Not so long ago, Filipinos turned Twitter into an online art gallery as the hashtag “#artPH” became a trending topic in the microblogging site. Thousands of artworks were showcased through the hashtag, proving that there is a surplus of art talent in the Philippines.
This trend went on for a few more days with more pencil drawings, oil pastel paintings, murals, digital art and many more added into the #artPH radar.
And on August 21, the entry of Nathanael Jonas Rodrigo caught my attention.
“Hi I’m Jonas and I’m an 18 yr old engineering student from UST. I’m a pencil on paper kind of guy. #artPH” his tweet said, accompanied with four of his pencil drawings.
I took a closer look at his artworks and I almost could not believe my eyes. The drawings have great detail and as if they are photos from the internet made into a sketch by a Photoshop tool. That’s how breathtaking they are.
Here are his pencil drawings for your own judgment:
What’s more amazing is that the artist, Jonas, is an engineering student. Because we all know how it is like to be studying engineering – there is almost no time to do stuff other than studying and completing requirements. But if you can find a time-intensive hobby while being an engineering student, it can only mean that you really love what you do.
Jonas confirmed with me through an e-mail interview that he loves to draw, as well as do digital art. He revealed that joining the Facebook group called Guhit Pinas, where top Filipino creatives share their artworks, immensely contributed to his growth as an artist.
Moreover, Jonas shared that he also loves to take pictures. The 4th-year electronics engineering student is a member of the photography organization of his university called Fotomasino – TPG. He is also the team head for documentations of his college organization, the Network of Electronics Engineering Students or NECES.
I got to exchange e-mails with Jonas to find out more about how he got interested in art, who are his art inspirations, which art media he usually uses, and more.
On Doing Art
At what age did you start making art? How did you learn?
I can’t say for sure what age I started drawing. All I remember is, back when I was still a child, probably around 6 years of age, I usually accompany my mother to the wet market. Just before going home, we’d always pass by vendors selling all sorts of coloring books, tracing books, riddle books, etc.
My mother would always get me either a coloring book or a tracing book. My favorite is whenever she’d buy me a tracing book. It’s just like a coloring book but it has a tracing paper on top of each drawing. All you’d have to do is trace, and so I did.
Eventually, I can copy things on my own without tracing it. This started my ongoing fascination with copying things, whether it be copying an art from a cereal box, a cartoon, an anime, and so on.
Who or what inspired you to do this kind of art?
As a kid, I thought everyone in preparatory school was good in drawing. Good in the sense that as long as what you drew has some sort of resemblance to the object you’re drawing, it was enough to get you endless praise from your classmates, teachers, and parents. This positive reinforcement gave me confidence in my drawing abilities and drove me to continue drawing.
Looking back, it’s actually sad to realize now that the people whom I’ve always thought to be great at art didn’t continue making art. When they see my drawings, they think of how talented I am when in truth every one of us was talented at first – the only difference is that I kept being inspired and didn’t stop from drawing.
Who are your inspirations (artists) when it comes to art?
There are too many to mention. Usually, just after spending a few minutes scouting art platforms like Artstation, Pinterest, Instagram, and the group Guhit Pinas on Facebook, I come out more inspired than ever. But for the sake of naming a few, here are my favorite artists as found on Instagram: @tkjustinng, @artalicemarie, @heather12ooney, @caseybaugh @theportraitart, WLOP and many more.
What art media do you use? Which ones are your favorite?
For traditional art, I’ve already tried color pencils, charcoal, graphite, drawing markers, watercolor, and ballpoint pens. Right now, I’m focusing on digital art using my Wacom intuos tablet.
Drawing digitally offers me a unique drawing experience and allows me to easily create/draw something from my own imagination. Doing this traditionally can be very hard due to the process. With digital drawing, even though it is actually more complicated and challenging than it seems, at least there are a lot of useful tools and programs that conveniently helps in creating art from my own imagination. Despite my growing fondness with digital art, traditional graphite drawings will forever have a special place in my heart. It is where I’m most comfortable and confident at.
What do you usually draw?
I usually draw faces. I find the process of drawing faces to be so therapeutic – calming. There is something about capturing the expression of people’s faces as drawings that I’ve come to love. I try to make my drawings as realistic as possible. It has become sort of a training path for me. I am still far from the realism I’d like to achieve, but that’s okay for me. I am just here to enjoy the journey.
There is also the own sense of satisfaction after copying a picture and seeing how close you’ve come to copying it. However, I don’t want that – copying – to be my final destination with regards to art. Someday, I’d like to be able to create my own content without having to copy from already existing pictures or art. Right now, I am only at the beginning of that journey. Knowing how to copy will give me the skill essential to learning how to create something on my own.
Some of Jonas’ pencil drawings.
Here are a few of his digital art works.
How often do you draw? Do you accept commissioned art?
I try to draw as often as possible. I don’t pressure myself to produce a major drawing. My drawings could be something as simple as a doodle at the back of my notebook during boring classes, or a drawing from life at the jeep whenever I get stuck from heavy traffic. The thing I’ve realized is that the important thing for me is to just keep on drawing, but I don’t need to constantly remind myself. The need and the want for drawing naturally comes to me.
I also do commissioned art, if someone commissions me and my schedule from school allows it –factor in the additional school requirements- I almost always accept it. I don’t have a strict pricing plan though. Some say I price too low, but that’s okay for me, I’d like to think of myself as just starting out.
Do you join art competitions? If yes, which ones have you participated into? Cite awards if there are any.
I haven’t joined any huge art contests. I’ve only ever tried the local school art competition twice during the school’s nutrition month – and that was way back in high school. I also joined an Instagram contest hosted by a popular Instagram personality. The mechanics of the competition was just to draw the picture he posted and then he’d choose the winner based on the likes and on his judgement. I won and got featured and also got a free T-shirt shipped to my address.
What do you consider as your biggest achievement with regards to art?
I haven’t been actively engaged in the art community. Especially now since studying engineering already takes too much of my time.
However, my biggest achievement with regards to art is the first time I’ve tried to seriously draw a human face. The transition from drawing cartoons and anime to drawing a human face seemed daunting to me, but it still didn’t stop me from trying.
Back then, I know that drawing a face and making it resemble the person you’re trying to draw is challenging. I was even close to thinking that it was impossible for me. One day, something came up to me and I had the inkling of courage to try. The result changed me. From then on, I continued drawing faces and here I am now, proud of where my skills currently stand.
Other than doing art, what are your different hobbies?
I usually spend my days reading or biking. I’ve also just discovered photography as my new found love. Just like in drawing, my subjects are usually people – with my genre being portrait photography.
One day, I’d like to incorporate photography and drawing into my art process. Since I’ve been wanting to create my own content, perhaps I could take pictures of my creative vision and translate it to a drawing. At least that is something I can call my own, isn’t it?
On wanting to become an engineer
Why did you choose that engineering course?
Simply put, my choosing of electronics engineering was a blind choice. All I know before was how it was related to electronic devices such as cellphones and computers. The title engineering was just an added bonus.
Those two reasons alone were enough to make me want to choose it. I realized too late how unfortunate the choosing of your major was in our education system. I suppose I am not the only one who went to college with the course that they only so blindly chose. I know that everyone should be more responsible with their choices, but maybe if the system allows us to realize sooner and more effectively what we want to become for the rest of our lives, then maybe things could get a little bit better.
I am one of the more fortunate individuals who blindly chose their major in college yet learned to love it later on. As I take on my 4th year of studying engineering, more and more each day, I am learning to love it. I wish everyone was fortunate enough to do so.
Who or what pushed you to take engineering when you can be an art major instead?
I am so fortunate to have very supportive parents. They gave me the power to choose whichever major I would like to take. I chose to take electronics engineering on my own.
At first, the title engineering alone is enough to make me want to choose it. I had this impression that engineering is such a respectable and noble job. Of course, studying it now, I am not disappointed.
The reason as to why I did not choose to take an art-related major was I don’t want the thing I very much love to someday make me feel any hint of hate for it. I don’t want art to be a job for me, something I am required to do in order to pass class. I am afraid that once the school work/plates get piled up, I may hate it.
That is why I was fine to just letting it be my hobby – so then, it could be my escape from the things I just described. Of course, I could be wrong, maybe if I chose to be an art major, all my fear about losing my love for art wouldn’t come true. But there is no way of knowing and no point in regretting, because right now, I love where I am at and I thank engineering for the role it played to get me here.
What is your dream engineering job?
Nothing in particular. I could be fine working in small scale engineering company paying me just enough but still allows me to do the things I love outside of work. I don’t want to work for a high maintenance but high paying job and forget to do all the things I used to love. The thing for me is, as long as it’s a job where I don’t lose sight of who I am and who I want to become, that would be the best.
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