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Daily Tribune at 21: Meet its graphic arts team



A newspaper’s look matters as much as its content. And what readers see — the titles, pictures, drawings and layout of the reports and feature stories on the paper’s pages — are a product of the collaborative efforts of the publication’s art department.

Daily Tribune has been blessed with a dynamic graphic arts team.

“The initial batch of Tribune artists came from our team in the Manila Standard,” says Daily Tribune managing editor Aldrin Cardona. “It was led by Sonny Bismonte, an award-winning artist who designed the first two mastheads of Tribune.

Cardona recalls that he later on brought the team to join the Philippine Post and, after a year, moved to Tribune.

Two years ago, Bismonte retired due to health reasons.

Tribune’s current graphic arts team is composed of Edwin Venturina, Glenn Tolo, Ismit Mendez, Avic Clemente, Au Bulan, Lor Bulacan, Jas Lalog and Jon Gamboa.

Every day, the team wrestles with a tyrannical adversary: the deadline.

How do the artists handle the pressure of daily deadlines? What are their biggest challenges in design and layout? Why did they become graphic artists in the first place?

Edwin is nonchalant: “I don’t know… But pressure is part of work. You get used to it. Coffee and cigarettes are enough to lick pressure. But the biggest challenge is to make the layout unique. It has to be the best. Before going to bed, I must know how a page will look. I hate it when the photos I expect to use are not the ones the photographers turn in.”

Coke and something
to munch on
Avic, who shrieks with urgency when pressed for time, says: “I handle pressure with grace, charot!” But her stress-busters are simple: “As long as there’s Coke and something to munch on, I’m okay.”

‘There are no boundaries in doing cartoons, except in some instances when the boss thinks the drawings may be libelous.’

GLENN Tolo and Edwin Venturina: Always on their toes to keep up with the times.

She says artists must be on their toes to keep up with the times: “You have to be more creative by reading about the latest trends in design that are applicable to newspapers. Keep an eye on the competition. You squeeze the last drop of your creative juice when the boss is too demanding. Sometimes it affects one’s self-esteem, but it’s nonetheless challenging. You need to be a keen observer. Sometimes I dream about the layout, especially when the deadline for special projects nears. I never wanted to be a graphic artist, but I guess I was destined to be one… because I’m maarte.”

Learning by observing
Lor says everyone in the team pitches in when needed. How she deals with pressure: “I eat, listen to music and play games.” She feels challenged when editors don’t like her layout. “I was a computer encoder and went on to work at the IT department of Manila Standard. I didn’t know anything about layout but learned from Avic and Au by watching them work.”

For Au, one needs to focus so as not to be rattled during deadlines. “And there’s got to be coffee and food while working. The biggest challenge is how to improve the paper’s layout for it not to be boring. I wasn’t really an artist, I just learned when I started working in a newspaper.”

Jas, who has worked at various papers for many years, says she’s used to daily deadlines. For her, innovation is key to newspaper design and layout.

She recounts how she became a graphic artist: “I started as an editorial assistant/proofreader at the Manila Times during the time of the Gokongweis. I underwent training in layout and was promoted. Since I love fine arts, I pursued it. I left newspaper work for a time and tried textbook publishing. That’s when my craft improved and my knowledge widened. I learned not only about graphics but also about conceptualization. And then I worked in magazines. I did all sorts of projects but I’m happy to be back to the papers.”

Tarseeto’s alter ego
Glenn is Tribune’s cartoonist — the alter ego of the paper’s mascot, Tarseeto, who appears every day on page one.

He’s been drawing since he was five years old: “I love comics and fell in love with DC and Marvel characters. In high school I made bookmarkers and pop art versions of comic cartoons on cardboards, painting them with poster colors to be given as gifts.”

He explains his work at Tribune: “I see to it that Tarseetos’s corner makes readers smile amid all the serious stuff in the news. I also do the editorial cartoon in the commentary section on page five, where the subject is more complicated. I have to convey the writer’s views through the cartoon, and do it with no labels and text as much as possible. As our boss says, “Let the picture tell the story!”

Does he follow certain standards in his drawings, or does he do it as freely as possible?

“There are no boundaries in doing cartoons, except in some instances when the boss thinks the drawings may be libelous. My general rule is to drive the message with humor without being too callous. Boldness with humor is what I always try to achieve.”