Seven Book Blogs from the Philippines

Sunday, January 31, 2010
Multiculturalism Rocks! has given Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind the Over the Top! blog award. Thank you, Nathalie! :o)

Here are the rules for the award:

1. Thank and post URL to the blog that gave the award.
2. Pass the award along to six brilliantly over the top blogs - blogs you love! (I am going to cheat here and give the award to seven blogs.)
3. Copy and paste this quiz . . . Change the answers (one-word answers only).

The Q&A

1. Where is your cell phone? here
2. Your hair? curly
3. Your mother? Gensan
4. Your father? here
5. Your favorite food? pizza
6. Your dream last night? forgot
7. Your favorite drink? coffee
8. Your dream/goal? publisher
9. What room are you in? bedroom
10. Your hobby? blogging
11. Your fear? death
12. Where do you want to be in six years? dunno
13. Where were you last night? home
14. Something that you aren’t? bored
15. Muffins? no
16. Wish list item? books
17. Where did you grow up? Vegas
18. Last thing you did? laundry
19. What are you wearing? shorts
20. Your TV? no
21. Your pets? hamsters
22. Friends? love
23. Your life? busy
24. Your mood? good
25. Missing someone? yes
26. Vehicle? taxi
27. Something you’re not wearing? shoes
28. Your favorite store? bookstore
29. Your favorite color? pink
30. When was the last time you laughed? today
31. Last time you cried? weeks
32. Your best friend? several
33. One place that you go to over and over? office
34. One person who emails you regularly? manager
35. Favorite place to eat? Gensan

So this is the part that you've been waiting before. Below is the list of blogs I am passing the award to. They are all Philippine-based book blogs that I recommend. Enjoy exploring them!

Bibliophile Stalker
Philippine Genre Stories
Pretentious Reader
Reality Bites . . . Fiction Does It Better!
School Librarian in Action

Illustrator Interview: Sergio Bumatay III

Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Today, I have the great privilege of interviewing Filipino children's book illustrator Sergio "Serj" Bumatay III. Serj is the illustrator of:

Basta Ayoko Pang Matulog!/I Don’t Want to Go to Bed Yet! by Luis Gatmaitan (OMF Literature, 2005)

Tight Times by Jeanette C. Patindol (Adarna House, 2007)

The Boy Who Touched Heaven by Iris Gem Li (Adarna House, 2007)

Naku, Nakuu, Nakuuu! by Nanoy Rafael (Adarna House, 2008)

and Tuwing Sabado/Every Saturday by Russell Molina (Lampara Books, 2009)

Serj, welcome to Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind!

Please share a bit about your childhood. In an interview with PaperTigers, you said that you always knew that you wanted to draw and paint. What were you like as a young artist?

When I was young, I loved to create many things and try interesting stuff like science experiments you can do in the kitchen, home made toys, and collecting many things. That curiosity and creativity motivated me to try art. I discovered I could draw by grade 2 when we were asked to draw a scene for the parables we had just heard. My scene wasn't stick figures like my classmates did. The figures were all complete with details and in side views, although they weren't that proportional. It was the start of my art career in school.

What motivates and inspires you to illustrate children's books?

When I was beginning to illustrate children's books, I thought doing this was just for the fun of it. I can make cool stuff I can share. But later I felt a deeper motivation, I thought illustrating children's books is a kind of advocacy for me. For me, illustrating children's books is a big challenge and responsibility, you just don't make beautiful pictures for children to see but also make them understand difficult issues. I believe this is now part of my contribution to the development of culture and literacy in our country.

Who are your favorite artists, graphic designers, and children's book illustrators? How have they influenced your own work? What else influences your artwork (books, movies, TV shows, songs, etc. - if any)?

I love Philippine vintage art and ephemera, especially ethnic motifs. There are so many interesting stories going on if you study them. I draw lots of inspiration from our own masters (Juan Luna, Carlos Francisco, and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo) and culture: from the streets of Quiapo, old ancestral houses, pop art, contemporary painters, to tribal and theatrical costumes, charms and jewelry, everything is so magical.

Please guide us through the creative process you use for illustrating children's books.

The conceptual process for each book is similar, but the creative process differs in the sense that each book has its own style and medium. I like each of my book projects to be different, because I believe each story is unique and therefore needs its own visual treatment.

The initial procedure is to internalize the story well. I tend to place myself in the shoes of the main character, and think of how he looks, what he feels, where in place or time he exists. From there I decide on the details and then research for the accuracy of visual images. Sometimes I also ask kids, especially my nephews and niece, about what they think and what they like.

After gathering enough materials, I plot down thumbnail ideas for each spread for the entire story. I make sure that the composition goes well with the text, I find composition to be the most important and challenging element in illustrating children's books. It's difficult to balance everything while maintaining a dynamic and interesting visual. The thumbnails will make completing the final artwork easier, allowing more room for adjustments if needed as I go along. Finally, the finished artwork will then be scanned and retouched if necessary, then sent to the publisher.

Do you think that your children's book illustrations can be labeled "Asian" and/or "Filipino"? If so, what makes them "Asian" and/or "Filipino"?

Yes, I always make it a point to get a Filipino feel in my illustrations, either visually or contextually. Sometimes I put small details that represent the Filipino identity: positive quotes as labels or text, customs and behavior, decorative objects we find in a typical Filipino home, dresses, or significant places.

Can you give more examples of the "Filipino details" you put in your illustrations?

Some of the details I have used are: air vents and tile patterns from Filipino ancestral homes, things you can find in a jeepney, and laces and patterns from old paintings of women.

I embody Pinoy customs and behavior in the illustrated characters or objects. For example, I illustrated a piggy bank as a character to represent our being thrifty and the value we give to hard-earned money. We (Filipinos/Asians) also place value on the closeness of our family. Most of my books portray that closeness within the family.

What are the challenges and rewards of being a children's book illustrator in the Philippines?

Some of the challenges I've encountered are: finding time to fit a production schedule (illustration is a very time consuming profession), foreign competition (foreign titles are being pushed more than local), printing technology - the original artwork doesn't match the printed output (although we already have several printing houses that provide good quality at par with global standards), and only a few are open to unconventional illustrative ideas (but it’s very rewarding if you can assert your ideas to the appreciative).

One of the profound rewards is when children and people in general appreciate your work, and they remember them. You will be able to positively influence them through your work.

What are the current trends in children's book illustrations in the Philippines?

Most of the illustrators I know are going the digital path, exploring the possibilities of the technology while maintaining their own illustrative styles. Some are already pushing other ways of illustrating in terms of medium, format and ideas, offering more innovative ways of reading or learning.

What are those other ways of illustrating?

Some of the things I have observed in local books: some books are positioned as more than just storybooks - counting, interaction, reference, all integrated in a single storybook; a book that turns into a toy; postmodern illustrations or illustrations that are typically unexpected in local children's books (in terms of color, style, technique and representation), e.g. collage, black and white illustrations, three-dimensional illustrations.

What are you working on now?

I am very fortunate that I'm currently working on some of my dream projects: an almost worldess children's book, a collector's edition book, and a children's book written by one of our national artists.

Thank you, Serj. I really love your work!


Illustrator Interview: Ariel Pang

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ariel Pang is my new favorite children's book illustrator! Ariel is from Taiwan and her works include:

Fox Hatches the Egg

Barky the Dog Sheep

The Lion Who Wants Curly Hair

Black Spoonbills Come for Winter

Mongoose, Mongoose, Stop! Don't Run.

The Outfoxed Fox

P is for Pumpkin

As you can see, Ariel's illustrations are just the cutest things. Bright, colorful, and playful. They are reviving. I'm really happy to be featuring Ariel and some of her works on Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind.

Read on for my conversation with Ariel...

Who are your favorite artists, graphic designers, and children's book illustrators? How have they influenced your work?

I got influenced by many artists through time. But there are two artists who influence me the most. They are Bobby Chiu and Davy Liu. Bobby Chiu has this broadcasting thing named Chiustream on the Internet where he interacts with other artists in the world through his broadcasting. He shares his philosophy of how to be a good artist, and he pushes everyone to reach their limit as an artist. He really spreads his passion to everyone and that really inspires me.

Both Davy Liu and Bobby Chiu are the artists who influence me the most mentally. And that helps me keep creating my art. As a freelance illustrator, it is very hard to keep myself intense when working for clients. Art is a long career and sometimes it is very easy to get lost along the way. Both of them share lots of ideas for artists on how to keep on track. I find it really inspiring and helpful.

What are your other inspirations?

Anything can be my inspiration. I like to keep my mind curious, and I try to experience new things in life. As an artist, I believe how much knowledge is in your mind is how much you can express in your art. So I’m still trying to read more, experience more and observe more to fill out my creativity database.

Can you please guide us through the creative process you use for illustrating children's books?

Every time I start a children’s book, I design the character first. I will draw as many characters as I can until I find the one I like. Then I’ll start the interior pages' sketches.

Usually the story is divided into phrases for each page, and I sketch many small sketches called “thumbnail sketches”. This stage helps me to build up ideas and composition faster. (See the three images below.)

After the thumbnail sketch stage, I pick one sketch that I like, and enlarge it by Xerox machine or scan it into my computer and enlarge it. The thumbnail sketch looks rough and simple when enlarged, so I trace it onto tracing paper and start giving it more detail. I might do this process several times until the sketch’s size is large enough to go to the final. (See the image below.)

(Below are the traced sketches.)

Last, I make a mock-up that we call a dummy book. I put all the sketches together like a real book. This helps me to view the flow of the pictures. In this stage, I show this dummy book to many people and ask their opinion. I like to show my dummy book to others without telling them the story first. If they can get the basic story just by reading my images, then I know it is right. (Below is a dummy book.)

Before I go to the final coloring, I do a black and white value study, to be my reference. I find this stage very important as the value study is the guide for me to follow when I do the coloring. Once I tried to skip this stage and jumped to the coloring, I got it all messed up and had to go back to do the value study and start all over again. So no matter how rushed the time is, I always do the value study first. (See image below.)

You are the illustrator coordinator for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Taiwan. What is that like? What kind of work do you do for this role? What are some of the activities of the illustrators in SCBWI Taiwan?

To be the SCBWI illustrator coordinator in Taiwan is not easy. As SCBWI is originally from the U.S., the language difference blocks most of the local illustrators from SCBWI. When we first started it, some artists even thought that they needed to speak English to be able to join our events. And because of the language difference, it is very hard for us to convince people to join SCBWI.

So after years of trying, we started SCBWI Taiwan in a more local way. We take the ideas of how the SCBWI works in the States and make it our own way. I think it will help the entire market develop. The things we do now are regular illustrators' critiques or gatherings.

We have a fan page on Facebook now, and we are trying to build up a market guild for illustrators. For example, the price guild line, the contract example, etc. In Taiwan, the system for publishing is not as organized as it is in the United States. Also in Taiwan, we don’t have any art schools with departments for illustration majors. So the majority of illustrators are self-taught. But most of them don’t have enough knowledge to know how to deal with contracts or negotiations with clients. The most common problem we see from the illustrators is they don’t know how to protect their rights. As the illustrator coordinator, I try to come up with ideas of how to gather more artists into our group, and I try to know what they need and how we can provide for them. Our goal is to gather all the talents together and help each other and push each other to grow. I’m glad to say that more and more people know SCBWI Taiwan, and they are very active on our fan page on Facebook.

Whoa. It sounds like SCBWI Taiwan has been through a lot and is doing really important work. Great job, Ariel!

What other projects or products have you illustrated for children?

I've illustrated many other projects for children, such as the poster for a children’s play, and many package covers. I also make my own products for one of my books, Barky the Dog Sheep.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on my own book now. But it is not for children. It is mostly paintings from my travel experiences. It will be a small gift book that you can write notes in and it has my illustrations and my own words. I have had two of this kind of book published and they are all from my travel experiences.

Below is “Free” based on my experience biking around Taiwan.

This one is “Da Sola in Italia” and it’s based on my travel experience in Italy.

Ariel, thank you very much for sharing so much about your work!

Let's end this post with one of Ariel's personal favorites, which is a commission piece she did for a gallery. It's my favorite from Ariel actually. Just look at all that detail and whimsy. So inspiring. :o)