Part 2 on a three-part mini-profile article on three young artists-slash-teachers, entitled “Lessons on a Creative Life.”
Written for feature writing class, submitted February 2012.
TEACHING may also be considered a form of art, especially considering how no two teacher’s teaching styles are alike, as well as how one can only develop a personal unique teaching or artistic style through plenty of dedication and a great deal of practice. Both teaching and art can be considered vocations as well, wherein one can only be able to happily engage in pursuits if there is intense passion to teach or to make art.
In this modern society where individuals who take on multiple careers and explore different professions all at once are on the rise, it is still rare to spot a person who can be described as a teacher-slash-artist in downtown Manila. This article features three people who teach and at the same time engage in different artistic pursuits.
Photo by Bardo Wu
ELBERT OR has been drawing comics as long as he can remember. “It’s always been natural to me, working with drawings when words are inadequate to expressing what I feel, and vice-versa,” he says. As a freelance artist, this Atenean interdisciplinary studies graduate is a co-author and illustrator of several books, comic books, and graphic novels filled with his colorful, kid-friendly illustrations which can be easily devoured by any Filipino reader. His books can rouse a few tears of laughter, make the heart skip a beat, or make one simply think about life more deeply. His latest one is a children’s book published in 2012 entitled, Lola: A Ghost Story.
His style ranges from cartoony, realistic, and animé-like, depending on the project he is undertaking. “But I always strive for a clean aesthetic, that communicates clearly the idea it wants to express,” he says.
Apart from a life of designing and illustrating, he is also the director and art teacher of the art school, Global Art, in Katipunan. A Malaysian franchise, it caters to children and preteens, offering creativity and art programs that hones creative thinking and art skills. He established this school with the drive for sharing what he knows, and by providing aspiring artists the opportunities he once was not able to gain access to when he was just starting out.
Being a teacher helps keep his artistic capabilities astute. “Seeing what my students are capable of, and watching them as they grow keeps me from being sedentary and resting on my laurels. It’s a healthy sort of social pressure I place on myself, feeling like I need to prove to myself and the students that I can talk the talk and walk the walk,” he says.
On coming up with ideas for a new book or project, he does so by “—alchemical means and astounding telepathy!” he remarks. “But also lots and lots of thinking time and observation and research.”
Apart from teaching and illustrating, he engages in spreading ideas through social movements with a unique approach. One of them is MoveforMove100, a “storied movement” campaign featuring personal stories of individual achieving fitness goals, that in turn promotes healthy lifestyles among Filipinos.
He professes that his Ateneo education has given him the ability to “articulate my mission statement as an artist and as a person—to contribute to society as best I can with what I have.” This year, he also is teaching as a part-time lecturer for the Fine Arts Department in the Ateneo, teaching an advanced graphic design course.
People with “deterministic dispositions,” are the kind of people he admires the most, as well as those “who never stop striving to be the best that they can be, who use their skills and resources to contribute something positive to the world.”
Like many prolific artists and changemakers, he has good old hard work to thank for his creative triumphs. “I’ve met far too many people who tell me that they have always dreamed of being a writer or artists, but what they really mean is they have always dreamed of seeing their name on a book displayed in a store, and are not actually interested in the work that it takes to get there,” he says.
“That said, effort doesn’t ensure success. You’ll fail. So best be prepared for that.” In that case, he goes on to say, “Fail faster. So you can learn the lessons quicker, and move on to the next attempt. At the end of the day, of course results matter, and talent always helps, but you really have to have the willingness to put in the work.”
This comic book artist admits to a soft spot for Calvin and Hobbes, saying he still has so much to learn (“Like I’m always on a precipice. It’s both exciting and unnerving.”), which keeps him on his toes, making him a Filipino artist to watch for. Meanwhile, his current state of mind keeps telling him,“Never settle for anything less than extraordinary.”