Sunday, February 22, 2009


There were three of us seated behind the long table with our tally sheets and pens ready. While outside in a “holding room” across the hallway, there was a frenzy of activity from the kids prepping up their maquettes, boards, sample merchandising materials and powerpoints. The air was abuzz with excitement.

The first student to present her thesis this morning was all jittery and her voice was shaking like a leaf on a wind-blown day. Barely trying to keep herself together, she stood there with her laptop clicking her way through her powerpoint presentation. Clearly, despite the shaky delivery, her numbers are correct, her plan’s very feasible and her business proposals are quite sound, except for one thing. The thesis subject is all about book illustration, not a dull accountant’s quarterly report.

At 8 am in the morning, in a classroom of the College of Fine Arts of the University of Santo Tomas, I sat there with two male faculty members as part of a jury for this young woman whose future clearly doesn’t reside in producing visuals. She might make a good accountant someday though.

…and I was told there were eight more presentations that will follow. I brace myself for what will come next.

“You know, this room reminds me of the interior of a mausoleum, especially with that huge window with the thick iron grills,” I told the other juror beside me who handles another class of thesis presenters in the next room, “The only thing lacking here is a crypt.”

“I think the architect of this building meant to have this formal and severe style for the whole building. You know, institutional,” the third juror said as the next student was setting up his boards.

“Hmm, I would agree on the “severe”. No wonder your students are all quivering right now. This whole room’s design adds to the tension,” I responded as the kid who was setting up his materials stood up and readied himself to begin.

“Good morning. I hope you brought your own crypt to complete the show,” I greeted the guy with a huge smile on my face. I guess he took my joke too seriously for he was sullen the whole 20 minutes of his presentation. Even after he was told an hour later that his thesis grade was excellent, his sullen expression didn’t change.

“I chose this book to re-design because I felt that the illustrations need to be more in touch with the contemporary child,” said the pretty co-ed as she held her cue cards while pointing to one of the illustrations for her book design.

“Aaaah, I see. Interesting thought. In the course of researching the material you’re re-designing, I wonder, did you research about or interview the original illustrator or book designer considering that your thesis subject is all about book illustration and design?,” I cheerfully asked her.

“I interviewed the author extensively sir,” she responded confidently.

“Oh. Really? Interesting. Hmmm, and how did you find the story?” I asked.

“I felt it should be explored more, sir… visually. And the book layout needs to be re-done,” she answered with a slight pulling back of her shoulders.

“Aw, don’t call me “Sir”. I feel old with that. You can call me by name instead,” I said with a wide grin.

“Which is what sir?” she asked.

“Open the original book you’re re-designing and read the inner flap. You’ll see my name there. I am the book designer of SOL,” I told her while I still flashed her a big smile. She leafed through the book and I could see her face turn from confidence to worry.

Although I wonder why she was ill-advised by her instructor to do a book re-design when the original material in itself is daunting, I told the other two judges that I cannot give points on half of the categories listed for her project. I ended up merely giving her points on the completeness of her presentation materials.

I also told her to join I.N.K. if she’s intent on illustrating for children. She’ll definitely learn from the guys and gals in that group and learn a thing or two about being original next time she does a design project.

“I only have one question,” I asked Isaiah Paul after he made his pitch.

“Yes sir?” he was wringing his hands while he stood there in front of us.

“You enjoyed doing all these illustrations you just presented, right?” I asked.

“Yes, sir,” came his short reply.

Amazing, simply amazing… was all I that I could think of as I surveyed again the magnificent illustrations this young man has produced and were mounted on easels in front of us. It was also the shortest time I spent on putting down his points on my tally sheet. Clearly, Isaiah, at a young age, found his muse with these works.

…and he only used a ballpoint pen for all of them.

Amazing, simply amazing.

The four images in this post are from the set of illustrations done by Isaiah Paul for his book illustration/design project “The Creatures of Midnight” – a book about Philippine mythical creatures, namely; the Lampong, Matanda sa Punso, Pugot, and the Bungisngis.

Check out the rest of Isaiah Paul's magnificent illustrations here.


marga rodriguez said...

pucha, hayop nga tong batang 'to. Kudos for isaiah!


marga rodriguez said...

...oh yeah, I checked out sol. Magaling si Farley del Rosario. I wonder why she thought na hindi yun "contemporary" enough. Easy way out lang ba yung ginawa niya? I've always thought layouts are supposed to "help" better the artwork... (kaya less is more)

Bella Sinclair said... I think I would have dropped dead right there if I were her.

WOW is all I can say about Paul's illustrations. Ball point pen only? Wowwwwwww....

palma tayona said...

@ marga: ohdibah? kakabaliw itong mga gawa ni isaiah. i do hope he sticks to creating excellent work like this. this kid has a bright future ahead of him as a visual artist

palma tayona said...

@ bella: oh yeah bella... he used ballpoint pens to do these works. that's what i call an excellent exercise in patience and consistency. :-)

Anonymous said...

You'd be surprised at the attention span of the "contemporary" child :P

I gotta say, it seemed a bit harsh of you to mock one kid by telling him to be an accountant and to not give the other kid points on the other categories.

Powerpoint is *meant* to be boring dude; you have to be objective about that, you've said yourself that the presentation was correct and that the numbers were feasible. Keep in mind that just because *you* were bored(you're a judge, again, you are meant to be bored), it didn't entail that sort of treatment. Do you see my point here? I believe the advertisement aspect (I'm assuming you were judging the Ad and Design student body) is quite an important detail. Judging it on the basis that you were bored is a bit out of context and frankly, kind of mean.

To put it another way, if I was a doctor and I treated you of your disease quickly and responsibly using all the right drugs and therapy, you'd STILL be unsatisfied because you didn't walk away with a whole new appreciation and understanding for human life?

As for the other kid,I'm sure you know that a thesis is no joke and if I was made to choose between originality and a sure thing, I'd probably go for the sure thing. A re-design is just that and should be taken as it is. I mean, when you judge a re-make of a song, it's a given that it's not an original. You then have to judge it by how much it lives up to the original or by how big of a diversion does it take. It's like the Batman movies; they're all basically the same, just with some additional (though not necessarily original) tweaks that improve upon the one before it.

Yeah, originality is an important aspect of being an artist but so is *talent* and you have to give kudos to that at the very least. I myself have seen a TON of pseudo-artists hiding their untalented, uninspired asses under layers of 'originality'.

Think about it; I could eat a large meal, shit on the ground and put a shoe on my product. Then I'll name it 'Universe Effect' or something just as pretentious.

Was it original? Maybe. Did it take talent? Nope.

I have a classmate who graduated from UST and he told me that the one person is supposed to do the illustration, layout and ad campaign (among other things), by HIMSELF/HERSELF. So yeah, a bit more consideration on the work put in by these kids and tact could have been used on your stint as a judge. Notice how I'm constructively criticizing you? That's what you should have done when they brought you in for your opinion and sadly, you chose to go about it like an angry internet flamer.

baby brian said...

^Hala, baka ikaw yung student na nagre-design?:-)

This is my opinion on the matter:

In the first place, mali nga naman talaga ang magredesign ng recently released popularly good book, lalo na at ang "tinalo" mo ay "experienced" na in the industry, your panel pa, and you are just making a name yet. It's unethical, period. If I were the original creator, I could let it pass if the redesigned work really is extremely astounding (I don't know if it was), the way redesigned works should be anyway. My artistic ego will also be hurt like, "who is she anyway to do redesigning my work?does she really know how it's like to create that book?" I'm perfectly sure every artist/creator knows how that feels like.

The term "redesign" already have a negative connotation, if the student was witty enough to defend that it was a "re-interpretation" rather than "redesign", makalulusot pa. Redesign for me means there is something wrong in the work. Books, or artworks in general, were not made just like that, it was given so much intellect, time, money etc to produce it (you will probably understand this later when you are out there working in the industry). And here you are questioning that effort? (though I will appreciate her effort in doing the thesis also, good thing she was credited for that) Pag re-interpretation of a work, it means your own personal artistic sensibilities were poured in the work, di ba mas positive? The adviser should have coached that to her.

I completely understand the student, because I've been there once also, kinakabahan na and all. But, it's ok to be like that. I also understand the creator/panel, only because I know how it goes in the industry.

I hope the student will take the panel's comments constructively otherwise she won't make it out there as an artist, taking it as a challenge. Later, she'll realize that the "wiser" ones are actually absolutely right, after all.

Dennis said...

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