Monday, April 9, 2007

Manila Bulletin 2004

The ‘castle’ maker of Navotas


He started tinkering with busted light bulb, transforming it into a 3-inch robot when he was five years old. At 6, he was building miniature castles out of folders and molding clays. By the time he was 8, Jaime Ibañez’s works became more detailed and realistic…far more sophisticated then one might expect from a child his age.

His bedroom has become a “Universal Studio” with matching light effects to boot. There you’ll find the mini versions of Disneyland, “Beauty and the Beast” castle, Queen Amidala’s Theed Royal, a futuristic peace castle, and his favorite…the Ibañez’ Medieval Castle.

Jaime’s works are inspired by the fabulous castles found in fairytale books, and of course, Disneyland…his dream place. At 29, this miniature artist still does what he loves best…painting and creating medieval castles but on a larger scale now.

Jaime is one of 29 Filipino commercial artists tapped in 1994 by the Landmark Entertainment Group who did the conceptualization and construction of Enchanted Kingdom, the country’s first theme park. Landmark is a Hollywood-based design and entertainment company considered as the world’s largest independent theme park designer and developer in the industry. It’s the same company responsible for putting up spectacular attractions such as MCA/Universal Studios, Six Flags and Caesar Palace in Las Vegas.

Call it a stroke of luck if you may, but it was a dream come true for Jaime who was so desperate to find a job at that time. “I had dropped out of college. My sister, who was then managing a boutique in San Pablo, Laguna, hired me as a window display artist. No one appreciated my art except my family. For most people, my works are simply trash, “ he laments.

A native of Navotas, Jaime browsed through the classified ads of a major daily when he spotted the Landmark ad.

“I cut out the ad and rushed to the Landmark store in Makati to submit my resume. I was so disappointed when the guard told me I missed it all because I was five minutes late. I argued with him but to no avail. I was on my way home when I took the ad from my wallet and found out that I had gone to the wrong place. It was the Landmark store pala not Landmark Entertainment,” he said with a laugh.

The rest is history. Jaime trained under Bob Dennis, project art director of Landmark Entertainment Group.

According to Jaime, the eight-week course was an experience of a lifetime.

“We were taught how to mix paint and the secret of effectively portraying everyday scenes and objects down to the last detail with amazing exactness. They refer to the work as ‘scenic art’, “he explains.

Bob Dennis also taught the artists “tromp ‘l oeil,” a French word meaning to “fool the eye.”

It is a style of painting in which objects are depicted with realistic details. This technique is usually done on bare walls,” he elaborates.

The walls usually portray different simulations of wood, stone, and other mundane objects. The technique paved the way for Enchanted Kingdom’s themed attractions.

Jaime recalled that the training site was a nearby field in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, where Enchanted Kingdom now stands.

“We walked around the 13-hectare property that was once a ricefield. The place reminded me of a desert in Fernando Poe, Jr.’s ‘Ang Panday’ movie. But there was this urge to prove something. I told myself that this is the break I’ve been waiting for,” Jaime said.

Jaime’s first assignment was to do the front gate concept façade of Enchanted Kingdom.

“I was given a blue print of the façade. I toyed with the idea of using blue as the dominant color but Bob discouraged me because it would look just like Disneyland. So I used green instead and it turned out just the way we wanted it,” he adds.

In January 1995, Jaime together with 28 artists mounted as exhibit at Glorietta, Ayala, Center, showcasing their artworks’…the finish products of their 8-week training with Bob Dennis.

The other artists were Kimson Abad, Reycelyn Abaya, Melvin Ante, Anthony Bartolome, Ronwell Bete, Genalyn Bocar, Rey Frafil Bocar, John Paul Cardenas, Ester Crisostomo, Joanne de Lara, Alvin Gonzales, Jose Hombrebueno, Roasuro Inocencio, Danny Javier, Alex Marquez, Marlene Mendoza, Ernesto Ortiz, Danilo Peroño, Ruel Rillarosa, Edmon Saldaña, Roberto Sarmiento et. al.

“I was so happy when my 2-dimension castle painting was bought by an art collector for P30,000.Now. I’m more confident about myself. Opportunities started knocking on my door,” Jaime notes.

Jaime has been the scenic artist of Enchanted Kingdom for eight years now. on the side, he stil makes 2-dimension miniature paintings for his growing clientele.

“Aside from going to Disneyland, one of my dreams is to mount a solo exhibit in a popular museum,” he enthuses.

Although Jaime is still saving his hard earned money for his Disneyland trip, he takes pride in being part of the “magic” that is Enchanted Kingdom.

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