Saturday, October 31, 2009

if erap starred in a zombie flick...

it's alive!

last week, joseph estrada, the philippine's former jeuteng lord -in-chief, formally announced his bid to run in 2010's presidential elections. that means i get to draw him one more time! so many ways to draw him, so little time. the guy is practically god's gift to filipino editorial artists.

estrada, the mustachoid former b-movie action star, has been ousted from his presidency, convicted of plunder for taking bribes from gambling lords and linked to unsolved murders. oh, there's more., but i'll spare you the details.

and yet, estrada is convinced that he still has a shot at winning back the presidency -- even if his eligibility (by way of a presidential pardon by the current president. ugh.) is currently in question.

for his campaign, he has voiced his support for an all-out war in mindanao (good luck with that) and for the legalization of jueteng, an illegal numbers game that is directly linked to his conviction for corruption. nice.

even for a nation that is notorious for reveling in candidates who show off their folksy inarticulateness as a matter of pride -- that lack of an intelligent grasp of the sophisticated intricacies of government & disguising it as a populist everyman stance that discards facts & knowledge as mere facets of the disconnected elites, estrada is pushing his luck. (hm, sounds familiar - apparently, this national trait is not exclusive in these modern times).

ah, yes, he's back. and i drew him. it's halloween. i like zombies. so, he's a zombie. in a zombie flick.

can you see him hunched down & limping his way to malacaƱang palace, mumbling incoherently with empty bloodshot eyes, hungry to seize what he thinks is his? my god, it's already happening.

*** feel free to use my artwork above. just make sure to credit me if you choose to do so.
** to the pinoy northerners: "kawatan" means "thief/magnanakaw" in bisaya.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

a little visit.

my rep's nephew had a school flat stanley project & my rep thought it would be nice to have the book illustrator help out (yep, that would be me). i agreed that this was a great idea and a nice way to show a flat stanley photo tour of davao.

plus, any opportunity i get to look cool in a classroom, even if it's 20+ years too late, was well worth the effort.

then the typhoon swept in.

so much for the outdoor shots. though davao doesn't get hit typhoons (unlike the northern philippines), the city still get it's share of heavy rains & gusty wind...

...which almost rips stanley's arms off. maybe taking a 10th floor rooftop picture wasn't a good idea after all. sorry, stan.

so we settled on the next best idea. fruit shots!
and more fruits.
and of course, the durian. this is davao after all.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

this week in asia...

oh, the perils of moving to a new continent through 4 cities & 3 countries in 2 weeks AND catching 3 book deadlines.

a quick sketch after witnessing my lightbox explode (so much for flying it from the states. curse you, 220v watts!):

a big fat mexican history book, my flat stanley bookmark & THAT VIEW. really, mac? were the horns even necessary?:

for curious minds, this is what i'm reading. all 832 pages. it looks like i may never get mexico out of my head:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thursday, August 20, 2009

the little things

with a bay area baby shower coming in a little over a week, i thought it would be a good idea to play with some fun designs in my account. here are a few of the designs i've ordered for the mom & our new arrival:

kuya means older brother in filipino (and winter is our westie). my wife chipped in this idea & i like it. the image on the right is the organic baby bodysuit that will go with this design. mom will also have a maternity shirt with just the westie art & the "winter" text on it.

this will also be printed on the organic baby bodysuit.
this one's *ahem* self-explanatory.

(because i'm also chasing work deadlines, i didn't have much time to tinker with the texts & decided to use photoshop default fonts instead. i would have preferred drawing the letters too (because it feels like cheating), but i think these designs worked out well in the end.

for the stainless steel travel mug.
same westie illustration as the one above. i added his favorite teddy bear/girlfriend (those are indentations on the bear's cheeks). this will allow the art to wrap around the mug.

maternity shirt (black).
this one's a last minute idea. i noticed that on the website's maternity dress template, you could place the design on the belly. so late one night, after a quick thumbnail doodle, i came upon the idea of illustrating a sleeping baby in the womb practicing his or her follow through.

the celtics outfit was a no-brainer, but the moon was a late, albeit suitable, addition. i needed something to frame the design and my wife has a thing for moons, so merging the two concepts felt like a personal 3am stroke of genius.


i've actually had thoughts of designing my own clothing for years now. i prefer not wearing shirts with logos & enjoy a well done print on them. so, this might be the shove i need to learn to print my own stuff. i already have plans to learn the printing craft on our next destination. we'll see. check back with me in a year.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

sneak peek: my next picture book

i mentioned earlier about finding a preview of the book cover for my next picture book. it's still a long wait until the release (spring 2010) and i've written a few times about this book already (here & here), but i can now show you a peek into one of the interior spreads.

the above image is a low res preview of the page spread with type on it. below is a clearer look at the spread. this is a baseball themed alphabet book and this particular spread is an illustration for the letters S ("shortstop") and T (i honestly can't remember).

Saturday, July 18, 2009

a dog's day

i'm not exactly sure if west highland white terriers like to swim, but mine sure does. winter went straight to the water at the first sight of the parque landeta lake here in san miguel de allende. he's predictable this way. even during our stay in san diego, he would run to the surf as soon as we unlatch his leash. otters & jestskis be damned.

this always worries my wife, fearing he's never going to swim his way back. i love it.

ok, so maybe i got a wee bit worried watching him figure out his way back to the rocks. can those little paws paddle their way to dry land? sure can. that's my boy.

just as i started looking into the bag for the brand new rubber balls i brought for a game of fetch, back he went into the water. again. and again. and again. good thing it was the shallow part this time. i didn't even notice that he still had his harness on.

finally, with the swim portion done, i get to toss a few balls. around this time, winter transforms into a racing west highland white brown terrier.

i'm not sure who enjoys this more, me or the dog. i once said to my wife that i may have found the place i am happiest. the dog park. when my time's up, i wonder if i can ask st. pete for a spot on dog heaven instead. someone's got to throw those balls.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

mira! mira!

well, lookee here.

on a recent visit to a favorite bookstore here in san miguel de allende, i found two of my picture books, "bedtime at the swamp" & "i saw an ant on the railroad track", on the display shelves.

the two books (top shelf).

it's always fun to discover any of my books in their natural habitat. whenever i would visit a borders or barnes & noble store, i usually first go to the children's book section to see if they have my books in display.

you know, i've been in the illustration biz for quite a few years now, but it's still always a treat seeing my books in store -- & i don't think i'll ever get used to it.

still, i now kind of expect my books in those popular bookstores.

but a privately owned bookstore in our quaint little mexican town? not really.

the bookstore. libros el tecolote.

a few years back i remember seeing one of my chapter books in a mall in my hometown davao, philippines. i must confess to thinking about grabbing the nearest saleslady or security guard to show them. look! my book! in davao!

nope, i'm never going to get used to this. and that's certainly a good thing.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

spring (abc) training

above is an early look at the cover of my next picture book "baseball from a to z". i recently found this image on the author's website .

it's a book using baseball as a enjoyable introduction to learning the alphabet. lots of fun illustrations in here (ok, maybe i'm a bit biased, but i liked them).

i've written about working on this particular picture book in the past (here & here) & i've been looking forward to seeing what the final product will look like.

spring 2010 can't come soon enough.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

dia de los locos

last may, the locos came out to party in what seemed to be a cross between halloween & a carnival. yet another festival in san miguel. this one's to commemorate both the spring harvest & san antonio de padua.

one of my favorite locos. a pre-spanish god with cup relishing the crowd.
while other kids waited for candy giveaways, this boy had prime seating on dad's shoulders.
hal & family. little green lantern doing some stretching.
umbrellas for the sun.
a fitting end to the parade. catrinas resting by a casa.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

coming this january...

about that post i wrote last december... well, she was right. i was wrong.

above is the picture i slipped into my dad's surprise father's day card. i also had the word "grand" inserted between "happy" and "father's day".

and yes, mom did cry a little.

Friday, June 19, 2009


finally, finally, finally.

my latest picture book a.k.a the "book that could never be finished" is, well, finished. it won't be released until probably mid-2010, but i am quite pleased with the illustrations. it is by far, the most detailed picture book that i have done. i also painted this book while juggling multiple projects at the same time. mul-ti-ple.

harpercollins was more than gracious in accommodating my schedule. they had so much patience in me & my unbelievably slow painting hand.

one interesting thing about this 32 page book is that i drew inspiration from san miguel de allende, the mexican town that i live in. the town's colors, stones & the texture are quite visible in the book, in my opinion.

as usual, i had a ball hiding personal mementos in the pages. a few of them celtic related, of course. i cannot wait to see this book out in print.

*as always, i am showing only cropped images until the book begins it's ad campaign. i am also skipping the book title until then (it may be a tentative title at the moment).

Thursday, June 18, 2009

i'm now in my 20's.

when i first started working on this series, i had no idea that i would still be at it 3 years later (or was it 4? it seems so long ago). it's amazing to think that i accepted this project when i was just about to leave for an extended european vacation. the first book, in fact, was sketched flying over the atlantic & painted in a US air force base in rural England using a dinky 13" laptop.

time surely flies. i am now working on book 24 & 25 and quickly nearing the end of the run. it is safe to say that i have learned much about my craft, the publishing biz ... and pre-teen fashion. it's still early, but i am humbled & grateful for this.

*update: it was 4 years ago! wow.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

a wall into a bridge.

recently, i read an article on time about graffiti artists of the israeli/palestinian wall. for a fee, these artists will spray a message on the wall from anyone across the globe (via their website. an email & photo will be sent as proof). the only restriction would be that the words not be of hate or anti-semitic.

a few of the words sprayed on the wall range from political opinions to romantic declarations:
"artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity", "make love not wall", "m.l. loves her funky d".

they are currently working an essay by farid esack, a south african scholar on his thoughts about his experience of apartheid in his homeland and the comparison to the divide in israel/palestine. when done, the work will cover 2,625 meters long (1.6 miles). you can view the work on their website.

interestingly, this is my second blog post about this wall. a while back, i wrote about the british guerilla artist, banksy, painting a message on this very wall.

in an internet age that is allowing our world to shrink ever smaller (think iran), i find it enlightening that art is using technology to shine a spotlight on divisive issues around the world. they are also doing it in a way that is both positive & inspiring.

i am thinking about my wall post.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

scenes from my mexican hometown

it's easy for a photography hobbyist to fall in love with san miguel de allende. aside from the colonial architecture & the plethora of color, the city always seems awash in sunlight & fiestas.

i'm no camera expert. far from it. my cameras are basic & i kinda like it that way. it's a nice personal challenge to go against tech tide. i do feel that what i have learned from my day job is a nice plus too. arbus, avedon, adams, lange & the other giants made more with less & simply trusted their eye.

and no, i am not comparing myself to them -- just in case that ridiculous notion was clumsily implied here.

maybe someday i'll find an old film camera & learn to develop film myself. i took a summer class once, but that was long ago & i don't remember much of it except for being perennially late for class. i was not who i am now.

easter sunday 2009. blowing up of hanging judases. life sized paper mache replicas of hated figures (some replicas of real politicians or ex-presidents and even a witch etc. i think i saw g. bush last year).

lots of dogs in this town. i find them quite friendly. i see more than a few dogs perched on the rooftops of houses. always looking down, guarding the fort.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

wednesdays in sma

a few weeks back, i decided to join a figure drawing workshop here in san miguel de allende. though i've attended hundreds of these types of workshops before, i haven't actually done one in about 4 years. the rust was clearly showing & i ended the first session a little bit frustrated with myself.

the f.g. workshop i joined is the ana julia aguado gallery right in jardin. the poses were about 30 minutes and i was quite impressed by the variety of trained models. there is also a short gesture workshop on tuesdays, but i've been skipping those.

2-3 sessions later, i saw a bit of improvement. still not yet close the level i wanted but it definitely calm me down some. those close to me know that i can be a bit harsh on myself when it comes to my illustrations (which i actually think is a good thing).

but my main excuse for writing this post is the view from the gallery window:

wine & cheese is also served. AND i also just noticed yesterday that the artwork hanging on the walls are actually original work from mexican art legends diego rivera, david alvaro siqueros & francisco toledo... and it took me 2 months to notice this.

*i have not posted anything new here in weeks. i chalk that up for being the americas slowest book illustrator. i'm currently busy working on a few books (not sure how many but at least four titles). by next month, things should get back to normal.

Friday, March 20, 2009

stanley repackages

more flat stanley tidbits.

i'm also also working on repackaged titles of the flat stanley series, which was first published in 1964 and now on it's 45th year.

my new version 

i'm basically re-imagining the character from previously published stories. shown here is an example of my version of the 2nd book "flat stanley: flat again!" as well as the previous adaptation of the same story. 

previous adaptation (2003)

*aside from the worldwide adventure series (mentioned below) and these repackages, i am also working on yet another flat stanley series geared for the beginning readers. more on that in the future.

Monday, February 16, 2009

a flat new world

presenting two cover illustrations for the new flat stanley chapter book series. i can now show them since the they are now available on

i've been working on this new updated version of the flat stanley character since last year & hopefully i can show more once i am able to. as always, i'll wait till after the artwork is shown on book sites like amazon or on the publisher's (harper-collins) website.

these 2 books are from the "flat stanley's worldwide adventure" series. as you can gather from the series title, it has an international theme. i have already completed the third book (a fun japan adventure) and currently working on the fourth book of this series.

i am also illustrating repackages for previously published stanley stories as well as an "i can read" series for beginning readers.  inside each book are numerous pencil illustrations that help follow the story. 

this is a fun series to work on. i get to design some interesting characters including the series lead who is well, flat (and even becomes invisible).  i get to bend & play with the character and even transform him into different objects (i.e. a sail, kite, snowboard and even a ninja!). i'm essentially  drawing a kid that technically has superpowers!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

the inauguration in san miguel

san miguel de allende was abuzz with regards to barack obama's presidential inauguration. i've noticed that a large number of the town's american expat population seem to be quite socially progressive. suffice to say, i'm ok with that.

so on the morning of january 20, 2009, restaurants & bars opened early and had their large tv screens set to the inauguration. all of them choosing cnn as their channel of choice.

i saw retired expats walking in blue obama/biden shirts and some women in red,white & blue scarves. around 10am, an hour before the swearing in, there were a few of them frantically walking by the jardin looking for a place that was not yet crowded & maybe hoping to score an empty seat or two.

personally, the expat population in san miguel has been a nice surprise addition to my people watching tendencies. i thought my move here would be to enjoy the culture & lifestyle of the mexican people but i also find the expats to be a fascinating unique & separate subculture themselves.

a sports bar advertising the inauguration & the superbowl.

i took a peak at the more prominent "Democrats Abroad" hosted event in this restaurant. soon, people will be turned away as i saw others standing on chairs.

i finally found a cafe that wasn't too crowded. seems like the owner was busy decorating the place for that day. obama buttons were even being sold inside.

the small dinky tv with the spanish telecast (for the latecomers).

applause after the swearing in. the large tv for the american cnn telecast. afterwards, the cafe played the boss' "born in the USA" & jimi hendrix's "star spangled banner", most likely unaware that these were protest songs. but hey, still good stuff.


it's official. final. done. terminado. after much revisions, a childbirth (not mine), holiday breaks (sadly, not mine either) & a careful lesson in baseball science (looong story). i can now safely say that my 7th picture book is officially completed.

it is an alphabet book with a baseball theme (my second book with the sport). i find it interesting that i've accumulated a number of baseball related projects -- i also did a baseball themed greeting card & a "sing-a-long" baseball picture book a few years back. i'm guessing it was all because of one early baseball image from my portfolio soon after art school.

maybe someday i get to do a basketball book. then again, i may have to write that one.

** a small note: the two images in this post are cropped from that book. i hesitate showing any full images until the book is officially advertised by the publisher, so please don't share the image. just to be careful, i've also decided not to mention the book title.