Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Creative Project: “Raisinhead: A Tale Of A Modern-Day Tiyanak”

There's a time when a story that you have been brewing inside your head ever since you were a small boy has to be told in one way or another. One such story that I have is that of Raisinhead. I don't know, what led me to create a story of a tiyanak and his quest for vengeance. Perhaps it were the nightmares (which mostly featured mangled aborted babies and other anatomy-related gore) that plagued my childhood slumbers or the late-night horror movies with deformed twins or the devil's spawn in unwilling mothers. But through the years, I was able to spin numerous versions of Raisinhead, and the most recent iteration has found its way on a medium I fondly love: graphic fiction or more commonly, the comics.

I've been working on Raisinhead for months now while interspersing my free time with logo design and ambigram work. But what really pushed me to develop this story into its graphic form is because I wanted to join this prestigious contest and what material to use best but one that has been close to my heart.

Here are previews of the art, and as you can see, I used the classic ink brush approach for the line work. I laid out the pages first with speedy sketches, and from there developed more complicated sketch work until I'm ready for final inking.

I scanned the panels and decided to place the text in via Photoshop since my handwriting is not legible enough to match the art (thanks to my De Quervain's!). Here's a preview of the 1st page.

I have basically finished Raisinhead already and in the process of having it reviewed, and so far it's been creating some stir in my family and among friends. Here's how the unveiling of the work went during a family dinner. You can basically see my brother (left) pissed off while debating with my mom (right) on its merits and demerits. It's weird how Archie (beside my mom) can give harsh critiques even though he hasn't read it yet, and my ninang (center), intrigued with all the talk, who doesn't read comic books at all, decided to read it and join in the debate…

Hahaha, it was an amusing night! But, I was glad. If Raisinhead could cause such a controversial debate in my family who know me very well and be very very critical… how much more if it is read by the general public! Some of my friends who have read it called it "heartbreaking…". I'm just glad that its 12 pages can have that effect! But hopefully, I'm not priming any of you before you read it. Hmmm, I can't have it available online. But upon request, I can provide you with the link to the .pdf file I have of Raisinhead (50 MB!). I just hope it fares well. But whether it gets a nod or not, I'm just glad it's out of my system in a format I love. Hmmm, you'll never know, I might decide to work on a graphic NOVEL version of it. Actually, I'm already working on the storyline of another graphic work I'll be creating (Hint: "Magkadugtong na bituka…")(while finishing Spinning, of course…). Here are close-ups:

Does the boy above look like me?

Work in Progress: Spinning (Paikot-ikot)

These past few weeks, I have been very busy working on two creative projects simultaneously, and with the available free time I have for creative work, you can say I'm progressing slowly but surely on these. I'll be writing about the other project in another blog entry, but for this one, I'll talk about "Spinning" first.

"Spinning" is a delightful short story written by Irene Carolina A. Sarmiento (Teacher Irene) about Kuya who has autism, his sister, Tin-Tin and their family.

"Like a giant top, he spins, and spins, and spins for fun. Tin-Tin wants to help Kuya so that they can play together and learn new things. In this story about love and understanding, Kuya also has plenty to share with Tin-Tin and with the whole world."

The book aims to highlight what children with autism are capable of being and sharing with others as whole human beings. It seeks to look beyond their handicaps and differences, and see how special these children truly are, with their own special gifts and abilities. As far as I know, this is the first story for children that Irene has ever written (or will be published – I'm sure she's written lots, for that matter). Having read most of her previous works, some of which have already garnered prestigious literary awards (Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards and Philippine Free Press Literary Contest), I'm more accustomed to her work on science-fiction and fantasy mostly using modern twists on Filipino folklore. But after reading "Spinning," I knew she has written a heartwarming tale that families and teachers can relate to, and when she asked me if I could illustrate her book, I was MORE than willing to agree!

First, I had to convince the publisher (Anvil Publications) that I'm qualified in illustrating a children's book. It would have been a lot advantageous if I was a member of INK (Ilustrador ng Kabataan), since most publishers get their illustrators from such organizations (mental note to join next time they call for members!). But thanks to my online gallery in deviantART, Flickr, and my (unfinished) website, and most importantly my personal experience in working with kids with autism, the publisher gave me the green light. Here are just some of the sketches I sent them.

And so after signing the contract, I'm now in the slow and grueling (but FUN!) process of setting into pictures the words that inhabit Irene's story. After receiving the specifications of the book, I laid out the needed illustrations based on these. I'll be creating approximately 15 to 20 individual paintings. Irene and the publishers imagined a dreamy (almost pastel-like look), but boldly colorful style for the art and somehow I was more inclined to use watercolors as base with pencil, pen or acrylic highlights for the paintings to achieve this look. Hmmm, I used the word slow, because the process I imposed on myself would require stages before the final actual artwork, and so far, I've only finalized three plates, and each required 3-4 stages, each an artwork by itself already! And with the limited time I have to work on these (I have a day job by the way!), it will indeed be a slow process. But I'm getting there!

The characters are the heart of the story and I have to get them right. For the character of Tin-tin, you will notice that I started out with the cliché girl with the pigtails look, but somehow I felt that I have to infuse the character with the author's personality and look (since she was coursing herself through this character, I think). I asked for Irene's child pictures which I could use as reference.

For Kuya, I had to use a variety of references, from my kids in Quality Life Discoveries to my very own kiddy pictures.

For the cover, which we also intend to use for the promotional, I decided to work on a special customized font for the book. I initially did sketches for the cover to feature Tin-tin in the foreground; however, finally, we decided to put Kuya in front. Also, during this stage, I still wasn't decided on how Tin-tin would look like, but finally settled on a straight hair look to maintain constancy.

Using my initial sketches and mock-ups, I worked on a potential promotional poster which hopefully will be run soon pending approval from Anvil. But, you've seen it first here!

And here's a preview of how another spread is coming about...

And this ain't the final version yet!

Wish us luck, and hoping for the best for the book!