Jepot, Tong-Tong, Dado, Aissy, Brex—these are the memorable characters that have graced the Witty Jepot comic series since 2017. To say that Jeffrey Ryan “Jeff” Dizon has caught the fancy of his readers is a huge understatement. His Facebook page (now with over 50,000 followers) is a testament to how well he was embraced by Filipino comic readers online. Jeff Dizon is well-known in the independent art and comics community, and his humor, along with his steadfast nature to level up his skills, have made him a force to reckon with.
As of this writing, Jeff Dizon is working hard to complete the cover for Frank G. Rivera’s novel “Si Jose Rizal Sa (Loob at Labas ng Kagila-gilalas na) Daigdig ni Ato”. According to Jeff, this is his first book project. We sat down with Jeff Dizon in a timely kumustuhan to ask him about his art and passion for creation.
According to Jeff, he doesn’t earn anything from Witty Jepot, but he continues creating because he and his readers have a give and take relationship. “Walang profit sa pinagkakaabalahan ko ngayon bilang artist. I do comics online pero para magkaroon ng palitan ng benepisyo between me and the followers. Magluluto ako, kakainin nila, sasabihin nilang ‘masarap,’ parang gano’n. Paraan din para maging aktibo ang mapaglaro kong utak,” said Jeff.
Like many artists, Jeff started his comics journey early in life, creating comics for his classmates in elementary school. He went on to finish the first three volumes of original comics in high school.
“Nag-start ako elementary pa lang, sa isang bond paper na tinupi. Tatlong magkakaibang comics at isang puzzle sa likod, gamit ko lapis lang. Araw-araw din ‘yan, umiikot sa classroom. Pagbalik sa akin, may sagot na yung puzzle.
“May comedy ako sa harap (na parang Pupung), then horror naman sa next page (bootleg ng Tawak) atsaka action sa next page (bootleg ng Ghost Busters). Highschool, nakabuo na ako ng tatlong volume ng una kong original. Natigil no’ng college. Ang big comeback sa comic scene nitong 2017, which is Witty Jepot,” Jeff continues.
Jeff also plans to release two mini stories after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Witty Jepot often garners hundreds of likes and comments each time Jeff uploads new comics. Jeff’s punchlines are easily digestible and well-framed. His art style has evolved through the years. Witty Jepot began as simpler sketches on paper, before Jeff upgraded his work with digital art. His characters now have color, with human-like anatomy and proportions while retaining the original, essential facial and body features. Dado and the rest of the gang are now more visually dynamic, with Jeff’s signature punchy dialogues and true-blue Filipino comedy. What differentiates Jeff’s work from others is how he digs a little deeper into the emotions of characters each time he tells a new story. He isn’t afraid to step outside the conventions of Filipino humor to arrive at something more substantial with each new attempt. His comics are ironic and edgy at times, too, but they are all ultimately refreshing, with a steady pulse that reflects Pinoy life at each uncertain turn in time.
Jeff considers his Witty Jepot readers and fans as his constant source of inspiration. A huge part of his Witty Jepot’s success, he owes to how his fans treasure and connect with his characters.
“Hindi ko matapatan ng tamang salita e, pero ‘yong koneksiyon nila sa mga karakter ko, iba talaga. It’s as if buhay ‘yong mga karakter dahil kinakausap nila, at ginawa rin nilang parang tunay na barkada. Ewan ko kung anong milagro nangyare, pero tuwang-tuwa ang puso ko dito,” Jeff recounts.
The creative process
Jeff makes sure that he is in the mood before working on art, whether it be Witty Jepot or any other endeavor. “I see to it na nasa mood ako. Mas mabilis, mas maganda, mas nakakatawa. Saan ako kumukuha ng mood? Sa mga comments din ng mga followers sa previous posts. Give and take nga kung tawagin.”
Admittedly, says Jeff, his first project with Rebo Press Book Publishing brought him out of his comfort zone. “Kay Sir Frank, gulantang talaga ako. Wala akong idea kung paano ang atake na gagawin ko sa cover. Pero no’ng nabasa ko na lalo sa kalagitnaan, naging napakadali na lang ng lahat kasi sobrang daming ipi-pitch sa iyo na ideas to the point na kailangan kong mamili ng isa. Sobrang lawak ng imahinasyon ni Sir (Frank),” says Jeff.
How does he deal with the execution of ideas, from book to art? Jeff tells us about the slightly uphill battle to bring the book cover art to life. “‘Yong idea madali, pero ‘yong approach at execution medyo nahirapan ako kasi labas ito sa comfort zone ko, e. I did a lot of research para dito as in napuno ang gallery ko ng screen captures. Itong project na ‘to, ramdam na ramdam ko ang improvement ko kasi na-challenge ako’t na-inspire. Napakagandang kombinasyon no’n. Challenge, sabayan mo ng inspirasyon.”
For improving artistic skills, he has this to say: “Exposure, research, trial and error. ‘Yon ‘yong mga key points ko sa pagpapalago ng skills. Also critics…malaking tulong sa skill up!”
And finally, Jeff offers some sage advice for up and coming artists in the community: “For aspiring artists, be proud of your work pero huwag kang mang-aapak. Find ways to be inspired. Explore new things, palawakin ang inyong mundo.
Take some breaks, at huwag i-pressure ang sarili. Do some chores dahil most of the best ideas ay hindi habang kaharap mo ang papel at lapis. Ang mga content ko mostly ay hindi ko iniisip habang kaharap ang laptop. Madalas habang naghuhugas ako ng pinggan, o naglilinis ng bahay, o nag-aalaga ng bata. Ang mga ideas, gusto-gusto niya dumarating kapag hindi mo siya inisip.”
It appears that the world needs more of Witty Jepot and Jeff Dizon, and we at Rebo Press Book Publishing can’t wait to see more of Jeff’s work grace our publications as well.