Bacolod’s ‘magical realism’ artist illustrates for American graphic novel

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Julius D. Mariveles
An amateur cook who has a mean version of humba, the author has recently tried to make mole negra, the Mexican sauce he learned by watching shows of master chef Rick Bayless. A journalist since 19, he has worked in the newsrooms of radio, local papers, and Manila-based news organizations. A stroke survivor, he now serves as executive editor of DNX.

BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – When Revo Yanson sits in a corner all by his lonesome, one can’t think him to be a creative force.

Lean, bespectacled, he usually brings japa beads in a bag that he uses to meditate.

Even when sketching editorial cartoons (as observed by the writer when he worked with Revo for Sun.Star-Bacolod).

Mostly calm, collected in public, Revo’s artworks (and there are a lot) can best be described by academics as “surrealism.”

He does not fully agree with it.

Growing up in polarized Negros, where even water buffaloes can only be rightists or leftists, Revo was exposed to social realities – poverty, landlessness to name a few.

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His form might be surrealism, he says but the messages are rooted in crude, grounded events like what one can see outside churches – a throng of beggars with empty milk cans on outstretched arms or street urchins sniffing solvents.

Like the magical realism of Gabriel Garcia-Marquez if it were literature?

Yes, Revo says as he nods his head and adjusts his face mask.

Surrealism, in simple speak, can be thought of as “patayog tayog.”

A flight of fancy.

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That is not Revo’s art.

Revo is an established visual artist in the Philippines.

What is lesser known is his being a sought-after illustrator abroad.

“Manug-drawing,” those on the streets would understand it.

An illustrator, sometimes penciller, is more than that.

Think Frank Miller. Or Inji Seo.

An illustrator breathes in the writer’s words and breathes out images.

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Like Revo’s for Calvin Sutter’s first issue of “Veronica,” a supernatural story set in New York that follows the adventures of the titular character, a female vampire.

Revo tells DNX he had been illustrating in the US for a lot of graphic novels though most of these gigs carry non-disclosure agreements or NDAs that prevent him from talking about it.

For those who want to read Veronica and see Revo’s illustrations, simply visit comixology and type “Veronica” or “Revo Yanson” or “Calvin Sutter.”

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