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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