Manila based Digital/ Traditional Artist
Every journey starts with a baby step. For us, artists, it started when we drew our very first line— maybe a crooked one. In order to know why I am where I am right now, we have to look back where it all started, in a little street in Sampaloc, Manila, way back in 1998.
I was three years old when I first picked up a Mongol number 2 pencil. I, together with my two sisters, developed an interest in drawing. My parents were very supportive back then, providing us some used bond paper from my father's office and an ice cream container with a lot of broken crayons that my sisters have accumulated through the years. It was the best of times. We spent every afternoon digging through that container and created a world so weird that when you look at it, it does not make any sense. We cannot help it for we were so young. We were so ecstatic when our father brought home a computer. It did not have the internet. That was the time that I learned how to play solitaire and minesweeper. YES, my four-year-old self knew the rules of minesweeper, but the most important thing I learned is how to paint digitally. No, I am not talking about Adobe Photoshop or PaintTool SAI. I am talking about the Windows 95 version of MS Paint.
Being the only boy in the household, I did not relate well with my sisters’ interests. That is why when they were not doing art, I was left creating. I had no one to talk to. During those times, I learned that I can make friends with the characters I made. It made me draw even more.
Whil Gorumba at age 23, next to One Fine Summer
I was in elementary when I started to realize that my skill in sketching was superior to my classmates. Whenever I feel disinterested in the lesson of the day, I flip my notebook and draw on the back pages. Lo and behold, most of my notebooks were filled from back to front— entirely of drawings. My classmates wanted me to be one of their group members when the task requires illustration. However, my teachers were skeptical because I was a bad student and a bad student cannot do anything well. No matter how I try, they gave better grades to students who have drawn something more believable to be drawn by nine-year-old students. I did not stop making a point though. Whenever they ask me what I wanted to be, I always say that I want to be a ‘Phine Arts’ student. It took me one year to find out the correct spelling of Fine Arts for they did not correct me. I was only nine years old and was a bad student.
I continued learning to sketch better during my high school days. It was a tough four years of my life. I did not get a lot of friends and as a typical thirteen-year-old, it was a big deal. I was in the second year when I met my first best friend. He is also into art. He likes to copy anime characters from photographs while I create my own. We bonded well. High school was a setting where everybody wanted to be somebody. Everyone wanted to be above everybody else. It was not the case for both of us. We just wanted to survive each day and art was our getaway car. When I turned fifteen, I was not sure of what I want to do when I grow up. Some people said that I should be a teacher because I am good at public speaking and I love reading books. I liked that —being a teacher. It sounded cool and I will get to wear respectable clothing. Some also said that I should be a full-time artist. I liked it too. At that time, I had two options, but the people I care about said otherwise.
“There is no money in art”,
“Why can't you pick a more realistic career path?”,
“We are not rich”.
These are the words I heard all the time. I did not care that much. In fact, I listened. I did not know who I am to be yet. There was no concrete plan. I have no dream. It seems like the future is being pressed on me and I had to decide right away. I was only sixteen. How am I supposed to know what to do for the rest of my life? I end up choosing a more realistic and socially acceptable path.
It was a very interesting slice of my life. If I will give a grade to my college days, it will be a flat B. It is not bad, it is a respectable B, blahhhh, but respectable nonetheless. In fact, that is my average grade. I have learned to love and enjoy the things that we did. Not only did I hone my teaching skills, but I also learned how to apply my creativity to making interesting visual aids and PowerPoint presentations.
It was 2013 when my sister introduced me to a software called PainTool SAI, a tool to make digital art. At the time, I was busy with my studies. Yet, I made sure to draw whenever I have time. The summer of 2015 came, and I started to learn how to use PainTool SAI to draw anime. Using my durable mouse from CDR-King (sarcasm), I made significant progress. People started to notice my digital artworks and I accepted commissions.
One night in the summer of 2016 (I guess we are getting a unifying idea here, that I make significant changes during summertime), I decided to draw Audrey Hepburn. It was a breath of fresh air. It is a decent artwork. That is when I found the love of my life, realism. From that point on, I hone my skills to draw realistically. The progress is quicker than I expected. I made a Facebook page to reach more people and eventually made a YouTube channel to upload speed drawing videos. All of this happened during my last year in college. I graduated in the summer of 2017 (another significant change in summer). I continued making speed drawing videos while studying for my board examination. Then came November 27th of the same year, it was the day when South Africa won Miss Universe, and the day when I found out that I passed the board examination. I am now a licensed professional teacher. I passed on my first attempt. Indeed, it was the most beautiful day in the universe.
It was not until the beginning of 2019 that I took the discipline of art seriously. I painted day and night. My interest in digital art got deeper and deeper, and so does my passion for realism. I decided to fuse the two and make realistic digital artworks using Adobe Photoshop. Sadly, my grandfather died that year. I had no one to talk to. I continued working as if everything was normal, but every night after my shift as an English instructor, I go home and paint him. That was when I learned that I can paint well using oil paint.
A new decade has begun and my passion for art is burning as hot as ever. I am still inspired to make artworks every single day, much like the version of me from 1998. I might have grown physically, but the heart is still the same. It is the same kid who stays up late doing what he loves.
Something that I learned so far is to trust one's instinct. The people around you may be skeptics, doubtful, or just plain mean, but it does not matter. No one will ever make us feel inferior without our consent, the words from Eleanor Roosevelt that I hold dear in my heart.
I am dreaming of creating animation from stories and characters that I made myself in the nearest future. I will never stop dreaming. At the end of the day, I will always make that little boy from that little town proud. He is the threshold of everything that I do and what I will do. His dream is right, yet he was not aware of it, but I am now, and I will never bring us down. From this point on, I will only look forward and take each day as it comes. There will always be a new thing and I am ready to learn. Just like any person on a journey, I will take each step and have fun along the way. As for my left hand, let it draw forever because it can never find happiness without creating something beautiful.