In the previous installment of this blog I briefly mentioned the lag between posts. And as I was trying to finish up on the artworks for that (while simultaneously procrastinating) I was able to sketch out and work on a whole lot of other ambigram designs. This is one of those.
The Haribon (a portmanteau of Haring Ibon or Hari ng Ibon), literally, king of birds, is endemic to the archipelago and has dislodged the (Red) Maya as our National Bird for about 20 some odd years now. Previously (mis)named Monkey-eating Eagle for it’s initially reported dietary habits, this wide winged predator is still listed as endangered mainly due to displacement by deforestation. A monogamous pair breed usually every other year, hatching only one chick to rear give or take until about a year after.
Going in, I was hoping for a mirror ambigram as a final result – so i can top it with a graphic rendering of the bird with its glorious shaggy crown and wings spread wide. But as I’ve always known for it to be, it’s the word that dictate the form. This time it’s a rotational ambigram.
I tried out other faces but Blackletter makes it more regal. After the final ambigram was created, I opted to simulate the gradient hatching pattern usually found in currencies.
That took a minute! Welcome… and welcome back.
After Issue 35 came out, I was adamant to have the next installment of the Ambiverse Series featured on this issue — DC nerds like me will get it. I had a good enough lead to finish up on all the pieces I wanted to do and those I had been working on and was confident that I’d make the deadline.
It seemed that everything was going along well when after Issue 50, work stuff derailed that. For nearly a year, ambigramming took the back seat. By the time I was free to get back on the drawing board, “I was off my rhythm”, I think was my justification. While I did sketched a lot, I procrastinated more.
Then my computer suddenly could not read my backup drive where all my previous pieces were! Cold chill running down my spine at the thought of losing all my data, never mind recreating every other unpublished ambigram, was enough to break the spell…
When I finally got it running again, I placed all my eggs on other baskets — multiple baskets — and found myself hatching away with a few more designs that weren’t part of my original lineup. Definitely, one of the better thing to come out of a hair-pulling event like that.
So after a 19-month break, finally, it’s here! I present Ambiverse Volume 2.
First up is Cyborg. #CyborgAmbigram #ChainAmbigram #Anaglyph3D
This was the first piece I worked on, immediately after Volume 1. The ambigram was created digitally, from vector to raster straight from my mind’s eye. I had the specific type thought of well ahead and I suspected that I’d likely have a workable solution if done as a chain ambigram. It was great seeing the y/b flip turn out to be as awesome as I thought it would.
I also imagined the final artwork as an anaglyph 3D hybrid where the ambigram would hover over the illustration, though with a bit of hesitation as the ambigram itself was already heavily stylized…
… but whattheheck! You only regret chances you never took, so, here we have an addition to the meager ambiglyph collection I started back with Issue 04.
Next, Atom. #AtomAmbigram
While I thought it would work nicely alongside the #FlashAmbigram and #ArrowAmbigram, rounding up the CW lineup representing the namesake shows plus DC’sLoT, this did not make the cut on Issue 35. The original ambigram design I had for “Atom” was done Blackletter style, so a rework was necessary… and not having an illustration at hand was kind of a big set back as well.
This one employed a bit of a cheat by using the arm of the W (M’s leg) as the K’s stem. Though, on its own the ambigram looks great especially on black and white, only now do I see, that it’d have been better served had I made the glyph/characters a bit heavier… maybe I’ll make an update on the next volume.
I was planning on including a Batman ambigram here, but it was quite similar (sharp tips, edges and all) to the relatively newer #HawkmanAmbigram above except that one is a mirror type ambigram. So instead, I went on to create Denny O’neil’s assassin getting medieval on us with the ambigram rendered regally with nubuck/leather texture on good-ol’ Blackletter.
Aquaman. #AquamanAmbigram #TotemAmbigram
THIS! …is my new favorite. Why?
Even before Issue 35, I had wrestled with this word/phrase. I’ve ripped voluminous pads of paper trying to solve “Aquaman” — see one of the older sketch I made below. Adhering to one of the tips I’ve listed on my essay in Issue 50, I was so fixated in coming up with what I narrowly thought of as a solution, working and reworking each glyph to “fit” my presupposed outcome, I had to walk away and was finally able to figure it out with a resounding “AHA!” just late last month! It’s ridiculously simple, one can argue that it isn’t even an ambigram.
And well, by virtue of patience I now have my very first #TotemAmbigram… always wanted to do one, never quite found the right mix, until this one swam up next to me and fixed its mucus-filled suckers on my face like Starro. As with the #CyborgAmbigram this too was straight up vector made.
Note: A Totem Ambigram is a vertically stacked or arranged mirror ambigram. A mirror ambigram, typically presented horizontally, is required to be symmetrical on either wing extending from it’s central Y-axis, making it readable on either the obverse or reverse side or when reflected on a mirror.
Having Aquaman and Shazam! come up fairly around the time their big screen debut is up is just a welcomed coincidence. I came up with the ambigram design around the same time as the #FlashAmbigram, but for reasons, my Captain Marvel illustration wasn’t to my liking. Or hehehe, let’s be honest, maybe I’m just really not that good with figure drawing… yeah, maybe that was it, so I just kept putting it off for later.
The featured illustration was finished fairly recent, just days after my external drive episode. I just sat down and scribbled away… took me three tries in two hours. I like his wide grin and arched brow.
This was not supposed to be here, but I thoroughly enjoyed Tommy Monaghan‘s exploits so much I had to sneak him in. Thank you, Ennis/McCrea. I wish DC would bring him back… better yet put him up in the big screen. DC’s answer to Deadpool isn’t Deathstroke, it’s the friggin’ Hitman.
The larger ambigram was based on my “HUMAN” piece this time set to a Serpentine-adjacent typeface. They have fairly similar configuration. Originally, I created a series of scratches chalking up death counts to form the original ambigram design, which when incorporated with the hatch heavy illustration, don’t seem to pay off, so I decided to make the switch.
And finally, Sandman/Morpheus. #SandmanMorpheusAmbigram #EndlessAmbigram #Symbiotogram
For a while now, I had been trying to finish my Endless Series (ambigrams based on Neil Gaiman’s opus) but I’m stuck with just these two plus Death…
As this also was not supposed to a part of this series, I thought it’d be such a waste keeping it all tucked away for when I finally get to really be working on the others. Better get it out there for critique so that I could improve on it and maybe force me to work on the unfinished ones.
The idea was: when all the pieces are finished, the Endless Series could be put together like a puzzle to form a larger overarching image. So for the time being, let us enjoy the preview below.
Below are composites of the initial pencils, created at different points in time, for the pieces featured on this post.
Thanks for going through this far on this essay. See you next time.
#suliktad #danadonajr #imagefoundry
Could not really find time to write a full essay for this suliktad as I had been busy with my workload for the past weeks. And the coming weeks will prove to be just as crammed (although I have a full week of Eid Al Adha vacation) as I fortunately landed a couple of design jobs that’ll need my full attention.
I made two ambigram versions of the word KAYUMANGGI. While fairly similar in construction, the first one is sort of a script/brush type rendering of the ambigram and the second iteration is more of a serif type. These two, however, are recent versions- a remake if you will… after a thoughtful “autocritique” on the merits of the earlier version’s form.
Kayumanggi is a word that both refer to the Malay skin tone and to the Filipino as a race. However, the use of the Spanish moreno in the vernacular in reference to our skin color elevated the word kayumanggi to a regal descriptive word for the Filipino ethnicity.
So, I proudly celebrate the Filipino (with its faults, flaws, misgivings and imperfections) with the suliktad, Kayumanggi.
Having been fortunate enough to work between 1994-2007 for the grand-pappy of labels in the Philippine recording industry, I had the privilege, in 2003, to collaborate with two of my musical heroes in time to commemorate over two decades of unparalleled contribution to OPM, Lolit and Pendong (sans Mike and Saro) of Asin.
Growing up with a musician parent has opened me up to appreciate a grand spectra of music genre, ‘though I feel that even without my father’s influence I would have gravitated onto some great music by myself. (He’s more of a standards kind-of-guy, but would later in his career sometimes crank it up a notch by taking on a few pop music in his repertoire.) As a “totoy” then a“Bagets” in the mid-70’s and through the 80’s, I was swept for a ride with the emergence of what is essentially the foundation of Original Pilipino Music (a distinct category in Filipino music separating it from the indigenous, the standards, the foreign covers and Kundimans): the Manila Sound, the Manila Pop(ular) Music, Pinoy Rock, Pinoy Novelty and Pinoy Folk- to which Asin’smusic is categorized. As (probably) with most of my peers, my introduction to the music of Asin was via a bootlegged cassette tape… and the 70’s and 80’s saw the proliferation of bootlegged everything in Manila, especially mixtapes. Along with their contemporaries, Asin’s music was teeming with social commentaries. Interestingly enough, the music they brought forth significantly plays more than just as background score to the most tumultuous part of the country’s contemporary history. Their music became staples in the cries for sociopolitical change at that time and for the years following. While classic OPM ruled the airwaves at that time, the early 80’s through the early 90’s saw its decline when MTV crashed the party, the Manila Sound, Pinoy Rock and Pinoy Folk has been relegated to weekend radio playlist up until a renaissance of sort took its place back mid-90’s.
Fast-forward to 2003 at Vicor Music, Lolit and Pendong had just signed a contract for an anniversary record release. Armed with my Nokia 3210 (yyyyup!), I got Lolit’s mobile number and forwarded her my bespoked ringtone “Cotabato” based on Ang Bayan kong Sinilangan. And because my boss’s office was about three meters away from mine I heard Lolit play the familiar 8-bit tune, followed by a short shriek and a roomful of chuckles. I was outed by my boss’s executive secretary (who btw gave me Lolit’s number) and was ushered in to be introduced as the guy to handle the album cover design and packaging. Pendong and his wife Chat just as soon, asked to be sent the same ringtone. (Whew!) Lolit later revealed that she shrieked because she was just talking about the song and Saro (their departed original vocalist) moments prior and thought it was a haunting!
The pictorial for the inlay, press and marketing releases was another first for me, as I had in collaboration, top caliber and veteran cinematographer Charlie Peralta behind the lens at Roper’s putting in to film what I had only a few days back sketched out. We would later on work on a couple more projects.
Creating the ambigram brought back a lot of great memories… working with the band, and of my 13 year gig at Vicor and even further back when I was younger. At times humming and/or bellowing out lyrics while bobbing my head with the full playlist in my head as I finalize the ambigram, making it a fun couple of days.
Although I almost hardheadedly kept on working on an S/I flip which had me going for a couple of sketches, a fairly easier and more pleasant solution was to, apparently, extend one of the “A’s” leg as a “tail” which would serve as the “N’s” back leg when flipped… making the “S” a perfect pivot. Stretch out each character a bit and ease out the tail to even up the spaces between the “I” and “N” when overturned. Since there were just two glyph to contend with, it was a fairly quick vector process than usual.
Based on the initial sketched design a vector file was created and then tweaked a few different ways. With the ambigram finished to my liking, I thought to myself that it would have been great had I known ambigram 15 or so years ago and have this piece (or a similar version) incorporated with the Baybayinscript on the cover I had done. But no… the Asin logo* holds way more coolness points with its history than this newfangled fan creation. Maybe on a future tribute album release or something… and after this maybe I’ll try a few more with other OPM legends.
#suliktad #danadonajr #imagefoundry
* The more commonly recognized Asin logo is actually it’s second logo. Earlier albums carried a stylized logo with the letters drawn as individual (salt) crystals.
I’m just going to come out and say that although it was not the song – nor the movie – that inspired me to create this ambigram, it, however, kept on playing non-stop in my mind all the while I was in the process. And I will bet John Parr’s voice is taking up space inside your head and between your ears right now as you read these first few lines.
I don’t blame you.
From a monotype sketch comes this fully digital vector. And while I was adamant on anchoring the chain on the “S” I was pleasantly surprised at how the dot on the “St.” abbreviation flipped over to be an apostrophe. As a whole my only concern with this is if the overturned “t” will be too much of an eyesore as it basically has nothing to do there but hang. But really looking at it (especially the full chain version) I thought it did not stick out too much like a sore thumb as I really had to look for that over turned glyph. And I thought to myself that if I even had to look for it, then it probably would not take much away from the whole picture.
I don’t really have much of an essay to write here as this is one of those spur of the moment ideas… I suddenly thought of it (a couple of months back) and somehow managed to finalize the artwork in about two days. Unlike my other ambigrams that I could go on with stories of wracking my brain to find a solution and finding little time to vectorize it- I am happy with this one, this was essentially an easy one for me.
Unfortunately though I could not think of a less obvious title for this post.
I can see the new horizon underneath the blazin’ sky
I’ll be where the eagle’s flying higher and higher...
Panday is arguably the most popular Filipino male comic book hero, and second most iconic, next to Darna. (Ang) Panday ( (The) Blacksmith in English) was created in the late 70’s and fleshed out in to the big screen in the early 80s by Philippine Cinema’s Action King, Fernando Poe Jr., which most likely gave the character just the right amount “creds” for it to be catapulted and cemented to its place in Philippine pop culture.
Although the original cinematic version of Panday, presented ala fantasy adventure period flick, slightly differ from the source material which has a more contemporary flavor to it, all the basic premise are pretty much the same, wherein the blacksmith Flavio forges a dagger from a meteorite and uses it to vanquish evil despot Lizardo and his horde of Orc-like creatures, engkantos and plain clothes henchmen.
The final ambigram above is the third version in a series of sketches and redraws with play on either just Panday and Ang Panday. I went with Ang Panday as Flavio is most often referred to with his title within or outside the story. The other two versions are below.
Initial sketches go as far back as 4-5 years ago.
I decided to present the final art the same way I did the Darna ambigram in hopes of being able to continue on and create a series of homage pieces on Filipino comics characters, similar to what I intended with the DC Ambiverse series.
While I like the television series very much, I do not consider myself that big of a Game of Thrones fan or A Song of Fire and Ice for that matter, having yet to read any of the books, but I know enough to get me through the mythologies and politics per season – I think. Up until season 3, I mixed up who’s who, mistakenly renamed and mispronounced a lot of the places and characters in the show – except probably the main ones and Hodor, I always get Hodor right.
Going through Youtube season 6 trailer reactions a couple of weeks back, I began scribbling what I thought to be an easy flip – Lannister. From a simple monotype sketch, I began constructing from previously created Blackletter characters on my PC the first iteration of the ambigram, which was finished just as soon as started with it.
After that, came Stark, which was also easy. I would have left it at that if – I thought – Baratheon turns out to be a hard flip using the same glyphs. But it wasn’t that bad… so I pushed on.
Main concerns that I had to think around with were making enough distinction between capital and lowercase T and the varying nuances of the Ls and the Rs with respect to their correlating flips. As much as possible I don’t like mixing up caps and lows but with Baratheon I had to let it slide, because using a lowercase r will force me to use a lowercase T with the crossbar at the center or a lower case T glyph with crossbars at both end, which to me did not look good either way.
At the last minute I changed up the e/a flip of Lannister as well as the a/r combo of Stark to retain a streamlined face where all the characters look fairly the same throughout the set of ambigrams. All in all I thought the hardest one to pull off was the u/ll flip of Tully, but I thought I made enough compromise to make it work within the “constraints” I set in place.
And with that I present my Game of Thrones ambigram set.
And lastly… you may find it interesting that the last piece created (and I had thought of making) was this Game of Thrones ambigram, below, seemingly counter intuitive since it’s the show’s title and would make a great capper. With most of the characters and glyphs done it was a fairly quick edit. The main puzzle to be solved were center characters but largely what to do with the capital T. Incorporating the fleur de lis was a clever (or at least I thought it was clever) solution which wouldn’t be too much out of place since it’s found in the other pieces that kind of ties it all nicely together.
According to Philippine urban legends, it is around Semana Santa (holy week) when the power of talismans (or agimat or anting-anting) manifests itself fully. Especially on Good Friday.
When I was young, I hear of tales told of men and women largely from the Southern Tagalog provinces, testing (or showing off) their talismans, which by the way is pronounced talis-man as opposed to the western tal-is-man, in what could be described as a grand fiesta or parade.After an oracion – a prayer spoken in “Latin” – was made, usually around 3pm, to a revered piece of rustic coin-sized smelted metal engraved or cast with either pagan symbol or Catholic imagery, that is either folded inside a similarly venerated cloth or worn around the neck tied to a crude leather twine as a jewelry, the test begin. Since my Latin is limited to those I learned in Biology, I cannot attest to the veracity of any Latin prayer in the stories, ‘tho I think that it’s mostly broken Castellano. Sporting a big grin, participants would hack themselves with a recently sharpened bolo (or any similarly fashioned exhibition) showing the bewildered spectators that indeed the power of prayer and faith in their talisman of choice prevent any harmful affliction.
Supposedly there are number of different specialized agimat. The one I described above is a typical one that block any harmful physical effect. There is also a tagabulag (bulag = blind, blindness) which renders the wearer invisible, and there are those that prevent sickness or poisoning. There are those that are supposed to enhance one’s virility and endowment, and there are those that increase chances of instant financial gratification, yes, a charm for gambling.
This pagan exercise has become intertwined with our Catholic faith, wherein a number of proliferating agimat now bear Christian iconography and mostly all of the deities prayed upon were replaced with names of Catholic cast of characters, however, our version is tied to our South-East Asian (Malay) roots. While the west have just as much rich narrative in their versions of the talisman, I think that the innate nature of Filipinos being a superstitious society made the amalgamation of multiple influences seamless. We are very much welcoming of other nations superstition and brew them in with ours.
Our pop culture is littered with references to heroes owing their powers to such items. A usual story would be of young men seeking hermits and after proving their worth were presented with a highly sought after talisman. While most agimat now can be commercially bought along the side streets of old churches, it used to be that amulets and charms were handed down by elders in their death beds- these are supposed to be the more powerful ones. Although, I remember that talismans provided by nature are even more powerful. Most popular is the Mutya ng Puso ng Saging, where one would need to religiously wait at midnight for it to drip from the tip of the banana blossom and catch it with their tongue. The actual power gained from this ritual seems vague as most story present the hero with whatever the storyteller come up with or as maybe required, ie, plot convenience. But the Mutya has got to be the most romanticized story of the agimat ever.
Personally, my draw to the agaimat is a result of me being a writer/dreamer/artist/creator and I celebrate its place and hold in my culture. But to its efficacy?… nah, maybe when I was 10. Although Manila is a very techie world now, to a certain degree a lot of Filipinos still swear by the agimat, which again I attribute to our superstitious nature. And admit it or not a lot of our historical (and present political) figures and leaders as well believe in the agimat.
The talisman and agimat suliktad were created a few years apart. While I have sketched agimat sometime 2008-9, it was only finished early 2015 to what it currently appear after a series of re-designs. Talisman was sketched early 2016 and was finished to the current style just recently, after a series of re-designs as well, which was an afterthought to make it similar to the style of agimat after realizing that I should put these two together since they are basically the same thing.
Although in creating talisman, I have the option of designing it to a fairly doable rotational ambigram, I opted to create a chain instead as I wanted to preserve the “s” flip more than anything and I really intended for it to form a ring around a symbol, which in the final design turned out to be the word agimat.
The coin and the oracion page were recent edits. However, the coin was a poor scan of the 70’s Jose Rizal peso coin that I had made around the same time in 2008-9. The distressed oracion paper is the same one I have used as background material for other ambigrams you might find in this blog. Finally, the generic pagan prayer in the oracion is a quick English to Google Latin translation, which I found out, oddly translates back to English quite differently.
This suliktad (ambigram) took me years to make.
It’s one of the first words I tried out back when I started doing ambigrams. I think I may have saved the old sketches back home but I remember setting aside the idea since I did not like what I had done then. (I found one of the initial design exploration! See below.) I tried using different “font” style that would fit in with the essence of the word, but nothing seems to fit.I’d come back to the word now and then but I’d set it aside in favor of other more cooperative words.
And while NOW it seem that I had arrived at a “no-brainer” solution, I only was able to visualize it in my mind and put it on paper a few months ago. Makes me feel stupid trying to flip the “U” for over four years. And also probably because I stubbornly wanted to retain the em-width of the “M”. The trick I found was to keep the initial stroke of the “U” detached from the next stem and add a tail that when once inverted- would form the “Y” with its ascender just casually resting over the initial stroke of “U”. GENIUS! I think… The vector process took a while to be done as well because… you know… procrastination. Hehe…
The final vector was a result of multiple revisions and form exploration.
While I felt the letterform in the sketch was great, the initial vector output was not really working for me so I made changes that I felt was warranted. I replaced the small individual crossbars of all the “A’s” with a longer ribbon as crossbar to sweep across two characters, and instead of having the initial stroke of the “U” tilted, I just italicized the whole word. The “G/A” flip looked forced and droopy so some node edits were done.
Gayuma is as you may have guessed, love potion in Filipino. Similar to most western pop culture references it it supposed to be ingested (unwittingly) to rouse up some sort of blind affection(?) to someone’s object of infatuation. Come to think of it, in today’s setting such a thing would definitely be considered illegal.
Anyway, I already have something ready for my next post, so just stay tuned, if you will. Happy Valentines!