Illustrator Sketchpad Loss, Heartbreak, and Coming of Age Reading Themes

[Illustrator’s Sketchpad] Sergio’s Surreal Artistry and Influences



How did your childhood influence your decision to pursue illustration?

When I was a kid, I loved improvising my own toys like clay from mud or papier mache, making bubbles from the hibiscus plant, and recycling old notebooks to make scrapbooks.


Those moments of play is what I recall whenever I illustrate a scene in my books. When I studied fine arts in college, I found illustrating children’s book really fun and exciting. Later on, I decided to embrace this vocation, among many career paths in art, because I felt this is the field that needs more attention and where I can contribute more especially in local kidlit.

When are images better than words?

When you just want to describe a sea of emotions.


Give us three picture books that you have created that will best describe who you are as an illustrator.

Tight Times


Naku, Nakuu, Nakuuu!


and the upcoming book, The White Shoes

In your website, you mentioned that your first book was Ayoko Pang Matulog! under OMF Literature published in 2005, can you share with us how you got this first illustration job and what was the experience like on having your first book on print?

I got my first children’s book illustration commission through the Ang INK (Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan, Illustrators for Children) catalogue. Like every firsts, it’s very exciting and overwhelming at the same time. It’s like your dream is really happening and you don’t want to wake up.

What inspires you to be more creative?

My work room is surrounded by books (mostly art related and picture books), toys, art, and other objects that I love.




I also love finding inspiration everywhere, from interesting places to online image banks like Pinterest and Instagram. Whenever I see beautiful things, I’m so inspired to create something too.

As we move from print to digital, how do you think children’s book illustration would evolve, say, 7 years from now (fast forward to 2020)?

I think there will be more local illustrator-authors since it’s much easier now to self-publish. This could mean creative freedom will be less compromised. It’s so exciting because this could lead to more unconventional ways of storytelling and more beautiful books to choose from.

In connection with the previous question, you noted in your website that children’s preferences evolve with technology, what are some of these changes in preferences in the market that affected your artwork so far?

Children today are more attracted to interactivity, augmented reality, and entertainment value.


In my works now, I’m trying different mediums to achieve the same effect and enhance two-dimensional illustrations.

How much time do you usually spend on a typical project? To be specific, how long did it take you to make the artwork for Ang Tuta ni Noe which is a project that you shared with our National Artist Virgilio Almario, as compared to the time you spent with your artwork in Ang Mahiwagang Kuba which is part of the Lola Basyang Series as retold by Christine Bellen?

The visual thinking part, or making concept thumbnails (small drawing plans for each spread), for each scene is the most time-consuming for me. I spend several weeks saturating myself with inspirations and ideas just to come up with a concept for an entire story.

Artwork for Mahiwagang Kuba
Thumbnail sketches for Tight Times

Definitely, as expected, the pressure was very high when I illustrated Ang Tuta ni Noe. But, like my other books, I make sure that each of them is special or there’s something you’ll find interesting.

Basic CMYK


When you are not illustrating, what is your typical day like?

I run family errands like paying the bills and picking the grocery. I also play with my dogs. Sometimes I take a swim, bike, and run.


You wake up one night and find a Djinn (or a diwata) standing by your bed. You were asked to name three artists/authors across the globe that you would like to work with. Who are they, and why?

Maurice Sendak (if he were alive): I’d just love to hear his stories because he’s so funny.

Shaun Tan: I wonder where he finds his characters.

J.K. Rowling: I want to learn the magic!

Thank you so much, Serj, for being part of GatheringBooks these past two months. We are truly in awe of your work.

All artwork courtesy of Serj, the artist, the copyright owner of the images. 

1 comment on “[Illustrator’s Sketchpad] Sergio’s Surreal Artistry and Influences

  1. Pingback: [Monday Reading] Of Friendships Lost and Gained in “The Bear and the Wildcat”, “City Dog, Country Frog,” and “Rabbityness” |

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