text by May Tobias-Papa
published by Adarna House
available for purchase on adarnahouse.com.ph
This book project was challenging but also fun to work on. I had to balance playing around with the illustrations, but still keeping in mind that it's a reference book. This book was also made with the help of The Philippine Tropical Forest Conservation Foundation Inc. (PTFCF). It made me nervous but also kind of thrilled that actual scientists checked my illustrations!
Another challenge I had with this project was choosing which medium to use. I am most comfortable with using watercolors, but considering the timeline, how the layout would work, and all the possible revisions, I opted to develop a new illustration style instead. I made digital illustrations, but used textured brushes based on traditional media to give them the handmade look, which was quite apt for the topic of the book.
My characters--the three kids and their pet cloud rat--are inspired by my childhood experience of climbing the lone aratiles tree outside our house, and also The Lost Boys from Peter Pan. I wanted "wild" children as characters to show that trees and nature are something kids can have fun in, and not just look at and take pictures of, or that it's something "dirty" or "messy".
I also designed my characters around the different types of kids that adults "discourage" to climb trees. There's the big kid, who I put on the highest parts of the trees across the book despite the physical impossibility of him getting there himself (his character is also loosely based on Totoro, who is also a big thing in a tree!), the girl with the eyepatch who's blind if you've guessed that, and that one friend we all have that's been sheltered from the outside world but has the heart to explore anyway. I added an animal sidekick endemic to the Philippines, for good measure. Thanks Rommel Joson for suggesting the cloud rat!
Another element I used throughout the book to make things more unified is the leaf shape. It's used in the trees, but also for the other non-tree parts like eyepatch girl's pigtails and the cloud rat's tail.