In 2018, I won the first Komura; Creator’s Grant for a zine project I made with Ivan Reverente and Abi Dayacap (my wife). We called it Takatak Komiks—inspired by the sound ambulant street vendors made when selling cigarettes and candies.
June 2018, I saw an online call for zine proposals for a newly formed grant. I’m always on the lookout for things to fuel or fund some of the ideas that have been percolating in my head for years. I felt this was a great thing to get into. The barriers to entry were very few and I already had an idea that was in my head for over 10 years.
For years, my friend Ivan Reverente, my wife Abi, and I had been tossing around an idea for a packet of mini-comics. We’d never gotten around to doing it because real life always got in the way. I decided to go ahead and enter it as a proposal for the Komura; Creator’s Grant. If it got in, we’d get an extra push to do because of the money and the deadline. If not, well…no harm done.
Below are pages from the proposal I sent.
Here’s the final design and some of the mini-comics we included inside.
I’ve always wanted to do book covers, but I don’t get that many opportunities to really make them. I was lucky enough to recently get a simple redesign project from Anvil Publishing for one of their young-adult novels – Owl Friends written by Carla Pacis.
The novellette is set in the aftermath of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991 when residents were forced to flee their homes and relocate to safer areas. The story centers around the unlikely friendship between a young girl and an Aeta boy despite the prejudices against the Aeta triebe. The Aetas are one of the indigenous peoples of the Philippines.
Here’s the original book cover illustrated by Yasmin Ong.
In developing the studies, I tried two approaches – one similar to the previous cover where it focused on their faces, and the other used a wider shot that included the book’s setting.
The story of Ibong Adarna – the mystical bird whose singing cures an ailing king – is part of any Filipino’s childhood storyscape. The epic was written in the 15th century during the Spanish times as a corrido, or a narrative song in the form of a poem. The story has been popularized by adaptations in film, TV, and other media. I confess that I may not have read the actual poem, since we discussed a different epic poem when I was in high school.
A couple of months ago, Adarna House, one of the Philippines’ children’s books publishers asked me to illustrate the cover and provide chapter breaks for a new edition of the book edited by National Artist Virgilio Almario. I finally got to read the entire text for the first time.
The initial direction for the cover art was more in line with 60’s Marvel Comics covers, that’s why the initial type treatment was more bombastic.
But after a couple of iterations, we settled on the direction below.
Before rendering anything though, I made some rough character studies for the main characters. The character studies served as a guide when I was making the comic page style chapter breaks.
Here are the chapter breaks for the book rendered in comics form.
My friends and I gave a talk at the Philippine Literary Festival held at Raffles Makati last August 30, 2015. With me in the panel were Liza Flores, Ray Sunga, and Sergio Bumatay III. We were a bit surprised by the turnout; we actually expected maybe ten attendees tops.
Liza Flores gave an introduction about our organization Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan and talked about her process for her recent book “My Big Sister Can See Dragons” written by Rocky Sanchez Tirona and published by Canvas. The book’s development underwent the usual process that a children’s book goes through in the Philippines, wherein a publisher commissions an illustrator to provide images for an existing story. Liza’s illustrations for the book were all large scale papercuts mounted on wood. During the book’s launch, the illustrations were exhibited at the University of the Philippines Vargas Museum.
Sergio Bumatay talked about out his process for his book “May Darating na Trak Bukas” (literally translated as “a truck will arrive tomorrow”) written by National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario and published by Adarna House. Serj’s experience on the book was a bit different since it didn’t originate from a previously written text. Instead, Serj was asked to develop several studies that can serve as inspiration for a new story. From the studies, Adarna House chose one image for Virgilio Almario to base his text on.
Ray Sunga narrated his personal experiences in being a children’s book illustrator, as well as his process, and his inspirations. He gave insights into what we as illustrators experience in the Philippines (notably how you can’t live on illustrating children’s books alone).
I talked about my research on word and picture interactions in picture books as well as my learnings from a writers and illustrators workshop I attended in Bintan, Indonesia (more about this in a coming blog post). The point of my presentation was underscore our role as co-storytellers in picture books, a fact that many in the local industry may have glossed over because of the preeminence of the purely written text as primary sources of stories.
The idea of teaching visual storytelling and visual literacy in general seems to be in its nascent stages in the Philippines. Personally, I’ve heard anecdotal evidence that parents shy away from stories that are purely pictorial or at least with very few words. I don’t have the facts as to how visual literacy is being taught in Philippine schools nowadays, but I hope illustrators will have a greater role in shaping the conversation in the future.