Graphika 2020: Careful Observations, Remixing Creativity, and the Pressures of Perfection – The Value of Repetition in Day Two of Graphika


MANILA, PHILIPPINES – Graphika Manila, now rebranded as Graphika 2020, has never failed to impress. Every year, its set of speakers, artists themselves, come over to a two-day conference on creativity and will without a doubt inspire the other creatives in the audience to do greater work and try on a new approach.

Interestingly enough, it didn’t take much for Graphika to reignite that dose of passion and inspiration people come to the conference for each year. Day One alone was enough to get our imaginations running, and Day Two was just a spectacular end as the entire conference dove deeper into the year’s theme, Creative Vision.

On Day Two of this year’s Graphika, six different speakers talked about their works and shared the knowledge they have gained through the colorful years they have been in their careers. Although each speaker touched on different things, two main points stood out: the time and dedication one needs to create beautiful work, and what beauty really means to the world.

For the first half of the conference, illustrator Kim Jung Gi returned to the stage, followed by Vincent Arseo known for his poster works, and typography artist Stefan Kunz.


Careful observations further showcased through a live demonstration

Kim Jung Gi, who also did a live demonstration during Day One of Graphika 2020, further dissected how he goes about his work, this time switching from a brush pen to a drawing pen. On the first day of the conference, he described how he turns complex structures into simpler shapes, which help him draw whatever figure he has in mind. By simplifying each step, he is able to carefully think about how lines should look like without having to complicate his drawing right away. He also talked about how imagining subjects within a cube helps him define and maintain perspective.

For his session on Day Two, he further combined the concepts he introduced the day prior as he drew an image inspired by Graphika and the city of Manila in real time. As he sketches, he shares his musings on getting the shapes right, and the importance of careful observation. 

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Graphika 2020 Day 2 #Jeepney

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While continuing to sketch a vamped up jeepney, Kim shared that had he the time, he would have gone up to a real jeepney and looked as close as possible on every part, every nook and cranny, just to get a feel of how it works and how it should look like. You always have to look at the objects, get interested and observe what it looks like. So whenever I’m walking around, I always look at the objects around me – a rough translation on one of the many things he wished to point out during his session. He shares that apart from objects, he also loves looking at the muscles, skin, and joints of the people around him, which help him understand how people should look like when drawn.

His drawing for Graphika 2020 Day Two had so many elements on it, each one uniquely drawn in his own style.

He also gives audiences a peak into his origin story, sharing that as a kid, his interest in drawing piqued when he was gifted with a Dr. Slump manga, which had a cover that showed a fish donning scuba gear. Ever since then, he would try to imagine and reimagine certain subjects. It would take him years to find his own style, which is a mix of both Western and Japanese influences. It would take even longer for people to recognize his work.

He said that there was a point in his career when he was rejected by eleven different publishers as his work was too “Western” and not suitable for Korea at the time. Eventually, some of the companies would get back to him years after he submitted his portfolio because he had a distinct style that was becoming more accepted due to new approaches in art as well as music videos of known musicians that had similar visuals.


The value of a good model, and finding your own style

Vincent Aseo also touched on similar points as Kim, building up on what the Korean illustrator has shared with his own experiences.

Aseo began his session with a number of fun facts, which honestly had nothing to do with the rest of Graphika but was nonetheless amusing. He shared that he was a Capricorn, is a JaDine fan and has a JaDine-inspired playlist even though the two celebrities have broken up, and has an admiration for Precious Hearts Romance books.

With the audience’s attention within his grip, he began talking about how he had explored different styles of illustration and was greatly inspired by the works of other people. Among the biggest influences to his style, especially when he first realized how much of an artist he was as compared to an illustrator, were the album covers for DJ Okawari, designed by a Japanese artist named Marumiyan. The covers featured rather simpler drawings of people’s faces, but with elaborate and intricate designs for the rest of the images.

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Aseo shares a mantra he heard from TED Talks Speaker Kerby Ferguson: “Creativity is a remix” – which means that inspiration has to come from somewhere. He would then begin to experiment with his style, adding a bit of maximalism to his works. It wouldn’t take long for him to change his approach again, though. After creating beautiful and intricate works, he would then break apart his ideas and draw something he describes as basag (shattered).

“You have to get out of your comfort zone. And it’s quite scary, lalo if you’re brand conscious. Like if you know your brand, and you want to try something else but think baka off-brand. It hinders your creativity. It only gets to a point that you’re gonna be trapped. In my case I tried doing something that will remind me of that,” he shared during Graphika.

“In our natural progression of things, we will always have our fears, obstacles, and challenges, or FOC,” he joked.

He eventually played with movie posters and applying those looks on his other works, citing Star Wars, Flash Gordon, and Jurassic Park as main sources of inspiration for his own designs. He’s since been tapped by different international studios and movie houses to produce posters for their flicks.

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He shared a lot of advice during his session. One of them is the importance of having a real model as a reference. He amused his audiences by sharing photos of his friend in different poses that he would use for his poster for X-Men, and even puts them together in a larger composite just for laughs. He reiterated that “Composition is greater than style, as it doesn’t matter what your style is if you can’t compose well.”

He added how having the right agency to represent you helps in finding you good work, as well as encourage other artists to always “give it a local flavor”.

He ended his session saying: “Repetition is the mother of skill. If you constantly do it, it gets easier. but you have to do it everyday. Don’t stop when you’re tired. Stop when you’re done. Aim to improve, never settle. Have fun.”


The pressures of perfection

The importance of repetition was also echoed by typography artist Stefan Kunz, who says that no matter what happens, we have to keep creating art, not create excuses. 

Kunz recalled on stage how he jumped from one career after another and was at one point a banker, before eventually finding his way back to art only to be stopped by a blank paper. Kunz, you see, has always been afraid of a blank paper, and all the pressures that go with putting a piece of art (and himself) into it.

What helped him get over it, however, was going through the “100 Day Creative Challenge,” where participants had to create whatever it is they want to for a hundred days consistently and post them on social media. This is where he realized the different excuses people make before they create something, and how to overcome them. “Create something today even if it wasn’t perfect. That’s the kind of thing you want to be able to do. You don’t want to limit yourself,” he shared at the Graphika stage.

The six excuses he explored were: Perfection, Time, Talent, Inspiration, Resources, and Originality.

In debunking the need to create the perfect work, he said: “You don’t start your work because you know it’s not gonna be perfect? You still have to try. Invest your time into creating pieces. Make mistakes. And don’t worry if it’s not going to be perfect. Perfection is a lie and you shouldn’t really search for that.”

He also said that when trying to create something, don’t be too worried about time. Just like in exercising, you can spend five, ten, fifteen minutes to dedicate in creating something just so it becomes a habit. And if you can’t design a lettering for an entire quote, then how about you start with just one letter?

Talent is also a hindrance for some people, thinking that they don’t have enough of it. To that, he said that you have to try anyway. “The thing about trying is sometimes you’ll look stupid when you do. It’s unavoidable. If you’re afraid to try from the start, then you’ll never succeed. Be willing to step up to the challenge.”

Posted by adobo magazine on Tuesday, February 18, 2020

He also said that while many people worry about having the right kinds of tools from the get go, letting go of that expectation and starting simple with a pencil and a paper can get you to places already. He added that if you can do great work with just that, then imagine all the amazing pieces you can do once you get your hands on more materials.

His main point was that when you’re an artist, whether seasoned or a newbie, it’s okay to suck. It is only through hard work and dedication that one can really master a craft, and it all begins by conquering step number one: create art, not excuses.

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