Thursday, March 6, 2014

  Ang Ikaklit Sa Aming Hardin - Illustrator Interview

First of all, I am in awe of the illustrations. It’s beautiful. Tell us more about your vision. 

Thank you. I’m really glad you liked the illustrations. I sincerely hope I did justice to Bernadette’s beautiful children’s story. 

When I read Det’s short story when I was in college, I was really moved. It had a very complex concept that challenged the status quo, yet she was able to craft it in such a way that it was light, simple and feel-good. But you will feel that it was well-thought-out and that Det wanted to keep things realistic.
So for my illustrations, I drew my inspiration from the story’s simplicity and realism. I wanted my illustrations to echo the tonality of Det’s story. I also found a great amount of feminism in the story — so I made my forms soft and curved but observed strong tonal values to give depth to my forms.

I made my character design for Ikaklit, Nay Daisy and Nay Lilia a little close to Disney princesses (wide-eyed, delicate features) but with modern styling, so they look familiar to the young readers. Not to mention that Disney has played a big part in my childhood as well as my maturity as a woman. Just a side track, Disney princesses had received criticisms on how they conditioned a generation of women to be submissive, hopeless romantics, but I wanted to bend that. I decided to use the familiar forms of Disney, so the characters in Ang Ikaklit Sa Aming Hardin will look familiar and attractive to the readers while Det and I were able to communicate a new kind of concept to them.

You are an inspirational bunch. How is it collaborating with Bernadette and the rest of the team who put this book together?

Again, thank you. I was mostly collaborating with Det, she was the center of the collaboration. I’ve only met the kind hearted people who helped out as we launched the book. Because of my schedule (I’m juggling my job as an art director and my side projects as a painter, illustrator and designer), Det and I would collaborate remotely via e-mails and text messages. Thank God for technology, I was able to have Det approve (and comment) on my sketches and works in progress.

Collaborating with Det was very fun and easy. She gave me artistic freedom but also gave clear objectives and inputs. I guess the challenging part in the collaboration would be writing and answering e-mails because Det, being the Filipino writer that she is, would still e-mail and text me in flawless and formal Filipino. And I’m just too embarrassed to not answer appropriately. Nakakahiya naman kung sumagot ako sa Ingles o kaya sa Taglish. :P

What’s your reaction when you first read the story? What’s your favorite thing about the book/story?

I was absolutely inspired! I was in college back then. Ang Ikaklit Sa Aming Hardin was part of our reading list for PanPil19 under Sir Eugene Evasco. When Sir Eugene told us that the story was rejected by mainstream publication houses because of its theme, I promised myself I’ll look for Bernadette Neri and tell her I’m willing to do the illustrations.

My favorite part of the story was when Ikaklit finally goes to school, introduces herself and her family, and finds herself conflicted because of her classmates’ reactions. That’s my favorite because it realistically pictured how society often reacts to a concept that’s new or different to what they are used to. That moment was very powerful.

Wow, that's really admirable!

For such a great story, how did you translate it in to a drawing? Did you have a goal/direction you wanted to take the book? How did you tie in your artistic take with the author’s specifications, if any?

It was very challenging, I must say. Because half of the time, I was doubting myself if I could do justice to the beautiful and well-written story. But my desire to put the story out there for more people to be able to read and experience was stronger than my doubts. So I just illustrated it the way I would usually render my paintings of happy families - idyllic and dreamy imagery, in earthy and bright colours.

My goal was very simple — to make the illustrations as visual guides for the story itself. The story was primarily for children, so I think illustrations truly play a big part in conveying stories to children. Children are very visual and they’d usually get intimidated seeing chunks of words. My goal was to make the illustrations attractive to children that they’d want to read the story. My colour palette is usually subdued and earthy. Det requested that I use brighter colours so they look more attractive to children — I totally agree with that. So with my illustrations for this book, you’ll see my artworks in a more colourful range.

Please indulge us. Take us in to your creative process as an artist.

Nothing fancy, really. I’m very practical, I think. If I may divide the process, it would be: 1. Muni-muni phase and 2. Work work phase. (I like repeating words.) In the muni-muni phase, I sort of immerse myself into the story and the emotional aspect of it. I try to feel things so I’d be able to apply that same emotion to my visualisations. Kumbaga, parang daramdamin mo muna ang kwento at hahayaan mong maging (Sorry for the Taglish comming up) source iyon ng rationale mo as an illustrator. When I’m finished feeling everything, that’s when I get down to work. In the muni-muni phase, I ideate and come up with the general concept.

Work-work phase is the execution phase. I sketch my initial ideas - I divided the story into spreads, kumbaga sa film, I divided the story into sequences kung saan pwede maipagsama ang mga thoughts in one singular (or continuous) visual. I show my sketches to Det and have her approve or comment and I revise based on her builds. Once she’s okay with the sketches, I showed her character studies for the main characters, so it’s more efcient to apply them per spread. I hand-drawn everything and enhanced some elements digitally.

That’s pretty much it.

From being a Promil kid, to now being an art director and children’s book illustrator- it seems you have accomplished so much. Any advice for young and new artists out there?

I’d probably share what my dad constantly told me — that there are many other artists out there who can do far better and more impressive art that you, so stay humble and try to pick up lessons from every person you meet and every experience to encounter. We’re in the time where we have unlimited access to almost anything in just a tap on a screen, so sources of inspiration are more abundant. This is an opportunity to share your art, meet other artists, collaborate and learn from each other.

Find a day job that you can love as much as you love your art. It will make you a much healthier artist because you will have a more balanced perspective about communication, art and commerce. If consider yourself an artist, don’t shy away from commerce. Be familiar with it because it will be your tool to create more of what you truly love.

Lastly, what’s your message for our readers? ☺

First, thank you for giving me a little of your time, reading what I had to say and share. We’re very lucky we have the internet, now we are not just able to share thoughts, opinions and dreams, we’re also equipped to creatively collaborate. I’m very excited to see a more creative days ahead. :)

Author Profile

Si CJ de Silva ay nakilala bilang Promil Kid sa mga commercial nito noong 90s. Ngayon, si CJ naman ang gumagawa ng mga patalastas bilang Art Director sa isang advertising agency. Hilig pa rin niya ang magpinta at gumuhit.

Known for being a Promil Kid during the 90s, CJ De Silva now makes commercials as an Ar Director of an advertising agency. Painting and Drawing are still her passion to this day.


Aklat-pambatang tumatalakay sa mga di-kumbensiyunal at di-tradisyunal na pamilya ang Ang Ikaklit sa Aming Hardin (2012). Partikular nitong tinutuunan ang mga hámong hinaharap ng isang batang may dalawang nanay. 

Ang Ikaklit sa Aming Hardin is a children's book that tackles unconventional and non traditional family particularly focusing on the struggle a child with two mothers faces.

You can buy the book on: 

IBON BOOKSHOP #114 Timog Ave. QC 
(632) 927-7060 | 927-7061 | 927-7062 
POPULAR BOOKSTORE #305 Tomas Morato Avenue, QC 
(632) 372-2162 
(632) 926-6642
MT. CLOUD BOOKSHOP Casa Vallejo, Upper Session Rd., Baguio City 
(074) 424-4437 
EXILE ON MAIN ST. Bar & Resto #2428 Leon Guinto St. Brgy. 727, Malate, Mla
ROOM 3149 FACULTY CENTER College of Arts and Letters, UP Diliman 

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