Monday, April 27, 2009

From my old sketchpad

I was arranging my things on my bed when I saw again my old sketchpad. It has been almost three years since I looked at it, and it was full of random illustrations and sketches, often doodles executed in pencil. But these doodles are the foundation of some of my current illustrations. Like this one: an imaginary, Arthur Rackham-ish woods with a lady below, though I must admit it is the work of an amateur.

I want to emulate Rackam's eye for detail: of trees, and how he interpreted the barks with grotesque, ghost-like faces. I've seen his work for Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle. I liked how he showed the branches of leafless trees, intricate barks , and the whimsical forms of the trunks. I had no real reference for this illustration, just what I remember from browsing through books about trees and Rackam's works.

I started taking photographs of trees a year later after I drew this one. For now, I somehow don't know exactly how I will use this pictures. But I think they'll be handy sometime soon.

As I scanned my sketchpad, I saw some of my old sketches of imaginary battle scenes, illustrations from my first story that I wrote for a friend. I browsed some books about warfare, and I took down notes of them together withl little doodles. I wish I could draw someday an entire battle scene based on my first story, more detailed than this, like the musha-e prints or Altdorfer's "Battle of Alexander at Issus." But, of course, I want to make it more graphic than both, though the canvas would be not larger than a regular dining table.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Quiet Summer Days

During the past weeks, over the Lenten season, we experienced generally hot, quiet, and somewhat sad days. I spent most of my time in the house, staring at the glaring blue sky. Before that, I started doing designs for shirts using puns (e.g. Chairman of the Board/Bored which seemed very appropriate for the summer).

Lent in the country is generally sad, though not for religious reasons, but for its unusual quiet. Back when I was a kid, they often aired a certain film, Rites of May (1976), by a great local director, Mike de Leon. It is known locally as "Itim" (Black), revolving around a plot concerning murder within a family during the Holy Week. It was so eerie, and became the inspiration for one of my stories for the Squishy Bunny. Combining the bad film quality, lack of smooth computerized effects, and religious enigmas and imagery, it was almost a masterpiece of horror, strange for a non-horror film.

It had exemplary surrealism. The male protagonist, a photographer, had a dream. He was in a church, surrounded by the voices of old women chanting the "Pasyon" (traditionally, the passages regarding the passion of Christ are sung non-stop during the Holy Week to commemorate His sufferings). Suddenly, he was at the center aisle, surrounded by life-size statues of Christ, which began to mob him.

It is one of the things that I remember year after year during these days, with its stiffling, unsettling silences.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Jan van Eyck

This was a portrait of a medieval European girl, probably painted by one of my favorite artists, Jan Van Eyck.

Curiously enough, she looks like a Japanese girl. I think this was the ideal type of girl for Europeans during his time because most of the portraits of women I've seen around this period had eyes like these. She is a pretty girl, probably was as young as fifteen.
Van Eyck was a Flemish painter, born during the late medieval period. What I really liked about his work is how he paints in a very detailed, meticulous manner. Well, for me, his technique approached that of a hyper-realist painter. I also liked his jewel-like colors, golden atmosphere, and how he styled the faces.

I tried to imitate his work through his technique known as imprimatura, only using acrylics. Well, I only heard about this technique from other people, but I tried it anyway when I was illustrating for some children's book contest. I realized that it was really a hard technique, but I enjoyed it though it took me two to three months to finish. Quite funny enough, I spent some nights looking at his work in a book I borrowed in our library. The book was a little bit old, but some pictures showed his work in actual size and was of good quality printing.


Edited: April 13, 2009


I stand corrected. The painting "Portrait of a Young Girl" was done by a follower of Van Eyck, Petrus Christus. I apologize for the inconveniences this caused. Thank you Dawn W. for pointing this out!