Thursday, October 16, 2014

May Darating na Trak Bukas

May Darating na Trak Bukas is my latest children's book that's very dear to my heart and also one of the most unique book project I've ever worked on so far. The book is special not just because it's hardbound (very rare for local books) and beautifully printed but also in the sense that the way we created it was unusual: together with the Adarna House development team, we experimented on what we may call "the reverse process" of making a children's book.

When I was a kid, I loved collecting small things like toys or insects and stuff them in bottles. I also loved making snow globes from inverted mayo bottles.

The usual process in children's book creation starts with a story or manuscript from the author, then the publisher will find a suitable illustrator whose style fits the essence of the story. The illustrator will then begin to interpret the story with his own character designs, settings, flow and pace, etc. Most of the time, or ideally, it's up to the illustrator's concept in portraying the author's story. Of course, his ideas are also subject to both author and publisher's feedback and approval. Their approval largely depends on the accuracy, aptness, clearness of illustration and market research information.

I used colored pencils, chalk pastels, and charcoal on illustration board 
for the illustrations of May Darating na Trak Bukas

This time, we followed a different approach, I was commissioned to come up with narrative images that could inspire a story from it. As an illustrator who's non-verbal, my challenge is to start with a plot only this time, visually. Is it really possible for a visually-oriented person like me to draw a narrative image without thinking first a written story (whether mine or other's) at all? Or do we create an image intuitively just as Nathan Spoor refers to "suggestivism," wherein imagery is suggested by the mind or emerging from some kind of force as you draw or paint, without "predetermined narrative or a conscious attempt to render a figurative image"? Which really comes first, the story or an image? I'd like to describe this process similar to the "binary phenomenon" observed in the word and image relationship particularly in typography: we see design (as font) and word (as letter symbol) simultaneously. That's heavy stuff but nevertheless, creating narrative images intuitively is absorbing.

One of the sketches that inspired the story of May Darating na Trak Bukas

So I made several sketches. From one of the sketches, I still had to outline the imagery in words to form a storyline. The team decided to ask our National Artist for Literature, Sir Rio Alma to write a poem to accompany those "imagery." I'm just so grateful that he agreed! The collaborative result is very interesting. The poem stands on its own, at the same time it gives the essence for the illustrations, which is usually the other way around. The illustrations can also be independent, while giving another dimension to the poem.

Thumbnails showing the flow and consistency of narrative

Thumbnails also show the overall composition within a spread

Sampling a sketch for the overall style and technique for the medium, pencils on board.

Like in all of my books, as much as possible, I put on many details so that the reader can re-read them all over again. I also placed many details on this book so when they read it again, I'm hoping they will find things they haven't seen before.

I'm very, very HAPPY with the print (matte-finished like/book paper) because the effect seems like I have drawn directly on the book itself, making it more really special for readers. You're like holding on an original artwork. This is one of the reasons I think why I love doing picture books, I can share my art and message to a lot of people as much as possible through the print medium.

Most of the images like toys and activities in the illustrations of May Darating na Trak Bukas 
are drawn from my childhood experiences. 

Work in progress documentation of the illustrations. Sometimes, it's a bit distracting to practice as an illustrator/artist today because you now have to document your process 
along the way for protection and promotion.

For kids, definitely those grownup things don't really matter. But who knows, who are we to judge their smartness?

Tags: May Darating na Trak Bukas, Adarna house, Adarna publishing, Rio Alma, Virgilio Almario, National Artist for Literature, children's book, picture book, poetry, colored pencils, illustration, illustration board, recycling, typhoon, Yolanda, flood, crisis, trash, creativity, Sergio Bumatay, upcycling, plastic, hope, hardbound, asian picture book, children's book in asia, tragedy, coping, healing, escapism, asian book, Filipino picture books, Filipino children's book, asian illustration, asian, art, Filipino art, Philippine art, Filipino illustrator, Filipino artist

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

How I MADE it

I think it's every Pinoy painter's dream, whether they secretly admit or not, to win in one of the most prestigious, longest running art competition in the country today: Metrobank's MADE or The Metrobank Art and Design Excellence. It was my lifelong dream and this is a post dedicated to my journey in achieving what I thought was impossible.

 My very first entry to MADE, a tribute to my mother.

I've been joining this painting competition almost every year since I was an art student. It's always very tough to get through because, like any subjective discourse, the judges' taste is unpredictable. You've worked so hard on a piece, spent a lot on time and medium, thinking you've exerted all your best effort until your work gets cut off early on at the preliminary selection phase. As a struggling young artist, that's totally heartbreaking, envy and bitterness could seep in. My entries through the years couldn't even get to the selection, what more to the finals. There came a point when I gave up and didn't join for some years because of that. Until one day I felt like growing old, feeling less a bit of my egocentric self, I thought I should give it one more try since it's also my last shot to fit the age limit. By some extraordinary grace, it was all worth it.

Sketch studies and work in progress

Since this year was my last chance to join, I wanted to create a piece that will truly embody this significant moment. Win or lose, this painting will be truly special. What could be more meaningful way to realize this than to paint something that stirred my curiosity after a memorable personal experience: the fear and the feeling of uncertainty I had which was brought about by the fact that my dad was given a second chance to life.

The Extraordinary Manifestation of Something Undeniably Possible
acrylic on canvas
2014 Metrobank Art and Design Excellence (MADE) Grand Prize, 
oil/acrylic on canvas category

Is life really possible after death? Do souls exist? If we could imagine a place for the soul when life ceases, how does it look like? If we can only see the bigger picture around us, we're just a speck of dust in this vast, ever-expanding universe. How do we become significant, how are we going to live fully? By living in the moment; appreciating life and those around you and never take them for granted; be an inspiration to others etc. Sounds cliche, but once you're closer to reality and have first hand experience, you'll probably agree that it's true. These were some of the ideas running through my mind while sketching. I just thought the message have to be sincere if I want it to create powerful connection to anybody. How else can sincerity be earned than drawing through personal experiences?

Even at the photo shoot, I couldn't believe this was really happening. 
I was really down before I got the good news. 
When I got the call, I was screaming with joy silently alone. 
How I wished in that moment I could share it to anyone, even to my closest family who are far away from me. 

Indeed, winners really take all. The Metrobank Foundation made serious efforts to make you really feel like a grand winner. The awarding ceremonies was spectacular; I didn't expect it to be that eventful, all I thought was just handshakes, trophies, and ribbon cuttings. Not to mention the wide media coverage and publicity.

 photo: taken from MADE's Instagram: @madecompetition

When all eyes are on you, it's a humbling experience.

As it turned out, MADE is more than just a competition. What aspirants don't really know is that the program is more than just all glitz and glamour for your launch into the art scene. The competition could also be a platform to fuel your personal advocacies. The winning doesn't stop there-as members of MADE NOW (Network of Winners), more opportunities await for your personal projects. 

No matter how many times I lost and got heartbroken, I felt my winning came at the right time. I realize the winning had a higher purpose, as a support for what I wanted to do now: giving back the blessings I'm given. 

 Getting to know fellows at the winner's forum: (Left to right) Yours truly, Arnel David Garcia (special citation, sculpture), Wilbert Custodio (oil/acrylic), and Natalio Alob, Jr. (sculpture)

Tags: Metrobank Art and Design Excellence, MADE, painting, art, philippine art, sculpture, sergio bumatay, MADE NOW, grand prize, painting contest, competition, advocacy, Metrobank foundation, dreams, heart, projects, life, death, extraordinary, surreal, mystery, reincarnation, karma, positivism,  Asian picture book, children's book in asia, tragedy, coping, healing, escapism, asian book, Filipino picture books, Filipino children's book, asian illustration, asian, art, Filipino art, Philippine art, Filipino illustrator, Filipino artist

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

How to remove yellow stains on paper

While checking some past works for personal recollection, it's disheartening to see what I found. 
As I opened some illustrations on paper, I saw lots of yellow spots sprinkled all over. The photo above shows my freckled watercolor illustration on cream Berkeley pad. 

The spots are signs of "foxing," or the browning and aging process of paper, according to a wiki entry.
The causes of foxing are still unknown, but based on studies some theories include discoloration-causing spores and oxidation. I found many suggestions on the web in removing the yellow spots, one site thoroughly describes the processes and techniques, but I can't seem to find anything that actually show how. 

So I risked trying out some of their techniques and apply them to some of my works. 

I applied the bleaching method using household hydrogen peroxide 20% volume diluted in at least 10% water. The peroxide was then brushed (soft sable paint brush for water-based media) directly on the spots, repeating on several layers after the first layer has dried. I kept on carefully brushing peroxide only on the spots area until they're almost unseen.  

Diluted hydrogen peroxide with water

Warning though, using this method will loosen the paper's fibers if you're not that careful in applying. The photo above shows my excitement, fibers are splitting away. Also, take note that you can't completely eliminate the spots but you can significantly reduce them.

Also, I tried not to brush over the colored part because I don't want it to fade. This method is applicable only to blank areas of the paper, or to black and white artworks. In the photo above, I tried removing spots on the colored areas by brushing it very lightly.

Some before and after photos of minimizing foxing on paper

Another illustration applied with the bleaching method

I also applied the peroxide method to my other illustrations and books. The results were satisfying, at least for now.

Peroxide bleaching is just one of the methods in restoring works on paper. There are many methods of preserving and restoring works you can browse on the web. But try it at your own risk, I suggest leaving the restoration of very precious works to professional conservators. 

In spite of preservation measures, my non-acidic papers and "non-yellowing" fixatives didn't even survive foxing and other forms of aging. This only proves that nothing really lasts forever. 

Besides, sometimes the stains and flaws add charm and character.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Best Children's Books of 2013

Time to wrap-up this awesome and productive year in Filipino children's literature.

I came up with my personal list of top children's books in terms of smashing illustrations and pioneering contribution to local kidlit illustration. Of course, these are subjective picks but I'll try my best to be objective in pointing out their hits.

It's difficult trimming down my list because there's so many quality books produced this year! I based my list from this year's "harvest of children's books" presented at the 30th National Children's Book Day.

Some of my personal criteria for cut-off are: insightful illustration; creative use of technique, style, and media; intriguing cover; effective design and layout; memorable characters.

In random order, these are my...

13 Best Illustrated Filipino Children's Picture Storybooks of 2013:

Pilandokomiks Issue no. 2: Mga Pagsubok ng Karagatan
Illustrations and story by Borg Sinaban
Based on the original Pilandok character by Kora Dandan Albano
Published by Adarna House

I once attempted to create one and making comics is no joke! And to sustain that with a sequel is phenomenal. Pilandok in a comic format is refreshing to have in a sea of picture storybooks. This full color comics is hip and young, like a deer prancing on every page. Perhaps more boys will read books now.

Illustrations by Jason Sto. Domingo
Story by Augie Rivera
Published by Adarna House and Plan

Mantsa is directly translated as stain, or figuratively, a scar or stigma. First glance of the cover, you already know what the book's about. The "clownish" figures of the illustrations strongly connote the overall theme, like hiding a deeper issue with exaggerated makeup.

Ang Tatlong Bubwit at Ang Bangkang Marikit
Illustrations by Ghani Madueño
Story by Will P. Ortiz
Published by Lampara Books

All I know is that I want to squirm with glee whenever I see the illustrations from the book! The vibrant color scheme, clean style, warm and fuzzy characters simply spell h-a-p-p-i-n-e-s-s. 

Muling Magbabalik ang Perya
Illustrations by Jonathan Rañola
Story by Eugene Y. Evasco
Published by Lampara Books

You can almost feel the painstaking process of the illustrator's pointillist technique in this book. The illustration is passion and craftsmanship made visible. Traditional techniques really embody the artist's energy and this book exemplifies that transmission.

Ang Pamana ni Andres Bonifacio
Research by Emmanuel Encarnacion
Photography by Jinggo Montenejo
Design by Eli Camacho
Published by Adarna House

I just love ephemera, that's all. But seriously, this book contains lots of objects, images, and articles related to the Filipino hero and the Katipunan I have never seen before! These things tell stories themselves, evoking inspiring messages. 

My Daddy! My One and Only!
Illustrations by Jomike Tejido
Story by Zarah Gagatiga
Published by Lampara Books

This is a delightful, well-designed book from cover to cover. The anthropomorphism used in the illustration is very relevant in establishing the essential theme of the book which is about appreciating individuality among diversity.

God of Fire, God of Rain
Illustrations by Jason Moss
Retold by Yna Reyes
Published by Hiyas, OMF Literature

The toy-like figures in the illustration make you wondering as you flip the pages. Why was the story illustrated that way? You might even think this is too avant-garde for a biblical passage! Until, the last page makes sense of it all. What a surprise! The illustrator presented a unique way of visual storytelling of an age-old story.

Ma, Me, Mi, Mumu!
Illustrations and story by Jomike Tejido
Published by Tahanan Books

Another beautiful book with design taken into consideration. The cover is so elegant and enhanced with printing effects: matte finish with spot gloss varnish. The characters are also charming. But what's special about this book is how balanced the illustrations are. It's about dark and scary mythical creatures and yet somehow it still looks enchanting. 

Sandwich to the Moon
Illustrations and story by Jamie Bauza
Published by LG&M

The universal appeal of the illustrations is the charm of this book. The illustrations are as crazy and tasty as the premise of the book, extraordinary work comes from silly ideas. This is one of the few books that incorporates text seamlessly in the illustration itself. 

The Girl Who Always Looked at People's Shoes
Illustrations by Beth Parrocha Doctolero
Story by Liwliwa Malabed
Published by Lampara Books

The beauty of the illustrations in this book lies in its prominent characterization. The expressions, costume, and styling of the characters are striking. The whimsical illustrations rendered harmoniously in a range of media indicates that the illustrator is a master of color. 

But That Won't Make Me Sleep
Illustrations by Liza Flores
Story by Annie Pacaña-Lumbao
Published by Adarna House

A sequel from But That Won't Wake Me Up, this book is charming the second time around. Since the illustrations are three-dimensional, they seem to jump off the page as if enticing kids to play with them. Also, the illustrations in this book are more action-oriented, thus giving a sense of animation.  

The Little Girl in a Box
Illustrations by Aldy Aguirre
Story by Felinda Bagas
Published by Adarna House

At last, design is seriously considered in the overall impact of a children's book. This is the first book ever, afaik, that played so much on its physical format. This long overdue is simply because of economic factors. But risking production cost over a brilliant visual design certainly pushed the envelope in local traditional children's book publishing. It doesn't stop there, the minimal and clean illustrations worked well together with the story and the design itself. Outstanding!

Hating Kapatid
Illustrations by Frances Alvarez
Story by Raissa Rivera Falgui
Published by Adarna House

The clever personification, delectable visual treatment, great use of space and layout blended well in the composition of the illustrations, what more can I say but sweetness!

Have a blessed 2014!


Monday, December 23, 2013

Hat yourself a modest little christmas...

"Low-key" pen and digital coloring

Cheers to the Boy with invisible crown! 

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


A page from Arketype, a 12-page graphic essay of me trying hard to be an hipster five years ago

Sometimes, whenever I talk to someone, I find myself amused without them knowing. Although the mere presence of people I care about makes me feel alive, it's not just because of what they are talking about nor their way of delivery that's worth noting. I know that habit may seem a bit judgmental, but it's because I'm trying to understand their entire message within a gestalt frame: processing them as a whole package. 

I just feel happy whenever I successfully connect through somebody's eyes. Platonically.

It's like diving against gravity or accessing free wifi through generous neighbors. We give and open ourselves while receiving acceptance. The person I talk to might not even aware but as we move along with the conversation, I discreetly observe their eyes: the color of iris, frequency of blinks, the shape of the eyelids, lushness of lashes, and most importantly-movement. 

The language of eye gestures speak so much than what the mouth says. Words can always be made up when it doesn't mean well, but they do come out easily for the sake of spontaneity. 

But the eyes never lie.

The people I meet don't have a clue that I have mastered the art of reading the eye's language, lol. One unforgettable character I remember is about this guy's furiously moving eyes while talking to me. Of course, I felt my brain was all over the place, quite insulted, and couldn't connect to him, less pay attention to what he is really talking about. So distracting and frustrating. My eyes kept calm trying to connect and telling, "It's fine, I'm just here, listening. And I do care to what you have to say."

And then there are those whom you have lost connection with, for reasons you know nothing about. They have burned the bridges of connection or they're simply not interested greeting your soul anymore, even if you're very excited to teleport with them. 

To connect with someone through their eyes is one of the beautiful gifts of being human.