Your Cart is empty
Name: Monica Isuga
Current City: Muntinlupa City
Filipino Artist Profile: Monica Isuga
There are moments when a seed planted in your mind can blossom into a lifelong passion. When this happens, all kinds of wonders are created and colorful dreams come to life. For Monica, this path was laid out before her as a child and she didn’t think twice about taking it. What came out of it was Kirotomo Arts - a wondrous display of Monica’s artistic growth throughout the years. Find out more about this artist and how she comes up with her creations.
How did your journey as an artist begin?
Monica: It started the first time I watched anime being shown by a local channel. All of my siblings and cousins are into it. We all were interested in it and we started to draw anime at the same time. That’s how it started when I was seven. They also began to make their own comics. I was the youngest among us cousins so they influenced me to draw too. Up to now, I still consider it my main reason to draw, which is anime or Japanese art.
When I was a kid, I drew the usual things kids can create - stick figures. I saw my siblings and cousins and they were more skilled than I am at that time. Their work already had form then. I was envious and it pushed me to draw more. When they started to collaborate with their own comics, I was the only one who can’t join because my art style wasn’t up to their level. They were always saying that I needed a little more improvement to join them. When I reached high school, my skills leveled up and they were surprised about my abrupt improvement.
During high school, my cousins were slowing down with their art. Since my parents were supportive, I continued this passion to college, where it improved significantly. After I graduated from college, I started doing commissions and self-studied Photoshop and digital art. That’s because it was becoming a trend during that time. Now, it has become my career.
How did you come up with your brand name and what is the reason behind it?
Actually, there’s no special reason behind it. I came up with it when I was in elementary. If you’re into anime, you have a main character to base your designs on. For me, it was Kyro Tokimara. I said to myself the name was worthy to be my pen name. I thought of a nickname related to that character, which is Kirotomo. I used that name when I was being recognized by my classmates and friends from other sections when they asked to draw for them. I stuck with it because I liked it, it was different, and no one used it. Even with my commissions right now as an adult, I still use it.
Every artist has that one creation they’re proud of the most. For you, what is that piece and why?
For me, it’s the main character I based my brand name on because I’ve been drawing that anime since I was a child. My siblings and cousins wondered how I came up with a main character when I was just a kid. They saw my description, the character design, and they said I had talent because I came up with something like that at my age. I designed to the character to have my likeness. Up to now, she’s still the main character that I constantly use.
What are the usual struggles you encounter as an artist?
Negativity, budget, and space. Negativity, because there are people who think that my work is unusual. In the Philippines, it’s more common to take nursing, be a call center agent, or an office worker. In my family, both sides, I’m the only one who pursued art as my job. Those were the usual things I hear before I proved myself - I’ll get nothing from this decision, it’s not a life-long income-generating career. Those were the things I hear, especially now that I’m older and they’re still pointing out I’m watching anime or drawing it.
Then there’s budget. The expenses for artists are quite huge. I started as a traditional artist. It’s okay for me to use affordable equipment. But of course, as you improve, you’re going to want quality materials, which are very expensive.
For space, it’s very challenging to find a work table here in our place. I resort to going to cafes. That’s what I’m saving up for right now, to have my own work area.
What’s the most important achievement you’ve accomplished as an artist?
It’s when I see my designs on the market and they’re being used by the people who purchased those items. Because they wanted them. For example, the face mask with my design on it. People from other countries liked it, which made me happy. That was my first sale here in Merchiful. I also worked as a graphic artist, doing layouts, packaging, and tarp designs. When I saw my design for an energy drink being used for a billboard, I consider that as an achievement. There’s also a children’s book with my name printed on it as an illustrator.
How would you describe your style and what are the influences that shaped that style?
As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’ve always considered my style as anime because that’s what started my interest in art. Then for the theme, I prefer a darker shade because it looks cool. I also draw cheerful or colorful illustrations. In my works too, I usually draw female subjects. I like illustrating the curves of a female body.
What are the strengths you possess as an artist?
Patience, creativity, open-mindedness. Patience because before you get to finish an art piece, especially if it’s done the traditional way, it takes a long time. Sometimes, it takes one week. Creativity, because you’re coming up with a style. For example, you’ve done a lot of illustrations using a specific style. You then want to try using a new style. That’s where creativity comes in. Open-mindedness because there are criticisms directed towards your artwork. If you’re open-minded, you won’t take it personally. You understand where the criticism is coming from then you’ll study where you went wrong or if you have something to improve.
What do people usually say about your work?
Aside from the good comments, the style of artists varies from one another. People’s artistic preferences also differ. The usual negative comment I hear is about realism because I work using freestyle. And my weak side, which I’m improving, is lighting. That’s the common criticism I receive. But all in all, I receive a lot of good comments.
Speaking of criticism, how do you handle it?
I lie down and listen to music then I’ll think about what they said. After that, I’ll go back to the piece they criticized and I’ll study why. I also research. For example, they said my lighting was wrong, I’ll examine how did that happen. There are times when it’s really wrong too. But of course, I also take the criticism in, which is alright because it pushes me to improve.
Do you prefer working alone or collaborating with others?
If it’s about illustrations or art pieces, I prefer alone. But as a graphic artist doing layouts or a huge design, I can work with others because it’s a good way to grow. But if it’s purely illustration, I choose to be alone.
Do you have any advice for talented individuals who are about to start their journey as artists?
All I can say is start now. Don’t hesitate. If you start right now, your improvement also starts now, instead of waiting and saying you’re not yet ready. I know some people who are like that. For me, start now and don’t hesitate. As they say, time is gold. If you receive some criticism, then you have your first lesson to study - find out why your art was criticized. You now have the chance to improve. Instead of waiting for next year, you won’t have a chance to learn how to improve your art.
How did you discover Merchiful and why did you choose it as the platform for your designs?
I’m working right as an artist for a t-shirt company on Amazon. I saw that the cost of this business was low because the shirts aren’t stuck somewhere. It’s Print On Demand. Amazon doesn’t deliver to the Philippines so I looked for a local company. Merciful was the fruit of my search. I saw that it had good reviews. I also the other artists I was familiar with and their stores. I tried it. I had some customers from other countries and I was happy Merchiful accommodated my request to ship the products to them even if that option isn’t available yet.
What can Merchiful customers expect from you in the coming weeks or months?
They can expect more interesting designs, both moody and colorful.
In one word, how would you describe yourself?
Experience what Kirotomo Arts can do for you when take a piece of Monica’s work home. Take a look at this artist’s Merchiful store and see her work up close and personal. You can also learn more about Kirotomo Arts on social media.
Merchiful Shop: https://merchiful.com/pages/kirotomoarts