Tristan Yuvienco works as a freelance illustrator for books, comics, animation, agencies and games. Some of his work is included in the Shards Volume 2 anthology from In Hiatus Studios. Tristan likes geeking out about cartoons, and chatting and entering lively discussions about Dungeons and Dragons. He’s also a dog lover that enjoys travelling whenever possible. You can follow Tristan and his work on Facebook, Instagram, 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?
In grade school, I used to enjoy drawing my favorite cartoon characters as well as showing my (somewhat morbid) stick figure comics to my seatmates. I’ve never really considered taking art seriously until I was part of this college tour. The funny thing about that tour was that it was about a science course! After the tour, we each exchanged this paper with everyone else so that they could write a message to us. In my paper, I made a drawing of myself before passing it around. When it came back, someone else had drawn on it along with a link to theirDeviantART page. This was my first time hearing about this website and when I checked out that page, the rest was history. Shoutout to Caraviel on DeviantART—wherever you are, thank you for introducing me to digital art!
Q: From that moment, and throughout your journey as an artist, what has been your biggest struggle?
I struggle with focus a lot as I tend to change my drawing styles often. One time I wanted to have this painterly-kind of style, the next I was enjoying this more kid-friendly and flat type of style, and now I’m feeling this line-oriented and dynamic style for my sketches and comics! It’s like I want to try all the things and thus I feel like my identity as an artist is all over the place.
Q: How have you been able to cope with (or overcome) this struggle?
Over the years, this predicament has been very frustrating! Now, I’d like to believe that I’ve come to learn to accept this. Now, I kind of get excited thinking about what style I’ll adopt next! It turns out that it isn’t so bad! I can be this jack-of-all-trades kind of artist.
Q: What would you consider is the ONE thing that REALLY helped you level up your skills?
I realized that I learned A LOT when I experimented with different drawing styles. When you do that, you learn different techniques, schools of thought, visual languages, and basically anything could help build your style and visual library. For example, learning how to paint allowed me to apply lighting techniques to my current drawings. It was always a treat learning new things!
Q: What is one thing you’d wish you’d known before you started your artistic career? Why?
The importance of meeting and talking to people or just generally having good communication skills. I feel the easier it is to get your points and agenda across, the easier it will be for you. To be fair, I was an awkward teenager then but this was something I wished I had a grip on early (I still could use some work, actually!). Other than that, I am just enjoying the journey making mistakes and learning along the way.
Q: What drives or inspires you to continue making your art?
Definitely when I see the impact and potential of animation, movies, design, or just art in general on society. On a more personal level, talking about art, projects, goals, struggles, and triumphs with fellow creatives fills me with encouragement and purpose!
Q: What does your average day look like? (And when do you fit in the time to create art?)
I am that guy who usually plans their day the night before. I am also that guy who keeps a mental checklist of daily goals to achieve. It sounds methodical, but that’s how I roll! Sometimes those goals don’t follow through and that’s when I rely on future-me to pick up the slack.
In the morning, I start out with responding to e-mails, doing light client work, and lurking around social media. Post lunch is pretty much a mix of heading to the gym, working on either personal or client work, chatting up on social media, or watching cartoons or anime. In between, I sneak a random drawing here and there.
Q: How do you deal with distractions or challenges that you encounter while you’re working on your art?
Distractions are inevitable for me and so are unexpected happenings! In these cases, I do my best to focus on what I need to do by arranging my priorities according to their urgency, so I end up working extra, while blaming my past self for not putting enough work in. If I’m feeling it, loading a soundtrack, video, or documentary as background noise occasionally helps!
Q: What do you do when you feel just completely uninspired or burnt out? How do you motivate yourself to start working again?
Luckily I haven’t gotten to a point where I felt totally exhausted, but I definitely almost arrived at that point. For me, shifting to a different project that uses different mindsets and techniques works. Taking breaks from the project also helps! I try to make time so that I can unwind from my work. These days I spend time catching up on cartoons, anime, or comics, working on side-projects, playing video games, and such.
Q: What would you say has been your most EPIC win so far?
When I won first place in the Student Animation Category in the National Digital Arts Awards back in 2013! Basically, I had to create a one-minute frame-by-frame animation from scratch with my very limited knowledge in animation. It was also my first time going through the whole animation process! I had to do the writing, storyboarding, backgrounds, animation, music, and compositing of the whole thing. It was so much work to go through but it was one of those moments where all your hard work becomes worth it and it just feels really great!
Q: What would you say has been your biggest failure?
There was a time in college when I bit off more than I could chew. Because of this, my mental health suffered greatly, and I feel like I had failed to meet certain responsibilities. Looking back, it was indeed something that I wish I could’ve handled better.
The thing about mistakes and failure is that while I sometimes regret them, I wouldn’t have avoided them. They’ve been very harsh lessons for me but without them, I would’ve been a different person! Perhaps I may have been a better person, or maybe a worse one. I do my best to just look back to see how far I’ve changed as a person and artist instead of dwelling about what could’ve been.
Q: What, for you, has been the best way to promote yourself and your work to potential fans, clients, or publishers?
Other than attending conventions, working on personal projects, and socializing online, I think it all comes down to just plain meeting other people. They don’t even have to be in the field of drawing or art! There are a lot of people out there who may have problems within their circles whether it’s family, friends, or work. It’s all about finding out what you can do to help solve those problems given your skills.
Q: What has been your game plan throughout your journey? What’s the BIG picture here? The ultimate dream? The end game?
I just like learning and experiencing new things. Hopefully I’ll have worked enough to travel more so I can learn even more things! Perhaps years from now, I’ll have learned enough to share this knowledge with the next generation. I do want to get into teaching somehow!
Q: What, for you personally, has been the source of your ideas, creativity and talent?
Media, my art peers, and oftentimes from my travels. I also try to surround myself with creative and inspiring people in hopes that we exchange ideas and tips with each other.
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?
Personally, making art is overall enjoyable! I love seeing its uses, applications, and importance to society and the development of culture. I aim to contribute in any way I can to this community. There are so many talented and hardworking Filipino artists and I hope to be a part of what we can show to fellow Filipinos and to the world.
Q: What 3 stories (comics, movies, documentaries, novels, etc.) would you say influenced and inspired your work the most?
Pokemon/Digimon (I hope that doesn’t count as two- I equally love them both!), Spirited Away, and basically anything Disney/Pixar, really.
Q: What are the top books, art books, blogs, podcasts, or workshops you’d recommend that helped you level up your skills?
Force: Dynamic Life Drawing for Animators provides great insight on drawing poses.
Ctrl+Paint is fantastic for beginners getting into digital art.
The FZD YouTube Channel teaches concept ideation and how to rationalize designs.
Character Design Reference on Pinterest has a ton of tutorials and reference on character design.
Lastly, James Gurney’s Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter gives knowledge on how you can use colors and lighting in affecting the impact of your drawings.
Q: If you could work remotely, from anywhere in the world, where would your office be? Why?
I’m pretty used to working where I live. If such a place exists, let it be a place where I can take a hike or bike, that isn’t far from family and friends, nor too congested, has great and mild weather, has great food, and has access to technology. I guess a more realistic place would be maybe somewhere in Japan as I think it hits a bunch of these things in this list for me.
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?
Kim Jung Gi! I would love to know and adopt his techniques and sketching habits.
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.)
Definitely my parents! They’re not visual artists, but they saw my potential when I was young and they have always been encouraging in my endeavors. They’re fantastic teachers in not just teaching me how to work with others, but also in reminding me of my purpose in the grand scheme of things, whether it is big or small.