Robin Recato graduated from Multimedia Arts from the De La Salle College of St. Benilde. She has worked as a game illustrator for several gaming companies, such as Explorer Games, where she helped with the production of virtual pets and creatures, as well as Kingdom Sky and Mistic Media where she aided with the creation and coloring of animated miscellaneous game items, as well as clothing articles for character avatars. You can follow Robin and see more of her work on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.


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?

It goes way back to when I was 7 and my cousin got a Gameboy before I did. I remember borrowing it and the very first game I played was Pokémon. I was so immersed in it that when I got my own Gameboy, I almost only exclusively played Pokémon. Once I finished it, I started doodling Pokémon and making my own Fakemon for fun.

When Neopets came into my life, I found out that I could exchange virtual currency for sketches and pet/user page graphics and code. I learned how to market myself (of course I didn’t know what “marketing myself” was at 11) to get Neopoints or game items in return. I eventually found myself in multiple virtual pet browser games, offering my services for in game currency and game assets.

The definitive moment for me was when I was invited to be a Graphics Artist on this game called Jenipets back in 2005 (I was 13). It eventually ended up merging with another game called Runicpets. Sure, it was a volunteer position, but being recognized for my potential and invited to be part of a development team is a feeling that I’d always remember. Eventually, my late aunt bought me a starter drawing tablet and I’ve been in game development since, illustrating for browser based virtual pet games and sometimes coding for frontend.


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

My journey started out as a commercial artist at a very young age. I worked with lead artists, learning their styles and working with that. Because I had to work right after school, I focused more on finishing my weekly quota than on establishing myself and who I am as an artist.

Every time I try to start a project or do something personal, I feel like I’d always falls short. There’s no guide, no list of things to do, nothing to compare it to and measure if it’s good enough. Despite planning and working on how things should go, there’s just a constant inexplicable feeling of dissatisfaction. It’s not even finding perfection; sometimes things overwhelm me, and I just don’t start.

I’ve always relied on external feedback, on criticisms and learning how to navigate through them so I can deliver what’s asked of me. This usually involves sending pieces back and forth and stopping when the client says it’s okay to push. Now, there’s no one to tell me what’s right or what’s wrong, and the lack of direction is unnerving. I don’t even have a personal portfolio I can show or provide to people that I can say is truly reflective of me as a person and as a creator.


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

Despite my lack of self-identity as an artist, I’ve found people that support and encourage me to continue creating content. While it’s important for me to establish my own style, it’s reassuring to find people enjoy the thought of me making things and looking forward to what I’ll do next.

How I was trained to be an artist, there’s an incredible level of pressure to deliver the best I can all the time in a consistent way. I used to feel that what I make now is a representation of who I am. Personally, this idea has been so toxic in my life that once I had let it go, I’ve begun to start new things and explore. I try something, and it didn’t work? Start over. I try something, and it works? Add that to my tool set. In both scenarios, I’d already won; I learned something, and I can equip myself with that knowledge for the next time. What I make now is a representation of my growth and my potential, recognizing that has made things so much easier for me to get going.

With that said, I can’t and won’t always be my best. To place myself in such a high standard has made me reliant on other people to tell me what to do. At the end of the day, it’s mine to own and I’m learning how to be empowered by it. I thank the people around me, that constantly support me, for showing me that I can just make things. It’s really helped me cope with the pressure of figuring things out on my own for myself.


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

References! I buy art books (I have a goal of 1 every 3 months) and scour the internet for content I can look at through my peripheral vision when I’m making things. I also like observing how other artists create the same object, it’s always interesting to learn their take on it.

I’ve had people talk about how they don’t use references, and/or they feel bad for using them, but honestly there’s no shame with having them. In school, we were taught to always cite people, referring to ideas and thoughts made by other people and expanding on them. It’s the same here. If the references are free to use (not just through a search engine, but through stock image sites) or there’s explicit consent to use them, it’s not a big deal. I’ve learned so much from using them.


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

I should’ve have kept saying yes to projects and read contracts very well. I’ve worked on so many games that didn’t even see the light of day, and because the contracts fully turned over all rights to the owners, there are some I legally cannot show them in my portfolios because they haven’t been released to the public. The worst part? Some of these are volunteer positions. Instead of being able to gather my work and taking my chances at selling them as an asset pack for the time I spent for them, they’re lost in time.


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

I find that in creating content, we tend to measure our time with how much value we can get from what we make. Often, it is monetary because money has become the starting point of survival in present day society and gives a feeling of concrete measurement to gauge what our work means to people. The pressure of maximizing time and output is very real, especially when we rely on them to live. If we take too long on a piece, we’re losing money and wasting time. While money is an incredible and valid motivator for a lot of people, when I was younger, one of advice mom gave me that created an impact was this: if you learned something today, even if it’s just one thing, you didn’t waste it.

I’ve come to realize that life is a constant learning and growing. There’s so many things we haven’t explored, so many perspectives to understand. The variety and vastness of the world is honestly the most beautiful thing, and I find art in general is the language I know and use to understand the multitudes our world holds. There will always be something that I could learn and build myself with. When I finish something, it becomes a tangible and concrete representation of my own growth and not as a person.

The best part of this is that I’m not alone. There are so many artists, so many pieces of art created, and these are from an individual’s collection of experiences in learning and growing. We’re all learning, understanding, adapting, and growing; there’s nothing more human and being of this universe than this.

What inspires me in making art is that it represents what life means to me. Each piece becomes somewhat a summary of what I know and learned in the process of making, a summary of my growth to that point. If there is still something to learn, I’ll always be making things.


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

My average day is waking up odd hours and figuring out what I can do for that day and time. I have no semblance of a biological clock, but I can wake up/be awake if I need to. There isn’t really a set plan or time usually, especially if I’m off projects.

I think the only stable thing in each day is that I’m usually on a group call/messaging/texting (all often happening simultaneously) international friends who are also content creators. If it’s not playing games with each other on our off days, we work on things while having each other as ambient noise. This helps me concentrate, believe it or not.


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

I never had problems resuming work and finishing them. Sometimes I work through a day and forget to eat. When I get a productive sprint, I honestly work myself to exhaustion. The biggest issue for me is starting on things and figuring out what I can make, especially because I can be harsh on myself and my own skills.

It’s been daunting to figure out what I can do, especially without anyone to tell me what to do or what I can refer to  to execute an idea. I try to look for pegs, engage in art and games. Usually, watching streams and speed paint videos of other artists helps me start things. However, I tend to sketch inside jokes, typos, and other ridiculous things with friends and that snowballs into drawing other serious things. I guess this is what other artists call a “warm up”.


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

A group of artist friends I have once had this discussion and most of us agreed on this: motivation is fleeting. It’s not something that content creators should rely on. And while it’s good to have, I will still burn out. Sometimes, it happens in the middle of making something, but because of limitations, I can’t just stop there or expect things to go 100% my way.

I used to stream and record speed paint videos for the people I work with, and one of them told me that I’m the most indecisive artist they know. This is because I tend to rework sections that I don’t feel up to par to what I envisioned. Sometimes, I’ve reworked a part more times than the hours I’m getting paid for, and I still feel like I’m not getting anywhere. This is demotivating, I can’t count the times I felt sick working on a piece that just doesn’t meet the standards I’ve put on them. However, because of deadlines and requirements, I never really relied on being motivated or uninspired. I have no problems giving something acceptable, even if it doesn’t feel perfect to me. If it’s good for the client, it’s good. I push through cause at the end of the day, there are deliverables needed to be delivered.

However, without someone directing me and telling me what to do, it is difficult to start things. The biggest issue for me isn’t creating things because I don’t have the motivation/inspiration to, it’s because I don’t know where to start. I’ve realized that taking breaks to indulge in other works of art and not being too serious about what I make helps so much. It resets my system and lets me gather myself for the next piece.


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

In terms of my art career, I really enjoy the fact that in spaces on the internet, people continue to interact and engage with my art. I still get notifications from people downloading this piece I edited on this game, and it’s nice to see that people enjoy what I’ve created. The site is also a pet breeding site, so these things aren’t static pictures. My edits get passed down from generation to generation, it gets recolored and reworked on. It’s honestly interesting to think about sometimes, despite not being there anymore.


Q: What would you say has been your biggest failure?

That I didn’t setup my social media pages before. I don’t have much of a following on my newly made Facebook and Twitter pages, and I’m still setting new ones up (Instagram, among others).

Microblogging isn’t something I do naturally. I tend to like writing long things and rambling on with my opinions. Curating and planning text that is short and concise with supplemental content is something I’m still working into my daily/weekly routine. Even if I had planned it and worked things out in theory, practicing and executing things is still quite different.


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

Personally, I’m not really hoping to get a big following or anything. I just really want to make things and attend conventions/art markets to see if people want to buy my merch.

Previously, it was just looking for job listings and sending letters with my resume and portfolio. I’m able to land work with that. There are times where it was harder for me to deliver what was asked of me but at that point, pushing through and working to the best of my capabilities was the only way to go. I’m also very receptive to criticism and feedback, a trait clients really like and appreciate, and I attribute that to how I started my journey as an artist.



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

The plan isn’t really a career plan, but it’s the future life I envision for myself. I don’t aspire to win awards for my work, become a national artist, or to somehow be immortal through what I’ve made. I just want to be able to maximize my life and live the way I want it to be.

I have a very simple goal in life. I want to live with the people I love, preferably off grid with an edible garden and our (cat?) children. I want to never worry about finances and see the people around me thrive with me. I want to create things, without restriction, and feel content in what I’ve made. Honestly, I just want to be; that’s the end goal.


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

Personally, just engaging with art in general. I love playing games, watching media, listening to music. Each one is a product of someone’s work and skill, and this inspires me to continue making things.

I want to try making more fan art and extending myself to engage with the content I enjoy. I haven’t really made a lot of work centered around the things I like and I’m interested in, and I think it’ll help me figure out what I want to do for myself as well.


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 think because my whole journey through art (and life in general) has been so rooted on external feedback, the hidden reason to simply learn how to be more comfortable in my own skin and learn to appreciate myself more.

Throughout this entire interview, I’ve spoken about how other people influence me, how other’s opinions have been the standard of how I look at my art. It’s come to the point that I’ve become harsh on myself that I just don’t start. It’s similar in a lot of aspects in my life where I don’t feel like I have full control on what want to do and how I want to live it. There are aspects of myself that I struggle with facing them on my own, so it’s easier for me to either avoid bringing them up or just live life how others want me to. I know fully that this has harmed me more than uplift me, that choosing harmony isn’t always harmonious.

At the same time, I’ve expressed what I’ve done to work on deconstructing this and getting comfortable with the idea that I can make art for myself. It extends to my journey in working on learning that I can be who I am without needing approval from other people. I want to know in confidence that I can exist without feeling controlled by other’s opinions on my life. I’m doing this for myself, and hopefully find my way through. I’m slowly getting there, and I’m honestly proud of how much I’ve grown and how far I’ve gotten.

Quick-Fire Questions

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

Pokemon; my favorite storyline is Black and White, but I remember Ruby and Sapphire impacting me the most in my childhood.

Neopets; they had a story event in the earlier days of the game, which really pulled me in the whole pet browser games and started looking into the lore of games.

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West; it’s essentially a fanfic but I loved the musical, was part of the organizers of Wicked Harana when the Australasian cast was here, and I can’t even begin to express what the book has given me.


Q: What are the top books, art books, blogs, podcasts, or workshops you’d recommend that helped you level up your skills?

Oh gosh, I honestly have a lot of books and they’re just growing! Personally, I love these three: Anatomy Drawing School Animal (Andras Szyngyoghy and Gyorgy Feher), Anatomy Drawing School Human (Andras Szyngyoghy and Gyorgy Feher), and Basic SIGN (Page One).

The first two have pencil drawings of body parts, and they’re incredibly beautiful. It also shows muscle direction, so it’s easier to understand how to form the basic shapes to create the foundation of something. The last one is basically looking at modern signs in different settings. It helps me work out creating functional designs when I’m making layouts.


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

I love New York! When I visited, I just honestly felt at home. I also went to MoMA and almost cried looking at Van Gogh’s Starry Night and was very emotional seeing Mondrian and Andy Warhol works there as well. I’d love to live and work beside these, but honestly nothing will top working at a place where I can live with the people I love (crosses fingers it’s NY though).


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?

I’d like to say Van Gogh since I adore him, but I’d have to go with Paul Cezanne the father of Modern Art. Modern Art is honestly my favorite period because of how artists that time challenged the notion that art should only be reflective of real life. The gatekeepers then, aka the galleries, favored impressionists over anyone else, creating a standard of what is “beautiful” and artists had to comply to that to get seen or starve. He also thought, because impressionism only tried to depict real life, that there really isn’t anything more to improve on the style and that the era was coming to an end.

He pushed to challenge what art is and didn’t think it was painting what’s seen in an ever-changing world. He wanted and knew art was meant to develop and change and was frustrated at the gatekeepers that limited their installments to only what they thought was beautiful, but what they made the audience believe that beauty had a standard. So, he incorporated not only technical aspects into what he made but wanted people to think for themselves and engage in learning what the piece was about. His works are also what my favorite movement, Cubism, came from.

I think there’s so much to learn from him and I would love to pick his brain.


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.)

I’ve had a lot of art teachers, a lot of artists I’ve worked with and studied how to execute their styles. There’s just so many people that inspire me and helped me improve that I can’t pick one that’s influenced me the most. However, there are two people that have been pivotal to my growth and journey in my life the past years. They’re both people I adore with my whole heart, and I don’t want to know a life without them.

One of them is Casey Chapman, who works mostly as a sound designer, figuring out techniques for AI singing voice banks (UTAU, specifically) to sound smoother. We met 10 years ago working for the same game, and I was honestly a hot mess of a teenager. I had a lot of internal things I struggled with, but no one else had shown me the same level of compassion that time. It really inspired me to figure out ways to better help myself and cope with what I had. I wanted to survive in a world that felt like things weren’t looking up, because I wanted to experience the good this world had to offer.

The other one is Abbie Highley. We met each other 5 years ago, and my life has honestly never been the same since then. We started out writing short stories together and quickly became good friends. The support in learning not just how to navigate through our own careers and life path, but who we are as people, has been invaluable to us. I can say we’ve grown so much by just knowing someone would be there to pick us up through whatever we decided to do, without fear of judgement. Through our friendship, I’ve realized that life for me meant learning and growth, and that it’s worth living.

Without these two people, I honestly don’t think I’d be where I am now. I don’t think I would be as hopeful and as grounded as I am. Having them continuously support me and what I do makes it so much easier to work on figuring out who I want to be and be most comfortable with myself. I take the lessons I’ve learned from them, and continue to learn from them, with me as I work on my art and make things.

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