My passion for art and design only took off after I taught myself Adobe Photoshop at the age of 14. Funnily enough, my childhood dream was to become a dentist so being an artist was never on the table. And yet, for some reason, learning a digital program became the trigger that made me change my college plans at the last minute. I did grow up being exposed to picture books, cartoons, and the Internet, so this probably played a huge factor in helping me unleash the creative side I never knew I had.
I consider my high school years to be my initial training ground. I remember utilizing my Photoshop knowledge on my school projects as a way to practice. When my school found out what I could do, they eventually assigned me to design posters for school functions and events. I realized that I was really enjoying it despite not getting paid for the work, so I guess this became the turning point that finally convinced me to pursue design as a career.
The course I took up in college exposed me to several design fields including Animation, Graphic Design, Web Design, Video Production, Photography, and Game Design to name a few. Throughout college, I noticed that I excel the most in Web Design so I chose this field to set my plans on after graduation. I got my first job at age 19 as a web designer for a network company. It was worthwhile for a time and the team was great, but the technicality of the work made it less fun for me. During this time, I found myself getting fascinated by typography, lettering, and illustration. This fascination led me to take on freelance projects like book covers and hand lettered posters as a way to destress. It didn’t take long before I realized that I was enjoying freelance work way more than my actual work. I took my cue from there and decided to quit my day job to become a full time letterer and illustrator.
During my early days in lettering, I used to refer to the work of my favorite artists way too much, to the point that my work is starting to look a lot like theirs. I realize that this is every artist’s nightmare — to be stuck under the shadow of another artist’s style. I used this frustration to fuel my desire to carve my own. Little by little, I tried to make something as often as I could without ever looking at another artist’s work — or if I do, I only used their work as inspiration and made sure not to cross the line beyond that. I created TONS of posters in a year. The repetition greatly helped me figure out my own process, and after years of doing this, it finally paid off. The first time someone recognized my work without my name on it had been the most rewarding feeling!
Finding your style is a gradual process and you can’t fully develop it overnight. It takes endless trial and error and experimentation before you can settle on the one you’re most comfortable with. If you’re just starting out, you can observe and try out the styles of different artists, as long as you’re not lifting a direct copy of their work. You’ll notice that the more you explore on different styles, the more you’ll be able to cancel out those that don’t fit your preference. Just keep going at it. Draw as much as you can. Debunk your work and repeat. As I said, the effect will be gradual and you might even fail to notice that you already found your style until you do.
One of my favorite collaborations to date was the project I did with Nick Jr. We made a new installment of their “Alpha Beats” series where I took charge of the main design and illustration. I’m aware how my style caters more to the younger audiences so the entire project was right up my alley. When I visited New York a couple of months after, they invited me to visit the Nick Jr. office, and there I got to meet some of the team and we watched the final animation altogether. It was such a memorable experience!
This quote by Hank Green perfectly encapsulates what I really wanted to say, "You’re going to suck at first, because we all do. So you shouldn’t judge yourself based on the capabilities of people who have been developing skills their whole lives”. It was a nice reminder that not everyone starts out great, so don’t compare your progress to those who have been hustling their way in the industry for many years. Just take your time, embrace your weaknesses, and trust your process.