Rommel ‘Omeng’ Estanislao is a prolific clay artist, children’s book illustrator, graphic artist and comics artist. He’s also a member of SKP or Samahang Kartunistang Pilipinas. His shaggy strokes give life to his inventive imagination.
There’s always something about his comics that can melt your heart and make you chuckle. He has done a series of indie comics, among which are: Lipad, Anak ng Tupang Itim, Heronimoalyas Hero ang Bagong Bayaning Marikina, Love Story, Gatas ng Saging, Langoy Ondoy Ground Zero
Omeng is also the creator of the popularly-read comic strip ‘Kokoy’, which comes out every Sunday in The Manila Bulletin, and the creator of Anak ng Tupang Itim Comic book.
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?
Noong high school ako, gusto kong maging painter. madalas kong I-drawing at subukang I-pinta ang waterfalls. At noong 4th year na ako, gusto ko maging sculptor. Pero noong high school, gumagawa na ako ng komiks, at nagawan ko ng komiks ang aking high school sweetheart.[When I was in high school, I wanted to be a painter. I often found myself drawing and painting waterfalls. Then, when I was in 4th year, I wanted to become a sculptor. But then, I’d already started making comics. In fact, I’d made a comic of my high school sweetheart.]
Q: From that moment, and throughout your journey as an artist, what has been your biggest struggle?
Gusto ko pagkagraduate ng high school mag aaral ako sa University of the Philippines at balak kong kunin ay fine arts. Pero dahil ako ay panganay at iisang lalaki sa aming magkakapatid kailangnan kong tulungan si Erpats sa kayang tinayong machine shop.[When I graduated high school, I wanted to study at the University of the Philippines and take up fine arts. But because I was the eldest, and the only boy amongst my siblings, I had to help out my parents manage their machine shop.]
Nag resign si Erpats noong ako ay high school at nagtayo ng isang maliit na machine shop. Ako ang naging assistant o helper niya at ako ay sinuswelduhan din niya bukod sa binibigay niyang allowance sa aking pag aaral. Lumalabas ako ay working student noong high school pa lamang. Kaya ang kinuha ko ay 3 years vocational muna na mechanical technology para makatulong ng husto sa aming shop at makapunta sa Australia.[My dad resigned when I was in high school, and put up a small machine shop. I became his assistant or helper, and he gave me a salary on top of my allowance. It happened that ever since high school, I was already a working student. That’s why I took up a 3-year vocational course in Mechanical Technology, just so I could really help out in our shop, and travel to Australia.]
Ku-muha ako ng Engineering pagkatapos pero di ko na natuloy dahil nagkaroon ako ng chance na makapag trabaho as illustrator sa Top 40 apparel. Ito yung sikat rock shirt. Sila din ang nag papaconcert ng mga sikat na foreign bands at iba pang artists dito sa Pilipinas. Naging illustrator ako doon sa loob ng isat kalahating taon at doon din ako natutong maglayout sa computer at Macintosh na ang gamit noon.[I took up Engineering afterwards, but I never finished it because I was given an opportunity to work as an illustrator at Top 40 Apparel. This was a popular rock shirt. They were also the ones that hosted concerts with popular foreign bands and other artists here in the Philippines. I was an illustrator there for one and a half years, and it was there that I learned to layout in the computer and Macintosh tools during the day.]
Nang mawala ako sa Top 40, napunta ako sa Streetlife Fine Dining Gallery sa Makati. Ito yung restaurants na gimikan noon mid 90’s to early 2000. Isa akong graphic designer at marketing na rin sa loob ng limang taon. At pagkatapos ay nakapagtrabaho ako sa ABS CBN Publishing. Kinuha ako ng dati kong naging boss noong ako ay naging reliever na artist sa isang Real estate company. At sa ABS CBN Publishing doon na ako nadevelop sa layouting at illustrations.[When I left Top 40, I started working at Streetlife Fine Dining Gallery in Makati. This was a popular restaurant in the mid 90’s to early 2000’s. I was working in graphic design and marketing for about five years. After that, I got to work at ABS CBN Publishing. I was hired by my old boss from when I was a reliever artist for one real estate company. It was at ABS CBN Publishing where I developed my layouts and illustrations.]
Ang biggest struggle ko noon ay yung mahirap pumasok na Graphic designer ng hindi ka graduate ng Fine Arts at yung iwan mo ang magulang mong mag isa na nagt-trabaho sa sarili ninyong business.[My biggest struggle was trying to break in as a graphic designer even though I wasn’t a graduate of Fine Arts. That, and leaving my parents alone to work on the family business.]
Q: How have you been able to cope with (or over-come) this struggle?
Sacrifice mo yung ibang bagay gaya nga ng ginawa ko na iniwan ko mag isa si Erpats sa kanyang business kung saan ako ang kanyang helper o assistant since high school hanggang mag college.[You have to sacrifice some things, like how I had to leave my father with his business, and I had been his helper or assistant since high school up until college.]
Palakasan lang ng loob sa pag apply ng trabaho as Graphic designer, basta apply lang ng apply.[It’s about having the courage to apply for work as a graphic designer. Just keep applying over and over.]
Nagbabasa ako ng mga art books sa National bookstore at nag iikot sa mga art galleries para ma inspire.[I read art books in National Bookstore, and went around different art galleries to gather inspiration.]
Q: What would you consider is the ONE thing that REALLY helped you level up your skills?
Ah yung passion. ‘Yung hindi ka nagsasawa sa ginagawa mo kahit na trabaho din ito ay masaya mong ginagawa. ‘Yung kailangan mo na matulog pero gusto mo pang gawin. Yung gusto mo ay umaga na para gawin na ulit yung naiwan mong trabaho kagabi.[I’d say, passion. When you don’t get bored with what you’re doing even if it’s work—and your happy to do it. When you need to get some sleep but you still want to work. When you want it to be morning already so that you can get back to the work you left behind last night.]
Q: What is one thing you’d wish you’d known before you started your artistic career? Why?
Ah yung basics. Self-taught kasi ako sa painting at sa drawing at sa paggawa ng komiks. Parang kapag tumikim ka ng isang pagkain malalaman mo kung ano yung sahog dahil sa lasa. Parang ganun ako kapag nakakita ako ng isang painting. Pinag-aaralan ko paano yung technique.[Ah, the basics. I was self-taught in my painting and drawing, and in making comics. It’s like you get a taste of some food and you know what the ingredients are because of how it tastes. It’s like that with me when I see a painting. I study the techniques used.]
Kaya after 16 years ng pagkagraduate ko ng mechanical technology ay nakapag 2nd degree ako sa University of the Philippines (Sa wakas!). At ang mga classmates ko ay halos kalahati ng edad ko. Akala nga nila ako yung kanilang Prof, hehehe! Kumuha ako ng studio arts at sculpture major.[That’s why 16 years after I’d graduated from mechanical technology, I was able to get a 2nd degree at the University of the Philippines (Finally!). And all my classmates were half my age. They actually thought that I was their prof, hehehe! I took a Studio Arts and Sculpting Major.]
Sa first year ko sa fine arts natutunan ko yung basics sa paintings at sculpture. Doon ko na realize na marami pa pala akong hindi alam na mapapakinabangan ko sa mga trabaho ko at mag-e-enhance sa mga gawa ko. Kaya importante ang basic sa lahat ng bagay. Parang ang nangyari sa akin, “From beyond to basic”.[In my first year in fine arts I learned the basics of painting and sculpture. That’s when I realized that there was still a lot that I didn’t know that I could make use of in my work, and also help enhance my work. That’s why the basics are important in all things. It’s like what happened to me was, “From beyond to basic”.]
Q: What drives or inspires you to continue making art or comics?
Automatic na sa system ko yung paggawa ng art. Kahit saan ako magpunta nag ddrawing ako. Madalas maraming pumapasok na ideas sa akin. Minsan matitigan ko lang ang isang bowl ng soup may makikita o maiisisip na akong idea na pwedeng i-sculpt, o kaya naman pwedeng kwento pang comic strip.[Making art is something that’s in my system. Wherever I go, I’m drawing. Oftentimes, I find a lot of ideas come to me. Sometimes just looking at a bowl of soup I can already see or come up with an idea that I can sculpt, or I can use for a comic strip.]
Pero sa ngayon ang family ko ang inspirasyon ko. Ang wife ko na cartoonist na pareho kaming mag isip o pareho kami ng mind set, at ang aking new born baby na nagpapasaya sa akin. Kaya activated yung aking endorphins.[But recently, it’s my family that my source of inspiration. My wife, who’s a cartoonist and either thinks like me or has the same mindset, and my new born baby that gives me joy. That’s why my endorphins are activated.]
At syempre since I am a Christian si God ang una kong inspirasyon sa bawat ginagawa ko at trabaho ko. Siya ang source ng aking talent. Siya ang nagbigay nito sa akin. Kaya through my creations na g-glorify ko siya.[And, of course, since I’m a Christian, God is my primary source of inspiration in everything I do and work on. He’s the source of my talent. He gave this to me. And so I glorify him through my creations.]
Q: What does your average day look like? (And when do you fit in the time to create art?)
Hehehe! Medyo magulo ang schedule ko everyday. Nakatira ako sa Marikina pero sa Quezon City kami nag-stay ng Misis ko, lalo na ngayong may newborn baby na kami. Kaya araw araw bumabyahe ako from Q.C. to Marikina para magtrabaho, dahil nasa Ma-rikina ang aking workstation, at mga gamit, at mga reference materials.[Hehehe! My every day schedule is messy. I live in Ma-rikina but my wife and I stay in Quezon City, especially now that we have a newborn baby. That’s why every day I travel from Q.C. to Marikina to work, because my workstation, my tools, and my reference materials are all in Marikina.]
Kaya sa umaga ay trabahong bahay muna: linis, laba at plantsa. Sa hapon na ako nakakapag start ng tra-baho, hanggang gabi na. Pero hindi na ako nag t-trabaho pagdating ng 11:00. Pahinga na ako para bumaba na ang aking adrenalin at makatulog ng maaga.[That’s why mornings are for housework: cleaning, laundry, ironing. It’s only in the afternoons that I’m able to start working on until the evenings. But I stop working by 11:00. I relax so that my adrenaline levels lower and I’ll be able to sleep early.]
Primetime ko and 1:00 P.M., kung saan yung mga ideas na pumasok sa akin sa buong maghapon na ilili-pat ko na sa aking idea notebook. Nag c-conceptualize din ako ng mga projects at komiks, at minsan ay reading ng comic books at iba pang libro.[My primetime is 1:00 P.M., wherein all the ideas that have come to me throughout the afternoon I put down in my idea notebook. I also conceptualize different projects and comics, and sometimes read comic books and other books.]
Hati rin ang aking trabaho sa umaga o hapon ay sculptures ang ginagawa ko gaya ng mga pendants at custom clay figures na orders sa akin. At bago magdilim ay drawings naman gaya ng comics at iba pang comic projects.[My work is also halved in the mornings or afternoons by the sculptures I’m working on, like pendants and custom clay figures that others have ordered. And before it gets dark, I switch to drawing, like my comics, or other comic projects.]
Q: How do you deal with distractions or challenges that you encounter while you’re working on your art?
Sa totoo lang maraming distractions ngayon dito sa aming lugar. Ang dating tahimik na kalsada, ngayon ay tindahan na ng karne na madaling araw pa lamang ay nagdadatingan na ang meat delivery trucks.[To be honest, there are a lot of distractions now here in our place. Before our street used to be quiet. Now there’s a meat store, wherein from early in the morning you can hear the meat delivery trucks coming and going.]
Ang ginagawa ko na nalang ay nagbubukas ako ng TV, nanonood sa cable channels habang gumagawa, o kaya minsan ay nakikinig na lamang ng music.[What I do, then, is I turn on the TV and watch cable channels while working. Or sometimes I just listen to music.]
Q: What do you do when you feel just completely uninspired or burnt out? How do you motivate yourself to start working again?
Ah simple lang. ‘Di ako nagta-trabaho. Nag b-bike ako, nanonood ako ng movies, o kaya naglalaro at naglilinis ng mga toy collections ko.[Ah, that’s simple. I don’t work. I bike, watch movies, or play with and clean my toy collection.]
Minsan lang dumating sa akin ang ganyan dahil dalawa ang trabaho ko, sculpting at drawing. Kaya lagi naman akong inspired. Minsan, habang nag-s-sculpt, may ideas na pumapasok na pang comic gags. At ganun din naman minsan kapag nag d-drawing ako. May mga pang sculpture ideas na nag p-pop up sa utak ko.[That doesn’t happen to me often because I hold two jobs, sculpting and drawing. That’s why I’m always inspired. Sometimes, while sculpting, there are ideas that come to me that I can use as a comic gag. The same goes, sometimes, when I’m drawing. There are ideas for sculpting that pop up in my head.]
Nakakaburn out lang kapag may mga gumagaya ng gawa ko, o gumagamit nito—gaya ng isang lalaki na ginamit yung artwork ko na kinuha sa DeviantArt at nilagyan niya lamang ng logo at nanalo ito sa British Council Philippines contest ng 100k.[What burns me out is when someone copies my work, or uses it—like one guy who used one of my pieces that he took from DeviantArt, inserted a logo, and then won at 100k at a British Council Philippines contest.]
Ganun din yung isang businessman na nag-pm sa akin at humingi ng permiso na gamitin si Bruho Barbero sa kanyang itatayong barbershop. Hindi ako pumayag at nalaman ko nalang after ilang months ay nakapagtayo na pala ito ng barbershop gamit ang pangalan ng aking character at yung gunting nito.[The same with this one businessman that messaged me, asking for permission to use Bruho Barbero for a barbershop he wanted to put up. I didn’t allow it, and I only found out after a few months that he was already able to put up the barbershop using my character’s name and his scissors.]
Pero given na talaga na may mga tao at artist na ganon ang ugali. Kaya dapat protektahan ang mga gawa gaya ng copyright.[But it’s a given that there are people and artists that have that kind of attitude. That’s why it’s important to protect your work with copyright.]
Q: What would you say has been your most EPIC win so far?
Hindi naman ako madalas manalo ng award. Bihirang bihira. Ang napanalunan ko last 2013 ay Best Cartoonist for Kokoy Kolokoy, at Best Comic Character si Bruho Barbero. Ang pinaka EPIC yung nasunod ko ang pangarap ko noong bata palang: na ako ang maging artist. Ngayon isa na akong legit Cartoonist dahil may comic strip ako sa Manila Bulletin, at member ako ng Samahang Kartunista ng Pilipinas.[I don’t often win awards. Very rarely. The last one I won was in 2013 for Best Cartoonist for Kokoy Kolokoy, and Best Comic Character for Bruho Barbero. The most EPIC was that I was able to fulfill my dream since childhood: to become an artist. Today I’m a legit cartoonist because I have a comic strip in the Manila Bulletin, and I’m a member of the Samahang Kartunista ng Pilipinas.]
Isa din akong comic illustrator, at ilang children’s books na rin ang nagawan ko ng illustrations at political comics. Naging illustrator din sa magazine sa loob ng 8 years, nakagawa na rin ng clay projects para sa mga kilalang tao sa industriya ng pelikula, komiks, at ilang TV shows. Na-meet ko ang akin asawa sa Komikon, at isa din siyang cartoonist. Huli sa lahat, nakakagawa rin ako ng komiks at nakapag release na rin ako ng sarili kong comic book.[I’m also a comic illustrator, and I’ve illustrated a number of children’s books and political comics. I’ve illustrated for a magazine for 8 years; I’ve done clay projects for a couple of known people in the industry of film, comics, and a few TV shows. I met my wife at Komikon, and she’s also a cartoonist. Lastly, I’m able to make comics, and I was also able to release my own comic book.]
Q: What would you say has been your biggest failure?
Biggest failure ko ay ‘yung hindi ko pinagpatuloy ‘yung pag handle sa business namin na machine shop. Ako lang kasi ang panganay na pwedeng mag asikaso ng business. Iba kasi yung hilig ko. Malayo sa engineering works.[My biggest failure is that I didn’t push through with handling the family machine shop business. I’m the eldest, and the only one capable of taking care of the business. But my interests are different. Far from engineering works.]
Q: What, for you, has been the best way to promote yourself and your work to potential fans, clients, or publishers?
Basta gawa lang ng gawa at gandahan ang mga ginagawa. Dapat lagging mag-excel sa bawat trabaho at career.[Just keep creating, creating quality work. Always excel in whatever your work or career is.]
Q: What has been your game plan throughout your journey? What’s the BIG picture here? The ultimate dream? The end game?
Ang gusto ko magkaroon ako ng isang barbershop na yung comic character ko na si Bruho Barbero ang ga-gamitin ko—at may kasamang clay shop at comic shop pa. Parang 3 in 1 na shop may comics, may clay works at hair cut.[I want to have a barbershop wherein my comic charc-ter, Bruho Barbero, is what I’ll use—and it’s also a clay shop and a comic shop. Like a 3 in 1 shop that has comic, clay works, and hair cuts.]
Q: What, for you personally, has been the source of your ideas, creativity and talent?
Isa lang para sa akin: si God. Siya ang ultimate source ng lahat.[It’s just one thing for me: God. He’s the ultimate source of everything.]
Q: What is your big “WHY”?
Ang tanong ko lang palagi, “Paano ako kikita, o anong business ang maganda para masuportahan ko ang paggawa ko ng arts and crafts?” Ang pangarap ko walang katapusan hanggat nakakagawa ako ng art, from comics, to sculpture, to painting. Dahil natututo ako, at walang katapusan and pag-aaral at discovery ng techniques, patuloy nag-o-overflow ‘yung ideas. Pero ‘yung paggawa ng art, talagang gusto ko ito. Hanggang panaginip nga minsan nag-d-drawing pa nga ako. Kaya walang “Why?” Merong, “Thank you, God.”[I always ask myself, “How can I earn, or what business is good enough to help me support my making arts and crafts?” My dreams have no limit as long as I’m able to do my art, from comics, to sculpture, to painting. Because I learn, and there’s no limit to my learning and discovery of techniques, the overflow of ideas is continuous. As for creating art, I really love it. Even in my dreams, sometimes, I’m still drawing. That’s why there’s no “Why?”. Instead, there’s, “Thank you, God.”]
Q: What 3 stories (comics, movies, documentaries, novels, etc.) would you say influenced and inspired your work the most?
Sa indie komiks, ‘yung Batch 72 ni Budjette Tan at Arnold Arre, Wasted ni Gerry Alanguilan, Mythology Class ni Arnold Arre.
Sa cartoons, Marginals ni Sergio Aragones ng Mad Magazine, Slice of Life ni Larry Alcala, Superdog ni Christian Del Cruz at Ronni Escaurriaga.
Sa movies, The Labyrinth, Star Wars, Mad Max, mga books at magazines Chariots of the Gods, Wars of Gods and Men, Mad Magazines, Heavy Metal Magazines, Funny Komiks, at iba pang local komiks noong 80’s.
TV series naman ay X-files, Twilight zone, at Ancient Aliens.
Q: What are the top books, art books, blogs, podcasts, or workshops you’d recommend that helped you level up your skills?
Jaxtapoz magazines at Mad Magazines yung 80’s.
Q: If you could work remotely, from anywhere in the world, where would your office be? Why?
Gusto ko sa tuktok ng burol yung makikita ko mga puno sa ibaba ay mga batis, yung maraming halaman at bulaklak.[I want to live at the top of a hill, where I can see the trees and below is a stream, where there are lots of plants and flowers.]
O kaya sa tabing dagat, yung maririnig mo lang yung alon ng dagat, at seagulls.[Or on the seaside, where you can only hear the waves of the ocean and the seagulls.]
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?
Sergio Aragones, Jin Giraud, Jim Henson, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg
Q: Who do you consider your biggest mentor that helped you improve your skills? (Doesn’t have to be someone you’ve met personally.)
Moebius, Sergio Aragones, Steven Spielberg, Jim Henson, at George Lucas.