Patrick Astilla is a full-time faculty member of De La Salle, College of Saint Benilde under the AB Animation program, teaching Life Drawing and Capstone classes. He is also part of the in-house animation studio within the college, Toonbro Animation Studio. Besides his work at the university, he also does drawing and painting commissions, and hopes to publish a book someday. He spends a lot of his free time sketching (which is slowly turning out to be an addiction), and also reads, watches movies, goes through art books, and has recently gotten back into playing Magic: The Gathering, whenever heâ€™s not creating his art. You can see more of Patrick and his work on Twitter 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?
The only reason I got into an art course was because the other choice I had back then, other than Multimedia Arts, was Legal Management. When my mom told me that there was a lot of reading and memorizing in that course, plus Iâ€™d have to study again if I wanted to be a lawyer… Multimedia Arts it was! Not that art school is easier, each course has its own struggles. I chose not to struggle with books during that time. đź™‚
I was a bad artist (in terms of drawing and painting) back in college. Really bad. I remember me and my friends laughing at my drawings because they were so bad. They used to say â€śStickman na nga lang pangit padin!â€ť [Even itâ€™s a just a stickman, itâ€™s still ugly!] Good times. I had no plans on drawing back then because I wanted to be a 3D artist. I used to think that drawing was useless because I could just go straight to Maya. Boy was I wrong.
Fast forward a bit after college when I was already working as a 3D artist in a small company in Quezon City. While I was working, I was also working on my portfolio as a 3D animator. I really wanted to be a 3D character animator in a major animation studio back then. I had dreams of working in Disney/Pixar. After researching and asking advice from my boss, I found out that all of them stressed the importance of figure drawing. Patay kang stickman ka. [Youâ€™re doomed, stickman]
My boss was kind enough to teach me and my officemates during downtime at the office. We used to draw figures on Manila paper and he helped teach us how to improve our drawing. It was that time that I started practicing on sketchbooks/ sketchpads. I started to like drawing, seeing my work improve after a couple of months made me realize that maybe I could do this drawing thing. Stickman was starting to gain some muscle.
After a year of working as a 3D artist, I decided to quit my job and study again so I could focus more on drawing and becoming a better animator. I did some freelance work and did part-time teaching at Benilde while I was working on my portfolio. I decided to study at Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Arts in California.
Studying at LAAFA was a game changer for me, I was surrounded by beautiful paintings, drawings, as well as great teachers. For a year and a half, all I did was mostly draw and paint from life. All of a sudden I forgot all about being a 3D animator. I became an illustrator instead.
Q: From that moment, and throughout your journey as an artist, what has been your biggest struggle?
I think it was trying to keep up with my classmates and other artists. Iâ€™m not like other artists that started drawing since they were kids, and thatâ€™s why I always feel like that I have to catch up. My only memory of drawing when I was a kid was drawing caricatures of my classmates and teachers in class.
Q: How have you been able to cope with (or overcome) this struggle?
Persistence. Trying to catch up by taking extra classes and sitting in on some classes as well. I really tried to learn as much as I could during my stay in school. The fear of wasting my parentsâ€™ money also played a big role in my determination to be a better artist. Haha. Knowing that I have my familyâ€™s support also kept me motivated as well.
Another thing is I always carry a sketchbook with me anywhere I go. I draw as much as I can. I even have an emergency sketchbook and pen in my wallet just in case I forget to bring my sketchbook.
Q: What would you consider is the ONE thing that REALLY helped you level up your skills?
Consistency. If you really want to get good at something, you have to do it consistently. I made sketching into a habit. What I did for quite some time is I started to make an art journal, I mostly drew from life and even wrote notes on whatever happened that day. It was quite difficult in the beginning. But after quite some time, it became a part of my everyday life. I feel uneasy whenever I havenâ€™t drawn for the day.
Q: What is one thing youâ€™d wish youâ€™d known before you started your artistic career? Why?
That Iâ€™d known that Iâ€™d have an art career sooner.
Q: What drives or inspires you to continue making your art?
Mostly everyday life. Seeing artworks from other artists also inspires me to make art. My students inspire me as well. Especially when I feel that theyâ€™re catching up to me. I have to do more art. Haha.
Q: What does your average day look like? (And when do you fit in the time to create art?)
It starts out with a quick breakfast and exercise before I go to work. Then I go to my usual classes, meetings, and admin work. In between those things (or during), I draw. You rarely see words in my notebook. Theyâ€™re full of sketches and life drawings from the everyday. I also have my iPad Pro, pencil and a watercolor kit with me just in case I have the time to paint a quick one.
Q: How do you deal with distractions or challenges that you encounter while youâ€™re working on your art?
I usually zone out when I draw or paint. As much as I can, I turn off all the distractions when Iâ€™m working on something. No music and no internet, unless if itâ€™s for research.
Q: What do you do when you feel just completely uninspired or burnt out? How do you motivate yourself to start working again?
I just look at artworks that I admire and Iâ€™m inspired again. Reading also helps me as well. Sometimes, I tend to draw the characters or scenes from whatever Iâ€™m reading. Playing Magic: The Gathering also motivates me to create new illustrations. I sometimes paint my own cards or scenarios that happened during the game.
Q: What would you say has been your most EPIC win so far?
I think it would be the habit of posting a drawing/painting everyday for the past 2 years and 5 months in my IG. Most of them are just sketches but it pushes me to draw and paint everyday.
Q: What would you say has been your biggest failure?
I canâ€™t think of any so far. I believe that everything happens for a reason. Iâ€™m pretty sure I had some failures but nothing too big I guess. I am happy where Iâ€™m at as of the moment.
Q: What, for you, has been the best way to promote yourself and your work to potential fans, clients, or publishers?
Show your work and be professional. My social media accounts are mostly filled with my works so that doubles as my portfolio as well.
Q: What has been your game plan throughout your journey? Whatâ€™s the BIG picture here? The ultimate dream? The end game?
I used to think that the ultimate dream was being able to work for big companies/having your own company/being well known, or being rich. Those things are nice but I donâ€™t think that that is THE dream that everyone should shoot for. Those things do not necessarily make you happy and successful. I think that simply striving to be a better person/ artist everyday is enough. Knowing that you are constantly improving to be good at what you do will open up a lot of possibilities in whatever you do in life. I had no dream of being a teacher but look at me now. Haha. For me, whatâ€™s important is the now and that whatever you do that brings you joy. If my art inspires other people to make art as well then Iâ€™m happy. đź™‚
Q: What, for you personally, has been the source of your ideas, creativity and talent?
The everyday. The people I talk to, the places I go to, and the things that I see.
Q: What is your big â€śWHYâ€ť? Why do you feel the need to make art? Who are you doing it for? Whatâ€™s the hidden reason behind your big dream?
For me. As selfish as it sounds, making art keeps me sane. This is my form of meditation. This is where I find peace and joy. I think that itâ€™s difficult to have a positive effect on other people if you are quite unhappy with yourself. If my art inspires other people for the better or even have an effect socially, then I suppose itâ€™s an added bonus. The next why is, of course, for the clients. Haha.
Q: What 3 stories (comics, movies, documentaries, novels, etc.) would you say influenced and inspired your work the most?
I think it would be Robert Henriâ€™s book â€śThe Art Spiritâ€ť, a documentary called â€śJiro: Dreams of Sushiâ€ť, and Walt Stanchfieldâ€™s book â€śDrawn to Lifeâ€ť. Although I think it influenced my work ethic more than my actual work.
Q: What are the top books, art books, blogs, podcasts, or workshops youâ€™d recommend that helped you level up your skills?
Looking and studying “Art of…” books from movies that you like will help you a lot. As well as books from your favorite artists as well. Pick their brains by doing master copies of their work, try to understand their thought process behind their work. But my greatest teacher so far is drawing and painting from life.
Q: If you could work remotely, from anywhere in the world, where would your office be? Why?
Everywhere would be nice. đź™‚ I get to draw and paint everywhere. That seems to be a nice job.
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?
This is a difficult question. Hmmm… I guess if I only have to pick one it would have to be Anders Zorn. Heâ€™s so good I hate him.
Q: Who do you consider your biggest mentor that helped you improve your skills?
(Doesnâ€™t have to be someone youâ€™ve met personally. Can be someone you look up to, or someone whose art has inspired you to get better, over the years.)
I think it would be Nathan Fowkes. He works as a Visual development artist at Dreamworks. He used to be my teacher back in LAAFA and I attended one of his watercolor workshops. He talked about how he developed his habit of carrying a sketchbook all the time so he could sketch anytime he wants. He paints for a living but still finds time to practice and paint for himself.
His habit of carrying a sketchbook all the time inspired me to sketch constantly as well. This was a big factor in my improvement. That is why I encourage my students to develop this habit as well.