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Name: Justin Nicko Tabiongan
Location: Quezon City
Filipino Artist Profile: Justin Nicko Tabiongan
Going through the toughest times help shape you into the person you’re meant to be. It’s a crucible that forges you onto a path few would ever take. The same can be said for Justin Nicko Tabiongan and his journey towards Art Without Limits, or AWOL. What started as a fancy for drawing childhood heroes has now transformed into an artistic force to be reckoned with. Discover how he has risen above these challenges to create art the way he does now.
How did your journey as an artist begin?
It began a long time ago around grade school. The first thing I remembered drawing was a figure of Voltes V with crayons. That’s where it all started. From grade school, high school, and college, I’ve been drawing until now.
How did you come up with your brand name and what is the reason behind it?
It’s actually because of Typhoon Haiyan, which I survived back then. That disaster left a mark on me. Because of our resilience and the stuff that happened after that, I still can’t believe I’m standing right now. I also believe that limits are illusions we place on ourselves. There’s nothing we can do so there are really no limitations when it comes to art.
What is your favorite subject to create and why?
Fantasy mecha and anime.
How would you describe your style as an artist?
Actually, right now, I still don’t have a style. I’m still trying to search for my own style. I’m still learning a lot of stuff. I’m joining various groups for artists on Facebook. I still consider myself a beginner in terms of art.
What or who are the influences that help you become an artist?
One is Molongski. I’ve got Stan Lee, the creator of Naruto and One Piece, There’s also a Nigerian artist, a freelance artist as well. He’s got a Youtube channel but I can’t pronounce his name well.
Every artist has that one creation they’re proud of the most. For you, what is that piece and why?
That would be the portrait I did for my late son.
What are the struggles you commonly encounter as an artist?
Finances and emotional support. Those are the two things I’m struggling with. For finances, I’m really struggling with the bills. And since I also have a day job and other things to spend my money on. I’m getting my laptop fixed so I can do more designs for Merchiful and my other side gigs.
What is your most important achievement you’ve accomplished as an artist?
Being independent and learning how to be resilient in the face of adversity.
What are the strengths you possess as an artist?
Just have a positive outlook on life. Just keep moving forward. No negativity at all.
What do people say about your work and how do you handle negative feedback, if there are any?
Friends, colleagues say that my work is cool, awesome, and weird. For criticism, I take note of it and I don’t really take it personally. It will just get me stressed. Whatever they wanna say, they’re free to say what they want.
Do you prefer working alone or are you comfortable working with others to collaborate on a piece of art?
Before, I prefer to work alone because of the stuff that I have right now, I learned it by myself. But through the years, I think it’s more important to have someone look at your work and see it from another perspective. If you’re just going to see it by yourself, you don’t normally see things that other people see. The opinion of others actually matters when it comes to creating art.
Do you have any advice for talented individuals who are about to start their journey towards becoming artists?
Just keep doing what you do. Don’t stop and keep moving forward. Seek a mentor, if possible, and listen attentively to what they’re going to teach you. Take it into heart in whatever you do. Have heart.
How did you discover Merchiful and why did you choose it as the platform for your designs?
It was because of Molongski and the Underwearkers. I was just following the page of Molongski and I look up to him as an artist. I was also transitioning to freelancing full-time. When I learned about him, I saw him posting stuff like face masks, the designs he made, the 12 Zodiacs he initially posted. And then I just tried it out. I didn’t expect I would be approved by Merchiful to have my own store. It was really unexpected.
What can Merchiful customers expect from you in the coming months?
Moving forward, more designs. Once I get my laptop back, I’ll work on those. I actually prepared a lot of reserve designs in my sketchbook. Once I get it back, I’m going to continue working on them. Hopefully, I get to post a lot of designs in the near future.
In one word, how would you describe yourself?
You can also live your life without limits. All you need to do is take a look at AWOL’s Merchiful store and see Justin’s designs brought to life in various products there. You can also check out Art Without Limits on these different platforms.Merchiful Shop: awol.merchiful.com