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Pen’s pen and ink

By Tito Genova Valiente / [email protected]

STEPHEN PRESTADO is “Pen,” and he is slowly gaining a following with his works in pen and ink. He is an illustrator in a time when technology can be summoned to quickly produce works that are composite of many elements available in the Internet. Pen’s art harks back to a period when artists were needed to visualize on paper maps and monsters lurking at the edge of the world, writers and intellectuals in their most ponderous of poses, and animals and plants coming to life as anthropomorphic beings.

I first noticed the skills and ferocious imagination of Prestado when he was commissioned to make the poster for the indie film Angustia, made under a grant from Cinema One Originals. Directed by Kristian Sendon Cordero, the film is a meditation on the conflicted colonialists who came to conquer not only our souls, but also our vegetation and our bodies.

The studies for the film poster are a joy to behold, as Prestado jumps from one obsessive point to another—for the film is not only about the anguish of the priest, who feasts not only on local flora and fauna, but also on the lush loveliness of an indigene.

One poster study shows a beaming indigene, half of her face covered by plants. Framing her are more plants, stems and leaves. In the film, the priest collects plants and draws them, a tender metaphor for the facet of colonization that took place where forests were summarily collected by the colonizers. Evangelization also meant taking over the body of the “natives.” In the other studies, Prestado recovered the image of “Angustia,” the old image that was hidden by early converts and later recovered to induce more mysteries in the Christianization of the land. Interestingly, the illustration of Mary bearing the Dead Christ on her lap recalls the crude and flat figures of drawings common during the 1st and 2nd centuries of Christianity.

The drawings of Prestado appear to reproduce the antiquarian feel of the so-called illuminated manuscripts, which were prevalent in the Middle Ages. Marginalia in Prestado’s young universe do not remain as borders or frames done in solid colors. As with those manuscripts done by monks, the wide lines that frame text or images are also copiously filled with text in rambunctious designs. Only the feel of the ancient spirituality are remembered by this illustrator who can be irreverent with forms, as well.

One gets this feeling that Prestado is indeed enamoured with the art of illuminated manuscripts where figures do not have supremacy over alphabets.

Prestado, however, can be whimsical, as well. In fact, it is his whimsy running as counterpoint to his antediluvian temper that brings about a luscious irony.

In a book titled Obras Maestras, written by Dr. Paz Verdades Santos and Marifa Borja Fajardo, both of the Ateneo de Naga University, a woman—a maestra—has green stems and leaves coming out of her orifices. The book is an exhaustive study of Bikol literary works with guides to discussion and lesson plans built around them. Thus, the leaves and stems—growths that are expected to happen when the book is used. The literal interpretation catches the eye and induces the readers to be engaged in the pedagogy of the book.

Daumier and George Cruikshank are two of the ancestors of Prestado insofar as the path of form and texture he has chosen to tread is concerned.

But otherwise, in terms of content, Pen is as post-modern as any good illustrators among the millenials in our midst.

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