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Filipino Artist Profile: Hardy Araza
Color has long been an ideal weapon to combat the mundane or sorrowful things of this world. This is also the central aspect of Hardy Araza’s creations for Sour Berry. His artwork takes the bright shades of these colors, infuses them with a shot of East Asian culture, and the result is something you have never seen before. Learn more about how Hardy wills these creations come to life below.
How did your journey as an artist begin?
It started when I was a kid. I was into drawing at an early age. At first, it was just a hobby. I liked drawing characters and stuff. During college, I joined the school paper and learned how to use Photoshop. Before, I was only using pen and paper and I was scared of colors. When I learned how to use Photoshop, I wanted to try colors and give life to my characters. I was really just into drawing figures and people. It was in college where I honed my skills.
I entered Advertising after I graduated from college. I got into so many interests, such as Anime. I’m also into fashion. Just recently, I really want to be more serious about my craft. I want to turn it into something more. It’s like I want to tell everyone I know and tell them that I exist.
It kept growing and growing. And then, I really saw it as a talent, but I did not take it seriously before. I did not see it then as a career and I only saw it as a hobby. There’s a stigma that there’s no money when you become an artist. That’s why I did not take Art as a course. I took Mass Communications instead because I wanted to explore something else. It was also recently when I saw this craft to be booming and there’s a potential to get clients online.
What’s your brand name and how did you come up with it?
Sour Berry. Actually, this is my third try to come up with a brand name. I’ve been making pages for a while now, since 2015. I started with a blog called Soda Kid. And then, I started again and created a new brand. I called it A Dying Planet. I wasn’t sure about the name. I was sure about what I wanted to do. Style-wise, I wasn’t as active in drawing as I am now. I mean, I’m always drawing but it was only now when I saw its potential. Before, I only drew very rarely. I used to try and release my work using those two pages but the effort just died.
Recently, I discovered more of myself. I became more self-aware. I can see the style I’ve always wanted. This is what I want to draw now. So, Sour Berry. I’ve always liked sour gummies, those kinds of candies. I don’t even like chocolates. The name started from sour gummies. Then the Berry part, I got from K-Pop. There’s this personality there who loves strawberries, just like me. I just fused those two words together and I think it was a cute idea. It doesn’t have much of a meaning by itself. I just thought it’s cute and they are things that I like as well.
What is your favorite subject to create and why?
People. I like the concept of co-existence from people with different personalities. Basically, co-existence. Even with all of these differences, they are still able to co-exist and make something out of it. It started when I played DOTA and World of Warcraft. I liked the concept of co-existence of seeing that these are all different people, these are different characters with different skills. I also like movies that don’t have one special character. I like movies that contain a set of different characters that don’t just focus on one. When you do focus on different people, you get to enjoy how they interact with each other.
I also take inspiration from Japan’s street fashion culture, Harajuku, when illustrating people. I’m into fashion and these clothes transform the people wearing them. I like things like that because of the uniqueness of each character I draw. Basically, those things.
Every artist has that one creation they’re proud of the most. For you, what is that and why?
There’s this one thing I really like, which I set as my cover photo. I call it Strawberry Chaeyong. She’s a K-Pop Artist, a member of this group called Twice. It’s not just I like her but because I saw my improvement when I created that specific artwork. Before, I was unable to do that kind of illustration. I saw how my skills improved when I created that artwork.
From then on, I started to become more confident in myself. It takes me a while to create artwork because I’m a perfectionist. It takes me, let’s say, a day or two just to finish that kind of artwork. I had this idol before, Ilya Kuvshinov. His style is always what I wanted to achieve because of its realism. I’ve always wanted to achieve realism, although not so close to a really 100% realistic result. I prefer that there’s still a twist of Anime or fantasy.
What are your struggles that you have encountered as an artist?
For artists, there’s this thing called art block. It’s not always about a concept. Sometimes, it’s the lack of motivation altogether. Even if you try to push yourself to do it, you just can’t bring yourself to do it. It’s really hard to explain. It’s that feeling you have something you wanna do but you can’t do it. And it’s only because you’re feeling down. Others, when they’re feeling sad, that’s the time they can draw. It really differs from person to person.
I think I’d rather call it a slump than an art block because that is my main struggle over the years. I’ve been in a slump for almost seven years. I might have been doing a lot of artwork for the past seven years but it wasn’t that constant. There was a time when I created two to three creations for a single year. It was just recently I got over that slump and did a lot of work when I decided to start again. That slump hinders every artist to create because it’s the only thing that makes them frustrated, not just because you lack the skill. You also lack that certain motivation that could have pushed you forward.
Apart from the struggles, what’s the most important achievement you have accomplished as an artist?
Well, I haven’t received rewards or anything. I can say being able to get over that slump I mentioned earlier. Before in High School, I could draw a lot of illustrations in a day. Being able to get over that slump is the most important achievement, especially right now. It’s just recently I can create 20-figure drawings in a week.
There’s also another one. It’s getting recognition. I’ve never really gotten so much from my page for the past year. Just recently, I got 5,000 likes in two weeks. It may be because of the fan art I did. For me, it’s an important achievement because I feel good about it. That’s the most important thing about it - feeling good. The more you feel good, you are encouraged to do more. There’s also people giving me kind messages about my work, which encourages me to do more. I think that’s the most important achievement I accomplished, just basically, feeling good about what you do. There are times when it lasts for only a few hours. That feeling really moves you forward.
What are the strengths you possess as an artist that helps you with your work?
I really immersed myself in different kinds of culture. I immersed myself in fashion, among other things. I draw inspiration from more than a single source. I can call it a strength, I guess. It took so many years to get to that level where I can collate all of those sources into one style. I came up with my style because I started liking K-Pop music, fashion, and anime. I’m also into photography, East Asian culture, and movies as well. My preference for those things came together and I was able to pull something out of them.
One of my strengths is color, a thing that I was afraid of. Today, I’m very confident in using color because I like fashion, I like photography. My preferences for those things developed my confidence when it comes to color in my artworks. That’s one of the things I consider as a strength. I always tell it to my friends, and they even tell me the same thing.
As an artist, what or who are your influences?
I’ve been looking for that word - influences. Right now, it’s Ilya Kuvshinov. He’s a Russian Artist. It’s his work that helped me start drawing more. He’s so talented. K-Pop is also another influence of mine. It was a year ago when I started liking K-Pop. I saw how colorful this world was. I watched their music videos, how they dress up. Whenever I listen to their music, I get inspired to draw. I also consider Japan, specifically Harajuku, one of my major influences.
What do people commonly say whenever they see your work?
It’s colorful. They always notice the colors of my work and say my palette is eye-catching. They often see me drawing and see how I color my art.
How do you handle criticism directed towards your work?
Right now, there is a lot of healthy criticism. Before, I had a mentor when I was in a college publication. I was in a school newspaper and I was making layouts. He was always making comments about my layouts and not my art. It was then that my skill in color started to develop. My mentor was pretty good with colors.
When I hear comments or when I hear something about my work, I always put it into consideration. I always remind myself, do I like the comment? Does it improve my work? Sometimes, there are comments that I appreciate. Good and bad comments, I always appreciate them. People can be both subjective and objective but it’s always up to you how you take it. I don’t make myself feel more down because of these comments. My friends have always said that I am an optimistic person. I don’t take negative comments seriously if they would make me feel bad.
Are you more comfortable working alone or do you prefer being a part of a group when creating art?
I’m more comfortable working alone. Of course, you can’t say when you’re going to work with a group. There are times when it’s also required to collaborate with other people. I always noticed that whenever I’m alone, my own concepts or ideas would be followed. Although I can work with others, it’s not going to be 100% for me. I’m able to put in more effort whenever I’m able to work alone.
Do you have any advice for individuals who want to start on the path you’re taking as an artist?
The most important, when they discover their talent, is to start discovering themselves. You cannot forget who you are. You cannot try pretending who you want to be. That’s what I lost when I was younger. I was lost for the past seven years when I was in a slump. I was trying to be something I wasn’t. That was my life lesson. It helped me become who I am now. Given the chance, I wished I stuck with who I really am back then.
When you’re also starting as an artist, you can explore different styles. It seems a little contradictory but trying out other styles may help you discover who you are. For me, I don’t have a definite style yet but I’m proud to say that I love what I’m doing. When I finish a piece, I can say that I’m not disappointed with it. Unlike before, whenever I finish something, I always ask why I did it.
Another thing is self-care, always. I think that’s self-explanatory. You also need to be self-aware of what you want. Many artists out there get discouraged at the start. They’re not aware of what they want.
How did you discover Merchiful and why did you choose it as the platform for your work?
I always wanted to print my work, especially during this pandemic. I’ve never really thought about it that much before. People were asking me to get prints. I told them I’ll find a way. I thought about printing my work all on my own and I thought it was impossible because of the pandemic. It’s really hard to find a supplier during this time, to be honest.
And then I researched how to get prints and discovered Print On Demand. The first sources I found were based in other countries. I have a foreign audience so I started there. It was really expensive with the shipping and all. Surprisingly, the best I found was Merchiful. I compared others but they don’t have the same platform as Merchiful where everything is handled. I just want to make sure my audience, who wants to buy prints from me, would have that chance.
What can Merchiful customers expect from you?
Now that you’ve mentioned it, those who first requested for my artwork, I wanted to make them available - the designs I wanted to sell. Most of them would be based on anime. I also compare what other artists do and not many of them do what I do, which is anime-styled designs. More anime-related designs, especially to people who are into them.
In one word, how would you describe yourself?
If you can’t get enough of Hardy’s creations, you can take them home from his Merchiful shop. Explore around and you may find an item or two that would add more color to your life. You can also learn more about Hardy through Sour Berry’s presence in these various social media platforms.