Daniel Palma Tayona
Daniel Palma Tayona is a full-time painter and graphic designer. He illustrated the original 1998 edition of Bugtong, Bugtong, penned by the late, renowned children’s book author Rene O. Villanueva. In this charming sequel, Mr. Tayona delivers a bumper crop of imaginative riddles to a new generation of readers, sure to keep them guessing to their hearts’ content.
1. Recall and describe for us the moment you decided to become an illustrator.
I don’t remember exactly the moment I actively decided to be an illustrator or even draw. But I knew I was going to be doing something related to it even way back when I was around 9 years old.
As a child, I shared a bed with my younger brother and I slept on the side facing the wall. It was a double-bunk bed, the top of which is where our older brother slept. I remember the day our mother painted the walls of our bedroom a dull, shiny white—the kind of shiny white that when you stain it with crayon it can easily be removed by wiping with a damp piece of cloth. It was also the day when I learned how to connect small light bulbs to a battery and make it work.
And idea popped into my head brought about my dislike of the newly painted wall of our bedroom. One afternoon I went through the piles of Reader’s Digest magazines of my father. That magazine always has these prints of painting at the back cover. I neatly cut out the ones I liked and using some cardboard and paint, I mounted these small pictures on frames I made out of the boards. I painted each of them and had a collection of miniature framed paintings. I got some batteries and made a string of light bulbs connected to them. When all were done, I had all of these arranged on my the wall on my side of the bed, arranging these “paintings” like a sort of gallery and hung the small light bulbs above each painting. After a few hours of hanging, pasting, and taping, I had a mini-gallery by my bed.
I knew at that moment that I was going to be an artist someday.
2. What kind of approach to the craft, or work habits, have you developed to get you going creatively?
I create a story in my head from my own life. It is always like that. It has to be like that—some kind of diary. Every drawing, every illustration, every painting is my story in color, lines and figures. When I draw I remember my own life events and somehow, one way or the other I am able to put my own life experiences into what I draw. I do that not only because it is simpler (I mean what better way to draw inspiration but ones own life?) but, I do it as some way to remember my own stories. I put them on paper and when I go back to them, I get to smile and say, “Hey, I once did that.”
3. You are the author/illustrator behind Bugtong Bugtong (vol.1 and 2). Describe for us how you went about making this book.
When I did BUGTONG 1 (and I never revealed this till now) I was longing for a pet. I pictured myself as the young boy with a female companion and between us were a couple of imaginary pets—an octopus and a horned bearish creature. That was also a time when I was at the crux of leaving home, facing some fears of striking out on my own and the uncertainties that come along with it. But at the same time, I was excited at the prospect of being with just myself.
It’s a different experience now when I wrote and illustrated BUGTONG 2. I did this second volume as, well, a happier man, free of those worries from the past and who fell in love with a dog—in secret. Oskar, the main character in the book, was a pet I kept hidden from a lot of people. If you ever have known of a child with a secret hidden in the basement, Oskar would be that, except he was real and lived with me in my apartment. He was the inspiration for this book and I imagined him in its pages as a free-spirited animal who likes to chase butterflies in a flower garden and doing what any happy, healthy dog would be doing in a day.
Comparing these two volumes and the span of years that happened between them, I have grown as a visual artist. From the stiff drawings of the first book that showed much of my own anxieties and fear, I have evolved into visual artist that looks at life with a bit of humor and knowledge that we all need to dream (as seen in the last page of the Bugtong 2) and be able to make them come true.
4. What are you dying to do next?
My next dream project as an illustrator and storyteller is to come up with a series of books about how to be lost in a wonderfully crazy city like Manila; to know its myriad of secrets behind its walls, beneath its crevices and its past; to have the adventure of a wide-eyed boy seeing everything for the first time; and to come out of it as a brave soul, thankful and much clever than what he was before. I would love to create this story in images and celebrate what we are, what we were and the possibilities of what we could be in the eyes of a young boy.
5. What is it about being an artist that you are most grateful for?
…every thing about it. I love the fact that I can let go of my imagination and see things like the way I would see them when I was a young boy cutting those pictures from my father’s Reader’s Digest. Every time I pick up a brush or pen and draw a line or two, it is like an adventure that courses through my head. There’s excitement, a feeling of wonder on what would come out on paper or canvas and sense that something different will evolve. I love being an artist because I can “talk” more with my drawings more than I can with words.
If ever I am to live my life again, I would still choose to be an artist.