“Creating fanarts have taught me to infuse my art style with the original.”

Filipina Designer and Illustrator Deisa Hidalgo

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From LA to Tokyo, this artist seems to have travelled the world with her animations. Deisa gives us a lot of detailed insight into her fascinating work with clients like Amazon Tokyo fashion week, her process behind ber magical animated music videos, the webtoon she makes and even the struggles she has faced as she has grown through her journey. We also talk a lot about fanart and its place in the art world!

As you can see this is a totally packed episode so really get comfy for this one bc its a long and wonderful ride! Enjoy this interview with Deisa Hidalgo

Please introduce yourself!

Hi! I’m Deisa. I do Graphic Design and illustration as my main profession. I’m continuing my studies in LA, because i feel i still have a lot to learn in my field. In 2017, I graduated with a degree in multimedia arts in Manila Philippines. Quickly after that, I landed a job in content creation and plannig. In my spare time, I usually go to comic conventions.

I create illustrated music videos and explore webtoons on the side. I love coffee and hopefully someday I get to own a cafe!

I really wanted to interview you because you have such an ethereal, magical style but also you make animated MV’s through your digital art which is suuuper unique! Can you take us through your art journey, how you got started and how you got to where you are now?

Thanks so much for the support! When I was starting it wasn’t smooth sailing. There were a lot of challenges and obstacles but it’s been such an exciting ride.

I’ve loved drawing sinc preschool. I started colouring books and drawing in every paper. I stopped drawing for a bit and focused on my studies because 1st to 6th grade I wasn’t a good student.

My high school friends got me into vocaloid videos which are really popular in Japan. Theyre kind of like a voice synthesizer. Most of the videos have animations of the singers themselves along with the music.

At that time I was really drawn to them because theyre so colourful so i aspired to create them someday.

Some people who created them were Deco*27 and Honeyworks who have been such a big influence.

They have fun tracks and vivid animations. Each song had unique tracks and that really captivated me. This was back in 2009/2011, so digital art wasn’t such a big thing back then. I was still doing traditional art so I was finding it difficult to do animation. Drawing tablets weren’t popular back then. Most artists would draw in a sketchpad and scan, but I didnt have the technology for that.

However that didn’t hinder me from practicing. Most of my high school friends do comics and they draw tons of stuff. They were one of the reasons that I practiced more because they wrte really good and I felt I was lagging behind.

Fast forward to pre college: i didnt think of enrolling in art school. Originally I wanted to take International studies with a minor in Japanese studies. But the day I was supposed to enroll, I got an acceptance letter from art school! So i thought I’d give it a shot. So I enrolled in Multimedia arts and when I got there, there were do many creative people. I was also lucky to land a scholarship, so I was working as a student scholar to ease the tuition fees.

I guess being part of those organisations allowed me to get to know other creatives. I get to work with people from other departments, through designing posters for productions etc. That opened up my mind when it came to live musicals etc. Those experiences add up to how I became who I am today.

I guess graduating from college and transitioning from student life to work life wasn’t as grand as I expected! There was pressure and projects I wasn’t ready to take on but I somehow survived! Learning to deal with different types of people made me learn a lot. The artist I am in college is different to the artist I am now. The career I envisioned has so many plot twists but I take it one day at a time and I try my best to figure it out as I go!

That’s a really rich history! You mentioned youre not the same artist as you were in college. Has your style also evolved with that?

My art has definitely evolved. In high school my artworks were semi realistic, heavily influenced by Final Fantasy 3D art. Back then, 2011–2012, realism and hyper realism was super popular. I had trouble finding my style back then so I wanted to try different styles but ultimately got confused!

I wanted to try a simple style but also wanted to try hyper realism. Those were my confused and indecisive days. Now, after undergoing types of challenges and encounters with different creative professors, now I’m more decisive with drawing.

I’ve had this style for a few years now.

What made you take the turn to this style as opposed to realism?

Well I’m lazy to finish super realistic art!

I also wanted to focus on details, like backgrounds clothes and expressions. I wanted to express more stuff through the lineart and character expressions. I lean more towards stylised backgrounds and illustrations.

I also figured a lot of people lean more into how they feel about the artwork rather than how it looks. There are artworks I spend more time in, but it will get little attention. But then I’ll post a small sketch, like a funny face so people like it and retweet it!

You mentioned you had a social media job. Does social media play a big role in your artwork?

It’s become a pivotal point in my career. I started with tumblr and deviantart, where there was less pressure. I would wait for their comics every month because they spend so much time on it.

Seeing as how competitive the market is, having social media is crucial to some. As designers and creatives it’s kinda important, but with regulation (not too much obsession!). I try not to indulge too much in the marketing side. I see it as a platform to connect with fellow artists. Social media now leans into marketing, like Instagram.

Usually I just follow fellow artists because I want to connect and do collabs. The creative world is small in a way. Its just a matter of networking. Realistically speaking, having social media helps with reaching out to clients and collabs. I try to update it regularly. I think its important you put yourself out there.

In the past, on tumblr, I had this mindset of overnight success. Because, a lot of people I followed had that. However I realised it takes so much work to build an audience in the social media bubble because you have to be consistent when it comes to the algorithm.

I try my best not to look at the likes and affect myself with all the likes and comparing it with people who have 100k. I try and keep off it for a while and come back refreshed.

Can you tell us more about the process of your animated mvs — what got you into them? What’s your process like? Have you done this commercially before, and if you have, how does your creative process differ when working with a client?

Well, I’m the slowest person to make music videos!

I guess why I started doing this is because I was curious about the process. I wanted to create stuff for the music I liked. It was out of boredom really. I didn’t have a background in video editing, and I really despised premiere and after effects in college!

I have a very flexible process when it comes to illustrated mv. I get attached to a particular song — if something sparks, then I’ll think ‘this is it!.’

I put it on loop and after that I daydream — as funny as it sounds, it usually works! I always make sure I have a notebook and pen for rough drafts and notes to not forget the flow of the story.

I also keep my phone next to me before I sleep because I get ideas right before bed so I’ll just record the idea on my voice notes and get back to it the next morning.

Once I get the rough draft, I’ll start illustrating which takes up the bulk of the time.

It depends if I’m in the mood to draw because I’ll usually get these art blocks in between. It takes a minimum of 3 weeks, usually longer.

When I finish the scenes, I’ll stitch it in after effects. I usually have extra scenes which I have to omit (and I totally feel salty about) because they’re usually the ones I spent the most time on.

Do you do frame by frame?

Yeah, most of the time. I did see After Effects tutorials but I got scared because there are so many things to do.

I use Clip Studio Paint. I used Photoshop initially. After a while I also used procreate.

Does the process differ with clients?

After they send me an enquiry, I set a meeting with them to discuss the project. I always ask them what they want it to look like. I’ll send in moodboards to give the aesthetic.

If they like it, I’ll move onto storyboarding, which is crucial for client work. It shows them how the video and animation flows. It also gives them an idea on what to expect. Once approved, the rest of the process is the same as before.

I’ll send them back the rough drafts and I’ll give a maximum of two revisions, after which I charge additional fees.

Most of the videos are fanart. How do you think fanart has contributed or changed your process. Do you consider it to be true art?

Creating fanarts have taught me to infuse my art style with the original. I’ve always watched anime and read tons of manga. I’ve created fanarts for those. Drawing them using your own style up a lot of work. It’s not just copying. It’s a cool thing to mix your style with the original.

It’s helped me improve myself as an artist especially with composition. It also shows a new side from my own perspective. Labelling anything as ‘true art’ isn’t helpful because art is subjective.

Fanart is an extension of ourselves as it shows love towards a certain thing we like. After all, art is expressing oneself and fanart is a form of expression!

I’ve also encountered people who downgrade fanartists which make me feel sad as it pulls down fellow artists! Even though they’re both expressing feelings through their art.

Its the same idea as Draw This In Your Style. Theres also a lot of Ghibli redraws as people mix and match characters and backgrounds, which is really cool!

You make a Webtoon! How do you come up with the story and writing — how long does it take you, and how do you storyboard it out? What influenced you wanting to make one?

I actually started writing the script in 2018. I was feeling all the feels back then!

I was transitioning from student life, I wasn’t super settled into work. I never really had time back then. But in 2020, I checked it and I thought I didn’t want to waste it, especially because I wrote the entire summary.

It was originally a short story with 10 episodes but I decided to make it a bit longer because I just chose pain….

I Wanted to tell the story about the challenges being an artist which is where I get my inspiration from. In the Philippines, artist is a profession that’s frowned upon.

I drafted the summary and some chapters and did some characters, backgrounds and then did the storyboards.

I didnt have any experience in creating one, nor did I have experience in Clip Studio Paint because I just bought it on a whim! I initially got scared of the interface so i closed it and didn’t check it for a few months. But now we’re besties!

I was also scared to disappoint because that’s the kind of person I am…

I think too much so I’m scared to disappoint people. So I searched for a lot of tutorials on text size, etc. So the process was long. I still experiment on font sizes and all.

I was really nervous because people have high expectations but I was insecure about the storytelling. Anyway, I pushed it through and that’s basically the backstory.

I plan on doing minimum of 20 episodes, max 50.

Doing the pacing is also challenging. Will x be resolved in 2 episodes? That kind of thing. Storyline and plot is what I’m practicing. I ask friends to be my beta readers.

You have done some really cool work like illustrating for Amazon Tokyo Fashion Week — could you tell us what this experience was like, how you got the job and what the process of creating the final product was like? What was it like working with such a big client?

It was an opportunity from my first full time job. I was a designer for a local fashion retail brand.

I was on leave that day when the art director called me (I was at Day6’s concert lol). But my friend told the director that I could do animations for a backdrop because they wanted a black and white animation to launch the collection.

I agreed despite having full time work! I had such a short amount of time (2 weeks). It was a challenge to juggle both.

Our art director was understanding during the process but one manager didn’t understand the time and effort.

After I sent the video to the Japanese team, I was so relieved. It was just a loop of birds flying and of fields. But it was a success and it was so surreal because I never expected my work to reach there. It was such an out of the blue opportunity!

You also participated in Seoul Illustration fair! How was this experience, particularly exhibiting in a country where you have no idea of the language or anything? How did you prepare for the fair? What do you think you got out of it?

It was one of the most exciting events. It was actually a very big gamble because I still had my full time job. It was a 4 day event so I had to take leave for a week.

I invited my friends to come with me. I had about a month to prepare to restock prints, tote bags, packaging. I had to visualise decorations for the booth as well.

It was considered one of the biggest illustration fair in South Korea — I was scared there’d be miscommunication or language barriers.

But it wasn’t so bad, because people were nice and they do their best to communicate in simple sentences.

It made me happy if people would take pictures, or give me compliments. It made me feel so grateful to be an artist!

I also enjoyed talking with artists there about their work which sparked connections. You realise art really exists in different forms. It was just a cool experience!

Where do you see yourself moving forward?

I’d like to see myself as an art director to help designers conceptualise ideas and having brainstorms. I’d like to guide them, and that’s kind of my vision!

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