John Jay Cabuay illustrates Bob Marley book

The children’s book ‘Get Up, Stand Up’ using Bob Marley’s lyrics sends a strong message against bullying.  His daughter Cedella does the adaptation, and Cabuay the illustration.

On the last year of his master’s program at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), John Jay Cabuay got an offer from his agent: “Bob Marley’s daughter, Cedella, is doing a children’s book and is really interested in your illustrations.” 

Despite his busy school schedule as a student and a teacher, and fatherhood, John Jay accepted.

“I couldn’t pass up the opportunity and took it up head on,” mused the artist. “I mean, c’mon! It was a Bob Marley project!”

John Jay emigrated from Manila when he was only 12 years old. His family settled in New Jersey but John wanted desperately to be in New York City. So, he moved in with some of his relatives in Queens where he attended high school and eventually art school at FIT. He eventually earned his bachelor’s degree, and more recently, his Master’s in Fine Arts in Illustration. So impressed were his instructors that they hired him to teach.

“He’s a really good instructor and he loves to give us extra insights about working as a professional freelancer,” said one of his students, Ramon Gil, who is a comics books artist.

Aside from teaching, John Jay has also done illustrations for clients around the world like Deloitte, GQ Japan, The Saturday Evening Post, The Observer, The Washington Post, Backstage, Politico, and many more. He has illustrated numerous book jackets for major publications and magazine covers as well. 

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Cover art for The Washington Post
Journalist Anderson Cooper

He told Politico how he started out as a fashion illustrator until he realized he was more interested in “storytelling instead of just working with one pose and beautiful clothes.” His process is to begin by drawing people by hand and then applying colors digitally “still making sure they have an organic finish.”

“Get Up, Stand Up” by Cedella Marley — based on Bob Marley’s song of the same name — was recently published by Chronicle Books and is getting great reviews. 

“Cabuay supports the lyrics with the kinetic flair of a music video in boldly colored, textural pencil and digital illustrations that convey the vitality and imperative force behind Bob Marley’s message,” writes Publishers Weekly.

“The illustrations are bright and bold, and the characters display tons of energy and attitude. The bullying scenes are depicted in an easy-to- understand way, while the reaction for the others includes standing up together. The diversity of characters makes it clear that this wonderful message is for everyone. There’s a sense of unity in every scene,” states an Amazon review.

Now that the book has been published, John Jay is able to take a breather. He continues to teach, do freelance work as an illustrator, and help out with the school’s Diversity Comic Con.

“After two years dedicating my life to the book, it’s a relief to finally have the book out there. My daughter, my wife and I also appear in the book in little cameos,” he said. “Yeah, that’s cool.”

© The Filam 2019

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