The illustrations of Kenneth Lamug (aka Rabbleboy) are playful, fun, yet also express something deeper. “The Lost Place,” for example, speaks to the misfit in me, the one who is different. Images like “Waiting Room” also have a quirkiness and humor which I love.
OCB: What do you think about Jacqueline Woodson’s claim?
Kenneth Lamug: That is a great quote – I think tha t our art and stories are created within the context of our past and present. As humans, we grow and mature. Our life experiences dictate our passions and beliefs. And this directly translates to the things we create. As our knowledge, experience and perspective changes, it drives the emotions and thoughts we put into our craft.
In my first picture book A Box Story, I talk about imagination and creativity, and how each of us has a box where we keep our secrets, emotions, memories etc… We do the same for our creative box. What’s inside of it influences how, what and why we create.
Years ago, I wrote a several stories but was not able to finish them. I just wasn’t mature enough to internalize and bring life to the idea. I could not execute it in a way that it deserved and I recognized that. I hope that in time I’ll be able to pay proper respects to those ideas and bring them out into the world. I still need to grow.
OCB: What are you painting or creating art for (as in, what is the deep-down driving force behind your choice to paint in the first place)? What is it about the act of drawing or painting or illustrating that speaks to you or resonates with you most?
Ken: As a child, I was fascinated by Sunday comic strips. I stapled scrap paper and made comic books based on Garfield, Indiana Jones, Transformers and many others. I took out our typewriter and wrote pages and pages of stories. I always thought that I’d be a cartoonist but life took a different turn when my entire family moved to the US (from the Philippines).
I was told by the grown-ups that art was not a viable career choice. So I went an entirely different direction — computer programming.
It took another 10 years before the creative fire was rekindled. With the help of friends I explored the arts through filmmaking and photography. Long days and nights were spent writing, filming, editing and interacting with other creative minds – I was hooked.
After a few years, I found myself a husband and father and could not commit time to my filmmaking pursuits while maintaining a day job. But once the fire was started, it was not so easy to tame. My creative monster took me back to my first love — writing and illustrating. I had worlds to share and tall tales to tell.
At first I was drawn to fairy tales, then I studied various artists and looked at their style and philosophies. I made many mistakes along the way as I re-learned things that I had long forgotten.
Rules are made for suckers — so I did things my way and self-published my first picture book. Then I moved to comics, publishing various genres including steampunk, all-ages adventure and even a hidden-objects book. I had a goal that if I could finish one book a year, I was doing great. It just so happened that I was making about three books per year.
Illustrating and writing is a fun and challenging pursuit. Publication was just an added bonus to the activity and not the end goal. I actually tried to stop creating and I couldn’t do it. As odd as it sounds, art keeps me sane. And the creative journey has been kind, rewarding me with friendships, accolades and joy.
OCB: What technique/media did you use to create “Kite Parade,” and/or “The Lost Place?”
Ken: “Kite Parade” and “The Lost Place” were both created digitally. Not having any background in traditional painting, I gravitated towards the computer, a tool that I was already familiar with.
As with any tool, there is a learning curve and time must be put in to achieve a certain look.
For my paintings I try my best to give the images an organic feel. With digital art there are fewer “happy accidents”. You only get the strokes and texture you intend to place. So the approach is a little bit different. But working with publishers and tight deadlines I’ve learned that using the computer makes the workflow much faster.
When I want to work traditionally, I always go back to my watercolor and pens (something I need to do more).
OCB: Since you illustrate books for young readers, did you have a favorite illustration or illustrator when you were young (or now)? If so, why?
Ken: I consider myself a young student in the craft. And as my mood and taste changes so does my favorite art or artist. Participating in the SCBWI conference opened my eyes to many wonderful talents. It was an inspiring and humbling experience. Six years ago, I looked to Shaun Tan, Edward Gorey, Tim Burton as my early inspirations. And while I still admire their work, I’ve now entertained a wider range of artistic influences.
One thing that I do look for in a person is the work ethic and dedication that they put into the craft. The ones that inspire me are the blue-collar artist who we haven’t heard of yet… the ones who clock into their 9 to 5, takes care of the family and stays up late to work on their stories. I think those are truly the inspiring ones. Art is a subjective thing and it changes with the times, but the ones who last are the ones who keep creating and keep working no matter what happens. They’re the ones that inspire me.