We have been doing a series of throwback posts of our conversations with storytellers, artists, poets, academics. These posts are found in our Behind the Books website and are being shared here now in our new home. This interview with Paolo Fabregas was posted back in August 2011.
Last week, we posted the First of our 2-part Feature on Paolo Fabregas where we had a Q & A with him about his recently published Graphic Novel: Filipino Heroes League. This time around, we shall be discussing more about his Creative Journeys and his pathways to becoming the graphic novelist that he is now.
Paolo is not just an ordinary graphic novelist/ book author. He is actually considered a celebrity in the Philippines. He became quite well known in the Coke commercial with his famous line “bridesmaid ka lang” (“you’re just a bridesmaid”) as can be seen in this youtube clip here (it’s good it has English translations)
Early Influences in the Arts and Creativity
Paolo is the son of the poet Bing Caballero Ruso and famous movie/theater actor, Jaime Fabregas and the brother of the lovely Lara Fabregas (also a movie/TV personality).
As the hackneyed phrase goes, an apple never falls far from the tree. Paolo, do share with us, how was it like growing up with artists as parents?
With parents as artists, I suppose we, I mean my siblings and I, just couldn’t help ourselves – we had to go down an artistic path as well. It really wasn’t a conscious choice on my part, I really got pulled into it, as if by gravity. It also helped that anything artistic we wanted to pursue was immediately supported. My stepfather, Ilkka Ruso, was particularly great at that.
I understand that you have had a lot of opportunity to travel during your earlier years. Do share with our readers how this kind of exposure to different worlds, ideals, realities may have influenced your development as an artist, if at all.
Growing up abroad has made me more appreciative of my own country. As trite as it sounds, there really is no place like home and I think that appreciation seeps into my work.
What were you like as a child? Have you always been interested in acting and drawing?
As a child, I never stopped moving. It was impossible for me to sit still. As an adult, I’ve had a lot of my parents’ friends come up to me and tell me how much of a pain I was – I’d always get into trouble climbing some tree or fence.
Acting was something I stumbled upon in my teens. I think I tried out for the drama club simply because there were a lot of cute girls in it. But art was my first love. I’ve been drawing since I can remember.
What were your favorite reading materials as you were growing up? When did the interest in comicbooks/graphic novels develop?
I started reading comic books at about 9 years old – specifically, Spider-Man. Spidey was drawn by Todd Mcfarlane at the time and I suppose you can say I’ve been hooked ever since. It was only in my late teens that I started developing a taste for books without pictures.
Was there any arts mentor whom you believe to be quite influential in your creative pathways?
Funnily enough, I’ve never taken an art or a writing course. Well, I took a poetry course once in college – I did poorly. Drawing has been a life-long passion but one that I stopped developing because of other interests. I’ve picked it up again, obviously, but I’ve never really had any formal training.
I only started to learn how to really write when I joined advertising. My mentors would be all of my ad bosses – they were trying to turn me into a better advertiser but I applied what I learned and used it to make a graphic novel.
Entry into the Murky World of Showbusiness and the Discipline of Theater
Seeing that your father is a highly respected TV/movie actor, it seemed inevitable with your good looks and talent that you would likewise walk towards the same path. Do share with us though what led you to showbusiness. How did it all begin?
Showbiz was never a real goal for me – it just kind of fell on my lap. I tried out for a commercial and, by chance, I got the role and, also by chance, that commercial became very popular. To be honest, I wasn’t really walking down a path towards showbiz as much as I was randomly exploring the area. In the end, it didn’t quite fit me.
Share with us your experience in theater. How different is theater from showbusiness?
Personally, I found theater to be loads more fun than TV shoots. I didn’t quite understand the discipline of TV (I guess it also didn’t help that I was struggling with the language at the time). But, in general, it was very boring – you just sit around and wait for hours on a TV shoot.
Theater on the other hand was pure fun. I love the whole process – the rehearsing, the exploring and finally the performing.
Could you share with us a glossary of the plays that you have been a part of? Which theater role are you most proud of?
Total Eclipse, Francis, Oedipus Rex, Mistress of the Inn, King Lear, Taming of the Shrew, Owl and the Pussy Cat, The Woman in Black, Three Sisters, and Midsummer Night’s Dream.
My particular favorite was Taming of the Shrew – it was adapted to the Philippine context. I played Petruchio, an American soldier of fortune, and my wife, then girlfriend, played Katrina, a headstrong Filipina lass. It was a great rendition and a lot of fun to perform.
You met your lovely wife, Miren, on the stage. Can you share with our GatheringBooks readers how the love story came about.
We had actually met on a couple occasions before – I had always thought she was crazy hot – but the moment I actually fell in love with her was when I watched her play Olivia in Tanghalang Ateneo’s production of Twelfth Night. The director, Ricky Abad, wanted us to play opposite each other in his next play, The Mistress of the Inn, so he invited me to watch so that we could be introduced.
When she walked on stage for the first time, it was like a bomb exploded – and I don’t think I was the only one who felt it either – the crowd hushed as well (I’m not exaggerating). By the time she said her first line, I was totally hooked. I was intending to politely decline the part in Mistress because I was already playing the lead in two other plays but, after watching her perform, I had to do Mistress. It was a scheduling nightmare and I was bone tired by the end of it, but nothing can stop you when you’re in love.
On Being an Ad-man by day and a Graphic Novelist at Night
I understand that you are now currently working in an advertising agency. Do share with us what your work entails. What led you to advertising?
After graduating with English Lit, I was on my way to becoming a teacher but my uncle, Bobby Caballero, an advertising luminary, insisted that I give copywriting a try. I was a little reluctant at first, but after my first week on the job, I realized that it fit me perfectly.
The path that led you to writing has been circuitous. In fact, I would even claim that perhaps a lot of the people who knew about you through TV commercials or even in theater may have been a tad surprised that you actually draw and write stories for comic books – do share with us, what led you to write The Filipino Heroes League?
I’ve always dreamed of writing and drawing my own comic book but I just never found the right thing to write about. I was really encouraged by my friend and former Art Director/partner in advertising, Ian Sta. Maria, to draw one.
After several false starts, I finally stumbled upon The FHL. It was conceived during the GMA (Former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) administration. There was a lot of political turmoil at the time with conspiracies and other suspicious activities being talked about in the media. I think a lot of that seeped into the book as I was coming up with the story.
What is the process like as you create your artwork for FHL? Did the story come first before the art?
I spent a lot of time writing and conceptualizing before I started drawing. I would even say that it was much more difficult to write than draw. I write very detailed scripts so that, by the time I start drawing, the visualization process is already done – it’s just a matter of execution. Once I get to the drawing then I’m just having fun.
Did you have any special training in doing your artwork or is this borne out of natural interest and innate talent?
I’ve had no special training. Any techniques I’ve picked up come from the book, How to Draw the Marvel Way, and by simply copying my favorite comic book artists. I just never stopped drawing as a kid. My school notebooks would be filled with doodles – more doodles than notes. It was simply something I was constantly working on.
What is the medium that you usually use as you do your illustrations? Do you use any special software? Pens? Inks?
I have my blue pencil, ink pens and my computer. I do the ink outlines on A3 paper, then I scan it and work on the grey tones and heavy blacks on the computer.
Is there any special reason why FHL (Filipino Heroes League) is in mono? Are you considering making the subsequent volumes in full-color in the near future?
FHL is in mono because of cost constraints. Color would make the book incredibly expensive to produce and therefore too expensive to buy. As such, P200 is already pretty steep for a lot of students. My dream is that the compiled edition of FHL will be in color. We’ll see.
How do you manage your time being a father, a husband, hotshot ad-man, and now graphic novelist? How do you do all this?
Thankfully, being an ad-man is the only thing on this list that can truly exhaust me. The other stuff is fun. That’s not to say that being an ad-man isn’t fun, it’s just that the work can be overwhelming at times. It also helps being married to the most awesome woman in the world – she lets me find time for everything.
Any warning/precautionary thoughts/ odd ideas you can share with young artists out there?
Well, I’d like to address my fellow Filipino artists out there in the world – I know there are tons of us working for foreign companies, using our artistic abilities creating for them. I’d like to encourage them not to just “Buy Filipino,” but CREATE FILIPINO as well. Filipinos need stories of their own, too. We’re hungry for them.