Paglaum: Paper and Clay, Hope in Between


Usbong 5. Paper Clay on Canvas, 30 x 40 in.

More than any other art form (photography included), one would like to believe art historian and critic Thomas McEvilley when he said painting is still the preferred aesthetic medium in observing how our contemporary world behaves. Its drawing power has often been associated with the recentness of its approach, direct engaging in dialogue and sometimes even rebellion from its long tradition. 

Given all these, one often takes for granted how much is painting’s privileged capacity to heal a tired or even wounded soul, like a soothing balm on a painful migraine. 

Having been trained by our senses to view visuals made from the usual oil/acrylic, watercolor/water-based media, comes Paglaum, an exhibition of paper clay art by artists from the once typhoon ravaged city of Tacloban, a refreshing take on an art scene currently being preoccupied with art auctions, biennales and prominent provenance issues.

Usbong 5. Paper Clay on Canvas, 36 x 24 in.

At such a time as this where the signature of the artist is preferred rather the meaning of the work, Paglaum defies artistic media prioritizing message than the eventual direction to regain whatever artistically, spiritually or even physically exiled by Yolanda a year ago.

Resorting to paper and clay these artists were not limited by the scarcity of art materials in continuing to create images. Usbong series by Dante Enage dwells on redemption and afflicted sensibilities to the viewer. Enage uses the bark of the red lauan tree used in tuba (a local wine made from coconut juice or coconut toddy) to pigment his paintings. It is his vision in bringing the arts and culture of the Waraynons to a larger audience through this medium and the symbolisms found in his work. 

Done in abstract yet in confidence, Ernie Ybañez is undaunted in Bloom. For Ybanez, art must revolve and be progressive. By this definition the behavior of paper and clay suits best for him as something good must come from the rubble we only have to pick up the pieces. Ybañez’s art awakening was in the 70’s in Cebu, learning the basics by interacting with Cebu’s landscape artists on their on-the-spot painting trips in the countryside. He is now back in Tacloban, he is also concentrating in his art.

Bloom. Paper Clay on Canvas, 36 x 24 in.

Imagining a Lightness of Being, 36 x 24 in
Using mats as his graphic handle, Raul Agner waxes poetic in Imagining a Lightness of Being. Having tried various media like pen and ink on paper and acrylic on canvas, he has immersed himself with human and social issues, local history and culture and ordinary people’s aspirations for better quality of life such as the almost a year he had to struggle into. As banig has been produced by the Warays for centuries, art should interweave image, message, and meaning for it to inspire people. His works are also in pen and ink on paper and acrylic on canvas and paper which touch on human and social issues, local history and culture and ordinary people’s aspirations for a better quality of life. 

Looking long and hard at these works one imbibes hope not as an assumption but as an urgent construct, as a do-it-right-here-right-now kind-of-thing. It is not longed for but an exacting act and Paglaum seeks to reclaim not only victims’ dignity but the urge to rekindle. After a year, and with an impending super storm again, it hurts more but the tears have dried up. It seeks to reclaim whatever or whoever actually owes the people of Tacloban at no cost to them. That life begins when art matters again.  

Paglaum was exhibited in many venues such as Resorts World, Manila Art and Manila Fame.


Jeff Salon: Lost Stars


Ask any child these days on how to make and simply fly a kite chances are you would meet a long blank stare. The most you can probably solicit is a mere shrug at the thought. And if you are luckier he or she would google at your curious query at a later bored time.

In Buradol (Bicolano for kites) Jeff Salon reprises even deeper to his most favored of themes in childhood--the lost joy of flying kites. Capturing almost ten years of his early life navigating the starched strings of this bamboo-formed airborne plane wrapped with plastic, roaming freely the unadulterated skies at the open fields behind their house in Camarines Sur.

Alapaap. Oil on Canvas, 5x4ft
Early on, as soon as he would wake up, without fail one would find Salon either making a kite or flying one. As the wind gushes towards his face, he feels he is on top or even one with the clouds. Evident in Alapaap one assumes immortality as a kite. Looking up to the big sky one is grateful for the gift of redemption as he appreciates the heavens--exaltation to the most high. As one flies his kite, like a true artist one cannot help but notice the floating characters how God had manually curated the skies, it was here that Salon observed that there are no same clouds as they form our favorite animals, flowers or even the faces of our loved ones.

De Kahon is part of the Buradol Series
Typical to Salon is how he multiplies his messages in a series of artworks, representing the happiness of kite flying in ten parts, in this case assembled in small-boxed pieces. Done in his usual earth tones of brown and gray, Buradol series does more to paints as Salon even expanded them in three-dimensional pieces using actual wood and nylon string depicting his images on them.

Being aerodynamic by nature, kites usually take the shape of anthropomorphic forms like fish (the gills have their purpose in flight), bats, birds or even water buffaloes. Oftentimes they are airplanes where a pointed front controls its direction and the tail navigates the wind from below. In fact in kite parlance, he who holds the strings is a pilot while the co-pilot is the one who releases it while walking backwards.

Reflected in Buradol series kite-flying levels off whatever class or gender there are in youth groups. Salon’s friends have gone far and away from the fields and from where they fly are now patches of a larger subdivision. In these trying times, it uplifting that Salon’s images of children are built on sterner stuff. They are tough yet meek at heart and competitive when flying side by side but they can help repair a kite once he sees a kid badly needing assistance.

In these scenes, Jeffrey also pays tribute to his father who is not only a great teacher but a fine carpenter who taught him how to handle the saw and hammer a nail and build whatever his mind sets him to create or recreate.

With figures predominantly in almost ash gray tones, with the strings in hand, by looking at these works Salon allows you to escape time or better yet he simulates you in his time. These were the moments Salon and his friend dreamed their dreams. They learned life by making kites, how one should not sacrifice quality of materials just because it is cheap or available. The better the bamboo the more protective the spine as more weight will pull you down. The pointer of the kite is most important as it directs the flight, like being focus on where you want to go. One could say he learned the rudiments of his being artist through by mixing art and science of kite flying as well.

Buradol sa Uran. Mixed Media, 2014

Capturing every ethereal emotion Buradol sa Uran rekindles fond memories of Salon growing up in his hometown in the province. Starting with a frame in the form of a house, the kite shaped canvas features other activities he enjoyed as a child like idling on top of water buffaloes. He compliments the use of metallic colors like gold and silver mixed with primary hues like red and yellow. Typical to Salon is his clouds that places you in between a dreamy state or a foggy situation either which way he hopes one can get out of it. His clouds blend to the rustic primary finish he adopts as base–a semblance of decay with a promise of escape or epiphany, Salon is most effective in conceptualizing this.   

Tanaw. Mixed media, 5x4ft. 2014

As December ushers the start of amihan, bringing coolness in the breeze, Salon recalls they would even extend up until the wee hours of the morning come yuletide season. Tanaw reverses the perspective and assigns the viewer as if one is being/feeling feted as a kite himself. As one surges upward, one notices how we are caught in the quagmire from below–from the larger picture of how largely polluted our oceans are or how densely populated our desperate metropolis to how families have been divided not material poverty but of the spirit. Despite having the freedom from above one opts to be spared from gory and even gruesome setting we may not see but be witnesses to. Although Tanaw is a self-portrait, Salon opts to cover his vision in the presence of inevitable bi-polar negative and positive vibes. There is always the silver lining (as his primary canvas) where the rainbow celebrates the brightness of a new tomorrow.

The Challenger. Oil on Canvas, 8x5 ft. 2014
The brilliance of Salon is how he conceals his intents and purposes to his creative devices appointing his viewer the subliminal connotations to his meanings. The rendering in The Challenger is apt for a children’s book however see how his unified kites confront death as it explodes in an almost cinematic progression beaming a skull from behind. The allegory in the redness of flight/fight against what constitute progress wasted on the young—ideals against technology etc.

Like the kite one can only be swayed or even find its way out of this mess, based on how it wants to intensify and command on the available air to guide him. By flash movement in the overlapping kite flyers, war and its ugly head has been a recurring presence in Salon’s works he remains positive as the child overcomes the adult in Salon. Notice how Salon abhors stillness by incorporating cartoons to subvert the brutality of it all. Only Salon can paint children is softer but fierce in stance. 

The late Steve Jobs did not allow his children when they were young to use computers at home. The inventor and Apple co-founder believed that the best way for them to learn the rudiments was to be with nature and play outdoors. With gadgets kids these days are losing their motor skills, or just being in touch with the earth. Even with the recurring theme of combat and violence, Salon’s realism may not be as political as social but they imbibe empathy by examining your senses to a maximum reality. 

As a visual artist, Salon has always kept his ear to the ground in being considered the last generation who learned to play in the streets. Those were summer spent without ipods, Cartoon Network, Twitter and Facebook but he was pleased as unraveled in these latest works. His only worry that these paintings don’t end up as instructional materials in a dusty museum in a not so distant time.

Buradol is the 3rd Solo Exhibition of Jeff Salon. It is ongoing at the Nineveh Artspace in Sta. Cruz, Laguna as part of its 11th anniversary celebrations.


Jay Aldeguer: Tall T-Shirt Tales

From souvenir shirts to tourist taxis, Jay Aldeguer has etched his name as one of the most creative and innovative entrepreneurs in the Philippines. His life story is as colorful as his popular and much loved T-shirts carrying the Islands Souvenir brand.

Jay started out his business in a cart in a mall. Then he opened his first branch in Cebu, making three times his investment in the first year. On his third year, he was already invited to set up an outlet in SM. Today, Jay has 70 outlets in the country, including stores and kiosks. The business has expanded globally; Island Souvenirs is in Japan, USA, Singapore and Macau. His souvenir store concept has evolved into Islands Banca Cruises, Islands Stay Hotels and now Islands Taxi Service. Aldguer has also ventured into media and entertainment. His Escape is the leading events company in Cebu; and his CeBu! TV Channel 28 is a 24-hour regional channel featuring the city and its people.

Jay was 27 and the youngest to be awarded “The Outstanding Young Men” for Business Entrepreneur by then President Fidel Ramos in 1992. He received the Agora Award for Business Entrepreneur, and the Ernst & Young’s “Entrepreneur of the Year.” He is part of the first batch of the prestigious PLDT Bossing Awardees.

When Vision Petron added a new T-shirt Art Design category in 2011, Jay was invited to lend his expertise in this new but very popular expressive medium of the youth. We asked him a few questions about t-shirts and how a frustrated artist like him can be a successful businessman - while still having fun: and pursuing his passion:

Q. Your success story mainly involves a company can make it big even if it is far from Manila. Can you tell us how your company, Islands Souvenirs started? Can you walk us through your struggle to inspire others?

A. When I was 21, immediately after college, I went backpacking to Europe as a graduation present from my parents.  I’d collect souvenirs in every place I’d visit.  Initially, I bought figurines and books and other items until I realized I wasn’t going to last the rest of the trip if I continued buying heavy items and stuffing them in my bag.  So after my second leg, I decided to stick to souvenir shirts which not only turned out to be great souvenirs but also a great change of clothes.  When you’re backpacking, you don’t have the luxury of doing your laundry all the time.  I ended my travel with a couple of dozen shirts from different places.

But it was my travel around the Philippines after Europe that gave me the idea of a potential business. I remember I was in Baguio at Mines View Park when I asked the sales lady for their top-selling shirt.  To my amazement, she pulled out a shirt with the exact same design as the souvenir shirt my parents bought for me when I was ten years old. 

Baguio, the top destination in the Philippines then, did not even have a decent souvenir shirt to offer.  That, I recall, was a “light bulb” moment that inspired me to look into this business.  While there were handicrafts and woodworks souvenirs galore, I felt there was a big potential for “practical” souvenirs.  Furthermore, the souvenir industry had been perceived as a cottage industry, one that never evolved not only in the Philippines but even in the most sophisticated international destinations.

Having gone back to my hometown in Cebu was also timely since the airport had just been converted into an international airport and the world-renowned Shangri-la Resort had just opened which was the beginning of Cebu's climb as the country's top travel destination.

Being a Cebu-based company is actually very strategic especially because of the industry we are in and the fact that the top destinations such as Bohol, Boracay, and Palawan are nearer to Cebu than they are to Manila. 

Q. From where can you trace its continuing success? What is your definition of its success?

A. Success in the realm of business is able to execute one's dream or imagination and make it sustainable and profitable.  Aside from that, we find great fulfillment in creating an impact in the community and the country.  For instance, the destination shirts we produced in the early 90s helped change the Filipino's colonial mentality of constantly wearing destination shirts of foreign places that has "California" or "Hawaii" on them.  Because of our exciting and colorful designs which projected the true fun character of the Philippine islands, Filipinos started wearing them a lot and the shirts became "mini billboards" to promote the different places in the country. 

Our formula of "tweaking" an existing but thriving business has worked for us in all our other subsidiaries starting with Islands Souvenirs to Islands Banca Cruises, Islands Pasalubong, Islands Stay Hotels, and Islands Pinoy Deli.

Q. What is in a T-shirt that makes it still an effective marketing or branding tool in promoting values or an advocacy?

A. A T-shirt is about self-expression – a way for the wearer to express his beliefs, likes, dislikes, and other personal details in a cool and hip way. Most people underestimate its importance but the marketing power of a T-shirt is simple and very effective. It is a wearable medium of communication. Regardless of what kind of design, message, or statement is on the shirt, the wearer immediately becomes a brand ambassador and a human billboard, relaying the brand or design to others. The T-shirt empowers the wearer. In a way, he represents the brand or whatever statement the shirt projects. This in turn transforms the shirt into an inspirational symbol.  Also, a T-shirt evokes a sense of tribe among the wearers, creating an exclusive clique where individuals bond over a shared concept. The T-shirt can be a vehicle for these people to express shared ideals.  

Q. What for you makes a good t-shirt design?

A. A good design can be as simple as one having a strong visual and aesthetic impact.  But some designs become more than just a visual expression; some convey a strong message and a projection of one's character and feelings.  For instance, our customized “i heart” series was very simple but captured the imagination of millions professing their love for their place. Another recent example was the #Bangon T-shirt series during the calamity-laden Visayas in 2013. The shirt and campaign was an instant hit and allowed us to raise funds to contribute to the rehabilitation of the Yolanda and Bohol quake victims.  The shirt design was simple but the message touched a nerve especially at a time of despair. 

Q. Can you provide tips on how to come up with a winning entry?

A.  Differentiate. As a very fluid medium, the design is very critical in terms of its ability to stand out, to capture the imagination, to relay the message, and to create an immediate impact without being too outrageous. It is all too easy to follow a current trend in aesthetic especially if there is a common design concept. The challenge is how to be different yet remain strongly relevant. 
Simplify. Avoid being too many things at once. Have a single-minded focus. This strengthens and solidifies the concept, making it more credible and believable. 

Q. You have been our judge in the T-shirt art design category since we introduced it in 2011. Can you remember what your expectations were then? What do you expect from students now? Or what do you still want to see the competition evolve into?

A. The fact that Vision Petron added a T-shirt design category signifies Petron's commitment to continue being relevant especially to the youth.  This is a very strong statement that Vision Petron is going to great lengths in helping the youth express themselves through art.  In 2011 during its first year, the entries were rather overwhelming both in number and in quality.  There was an immediate interest among students to participate as it was a less daunting medium and something most students could relate to.  I feel, though, that there is still a lot of room for improvement in terms of style and rendition.  There seems to be a prevalent trend of executing the same look and style. So the ones that won really stood out from the rest.  And those that stood out are few and far between. I'm confident though to see more variety in style in the coming years as there has been a steady progression since the category's inception in 2011.

(Reprinted from Vision Petron Folio October 2014)


Homegrown: Jaime Gubaton


Barely existing in this densely populated metropolis, wrought in sheer pessimism, confronted with fallacies, suffered by drudgeries, a painter has to do what he only knows and what he does best–to depict alternate realities; one that uplifts the spirits in a virtual realm on canvas, and in the words of award-winning artist Jaime Gubaton in a “surreal-without-the-savage” manner. Reprising this inherent artistic commitment Gubaton sought to overcome even his own artistic predicament by developing a visual style and created unique ethereal and endearing locales.

On surface, marked by his signature layers as basic foreground in featuring his chosen subjects, Gubaton’s works seem like mere makeshift abodes with protruding balconies, curving balustrades and intricate grills. On odd size canvases, induced like paper cut molds of odd but varied geometric patterns, ever the observant, Gubaton has crafted timeless elegies that reveal such visions of the possible and able.

With remnants of his previous brushstrokes--the traffic light continues to blink clamoring for better humanity and progress, his pigeons are more at home along light posts defying electrical hazard for comfort than their boxed holes. Growing up in the city Gubaton was exposed early on with such desperate manifestations of subsistence, his paintings reminds us that one is forced to find beauty in order to endure the harshness of the metropolis. As reserved as he is in person, Gubaton’s potency lies within the persuasion of his subdued earth colors and the distinct composition of his images intensely capture themes in our everyday scenes in a concise rendered in detail.

Evident still are his jeepneys and calesas as he did many a previous canvas. Depending how one views them, they can be laudable tributes to a slowly passing period highlighting Philippine culture. They can also be a nagging cause for concern of how we failed to come up with solutions on how effective we travel to our real and mythical journeys in life.  

Positive as Gubaton’s disposition has always been, his children are fondly depicted like his own, playing in front of him, exhibiting that reserved smirk, beaming with adoring eyes that making us feel most human when all hope is lost. Meanwhile Gubaton retreats and pursues his women by favorably decorating them in organic brushstrokes employing in an aesthetic art nouveau extent. By embracing them with floral configurations he conceals their fears and assures them of their welfare and well being. Here Gubaton is most effective. 

Viewing Gubaton’s initial solo exhibition one feels the lightness of his or her being; they are sensate in appeal, scenic in visual, the feeling is almost infectious. The harder and longer you look at each piece, the deeper they heal the collective wounds of our foreboding memory and fading identity. And for Gubaton, he is just getting started.   

About the Artist

As far as he could remember, Jaime Gubaton has always been observing and putting his thoughts on paper and eventually on canvas. As a student he was already winning in art contests early on, he would even beat other students some even twice his height and age.

A Fine Arts graduate with a major in Advertising from the University of the East Caloocan in 2003, Gubaton would eventually win in bigger and more prestigious national competitions such as the PLDT-DPC National Cover Art Contest, ArtPetron National Student Art Competition, Shell National Student Art Competition, Department of Agrarian Reform On-the Spot Painting Competition, and Metrobank Art & Design Excellence Painting Category.  

For Gubaton, one must paint works that inspire in a style that has never been done before, have respect for Philippine culture and tradition, and lastly, honor your audience whoever and whatever they are in life. Such has been his artistic philosophy.

Ongoing at the Gallery Big, Homegrown is his first solo exhibition.                                                       


R. Jordan Santos: Judging By His Covers


Like all great career stories, when one was forced to learn the inherent rudiments of the trade, when the one who was usually tasked to do to it did not show up at the work place, for independent graphic designer R. Jordan Santos that was 13 years ago. At the tail end of the second semester, at the Philippine Collegian, the official student publication of University of the Philippines Diliman to be exact.

That being March, it was thought about for the Philippine Collegian to come out with its first Women's issue with Maureen Gaddi Dela Cruz of Kultura and Joms Salvador of Features as special editors. With the final exams week approaching, most staffers were unusually busy with their classes and rushing deadlines, this time academic. Some were even sick, only few can commit. Verk Magpusao, the Grapiks editor that time was not even available to do the layout and design forcing Jordan to step up the plate.

“On that slow Friday general assembly,” Jordan reminisces: “I volunteered to do it. I think it was even a relief for everyone. Layout work carried stigma of being a lonely, thankless activity nobody wanted to do. You end up being the only one left awake during press work when everyone else was done with writing, illustrating, and developing their photos. However if you were an artist who wanted control on things, layout gave you that. You had a say on how big a photo will be, how many illustrations needed, or to even edit a lengthy article with advice from the section editor. But it isn't for everyone. 

Book designing however will take to its full swing a few years after. Ani Almario, Jordan’s boss at the Adarna Publishing House entrusted him to doing the cover for her father’s new book of poems, Supot ni Hudas, for UST Press. It had an image of the constellation Pliedes or the seven daughters of Atlas, manually illustrated against a stark gray horizon. Its simplicity has now outlived its prose and to this day it remains one of Jordan’s most revered executions. National Artist Virgilio Almario would eventually commission him to do a few more book covers for him such as Memo Mula Gimokudan, Tatlong Pasyon Para sa Ating Panahon and Si Rizal: Nobelista. Being honored by this ongoing trust by our greatest living Filipino writer, Jordan continues to challenge himself to come out with even better covers, matching his latest prose and poetry every time the invitation is extended.

Juxtaposing his self-styled illustration with photography taunted his initial cover designs on books. Somewhat like his trademark pieces favored more photography on black surfaces with tinges of red. He then rounds it up with the usual suspects in fonts to finish the job. This is reflected in at least three of his works in Love’s a Vice by Mike Bigornia as translated by Krip Yuson (NCCA, 2004), Misterios and Other Poems (UP Press, 2005) by J. Neil Garcia and the recently launched, Manila Noir (Anvil, 2013). 

Persisting illuminated slits on slabs, Misterios and Other Poems renders a voyeur-like peep into the personal and social meanings of J. Neil Garcia’s poetry. He further decodes this process further by allowing the sacred and the sublime to co-exist on the same plane, making it illicit or banal depending on the viewer. For Jordan: It still stands as one of the works I'm most proud of. It was a very tricky execution where I was able to combine S&M images, a church, and even the Virgin Mary with the child Jesus.

Ever the realist, Jordan relies heavily on photographs being imposed upon like stretched canvases in rendering his covers. The drama of a black and white image has never failed to present its almost cinematic message across--blatant reality right smacked on one’s face.    

Affirming its aesthetic functionality, Jordan freely allows the photo speak for itself, altering or embellishing (or not embellishing it) it in the least possible way. He adds: this design direction has roots in photojournalism where photos should show what really happened. You cannot do that if you've altered a photo. Current photojournalism though is changing, with post processing becoming a norm. 

Such is Confronting the Ecological Crisis (Center for Environment Studies, 2001). With a hint of sepia, Jordan merely placed the best possible image to represent the subject matter and best font there is. The reflection of the title contemplates to even larger dismal plight of the theme.

Final Press Ready

Primarily an illustrator first before becoming a graphic designer it was in the rigorous weekly training of the Philippine Collegian, the only college paper that comes out weekly, churning out 60 issues for an academic year, that would eventually be his standard work ethic. He illustrates and designs fast and efficient because of this imbibed college media experience.

After being an in-house and project development officer for Adarna, for four years now he has been an independent graphic designer. He does main publication design but word of mouth made him do related work such as illustration, identity, and design consultations.

A typical process of book designing first involves defining specifications which according to Jordan most designers tend to neglect. After initial meetings with a client, as a general rule he will not start work unless all materials (manuscript and photos) are turned over. This saves both the client and him time and redundancy of efforts. One thing Jordan does best is his diligence to his craft. After reading the manuscript he researches on the net and even scouts the fields of what is there.

He does the rounds in the bookstores, visita biblioteca as he calls it, which is sort of conditioning for him before he does his initial cover design studies, inside pages and choice of fonts, and design treatments. After getting his client’s direction he digs deep in the trenches of design (his words).

"My influences," he continues "are actually comic book in origin -- sequential art people who tell a good story. In a way, my take on designing covers is that there is a story there, and is presented in design. Chipp Kidd is a major influence. He's the Neil Gaiman of cover design, in such a way that people always point to him when you want to be introduced to cover design."

For Jordan, one must not only be inspired in the confines of one’s field of expertise. In fact as graphic designer one must even be worldly (his word). Aside from collecting comic books, movies, Jordan has been a keen observer of other media of design like CD labels, packaging, posters. He adds: the more you know about the world, from current events, politics, pop culture, human nature, the more you'll be able to be armed with knowledge you can use in design.

Erotica Books (Anvil) was Jordan’s first foray as an independent graphic designer. With sensate and sensitive a subject, he diffused lust and pinned down any sexual undertones by incorporating symbolic forms and special fonts. As Jordan would say: The challenge was to come up with a cover design that was erotic, but not titillating or scandalous. Easy to say, hard to execute. We ended up with a design that was smart and witty.

The Book of Beginnings and Endings (National Book Development Board) won for Jordan the Best in Design-Publishing/Book Design for the 2014 Adobo Awards. Again photos as complimentary images were manifested on the covers: The idea was to come up with two publications, a writing journal and an annual report that features beginning and ending quotes—and leaves me to do my thing. We ended up with a cover featuring a photo of two trees, one at the height of blooming and the other of shedding its leaves. Both publications were originally meant to have red accents. Camille Dela Rosa of NBDB suggested at the last minute if we could change the accents on the Annual report to green to make it more distinct.

More than a one-man show book designing is a collaborative effort, a conspiracy actually with the writer, editor, marketing people of your publisher. For Jordan it is a service where one has to meet his client’s needs. He adds: It's not an expressive medium like painting. It could, but only on specific projects. You cannot force it. This was one of my earliest challenges where I treated book design or cover design as an expressive medium. I've come to terms with this, and limit my expressive design to non-commercial projects for myself or with friends.

Sometimes a cover is when preparation and opportunity meet. For quiet sometime Jordan had been taking a lot of photos that he could use if he was given a Noir book. When Anvil Publishing wanted a Philippine edition for Manila Noir cover to differentiate it with the US edition, Jordan was more than ready to step on the plate. Although the US edition was not as striking it was meant to be part of a series: Anvil decided with the one most manipulated of the studies I've given. The side is a sunset scene of electricity cables along Marcos highway and the angel comes from a shop that creates religious statues behind SM City, North Edsa. My only gripe was that the printing wasn't that good.

Between Loss and Forever by Cathy Babao-Guballa (Anvil) remains one of his most emotional and had Jordan finding it hard to detach: The original plan was to use some old fashioned painting of a mother and child. I suggested, how about we use photos? If the book was about facing grief, it should reflect on the cover and that photos of the writers holding their kids pictures would be best to convey this. We ended up with a collage of photos contributed by the authors, and only when I started placing the them did it dawned on me that as easy it was for me to give a photo based design solution, it must have been hard for the writers to share them and I should treat it with respect as well as give it justice. The background texture was meant to remind you of sticky photo album pages, the ones where you place photos between it and an acetate sheet. Photos have a white border reminiscent of photo booth sessions or ID pictures taken from a photo studio. The black and white photo on the front cover features poet and painter Maningning Miclat with her mom, Alma.

Wanted: Designer

A good graphic designer knows what’s best to promote himself and how to effectively appeal to his audience. In fact, Jordan half-jokingly thought of advertising himself the way a local plumber did – to place his name and contact numbers in those small pre-cut tin sheets placed on a post. He pitches: My work for Anvil Publishing is my most visible work locally. I've been doing covers for UP Press for years while still working for Adarna House, and even now as an independent. Bare necessities ang promotion ko. I have an online portfolio (www.coroflot.com/saintjordan), I give away calling cards, but I live on referrals.

Jordan still keeps his love for comics by designing for his comic group called Polyedron Comics. The main title is Cadre. The plan is to continue making well-designed local books, one at a time. An Ambeth Ocampo book is on his bucket list, but it has to come from the publisher or the historian himself. He ends: What local writers aren't aware of, much is that when a publisher carries your book or paper, you can suggest an outside designer to do your book. Tell your publisher and as long as the designer follows certain design house rules, it'll be fine. Some publishers may tell a writer that they have to shoulder the design fee though if they choose an outside designer. But if you'll be able to get the designer you want, what's a little extra expenses? Good design is always worth it.