Thursday, September 23, 2010

When I was Seven

"Mag-impok" (Sold)

"Malaya Ka"

"May Pag-asa" (Sold)

"When I was Seven" was a mini Ang INK group exhibit at the Gallery 7, now moved to The Chocolate Kiss along Roces Avenue corner Sct. Tobias in Quezon City. After visiting at the Tala Gallery along Sct. De Guia along Tomas Morato for Ang INK's Annual Exhibit, please drop by and enjoy these nice art and good food at The Chocolate Kiss.

My works are limited digital giclee print on textured box-type canvas with 10"x 10" size. 


Here's the original post and the story when I was seven years old.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Ang INK jumps into the Imaginarium

"The Garden of Forgotten Happiness"

So, what is it like from under the sea of unseen creatures? or beyond the intergalactic space? perhaps it looks much better on the islands of blissfulness? 

Imaginary places are captured and will be sent off on September 19, 2010 signed and delivered through Ang INK's annual exhibit postmarked as "Postcards from Nowhere" to the uninspired mind. The exhibit will make brain waves cling to its vacation mode at the Tala Gallery along Tomas Morato in Quezon City. 

I'm going to leave you a sneak peak of my work, just a ticket to your imagination. Hope to see you there!

Illustration by Aldy Aguirre, poster design by Abby Dayacap

Looking forward to 2010 MIBF

"Gawin ang mga dapat Gawin Ngayon" (Accomplish as much as you can Today) Sold

"Nasa Isipan ang Suwerte" (Luck is only in our minds) Sold

"Magpasalamat sa mga Biyaya" (Be grateful with your Blessings) Sold

"Sulitin ang Oras" (Spend Time Wisely) Sold

It's that time once again to celebrate the most anticipated gathering of book lovers in the country. Going to the Manila International Book Fair is as exciting to hunt and cherish invaluable treasures. I'm glad I'll be taking part of the event at the SMX SM Mall of Asia once again and will be looking forward to meet and greet new people. The 31st book fair will start on wednesday, September 15 until the 19th and opens 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

My book signing schedules will be on the 18th, saturday at 4:00 p.m. at the Tahanan Books booth for my newest delightful book written by Reni Roxas entitled "Ay Naku!." And on the 19th, sunday at the Adarna House booth for my latest "National Artist" book entitled "Ang Tuta ni Noe" written by the National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario. Adarna House will have special contests and events for kids in celebration of their 30th anniversary at the book fair. You might like to encourage your kids to join, here's the link.

I will also have a limited, very reasonably priced artworks on sale at the Lampara Books booth. These eye-candy artworks are featured on this post. These are my latest works done in acrylic on wood, 24"x 32" x 0.8" perfect for visual affirmation, inspiration, and motivation companion.

I like making artworks that instill positive messages while enjoying whimsical art, these motivational words subliminally manifest in the subconscious mind thus empower us to be more productive and be successful in whatever field we pursue. If you are interested in these pieces, please leave a comment.

I hope to see you there and enjoy treasure hunting!

Leaving Something to the Imagination

Admitting myself to interviews is another way of getting to know myself more through introspection. I learn new things about myself and my profession along the way.

An interesting question came up recently had me reflecting about my processes in illustrating children's books. I ponder if I'm going too far interpreting abstract concepts or the viewer has just given up stretching their imagination.

It was a query about literal interpretation and felt I was on a hot seat. "Why were the words illustrated differently?" The question grilled me because I had to explain it in the most simple way, in spite of grappling with words. 

Like every artist/illustrator who's used to visual expression, to articulate your ideas verbally is a dreaded job. But in this information age, writing is a required skill. I opened this blog to practice my writing, as I learned that the only way to practice writing is to simply write. 

So I began remembering how I illustrated the story and fortunately came up with interesting explanations. Here's what I had to say for a page in my children's book, Tight Times, on why I usually illustrate differently from the way it was described:

"In a very technical explanation, depicting an entire sequences of a single, 'moving' scene in the words/texts can be limiting on a single page. Imagine an animated cartoon or movie--through movement and frames upon frames, every scene can be captured. On print or book however, you can only capture a single, 'freezed' frame of the most dramatic, creative, and interesting part of that 'moving' scene so that you can engage the reader to draw further within the story and stretch their imagination.

In the story, I wanted to portray the main character (the kid speaking) as a smart, creative, and sweet young person (in this case, an anthropomorphized mouse). As you observe in the entire book, creativity is the thematic key I used to illustrate and interpret the words/texts in the most 'unconventional' way without staying away much from the literal meaning. The traditional way of illustrating is being literal, my personal view of creating progressive illustrations is to go beyond the literal. Having said that, I illustrated the main character for that particular scene as if he didn't only drew pictures of her mother as read in the texts, but also creatively constructed a one-of-a-kind giant card/frame for her. By depicting this, I hope that the reader can tap on their boundless imaginative mind on what was happening in that moment while there could be lots of other 'moving' scenes going on."

Sometimes, I forget that I'm illustrating for a particular audience: of what we call pure critics disguising as kids. But I hope they can learn so much about art and illustration, young as they are, than merely get amused by them. 

If you are interested to know more about my processes in illustrating children's books, so that you can make the most of reading with children, there are a couple of interesting interviews we've made here:

Aesthetic sense and the toughest Critics

Many ask if the ideas and symbols revealed from my illustrations can be understood by children. Am I thinking and illustrating too much for a child's comprehension? Do kids really care about art and figurative meanings? In reality, symbolism and meanings doesn't matter. But by saying this, we have underestimated a child's imaginative potential. Besides, children are the toughest critics and the hardest to please.

[Update] Here's a wonderful glimpse of how kids process metaphors. Take note that a lot of studies mentioned in the article were done in the 60s. I believe children are much crazily smarter now :-)

Could we really know how children think or feel? As we mature and leave behind our innocence as a child, being an adult working for the young mind can be a challenge. How can you develop reading materials for children if you can't think and feel like a child anymore? Unless you are a child, or retrogress into childhood, we can never really perceive what goes on inside their mind. We can only observe, predict, and scientifically measure their capabilities and behaviors to know what's going on in their shoes. It is in this light that I believe there is no right or wrong way of writing, illustrating, or producing books for children. There are moral and social responsibilities, of course, but basically it runs a gamut of possibilities. 

How should an illustrator know then if his illustration is effective and appealing to children? Moreover, do children about 3 to 6 year olds already have their own aesthetic sense in choosing the books they'd like to read? or at least consider the images to be beautiful? A student who interviewed me posed a similar question: do I ever make a study on my illustrations and its effect on the young mind's aesthetic sensibilities?

Finding answers to this mind boggling inquiry can only begin with a reminiscence of my childhood from when did I first become aware of my aesthetic sense. Though a vague indicator of my early ideals of beauty, I can only recall about the first bag that I had in school. Not even close to choosing for myself but I liked it: it was a very dark brown knapsack with two packets. I can't remember the label but I took good care of it and loved for a couple of years. Until it disintegrated and was time to let go. A six-year-old first grader, I wasn't really keen on design aspects, but perhaps more concerned on the functionality of the bag. During that period I guess my idea of beauty is something treasured and kept: I like to have, that's why I collect. The joy of having first possessions: I like something because I can play and keep it, more than the object's possession of perfect color, proportion, or shape. 

The first book, as far as I can recall, that captured my amazement was a very thick coloring, story, and games book given as gift to my eldest brother. My interest got hyped when my aunt neatly colored one of the pages with crayons and then another page with watercolor! Then I remember this big activity/craft/storybook my aunt have in her shelf at Ilocos that she showed us whenever we spend summer there. The pencil and watercolor illustrations are so wonderful and engaging. The book kept me and my brothers and sisters creatively busy while enjoying our stay there.

I was very scared to explore different areas of our school because some of the teachers are uptight and discouraging. I was also hesitant to go to the library because our librarian was the stereotypical scary lady who always grow big eyes whenever she hears even just a bit of sound inside the library. She even raises her voice when the room gets crowded then lashes a stick on her desk.

I think it was when I'm a third grader that I became appreciative again of the illustrations from a book. My seatmate that time, who happens to be a bookworm and frequents the library, encouraged me to spend class breaks there too. I was very much interested in what he was reading: it was Herge's The Adventures of Tintin graphic novel series. The illustrations looked so good and the form of literature was different for me. I wasn't a fan of long reads unless there are, at least pictures whether beautiful or not, that complements it. I borrowed one Tintin book (I never thought I can borrow one that time, or it was due to borrower's age/grade limit) and read at home, until I realized there was no more title left of the series. 

Gauging from those childhood experiences, I can safely assume, for now, that exceptional works truly standout no matter what. If a child can appreciate beautiful sceneries from nature, a face, or a toy, then most probably he is also aware that what he is reading is something attractive. Through this recollection of childhood memories, it also made me realize that the enthusiasm or joy I had in perceiving wonderful objects or images as a child hasn't changed much until now. Except that perhaps it has developed into a more sophisticated, different, or "adult" level, the same feelings of innocent wonderment is still there. A good art will always be good art. 

If only children are given the license to write, illustrate, and publish their own children's book, that would be the perfect book for them. But in a not so perfect world, we can only guide and please them, and accomplishing that is always a challenge. 


Design on the Airwaves

I had the chance of speaking about book design on live radio. It was nerve-racking, although you can't be seen shaking, it shows through your voice. I just wish I did better, but I think it went pretty well, eventually. The Shelve It show at Jam 88.3 every thursdays at 2 p.m. is an entire hour well spent on book reviews with DJ Lana facilitating who also was very nice and accommodating.

I talked about the design inspirations and processes of our lovely book, Unfolding Half A Century: The Lopez Memorial Museum and Library. It was the perfect project given to me through ArtPost Asia that took merely almost a month to finish, just in time for the yuletide season last year. Just imagine how gruesome the production schedule was. The hard work was all worth it. The book is exquisite, I'm so proud of it.

The inspiration for the book was the museum itself. If you have been to the Lopez Museum in Ortigas, perhaps you have noticed that their charm and strength lie in the maximization of an ample space in one of the corners of the Benpres building. A spectacular wooden door with carvings by the National Artist Napoleon Abueva greets by the entrance. Though the reception hall is a simple business place, when you get deeper inside, more magical surprises await. As you pass through, an entirely new exhibit mounts in another space. As if you have gone through a time space warp in a flash.

That museum experience is exactly what I wanted the reader to feel in the book.

Surprises entice you to keep on reading and turn the pages from cover to cover. There's a narrative upon narrative: the story of the museum's glorious years and the objects and collections create curiosity throughout the book. I was very fortunate to have the privilege in designing the book with creative freedom. The museum staff was very accommodating and cooperative, that helps importantly in achieving the vision I had for the design.

The museum has been the forerunner in mounting cutting-edge exhibit concepts and design. They have a vast and very interesting art collections, rare books in the library, and the most advanced art conservation laboratory locally. This image of the museum has to be incorporated in the book. I had the chance to study their interesting collections and look closely among them. Since I love ephemera, vintage books and illustrations, and paintings by the masters, this is the project I surely love doing even when deprived of sleep. Every object is celebrated in the book, a sampling of what you can find in the museum. I think the design has achieved its edginess by curating the objects as if curating in a gallery, only this time it's done on the print. I stayed away from conventional layout and the grid and maximized the use of layering, sense of movement, and simplicity in the design.

I have attached a photo describing how the inside pages look like. But the actual print definitely looks much better - surely a visual feast. If you are interested to get a copy of the book, you may contact the Lopez museum through Fanny or Jane at (632) 631-2417 or