Interview Alert: Illustrator Bong Redila

Today is exactly three months until the release of my picture book, The Peddler’s Bed, on September 1, 2015But it’s not just my book. Creating a picture book is a collaborative effort between author, illustrator, and publisher (not to mention copy editor, art director, printer, and etc., depending on what processes the publisher does in-house and what may be outsourced). I am the author of The Peddler’s Bed, but without the support and resources of Rob and Amanda at Ripple Grove Press and the artistry of illustrator Bong Redila, the book never would have come together as beautifully as it did. And I can’t wait to share it with the world on September 1! 

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In the meantime, I thought now might be the perfect time to share the interview I did with Bong. Besides being an extremely talented and versatile artist (check out the galleries on his website), he’s a genuinely nice guy. We’ve never met in person, but have communicated via social media. I was delighted to learn more about him through his candid interview responses. Take a look!

Bong Redila in his studio.

Bong Redila in his studio.

Q. Did you know from a young age that you were going to be an artist? Did your parents encourage your talent?

As far as I can remember I was just a normal kid (at least I think so) doing normal kid’s stuff like draw and play outdoors. Lucky for us, back then our parents would let us play outside with the other kids without them watching us with no worries. I guess kids were a bit safer to roam and have an adventure by themselves back then. We’d go catch frogs, lizard hunting, go to the swamp, climb trees, play on a rainy day, made toy trucks using sardine cans. I’d say I’m fortunate enough to have experienced those things that made a big impact on who I am today.

One thing’s for sure though, my brother and I loved to draw.

My parents knew right from the get-go that we had a knack when using pencils and crayons, but I couldn’t remember them encouraging us NOR telling us not to become an artist. Maybe they did, I just forgot. But as far as I know, they did let us do what we wanted and I guess that was enough encouragement for me as a young lad with a bit of potential to exercise what I had that needed development.

Q. I’ve read that you are color blind; how did you find out and does being color blind affect the way you create art?

4 years ago, I remember driving one morning and was really fascinated with the bluish pink color of the sky. I thought it was breathtaking to behold. Then months had passed by, I was so busy I didn’t notice that every morning the sky looked like it was always ready to rain. It was so weird. Right then I began to notice some colors just gradually changed as days gone by. The leaves on the trees eventually became pink, the sky a greenish pink, the watercolor palette that I’ve been using became monotone. My ophthalmologist then told me that I have tritanopia, a rare color deficiency characterized by the vision’s lack of blues and yellows.

It does affect the way I do my art. Right now, I rely mostly on the color guide of my palette, that I wrote when I still had a normal vision, to know what color I am dipping my brush in. As for mixing, it’s just a matter of guessing and trying to recall what I learned when putting one particular color to another color and its outcome. It’s hard but I’m used to it.

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Q. When did you hear from Rob Broder at Ripple Grove Press about working on the illustrations for The Peddler’s Bed? What was your first meeting like?

Rob Broder, president and founder of Ripple Grove Press, saw my name at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, emailed me and asked if I am interested in illustrating a book called The Peddler’s Bed. He showed me the manuscript, read it, and the message of the story just clicked on me, so I said ‘yes’.

Luckily for us both, Mr. Broder had been planning on visiting his brother who lives in Miami. So I set up a meeting at my favorite Brockway Library near our place. Cool gentleman. He arrived on a bicycle. The library was also a perfect place for us to meet. It was quiet and of course had a lot of sample books for the discussion. I just wish Amanda, his wife, and their daughter was there. I would have loved to meet them both as well.

Q. You’ve created such vivid and lively illustrations for The Peddler’s Bed. What paints and materials did you use? And can you describe your process of creating an illustration from beginning to end?

I used watercolor on a 300gsm watercolor paper for The Pedder’s Bed. For the most part, my process on making a piece, like other artists, starts with a lot of sketches, drawing the characters, repeatedly, with different expressions, gestures, angles, and situations. The repetition is essential on my part because it is somehow the time when the cast of characters and I are getting to know each other, the same manner as constantly hanging out with a new friend and knowing them enough that you’ve already memorized the shape of that person’s ears, how the person giggles, the person’s temperament and so on.

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Once I am comfortable with the characters, I then start with the sketches of scenes beginning with thumbnails for tonal value and composition.

Those thumbnails then had to be resketched on a larger piece of paper for details. After countless pencil sharpening and erasing, everything had to be redrawn, again, on a large watercolor paper or canvas before painting the final piece. It is the best part of the whole process, in my opinion, because at this time, while painting (I usually paint late hours at night), my mind would finally take a rest, at least from the book anyway. It’s very therapeutic for me when painting, while the whole world is sleeping. It’s also the time when my mind would create other stories for me to tell.

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I used to play around with color studies when doing details before I do the finalization of a piece on a watercolor paper or canvas. But those times are long gone for me.

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Q. What do you like most about creating books for children?

What do I love most about creating picture books for kids? I love picture books so much that when making one it’s like creating something for the child in me to read and own.

Q. What projects are you working on right now?

Right now I am working on developing a short comics that I made into a silent picture book. There is also this story I am working on planning to turn into a ‘picture book for grown-ups’.

Q. Where can fans connect with you online?

They can just go visit my blog and my tumblr site where I constantly update what’s keeping me busy.
www.bongredila.blogspot.com
www.bongredila.tumblr.com

Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers about yourself, your art, or working on The Peddler’s Bed?

Buy the book. 🙂

And watch out for any reading and signing events from either Lauri and I.

Thank you, Bong!

More about Bong Redila (from his website www.bongredila.com): 

Born in 1971, one of Bong Redila’s earliest memories as an artist is the day, around mid 70’s, in the Philippines, when he and his older brother were being punished for using their aunt’s lipstick as a medium to draw cartoon characters on their parent’s bedroom wall.

By the early 90’s, they moved to the beautiful island of Guam and he spent the rest of his teen years mentoring with some of the finest artists in the Marianas – Christian Mahilum, Arman Germar, Boi Sibug, Jon Medina. He then went on to become the first, youngest member of the artists organization The Saturday Group of Guam. He joined numerous group exhibits and later on, opened his very own art exhibit called Stages.

Now living in Miami, Florida, with his beautiful and supportive wife, Arceli and their ever so charming daughter, Oneng, Bong is still a regular contributing artist for Guam’s newspaper Mabuhay News. Aside from his monthly editorial cartoons, he is the author and creator of the long-running comic strip “Bayani Cafe”.

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20 Rhymes and 16 Illustrators! by Liz Lime

That Day in September and other Rhymes for the Times (Front and Back Covers)

I am happy to welcome author Liz Lime to Frog on a Blog. In her book That Day in September and other Rhymes for the Times (Words In The Works, LLC, 2014), each of Liz’s poems highlights a social issue or a significant historical event, or perhaps a more personal concern. Liz hopes her book will appeal to children and adults. She says, “I feel rhymes are a fun way to teach children history lessons. When children are old enough they can ask their parents questions about the rhymes and illustrations, but until that time, they can just enjoy sharing special time with their parents as they read together.” (That Day In September)  

One unique feature of the book is that it showcases 16 illustrators. In the article below, Liz speaks about her decision to use more than one illustrator and the meticulous process of matching each illustrator to a rhyme. Her enthusiasm for picture book art and artists, shines brightly through her words.

20 Rhymes and 16 Illustrators!

By Liz Lime 

At the time I was thinking about illustrators for That Day in September, Rhymes for the Times, I went to Portfolio Solutions, LLC, and there were all these brilliantly talented picture book artists.  It was suggested to me by a professional in the children’s book publishing field that perhaps the illustrations should be rendered by the same artist for a more consistent look. A consistent look throughout the book was exactly what I didn’t want! I wanted a surprise on every page, and each thought-provoking illustration accomplished that goal for me. My only regret is that I didn’t have enough rhymes to suit every artist in the agency! 

The process of matching artist to rhyme did take a while, I must say.  The artists’ own schedules played a large role in the final decision as previously contracted work had to be taken into consideration before they could commit to my book. There were many other artists that would have contributed beautiful works to the rhymes, but some of them just weren’t available for any number of reasons when I began the art-style-to-rhyme selection process.  Since they are all freelance artists, their schedules change on a daily basis.

Lynne Avril, for example is the illustrator of Harper Collins’ GreenWillow imprint’s hugely successful young Amelia Bedelia books, among many others, so Lynne was always booked up.  I had faith though, and sure enough when Lynne got a tiny break in her schedule, she took on Little Girls.  I couldn’t imagine any other than Lynne’s delightful characters for that particular rhyme, and I don’t think I’ll get much argument about that.

Not all the rhymes were that easy to match to an illustrator’s style, That Day in September was without doubt the toughest one for me. The subject matter is so sensitive and affected every American so deeply that I just had to get it right. For me, there was no room for error. The characters had to be relatable, but I felt that children should be able to distance themselves if they felt the need to do so. Winifred Barnum Newman’s elf-like creatures from her bestselling book Gumwrappers and Goggles, were perfect!  Winifred is a much-published illustrator of children’s books with a string of titles attached to her name so I knew she had the experience to carry it off.  There’s poignancy to Wini’s work that delicately tells the rhyme’s story, and that’s a quality that only her vast experience as an artist, sculptor and children’s book illustrator could have translated so well for our young readers.

Ten in a Chair was a much easier match up as I had long been a fan of Cary Pillo’s illustrated monkeys.  The expressions on the monkeys’ faces are just hilarious. Cary has captured the right blend of motion, emotion, action and reaction – this illustration always makes me smile, and again, this is where an illustrator’s experience comes to the fore.  Cary is a professional, seasoned artist with countless books to her credit; her work can also be seen in children’s magazines as well as textbooks.  It’s amazing to me that with ten monkeys to illustrate, Cary was able to capture a different expression on each face; brilliant and funny!

As you can see, I have a wild appreciation for illustrators and could go on about every single one of the artists in my book.  But my editor said 600 words was enough for now!