Hello! I’m Louise Elaine Dela Cruz, and I go by ‘Louise’ (my family calls me Elaine). My art name is La Hachu. It comes from when my niece was a toddler, she couldn’t pronounce ‘Aunt Elaine’ so she called me either ‘Teneyn’ or ‘Chuneyn’, and it just evolved from there.
I used to live in Australia, but I returned to the Philippines in 2012 and studied Animation in De La Salle – College of St. Benilde, where I earned myself an Honorable Mention. I found a job in Manila as a Graphic Artist for Ensogo. Then I moved back to Sydney where I worked as a gift shop and games attendant in Luna Park Sydney, and as a brand ambassador for a variety of promo jobs. Currently, I’m living in Osaka trying to find a job as an English Teacher for kids.
I used to make and sell comics. Now I’m more focused on illustrations, sketches, and a little poetry. I would love to get back into comics when I’m financially stable; I have been collecting stories. I always travel around with a journal and bible (even to the grocery, haha!) For those with messy brains, I definitely recommend journaling.
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 been creative – I used to dance ballet and contemporary as a child, I learned how to play the violin in high school, and I played around with a piano and ukulele after that. The very moment that planted a seed in my mind was on a train on my way to school, Ryan Woodward’s Thought of You came up on my newsfeed. It was dance, music, and animation all at once. The imagery and words stayed with me for a long time. I can’t tell you how many times I watched that video.
Q: From that moment, and throughout your journey as an artist, what has been your biggest struggle?
Feeling legit. Throughout life, you’re forced to make decisions that will take you down different paths. For me, I chose (at multiple occasions) to put my art aside to prioritize other things, like travel, or family things, or a bigger income. And it always feels like I’m putting an important part of myself away.
It was easy enough to get a table for cons at the Philippines and get my art out there. I tried to break it into the art market in Sydney, but I didn’t know anyone or anything. I was terrible at networking because I didn’t know where to start. I tried getting a table for some cons, and sadly I was rejected. These things chip away at your confidence.
I’m still struggling with my identity and where I fit in the world as an artist. It’s been hard for me to justify pursuing an art career without external validation (especially in the form of money).
Q: How have you been able to cope with (or overcome) this struggle?
You have to remember the reason you started. If you want to be happy in any career, you have to have passion for what you’re doing. I will never drop art completely because I love doing it, and I love how it makes me feel. I’ve recently fixed my relationship with God and shifted my entire mindset. I have faith that things will happen for me in good time. This isn’t to say He’s a magic man who will align your path for you. I just have to keep practicing fundamentals, keep my eyes open, build those skills, and create what makes me happy.
Q: What would you consider is the ONE thing that REALLY helped you level up your skills?
Surrounding yourself with amazing people. Talent is great, but hard workers are an entirely different thing. Perseverance is an inspiring thing. Seeing others push themselves makes you want to push yourself too. Finding someone you admire and being mentored also helps.
Q: What is one thing you’d wish you’d known before you started your artistic career? Why?
A job is a job. There are boring projects and difficult people out there. You will 100% encounter these (if you haven’t already). Put your head down, get it done, and move on. If you’re really unhappy and money is the only reason left for why you’re doing it, get out.
Q: What drives or inspires you to continue making your art?
It’s an itch. Something keeps calling me back to it. I’m always journaling. Sometimes I can sit there pumping out page after page of sketches, and other times I’ll have three drawings I’m unhappy with. I’m more of a hobbyist right now with everything that’s happened in life.
Q: What does your average day look like? (And when do you fit in the time to create art?)
I’m on a working holiday at the moment, so my days have been very unpredictable lately. At any given time, I could be at a castle, a river, a museum, a grocery, etc. I’m in a very uncertain point of my life, but I have committed at least half an hour a day to reading my bible and journaling. This is really important for my mental and emotional health as well. Sometimes I’ll find myself walking around at weird times to get out of my own head.
Q: How do you deal with distractions or challenges that you encounter while you’re working on your art?
I take a break. I set a phone timer to 5 minutes, then I meditate. Don’t touch your phone, try not to speak to anyone, don’t open any social media. I like to work with music, it helps me stay in the zone. I have to be honest with myself if I’m tired or if I’m just trying to get away from the work. I find a quick prayer helps me to launch back into it.
Q: What do you do when you feel just completely uninspired or burnt out? How do you motivate yourself to start working again?
I go for a walk, look at old pictures, look for new music, talk to old friends, or read. When you’re burnt out, it’s so hard to find pleasure in your work. I have to refill my cup through interacting with others and hearing new stories. Everyone has a struggle, and the fact that they’re still trudging through life inspires me to keep pushing forward with my work too.
Q: What would you say has been your most EPIC win so far?
A few months ago, I donated a postcard to a legal firm for a fundraiser to help refugees coming into Australia. It sold for around $70, and it was the first time I felt like my art has actually helped someone.
Q: What would you say has been your biggest failure?
Every time I choose something else over art. I know you’re not supposed to compare but I have tons of peers who are now doing so well with their art careers (I’m so happy for you guys, honestly, well done!), and I find myself thinking what if things had gone another way. That being said, I’m really happy with where my life is right now, and I was never one to dwell on ‘what if’.
Q: What, for you, has been the best way to promote yourself and your work to potential fans, clients, or publishers?
Cons, art markets, social gatherings, etc. My greatest asset is my people skills, so going out there and meeting people in the flesh is the best way for me.
Social media hasn’t been very effective for me. You can shake your fists at algorithms all you want, but at the end of the day it is what it is. I still post every now and then, just to show people I’m still alive.
Q: What has been your game plan throughout your journey? What’s the BIG picture here? The ultimate dream? The end game?
I don’t know. My ideals keep shifting. At first it was working in a big studio, then it was working with a small studio, then it was working in a home studio. Who knows, the job for me may not even exist yet, so I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing. I’m fortunate enough to have flexibility I know others don’t have.
Q: What, for you personally, has been the source of your ideas, creativity and talent?
People. I love talking to people and learning what makes them tick. They might say something, or do something that sets something off in me. I’m attracted to positive people with a passion for life. (Sad backstories not necessary but appreciated. There’s something really special about overcoming adversity.)
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?
People are so complex! Everyone is carrying something. They can be happy, sad, angry, grateful, etc. all at the same time. If I can help someone feel less alone, I’ll have done a good thing with my time on this planet. I just want to be real with myself and those around me.
Q: What 3 stories (comics, movies, documentaries, novels, etc.) would you say influenced and inspired your work the most?
Saga, Steven Universe, and The Legend of Zelda
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)
Any and all books by Andrew Loomis, and I have both of Loish’s books.
Q: If you could work remotely, from anywhere in the world, where would your office be? Why?
I think I’m doing that right now! I live in a tiny shoebox in Osaka; everything I need is within arm’s reach. It’s small but it’s entirely my space, so I’m really happy here.
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?
Regina Spektor. She’s not a visual artist but she’s definitely got this genius streak. Where does it come from? I want to see the world through her eyes. I would love to draw like she writes.
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.)
Two people come to mind. Loish is my favourite artist and she’s been influencing my art since the beginning. I love the anatomy, the character, and fluidity of her art. The second is Dennis E. Sebastian. He was my teacher in CSB, and really hammered the idea that story matters.