Rob Cham

Comics. It’s the idea of telling stories and playing around with images and words that appeal to me, manipulating time with panels, playing around with what comics can do. It’s something I enjoy seeing and I’d want to play around with that. 

Rob Cham is an illustrator, writer, comics artist and a friend. He co-edits a comics anthology called Abangan (Filipino for Anticipate or ‘watch out for’). He’s done illustration and comics work for brands and publications like McDonald’s, Adidas, Rogue, Esquire, the Philippine Star, the Inquirer, and Neonmob. 

"I used to work for Create.ph, a web design studio based in Manila where we did some really cool things. I teach illustration part time now at Ateneo De Manila University, and am freelancing at the moment. I’m a co-editor of this comics anthology called Abangan where we try and showcase the local comics scene and the many amazing talents out there, and celebrate comics in general. I’m currently working on my first graphic novel ‘Hipsters’ which should be out by September this year, along with several other comics projects. "

"At the start of my career when I was freelancing in college, I was sort of all over the place? Not in terms of what mediums I was using, I stick mainly to digital these days, and back then as well, but it was all the brushes I could get my hands on in those days that lead me to experiment with trying to figure out a style? I was leaning towards painting, then collages, but found myself just really loving the look of my work when it was just more of pen and ink, so I sort of stuck to that for a lot of my work, and it helps that I wanted to do comics and this was the more time-efficient way. I leaned a lot towards mindless doodling back then where it was everything and the kitchen sink. I then sort of took that attention to detail and applied it to my ‘Headspace’ style with the exploding organs and what have you. Usually I tackle projects by gathering images/pegs on what I think could work on the project. This could be browsing through the comics/books I’ve collected or just looking at Tumblr. I then start sketching out all the ideas I’ve got and propose them to the client. That’s about as much of the usual thing I do for clients, it varies from that point. For my own stuff, it’s a lot of thumbnailing til I figure out what exactly works or what doesn’t then I try and finish the project afterwards. "

"My favorite work is Beehive Heart. It’s this comic I worked on with my friend, Petra. I put in a lot of work into it and it was probably the only thing I worked on that got to me as emotionally as it did. I teared up a little when reading the script for it. It’s sort of this really personal work she wrote with me in mind saying she thinks she could only ever trust me to do it justice, that was a big deal for me, and I took it to heart to just make it the best thing ever, because I just had so much to live up to with this. She explains in the comic a lot of her personal issues and how she deals with a lot of it. I remember showing this to a lot of my friends and they pretty much think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, which is just, yeah. A lot of people wrote to us telling us how it affected them deeply and I don’t know. I remember Petra showing it to her mom and it made her cry. I have no idea."

"I want to work on something like Prophet. It’s this comic series by Brandon Graham and amazing artists that tell his expansive story. Each artist tells the story from the perspective of one character in this grand space opera they’re weaving together. I want to work on something like that where my collaborators and I are just firing on all cylinders. I also want to just storyboard a cartoon show like Adventure Time or Regular Show, or somehow contribute to the amazing work these people do."

"Composition is the most challenging part. I usually spend most of the time thumbnailing and planning compared to finishing a piece. It’s figuring out how to make everything click together with what I want to say, and also possibly hiding what easter eggs I can with the piece. It has to balance saying what it needs to say while also being something pleasant to look at. Knowing how to communicate with just visuals is the key. There’s a certain ambiguity you can have when you just sort of show what a character in a comic is doing/emoting compared to letting the words on the page explain what is happening, and I think that’s a strength in illustration as well where you can have it interpreted in different ways if you get it just right. And, don’t be afraid to bare your soul? It’s corny but it’s just that a lot of the comics I enjoy just have that brutal honesty about them. I remember reading Blankets by Craig Thompson, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, and Clumsy by Jeffrey Brown, all autobiographical work that doesn’t cut corners on a lot of ugliness of the creators. They choose to share with us this ugly side of them, the insecurities, the beauty of what it means to be honest. So I try and do that as often as possible with my own work and life, where there’s just this faultiness to me, that I shouldn’t be so afraid to show it. It makes for more fun conversations, and hopefully weeds out a lot of people I would never get along with anyway haha."

"The thing I love the most about my career has to be looking at the work once it’s done, and seeing people’s reactions to it. There was this piece I sketched out that was of me and my ex, having sex, on a couch. It’s sort of sleazy I know but I was trying to sort of capture this dissonance I had with the past, how I never could have that back again. I was just waking up one day and saw the couch in the other room and just had this flashback to that. My friend Nan brought it up with me while we were drinking how this piece really affected him? He was creeped out mostly, but wanted to point out just how you see where my head was at at the time where I was outside my self and that there was that alien-ness to seeing something of a very intimate moment, and how you find yourself just looking at these memories and not having much of anything to do because you just can’t. Just trying to share an example of how I enjoy hearing people’s reactions to my work? Sorry if this got off topic or way too divergent, haha."

Don’t stop. 
Experiment.
Be Kind.