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An Odyssey of Creativity and Seduction
Name: Odyssey Alisan
Home town: Bacolod City
Current City: Montreal, Canada
Art is meant to open our eyes to new realities we have never seen nor comprehended before. One look at Odyssey’s striking designs, those that revolve around womanhood and power, and you’ll be taken to a journey inside this artist’s mind. Find out more about her and why her artwork is a force to be reckoned with.
How did you come up with your brand name?
My legal name is Odyssey Lorraine Alisan. Odyssey, like the Iliad and the Odyssey. It’s just a play on the words. A play on the pronunciation of my name Odyssey. I teach students. And sometimes, it’s not easy for them to pronounce my name. So, I just simplified it, like Odizi, and I just played along with the sound. That’s really it. Nothing so meaningful.
Odyssey means journey and adventure, voyage. For me honestly, I would still have to attribute my brand name to my original name because it’s an adventure. It’s an adventure to one’s self. It’s about growth. So, I would say, yeah. I attribute it to my own name.
How did your journey as an artist begin?
Arts, in general, has always been my hobby. I would describe myself as a self-taught illustrator because I didn’t have any formal training at all. My journey as an illustrator started when I was a kid. I discovered I could draw. My father saw me one day and said “hey, you seem to be interested in this thing.” He started to show me how to draw basic faces. From then on, I was just hooked. I watched a lot of cartoons and a lot of Disney films. I watched the making of those Disney films.
Until now, I still watch anime. I observe how these things look like. I try on my own to recreate it until I eventually make my own style. I also ventured into reading comic books, like X-Men, Spider-Man, and Spawn. It’s like a mix of all the exposure that I’ve been getting from the East and the West.
Every artist has that specific style. How did you come up with yours?
Like I mentioned before, it’s more like a mix of styles influenced by comics. I would describe it as Conceptual Illustration. I usually have a large idea in my head. It’s always about delving into a certain theme, mostly about women. I would say my greatest subject would be women because I identify myself as one of them.
For me, womanhood is all about creativity and seduction. My creations are mostly black and white. As a person, I love to look at other people’s colorful artwork. But for me, Black and White is still striking. I put a little bit of color, like Red or Blue in it so it’ll pop.
What tools do you use to create your intricate designs?
I use an application called Adobe Draw. In time, I would like to upgrade to Pro Create because I’m so limited right now. Most of the time, I really love using an ordinary ball point pen on paper because you can really feel the intensity. You’re one with it. It’s like meditation. Most of the time, that’s how I do it. If I want to recreate it so I could use it as a digital work, I draw it back again on the application, Adobe Draw.
Every artist has that one creation they’re proud of the most. For you, what is that piece and why?
I am so proud of two of my creations. Two years ago, I made a coloring book for adults. It is about the Seven Deadly Sins. I viewed this project as a therapy because I was going through depression at that time. Making that was my therapy. It kept me going. I finished it two years ago. I still haven’t published the book yet. But I intend on publishing it in the near future. I took some time to research. I read a lot on the concept of sin within a religious context in Catholicism - the symbols, the animals, the plants or flowers that represent them. Then, I incorporated them into every piece. That’s for the Seven Deadly Sins.
The other one is Apothecary. I wanted it to be part of a Halloween-theme kind of piece, wherein… Basically, she’s a witch. So, there’s like power in having someone’s heart. Something like that. That’s my favorite because I successfully incorporated what I wanted. I had that picture in my mind and I was able to do it well according to my standards. The incorporation of black, white, and red colors. A bit of gray, of course. The 3D effect that I wanted to show, her expression, the whole eerie atmosphere. At the same time, the striking image of power.
You incorporate nudity into your artwork. Have you encountered any issues with Facebook or Instagram blocking your work from being posted online?
So far, no. I haven’t been blocked, probably because my women are mostly naked but I rarely emphasize certain body parts. I don’t put on any pubic hair. They don’t look very vulgar. As far as I’m concerned, I haven’t received any warning or anything from the platforms or social media networks that I’m involved in so far. I really intend on staying safe.
What other struggles have you encountered as an artist?
A lot of struggles revolve around resources. In our culture, in my family’s culture, I was about survival. Where I grew up, art and sports were like a luxury. It’s the extra in your life. I always wanted to paint and I wanted to do other things, like sculpture, because I felt it was a need to cultivate my talent and skills. Resources, that’s number one. Right now when I’m able to stand on my own, I would say time management. To be able to manage, to juggle work, parental responsibilities, and creative time. For me to be able to finish a piece, most of the time, the idea comes to me when I get so inspired, I always feel the need to do it right away. But that’s not always the case. As I said, I have other responsibilities. That’s the biggest challenge for me because there are times when I want to draw and I just can’t. And I’m itching for it and it gets me so frustrated. Of course, you have to do other things. So, time management.
And also right now, I would say, exposure. It is also another thing because now, in our society, as an artist, you’re not only an artist. You are now your own brand. You’re an entrepreneur. You gotta do everything, as much as possible. Sometimes, you go back to resources. When you have resources, you can delegate the task. You can hire people to be your marketing team. You can hire other people to do other things for you and you just have to create. Right now, it is the number one struggle because I don’t have everything.
What’s the most important achievement you have attained as an artist?
This is it right now. The Odizi site, where I am presenting my brand to the world, to the Philippines. I’m finally able to come out and recognize my own self as an artist. After years of practice, of cultivating my talent and skills, finally, I am able to create my own style. This style is still ongoing. I am in the process of reinventing myself, discovering new things. Yeah, so creating my own style and sharing it with the people. Seriously, I think that’s my greatest achievement. To be able to create something. To see my art become a part of their individual expression. For me, it’s wonderful. It’s like I am one with them.
The people you’ve encountered, what did they say about your designs?
Most of the time, they’re really shocked in a good way. They’re surprised that I made these designs. In contrast to my bubbly personality, especially with my older designs. A lot of people are really impressed, particularly those in the same industry who knew that I don’t have any formal training. They’re inspired and they just wanna see more. A lot of people who would say that they like the illustrations because they relate to them. I’ve had a couple of people who commented like, that’s exactly how they felt then. So far, I haven’t received any major negative comments. And if ever they have negative comments, well, what can I say? You can’t please everybody.
When I was younger and when I started to make dark illustrations about skulls and skeletons, my mother, for one, she wasn’t so happy about them. That’s because I come from a very religious and traditional family. Drawings of skulls, skeletons, or something dark. You know how it is in the Philippines. And I went to a religious school, so I know. During that time, it was not really good. People were like, what’s wrong with you or are you okay? My mom used to say, why don’t you draw rainbows and flowers? I was like, that’s not how I feel. For me and for a lot of people, it’s a form of self-expression. Why would I lie to myself? It’s like the ultimate area where you can be brutally honest with yourself. My previous work, they were not really welcome. Eventually, my mom understood. My cousins were impressed too. Most of those comments were from the Philippines. Here in Montreal, people say that I should show who I am.
I want to make it clear that now, I have nothing against those unwelcoming comments from the Philippines before. I have come to realize that our taste in art, or anything, is fundamentally based on our own values and level of tolerance.
I wish to imply that over time, I can see that in the Philippines, people have become more open and tolerant of other styles. Thus, I appreciate this period as an artist.
How exactly do you handle criticism directed towards your work?
Most of the time, I won’t say anything. Of course, it hurts. Like I said, every piece comes from a part of me. It is me. For example, I had this drawing. One of my mom’s friends said that it was so scary. It wasn’t actually scary. It’s a picture of a large tree. And under the tree, there were two kids. It has colors. But I suppose with my style, it’s not other people’s cup of tea. Her first reaction was fear. I don’t really reply to that kind of message. I just tell myself that it’s sad because that’s how I felt. Whatever my reality that time was invalidated.
I suppose that’s how it is in this world. Sometimes, you just can’t please everybody. Over time, I just tell myself, if some people can’t even adore Picasso or appreciate Warhol, that’s no problem. The most important thing about Warhol is he’s famous now and he’s an inspiration to other people. Picasso too. I just tell myself that I will have my own niche. That’s the most important thing. If I connect to certain people, great. If I can’t, that’s okay too. There’s always something for someone.
What’s your advice for talented individuals who want to start their journey as an artist?
My advice to the talented people out there because you are so many. To start your odyssey, you gotta have to admit and accept yourself first. That’s number one. Throughout the years, people have told me that I’m really good. For me, I have a bruised ego and insecurities because I don’t have a formal education, and it kills creativity. You gotta believe in yourself no matter what. You gotta recognize yourself as an artist. Believe in it hard because there will always be some people who won’t like it or won’t believe in you. That’s okay. The most important thing is at the end of the day, you get to talk to your own self. Self-talk is important.
Number two, try, in every way possible to improve. Learn new things. Adapt. It’s not to please other people. It’s to help you reinvent yourself. You will see there is so much potential that you actually have because you are open. Another advice is to surround yourself with creativity with anything that would help you flourish in so many ways. Surround yourself with people who can help you realize your goal. If you really want to be in the art business, you want to do e-commerce, get help. It’s always about education. Once you’ve got your creative input, once you know what to do and get that support system around you, you should be okay.
How did you know about Merchiful and why did you choose it as a platform for your designs?
I saw Merchiful a couple of months ago. I was searching because I’ve been in this POD business for two years now here in North America. I posted some stuff online. Some of my friends saw my merch. They asked where they could get my stuff from. I didn’t really think about that. If I do it here from North America, it’s so expensive to send things to the Philippines. I started to look online and I couldn’t find anything last year.
I went home last year after 10 years and I looked for certain printing houses in Bacolod City and I tested some of them. I was sad because they didn’t work out. A couple of months ago, I just took a chance again and did a search on Google. An ad for Merchiful came up. I looked it up and it was amazing. When I saw it was in the Philippines, this is it. I saw the merch, I saw the artworks and I became more inspired, mostly about other artists’ work that was featured in Merchiful. For me, I just had to do it. Tangkilikin ang sariling atin and it’s time I do that. Plus, my friends love that Merchiful gives justice to my art by coming up with masks that are of premium quality.
What can Merchiful customers expect from you?
Lots of nudes! Nah, I’m kidding. Merch customers can expect a lot of designs inspired by my Filipino roots. I’ve been thinking a lot about the legends Malakas and Maganda. For me, I like to reinvent myself and it would be the same thing for my art. I invite them to watch out for my next designs, mostly with colors this time. I know we are in a period right now where we have this global anxiety. It’s always great to have something colorful and bright to look at. Expect more of that and expect more heartfelt pieces of work.