Saturday, December 25, 2010

Season's greetings (or ambush)

Every late December, my email inbox starts filling up with holiday greetings of various holiday illustrations done by artists from MB Artists (who also represent me). I'm usually a bystander in all this since I never send in my own artwork/art greeting card (I vaguely recall doing it just once).

This year, I barely make it. Here's a quick black &white Christmas sketch that I sent just minutes ago. It may be a little rushed & I admittedly struggled with a new sketchbook paper texture, but I like the concept (one of many that I had in mind, but I had only enough time to do one pencil sketch. Maybe next year).

Monday, December 13, 2010

Battle of Mactan

Over the weekend, I decided to play a little bit. In the past months, I've assumed that, when I finally get to relax, I'll be jumping at the chance to do something along the lines of a figure painting or a plein air sketch by the beach.


When the time came, I went with some low-brow fun on my sketchbook. The subject I stumbled upon was Lapu-Lapu, the Filipino icon before there was even a Philippines. He is best known for defeating the Spanish in the shores of Mactan as well as slaying Ferdinand Magellan, a revered historical figure to the world but a foreign usurper to Filipinos.

Idealized statues & paintings of the man can be found all over the country. He's been printed on money, has a city named after him (as well as a local fish), yet not much else is known about him. He, however, stands alone in the annals of Philippine history as the one Filipino hero known for successfully defeating a foreign invading power. Much of the figures in Philippine history are revered for martyrdom & bravery ... in the face of defeat. Being under colonial rule for 381 out of the past 445 years can do that to a country.

With the help of my new friend, the Mongol #2 pencil, and the best craft store quality colored pencils Davao City can offer (sigh), here are three sketches that I made with Lapu Lapu & the Battle of Mactan in mind. As you can see, historical accuracy was an utmost importance to me.

actual historical quote from the battle.

spanish robots on the beach. yes, those 3 words in one sentence.

seeing these strange otherworldly invaders must have been an imposing sight to the natives.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Joining the facebook game

Currently, many of my friends on facebook have been changing their profile picture to cartoon characters. This is supposed to promote awareness against child abuse. Like other facebook crazes that have preceded this, it's become quite popular and yet I couldn't wrap my mind on how changing your picture to a Thundercat would help.

As well intentioned as it may be (and, may I add, a lot of fun), I refused to play along.

Then the wife changed her profile picture.

Her choice was the princess in a late 70's Japanese animated film Hakucho no Mizumi. A film that was essential viewing in her childhood as Hugo the Hippo was to mine.

She also was now curious on which character I would choose to put up on my own profile. At first, I said I wouldn't do it. I was just too cool for that... but I did start thinking about it.

DC comic characters were easy choices. A few of the old Warner Bros. animation cast would be a good one too. I could easily have gone for 80's tv favorites like Mask, He-Man or G.I. Joe. And of course, there's my old friend Hugo the Hippo.

In the end, I decided to join in, but only on my terms. I would create my own picture. No cutting & pasting for me. I drew my 10 month old daughter, Alison, as Supergirl. It was fast, easy and, as it turned out, quite relaxing. It's been some time since I've drawn without the thought of a paycheck or deadline in mind. Just drawing for the love of it.

Lastly, here's the video that, according to a friend, supposedly inspired this facebook campaign. Changing a profile picture is one thing but getting involved with your time or money is another.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Heeey batta batta batta swing batta!

As a young boy vacationing in San Francisco, I became a fan of the Will Clark/ Kevin Mitchell Giants team. But, to be honest, I didn't really know the game that much.

When I moved to San Francisco for college in 1997, things got serious. This latest version of the Giants were definitely my team. I'd listen to games on the radio and watch live games at the "Stick" (and later Pac Bell Park). "Pitch to Barry!" that's what we'd all say. Those years were great years to be a Giants fan.

Then, I graduated from college. Barry & the gang faded away. The losses piled up. I left for San Diego and then later to Mexico. I remained a fan & wore my trusty, worn out Giants hat whenever I could, but the team roster were no longer familiar to me.

Along the way, I made picture books (here & here) & illustrations with hints of my fan loyalty to the team. artwork with Giants colors & Pac Bell park quietly slipped into the pages. I just had to. Too easy.

Now, the Giants are in the World Series and I'm reveling in their success just like the old days.

Go Giants!

* artwork from my recent picture book: Baseball From A to Z

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I have become what I --

I was recently interviewed by the very capable Nikki G. Tan for the Philippine publication, Zee Lifestyle. Those who know me may get a good laugh or two after reading that last sentence. I'm not sure I want to know what they did after seeing these posted pictures.

Yes, there was a photo shoot. Shoot me now.

leaning against wall? gotta go with the bent knee.

I'm in a lifestyle magazine.
The Annual Men's Issue.
In the Philippines.
Where I don't really have a market for my books.
And I follow a puff piece on (quote) the glamorous (unquote) Imelda Marcos.
There's also an article on skin whitening tips for men.
Did I mention it was the Men's Issue?

On the plus side, it was nice to see published pictures of me & my daughter, Alison (around 2 months old then). My mom gets a kick out of this (and thereby boosting Zee mag's sales all by herself). It does feel good getting a bit of notice from the motherland especially since my work is mostly based in the US. And the writing was fun & well done.

Thursday, August 05, 2010


For me, painting on photoshop means work. And because of that, it can get tedious & monotonous.

On one of those dreary moments, I took a quick break & decided to play with some of my personal photos. And yes, I did watch that new tron trailer before doing this.

Here, I decided to add a blue visor on the helmet:
This took only a few minutes & may seem odd to some because the highlights on the helmet do not match any existing ambient light. Still managed to fool a few friends though.

On this shot, I took the opportunity to go tron on the suit. Those white lines on dark fabric were screaming for it:
I painted the details on the face & hands a well as the highlights on the figure. Like the first image, this one was also done rather quickly.

(warning: photoshop jargon ahead). Aside from using a blue multiply tint, I duplicated the original photo and placed it as a top layer. Then, I simply lowered the opacity & erased any necessary detail just to get some that original warm skin tone.

Then, just like that, break time was over and I promptly went back to work.

Monday, August 02, 2010

34 years.

... and still petrified of a sketchbook's first page.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

End of the road.

I've mentioned before in this blog about my love for all things celtics, so it should come as no surprise that I am still reeling from last week's game 7 finals loss to the Lakers.

The damn Lakers.

Maybe I should be happy that this team even went this far. Just last March, I was silently expecting a first round flameout by the celtics.

Then they started moving up each round, taking down Wade, Lebron & Dwight Howard. We made it to the finals. It was celtics v. lakers. A series for all the marbles. We had to get this.

You know the rest of the story.

Still, it was great to root for a scrappy, feisty team that still had a puncher's chance at the title even until the final minute of the season's last game. I must admit, however, that this playoff run has left me exhausted & deflated.

I really shouldn't complain. They made the finals & I've seen much worse.

In the 90's, I was that awkward teen with a celtic hat, rooting for a 15 win team. Earlier that decade, I collected newspaper clippings about Reggie Lewis, the team's young star, collapsing on the court then dying of a heart condition.

There was coach M.L. Carr (gag!), coach Rick Pitino (blech!), a season's worth of tanking for a shot at the Tim Duncan lottery (and ending up with Ron Mercer), team captain & mr. celtic: Rick Fox, uncle Dominique Wilkins & his #12 celtic jersey, John freaking Bagley & then future savior, Vin Baker.

whew, I'm tired.

But come november, you can bet I'll be at it again. Rooting for the team in green.

I'll be ready.
Welcome to life as a celtic fan, kid.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Hey, neighbor.

the past weeks have been all about daily diapers & deadlines, so it was a nice to see a fresh new twist one morning. it looks like a tiny new neighbor is moving in and has been quietly building his new home in my bathroom window. seems like a nice spot for a new feathered family.

the little builder is at the top right of the photo, nervously watching me while perched on an outside wire.

one drawback is that i've now been consciously watching my time in the bathroom because it frightens away our little friend (let's call him larry joe bird.). au revoir, long showers.

hopefully, larry joe & his growing family sticks around & realizes we're not a threat. there's enough room for another new set of parents and their little baby in our house.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

poll dance

in two days, the whole country will be voting in a big chunk of the next administration. from the executive to legislative branches, from national to the local government. from president to senator to mayor to even city councilor.

in davao city, where i live, we are asked to choose 24 candidates whittled down from a list of hundreds. a little too much to ask of the common tao, no?. wouldn't it be easier to separate these elections? sure, but this is the philippines we're talking about. we don't do easy in this country.

the streets, lightposts, trees, every visible wall (you name it) have been stapled, glued & tied with electoral banners & posters. trucks with speakers blaring out indecipherable campaign jingles roam the streets all day (and night). the songs are guaranteed to remain embedded in your head for weeks, even months, whether you like it or not. just imagine the bombardment of radio & tv ads. these days, i am glad i do not own a tv.

amid the heated partisanship and campaigning (as well as the occasional election related violence), there remains a distinctly festive atmosphere. it's as if a semi-permanent fiesta has enveloped the whole country. personally, i find the vibe somewhat fun, energizing & bewildering.

this election has been like no other. modern technology has seeped into party campaigning. twitter, facebook and the like have opened a new front. this will also be the first fully automated elections. yes, the first time. yikes.

campaign tactics have slowly morphed too. though there are the ever present campaign songs, slogans and colors (yes, here, a candidate's chosen color matters), logo designs and indirect advertising are also slowly working their way in.

this billboard doesn't mention the candidate's name or national position he is seeking, just his logo (a stylized V from his name) and his party's color (orange). a white background behind a collection of campaign stickers that form the V logo. I would call it sharp subtle messaging except for the blatant ripoff of the nike logo (again, this is the philippines. check your trademarks & copyrights at the door).

on the local front, the change slogan has been effectively adopted by the city's opposition party. i can't say i am surprised by this. it was easy to see that the US elections two years ago would influence many election campaigns globally (we all know how that change candidate in the US fared).

hollywood style billboards proclaiming "change is coming" like a summer film teaser surround the cityscape. for good measure, a bisaya version (the local dialect) is placed below this larger billboard.
not to be outdone, the incumbent party retaliates. it may be an effective rebuttal, but i could do without the extra exclamation points (should i mention the red & green all caps letters on white? i think i just did. merry christmas).
i will now leave the last word to sean connery. upon seeing this ad & knowing that the candidate is a long time james bond fan, this gave me good chuckle. whether mr. connery is aware of his endorsement or not (my bet's on not), i had to admire the playfulness of this billboard.
interesting note: it seems like wherever we go, there seems to be an election going on. 2 years ago, we were living in US witnessing the obama/mccain duel. when we moved to mexico the following year, another election was happening. now, it's the philippines' turn. each time, the incumbent party was beaten soundly by the opposition. it's looking like the same thing will happen here.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

alison in wonderland.

ok, so i've plunged into this rabbit hole called parenting.

with this little girl as my guide.

it's been a full month now.
i'll be back when i rediscover this thing i call sleep.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

catching up

since i've done a superb job in neglecting this blog in the month of november (and december!), here's a quick rundown on what i've been up to in this most recent move to the philippines.

just as i had planned, i'm beginning to branch out with respect to my art. art has, in recent years, mutated into a job and that can get tedious. it's time to return to the days when drawing was fun and not a means to a paycheck.

i always delighted in the idea of doing body painting, but this was not what i had in mind. so much for dreaming of swimsuit edition models. next please.

i do not usually accept side projects from friends. mostly because these type of requests create complications with my already jampacked work schedule (among other reasons).

but sometime in november, the clouds miraculously parted and a friend asked if i could design a quickie logo for a new fitness gym she was starting.
one major plus with the move to the philippines was freeing myself up and getting back in shape. over the years, the freelance illustrator lifestyle has wrought major damages to my lower back. now was the time to fix this thing & get back in shape.

i spend a great deal of time in the gym fixing myself. but there are also times i find myself venturing outdoors. like, for example, this one cloudy morning jogging the streets of davao.

and then there is the day job. the two chapter book series from competing publishers have kept me busy. also, after temporarily swearing off picture books so i could enjoy some free time, i've recently signed on to a halloween themed hidden picture book (i am so predictable).

i've also finished a few more flat stanley illustrations. the most recent of which was a mexico themed book which gave me a wonderful excuse to browse through my san miguel de allende pictures for photo references. i miss that town.

and there is also this thing about a new arrival coming in very soon.