Living Off Your Art: How Jill Arteche Makes It Possible

  • By Sophia Bonoan

Sleepy bus rides after work, merienda with the family, late-night Netflix binges, and even trips to the bathroom—these are just a couple of things that make up our day-to-day and that we’re often quick to forget about. But, for artist Jill Arteche, these are the very moments from where one can get the greatest inspiration. With bright colors and cartoonish, even grotesque, faces and figures, Jill transforms the unremarkably mundane into unforgettable art.

With such a distinct style, one almost assumes that the young artist has always painted in such a way. After all, art had always held a big place in her life. “When I was in grade school, I was a quiet person that didn’t really talk to people. I would just draw by myself,” Jill shares over a video call. “That led to me being labelled as the ‘class artist,’ and people started giving me all the arts and crafts requirements to do. So, even then, I knew that there wasn’t really anything else I wanted to do and I eventually just thought ‘why not pursue it?’”

But even by the time she entered the Ateneo de Manila University back in 2013 to pursue a course in Information Design, Jill had yet to find an art style that was distinctively hers—something that she didn’t necessarily feel pressured to do, as it was her love for drawing that was most important. But by her junior year, her involvement with the school newspaper helped her discover a style she was happy with. Around the same time, an exercise given by one of her professors that challenged students to draw something in their sketchbook every day led to Jill discovering certain regularities in her work. “I’d draw every day and I noticed this consistency in how I’d draw faces and bodies. It was really during that time in college that I discovered how I liked to draw in a certain way and use certain colors. You could basically see all of the elements that would eventually define my style in that sketchbook.”

Photo caption: Funky Town scarf, 2019

Despite finding joy in discovering a style she could call her own, Jill would eventually come to realize that repetition could be detrimental to an artist’s creativity. “When you continue doing the exact same thing, you eventually feel a little burned out. So after I developed my style, I began simplifying and changing up my drawings more—now I sometimes draw in black and white, sometimes my drawings are a little cuter.”

“My style changes and I sometimes experiment, but it doesn’t really deviate completely from what it was originally. The reason for that is the inner voice is still the same, and it just evolved from there.”

Photo caption: Life From a Window (WIP), 2020

In the middle of this period of discovery and experimentation, Jill decided to begin showcasing her work on social media, namely on Instagram. “I wasn’t expecting anything when I began it, it really just started out as a portfolio,” she says. Not long after she started the account, Adobo Magazine reached out to her to make an editorial work for them, and the ball quickly began to roll from there. Only a year later in her fourth year, she applied and got into Young STAR as an illustrator and found work through freelance commissions and gigs. “Young STAR was a really big thing for me,” Jill adds, “because that was really when I got to expose myself as an artist to a bigger audience. It was also then when I realized how big of a role social media plays in the art world.”

While some may be predisposed to disliking the idea of using social media as a means to make a name for themselves, most young creatives understand just what a powerful tool it can be in the age of the internet—and Jill has always been one to see it as an advantage that every artist should utilize.

Photo caption: New York School of Visual Arts Residency Exhibit, 2019

“Whenever people asked me how I found work then, my answer was and still is that social media is such a different thing now and is such an important platform for up-and-coming artists.” Jill shares. ‘It’s the new medium for learning and widening your audience, as well as gathering inspiration from and connecting with other artists.”

By the time she graduated in 2017, Jill had already had quite a hefty portfolio under her name and knew art and illustration were what she wanted to pursue full-time. But like any young artist, she felt some trepidation to make the move. “I was scared and didn’t think I was ready yet, so I started working for both a travel agency and advertising agency, working as a designer by day and illustrator by night. But it came to a point that I got so burned out, and I realized that art, illustration, and design are such different crafts, and it was the former two that I really wanted to do.”

In the midst of artistic burnout and figuring out just what to do, Jill applied for a residency at the School of Visual Arts in New York for illustration and visual storytelling. It was during that time when Jill decided to take a leap of faith. “I did it for about two months, and that residency gave me so much inspiration and courage. When I came back, I resigned from my jobs and began doing illustration and art as a full-time freelancer.”

Young Woman Holding Her Jar of Pearls (commissioned work)

Since taking that leap of faith that took her to where she stands now, Jill is constantly creating and collaborating, whether it be for commissioned works or personal passion projects. To be working so often and so tirelessly is a goal that many aspiring artists strive for, and Jill knows just how much creative blocks can affect one’s momentum, finding her own ways to cope with it. From visiting galleries to going for a short walk, and from finding other hobbies outside of drawing to simply keeping a sketchbook with you in case of bouts of inspiration; it’s in the simplest of fixes that Jill has constantly found inspiration, and through which she thinks others can too.

When asked for words of advice or inspiration for other young artists, Jill is quick to answer, and it’s easy to see that these words come from her own experience. In terms of finding style, Jill simply says not to force it. “Focus on finding your voice,” she imparts. “Something I’m constantly asked is how I found my style, but style evolves and changes, so don’t force it. Find your why and your reason for doing it instead. I make my works to make people laugh and smile and appreciate the mundane moments in life that we take for granted; that’s my why.”

Another thing that has played a crucial role in her success: social media. “Don't underestimate the power of it. Focus on a few platforms so you can really stay consistent and focus on your art in that space and talk to people through them.”

While creating art may feel like a solitary world for some, collaboration has always been an important aspect of the art scene. “Especially when you’re just starting out, doing good and hard work isn’t always enough,” Jill says. “Networking is one of the major things that’ll get you to the place you want to be—collaborating and creating relationships with others in the scene offline and online. Go to galleries when you can, message your idols and the people you look up to and ask for advice. Collaborate with your friends and work on passion projects together, because they’re the first people you can go to when you want to make something.”

As someone who has found her own unique voice in art, Jill finds that stepping out of your comfort zone will always lead to good results. “Don't be afraid to experiment. Whether it’s your process, your output, or your style, constantly creating will bring you where you want to be.”

In the end, Jill concludes with the simplest, yet most important words of advice that absolutely anyone can take to heart:

“Be patient. Good things will come.”

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