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!


If you like this book review, please click on the ads to support my art projects. 

Or gift yourself and loved ones with lovely goodies here
I'll appreciate it very much, thank you.

Plus, please check out my youtube videos and sub my channel:


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.


If you like this article, please click on the ads to support my art projects. 

Or gift yourself and loved ones with lovely goodies here
I'll appreciate it very much, thank you.

Plus, please check out my youtube videos and sub my channel:



Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How to make children's book illustrations look AMAZING

An illustration preview for an upcoming book about imagination, creativity, and hope

1. The medium could be the message. Choose the medium that best reflects the essence of the story. Sometimes, there are certain phrases or words that can be lifted from the story to highlight and use as inspiration of the style or medium for the entire illustrations. Explore and combine different medium to achieve maximum effect.

2. Show diligence in the work by taking the initiative to research facts, anatomy, costumes, etc.; exploit digital media in researching.

3. Design memorable characters with unique facial features or gestural expressions. Add personality through costume and accessories like a crafty hat, tie, scarf, bag, glasses, or even toys.

4. Draw collections with variations as part of the scene like books (poetry, art, or picture books), toys (collection of dolls, airplanes, robots), different kinds of bottles (colored, perfume), or pottery (mugs, vase, teapot, etc).

5. Compose visual elements in a scene like works of art.

How to make children's book illustrations interesting.


If you like this tutorial, please click on the ads to support my art projects. 

Or gift yourself and loved ones with lovely goodies here
I'll appreciate it very much, thank you.

Plus, please check out my youtube videos and sub my channel:

How I choose scenes from a story to illustrate

"Bush" from AngINK Zine issue no. 2: Manimalaman

One of the frequently asked questions and also one of the most challenging aspect in illustrating children's books is choosing the scenes from the passage.

Here are my own guides in choosing which part of the story to illustrate:

1. Pick scenes that can look good visually and can be sustained consistently throughout the book.

Appealing words, themes, or objects lifted from the text can be used as inspiration or the focal point of the scene. Personally, visually pleasing in children's books means: harmonious, balanced, rhythmic, fantastic 

2. Out of the possible scenarios, imagine and choose the best scene that create a dramatic effect.

Which among the possible scenes can:
a. use composition in establishing eye direction.
b. be played around with scale and perspective
c. draw attention through color blocking.
d. spark imaginative thinking

3. Show rather than tell.

Select scenes that have the potential to:
a. establish a mood
b. create a specific setting and inform through details
c. compose a dynamic scene more than a still life.

4. Scenes that best summarize the essence of a passage

When no interesting imagery comes out from the passage, create a "commentary" image by interpreting the text based on personal experiences.

5. The "in-between" scenes

Sometimes there are moments in the scene where it is not directly stated, those scenes provide a word-image synergy when illustrated.


If you like this tutorial, please click on the ads to support my art projects. 

Or gift yourself and loved ones with lovely goodies here
I'll appreciate it very much, thank you.

Plus, please check out my youtube videos and sub my channel:

The Peter Pan Prize

Naku, Nakuu, Nakuuu! Swedish version HARDBOUND! A dream come true :-)

And so it happened.

The Peter Pan Prize was awarded to our book Naku, Nakuu, Nakuuu! in Gothenburg, Sweden by the International Board on Books for Young People-Sweden.

Nanoy and Ingrid read the book at the Gothenburg Fair

Because there were so many things that happened in my life this year, I wasn't able to witness the special occasion in Sweden. Much to my regret, this could have been a great chance to meet new friends and places. But, in my behalf, I was represented by Isko, the main character of the book. What a great idea by Nanoy himself, the author of Naku

Now at home watching me draw books, Isko, the plushie, is made by Pergylene Acuna 

So what does the Peter Pan Prize really means to me? 

It's a great honor actually to represent the local kidlit and be recognized on the other side of the world where most of the beautiful children's books I adore are born. It's only lately that I have fully realized this grand achievement, so I am very grateful.


Peter Pan Prize mementos

Isko and Nanoy, together with the Adarna team, had a great time in Sweden. You can view their adventures here. While the book and the win have also been featured in numerous publications in Sweden and all over the web. Some of the most important are here: 

The Writer's bffs according to Nanoy. Prints available here.

Happy thoughts truly bring you to fantastic places. 

Why I illustrate children's books

Artist's Bff prints are available here

This post is to remind myself the reasons why I illustrate children's books, in random order:

1. For the love of paper books, for fun.

2. To sustain imagination and rekindle childhood curiosity and innocence.

3. My chosen field where only few artists dare to stay and take seriously.  

4. There is so much work yet to be done in local kidlit, and I think this is where I can put my talent to a higher purpose.

5. I want my art and message to be shared to many people, especially children, and places as possible.

"Edsa" book in the making

EDSA, written by Russell Molina, is one of the books I'm very proud of. My latest children's book is about one of the most important part of Filipino history, the People Power Revolution, which I think children today should know of, no matter how complicated it was.

I wanted the illustrations of EDSA very special and memorable, just like the occasion itself. As a tribute, I found inspiration from Larry Alcala's Slice of Life comics. The black and white drawings evoke nostalgia and vivid memories while a splash of yellow highlights the special color. To depict a sense of history, I thought of using the diorama as format to stage the scenes and organize them inside a wooden box I made specially for this book.

There are so many symbolisms in the book: the box, colors, "cyclop", newspaper, radio, even the narrative between the bird and the children that could spark conversations about the EDSA revolution.

Some features and interviews on the EDSA book:

1. Some inspirations behind the EDSA book, an interview at Gathering Books

2. Book launch featured in Rappler

3. Inquirer article

And even made the local newspaper frontpage banner:

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Jack's Pot lotto paper comics

There's probably a mystery behind why most pinoys, or maybe the world in general, are crazy lottery fanatics. Hope in a sea of chances could be the addictive motivation. I know some people who make a living just enough to get by, and sometimes not even enough, would rather religiously buy a 20 pesos ticket than saving or investing it for their future funds. For a country populated with mostly catholics, it's ironic that many of the faithful tolerate gambling as a vice, and surprisingly by people with meager means. Betting goes with very high hopes of winning the jackpot to satisfy deprivations and ultimate desires. I wonder if the odds of winning increases if the intention in betting is to really help in funding charity works? I think having unselfish intentions is a very powerful charm to bet with, probably even to the great gamble of LIFE!         

A lot of paper waste floating around suking lotto outlets during betting time. Thinking there must be a way to recycle these, I collected some. I know what you're thinking but I do believe too that these papers are filled with so much "hope" energy, DREAMS, perhaps a dash of magic, and prayers stuck onto them. Eew, that's probably too much dirt, eherm, deep, heavy stuff to scrub off. 

Jack's Pot No. 1 Voila, lotto art! (Comics on Philippine lotto paper/lotto art) 
ref magnet alien by Yas Doctor, 100 petot by BSP

I came up with comics dedicated to perspectives on money with a twist drawn on lotto paper. Incidentally, the layout and design of lotto paper are divided into frames aptly for comic strips.

Jack's Pot No. 2 (Comics on Philippine lotto paper)

Jack's Pot No. 3 (Comics on Philippine lotto paper)

Jack's Pot No. 4 (Comics on Philippine lotto paper)

May the LUCKY odds ever be in everyone's favor!

Tags: Lotto, lotto paper, how to win lotto, lucky numbers, comics, money, how to make millions of money, Philippine lotto paper, drawing, sketching on lotto paper, lotto art, lotto paper art, winning numbers, winning lotto combination, lotto numbers, lotto comics, lotto illustration, jackpot, satire, metaphor, visual narrative, wordless comics, lotto art, lotto art, lotto art.

Friday, June 14, 2013


CANVAS proudly presents a two-man show 
by Sergio Bumatay III and Rommel Joson
at the CANVAS Gallery and Garden
13-27 June 2013
For inquiries, send an email to

In DREAMTIME, Sergio Bumatay III and Rommel Joson - both practicing children's book illustrators - plumb the depths of their dreams, entering places of indeterminate locations and frozen time. Here, they explore visual narratives and create characters and images that call to mind the cycle of creation and dissolution and while celebrating the wonder and power of dreams.

Here's a peek at the process of one of my works in the exhibit:

A full view of the artwork:

36x48 inches 
pencils and acrylic on canvas

And here's one of my favorite pieces from Rommel's collection:

36x48 inches
oil on canvas


Sergio Bumatay III is an award-winning children’s book illustrator, book designer, and occasional painter. His book, Naku, Nakuu, Nakuuu!, written by Nanoy Rafael, was recently awarded the Peter Pan Prize by the International Board on Books for Young People in Sweden. He also won the grand prize in the 20th Daekyo Eye Level Children’s Literature Award in South Korea for his picture book, The Best Book in the World. Among his significant works as an illustrator include Ay Naku!, 2012 National Children’s Book Award–One of the Best Reads; Naku, Nakuu, Nakuuu!, 2008 Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY) Alcala Illustrator’s Prize grand winner and NOMA Concours Japan Encouragement Prize winner; The Boy Who Touched Heaven, 2008 National Book awardee; and the Tight Times, 2007 PBBY Alcala Illustrator’s Prize grand winner. He is also a member of Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan (Ang INK), the first and only art group in the Philippines dedicated to illustrations for children. He was a scholar and graduated magna cum laude at the University of Santo Tomas. Some of his illustration and craft tutorials can be read at

Rommel Joson graduated magna cum laude and college valedictorian from the University of Philippines College of Fine Arts in 2006. He also holds a degree in Business Management from the Ateneo de Manila University, where he also received the Dean's Awards for Visual Arts in 1999. He has won awards in the fields of painting, illustration, design, and advertising art direction. In 2005, he won 3rd Place in the Oil/Acrylic Category of the 38th Shell National Student Art Competition. In 2007, he won 3rd Place at the Neil Gaiman/Fully Booked Graphic Fiction Competition. He worked in the advertising industry for a number of years, winning Silver and Bronze awards at the Philippine Araw Awards and Silver at the 1st Adobo Design Awards. In 2009, he was featured in Rogue Magazine's List of Top 16 Philippine Illustrators. In 2012, he was a semifinalist in the Oil on Canvas Category of the Metrobank Art and Design Excellence Competition. He now illustrates children's books for various publishers, garnering Honorable Mention citations at the PBBY-Alcala Illustrator's Prize. He is currently a member of the illustration group Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan (Ang INK).

Rommel's @AngINK.

A view from CANVAS Gallery and Garden