Pictures and Words


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.


The Secret: Behind the Scenes

I like reading about how other artists made their works. I love how the curtain is peeled back on the finished product to reveal what went on behind the scenes. Here’s a little of what went on while working on my most recent painting: The Secret. 

The Secret



This painting went through several incarnations. The first one was more elaborate, but the main focus was always the two children holding on to something. This first sketch was more surreal, with the children burying something that reminded me of the mandrake root in Harry Potter. I tabled that sketch for a few months but I knew I was going to include it in my two-man show with Serj Bumatay.

The Secret - 1st Study

When I was finally cramming for the exhibit and feeling that I had very little time left, I redid the image into something simpler. I removed all the other elements and focused on the children. And once again, I set aside the sketch for a bit while I executed the other paintings that had more definite images.


When I had finished all the other paintings for the exhibit, I went back to this piece and tried to flesh out the sketch it out into a size proportional to 4 x 3 ft.

For some reason, I couldn’t do it. I was uncomfortable with the proportions of the image. I can’t explain it better than that.

So I redid the entire thing. Since the exhibit date was fast approaching, my mind was working on overdrive and suddenly the image of two children tangled in branches popped into my head. The children were holding something, I decided it was a box. What’s inside? Does it matter?

the_secret_3nd_sketchPreparing the canvas

I bought my canvas, pre-primed, pre-stretched and mounted on a boxframe with a plywood backing from The Oil Paint Store but I still wanted to prime the canvas with premium gesso.

So applied several layers of white gesso on to the canvas, while sanding down the surface in between layers.


Then, I used modeling paste to texture the surface of the canvas.

Modeling paste

I applied the modeling paste with a rubber paint spreader and a pallette knife.

Pallette knife and paint spreader

While the paste was still wet, I etched lines and patterns on to the surface of the canvas using this thing:

Paint scraper

When the the modeling paste dried, I sandpapered the surface. The result looked like this:


Then, I covered the entire surface with gray gesso. I had previously mixed up a batch using black and the white gessoes.

Black gesso

Gray gesso

Paints I Use

I use Cobra Water Mixable Oil Paints mainly for health reasons and convenience. I work in a small space and using solvents with traditional oils releases a powerful smell throughout the house. Water mixable paints on the other hand, can be cleaned with soap and water.

Cobra water mixable paints

Transferring the Drawing

I used a grid to transfer my drawing onto the canvas. Some people use ink to darken and permanently fix the drawing on to the surface. I sometimes do that, but I decided to go with my pencil drawing.


The Secret WIP 01

The Secret WIP 02

The Secret

Zap: Process work for the Ink Corner

My humble process for the artwork I made for Manila Bulletin’s InK (Ilustrador ng Kabataan) Corner. This piece came out in today’s issue of the Manila Bulletin.

Preliminary pencils, combination of 4H and 6B pencils on Bristol Board
Starting the tones, 6B on bristol board
Scanned file, 600 dpi
Color flats, separate layer from pencils and made through with the lasso tool
Channel selected the pencil art and changed the color
Finished piece. Added text and vector screens at the back. This is probably the closest thing to a superhero drawing I've done in ages.

Drawing “Tapat”

I finally finished my illustrations for the 1st issue of TAPAT. I wanted to go analogue for the cover but because of time constraints, I figured I’d try my hand at doing a digital painting.

Before doing the final piece, I submitted two studies to the editors for their approval. The 1st study had the POV closer to the main figures where the viewer could see them doing the deed up close and personal. The 2nd study had the POV above the main figures, hopefully creating a more detached feeling and maybe even the impression of catching the figures in the heat of the moment. Continue reading “Drawing “Tapat””