Doktor Karayom’s unusual graphic prescriptions | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Doktor Karayom’s unusual graphic prescriptions
“Grade 3”by Doktor Karayom (L) and Doktor Karayom | PHOTOS: ALTPHILIPPINES INSTAGRAM and ISTORYASTUDIOS.PH
Doktor Karayom’s unusual graphic prescriptions
“Grade 3”by Doktor Karayom (L) and Doktor Karayom | PHOTOS: ALTPHILIPPINES INSTAGRAM and ISTORYASTUDIOS.PH

Doktor Karayom’s art is infamously visceral—quite literally. His work is riddled with bloody and ghoulish representations of bodies human and almost human done in his signature red.

The good doctor announced last December he had written and illustrated a book. His debut “Grade 3” became available in January and was officially launched at Art Fair Philippines in February.

“Until now, it sounds like an episode of ‘Wish Ko Lang’ to me,” says Doktor Karayom, whose real name is Russel Trinidad, said in Filipino.

Creative freedom

“Grade 3” is a collection of short comics published by Bulacan-based Istorya Studios and is the second in the series of graphic works under the “Tagpo Story Collection.” Istorya’s cofounders, artists Rodel Tapaya and Marina Cruz, had approached Doktor Karayom early in 2023 about coming up with a title for the series, and gave him free rein in his artistic and narrative approach.

“As creatives, ’pag binigyan ka ng creative freedom, dun ka magsu-Super Saiyan,” says Doktor Karayom.

The artist considers “Grade 3” his “visual diary,” largely drawing from his experiences growing up in the 1990s and from watching horror shows on TV. Inked in red down to the endpapers, the book centers around the travails and shenanigans of the titular students, with the grisly Doktor Karayom flair. While the book has the humor and randomness of third-grade antics down cold and serves as perfect fare for the weird kid-at-heart, it’s no light reading. “Grade 3” deserves its parental advisory. Even without Doktor Karayom’s characteristically gory visuals, the book dabbles in complex subject matter.

In hewing as close to reality as his absurd sensibilities would allow, Doktor Karayom has crafted a heartbreaking subversion of the children’s adventure plot. In the world of “Grade 3” there are no heroes, and children, with their wide-eyed sense of immortality, learn very quickly how indiscriminate suffering can be: “We know in which country we live in. I don’t want to turn it into a Disney Pixar thing where everything’s fine. No. This is the Philippines. Here, Mickey Mouse really is a rat,” said its author.

Accomplished work

But his offbeat, skillful grasp of narrative is a surprise even to himself. He certainly never expected to be picked up by a publisher. He was also told by someone in the past that he shouldn’t go into books.

This isn’t his first brush with writing, however. A look into Doktor Karayom’s Instagram (@doktorkarayom) shows his penchant for poetry, his keen interest in fitting words together. The artist is known for marrying his artwork with poems, and to do the same for “Grade 3” seemed the natural course.

He calls himself a frustrated rapper in high school, but ended up writing poetry instead.

Doktor Karayom’s method is highly instinctive, almost improvisational even. His process is born out of a desire to preempt getting bored with his work. He professes that creating “Grade 3” was really not that different from making his usual artwork, apart from one key factor.

The poems he pairs with his art are written on the fly and, so he says, take no more than 10 minutes to compose. His approach to storytelling for “Grade 3” is much the same, with plot and visuals conceptualized and finished simultaneously, with immediacy.

The brevity of the stories and his off-the-cuff approach make for a brisk, meaty volume that fully encapsulates the wonders and horrors of childhood. It’s great for the reader who likes to take his comedy and gut punches to-go, wrapped up in a neat little package.

According to Doktor Karayom, he planned the stories to emulate “TikTok vibes” because people now have the attention span of a goldfish.

His patients have much to look forward to. The first two months of 2024 alone proved to be just the initial dose of what’s shaping up to be an eventful year for the artist. “Grade 3” itself was launched at Art Fair Philippines alongside his sneaker collaboration with sustainable footwear brand Lakat.

For “Grade 3” fans, the doctor says this is just the first section. There’s more to come. Kids, after all, have a lot of stories. “Expect the unexpected. Surprise na lang din,” he says.

And with the artist’s drive to embark on fresh creative avenues, who knows, we might even get a rap album after all. —CONTRIBUTED INQ


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