Monica is a young illustrator, born in the Philippines and raised in between beaches, mountains and a quiet neighborhood. She graduated from the Illustration program at Parsons the New School of Design with honors and lives in Brooklyn (for now). Painting food is her excuse to eat so much. We sit down and talk with Monica about her style, technique, education, and more! Read below for the full interview…
Your art has a tessellation vibe to it. Would this be an accurate description?
Monica: Maybe, if you emphasized the “vibe”. I don’t do any math or complicated geometry. I enjoy repeating forms. Maybe by repeating something over and over again, I can capture it’s essence, or show people’s individuality and unity. I also like actually making patterns, combining shapes, fitting objects into odd spaces. It’s meditative.
What kind of avenues can you explore with your art using a pattern-like layout?
Monica: I’d love to design some textiles and make a small collection of clothing.
Parson school of design provides us with more artist interviews than any other formal institute. Why did you choose Parson’s to further your education and how has it helped you?
Monica: I remember reading about Parsons while I was in high school, in a college guide book. It seemed like one of the best art schools in the country. I naively thought that I would go in and learn every possible major and come out a completely transformed. My hopes were very high. I was actually too intimated to even apply right out of high school and transfered in after going to a liberal arts college. Parsons felt like four years of stress and rapid growth. I tried things I have never thought of, was inspired by all the creative people around me and got some good insight into what the “industry” is like. I feel like I have so much to learn still, so much more to improve.
Lots of your work starts with the word ‘How’ as to illustrate a quirky way to do something. Does this stem from you being an observer?
Monica: Oh, I hadn’t noticed that. I’m not very good with titles. I usually just put something I think is funny. Many tend to be suggestions of ways to act as well as observations. I think a lot of my work is about trying to capture these little moments that make up life. Or trying to make up a dream world that I want to be a part of. I wish I was a better observer or a writer with photographic memory.
You also sell prints in your shop. Some artists have reservations about selling their art so soon after college yet you don’t seem to have reservations about it. Could you tell us a bit about your decision to do this?
Monica: In my last semester in school, I took a silkscreen class and made prints and tote bags of a drawing of naked ladies. One of my friends encouraged me to put them up on Etsy to sell. I had so many of them and people seemed to like them so I just did it. A woman invited me to join a group print show in Texas, but I didn’t have enough silkscreens to send her, so I had a small run of prints made. I try not to take myself too seriously. If we wait for our work to be totally perfect, we’ll never show anything at all.
Your art is cute. Can I call it that? Ever thought about doing a series that was a bit morbid? Or can you only channel your creativity when surrounded by positivity?
Monica: [Laughs] It is pretty cute. It’s the way I draw! I can’t help it. Even when I draw sad things, they just look cute or funny. It’s partly my own insecurity. I have trouble sharing the dark, sad side of me. It’s scares me, so I end up making it with humor or softness. I respect people that can just expose themselves that way. It’s something to work on, opening up and making more honest work.
What are some of your favorite Asian films?
Monica: I love “Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams” ! The stories are beautiful and terrifying and suspended in a dream logic that totally escapes me when I try to explain their plots. Spirited Away, Seven Samurai and Battle Royale. I also love watching cheesy Filipino love stories sometimes and crying a lot at the end, like All About Love. I can’t watch American romantic comedies, but the FIlipino ones hit me in the heart.
What was is like displaying your work in Austin versus New York? Was there a different dynamic to it and did you have to shift your style around?
Monica: I didn’t go to the show opening, so I cant say.
What lies ahead now that you are free to work anywhere and with whoever?
Monica: Oh, I’m really not at that point yet! Though I am excited about joining the staff of Rookie Mag as an illustrator and cooking with more vegetables.
Lastly, can you offer up any advice for the everyday struggling artist?
Monica: Be kind, work hard and trust yourself.
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