12 speakers, two days. A range of disciplines all boils down to one goal: expressing creativity. The biggest yearly conference on creativity in the Philippines, Graphika Manila, is open to professionals and students alike.
It covers, to name a few, animation, CGI, illustration and graphic design; and aims to share knowledge about the craft and inspire attendees to hone or pursue the disciplines chosen.
Over the last five years, team members from StraightArrow’s Creative Design team have attended the event. These were both an attempt to gain inspiration and tips and tricks from big names in the design industry.
This year, 10 of our designers took the opportunity to participate in the illustrious creative gathering. Accompanying them were two social media specialists who provided coverage.
Days after Graphika Manila, the team picked apart the event in a recap discussion. This round-table covered expectations from the first-timers and insights from the conference regulars.
“I thought it was going to be a workshop on graphic design. But the workshops hosted required a separate payment and were on separate days,” says Ned, of StraightArrow’s Design Team, a first-timer to GM.
Some other neophytes to the event echoed this sentiment:
“We thought there would be more booths showcasing their products or work. And more emphasis on the technicalities and tips especially in going about their work.”
Creative Design team members for the 1st day of GM2019
Jem, a GM regular since her college days, thought otherwise.
I pretty much knew what to expect. I see it as a graphic design conference where artists, especially students, are given clarity on disciplines they want to pursue. There were some speakers though, especially on the first day, who seemed like they were unprepared or not comfortable with public speaking.
She also mentioned that the first day felt like a portfolio review rather than a discussion on tools and techniques. Despite this, she was still satisfied with how GM 2019 turned out. Especially in terms of taking inspiration from the different designers who led talks.
Exceptional Speakers: Those Who Came and Left a Mark
A few of the 12 creatives who guested for GM 2019 stood out for the team. Topping this list is Aaron Draplin, founder of Draplin Design Co., who made an impression not only because of his impressive stage presence, but also because he went into the emotional inspiration behind his work.
“He takes the mundane and reinvents them into something simple yet meaningful,” shares Ian.
Draplin's work embodies simplicity, yet the meaning that fuels his output is profound. The graphic designer and author shared his process during his hour-long dedicated segment with the GM's attendees. Going around antique stores and junk shops, Draplin seeks items most people no longer want. He then figures out how to use these as inspiration.
Sharing an anecdote from one junk shop trip, Draplin saw and liked the look of worn store signage. He couldn’t find a typeface for it — so he took matters into his own hands, collaborated with a typographer and created one of their own.
Aaron Draplin speaks about inspiration.
Draplin also shared his process of moving forward from painful events — such as the death of his dog or his beloved father. To sum this process up, Dralpin commemorates these memories through art.
"Design shouldn't be a bad thing," he shared, touching a bit on his feelings towards the state of his country, his government, and how as a citizen he believes in taking a more proactive approach.
Draplin crafts postage stamps and logos to express his love and patriotism.
Another popular speaker was Lauren Hom of Hom Sweet Hom, focusing on Design and Lettering. She introduced the concept of her passion
projects, which allows her to pursue her passions without the expectation of making a living off of them.
For example, her “Will Letter for Lunch” started as a barter agreement. Hom offered to letter “menu for the day” chalkboards and have that specific dish for free. This led to the discovery of her work, and from there, she was eventually commissioned to letter for restaurants, this time with a fee.
“Passion projects have now become a thing for the Design team," shares Karl. "We are [now] encouraging each other to pursue our projects to improve our craft.”
Lauren Hom shares how her passion projects turned into profitable work
Anj also forwards her crucial takeaway from Ms. Hom: “I am also not good with illustrations. [I]t’s inspiring how she discovered she was good at something she could see herself pursuing. [What] started with a seemingly idealistic drunken conversation with a friend eventually evolved into something she was passionate about.”
Filipino Artists who Made It Big
It should go without saying that it is inspiring when Filipino artists manage to expand their work internationally. These three resource speakers resonated with the team, hitting closer to home than the others. Anthony Francisco, Yeo Kaa, and Rian Gonzales prove that you will always have a chance to pursue your dreams if you work hard enough and want it bad enough.
Anthony Francisco, for an instance, is a Filipino-American currently working at Marvel Studios as a Concept Artist and Illustrator. He is also the creator behind Marvel characters like Loki and Hulk in Thor: Ragnarok, General Okoye and Nikia of Black Panther, and Baby Groot of Guardians of the Galaxy.
Like Aaron Draplin, Francisco also takes inspiration from those closest to his heart. Using the mannerisms and quirks of his son, he illustrated Baby Groot with everyday occurrences — playing video games and uncoordinated yet adorable dancing — to show how Baby Groot is a kid.
Anthony Francisco relays his inspiration for Baby Groot
In terms of unconventional art, there was Yeo Kaa, whose work is sometimes identified as childish drawings.
“She was very nervous and was clear that she isn’t used to public speaking. However, her emotions run very deep, and it was obvious that her outlet is her art,” says Zandra.
One of Yeo Kaa’s artwork sprung from all the emotions she wanted to express. Here is her take on suicide, where she realized when you kill yourself, you kill the people who love you too.
Kaa’s work often touches on insecurities and sensitive topics such as mental health, depression, and suicide.
“It’s interesting how she expresses her emotions by converting her life experiences into art,” shares Francis.
As an artist, Kaa is open about what she feels, unashamed to say that she is human and vulnerable to disappointments and hurt.
Lastly is Rian Gonzales, a Comic Artist and Illustrator for Marvel Comics. Her main advice to GM attendees is not to be afraid to display their work. Talking points included how she had to improve her craft and discover her style before she got noticed.
Rian Gonzales shares just how much art she submitted before getting recognized.
"It takes time," she told the attendees, projecting a collage of the work she had to submit before someone eventually commissioned her. She also underscored the best practice of updating one's portfolio.
“I found her to be the most chill artist, yet also the most productive," says Nicole. “ I relate to her the most. Like her, I am into traditional art, yet I also recognize that I should be able to adapt to digital. It’s inspiring how she submitted tons of her work before the big brands eventually recognized her.”
Key Takeaways and Passions to Pursue
As with any conference, StraightArrow encourages its team members to attend. The goal is to elevate their potential. This is not only about allowing for experiences to improve their work but also in providing spaces for inspiration in their passions. Events like Graphika Manila equip resources with the skills to help create for the world. And true enough, each attendee had respective takeaways and is now armed with new techniques and inspiration.
True enough, each attendee had respective takeaways from the event. They completed the event armed with new techniques as well as inspiration. Here are their thoughts.
I learned that you should always create from the heart and expand your learnings, and not to limit yourself to what you know. I will push myself to improve my lettering skills like Lauren Hom’s and learn Rian Gonzales’ art, especially since I am weak in anatomy.
I have the skill, but I have not mastered it yet. And it’s a good thing because it means I still have room for improvement. I want to improve my character development and coloring skills and learn 3D like the work of Laundry and Ivan Dixon.
I want to improve my skill in character design since I have always been putting it off. You just have to try and try. Don’t lose hope even when you already feel like giving up. I also want to learn animation and pixel art.
In between talks, the Creative Design gamely strikes a pose
Mainly, I want to focus on improving my motion graphics and 3D skills, especially opening and title sequences, since I have also set this aside since it’s not applicable at work. And of course, you have to know what you want. You should practice your passions in your spare time to avoid burnout.
Just do your thing and don’t stop. I want to improve digital animation since it’s been my weak point in college. Character design is also another costume design, to be specific. I got inspired by how Anthony Francisco could create different looks for one character by simply replacing layers and layers of other costumes.
My key takeaway is to keep on creating and find your purpose. I aim to improve my skills on motion graphics like Laundry’s work, as well as animation execution, specifically combining graphics and motion.
I want to be able to learn how to create title sequences like Shane Griffin, as well as character designs like Anthony Francisco. And while creating, I will remember to make something with a reason.
Let us not forget our journeys because in the same way, we might find ourselves speaking in front of all those people someday, and it will be our turn to inspire people with our experiences. Mainly I want to improve my branding, identity and graphic design skills since that’s my work and source of income. As a side skill and passion, I want to pursue learning about illustration, performance art and 3D.
If you have an idea, make it happen. Apply the kind of discipline where you design with a heart and a purpose. Design not because you have to but also because you want to.
L-R standing: Ned Gruyal, Ian Sumagaysay, Jolo Canceran, Zandra Sandoval, Jayson Gregorio, Joey Pring , Huey Tsai. L-R sitting: Anj Mariano, Karl Fallore
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