Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Illustrator Interview: Rommel Joson

Rommel Joson, painter and illustrator, answers three interview questions on his new book, Isang Harding Papel (EPPC/Adarana House, 2014). Authored by Augie Rivera, the book was launched last November 27, 2014 at the Museo Pambata.

November 27 is Ninoy Aquino's birthday and National Day of Reading.

a. How did you conceptualize your art for Isang Harding Papel?

Paper was always going to be a dominant element in what I was going to do with Isang Harding Papel. So I thought of using collage techniques combined with painted elements to create the art. I used a lot of texture and welcomed happy accidents in the composition. Although I submitted a storyboard for Isang Harding Papel, I deviated from it a bit by just responding to the materials in front of me.

I also included some 2 "easter eggs" in the book. The number of the bus Jenny and Lola rode in is 1081 (referring to the Martial Law proclamation) and one of the kids in one of the spreads has a Voltes V t-shirt, which was supposedly banned during Martial Law times.

Illustrations of Isang Harding Papel. Photo source:

b. What collaborative strategies did you and Augie go through for Isang Hardin?
Beyond digesting Augie's text and the initial meeting with him and Adarna, there wasn't much actual collaboration. I gave an initial storyboard sketch, going so far as suggesting a spread without text. From that storyboard, I think Augie and Adarna made minor adjustments to the text.

c. If you are a martial law baby, what memories do you have of that period in Phil history? If not, what experience of loneliness and longing helped you in illustrating the book?

I was born in 1978. I was only 7 when People Power came around. I remember a time sitting with my grandfather by the sidewalk, and a person (don't remember if it was male or female) came up to us conducting a survey on possible election results. The survey person asked my grandfather who he was going to vote for in the coming election. My lolo said "KBL" - "Kay Buyida Lang". KBL of course referred to Marcos' party while biyuda referred to Cory Aquino. I think it was a running joke at the time.

Rommel Joson's art works:
 My lolo also gave me a Marcos Bagong Lipunan coin when I was little, which I lost, sad to say. I remember that the results of the snap election were being broadcasted on TV and I caught glimpses of that. I remember kids going to school flashing the Laban sign and wearing headbands with big foam letter Ls stuck on the front.

I have always been interested in that time in Philippine history. When I went to UP to study Fine Arts, I wanted to do a graphic novel about the desaparecidos. When the offer to do "Isang Harding Papel" came around, I felt this was my opportunity to do something set around that era. I also liked watching documentaries  and learning about the conspiracies and scandals of that time, like Oplan Sagitarrius or stories about the Rolex 12. So you could say that I'm fan of Philippine history.

My paintings and other personal work has always been tinged with loneliness and melancholia, so it wasn't difficult dipping into that emotion.

e. What is your message to aspiring illustrators?
Practice everyday, draw everything, read a lot, and be professional.

Watch this book trailer of Isang Harding Papel.

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