Toto Madayag works as a Graphic Artist at a telco company, and is also the founder of Silaw Publishing, a creator-friendly, indie publishing outfit. Toto was awarded Best Comic Strip Compilation at the 2017 Komikon Awards for his comic strip, and outside of making komiks, he enjoys playing the guitar and winning at life. You can find more of Toto Madayag and his work online, through the following links:
Q: Everyone has an origin story. Could you share with us the exact moment (or moments) wherein you realized that you wanted to become an artist?
I was a straight edge Catholic school student from elementary ‘til college, until I quit four years after in a Baguio university. I have always been the go-to guy for poster-making contests and became president of the art club, and a cartoonist for the school paper when I was younger. A pretty boring path as a young artist, nothing too adventurous. Wanted to pursue Fine Arts but instead signed up for an Engineering degree.
When I was younger I just wanted to draw to impress other people—for validation, that sort of thing. Growing up you could say art has become my own little way of resisting things that happened in my life that I didn’t agree with. Wanted to take up Fine Arts but had to take up Engineering instead? Tried out for the school paper. Bored in call center training? Made komiks out of it. Frustrated with the red tape surrounding the process of traditional publishing? Put out free komiks without any censorship and sold books on my own.
Q: From that moment, and throughout your journey as an artist, what has been your biggest struggle?
Definitely creative drought. Go for weeks without drawing anything and you lost the confidence to even pick up a pen. Totally guilty of creative jealousy as well, wherein I see a lot of great indie komiks creators coming up with ideas I wish I’d thought of first, and here I am still thinking about what my next komik is going to be about.
Q: How have you been able to cope with (or overcome) this struggle?
I let it pass for the most part. I don’t think there’s really any cure to it, personally. When I do find the time and confidence to draw again, I tend to draw a lot to take advantage of that moment. Something always happens that takes me away from that kind of productivity. So when I’m in the zone, I tend to draw for hours at a time and actually come up with a lot of comic strips.
Q: What would you consider is the ONE thing that REALLY helped you level up your skills?
I don’t think of myself as leveled-up in terms of drawing, actually. I just settled for an art style I was comfortable with because with comic strips in general, kahit gaano kapangit ‘yung drowing mo [no matter how ugly your drawing is] if you can write well you’ll be okay. In terms of writing, what really helped me improve was learning to self-edit and at the same time assume that the audience is smart enough to get my joke/s even when I leave out a few details.
Q: What is one thing you’d wish you’d known before you started your artistic career? Why?
That judging people based on their religious beliefs was not and will never be cool. I mean, people who still use religion for the sole purpose of controlling other people still disgusts me, but if we’re talking about judging a person solely because they are part of a certain religious sect and they hold a particular set of beliefs—I wish I had known this was never cool before spouting edgy stuff maybe about 10 years ago. A bit of it spilled over to some of my komiks I think.
Q: What drives or inspires you to continue making your art?
The scary idea that when I lose the ability to make good art, I will be losing a very, very big part of me.
Q: What does your average day look like? (And when do you fit in the time to create art?)
Coffee – go to work – lunch — go back home – dinner – put my daughter to sleep – and at 9 or 10PM make komiks on an iPad in bed with the lights off. In between I write down good ideas for future komiks. As a father who doesn’t have enough time to squeeze in making art within my work day, this is how I handle it. It isn’t healthy, though. Wouldn’t recommend it.
Q: How do you deal with distractions or challenges that you encounter while you’re working on your art?
My wife deals with them! “Them” being my 4-year old daughter and video games, most of the time. She would remind me that I need to finish my next book and take care of everything else in the house.
Q: What do you do when you feel just completely uninspired or burnt out? How do you motivate yourself to start working again?
I’d sift through all of the notes on my PC, my phone, and my notebook to look at all the jokes I’d written down and choose a couple of the better ones, and just start drawing a couple of comic strips. I start to get that excitement again when I get a couple of good ones out. Again this is not healthy, but usually the thing that tells me how good a certain comic strip is, is the number of likes and shares it gets when I release the thing online. An astounding number of likes and shares usually means that that comic strip was timely, well-written, and illustrated effectively that a lot of people just get it. Usually.
Q: What would you say has been your most EPIC win so far?
My comic book is easy to sell. Super easy, because a lot of people already support what I do online (THANK YOU) and that translates to book sales, and I’m really, really thankful for it. But if I have to be honest I’d say a bigger win would be when my wife and I started Silaw Publishing and sold more new releases than we were expecting to sell during AsiaPop Comic Con and the Komikon Indieket the week after (the new book being “Cosmic Reaction” by Sean Sonsona). It’s a bit harder to do that, so yay I guess? I hope we can do that still with a few other books we’re putting out in the future.
Q: What would you say has been your biggest failure?
I don’t dwell on failures so much that I forget about them quickly. I face a problem, I deal with it, forget about it and move on. I don’t know what’s considered a failure anymore, in a way.
Q: What, for you, has been the best way to promote yourself and your work to potential fans, clients, or publishers?
Just put your work out there. It’s easier now what with all of these social media sites. Or buy a domain for P50 and build a website if you know how to go about that (a website gives people the illusion that you know what you’re doing even if you sometimes don’t). But just put your work out there, as much as you’re comfortable putting out. Somebody’s bound to notice that you have a good story, that you write really well, that you have a good art style and they might want to collaborate with you or pay you outright for your art, or even just show their appreciation and share your art online and IRL, because guess what? That’s right, because you put your work out there.
Q: What has been your game plan throughout your journey? What’s the BIG picture here? The ultimate dream? The end game?
I like that question. I settled on “Silaw” as the name of our indie publishing house because of what it means to me. Silaw in Tagalog means “glare” from bright lights. It’s this idea of a great light that’s really impressive. In Ilocano, however, silaw is just a light source. Any light source, actually: it can be a light bulb, candlelight, anything that emits light. It’s this idea that everything is relative. A traditional publisher and author might consider a book a bestseller once they sell 50,000 copies, but for a smaller indie outfit like us, we’re happy if we can sell 100 during an event and 1,000 during the first print run of a book.
I don’t have big dreams. I’m not looking to sell 50,000 books. I’m not looking to make a lot of money or make a name for myself in the indie scene. That’s just crazy talk, the last thing on my mind. I just want to be a part of the puzzle, to contribute something to the indie community, even if it’s something as simple as inspiring someone who’s starting out in komiks to pick up a pen, print their komiks, staple the pages together, and register for a local comic convention. That’s all I’m looking to do here.
No end game in sight. As long as I’m alive I’ll continue making komiks and comic books.
Q: What, for you personally, has been the source of your ideas, creativity and talent?
My ideas come from conversations I overhear in real life, people I meet, things my wife and I talk about. My creativity and talent come from a desire to always improve and from being inspired by artists I look up to.
Q: What is your big “WHY”? Why do you feel the need to make art? Who are you doing it for? What’s the hidden reason behind your big dream?
Like I said, no big dreams. I’ve given up on them a couple of years ago, but not in a defeated kind of way. I just manage my expectations better now. But I make art to feel alive, basically. I don’t think I’ll ever feel as alive when winning Best Employee in the office, or winning an art contest, or eating at a really good restaurant, or traveling someplace nice. Making art for me is a release, an escape, an expression of love, a protest. I really get scared of the thought of losing the ability to make art. It’s a great need for me.
Q: What 3 stories (comics, movies, documentaries, novels, etc.) would you say influenced and inspired your work the most?
The Far Side by Gary Larson
Pugad Baboy series by Pol Medina, Jr.
Poorly Drawn Lines by Reza Farazmand
Q: What are the top books, art books, blogs, podcasts, or workshops you’d recommend that helped you level up your skills?
Locally, Komiket University
“Stripped” documentary (www.strippedfilm.com)
Q: If you could work remotely, from anywhere in the world, where would your office be? Why?
Home in the province, where even if you do decide to go out to get some air you won’t have to worry about getting stuck in traffic!
Q: Name ONE artist/writer that, if you could, you would pick their brain and find out all the hidden secrets behind their amazing work?
Q: Who do you consider your biggest mentor that helped you improve your skills?
(Doesn’t have to be someone you’ve met personally. Can be someone you look up to, or someone whose art has inspired you to get better, over the years.)
A lot of people in the local indie komiks community. Can’t name one in particular, there’s so many of them!