The “Other” Migrante Cover

People often have the misconception that art school teaches one how to “make art”, regardless of predisposition and inclination. It’s easy to overlook such prerequisites as passing a university’s entrance exam first, while already possessing a certain level of skill. It’s not like golf where there is a “consultant” that teaches you which club is used for what. In a perfect world, the reason people go to art school is so that they don’t (need to) reinvent the wheel. It should also be a place where one expands and refines their visual vocabulary for communicating their ideas to an audience. Therefore, developing the ability to draw, paint or sculpt realistically is like acquiring more specialized tools. But, it is only a means to a greater end – To be able to better convey or transcribe an idea from one’s mind as accurately as possible and curb how lack of ability can get in the way. Art should have technical proficiency, abstraction (if present) should always be deliberate and not an excuse, and an artwork should always present an entirely new reality or universe.

Whilst I am in this current phase of manipulating Rorschach-like inkblots, I can’t help but notice that people have more difficulty relating to them as opposed to the purely figurative works. People would rather not have to ‘interpret’ art when it’s arguably supposed to be an “escape”. Thus, works that fall under the extreme ends of the spectrum: absolute realism vs absolute abstraction tend to have greater appeal because one doesn’t have to worry about what’s going on as much. Amusingly, I find myself presenting something in between.

The ink blots are elements created by chance (serendipitously deliberate). I have Pareidolia-ically interpreted them as people, animals, and objects amidst other blobs of abstraction which are left for the viewer to interpret. The task I bestow upon the (willing) viewer addresses one of humanity’s most primal fears: having to search for and create “meaning”. Perhaps this also enables the viewer to experience another highlight and peculiarity of an artistic career –the task of inventing one’s own references to live by.

This work addresses the internal conflict present in every human consciousness. The perpetual battle or negotiation between the Id vs. the duties of the Superego, pitted against the seduction of the Jungian Shadow vs. the social, moral, spiritual duties to the self and society.

It was commissioned by esteemed writer, journalist and musician Joe Henley for his upcoming novel MIGRANTE — A story about the dreams and tribulations of Rizal, a Navotas Cemetery born young man who works as a fisherman in the Taiwan fleet in hope to secure a brighter future for his family. It is based on true to life accounts of the author’s own journalistic research on the exploits of migrant workers abroad.

With the aggressive undertones and glaring white background, how the cover would be received was piquing to say the least. Since this post has been all about pushing against the boundaries of reality, I was extremely happy when the author liked it. Unfortunately, while the publishing house appreciated its artistic value, it wasn’t quite what they had in mind for the cover of a novel. Let’s call what happened next a new opportunity to transform an archetypal sunset scene into a whole new reality.

MIGRANTE, the third novel by writer, journalist, and balls-to-the-wall musician Joe Henley will be available via Camphor Press on July 16. You may order it HERE.

It was a great pleasure working on this project, I feel honored to say the least.

Proceeds from the novel will go directly to the Yilan Migrant Fishermen Union which protects more than 80,000 Filipino fishermen from abusive labor conditions and injustice.

Last but not least, here is my approved design for the cover.