Rommel has been drawing ever since he could remember–he even got a Dean’s Award for Visual Arts back in college–but it took some time before he finally went into the business of illustration.
Armed with his Business Management degree from Ateneo de Manila, he got a job as an advertising account executive in an ad agency. A couple of years in the ad business made him realize that he really wanted to be in the creative field, so he went back to school, this time at the University of the Philippines, to work toward a degree in Fine Arts. Turns out that drawing really was his first love, and it wasn’t unrequited at all. He finished with magna cum laude honors.
After that, he promptly went back to advertising, this time as a creative. But then he found out after a couple of more years that he felt more passionately about other things aside from advertising, so he quit advertising all over again to focus more on drawing and painting.
Rommel has gotten some recognition for his advertising and design work–a silver and a bronze in the Philippine Araw Awards and a silver from the 1st Adobo Design Awards–but he says that the awards he got from painting and illustration are the things that bring him the most satisfaction.
In painting, Rommel placed third in the Oil/Acrylic Category of the Shell National Art Competition and finished as a semi-finalist at the Metrobank Art and Design Excellence Competition. In comics, Rommel won third place at the Neil Gaiman-Fully Booked Graphic Competition. He was included in Rogue Magazine’s feature on Top 16 Filipino Illustrators way back in 2007. For his work as an illustrator for children, he snagged a couple of honorable mentions at the PBBY-Alcala Prize.
MTP: How do you keep busy every day? Is illustrating a full-time job?
I only started to seriously illustrate children’s books two years ago. So far, I have six books under my belt with three more on the way this year (2013).
I do it part-time though. I work three times a week at Studio Dialogo (http://dialogo.co) as a designer/illustrator. We do design for print and web. Currently, we’ve been doing a lot of annual reports, calendars and identity design for a variety of clients.
The rest of the week, I devote to my personal projects such as painting and children’s book illustration. I currently wrapped up a two-man show with Sergio Bumatay III. Aside from book illustration, gallery work will be something I’ll be getting into more in the coming months.
MTP: Why do you illustrate for kids? What’s in it for you?
I wish I could give some profound meaning to why I illustrate for children. I’ve thought about this many times before but never could get at a satisfactory answer. I don’t think “enjoyment” is quite the word I’d use. Maybe it gives me satisfaction. I think I draw to satisfy the child in me.
I grew up reading comics and children’s books and over the years I’ve come to admire a lot of people involved in making these things. I think there comes a point in a fan’s life where reading and enjoying the content isn’t enough anymore and you just want to make stuff yourself and be part of that whole tradition of making stuff up that people can enjoy. Then you realize that maybe you have a knack for it and just keep on doing it because other people seem to enjoy the work that you do. Then, maybe that’s when you decide that “hey, I’ll just keep on doing this”.
MTP: Thank you for making time for my blog, Rommel!
See samples of Rommel’s wonderful illustrations here.
We’re in for a treat. Rommel takes us on a tour of his wonderful studio.
Rommel: Over a year ago, I decided that I had to have a legitimate workspace for my art projects as well as proper spaces for the books that had grown like shaky towers inside my room. So I sequestered an unused space in the house, had shelves made and bought a big, sturdy table.
My table that can fit two to three people working at the same time. This is where I do my digital work as well as small painting projects. For large-scale paintings, I have an easel where I can prop up my canvases.
I also have a drafting table with a lightbox for projects that require some tracing.
My studio is my favorite part of the house because I love looking at my books all lined up on the wall.