Arlene Sy
Art + Illustration


My journey as an artist chronicled in life events, thoughts, and musings.

Hello, 2015!

Happy New Year, everybody!!!

I've not had the chance to return to this space, and write decent blog entries in a very long time, and I apologize for the lack of commitment. That said, I'm quite refreshed, motivated, and inspired to start anew!

2014 was an especially busy year for me, and in a very good way. Everything had its own challenges and I believe I was able to take these on with hard work, an open mind, and an open heart.

There were many firsts, and many jobs that led to happy clients. Even when I thought I was least prepared, or even if I felt these jobs didn't directly contribute to my existing portfolio, I always felt they came at the right time and opened doors for me to acquire new skills. They included projects that were more demanding than usual due to scale, medium and time frame (mural painting, live event painting, cake decorating). These all had their respective learning curves, which I did my best to overcome on the spot. The results weren't always what I had in mind, but I knew what really mattered was that I gave them my best. I was kind and understanding toward my clients and fellow suppliers/creatives. I was honest, and, I never cheated.

Some of my favorite work-related milestones of 2014 include: having my illustrations published in book form for the first time; working with acrylics--for a mural!--for the first time; working a full year on illustrations for a magazine column; completing a lot of wedding-related projects; creating a debut paper goods line, which I sold at four different bazaars; and having taken part in two small group exhibits.

What surprised me the most was... I actually loved working with acrylics! That, and the trust and confidence clients gave me as I took on certain kinds of commissions for the first time. I'm now much more inspired to take up a new medium in 2015.

I had my first taste of working outside the home, from a studio. In March last year, I decided to give working from a studio a shot. I found a great space along Maginhawa Street in Quezon City, which I rented for six months. Having a space for work outside the home helped make me stay more focused and productive. At the same time though, I learned that a space that was physically closer to home was still more desirable and easier to access on a regular basis. This was the main reason I decided to give up the space for something better.

I finally felt I belonged. Since beginning this journey in 2010, I wished I was part of something greater than my own little corner. 2014 was the year I really made an effort to live beyond my comfort zone, to seek out other artists and make new friends in this vibrant industry. I first felt this when I conducted a couple of watercolor workshops--which really enabled me to organize and articulate what I knew. Later, I felt more confidence and acceptance when I'd show up more during art-related meetings and events, and finally, I felt the most affirmation when I achieved one of my biggest dreams during the last quarter of the year: coming out with a line of paper goods and stationery--which truly enabled me to combine what I'd learned and loved in both illustration and art direction. To this end, my spirit was nourished.

I've learned to live with less. My life feels so different now that I have considerably less things. I tend to compare my current lifestyle with how it was when I worked for a media company--and as far as that's concerned, I feel like I live a more mindful, authentic life now. I buy and consume a significantly less number of mainstream media, and whenever possible, patronize media whose creators consciously craft better ways of living, and celebrate people as inherently creative human beings. I hardly wear makeup (unless the occasion calls for it), and I'm less of an impulse shopper when it comes to clothes. Speaking of which, too, I've learned to narrow my wardrobe down to more timeless and elegant pieces. (It's probably got something to do with age, but oh well!)

There were a few things I would have changed in 2014, though. I knew I wasn't always on top of things. There were times when I couldn't follow through on my word, times when I left inquiries hanging in my mailbox, times when I just let complacency take over. I would have fought more against the feeling of being overwhelmed, and took a more active part in this wonderfully exciting time for artists. I would have crammed less, read more, written more, shared more of myself, and helped more people learn and discover their creative side.

Lots of questions remain unanswered, but it's okay. I haven't found the right balance between work and life. Most of the time, it feels like my work HAS become my life. I go by my gut and mood, even if my decisions don't make perfect business sense. I also still struggle with artistic identity, the need to have a better online presence, and--oh man, pricing is still the one thing I can never pin down perfectly. At the very least, I know I'll keep learning and getting better. For certain, when I look back, I can say that I've definitely grown so much over these past few years.

I'm hopeful, thankful, and excited for what's to come. Towards the end of 2014, many plans for 2015 already began taking shape. I have a book project in the horizon, and a new design concept/start-up which my husband and I are not only hoping will materialize very soon, but help us contribute to the growing art and design scene in Manila. The possibilities of contributing to a better world today are endless, and I'm extremely grateful I'm given a chance to play a part in it.

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