One of the first things I ever did for Ang INK~ this is a postcard I made for the WWF and is watercolour and ink on paper. No idea what year, maybe 1997.
Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan (Illustrators for children), AKA Ang INK is an organisation of, well, children’s illustrators (not just books, anymore, although it started out that way, I think, there’s just so much more these days to illustrate for ^_^) based here in my country, the Philippines.
They’re celebrating their 30th anniversary this year, and every time I think of that I’m always struck by how I still remember being in their 10th anniversary show~not the first of their many, many exhibits I’d been privileged to be in.
Truth is, I legit can’t remember when I joined them, exactly! I think I was about 21 or 22 (definitely not 23), but now I just say I joined back in 1998 because that’s the only thing I can be sure of as far as my artist’s resume goes. (But if I was 21 or 22 it must’ve been in `96 or `97.)
So obviously being a member has had a profound influence on me and my development as an artist.
Fast forward to 2015. This was an alternative to an existing book cover by another illustrator that was included in an INK show called 'Alterno' ~ watercolour and acrylic on paper.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say I wouldn’t be the artist I am without INK, but I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t have been a lot, well, less, I guess, sans membership.
Truly, I owe Ang INK a great, great deal and I’m ashamed to say that my involvement with them lessened significantly in the latter half of the last decade~ashamed because seeing as how membership has benefited me by leaps and bounds, the least I could do was what little I could to help.
I think I can say, however, that whenever INK has asked me for help (not that that’s so very often, really) I have never been able to say no~and that’s just what happened in the preparations for marking their 30th anniversary.
I ended up with the task of tracking down Inkies (that’s what members are called) who joined the organisation during its first decade, and asking them for ‘war stories’.
There used to be a sort of running joke amongst Inkies that goes something like ‘that’s how it is when you join~at first, you’re super active, then when you become big time, you disappear’.
This is not entirely true, by the way~no. 1, pretty much everyone (else) is ‘big time’ at INK, and no. 2, a lot of those superstars that have been around a long time are still very much active.
In any case, that made the task a wee bit difficult (in spite of the internet), so purely to help beef up the number of war stories we’ve collected so far, I decided to give mine in, as well.
But see, I knew there was no way I could sum up in a sentence or two or even pick one or two unforgettable moments~the whole thing, my being a member, was, to me, one very long, very wild ride.
And even though I made a conscious decision to get off that ride this year, well, like I said, if INK asks, I just can’t say no.
Besides, it’s turning 30 ^_^ Plus, I owe them. A LOT.
So this is me indulging myself the way I couldn’t in my ‘war story’ lol
Here's another piece I did for an INK show called Lina and Lolo Andong (lolo = grandfather), who made wooden toys. Can't remember what year or what show right now, but I do remember this was all watercolour ^_^;
So yeah I joined in my super early 20’s. Lola (that’s our word for ‘grandmother’) used to write children’s stories (I think they came out in the odd magazine or a book, even).
She ended up going to some workshop or other at the College of Fine Arts (CFA) at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City (they have campuses across the country, and, that was where I ended up going to art school myself) (but I hadn’t gone yet, at the time, because I started my four years at art school when I was 23, and that’s how I know I wasn’t 23 when I became an Inkie).
For the life of me, I can’t remember what that workshop was about. I probably just drove her there, even (in my little red truck </3) but I ended up tagging along. I just remember some Japanese speaker gave a talk (turns out it was illustrator Tashima Seizo, thank you Liza-san, Ouie-san ^_~) and we got to sponsor or own a tree over in Japan or something like that ^^
Anyway Lola told me go join INK and I did. Among the bazillions of things I owe Lols (LOL), this is probably one of the biggest and is undoubtedly one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.
I had zero experience and no real portfolio (at least for children’s illustration) at the time, so I legit made like one or two nights before (#forevercramming, even then) something I could show as my ‘audition piece’ which you had to do, I think, either to get accepted or as part of your sort of initiation.
I super don’t remember what the story was about. I only remember it was some story about some princess and that my poor ink and watercolour drawings were very bad (complete with princess wearing pink gown LOL). In any case, it must’ve been enough (or sheer pity on INK’s part) to get me in because I did get in.
And again (as I’d mentioned in my war story), I knew it had to have been pity that made INK take me in because not long after that, Jason Moss joined INK and I remember well how he made his first entrance into a meeting.
He was wearing a trench coat and he was very blasé about the whole thing (cos when it was me I kept telling myself ‘shet, shet (that’s our euphemism for ‘shit’), everyone here is so famous I hope I can get in). ’If you want to see my work,’ he said, very nonchalant, very ho-hum, as he proceeded to chuck plate after plate of absolute jewels on the cluster of desks in the UP CFA classroom we used to have the monthly meetings in.
We met almost exclusively at UP CFA back then (I don’t know where they do it now; online, for sure, but when it wasn’t, I don’t know~it was still there back in 2018, which is probably the last time I went to a meeting)~I think we were able to do that because one or more of the founding members were high-ranking members of the faculty there (we were able to dump our stuff in their offices, too).
Those first Saturdays at CFA (‘kaffa’, we called it) were magical to me.
This is one of the pieces I made for one of the first INK shows I ever joined about games Filipino children play~ this game was called Monkey Monkey (explanation is somewhat involved but it does involve a blue-black sheep ^_^)
I was surrounded by legends (legends already, even then) and there was always something cool to learn. A lot of them, I think, were art school graduates.
I had only graduated with my communication arts-slash-advertising major from another university and knew zip about things like how to cut paper, using fixative, making layers for the text (so when Photoshop came along I understood why it was the way it was) and gluing things.
(Although, since I was already working in advertising at the time, I knew a tiny wee bit about things like this and making thumbnails even if I was a copywriter because the agency I worked at encouraged the writers and the artists to work very closely together~so that was a huge influence on me, too~but I digress.)
Point being I felt kinda out of place and I continually felt like I didn’t know half as much as I had to and definitely not a quarter or even a fifth of what all the celebrities there had in half their little toes. It was like being the benchwarmer or the water boy in a team of MVP gold medalist all-stars, you know what I mean?
Only~there were no divas. NOT a one. Zilch. Nada. Niente. EVERYONE but EVERYONE was super, duper NICE. It was INcredible. It was. Fan-freaking-tastic.
Of course, that’s not to say there were never any difficulties. Never anything that went wrong (#dontleavepalabokinthekitchenunrefrigerated #foodpoisoning #josearuego #inkchristmaspartiesatjillshouse). Never any, um. Disagreements. Or lost tempers (some of which were admittedly mine).
But hey, show me an org without those and I’ll either show you an org made up of non-humans or non-mortals~or heaven, right?
For one thing, we were ‘starving artists’ ^_^;
I forget what exactly I made this for; I just remember it was for some magazine or other~one of the first of quite a few illustration jobs I was able to pick up thanks to INK (just picked it out cos of the copy head ^_^)
But that simply meant we had to be creative ^_~
We had photocopied newsletters (which I daresay were sterling examples of mail art. I remember wanting very badly to be able to do even ONE newsletter because that meant drawing and writing everything by hand~I think I did manage to do ONE (I think; I don’t remember lol), but I don’t remember if it was any good haha (it probably wasn’t, hee hee).
We also assembled our annual catalogues ourselves~what we did was we each printed out a bunch of half-letter-sized um, things~showcasing our work, arranged ourselves into an assembly line, and put the catalogue together (so we each had a page in there, arranged alphabetically).
Then we had the thing ring-bound (as in plastic ring-bound) at the university shopping centre (which sadly, burned down just a few years ago~so many memories (but again, I digress, so sorry).
We also occasionally ran out of money~our annual membership fee in those first years was one peso (USD0.020 at time of writing but not that big of a diff back then I daresay) for each of the 365 days in a year. (Today it’s a few thousand bucks, I think~I confess I didn’t pay this year (for the first time in years, honest!)
We needed the moolers not just to pay for ring-binding and mailing our newsletters (it’s all email now~still pretty, of course, but, it’s just not the same, you know? ^^), but for framing and stuff for exhibits~like once we had a garage sale and someone even baked brownies (or was it cookies?) to sell for our framing money.
I also remember transporting our framed works for a show and some of the glass in the frames (at the back of the little red truck </3) BROKE~you know how the mind tends to block out painful memories? That must be it cos I don’t remember that incident much, only that it was my fault wahahahahahhaha
But speaking of exhibits, every one of which I was able to join was a real privilege for me~the ingresses were extra specially magical and it was really an honour for me to have been a part of those. We built all sorts of things with just cardboard, rubber foam, japanese paper, made huuuge fantastical murals.
I remember very stupidly gluing my fingers to a glue bottle (we used VERY strong glue (Greco 888) used for shoes~had to, for the rubber foam sculptures) and how two young Inkies very patiently had to waste precious production time to put I don’t know, acetone or whatever to unstick the bottle ^_^; (Boy did it hurt, haha.) That was in the sculpture hall of CFA, I remember and the glue smoked whenever a drop would hit the concrete floor. >kss<
And the results were always, always phenomenal. Check out this snapshot from our 20th anniversary show below which was held at the Ayala Museum (click or tap here see more of my own poor photos from that landmark event):
We made all those frames ourselves, and the characters on the walls, and the pompoms hanging from the ceilings (the scaffolding was creepily high, haha).
This is getting long (that’s me talking too much, as usual), so I’ll try to head into the homestretch now…
So this was from one of several books Ang INK published as an organisation (meaning everyone had something in the book)~this book was about Philippine mythological creatures so these are Shokoys hanging out with humans.
…by talking about just a couple more things I’ll always remember the most about Ang INK~the people I met, and the few tiny things I’ve been able to achieve thanks to being an Inkie ^_^*
Founding member and legendary Pokemon Robert Alejandro was recently quoted by fellow Inkie elder Endo Pascasio (the father of Penpen, the Ang INK logo) as ‘declaring how much he liked this group of…’artists without angst’. Well, maybe relatively or to the casual observer LOL but for sure and I suppose inevitably they weren’t without personality ^_^
I remember there was the Inkie who laughed every time someone said “hototay” (as in the soup), the Inkie who had a dinosaur suit (so of course I had to go get one too LOL), the Inkie with the folding bicycle, the Inkie who became a Buddhist monk, the Inkie who was a physical therapist~okay I don’t remember that one’s name anymore but he was one, by day, anyway.
I only mention it because it was fascinating how many other jobs Inkies had apart from being an illustrator and/or artist that weren’t even art-related. I mentioned Kuya Robert (that’s our word for ‘big brother’) just now~he was also a TV host ^_^
I’m ashamed to say not being able to remember people’s names, or just plain not knowing the new folks who are at INK anymore, was one of the reasons I decided to stop running with this wonderful pack~like I knew it was about time for me to go when I was doing face-painting at an INKfest (in 2017, I think) and an Inkie called me ‘manong’ (our word for ‘old man’ ^^;) for being so slow ^_^
Guess I just can’t keep up anymore, haha!
But I’ll always, always, always be grateful~
My 'audition piece' for what turned out to be my first ever book.
~for the people I’ve been privileged to meet, the friends I’ve made (a few of whom I may well or make so bold to say are still my friends today) and those few little things I mentioned that would never have happened if I hadn’t become an Inkie.
On top of the bazillions of INK shows (and ingresses!) I’ve been able to join there were also the books, workbooks, postcards, projects, publications and publicity (fame by association at its finest, haha)~plus one or two little awards I’ve been most fortunate (or rather blessed) to pick up~all thanks to INK. (And to Lola. And to GOD.)
But even more essential than all that, I think, was everything everything everything I learned from my fellow Inkies which helped me to become a little more um. Professional, I guess. Confident?
Or more like, you know. When you are surrounded by so many, many great (not just good, you know) artists, that kind of pushes you to you know. Try harder. So that, how did Theoden put it? ‘...and even in their mighty company I shall not now feel ashamed.’ ^_^
Not that I don’t, you know, even now, even for the piece I made for the 30th anniversary show (which I’ve given an exclusive sneak preview of to my jillafriends (you can become one if you subscribe to jillanews in the upper right sidebar of this page or in the footer ^_~). It’s really just such a privilege~like I’m legit just happy to be there, you know?
And for me, anything that pushes you, helps you, to become better, a better artist, is just so important.
Lately I’ve learned that community is key to an artist’s development, that it’s essential for you to surround yourself with people who support you and inspire you, people who believe in what you’re doing and you can believe them 1000% because you know they’re doing it, too (only better, in my case anyway, haha).
INK, when I was there, never judged, never criticised, never found fault, never said ‘not good enough’~otherwise heck I would never have been accepted. This superstar group of the most incredible artists just took me in and allowed me to be myself and develop my own style of making pictures for our young audiences.
Calle de Miel; 43 x 30.75" / 109.22 x 78.105 cm, Acrylic and Oil Pastel on Canvas, 2007 ~ from my third solo show, Romp, not for INK.
You can probably guess from the way I write (cos I write like I talk) that I kind of talk funny. A classmate of mine at art school said that was because I was in radio (I was, at the time~to pay my way through art school LOL)~but actually it was the other way around~I was in radio because I talk funny.
Same goes for much (if not most?) of the art I make. I don’t paint what I do, the way I do because I was in INK~I was in INK because of what and the way I ‘art’. That’s why I said, at the beginning of this piece that so badly needs editing LOL~that I wouldn’t go so far as to say I wouldn’t be who or what I am today without INK.
But I can say for sure that my life would’ve been a lot less bright without it. And for that, I say again, I will be forever grateful.
If Ang INK should ever require my humble~nay, negligible services again (for the 35th, or 40th, 45th… 100th! anniversary or anything at all in between (unless it involves the wholesale murder of innocent wombats or something like that)… turn on the Bat signal ^_^ I’ll be there <3
* Interested in any of the pieces in this post?
Drop me a line to let me know
and I'll let you know if it's still available,
or how soon I can make something similar just for you.