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The Art of Edbon Sevilleno

Edbon Sevilleno is one of the greatest illustrators and water color painters in Negros Occidental. His gorgeous watercolors show scenes of landscapes, fantastic fairies, and cockfighting but some of his most beautiful paintings depict ordinary people in Bacolod City.

A mambukal scene
Edbon Sevilleno’s Saydwalk Series

How did I meet Edbon Sevilleno? I was looking at some old Conan the Barbarian Art when I stumbled upon his Facebook Page. I finally met him by happenstance when he was doing an exhibit for a coffee table book – Sugar and Smiles: The Negrense Legacy Beyond 2020.  

Ed very kindly offered to draw my portrait – which I accepted! We began chatting and I asked him if he would like to be the subject of my series of artist interviews and he agreed.

A few months later, I finally had a chance to sit with him and talk about how he first began on his career as an artist.

As the eldest brother of a family with seven siblings in Saravia, (now E.B. Magalona) in Negros occidental,  Edbon Sevilleno left for Manila seeking work.  According to him all he had was a pen and paper but he said to himself that he would turn this plain white paper into peso bills!  

Ed and his siblings.

It was the height of Martial Law, and the streets of Manila were cold and hostile to the young artist who was used to the green sugarcane fields of his home town.

Despite several difficulties, Ed, with the help of one of his friends managed to land a cartooning job at a local tabloid paper called Masa – a sister paper of the Malaya newspaper which was known for its scathing articles against the Marcos Government.

Malaya broadsheet

From Ed’s pen sprang BORJOK (short for Boring jokes). Ed drew the main character –  A long haired, silent hippie-type fellow who encountered numerous obstacles. 

Due to being from the province, Ed was not very skilled in speaking or writing in Tagalog so he decided to make it a silent, pantomime type comic. Borjok’s visual gags and silent humor was a success with the editors and readers of the newspaper.

Ed would continue to draw the comic daily.  Back then, Ed was paid per strip at a rate of 60 pesos per strip.   It was barely enough to live on but to the young artist, it was an amazing experience doing what he loved.

 It was in the 80’s when another event changed the life of Ed. He had gotten a job at Phoenix Publishing house, a publisher of many school textbooks. This job led him to illustrate one of the most important books in Philippine literature,  Maximo D. Ramos’ literary Masterpiece –The Creatures of Philippine Lower mythology.

Clocking in at 444 pages, Maximo D. Ramos’ massive work changed the face of Philippine monsters and mythology.  Maximo Ramos’  vivid descriptions of flesh and viscera eating monsters were brought to life  by Ed Sevilleno’s black and white sketches.  Even today, this book is considered an essential resource to scholars of Philippine Mythology. 

The influence of Maximo Ramos’ work can be seen in the Martial law era of horror movies such as the landmark Shake rattle and roll film

It was a golden age for Philippine horror films and the gold standard of source material was this book with Ed’s gorgeous illustrations. The depiction of monsters and aswangs from local Philippine folklore would be a huge hit with Philippine audiences.  

The Mananangal – a woman monster who would leave the lower half of her body behing while the upper half detached to find victims. To defeat her, pour salt and chilis pepper on the lower half. The Mananangal would be unable to re-attach and then would die.

Coincidentally, one of the directors of the Shake Rattle and roll film would also be from  Negros Occidental – the late Peque Gallaga  – directing the chilling mananagal sequence in the film. 

Direk Peque as drawn by Edbon Sevilleno

Ed soon moved on to animation, with the recently established Optifex animation company, working under famous director Chito S. Roño.

Ed began as an in between animator – a person who draws frames of animation between two keyframes drawn by the head animator. Ed would also work for Hanna Barbera, animating the classic cartoon, Jonny Quest

It was 1986 and the EDSA Revolution had just ended.  The country was free but was in a recession.  Ed decided to seek greener pastures abroad in Saudi Arabia as a graphic designer.. 

Armed with his portfolio of art and his comic strip Borjok, the young artist found himself in a job interview with thirteen other applicants.

The other applicants had big envelopes with impressive designs and art, however only Ed found himself being called back the next day and told that he had the job.

His boss told him that he was selected because of his comic Borjok.  Stunned, Ed asked why.

His boss replied,  “All those other applicants who entered, they had impressive portfolios.. But we know that in advertising, such work is the work of a team and rarely the work of a single individual. ”  I could not see the individual work of the applicant in what they showed me today..”

“But you submitted a comic strip, freshly drawn and published… I could clearly see your work, your creativity.. Your design process.”

Ed was now part of a creative team in Saudi Arabia  His comic strip Borjok paved the way for him to develop his other love – watercolor painting. 

The young artist became proficient in his art and mastered many forms of media. As part of his job, He would travel around the Middle East occasionally coming home to Negros Occidental for a vacation. 

One of Ed’s works depicting scenes from Bacolod Life.

Edbon Sevilleno’s work on illustrating the book; Creatures of Lower Mythology had  planted the seeds of inspiration within Ed who started imagining his own fantastic epic, set in the Philippines.

Many of his fantasy art pieces depict a prince who was transformed into a rooster by an old witch. Accompanied by a duende addicted to cockfighting, this prince would set out on a journey to break the curse on him by meeting 57 diwatas.

This passion project work would continue for years, with Ed occasionally painting and drawing a beautiful fairy creature or a wizened, gnarled gnome as an illustration for his planned epic.

Ed posted his ideas, sketches and paintings of his planned epic on his Facebook page which then changed his life in another way –  He was scouted to continue illustrating Dead Ahead 2– a comic written by Mel Smith.

This epic comic told the story of a group of survivors fighting zombies.  Edbon Sevilleno’s sketches show his mastery of the comic book art form.  However, due to his busy schedule, he found that the long hours of comic book illustrating took a toll on his health and sadly had to stop illustrating the comic.

Zombies and survivors on a cruise ship!

The covid pandemic brought Ed finally home to Negros occidental where he still works as an illustrator and watercolor painter.  Ed is much sought after. He has contributed illustrations to Mga Sugilanon Sang Negros – (Tales of Negros) a coffee table book of myths by Cecille Nava.

Tonyo and the bell from Mga Sugilanon sang negros

Most recently, he was the illustrator for Negros Occidental’s first coffee table book – Sugar and Smiles: The Negrense Legacy Beyond 2020.  

Mga Sugilanon Sang Negros

Currently Edbon Sevilleno is working on his epic tale of rooster and duende and traveling around Western Visayas, drawing and painting landscapes and dreaming . Some of his works can be found at the art district, displayed at his art gallery Studio 57 which he runs with his wife and daughters.

The artist at work!

You can view more of Edbon Sevilleno’s art at his official Facebook page:

You can also visit Studio 57 at Bacolod’s Art district to view his gallery and purchase his paintings. Feel free to contact him for commissions and paintings!

My Edbon Sevilleno commissioned work of Conan the Barbarian!
Studio 57 is open Mondays to saturdays from 1 pm in the afternoons

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