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Artist Spotlight - mintea

Mintea is a Filipina-American illustrator and graphic designer. She is a class of 2017 TUJ graduate and is currently based in Tokyo.

First, give us a short introduction!

I was born in Azores, Portugal on an American Air Force Base in 1995. My family moved for a few years, so I lived in Germany and Japan. Aomori Prefecture, which is where we lived during our time here, was where my earliest childhood memories come from. Our family eventually settled in Guam where I finished my secondary education. I was my first time to live off-base so our date-to-date changed dramatically, and it was quite hard to get used to that pace.

Would you say that our formative years spent in Japan was the reason you came back to live and work here now?

Pretty much! It was always a big part of my life, I missed it very much during my time in Guam. At that time I got more into manga and anime, which is an interest I brought back from my time in Japan. There were a few bookstores that carried manga in Guam, so I would often go and spend my free time reading. After I graduated high school I was lucky to move back in 2014, this time to attend college.

Describe briefly the work that you do.

Professionally, I do a lot of graphic design but first and foremost I’m an illustrator since my passion is figure drawing. In my fine art practice, I primarily use gouache paint and watercolor. When it comes to digital illustrations, I utilise a lot of paint brushes, and I prefer to use a drawing tablet when doing so.

How did you start drawing?

I was drawing since I was little, it came naturally. It was also a way for my parents to keep me occupied, give me some scratch paper and a bunch of crayons :). The habit of sketching is still integrated in me, I draw any time I can and in a month I can fill 2 notebooks worth of doodles. I displayed quite a large collection of my sketchbooks at my senior exhibition last year.

Looking through your work, what stands out for me the most is the amount of original characters you came up with. What is your process for generating new ideas?

A lot of them are characters from my original stories. Some ideas come from the shows I watch too, or even my surroundings. When I come up with an original character, I enjoy dressing them up in different clothes or expressing variety of emotions, eventually a story builds up around that. One of my major influences is the work of PIXAR Studios and I think the expressiveness of the figures I draw comes from that. More importantly, every drawing that I do will have a little piece of me in it. The work is not outwardly biographical, but I try to embody little pieces of my own experiences here and there.

The personal aspect is there, but portrayed very subtly. What drives the decision to become so vague about your own experiences?

I intentionally try to make things as ambiguous as possible. At face value, you could describe my work as ‘pretty’ or ‘odd’. However, underneath that there is a lot of emotional baggage. I hint at that through the colors and expressions of my characters. I treat it as a secret ingredient that make my illustration special! Some things stay unnoticed, but there were times when my audience quickly caught onto the hidden message.

So you draw your characters as well as write stories. A natural next step from that would be creating your own comic or animation next. Would you consider doing that?

It feels intimidating to pursue such a large project when I see all of those successful, established artists. It makes me question where I stand against those amazing creators and I become even more shy about my ideas. I’m still working on my own following, and I hope that when more people become interested in my work, they will also care to see my characters in a bigger project.

Do you have any long-standing influences?

There is a lot that I follow but off the top of my head, a huge inspiration for me is a Hong Kong-based artist, Little Thunder. She draws a lot of female figures, just like I do, so it’s something that made me gravitate towards her work. Overall, I see social media as an opportunity not only to share your work but also become inspired by other creatives.

You style is influenced my manga and anime, however in a lot of ways you aim to dodge the ever-existent thropes in the genre. Where this decision came from?

I’m an artist but I also read a lot of what is on the market and I am aware that a lot of the content in manga and anime can be problematic, especially when it comes to women. Yet, since I consume a variety of genres, it becomes confusing as then I’m also contributing to the problem. In my opinion, it’s okay to like what you like, but being aware and critical of what you are taking in is important both as a consumer and a creative. On the other hand, a lot of the humour in my drawings is different from what you’d typically see in Japan, as my taste in comedy is a bit more on the side of American animation, think Steven Universe or Legend of Korra.

Can you describe your idea of artistic success?

Being able to teach something, to pass on a message. If I’m able to evoke an emotion in my audience, then I feel like I accomplished what I've aimed for. It’s sometimes difficult, since my work can be read differently by each person but if I can make people laugh, then it’s a success.

What are your plans for the future?

So far I’ve been a freelancer, but I hope that in the next few years, while working in creative field, I can develop my style enough to become a full-time illustrator. It could be for film, TV or even as a self-employed artist, as long as there is a positive change I can bring with the artwork I make.

Thank you mintea for taking the time to talk with us!

You can see more of her work at @mintea_fresh

Her graphic design work and more can be found over at her portfolio page


Artist Spotlight is a weekly series hoping to promote local creatives from TUJ and beyond. We aim to cover a diverse range of artist from variety of fields, so please follow us to read a new episode every Wednesday!

Contact us to if you want your work to be featured or know an artist who’s a good fit to our mission and you think deserves more attention!

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