Juan “Wan” Paolo Mañanita currently works as an in-house graphic artist, and self-publishing his personal work under the group, Frances Luna III Illustration Firm. Some of his works include ANG MORION and MUNDOS NOVUS, and a weekly webcomic entitled Wansworld. Besides drawing a lot, he enjoys watching a ton of TV series, and playing board games. You can follow Wan and his work on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and DeviantArt.
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?
Ah! A question that I have answered so many times hehe! But I always love to answer. Well anyway, as a kid, I have always been drawing, from copying all these famous 90’s anime from teks (cheap trading cards). Like every artist, my first teacher in drawing was the stuff that I always see on TV (animes and power rangers). Characters like Red Ranger, Dennis from ghost fighter or Krillin (he is easy to draw cause he’s bald) from Dragon Ball Z are the early characters I could remember drawing.
Q: From that moment, and throughout your journey as an artist, what has been your biggest struggle?
Struggles? I can’t actually say that I have a big struggle that I can remember in being an artist, but I can say that I used to not know how to use PHOTOSHOP to color my comic books digitally, or adding dialog balloons on my pages. Ahaha! As in, I legitimately struggled in that department. Am not a fine arts or digital arts graduate, and I really didn’t have a clue how to use PHOTOSHOP back then. Hahaha!
wQ: How have you been able to cope with (or overcome) this struggle?
Well luckily there was PHOTOSHOP in a computer shop near my school, and I learned how to use it on my own, and then, I guess, the rest is history.
Q: What would you consider is the ONE thing that REALLY helped you level up your skills?
I can say just last year, when I challenged myself to draw for 365 days, if you were following me on Instagram last year na spam ko kayo [I spammed you] for sure. I wasn’t able to complete the whole year though, I ended up doing 320 days only, and I can say it really helps you to improve. You just have force yourself to draw something every day.
Q: What is one thing you’d wish you’d known before you started your artistic career? Why?
I wish I knew that someone will always be better than you. You can practice all day, improve your skills every day, but some 9 year old on the other side of the globe is already better than you.
When I was in High School, I always thought I was a good artist. Then college came and nobody in my class knew how to draw even a stick figure. And after graduation, I discovered DeviantArt and I was blown away by the works of artists who were probably half of my age. This realization isn’t much of a letdown, but it’s always good to know that someone will always be better than you.
Q: What drives or inspires you to continue making art or comics?
I think I just want to leave something in the world when I’m gone. You know, like Mozart stopped being a person and became music, when Kirby became synonymous to Comics, when Shuster and Siegel became “Superman”. I like to believe that one day, maybe, I could be like them.
Q: What does your average day look like? (And when do you fit in the time to create art?)
Pretty much average, I have a day job, so routinely I wake up early in the morning, go to work, go home, and hopefully I can stay up late enough to do some comic pages.
Q: How do you deal with distractions or challenges that you encounter while you’re working on your art?
Ah man this is really hard because I thrive in distractions; I actually prefer drawing while catching up on my TV shows—which is not for everyone, I’m sure, and I don’t recommend it. Though, right now, my distraction is sleep and, as we all know, sleep always wins. Hehe! I still need to figure out how to deal with sleep, I actually need help haha!
Q: What do you do when you feel just completely uninspired or burnt out? How do you motivate yourself to start working again?
Having a day job gives me less time to be uninspired. I don’t know that having a day job helps you prevent burning yourself out, but it gives me something to look forward to at the end of the day.
I don’t suggest everyone get a day job. Some people aren’t really built to work in the four corners of an office cubicle. But it wouldn’t hurt. It also pays.
Q: What would you say has been your most EPIC win so far?
Hmm let’s see… I don’t have much victories in life, and I don’t think it’s also enough to call it “epic”, but every time a comic book superstar likes my work on any social media platform is a win.
Last year, this Pinoy comic book superstar liked 5 of my works on Facebook. And that makes me really happy, especially since this guy doesn’t like a lot of stuff online, considering his busy schedule. I mean, a comic book superstar stops for a while to like your work. It might mean something. Hehehe!
Q: What would you say has been your biggest failure?
I have failed many times, but I can’t pick which one is the biggest—or I just don’t dwell much on my failures. What I just do is learn from it and amend it. But I think my biggest failure would be whenever I stop doing what I love (drawing, making comics). I like to think that as an artist we will only fail if we stop doing what makes us happy.
As I’ve heard or read somewhere “Giving up is the only sure way to fail.”
Q: What, for you, has been the best way to promote yourself and your work to potential fans, clients, or publishers?
I don’t know if you noticed, but there is a trend that you have to be famous online (social media) first, and then publishers will discover you eventually.
Obviously, you have to create a market, following, or fans first; this will guarantee sales for the printed version of your works.
Q: What has been your game plan throughout your journey? What’s the BIG picture here? The ultimate dream?The end game?
A game plan? Well… I don’t have any. I guess the original and only plan is just to get better in my craft so if, one day, a big project came along I will be ready and it will be worth it for me and for the client. Also, I think it’s better to create your own opportunities. If there are no big projects coming your way, you can always go to indie publishing. Print your own books, it’s expensive but it will still get you there.
Q: What, for you personally, has been the source of your ideas, creativity and talent?
Boredom I guess… Geez I dunnoh what to say on this one. I just don’t think I have a source of ideas, creativity and talent. I think creative people have it in their DNA. It’s like you are not complete if you don’t create something. Our creativity defines us, I guess. But if you’re asking for an external source, maybe I can say reading comic books and watching TV. I think it’s a good source of ideas and creativity if you follow the industry or community that one day you want to belong to.
Q: What is your big “WHY”?
Big Why… uhmm WHY comic books and comics culture is underrated in this country. Why is there not a lot of people that appreciate it.
Q: What 3 stories (comics, movies, documentaries, novels, etc.) would you say influenced and inspired your work the most?
Heroes (TV show SEASON 1) , X-Men, Battle Royale.
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)
Top comic books
SAGA, AMERICAN VAMPIRE and CALVIN and HOBBES
Q: If you could work remotely, from anywhere in the world, where would your office be? Why?
Probably New York, because I would like to know why it’s always an ideal setting for almost every story ever written.
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 really inspires you to get better.)
OH! Never had a mentor L. But if I would have one, I’d go with Becky Cloonan or Bryan Lee O’Malley, because they’re not just artist they are also writers. And I found their works really well rounded and versatile.