Aaron Felizmenio works as a full-time professional ftreelance illustrator and comicbook artist. He has several self-published comics, and is mostly known for his work on Gwapoman 2000 and Pangil. He has a more recent title, a comedy entitled, Komiks Labal sa Diablo. Aaron loves to draw, but when he’s not busy working on his art, he often finds himself playing video games. You can find out more about Aaron Felizmenio over on Instagram, Twitch, and Facebook.
Q: Everyone has an origin story. Could you share with us the exact moment (or moments) wherein you realized that you wanted to become an artist?
Like every artist, we all started when we were young. We all loved to draw. I kept drawing, trying to be an artist. Been recognized in elementary and in highschool as one of the artists of the batch but it never really sunk in for me. I just loved to draw; it kept my mind intact, and away from distractions. It helped that my cousin is an artist as well, I learned a lot from him. I felt I was good at it until I went to college. When I entered UP College of Fine Arts, I thought I was good, or at least good enough.
Q: From that moment, and throughout your journey as an artist, what has been your biggest struggle?
Apparently I was just, JUST, good enough to make it through the talent test of UPCFA. I walked in the corridors of my college thinking, “Hell yea I can call myself an artist now,” only to see the works of my classmates. And man, they were amazing! It really shocked me to know people that age are at that level, and I kept asking myself how the hell did I pass? My drawings were really below average. I was too young to deal with those stuff and the only thing I thought of was to grind. To practice non-stop.
Q: How have you been able to cope with (or overcome) this struggle?
And non-stop practice was what I did. Nevermind the plates or the projects my professors throw at me. Usually they give those plates with 2 weeks time to finish, I finish them as quick as I can, usually overnight after the day it was given, so I can practice my craft. That gives me at most, 13 days to keep practicing. This is still non-stop! I still sleep properly though. Which was great.
Q: What would you consider is the ONE thing that REALLY helped you level up your skills?
It was great to be around fellow artists that are eager to improve their craft. But what was greater was to find people with the same interests, same humour, same attitude towards art. I draw with them side-by-side. I learned from them, they taught me things I wouldn’t know if I did things on my own. They introduced me to a lot of artists that l learned from. And man, those helped a lot. Like Goku training in that Hyperbolic Time Chamber.
Q: What is one thing you’d wish you’d known before you started your artistic career? Why?
There’s really nothing I wish I’d known before I started my artistic career. There were no “what if’s” for me back then. It was mostly “I can do it, I can make it! If <artist> can do this, so can I!” I think, maybe, if anything, what I wish for was I should’ve focused on comicbook art rather than doing fine art stuff. But I have no regrets in that either because I still apply all those things I learned way back to the things I do now.
Q: What drives or inspires you to continue making your art?
I love the stories and characters I made. Most of them are loosely based on real life people - not the events per se. The stories I made, however flawed they are, I love them. And that’s what pushes me, what drives me to continue. I don’t want to perfect them, I just want them to be presentable enough for the audience to like, to understand what my stories are trying to say. And I can say it’s my fault for trying to make these stories which I can’t draw, and I illustrate with subpar drawing skills, haha!
Q: What does your average day look like? (And when do you fit in the time to create art?)
I changed this year’s schedule to focus on more improvements. I decided to do a Daily/Project 365 thing where I just draw whatever everyday throughout the year. Two to three years ago I was, let’s just say really, uninspired. The drive I had back in college was missing and that’s what I’m trying to bring out again, and so far it works! I wake up late in the morning, just maybe a couple of hours before lunch. I do my daily sketch, that’s about an hour or 2 depending on the intricacy of the detail - also known as - the fun I’m having with that sketch. After lunch, I do some other drawing related work. That’s tricky tho, because those drawing related works are mostly me talking to writers, project managers, and the likes and I can say - it’s really draining. That eats up a lot of my time. I get some breaks in between, of course. I always end that at around 9-10pm. That’s where I cool down where I play video games with my friends, and then sleep by midnight. Or maybe eat first, since I know I won’t be having breakfast the next day.
Q: How do you deal with distractions or challenges that you encounter while you’re working on your art?
The problem with distractions is that they’re always there, you can’t honestly anticipate them. Things will happen. There are things in your control, like other interests like video games. Those things, you can embrace. You can schedule it and try to be disciplined with it.
Other things like emergencies, family and friends stuff, you can’t control them. So what I did years ago, part of my practice, was to learn on how to draw really fast. The idea was, if I can draw faster, maybe I’ll have more time to deal with other things. That idea stretched out so much to the point where sometimes I can do so much in one day that I don’t have to do things the next day. So if there are unexpected errands, I’ll have time. I’m free. This doesn’t always workout tho, but most of the time, it does. It still depends on the discipline.
Q: What do you do when you feel just completely uninspired or burnt out? How do you motivate yourself to start working again?
I sleep whenever I feel demotivated. I don’t treat burn-out as a thing. I think I’m lazy in nature. It was a privilege for me to do what I love for a living and I’m really thankful for that. Even the hardest challenges in my work are still enjoyable to me. So when I feel demotivated, I sleep. Maybe read some comicbooks, but mostly sleep. At least with sleep, I can refresh my brain and eyes.
Q: What would you say has been your most EPIC win so far?
I felt like I made it when I finally published Gwapoman 2000 in book format. I can still remember looking at it and it looked and felt pretty. It’s so shiny. And it helped that a lot of people liked it. It’s not perfect, but it’s more than enough for me. It fueled me, man. That book, that moment made me feel like I could do it my entire life.
Q: What would you say has been your biggest failure?
Eventually, with that energy coming from Gwapoman 2000, I also finally published Minkowski Space Opera. I had so much faith in it. But ultimately, it failed. I wrote a story that I only understand. Sure, I can continue the story in the next isssue but I felt I already lost readers. I didn’t get to hook them, which for me, is a huge failure as a writer.
Q: What, for you, has been the best way to promote yourself and your work to potential fans, clients, or publishers?
Social media is still the best way for me to promote myself and my work. It’s a free for all platforms, however, throughout the years, the algorithms in these have drastically changed and it damaged the following I had before. It’s still the best, but not ideal. I think how you utilize it is what really matters, and I’m still struggling to find the best way I can use them.
Q: What has been your game plan throughout your journey? What’s the BIG picture here? The ultimate dream? The end game?
Throughout my career, making comics is all I’ve ever done. I already felt that I made it the moment I felt welcome in the community, the moment I get known for a comicbook I worked on, the moment I earned something from something I loved doing. That’s all there is. Keeping this running is probably the real dream.
There are a lot of artists and writers who really worked hard to reach their goals, their dreams, and some of them disappear the moment they get recognized. They slack, or maybe other things got in the way. And in turn, lose what they had. Unless their only goal is to reach it then, okay. But for me? I want to maintain it. It’s my bread and butter. So to keep this job to feed me and keep me alive, and maybe to make my life more comfortable.
Q: What, for you personally, has been the source of your ideas, creativity and talent?
I’m someone who isn’t allowed to say that I have original ideas. Because I have none. All I have are ideas that I get from everything I’m interested in and everything I like. What makes them mine though is how I treat those ideas. Lately, I don’t have much going on for me. It has all been art and drawing and comics. But back then, when I was way younger, it was a huge adventure. There are a lot of stuff happening - from family, to friends, to school. That’s where I dig in, that’s my secret ingredient.
Q: What is your big “WHY”? Why do you feel the need to make art? Who are you doing it for? What’s the hidden reason behind your big dream?
Haha this is a funny question for me because at the core of it, sure, I do it for the people I love, the people around me, everyone who supports me, but at the core of it? I’m just a really lazy guy. Though being lazy, it helped me focus on drawing. That’s all I really wanted to do, I don’t wanna tire myself doing things! Drawing makes me happy, and who doesn’t want to be happy, right? Kept doing it until I became good enough, and then turned it into my living. There’s really no magic or anything inspirational about it. Just a guy who doesn’t want to do anything else.
Q: What 3 stories (comics, movies, documentaries, novels, etc.) would you say influenced and inspired your work the most?
Okay, 3 stories that inspired my work most. Daredevil: Parts of a Hole, this book really sunk into me mainly because it’s the first book I bought with my own hard-earned money. The storytelling in that book is really superb. Ang Mundo ni Andong Agimat was also something I bought with my hard-earned money, it opened my eyes on what I can do with my own comics. And then there’s Fight Club. We don’t talk about Fight Club.
Q: What are the top books, art books, blogs, podcasts, or workshops you’d recommend that helped you level up your skills? (Feel free to plug in as many as you’d like)
The first blog I learned from! I don’t think it’s still up but it’s by Jim Lee and his Wildstorm peeps, the Gelatometti. They do art challenges there every week to stimulate creative growth and it was really inspiring. They even do it real fast! This one’s really tricky because I really don’t have much other than comicbooks. LOL, that’s where I learned from the most. Calvin and Hobbes, Hellboy and Jorge Zaffino stuff is where I understood inking. Learned a lot of painting through Dustin Nguyen’s stuff. It’s also a good thing to approach the artists because they even teach you themselves. Like crash workshops. Artists are generous with what they know anyway!
Q: If you could work remotely, from anywhere in the world, where would your office be? Why?
I actually kinda work remotely now, LOL. But if it’d be more remote, I’d like to work where I can see more grass, trees, and sky. Somewhere where air is fresh. I like the Earth a lot.
Q: Name ONE artist/writer that, if you could, you would pick their brain and find out all the hidden secrets behind their amazing work?
Ah I’d love to get inside the brain of Rafael Albuquerque. I’ve always wondered how he makes things look easy!
Q: Who do you consider your biggest mentor that helped you improve your skills? (Doesn’t have to be someone you’ve met personally. Can be someone you look up to, or someone whose art has inspired you to get better, over the years.)
He will never take credit for this one but Heubert Michael is actually the biggest mentor I had. Sure, other artists inspired me, but it’s Heubert that showed me the ropes. How to act and be professional. That’s what a lot of artists are not doing, to be honest. Everyone can be an artist, but not everyone can be professional. And that’s where Heubert guided me.