Mel Casipit works from home (and, occasionally, in coffee shops) as a freelance artist. He has won three Komikon Comics Creation Contests between 2008 to 2009, and also won the 2011 Komikon Awards Best Grassroot Award for Mukat, MLU, and Baboy. He’s also publishing a short comics collection called Lingon, and a collection of cheesy one-liners and pick-up lines called Cheesyfit.
In his spare time, Mel enjoys playing badminton and running, as well as watching anime and movies.
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?
My Mom always tells me that when I was a toddler, I always requested her to draw me something— ”draw me a pig,” “draw me a cat,” etc. Soon after, I found myself drawing everywhere in the house. I’ve always loved drawing and making art since I was a kid.
Q: From that moment, and throughout your journey as an artist, what has been your biggest struggle?
Because of my freelance jobs, and juggling from comics to visual arts events, I’m having trouble finding time to make more personal projects. I really want to make more komiks because it’s my first love.
Q: How have you been able to cope with (or overcome) this struggle?
I’m trying to manage my time to accomplish my tasks. For instance, if I need to finish a comic book on a certain date, I will allocate at least an hour a day to concentrate on that komik. Similarly, if I need to finish a painting for a show, I will dedicate one full day to painting. I also make sure to set a deadline; otherwise it will not be completed.
Q: What would you consider is the ONE thing that REALLY helped you level up your skills?
I learned to draw more of the things I don’t like to draw; after a while, they get easier. It’s not fun but it really helps a lot. I also like to listen to art talks on YouTube while drawing to keep me inspired while doing the task. Also, I always look for great references when I’m drawing something I’m not very familiar with. The art won’t look good if it’s not done with a good reference.
Q: What is one thing you’d wish you’d known before you started your artistic career? Why?
I wish I’d known earlier that being a freelance artist isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Initially, it was very scary for me to be full-time freelance artist, but with the help of my friends and online resources, my career is going well. In fact, most of my savings come from being freelance. This is something I wasn’t able to do when I was working in a call center.
Q: What drives or inspires you to continue making your art?
Whenever people appreciate my art and it establishes a ‘connection’ with them, or appeals to their emotions, I really feel happy. I also love to create my ideas into life; it’s such a surreal thing to create something from your own mind, out of your own imagination.
Q: What does your average day look like? (And when do you fit in the time to create art?)
I wake up around 10am and have a cup of coffee while doing some social media posts. I usually post about my previous jobs a few months back, just to have some content on my FB pages and website. It also serves as my online portfolio; whenever I get an inquiry, I direct them to my FB page or my website. After that, I will start working until around 3pm have a long break and then start drawing again at night from around 8pm to 12mn.
Q: How do you deal with distractions or challenges that you encounter while you’re working on your art?
If I need to finish something very urgently, I don’t do social media at all. I turn off the Internet or at least close all social media tabs on my browser.
Q: What do you do when you feel just completely uninspired or burnt out? How do you motivate yourself to start working again?
Deadlines are a great motivator; but if I’m not in the mood, I break that mood by having a long walk around the area where I live, having a cup of coffee, watching a movie or taking a rest. After a while, I can draw again. I can’t afford not to work as I am afraid that my to-do’s will only pile up when I slack off.
Q: What would you say has been your most EPIC win so far?
I improved a lot in my video editing skills. From Windows Movie Maker to Premiere Pro! It’s really fun editing videos, it’s something I’ve always wanted to learn. Also my comic strip “Parekoys” was serialized in Manila Bulletin! I’ve always wanted to have a comic strip in a national newspaper.
Q: What would you say has been your biggest failure?
I’m still not able to finish my “Mukat” comics series. The reason why I now do short comics is that there’s no commitment for a sequel. I’ve planned to finish Mukat this year but I still haven’t.
Q: What, for you, has been the best way to promote yourself and your work to potential fans, clients, or publishers?
In my case, that would be word of mouth. My first clients were my close friends and social media friends, then they referred me to their friends. It also helps to have a professional portfolio website, it really adds value to your brand. It’s also important to be nice to everyone and network with other artists and professionals on the field you want to break into.
Q: What has been your game plan throughout your journey? What’s the BIG picture here? The ultimate dream? The end game?
I just want to create more art and not be limited by anything. I also would like to have a solo show for my paintings someday.
Q: What, for you personally, has been the source of your ideas, creativity and talent?
I think we all are influenced by what we are exposed to. In my case, the TV shows and movies I watch, the books I read, the people I meet, etc. I believe in talent but I believe more in the idea that constant practice makes you a better artist.
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’ve always wondered why komiks is not as popular now as it was before; it’s getting better now, but compared to visual arts scene, komiks scene appears to be in its infancy.
Q: What 3 stories (comics, movies, documentaries, novels, etc.) would you say influenced and inspired your work the most?
All of Andrew Loomis’ books about drawing; they really helped me a lot, so do check it out. I was also heavily influenced by Funny Komiks and Culture Crash Comics.
Q: What are the top books, art books, blogs, podcasts, or workshops you’d recommend that helped you level up your skills?
I love YouTube. I check out the YouTube channels of Proko, Stephen Silver, Watt’s Atelier, Ted Talks and many more. I usually search for artist interviews and watch or listen to the results while working.
Q: If you could work remotely, from anywhere in the world, where would your office be? Why?
The good thing about being a freelance artist is that you can work anywhere as long as there’s a good Internet connection. But if I would choose a place, I’ve always wanted to go to Japan.
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?
Francisco Coching, the Dean of Pinoy Komiks.
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.)
When I was in college, I had a professor who taught me all I know about painting now, and many other skills. He owned a Graphics Art Shop and I worked as an assistant for him. His name is Robert Sison. Right now, YouTube is my greatest teacher. All I need to know, most probably there’s a YouTube video to answer my question.