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Writer’s Recap: Celebrating tenacious creativity at ‘Graphika Manila 2022’

Last August 14, Graphika Manila 2022 at the SMX Convention Center welcomed participants in Asia’s most influential creativity conference. With six speakers from a multitude of fields—such as graphic art, illustration, and motion graphics—the conference gathered artistic minds and built an avenue where they can share their journeys, passions, and inspirations.

This year’s Conference on Creativity succeeded the earlier Graphika Online 2022 virtual conference held last February. As the convention held its first in-person session in two years, Graphika returnees Tricia, Nellah, and Jolo felt all the more excited at the prospect of finally being able to physically gather with fellow artists and like-minded individuals once again. “It’s really good to be back after a few years of no Graphika,” said Tricia, describing her three years’ worth of experience attending the conference as very inspiring.

Nellah added that returning to Graphika allowed her to resurface from a burnout, “It’s really nice to be refreshed with cool and unique ideas to get back on track.” Meanwhile, Jolo echoed the sentiments of his friends, recounting how the three of them make it a point to attend Graphika annually, which stopped when the pandemic struck. Now, they are more than happy to continue their routine and to relive all of their previous memories of the event.

One thing is for sure: with the excitement of first-timers and regulars alike, alongside an interesting roster of speakers, this year’s Graphika Manila was nothing short of spectacular and fulfilling.

Refined excellence

The conference commenced its first session with graphic designer and illustrator Stanley Lau—also known as Artgerm. Known for his work’s fluidity and seamlessness, his talk—Courage to Change: My Artistic Journey Through the Pandemic—spoke of the inevitable flow of change that life brings and how to embrace it. “Every time you try something out of your comfort zone, you expand it,” he strongly emphasized.

Similarly, Filipina graphic designer June Digan addressed the precariousness of pursuing a creative profession amid a pandemic in her segment, Managing the Uncertainties. She pointed out how being an artist isn’t socially ideal in the minds of many, yet encouraged the audience to follow their passion despite their reservations. For the third talk, Riot Inc. Post Production Managing and Animation Director Jay Santiago tackled Building a Legacy in the Philippines’ visual effects and computer generated-imagery industry. Along with the Riot Inc. team, Santiago took the audience on a deep dive into the processes of post-production and the establishment of a creative company from the ground up.

After a short break,author-illustrator and Walt Disney Studios animator Benson Shum opened the second half of the conference with A Look Behind the Scenes At Disney Animation Studios and the World of Children’s Book Creation. Formally working in broadcast and film animation, Shum annotated the construction of kid-friendly narratives as he explores different art mediums. “I always tried to make everything perfect, and I had to unlearn that, especially with more traditional art forms,” he divulged.

In the same vein, London-based creative director Tina Touli redefined artistic innovation through her talk, Blending the Physical and the Digital Worlds. “The most important thing is not the outcome, but that you enjoy yourself and have fun while creating,” she imparted. Further, Touli stressed the importance of experimenting with unconventional elements to stretch one’s creativity to its maximum potential, sharing that art can be found even in the mundanity of everyday life.

The conference closed out with a talk from comic illustrator and seasoned Graphika Manila guest Rob Cham. His talk, You’re Not Your Art – 10 Things that I’ve Learned from the Last 10 Years, passed on words of wisdom to artists beginning their professional journey, ending the day on an uplifting and inspiring note.

Charting the course of growth

One of the main goals of an artist is to establish their own art style in the creative field of their choice. For Lau, manga novels and animé shows had been his references growing up, and this was reflected in his initial art style. Soon after he moved to Singapore, he found himself slowly evolving his style as he was exposed to different Western influences. “Now, it [is] in the middle,” he described, “A mix of animé art and Western art.”

Meanwhile, Digan’s art style was a result of years of experiment and practice. “It’s not overnight; I’ve worked on it since [I was working in my nine to five job], and it’s not something you can plan,” she shared in an interview. Exploring one’s creative style can also often involve exploring different mediums, and while most artists are familiar with traditional and digital mediums—with some like Touli even blending the two—Digan believes that an artist should navigate these mediums and find what best suits their preference and style.

Constant digital evolution also gives rise to new mediums and software that artists may want to try out, but are unfamiliar with. When faced with this challenge, Lau reminded artists not to be too ambitious. In trying new mediums, it is best to start simple such as drawing headshots of characters, instead of delving straight into intricate and epic pieces. “Every medium has a different behavior…It takes time [to be familiar with it], so don’t rush it.”

But above all, one of the most meaningful things that an artist can have is a support system that continues to inspire and motivate them to keep growing and creating, even when roadblocks inevitably come their way. In line with this, championing Asian creatives and pioneers becomes imperative. As Digan remarked, Asians are underrepresented in the art world, so people must find a way to promote the talents and ingenuity of artists. “Because of the culture that we have, we can bring something new to the table,” Lau opined, further stating that integrating Asian influences can bring fresh perspectives in art, giving the audience a whole new experience.

The journey of a creative is never easy, and one recurring point that was evident in all of the talks during the event is to not be afraid of two things: exploring out of one’s comfort zone and failing. No matter the field, these two experiences allow a person to grow further, equipping them with the skills and life lessons they need in order to improve their craft.

Fountain of ingenuity

The audience went home pocketing pieces of advice from some of the world’s greatest artists. Gaily, a participant in Graphika, remarked that the six talks aptly displayed fortes both new and familiar to her and doled out new ideas for them to integrate into her own, “As a merchandiser, mas business-side ‘yung tinitignan ko. But [it’s] very interesting on how I can apply ‘yung alam ko sa world ko sa arts.”

(I usually look at the business side of things.)

This year’s lineup spirited their audience to rediscover the boundaries of artistry. Passion renewed, participants are eager to integrate ingenuity in their works. Rob, a fashion designer who also attended the event, expressed, “I would like to explore more mga wearable art, or how to use art in our clothing in general.” Likewise, Jolo shared that Touli’s distinct methods have spurred him to question the extent of his own creativity and to try out new ideas.

With another year down in Graphika history, the conference carried on the celebration of blossoming creativity. Wherever the future may take Graphika, it’s sure to further cultivate the artistic landscape of the Philippines and all of Asia. As long as the world is imbued with inspiration, artists and creators’ minds and imagination alike will never run dry.

By Clarisse Bernal

By Alessandra Pauleen Gomez

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