Unfinished business

The problem started with self-doubt. And to anybody out there reading this, let me tell you right now that spending most of your waking hours over-thinking and feeling sorry for yourself will not help your cause. But because I lost faith in my own skills at that point, I slowly found myself neglecting the thing that I used to love the most.

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Illustration saved me from a lot of negativity because I believed that it was all I could to to escape all the fuck-ups with my family, friends, etc. So when I convinced myself that even that could not save me from the terrible things that I put myself in, I had to find another escape. Slowly, I went from creating 50-70 artworks a year to 3-5 finished pieces back in 2013.

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And so far, I’ve only had the time to create one this year. A little sad, don’t you think?

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The other day, someone sent me an email (thanks, Pat!) and told me that I was published in an old issue of Digital Artist Magazine, which I had no recollection about since it was too long ago and the email may have gotten lost in my inbox.

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A 2-page spread feature in an international magazine would’ve made any young illustrator feel on top of the world. But seeing it today, several months late, it reminded me of how much more I could’ve done within those idle months that I was missing in action. Part of me feels guilty of robbing myself the opportunity to improve and hone the talent that was given to me.

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I couldn’t help but flip the pages of my old sketchbooks where I found tons of sketches and plans that never fully came to life. Even in the past year where I was doing so much better than before, I wasn’t able to fully commit to anything. The fire within was missing. The only thing left were embers of what used to be a huge flame that consumed my spirit.

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Now that I am doing a lot better than the previous five or so years, I should no longer have any valid excuse for myself. Except for fear. Today, I realized I’ve been afraid of jumping back into the water where I have not swam in a long time, knowing things have changed and I may no longer be good enough for new tides. Afraid that what I can do may no longer be relevant. That I won’t be able to catch up.

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I’ve been dipping my toes into the water every now and then, just waiting for the right temperature. But if there’s anything I learned in my years of travelling, it’s to dive right in and make the biggest splash you can make. The longer you spend overthinking, the more time you give the demons inside you to grow into something more monstrous. I mean, why would anyone do that to themselves?

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But this isn’t me saying that I’m going back to making art immediately.

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Nor am I aiming to go back to producing 50 artworks a year.

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And this is definitely not a pity-party.

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All I’m saying is that from now on I’m going to work harder to get back in the game.

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I don’t want to waste any more time thinking about things that are yet to happen. If I focus on the blank canvas in front of me and start a single stroke, letting it dance naturally on paper, it’s a thousand times better than just staring at a white sheet for hours.

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Like most people, I have let fear keep me from moving forward. I gave myself too many excuses to stop trying. But looking back on what I have conquered in the last two years of travelling, it makes no sense for me to be afraid of going back into illustration because, damnit, this is one of the things I know I am good at!

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I’m picking things up from where I left them. Starting over, if I may.

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There’s a lot of unfinished business to take care of.

Rough roads: August photodiary

Every year, this month has always been the roughest. I know this because I’ve been vocal about my disdain for August ever since I could remember. The hurdles are usually in abundance and I am left to roll with the punches until the very last minute. But amidst all the negativity, there are still some good days to be remembered as a reminder of the gap from where I was last year.

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Through all of these challenging moments I have come to realize a few valuable things.

1. As much as I love illustration and design, it is no longer my #1 passion. And that’s okay. I should stop forcing it out just because I’ve always had the title of ‘Illustrator’ attached to my name since college. It will flow out naturally as needed.

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2. I don’t understand why I have placed a ridiculous amount of pressure on myself as regards to my Japanese Language Studies. I’ve only been at it for less than 3 months. I can’t expect myself to be a Nihongo expert within that short span of time. Just like what my friend, Love, said “The fact na nahihirapan ka ibig sabihin nun natututo ka. And that’s a good thing.”

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3. It’s been four months since my last big trip back in May. Although I terribly miss being on the road, I get a little bit of satisfaction knowing that I can resist booking a spontaneous plane ticket to anywhere just because there’s a seat sale and instead focus on something that I will benefit from in the future… like education.

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4. What has been keeping me sane and comforted throughout the month are good food and great friends. I will always be grateful that there are people on my side as I attempt to become a better person.

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5. Most importantly, the biggest lesson here is that not everyone out there is out to hurt me. So I should stop hurting people back. Sure, I have burned quite a lot of meaningful bridges but that doesn’t mean I build bigger walls around myself to prevent any more hurt from happening. I think it’s time to start opening up to people again and invest in new relationships. Just because I’ve failed several times in the past that it would be the same for the future. Also, I should stop using the word ‘bitch’ to describe myself.

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It’s challenging to balance a full time job during the day, language classes in the evening, late night freelance work, weekend side trips, social night outs with friends, my blogs, AND go home to my parents at least two weekends a month!

Now that I’ve listed them down, I need to give myself a pat on the back because this is far from where I was a year ago where I would spend days lying on my bed feeling sorry for myself and drowning in unnecessary emotions. I may not be as efficient as I’d like to be but I am constantly adjusting myself to keep up. It’s never too late to turn things around.

So thanks for roughing things up a bit, August! I should be ready for September now. =)

Process: Year of the Fox

It has been a while, world! Putting aside any excuses on how I was not able to make time to work on some personal illustrations for several months (7 to be exact), I am extra giddy the universe allowed me to create a new one this past week. And to kickstart the first official artwork on this new old blog, here is a quick rundown on my process for ‘Year of the Fox‘.

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Every time I start a new illustrating season, the first output always has to be a self-portrait just because I am vain like that. It also gives me a chance to sharpen any skill that have rusted through time because of neglect. The last one I did was all cutesy and nice, so this time around, after getting over a lot of self-doubt, my goal was to create a much stronger character for myself. Char.

I go through these phases where I associate myself with animals and think of them as spiritual totems and for the past couple of years, I have been using the fox to symbolize mischief and playfulness, cunningness and being able to see through deception, and because I have always related to the fox in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s book ‘The Little Prince’.

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Initially, I would sketch my concept on a square divided into 9 equal parts so I can balance the composition of the image. And when I’m settled with the basic elements of the drawing, I would transfer it to my big Moleskine sketchbook for more details.

Knowing my process, the sketch won’t be as detailed because I tend to move around, add, and omit elements during production. The lineart remains as guidelines to the most important things on the canvass. Here, it’s the characters.

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I scan the final sketch so I can trace it on Illustrator. But before playing with the pen tool, I would carefully pick out the color theme and come up with the initial 36 colors to be used on the entire thing. This is where my obsessive-compulsiveness strikes as I strictly stick to my palette until I move on to the next phase.

If you notice I have already redesigned the fox because I found the first one to be a bit elitist and snobbish, qualities I don’t want to be associated with.

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When I started working on the background, I realized that the big ass mountain behind the main guy wasn’t working out. This has been a recurring realization with my art, some things may look good on paper but would not translate well once I start rendering the drawing. Every time this happens, which is quite often, it would set me back for a few hours staring at the canvas to think of a replacement.

Sometimes, the answer is as simple as adjusting the height of the mountain that would show my character is at a more significant height than the previous one. Because the mountain range looked too simple, I decided to add some Tibetan prayer flags. These flags are used up in the Himalayas to promote peace, compassion, wisdom, and strength and the Tibetans believed that these prayers will be blown by the wind to everyone below, benefiting all. Taray.

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The next challenge was to figure out what to do with so much space on the upper half of the image. My usual go-to escape is to fill up the sky with clouds, and I was almost contented with the outcome until one of my colleagues at work suggested I put a starry nightsky instead (Thanks, Gene!). So I grabbed a random photo off the web and placed it for comparison, and although it looked good I wasn’t sure it was right for the aesthetic I was going for because it suddenly made my illustration too dark.

But to steer away from my default cloudy sky, I adjusted more elements and compromised with the idea until I was happy with it. It certainly had no need for clouds after all. I thought of adding a Scorpius constellation at the top (I’m a Scorpio), but Gene asked if there was a constellation of a fox that I can use as an alternative. After a quick trip to Google, we were surprised there actually was one named ‘Vulpecula’. Awesome.

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This is why I believe it’s important not to be too attached with the initial sketch because in the process, one would always find new and better things to change and add in an illustration before it would feel complete. After adding some texture and a few more color adjustments, it was done.

On the first ten days of the year!

Here I am sprawled on the bed on a Friday night, sipping on a glass of hot dalandan juice freshly squeezed with my trembling hands 20 minutes ago, and the soothing smell of Vicks VapoRub on my bare chest and philtrum calming me down. It’s the 10th day of January (I thought it was the 9th!) and I am under the weather.

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Three years ago, on this month, I spent a couple of weeks recovering from surgery. Every year after that I found myself suffering from respiratory problems caused by that darn cancer stick (I swear I’m gonna quit this time!), and change in climate. Dry cough, flu, sinusitis. The works. It’s making things a bit miserable for me at the moment, however… Continue reading

10 life lessons I learned in 2013

What an interesting year it has been! From starting it out quite miserably, the last 8 months brought me tons of new experiences and life lessons. Turns out, more mistakes make you more resilient to bullshit until you are finally fed up well enough to start making some changes. Stop consuming bullshit, people.

"Being grown up isn't half as fun as growing up"

“Being grown up isn’t half as fun as growing up”

Everything’s still in ‘Work in Progress’ stage but there is a bit of relief to how things are shaping up. And since I firmly believe in the concept of equivalent exchange, I have lost quite a few important things in order to acquire new ones. Sacrifices I’m willing to make at this point. Continue reading

Meraki: work with heart

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At 10, I kept a journal with information gathered from books and kid encyclopedias. Each spread containing trivia that normal kids at that age would find irrelevant like illustrated types of clouds, an alphabetically arranged list of all the countries in the world and their capitals which I then memorized, nautical flag guides, wilderness survival symbols documented from when I was a cab scout, and many more. My favourite sections were a map of constellations that included brief descriptions of each group of stars and their origins, and a long list of mythological gods and monsters. I had early signs of being an adventurer with all gathered information laboriously recorded on my notebook by hand.

At 13, I created two graphic comic books in between classes and during summer vacation when I had no friends to play with in the neighborhood because none of the other boys liked effeminate behavior. The first was about anthropomorphic heroes in medieval times; the second had characters inspired from role-playing games like Final Fantasy 7 and Suikoden 2. The line work was terrible, the plot awfully conceived, but I thought I was a genius.

At 16, I compiled the lyrics of all the songs I liked and kept every page filed in a self-binded folder that grew to an inch thick. Two columns, back to back, font size 10, cyan, Tempus Sans. It was passed around classrooms and returned to my hands at the end of each day. I kept a separate notebook where the words to my favourite songs were carefully handwritten on the black pages using silver metallic pens.

At 21, I had a folder on my desktop that contained digital illustrations and scanned sketches that I have created since I started college. A new file would be added to the collection at the end of each week. Sometimes two. At most, I can whip up five decent artworks in seven days and I would post them online where people from all over the globe could tell me how great I was even though I believe there was still much to be done.

At 25, I had documented hundreds of stories about my personal life since I stepped out of college. Recorded on it were personal experiences, first-hand account of explorations, achievements, heartbreaks, and cherished relationships. Each sentence represented a minute of my existence, an hour of my life summarized in a paragraph, a day shortened in a post.

At 27, none of those things mentioned above exist anymore. Instead, I have fragmented memories of the past, a list of unfinished work, a mental note of future plans, a collection of misunderstood relationships, and a handful of life lessons.

If the universe permits me and if I allow myself, I wish to pour the essence of myself into something again by the time I hit 30. It has been a while. It’s about time.

Twenty-seven

So it’s true. It’s not how much you spend on your birthday but how and who you spend it with that matters. Since I was not able to plan on a special trip, I figured treating my friends to a great dinner would make up for a boring weekend.

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Cheers for the most flattering photo of the night!

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November exhibitions

Hello, November! It seems to be a very hectic first half of the month since I’ll be part of two group exhibitions and I am still not finished with any of my pieces! So typical. They are opening on the same weekend, so do drop by if you are available and near the area since there are tons of great artists that’ll be showcasing their works.

Group shows for my birthday month!

Group shows for my birthday month!

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Chapter 26: The transition

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Last February, I sat inside a coffee shop with Mikka, my pretty and petite friend from college, as we shared a sunset and several sad stories about how our lives were far from personal expectations. We pinky swore that things must change for the greater good and I find it amazing that eight months later we would be exchanging happier stories to each other. It’s about damn time!

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