When did you first realise that you enjoyed being creative?
I [have] enjoyed being creative since I was a child, but I enjoyed this a lot [more] when I found my voice through calligraphy. I enjoyed my time doing calligraphy because it speaks directly to the audience. No need of a deeper interpretation but just your heart pouring out on an art [form].
How was your artistic journey from your childhood until today?
Since I was a child, I always loved colours, drawings, [and] designs. I always tried different kind of arts and tried my best [to do] it.
How long did it take you to build your calligraphy skills?
I started doing calligraphy back in 2016 when I searched [for a way] to personalize my gift as a Christmas Gift. From then on, I practiced it and enjoyed it and more so, I love sharing it [with] other people [by] giving them the knowledge and the experience that I have over past years of practicing it.
Did you face any challenges? How did you deal with them? What inspired you to keep going?
In psychology, we have this what we call Impostor Syndrome, when an individual doubts their skills and talents. I experienced that and still do. I recently posted something about being afraid to be criticized and being judged and it is normal. What not good is when it stops you from sharing your gift to the world. I was inspired by one of my good friends who encouraged [me] to think my page as my digital portfolio so you will not get pressured posting and thinking if people will like it or not, because you do it not for other people but for yourself.
Has the pandemic affected your creativity or work? Why?
Yes, there are pros and cons … with my creativity and work. With work, since I work as a Creative Project Manager in an Experiential Marketing Company and we are more focused on events, we barely [had] events. So I got [a] salary cut and less work schedule. In [my] creative journey, because I have a good amount of spare time from work, this started me thinking of using my social media accounts as a voice of encouragement, hope, and love to everyone using calligraphy. I even got some commissions here and there but the joy of really doing it and seeing people encouraged with your work is something that money cannot buy.
Did you have to adjust anything over the past year? What? How? Why?
Yes, mostly with my audience. I came [to] Dubai [in] 2019, so my works and my captions should be relevant now here in [the] UAE compared to when I was still in the Philippines.
What was the first calligraphy project that you did?
My first calligraphy project [was] framed bible verses back in December 2016 for my friends. So it’s funny because back then, they loved it, [and] they even posted it. Now, they are returning [them] to me and asking me to change [them] for them.
Looking back at it versus your current work, what do you think of your evolution as an artist?
I am still in the process of where I really want to be as an artist. I still try different forms of calligraphy and hand lettering. But I believe over the years of practicing and writing even just one word every single day, it changed a lot. I am more confident now to say that I can do calligraphy and hand lettering.
Do you have a work that’s your favourite or that you’re proudest of? What is it? Why?
Since I just got married last September, I would say the work that I love and my favourite are all the pieces I made for our house. Because it is us and speaks who we are as a couple.
Are you still doing workshops? Where? How have you had to adjust them since the pandemic began?
Yes, I started doing workshop again here in Dubai. I just signed up with some organization who caters and arranges workshops for artists like me. With regards to [the] pandemic, I also adjusted my workshops [to be] online, where I deliver the materials [by] courier and do my workshops over [a] video call.
Do you prefer to do calligraphy by hand or through a digital program? Why?
I still love doing things by hand. I love the sound of the pen scratching on paper. I love how you can be so delicate in every stroke that you … take because you have very minimal leeway of correcting your works. But because now, everything [is] digital, I have to let myself love it and enjoy every moment [of] doing work digitally.
What tools do you use?
I am more of a brush [and] pens kind of calligrapher. But I also used pointed pen [and] dip pen for some hand lettering. Digitally, I use Procreate.
What do you think of hand-drawn calligraphy versus digital calligraphy styles?
There is a lot of difference. The hand-drawn for me is very classic and sophisticated, [while] the digital works are very strong and adaptable, I want to say. Both of these styles are good depending on the requirement of your project.
Your calligraphy works focused a lot on faith and inspirational messages. Was that a deliberate decision or is it something that evolved over time?
My work should present who I am. My page should instantly convey my innermost being. It should speak what I believe. And faith is my whole being. There is [a] verse in the bible that says “for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” So I believe that, it is also true as an artist, that whatever is in your heart would also reflect in your works. So, since the beginning I know for a fact that I want to use this gift to encourage and to share the hope and love that I have in me.
How much interest do you think there is for calligraphy?
Seeing here in UAE, there is not much of people who [have] tried [calligraphy], that is the reason why I want to influence more people to try the art, because it is fun and enjoyable and stress relieving.
What more do you think can be done to raise awareness, build interest, and support for this artistic form?
Maybe more workshops to be done. I think events to introduce the arts. Maybe some digital or offline exhibit of works by some good calligraphers here in UAE.
Are there any stereotypes or misconceptions about it that you wish could be changed about calligraphy? What are they?
Yes, one misconception about calligraphy is that: it is [a] born talent, that people who practice it [are] already good when they started it, but it is not [true]. It is a skill that you can learn. It is something that with perseverance and practice can be improved. I think in any other form of arts; it is always a learning process. You don’t get to be the best, but you always strive to learn and improve with your craft.
Why do you think they exist? How can they be stopped or changed?
Maybe because it is kind of intimidating to do. Maybe exposing more people to do the art.
What advice do you have for anyone who wants to start exploring calligraphy?
Any form of art if you are not exposed to it, you get intimidated…just by looking at it, you might think that you cannot do it. So, I would advise those who want to try calligraphy to start practicing. Expose yourself [to] the basic strokes and proper rules and continually write every single day [to] help your journey to improvement.
How does your creativity as a calligrapher and artist influence your work as a Creative Project Manager or vice versa?
I did not have any proper background with graphic design or design as a whole when I was in the Philippines. I graduated [in] Robotics, which is [very different] from what I am doing now. But I think [that] being exposed [to] letters, colours and designs, helped me [to] do my job. My knowledge in lettering, calligraphy and typography helps me to do my presentations from basic to a more modern one.
What’s your dream calligraphy project? Why?
I want to do a big mural. Maybe because I am afraid of doing it, I have done it only couple of times in the Philippines, but just small murals. I want to try something big, on big walls, here in Dubai.
What goal or achievement do you hope to reach as an artist? How are you working towards it?
To influence more people to try calligraphy and hand-lettering, to encourage people to use art (no matter what form it is) as a way of relieving stress, and finding joy and peace within their hearts whenever they do it. I am now conducting workshops in several locations [to help achieve that].
What’s the next step for you and your calligraphy work and other artistic endeavours?
I am now connecting with brands, to use calligraphy for marketing and sales strategy. I have several collaborations with brands and I am happy that the art is already taking it place here in Dubai.
Are you currently working on a project, whether calligraphy-based or otherwise? Can you please share some information about it?
Yes, I am working [on] a collaboration with Kinokuniya, Dubai Mall for a Mother’s Day event. I will have a table in the store to personalize their gift for Mother’s Day. This is the most current project I am working with this time.