Today is exactly three months until the release of my picture book, The Peddler’s Bed, on September 1, 2015. But 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.