Harry Monzon, winner of the PBBY Wordless Book Prize, shares with us his creative process, his role models in the industry and the benefit of recklessness.
How did you learn about the Wordless Book Prize?
I saw the call for submission for the Wordless Book Prize shared in the Facebook page of our org Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan (Ang INK).
I joined because there was a deadline. I got some ideas for a picture book that lay formless in some of my notebooks and thought the contest is a good way of finishing something. Even if it didn’t win I’d still feel fulfilled that the little scrap of idea was turned into something.
Tell us something about Pagkatapos ng Unos ?
Our country catches an average of 20 typhoons each year and noticed there aren’t much that is written about this experience in this format.
Before the call for the wordless picture book was announced I was already thinking of a story inspired by the virtues of the people who were able to piece their life back together after a calamity.
Pagkatapos ng Unos is a story about the circumstances that we cannot control and how it can affect us is dependent on how we respond to it. In the story, for instance, the main character was left immobilized after losing his paddle. Had he not free the boat from the weight of his possessions he’ll be trapped in his own uncertainty and fear.
What is your creative process for Pagkatapos ng Unos?
I keep sketchbooks filled with fragmented drawings. I usually open these when I’m looking for something to work with. I found two sketches from two different pads that almost have the same imagery and remembered they go well with the type of story I wished of completing.
From those pieces I began creating more sketches that were similar in spirit, but did not really mind at that point if they made sense. After that, I outlined the story.
I took a break from it and did other things for a while. Taking my head away from it allowed me to adjust my vision and get a clearer view of what I’m doing.
The observation of other wordless picture books familiarized me with how they work. Some of the wonderful books that I came across are The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee and Pool by JiHyeon Lee. The absence of words transcends these books from their intended narrative. And because there is no one way of interpreting what is happening in the pictures they can form an intimate connection with the reader.
I wasn’t really keen on how I would end the story but focused more on how the scenes affect the ones next to it. I really think the planting in the end is cliché but with all the environmental issues we are facing, our nature’s deterioration is an inescapable fact. The tree is also used a countless times as a symbol for growth, and most of the time growth is a gift you can expect from having to go through a tribulation.
Who are your role models in your discipline or community? Why?
When I decided I wanted to pursue illustrating for children I often look at the works of Serg Bumatay. With all the details he put in his illustrations, you can easily immerse yourself in the story and find something different every time you go back.
I also follow the works of Jon Klassen. His works may seem minimal at an initial glance but there are nuances that can be endearing if you look closely.
Aside from them there’s a lot of talented Filipino artists that I drew inspiration from.
Who are you, as an artist?
There are countless instances where anxiety held me back from creating something. There’s an apprehension that what I'll do will turn out bad. But I realized that the bad is necessary to step up.
Going reckless has its own bright side. I often repeat artworks that I’m not contented with. Sure, there’s a waste of time and resources but there’s also the reward of being better than I originally was.
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