Claudine Aranza is a freelance illustrator and designer based in Manila. Some of her work and illustrations have appeared on the Food Network, CNN, Nickeloden, NEDA, BuzzfeedPH, Catapult Magazine, and Adobo Magazine. She is a member of the Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan (Ang-INK), and has also had some of her work exhibited for the Bloom Arts Festival. She’s currently working on a picture book to be finished this 2019. And when she’s not working on her art, Claudine enjoys cooking, the company of a lot of friendly dogs, and watching movies and Koreanovelas. You can find more of Claudine Aranza and her work on Instagram, Twitter, and Behance.
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?
I’ve always thought drawing as more of just a hobby ever since I’d started doing it to get closer to my friend Steph, who amazed me with her anime fanart. I thought a career in the arts would not be possible, or even practical, for someone like me who has younger siblings to help provide for. I didn’t grow up (personally) knowing artists or anyone working with art, so the only options I’d known back then that I could take if I was to pursue art were fine arts painting and animation - both of which I believed I wouldn’t be skilled and passionate enough to make a living out of. I know deep down that I wanted to be able to work with drawing, but I didn’t know where I’d fit in. So I decided to take the closest career option with drawing - architecture.
It was on my 2nd term of college, when we were mixed with students from other programs, that I noticed I had classmates walking with character design plates. It was then that I found out that our school actually offers a program for Multimedia Arts haha (I actually skipped reading the curriculum book given to us during the application process, so I didn’t know such a program existed lol). Further reading and research on the Multimedia Arts program opened my eyes to possibilities of making a living with drawing that was closer to what I’d wanted to do (I didn’t know what to call it back then, but it was Illustration). So after a really long email convincing my parents to allow me to shift programs and why it would be best for me to take Multimedia Arts, I changed career tracks.
Q: From that moment, and throughout your journey as an artist, what has been your biggest struggle?
Doubt, I think. I’m doubting right now, haha. Should I really have pursued art? May patutunguhan ba talaga ako sa ganito? Sapat ba yung magiging sweldo to help out at home? Pano na yung future (savings/retirement)? What if di pala talaga ako meant to be an artist, kakadrawing ko lang ng kakadrawing kaya medyo umayos skills pero di ako meant for art?[Will this path lead anywhere? Would my earnings be enough to help out at home? What about the future (savings/retirement)? What if I was never meant to be an artist, and it was only because I kept drawing and drawing that my skilled improved, but I was never really meant for art?]
Things like this kept on playing over and over in my head. Some days the impostor syndrome gets so strong it’s so hard to breathe, my heart starts palpitating and I have to pause and lie down. You’d think that after almost 4 years of working as an illustrator the doubt and anxiety would fade away, but it hasn’t. It’s still a daily battle.
Q: How have you been able to cope with (or overcome) this struggle?
Listing down what was making me doubt my choices or feel anxious helped me a lot. It helps me grasp why I feel that way - what are the things/situations that make my doubt/anxiety shoot up. I realized that when I ignore these worries, these thoughts would just keep on pestering me the whole day. When I’d finally pen them down, I’d see that my worries were sometimes foolish, or could be easily addressed. Knowing the source helps me figure out solutions to deal with them and continue working.
Q: What would you consider is the ONE thing that REALLY helped you level up your skills?
Persistence. I didn’t start out as good as many of the artists I know. I really sucked. AS IN. My sisters and classmates made fun of my work when I was starting out. I’d hear them laughing at it and all. It hurt but drawing for me was the most fun I’d ever had since I started spending more time with Steph who paaaatiently taught me how to draw. So even if there were only two maybe three people who loved my works back then, I continued to do it.
When I got home from classes, I’d look online for references, online drawing PDFs, and other ways to improve my skills. I remember dati since yung weekly allowance lang namin was 100 pesos (tapos yung art books mga 1000+ pesos), tumatambay nalang ako sa bookstores tapos pag may nakabukas na libro about drawing or painting binabasa ko nalang siya dun tapos gagayahin ko sa bahay. haha.[I remember before, since our weekly allowance was 100 pesos (and the art books were 1000+ pesos), I just hung around the bookstores, and if there was an open book about drawing or painting, I read them there and imitated them at home.]
I spent hours and hours and hours studying and practicing. It took quite some time, but after drawing and drawing so many “bad” works, I got better. I’ve had people tell me they wanted to draw unfortunately, they “don’t have the gift/talent of drawing” like I do. But that’s not the case at all, as I tell them. I really just spent a lot of my time developing the skill for it, I’m really just a product of persistence.
Q: What is one thing you’d wish you’d known before you started your artistic career? Why?
The socializing part HAHA. Hindi ko alam kung ba’t di ko naisip na part siya ng work lol. [I don’t know why I never thought that it would be part of the work.]
I actually thought that working as an illustrator or designer, I’d just be spending my days working in a studio and wouldn’t have to deal with talking to people. I was dead wrong. lol. Pitches, conventions, exhibit applications etc. All include talking to people and marketing your work. I focused too much on improving my technical skills… I forgot to work on my social skills, so I’m still not good with the promoting my work/negotiations part of this.
If you go through my accounts (IG/Twitter/Tumblr) you’d see how terrible my captions are. (sometimes they are just emojis, when I find myself staring at the caption box for hours and still can’t find the words to express myself). Words. Are. Hard. I am working on it now though!
Q: What drives or inspires you to continue making your art?
Stories. Stories to inspire, encourage, inform and lift people’s spirits up. There have been many times where movies or songs taught me something that changed my view of life, or picked me up during bad times. I have also seen works of art that spoke to people in a way that words couldn’t: brighten their day, make them feel less alone or encourage them not to give up. I want to keep on making things like that too.
Q: What does your average day look like? (And when do you fit in the time to create art?)
I start the day responding to emails and checking updates on current projects. Although I don’t work in an office right now, I still work for 8-10 hrs every weekday but with a 3PM nap in between (I am a perpetually sleepy girl and 20 mins really help me work longer) plus lunch and dinner preparation for the family since I’m the only one who’s at home most of the day.
So as not to burn out, I allow at least 2 hrs of “free draw” (it’s what I call draw-whatever-you-want time) per weekday. And as much as possible I keep my Saturdays as my personal art day. On Sundays, I let myself rest and recharge to prepare for another week. Even though as an illustrator I draw for work everyday, these times are important for me because I get to breathe and remind myself how fun making art is.
Q: How do you deal with distractions or challenges that you encounter while you’re working on your art?
Whenever I encounter a stumbling block and feel the anxiety rise, I list down (1) everything that I needed to accomplish, (2) every bump/problem to face/look out for, (3) solutions to solve these and (4) things I could do to address these challenges and move forward to the accomplish the things listed in number 1.
I then divide the steps to take into a timeline - what can I do this day/week/month to accomplish the list on number 01. I’ve been doing this since my thesis days when I felt extremely overwhelmed and paralyzed to move forward. It helped me break down the challenge to bite-sized tasks that I could work on per day to make progress daily and avoid spending too much time worrying.
Q: What do you do when you feel just completely uninspired or burnt out? How do you motivate yourself to start working again?
In times like these, I actually just let myself rest at least for 3 days or so. I’d take the time to absorb what’s happening and reflect on why I still want to continue with my art. I do what I mentioned in the previous question.
Sometimes the remedy would really just be sleeping. Some days it would be taking a trip away from work. Other days are easier and it’ll just involve a weekend indulging myself with other people’s art - museums, movies, exhibits etc.
Q: What would you say has been your most EPIC win so far?
Illustrating for Hannah Hart’s Food Network Show! Back when I was working at Rezonate.TV I was given the opportunity to make illustrations for I Hart Food. We made the opening and the title cards for the show. I love the work our team had made for that project, and though it was a pretty challenging time, I really had fun. The works I’d made from that time are still some of my favorites.
Q: What would you say has been your biggest failure?
Missing out on a lot of opportunities because of my fear of people (or socializing). I find it quite difficult making + holding conversations and being with new people so back then if something involves the slightest bit of socializing I’d abandon the thought of joining before even trying. I let myself miss out on joining organizations/events/contests if friends aren’t joining and I still regret that. I knew I that shouldn’t be like that any longer, so I forced myself out of my comfort zone and joined Komiket conventions and Ang-INK. It was one of the best decisions I’d ever made! I met a lot of new friends and artist inspirations plus I am very slowly getting better at promoting my work.
Q: What, for you, has been the best way to promote yourself and your work to potential fans, clients, or publishers?
I’m still quite new to this aspect of work but posting my works on Twitter, Instagram and especially Behance have definitely been helpful for me to get work. I’ve been approached by clients (both local and international) who saw my works on these platforms. They’re free to use and there’s no limit to the amount of post you can make so it’s easier to reach a larger audience.
Q: What has been your game plan throughout your journey? What’s the BIG picture here? The ultimate dream? The end game?
Initially I planned to further my studies on illustration, but then a bit recently I realized I’d really like to be more involved with concept development. So I’m still figuring out the next steps I’m going to take. The ultimate dream, I guess, is to be a part of a team that makes film as inspiring as the films made by Laika, Mamoru Hosuda and Studio Ghibli. Libre lang naman mangarap diba haha! [We’re free to dream, after all, right?]
Q: What, for you personally, has been the source of your ideas, creativity and talent?
I get inspiration from the mundane everyday life - breakfast tables, views outside the bedroom window, houses I pass by on my way home, mga nakalat na sapatos sa may pintuan, etc. [the shoes that are scattered by the door]
These scenes aren’t usually the things we’d think much of, but without us knowing, change so much with the passage of time - could be from moving of houses, passing away of a loved one, growing up or simply just because of the changing of the environment. I get inspired to draw them as a way to record the stories these scenes tell of a time that is currently happening or a time that has passed.
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?
I really want to make art that tell stories people can relate to or get encouraged/inspired by.
Q: What 3 stories (comics, movies, documentaries, novels, etc.) would you say influenced and inspired your work the most?
The Girl who Leapt Through Time, Garden of Words and Sleeping Beauty.
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)
Back when I was just learning to draw the How to Draw Manga instructional books (the ones published by Graphic-sha around 1999 and early 2000s) really helped me a lot! The explanations are easy and the tips are really helpful. Dreamworlds by Han Bacher is also one of my favorites. It has helped me understand how to make better compositions and improve my storytelling through illustrations.
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Q: If you could work remotely, from anywhere in the world, where would your office be? Why?
No particular place in mind, just somewhere near a river/lake with a big yard where my dream herd of dogs could roam around. My lolo had a farm like this when we were young and it was a really nice place where he grew vegetables and raised livestock. It was a very self-sufficient environment too. Probably would be great to work/live in a place like that.
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?
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.)
Tadahiro Uesugi. The way he makes his compositions and the way light works in his illustrations captivated me the first time I laid on his work. They’re all just amazingly beautiful.