Gail Ramirez is a student of Fine Arts Major in Visual Communication at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. She is currently self-publishing a comic series entitled LAPIS released last January 2018, and currently at its second issue. She’s also working on a second title, “Sana Tayo ”, which she released last February 2019. Besides drawing and her art, Gail enjoys listening to music, and sometimes attending the concerts of some of her favorite bands: The 1975, Panic! at the Disco, Fall Out Boy, Paramore, The Nightgame, Switchfoot and Polyphia, as well as OPM bands and local music fairs. You can find out more about Gail Ramirez and her work over on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Characters from Lapis

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?

This question is very interesting and napa-isip talaga ako [it really got me thinking] haha. I think I started pretty early? Kasi [Because] when I was 4 years old I remember nag-paint kami ng “tree” during our art class in pre-school. That was the first serious artwork I made and yun talaga yung [that was really my] first time ko makahawak ng [to hold a] brush and makagamit ng [to use] watercolor.

I was really amazed with the process of using water and mixing it with paint, I clearly remember the time that I was really fascinated with color blending. The 4-year old me felt like painting is some sort of magic and I think that’s the exact moment that I decided what I want to do with my life, to become an artist.

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

I always thought that my biggest struggle is wanting my works to be perfect pero when I asked the closest persons in my life who have been with me through my journey as an artist, they told me the truth of what they think my real struggle is.

They made me realized that my true struggle is yung pagtingin ko sa sarili ko bilang [the way I see myself as an] artist and the way I view my works. I never see my artworks as beautiful, I always feel that my works are imperfect and I can never be proud of them because my skills are never good enough. Ang harsh ko daw sa sarili ko masyado huhu [They say I’m super harsh on myself]. This struggle is also the reason before kung bakit hindi ako [why I wasn’t] confident magpakita [to show] or mag-upload sa social media ng mga drawings ko.

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

To be honest I’m still in the process of overcoming this struggle. However, with the help of the people who always believe in me, and the people who support and show their appreciation towards my art (lalo na yung mga readers ng komiks ko [especially the readers of my comics]), little by little I am able to see the beauty within my works. I am trying my best to look at the positive side of what I create and not focus too much on the negative. Lagi kasi ako nakatingin sa kung ano yung mali sa gawa ko [Because I’m always focusing on the mistakes in my work].

I learned from this struggle the importance of knowing not just the weak points of your creation but also its strengths. Letting yourself appreciate the beauty within your works and allowing yourself to feel proud of what you create (even just a little) will inspire you to continue and keep going through this art journey.

Rocket & Groot (medium: watercolor)

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

Aside from practice and patience, I think setting my goal to strive for perfection is one thing that really helped me level up my skills. I’m not referring to the literal meaning of the term perfection (I’m not saying rin na perfect yung mga gawa ko [I’m not saying my work is perfect either] lol) but what I mean is that, ito yung moment na [this is the moment wherein], you become “truly satisfied” with what you have created. If you don’t stop trying until you reach the level of quality you are satisfied with, you will definitely feel great about the result kasi makikita mo yung kinalabasan ng pinaghirapan mo [because you’ll be able to see the fruits of your labor]. I think nakatulong talaga yung mindset na to sa pag-level-up ng skills ko [I think this mindset was really helpful in terms of leveling-up my skills].

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

“Okay lang mag start kahit hindi ka pa magaling [It’s okay to start even if you aren’t an expert].” That’s the thing that I wish I’d knew before kasi palagi ko dine-delay yung pagproduce ko ng sarili kong komiks dahil feel ko hindi pa ako ready [because I always end up delaying the production of my comics because I feel as if I’m not yet ready].

Palagi ko naiisip na [I’m always thinking that] my skills are not good enough to start yet. But then, I realized na kapag ganun, baka hindi ko na masimulan talaga yung komiks ko [But then I realized that if that were the case, then maybe I really never would have started my comics]. Right now, I still think na hindi pa talaga ako magaling pero okay lang because ang mahalaga para sakin ngayon ay yung makapag-share ng stories [Right now, I still think that I’m not good enough yet, but that okay because what’s more important for me right now is to be able to share my stories].

“Mortality” (medium: watercolor)

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

Nagsimula ako sa paggawa ng komiks kasi [I started making comics because] I want to share the stories existing inside my head. I want to bring my characters to life and I want to share their stories by drawing them. Seeing my characters move and interact with one another in their own world is what really inspires me to keep drawing.

Pakiramdam ko kasi nabibigyan ko sila ng buhay kapag nagawa ko na silang komiks and that’s the real reason kung bakit ako nagpapatuloy kahit mahirap and nakakapagod haha. Gusto ko mabuhay sila at maipakita sa mga tao yung world kung saan sila nag-eexist.

[I can’t help but feel that I’m giving them life whenever I’m able to place them in a comic, and that’s the real reason why I keep producing them even though they’re difficult and tiring haha. I want them to live and breathe and show other people the world in which these characters exist.]

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

During semester break, in which I usually work full time on my comic series, my average day starts at 10am then it will end at around 5am. I’m literally spending most of my waking hours on drawing because sem breaks are quite short, tapos meron pang [and there are also] holidays, and of course, I need to spend my time with my family rin. I draw as much as I can during sem breaks. I found myself most creative, kapag [around] 11pm to 4am haha hindi ko rin alam kung bakit [I also have no idea why].

When the semester is ongoing naman [on the other hand], plates and academic requirements consumes most of my time during weekdays. However, Friday nights are officially for drawing and sometimes nag-eextend buong [the entire] weekend lol, then cram na lang ng acads haha [all my academics].

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

When I’m working full time on my comics, bago ako magstart nagpopost ako sa [before I start working I post on] social media na [that] I’ll be inactive for a while to avoid misunderstandings kapag hindi ako nakakapagreply sa [if I’m unable to reply to] messages. For me, social media is the biggest distraction and sobrang [super] time consuming kaya ito talaga yung iniiwasan ko [and so this is really something I avoid] every time I’m working para makapagfocus [so that I can focus].

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

First of all, binibigyan ko ng time yung self ko para magpahinga [I give myself time to rest]. After that well-deserved rest at hindi pa rin ako [and I’m still not] inspired, I listen to certain set of songs.

Ganito kasi yan [This is how it goes], I have this specific playlists for each comics that I’m currently working on and ito yung pinapakinggan ko habang nagddrawing [these are what I listen to while I’m drawing]. That’s why whenever I feel uninspired and suddenly lost, I listen to this playlist kahit hindi ako nagddrawing [even when I’m not drawing] and I go back to that certain feeling.

Parang binabalik ko yung sarili ko sa time na sobrang hype ako magdrawing until ma-reach ko yung point na maibalik ko sa present self ko yung same level ng motivation. [It’s like I’m deliberately bringing myself back to the time when I felt incredibly hyped to draw until my present self reaches a point wherein I can experience that same level of motivation]. That really works for me. (this is really personal and it’s my first time sharing this haha!)

Character Designs for LAPIS

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

My most epic win not so far but forever is yung merong nagbabasa ng komiks ko [that there are people reading my comics]. I really appreciate the support, feedback and the love I get from my readers. Thank you sa mga tumatangkilik sa [to all those that supported] “LAPIS” at [and] “Sana Tayo”.

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

There was a time na muntik ko na i-let go yung pangarap ko na makagawa ng sarili kong komiks [where I almost let go of my dream to make my own comics].

I considered it as my biggest failure kasi yun yung time na nawala na talaga yung tiwala ko sa kakayahan ko [because that was the time that I really lost faith in my abilities]. I almost gave up without even trying, sobrang hopeless nung feeling [I felt really hopeless]. That time I tweeted something like, “Maybe I’m trying too hard pero baka hindi ko talaga kaya magdrawing ng komiks [but maybe I really can’t draw comics].. I think I should stop.”

Then a friend of mine told me this: “We start drawing, we draw what inspires us and interests us. At some point we know it’s bad because we just started. Then we start practicing and getting better! Then suddenly we suck again because we’re actually evolving in the sense that we’re seeing things better. You’re actually seeing certain things you might’ve overlooked before because your eyes are more keen on them now. It only feels like you got worse because another part of you got better. But if you push through this wall, your hand and technical skill will catch up to your eye again! It’s a cycle and it will happen again, but you’re continuously growing.”

My friend said na it’s a message that’s been being passed along several artists. 🙂 Meron talagang times na sobrang down tayo [There really are certain times where we feel really down], in my case I am really lucky to have friends and family na nandyan palagi [that are always there] to cheer me up and inspire me.

Character Design Sheet

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

For me, the best way to promote myself and my work is through social media and joining events such as Komiket, Komiken, Manga Fest etc.

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

My comic series called “LAPIS” has a looooong story because I created a whole different world full of colors and action-packed adventures. Just like any other aspiring comic artist, I dreamed of creating a comic that will soon have an anime adaptation. Ito talaga yung pangarap ko nung bata ako haha [This really has been my dream since I was a kid].

But now, I finally realized what my ultimate dream is. This might sound so simple, but for me the real goal here is to “finish the story”. I came to understand that being able to deliver the story from start until the end is what really matters to me, as an artist and a storyteller. In short, ang ultimate dream ko talaga ay matapos yung kwento ng LAPIS [my ultimate dream is to finish the story of LAPIS].

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

I get my ideas anywhere. From random objects to things that I learned in class (even it is not art related), kahit saan talaga [really, just everywhere].

For example nakakita ako ng isang object then maiisip ko,Uy pwede to ma-transform para maging weapon ng isang character ko. Mga ganun. There are times rin na nakikinig lang ako ng lesson sa class, the topic is very different pero maiisip ko na pwede kong maging material yung information na yun sa world building ng komiks ko.

[For example, where I see a particular object, I think, “Hey I could transform that so that it could become a weapon for one of my characters.” Things like that. There are times also, while I’m listening to the lessons in class, where the topic is very different but I’ll think that I could use some of the information there as material for the world-building in my comics.]

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?

Like I said on the previous questions, I want to bring my characters to life. Masaya at mahalaga para sakin talaga na naipapakilala ko sa mga tao sa real world, through comics, yung mga characters sa imaginary world ko [It’s important and it makes me happy to have been able to introduce to people in the real world, through my comics, to the characters in my imaginary world]. I’m doing it for them, I want to share their stories and adventures!

Couleur at Motifs (medium: colored pencils)

Quick-Fire Questions

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

Kapag tinatanong ako ng ganito palaging nagiging blank yung utak ko [Whenever I’m asked this question my mind always goes blank] lol but here you go:

1. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

2. Adventure Time by Pendleton Ward (the animated tv series sa cartoon network)

3. The Republic by Plato

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)

I will recommend books like Manga in Theory and Practice by Hirohiko Araki, The Legend of Korra - The Art of the Animated Series and The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Berries (medium: acrylic)

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

Anywhere but not far from my family because home cooked meals are the best! I also enjoy letting my cousins hangout and chat with me while I draw. I don’t mind if they watch me work on my comics as long as they don’t post any spoilers haha.

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?

Eiichiro Oda!!! I’m not the biggest One Piece fan but this mangaka is a genius and I’m curious to know the secret behind the most successful manga title to date.

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 think my biggest mentor that really helped me improve my skills is my professor in Techniques and Figure Drawing class, Sir Armand Bacaltos. I considered myself very lucky to be one of his students. Another one is my brother, Myronne. I would never have become a comic artist if not because of him. 🙂

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