Can you tell me a bit about how you got into painting?
I actually used to work in accounting for the government. My mom had set it up for me. Being a Filipino immigrant mom, she was like “You have to get a good job and be able to provide for your kids in the future.” I did that for two years, even though after the first year I knew I couldn’t do it. It paid really well, but it wasn’t worth the mental anguish of doing something my heart wasn’t in. Not at that point in my life at least. To me it was something I could potentially fall back on if nothing worked out. Every week, there was a retirement party, and it was so vivid — I remember this banner that said “Life Begins at Retirement.” I didn’t want my life to begin at retirement.
After the second year I decided not to renew my contract. I took a year to figure out what I wanted to do. My friends were always encouraging me to try something with art since I’d always been drawing. So yeah, that’s how it started.
Did you go to art school at that point?
I went to George Brown for Art and Design Foundation a couple years after high school. I did one semester and then I dropped out. I didn’t like school, it wasn’t really for me.
Were you creative when you were younger or was your practice something you took to more recently?
I was always drawing as far as I could remember. I would make comics for my friends. It’s always been something I’ve done but I was never consciously thinking, “I’m an artist” or “I want to be an artist”. It’s just something I always did.
Can you tell me a bit about your process?
I tend to work spontaneously. Everything is feeling-based. I try to make work only when I feel like it because I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself. I take my sketchbook around with me and everything goes through that. Some of what’s in my sketchbook might become a painting. I have like 30 of these pocket-sized sketchbooks filled at home.
Do you normally draw this small?
Yeah, because it’s easy to carry around. I tend to draw better when I’m with people. I get social anxiety, especially in large groups, so if there’s a lot of people around that I’m not familiar with I can just take my sketchbook out and draw. And my friends are really understanding and know I’ll just interact with them when I want to.
You mentioned you’ve done graffiti too – do you think that has an influence on your current work?
I have a lot of the same motifs in my work, like flowers and hands and feet. I feel like that’s something I connect to graffiti, because when you do a tag over and over, it’s just repetition, and then it becomes your signature. There’s something very do-it-yourself, or figure-it-out-on-your-own type beat that I was drawn to. So, in that way, yes.
I’ve also noticed you use text in a lot of your work.
I do like to write and it’s definitely something I’ll continue to explore, but in my paintings I generally stay away from text because I feel like it’s too leading sometimes. Having text in a piece might steer the viewer too much and I like leaving it up to interpretation.
Is there anything in particular you’re finding inspiration from lately?
My work and process is very much a stream of consciousness. A big part of my practice is to draw and express without necessarily thinking too much about it. I guess there are always things influencing me in the moment that I’m unaware of. My work is mostly from my imagination and are flection of stuff I’m going through, things I’m trying to figure out emotionally or interpersonally.
Do you use Instagram to find other artists to follow, etc.? Where do you find work that you draw inspiration from?
I used to use Instagram a lot more, and that’s where I met most of my close friends. My friends inspire me every day. Nowadays, not so much.
I have a really unhealthy amount of books at home. I get them all over. Usually when I travel,or at the St. Lawrence Antique Market. There was this man, Bernard (Rest in peace, he passed away last year) who had a big table of all art books. I used to go every Sunday and ask him what new books he had and he would just pull out something that he thought I’d like. I was collecting books from him for so long. So yeah, mostly art books.
Do you have any advice for artists who are just starting out?
Seek out like-minded people, be vulnerable, be open, recognize change is the only constant, sleep more, say “no” more, know that you have not yet made your best work.