Using Jealousy to Level Up One’s Art: Interview with Kamille Areopagita

kamille-areopagita-interviewKamille Areopagita is a freelance illustrator and concept artist who graduated from the University of the Philippines, Diliman, majoring in Visual Communication. Some of her projects include graphic design, layout, and concept work for various clients, both corporate, foreign, and independent, and has been published in art books such as EXPOSÉ: Finest Digital Art in the Known Universe, d’artiste: Fashion Design, and included in the EXPOSÉ Hall of Fame. When she’s not working on her art, she usually enjoys exercise, playing video games, watching movies, anime, and animating on the side. She also likes dogs very much. You can follow Kamille and her work over at: Twitter, Tumblr, CarbonMade.com, and ArtStation.

 

 

 

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?

Probably the earliest memory of thinking of doing art was when I saw my older brother doing this one charcoal drawing in an art class in Megamall. I was just playing at the tiny slide in that studio, and from my perch, on top, I saw my kuya drawing a black and white landscape of a house in a grassy field, based off of a picture. His drawing and the printed reference were next to each other, and I didn’t have concrete thoughts about it (or at least I don’t remember them), but the feeling was something like “He did that? With a stick?” followed by “I want to do that too!” And I think that’s how it started.

I was really shy so I didn’t want to take art classes, so I mostly started doodling on everything, trying to copy some pictures and draw some animals (dogs and horses in particular). There was even one time I was so attached to this one picture of a puppy in a ‘how to train your dog’ book we had, so much that I wanted to draw it, but I couldn’t get it just right, so I bugged my mom to draw it for me. She did it by putting some bond paper over the image and partially tracing it, coming up with a pretty accurate drawing of the pup. I remember getting a bit frustrated that I couldn’t draw it myself, so my quest to be able to draw what I wanted to draw went on from there (I really wanted to be able to draw horses).

My brother continued doing art, too, and I would always get jealous at how well he could draw, which made me want to get better too. When I got to use my brother’s hand-me-down Wacom tablet and discovered digital art online, I thought, about those other artists online, “They did that? That’s a drawing?” and then, “I want to do that too.” And the rest followed.

 

Q: From that moment, and throughout your journey as an artist, what has been your biggest struggle?

Really just…the whole concept of being an artist. It takes so much time and effort and practice, you have to keep dealing with insecurities and standards and so many things to learn, so many artists who are so much better that you sometimes can’t help comparing yourself to.

You make an artwork and sometimes you’re stuck at the sketch, or you think there’s something wrong, there’s a really difficult angle to do, or when it’s done and you find some mistakes, or you don’t think it’s that good. I’ve drawn hundreds of hands and eyes and I still learn something new about how to draw or render them.

I also struggle with being patient, especially about improvement. It’s like a never-ending cycle in a never-ending process, and you never really get satisfied with your work and seem to never run out of things to learn and improve on—but at the same time it’s what makes art such a fun, cool thing, you know? There’s no Number One Best Artist Ever, there’s no Peak Skill Level or The Best Artwork Your Eyes Have Ever Seen, or The Right Way To Do Art—there’s no end to learning and just doing and improving—it’s just art, that thing we do because we want to, struggles included.

 

Q: How have you been able to cope with (or overcome) this struggle?

I just keep at it. If I feel like my art isn’t up to snuff, I try to think of ways to improve it, or put it aside and work on it again later, or rework it from scratch.

Sometimes I like to compare my work from the past with more recent work just to make sure I’ve improved some (though at the same time I cringe and feel secondhand embarrassment towards my past self). I just keep practicing, making studies, practicing—and sharing my work. I used to be really insecure and shy about showing my work (I still am), but being able to get feedback can really boost my motivation to keep at it and get better, keeping that never-ending cycle going.

 

Q: What would you consider is the ONE thing that REALLY helped you level up your skills?

The Internet. When I discovered online galleries and saw the works of people from all over the world, I was—and am—so inspired to get better and reach their level. Until now, looking at art—both online and in real life—helps me level up just by sheer force of determination, inspiration, and probably a little bit of jealousy (turned motivation, eventually).

 

Q: What is one thing you’d wish you’d known before you started your artistic career? Why?

That not everyone likes the same things or shares the same (or the nicest) opinions, and you have to put yourself out there anyway.

My insecurities about my art and skill held me back from sharing my work much, which kept me from learning more, and improving faster. When I learned to suck it up and got some encouragement from others, my motivation just shot up and I was able to draw more and push myself more.

At the same time, you encounter people who don’t share the same likes or opinions, and some who are really negative and toxic (hello fandoms). But keeping in mind that everyone’s different and has their own thoughts and opinions helps reinforce that: “Yeah, okay, I’m doing art that I want to do, and not everyone will like it, but maybe some will, maybe it’ll make someone curse at you for what you did to their feelings, maybe it’ll make just one person smile—and really, that’s what art’s about.”

 

Q: What drives or inspires you to continue making art or comics?

The desire to improve, and to be able to communicate through art. To be able to connect with people, make them happy or get feels or smile, and eventually inspire others too.

 

Q: What does your average day look like? (And when do you fit in the time to create art?)

Mornings are usually spent starting up the engines—checking and sending emails, doing some warm up drawing, having that morning coffee or milk, and getting in some cuddles from the dogs. I usually try to finish work-related things within the day (and try to stop at 5PM, all working hours-like), so that I can do personal work afterwards. I keep a constant (ever-growing) list of projects—ranging from illustration to concept work to animation and comics or zines—that I get back to once the day’s work is done, and I always try to make time for them at night.

 

Q: How do you deal with distractions or challenges that you encounter while you’re working on your art?

I hug and cuddle it! My distraction is usually my dog, haha. So I succumb to the immediate distraction he provides and make sure to cuddle him. Otherwise, I lock the door, put on some music, minimize or close my browsers, and get to work. I also write down the things I want and/or need to finish in a little to-do list, highlighting the priorities and keeping it on my desk to get me back on track if needed.

 

Q: What do you do when you feel just completely uninspired or burnt out? How do you motivate yourself to start working again?

I usually go through online galleries and get motivated and inspired from there. Sometimes I set aside the work and draw something random (usually fan art, since they’re already established characters), or watch movies/episodes/videos, or play games, all of which usually give me a ton of inspiration.

Sometimes I get off the computer chair and do some exercising, after which I feel pretty pumped up to tackle work again. I try to balance work things, things I want to draw, and things that relax me to avoid getting burnt out in general. Sometimes I take off-days when I do little to no drawing, just spending time reading, talking with people, browsing, playing games or watching shows. After a day or two I get back to work refreshed and rearing to go.

 

Q: What would you say has been your most EPIC win so far?

Apart from graduating college, I think it’d be the time when I got my first big tablet. I’d only been practicing digital art with a hand-me-down teeny drawing tablet from my brother (one of the ones with the drawing area the size of a small index card or so) and couldn’t really afford to get a bigger one, and one day stumbled on this one art contest hosted by a foreign magazine.

The theme was ‘emotions’, and with my dinky little tablet I ended up sending in an entry that showed zero faces—just the back of a knight wading in a lake while carrying the limp body of a girl. Technically, it wasn’t really that great, and for some reason I’d decided to enter a contest with the theme of ‘emotions’ using a piece that didn’t show expressions, relying on body language instead.

Somehow, I still placed second, got featured in the magazine, and won myself a nice Intuos 4 tablet, which I ended up using for years and years after. It felt like that part in games where you level up after defeating a boss with your starter weapon, only to earn the next level weapon in the loot drop.  

 

kamille-areopagita-interviewQ: What would you say has been your biggest failure?

This might sound cheesy, but the only thing I consider to be a failure is not doing something. And I always keep that in mind even when the insecurities are high and the confidence is low.

Like I mentioned earlier, when I was starting out, I was too shy and insecure to share my work, which could have helped me improve faster and learn more, as well as build relationships with other artists. It’s only very recently that I’ve started to be more active in sharing my work and interacting with viewers and fellow artists (even now I still don’t think I do it enough), and even in just a short amount of time doing that, I’ve made so many friends from different corners of the world that have helped boost my confidence, creativity and motivation, and continue to inspire and help me out with my art.

Being open and communicating with others can open up so many opportunities, and I wish I’d been like that earlier—I can’t imagine how many friends I could have made, how many opportunities I could have had, and artists I could have grown with and work with now if only I’d been a bit less shy and just got out there more.

 

Q: What, for you, has been the best way to promote yourself and your work to potential fans, clients, or publishers?

Posting work online and keeping up good relationships with people (personally I’ve found that Twitter is one of the best places for this), and tabling at cons (a great way to personally meet and connect with other artists and your audience). Though I don’t really do much self-promotion, and a lot of people say you should put up all these pages like Facebook and Instagram and the like, but apart from me likely being unable to keep those up, I prefer to use my time focusing on improving and building up my portfolio, and I think that’s an okay way to go about it!

I have a portfolio website with a selection of works, along with my résumé and contact details available. A lot of my first few jobs happened because of friends, teachers, friends of friends, and the like. I just showed that I could do art, and was just as honest and open and friendly as I could be, and that got me repeat clients and several referrals, even from people I’m not particularly close to.

Having lots of likes or views or followers is cool and all, but having a solid portfolio and network of friends and mentors who’ve got your back is just as cool, if not cooler.  

 

Q: What has been your game plan throughout your journey? What’s the BIG picture here? The ultimate dream? The end game?

The big dream is to do it as a living, and this might sound way out there, but I want to try everything! I want to work in concept art, visual development, games, movies, music videos, TV series, comics, illustration, editorial, animation, designing toys or merchandise, even sculpting or carving! The list can go on and on, really.

There’s just a plethora of things to do in art and I want to get into so many of them. The ultimate aspiration is to be able to inspire change and action with my art, and inspire others to do the same.

 

Q: What, for you personally, has been the source of your ideas, creativity and talent?

A lot of my ideas are from reading fiction, watching movies, TV series, anime, and comics. Followed by everything else from real life!

Ideas could spring up from anywhere or any feeling from anywhere. I get especially inspired by skies, forests, space, and vibrant cultures from different parts of the world. My college education has also been a big source of my creativity, especially in how to communicate ideas and messages effectively, and how to build meaningful concepts and core “Why”s.

I think my actual talent is being stubborn and relentless, and that, I think I got from my parents and from being the bunso of the family.  

 

Q: What is your big “WHY”?

My first thought to this was “because I can.” So many times a lot of us are told we can’t do this, we can’t do that, we’re not big enough, not strong enough, not talented enough, not experienced enough—the list goes on.

A lot of times people forget that no one was great the moment they were born. No one turned into a master overnight. Once upon a time, your idol was a newbie who struggled and fought their way to get where they are. Contrary to popular belief, they’re human too, just like you. And at the risk of sounding cliché, if they could do it, then so can you.

I make art because I want to create what I could only imagine in my head, and tell stories that could affect people, in one way or another. To be able to immerse people in the visuals of a story, in the expressions of a character, in the colors of a setting; to be able to make someone curse or yell in disdain, or double over laughing (one of my personal favotires), or cry (another favorite), or go speechless in awe or thought; and then to be able to move someone, even just one person, to think about something and do something, and to be able to say that I can do that with my art—that’s why.

 

Quick-Fire Questions

Q: What 3 stories (comics, movies, documentaries, novels, etc.) would you say influenced and inspired your work the most?

Real (Takehiko Inoue), Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki/Ghibli), Sandman (Neil Gaiman).

 

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)

Books: Stan Lee’s How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, James Jean’s Fables covers and his art book Rebus, ImagineFx’s complete guide on how to draw and paint anatomy, Kim Jung-Gi’s sketchbooks, Color and Light by James Gurney, any of Massive Black’s art books (Ballistic publishing), and Zao Dao’s art books. For film/animation, the art books for The Croods, Tangled, Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon, Monsters vs Aliens, Moana, any of Hayao Miyazaki’s films, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. For games, the art of The Last of Us, the Uncharted series, Magic, Dungeons and Fighters. Also the whole of One Piece by Eiichiro Oda.

For online things, there’s endlesscroll and CGdrawing on Twitter; art-of-swords on Tumblr, and Twitter and Pinterest in general—it’s really easy to lose a lot of time but gain a lot of inspiration browsing through the art there.

 

Q: If you could work remotely, from anywhere in the world, where would your office be? Why?

Somewhere quiet, breezy, with a good view of the sky. That, or Japan. Though I’m honestly fine where I am.

 

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?

NEIL GAIMAN

 

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 really inspires you to get better.)

My kuya. (Also Stan Lee, Stanley Lau, Cory Loftis, Neil Gaiman, Hayao Miyazaki, Takehiko Inoue, Yusuke Murata. For animation, my former professor Gilbert Torres and the Acid House crew)