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 illustrating 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?


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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 of 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 a 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 the 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 a 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 were 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.

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. 

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 shows 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 paintbrush 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 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.


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