for creating drawings of felines. She can do both realistic scientific illustrations, and also a style of comic book illustrations. Josefina speaks Kaqchiquel Mayan language, Spanish, and is learning English. She and the other students are excellent examples of the innate capability of the local students when they have initiative and are willing to focus on learning both hardware and software.
Milka Gerardi Diana Cruz Illustrator Flaar mayan characters 2016 Guatemala
Diana Cruz (Left) and Milka Gerardi (Right)  are both college students. Diana is specializing in rendering trees. Milka specializes in rendering comical birds.

FLAAR has one of the largest photographic archives in the world of high-resolution digital photographs of the plants and animals of Mesoamerica. These are not scans of ancient Kodachrome slides of decades ago: these are fresh digital images of unparalleled quality. So all our in-house illustrators have an in-house library plus an in-house photo reference library (in addition to what is available on the Internet).


Ximena Illustrator Flaar mayan characters 2016
Ximena Arriaga  Ximena Arriaga is our graphic designer in charge of digitalizing all the published documents of Dr. Nicholas Hellmuth. Presently she is scanning Nicholas’s research on the Cholti-Lacandon Maya of Sac Balam, and the Yucatec Lacandon ethnohistory of the same area of Chiapas Mexico.

Then she will scan the MA thesis of Nicholas on Teotihuacan iconography. Teotihuacan (not far from modern Mexico City) was one of the largest cities in the world during the 2nd through 5th centuries. This wealthy city-state impacted most of Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. The later Toltecs and Aztecs followed in the footsteps of the Teotihuacanos.

The Harvard undergraduate thesis of Nicholas (on the Tomb of the Jade Jaguar which he discovered at Tikal in 1965) is already available on our www.maya-archaeology.org.


Qeqchi kaqchiquel Mayan interns learn how to draw Maya comic book characters 3498
Vivian Diaz ,in-house cartoon illustrator at FLAAR also gives lessons on drawing flora and fauna to the Mayan-speaking students who are interns at FLAAR Mesoamerica in Guatemala City

Pedro is at the back (he speaks Q’eqchi’ Mayan). Then Teresa, and two sisters, Rosa and Josefina (sitting next to Vivi). They speak Kakchiquel Mayan. We provide access to free English lessons for all interns, students, and staff.


Dr Nicholas Hellmuth has lived in

  • Beijing 6 weeks, as consultant for a Chinese company.
  • Osaka, Japan 6 months, as a visiting research professor at the Japanese National Museum of Ethnography.
  • Zurich, Switzerland, three years, with his Swiss girlfriend Suzanne Schmidt.
  • Graz, Austria eight years, with Suzanna Reisinger helping in his research.
  • and Germany nine years with Andrea David assisting research and office organization.

But, the entire time he was also doing field trips and studies throughout Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras.

Nicholas is tri-lingual, English, Spanish, and German, and he can read and understand basic Italian and basic French (but does not speak these two languages).

Undergraduate degree, Harvard; Master’s degree Brown University; then three different post-graduate research positions at Yale University. PhD is from the University of Graz (Karl-Franzens Universitaet). Since then he was Visiting research professor of wide-format inkjet printing simultaneously at two universities for about five years: Universidad Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala, and Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Previously he was a research professor in digital photography at Rollins College (Florida) and then at Brevard Community College (Florida). All these years he also was doing studies throughout Mesoamerica.

Nicholas has lectured in Mexico, Guatemala, Panama City, Dubai, Johannesburg, Tokyo, Zurich as well as at Harvard, Princeton, Yale, UCLA, Berkeley, etc. He lectures on 3D printing options, printing on textiles, digital photography, Maya archaeology, plants and animals of the Maya areas of Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, and Honduras.

Dr Hellmuth has been a consultant to companies both large and small in many parts of the world, including being a consultant on wide-format inkjet printing technology and marketing to a Fortune 500 company for four years.

Dr Hellmuth is a consultant and evaluator for technology trade show organizers in Shanghai, Istanbul, Dubai, and Johannesburg. We were recently a consultant for one of the largest chocolate companies in Europe (Nicholas raises Theobroma cacao and Theobroma bicolor in his own ethnobotanical research garden).

FLAAR also raises bees (Meliponia), wasps, and butterflies. We do research on spiders of diverse sizes and structural arrangements of webs.

The six level FLAAR office includes a research library on flora and fauna. Our main library on Maya archaeology is on loan (now for over 20 years) to the Museo Popol Vuh on the campus of the nearby Universidad Francisco Marroquin.


USA books FLAAR Mayan Toons Staff
We shipped 4 metric tons of books, journals, articles, and notes of unpublished manuscripts from Graz, Austria to Guatemala earlier this year.


Dr Hellmuth and his team recently packed and shipped about 9,000 books to form a new Mesoamerican research library in Guatemala: for students, scholars, and visitors to Guatemala. This impressive library includes anthropology (ethnology, ethnography, linguistics, ethnohistory), archaeology, iconography, epigraphy, and linguistics of the Maya, Aztec, Olmec, Teotihuacan, Mixtec, Zapotec, and Classic Veracruz cultures. This library will be organized and managed by La Ruta Maya Foundation.


USA II books FLAAR Mayan Toons Staff
Here we are packing thousands and thousands of books from our former storage in the USA, so that these books can be available to students and Mayanists in Guatemala. This library is more metric tons than I can remember.


FLAAR began the FLAAR Reports on wide-format inkjet printing workflow equipment, inks, and software based on our many previous years experience with large-format film-based photography. Then digital cameras came out, and the first large-format digital scanning back company selected Nicholas to be one of their two evaluators. So already in 1997-1998 we had a 28 megapixel digital camera, producing files over 240 MB in file size (actually could produce even larger, but remember, this is 1998). So Encad provided us a 36” wide-format printer so we could print these enormous panoramas and rollouts. So we began to evaluate this printer.

We started in wide-format in these years (1997-1999), literally learned everything ourselves by trial and error, starting from scratch, and yet were known worldwide by 2004, in large part thanks to a corporate research grant of six figures spread out over four years).

webmarket flaar guatemala 2016 team
Web Department The web department is the one responsble for the Maya toons character website development and design. Paulo Nunez is our Webmaster, followed by Juan C. Hernandez and Marcelo Giron Web designers.


Pablo y Maria renee FLAAR PDF TEAM 2016
PDF Team Here are some of the team of evaluators and researchers in wide-format inkjet printing technology. Many of the team has experience literally around the world, since we are consultants for ink manufacturers, printer manufacturers, manufacturers of printable materials, software engineers, etc. FLAAR is one of the widest-read non-commercial digital printing research and educational institutes in the world.


With our plant and animal research, it has been similar. We start with initiative and moxie, work 14-hour days for years, and gradually we have become a leading source of knowledge of utilitarian plants of Mesoamerica. Our flora and fauna web sites are on page one of most pertinent Google searches. For many plants we have more information than scientific botanical web sites funded by millions of dollars.

Our goal for 2015 onward is to impact the world with our concept of Mayan focused characterizations. We have been doing background research for many years, preparing storyboards, and now will gradually launch our products. As soon as funding is available, we will move from storyboards to animation. In other words, based on our knowledge of how to learn the basics of a field of endeavor, and then improve our work, we can rise to a worldwide status in cartoons in the coming years.

Flor Setina Jimena Muñoz Administration Flaar mayan characters 2016 guatemala
Jimena Munoz and Flor Setina are responsable for all the administrative operations here in FLAAR. Their work is essential to different areas of the organization. From the economic aspects to planning all the international flights of the FLAAR teams,, they cover every detail for us, so that the researchers can focus on their study topics.


We continue our research, evaluations, and reviews of wide-format inkjet digital printing technology and applications; we already have our plane tickets to attend Sign Middle East (SGI 2016) in Dubai and APPPPEXPO 2016 in Shanghai. But as you will notice during the coming months, we have worked already for many years to lay the groundwork for our launch of our Mayan cartoon characters.

Since most of the people working at FLAAR are students, they often transfer from their local university to a university in another country (to experience that other culture). Here are a few of our recent employees who are now elsewhere in the world.

Marcella Sarti Illustrator Flaar mayan characters 2016 guatemala
Marcella Sarti is a university student related to flora and fauna. She does most of the bibliographic research on plants and animals, including downloading of articles, monographs, theses and dissertations which are nowadays available on the Internet. Many of her bibliographies are on www.maya-art-books.org.

On her desk you see many of the 40+ monographs of Standley, Steyermark and co-authors on plants of Guatemala, plants of British Honduras, etc, which are part of our in-house library.

Marcella Sarti is also an illustrator, both a scientific illustrator and a cartoon illustrator (in addition to doing photography). Josefina specializes in scientific illustrations of all species of felines, especially jaguars. Vivian also is a cartoon illustrator (in addition to having extensive knowledge as a botanist and zoologist).