Sunday, November 18, 2007

Chester Ocampo

Tell me a little bit about yourself, about your life? Where did you go to school, and what classes did you study? What helped prepare you to become the artist that you are today?

I'd like to think I'm an easy-going guy, but i get really serious when it comes to work. I took up Advertising Management at De La Salle University - Manila; it was a commerce course with little to do with the creative side of Advertising. In terms of art, I am, for the most part, self-taught. It's only here in our studio workshops that I ever held a charcoal and did some live drawing sessions. When I was younger, I used to copy certain elements in the styles of artists I liked. As I matured as an artist, I started analyzing why they chose to draw the way they do, and how i could make my drawings different. I also learned a lot of stuff from Burne Hogarth's Anatomy books, Andrew Loomis, and the old comics tutorials in Wizard magazine. These days, I try to observe scenes of everyday life: people on the bus, on the street, in the malls--their age, their clothes, their interactions. Although artworks of past and modern artists are great to look at, I have deduced that these are all inspired by real life, so now my art studies revolve around first-hand information: real life. This isn't to say that I would be doing hyper-real stuff anytime soon; this means that I am studying real life situations to make my drawings more believable, regardless of the style I choose to employ.

What inspired or convinced you to become an Artist?

I started out copying my brothers drawing Bioman. That's the first thing I ever drew outside of the usual kindergarten "art class" requirements. I kept at it because I found that at that young age, when new toys were only given during Christmas day and birthdays, drawing was like a toy to me. A toy that could make more toys, something that can express an infinite number of things both imagined and real. I still treat it that way up to this day, except I have a more mature way of describing it now hahahaha

What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work with?

These days, most of my time is spent here in IFS, having nothing much to do outside of work, in a foreign country. I work with Imaginary Friends Studios here in Singapore, a talented bunch of down-to-earth people who have a great sense of humor. We handle several comics and comics-related projects, among others.

What are some of the things that you have worked on?

I've worked on pixel art for mobile phone games, concept art and texture mapping for a now-defunct 3D videogame project, print ad illustrations, magazine illustrations, online comics, print comics, and card art.

How do you go about illustration, what goes through your mind, from start to end?

My conceptualization process is flexible depending on what I want to achieve out of an artwork. If it's a no-brainer artwork, I usually just have one flimsy idea to base it on and go from there. These no-brainer artworks are just for exercise and are never meant to be taken seriously. If it's a more concept-oriented artwork, the process is usually more complex. As much as possible, I try to visualize all the elements in the image that are necessary to communicate the concept/message. Only when I'm confident about the picture in my brain do I proceed with actually working on it. This process is also flexible to accommodate last-minute ideas that strengthen the concept or the impact of the image as a whole.

Could you talk about your process in coloring your art (if at all), as well as the types of tools or media that you use?

I work 100% digital, with Photoshop and an Intuos 3. The common method that I use in coloring artwork is fairly straightforward: I set the line art layer on multiply and put it above the layers stack. Underneath are the layers with the base colors (midtones) and the background colors. Based on the lighting and the mood of the scene, I put in the shadows and then the highlights. Lighting decisions for the artwork are affected by time of day, weather conditions, indoor or outdoor, and self-illuminating elements (if there are any). I start putting in shadows similar to cel-shading; After which I blend shadows and midtones together. Highlights come in last.
But these days, as I learn more stuff here in IFS, I've started to incorporate some new techniques in my method, opting for a more painterly approach as opposed to lineart-based coloring.

What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?

I expose myself to various media. The saying "nothing in, nothing out" holds true for every creative endeavor. But sometimes, exposing yourself to the usual stimuli can become so routine that it no longer has any effect on creativity. In instances like this, I try to break routine, which could be as simple as taking some time off and observe a beach scene. Or it could be as extravagant as blowing out a lot of cash on overpriced booze, cigarettes, and shopping. In any case, there's always a different solution whenever I find myself in a creative rut.

What is your most favorite subject to draw, And why?
I like drawing women because I find women, in general, are complex and mysterious. I also like drawing characters that I imagine stories for because I want to make my own stories someday.

Who are the top illustrators whose works excite you the most?

I have a lot of illustrators whose works I admire and have influenced my style over the past few years: Akihiko Yoshida, Paul Pope, Hiroaki Samura, Capcom studio, just to name a few. Right now, I saw James Jean's latest artbook (Process Recess 2) and I am just floored by his stuff.

What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?

I've picked up a lot of tricks on technique that are too long to list down here so I won't talk about that. Virtue-wise, I have learned several lessons in humility and dedication. Humility in accepting criticism, knowing how helpful "fresh eyes" are; and humility in giving criticism, knowing what they're talking about when they give out comments. Dedication to quality and to the task at hand, that stems from discipline. Oh, and I've just realized how important research is, and how much research can add more subtle layers of depth and meaning to an image. An artist should not only have a fertile imagination, but a clear mental grasp of reality, history, culture, and life as well.

What are some of your favorite websites that you go to?

DeviantArt, for my daily dose of art and photography; Google, for visual research; Wikipedia, for information research; Newsarama and Comicbookresources for comics news; and Multiply for connecting with friends.

What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?

I'm no "buddha on the mountaintop of coolness", but if there is something I could tell The Artist, in general, it would be this: your art is only as good as the life you lead. Of course, the word "good" is a relative term. Some artists lead f-ed up lives and churn out great, sincere artworks, totally influenced by their f-ed up experiences. Some artists lead mediocre lives but are observant, environmentally-aware, and imaginative and churn out great artworks as well. There's a writer's saying, "Write what you know." In the case of the artist, it's "Make art of what you know." And the only best way to know is to experience, or at the very least, know someone who has relevant experiences. And let imagination take care of the rest.
If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?

If anybody wishes to reach me, they can send me a note via DeviantArt, or e-mail me at chester.ocampo [at] gmail [dot] com . Although I must admit I'm a bit late in my responding to notes and e-mails lately, since I'm always neck-deep working on something. I'll hear anybody out, just no spam and silly requests, please.

Finally, do you have any of your art work for sale (sketchbook, prints, or anything) for fans of your work can know where and when to buy it?

At the moment, I don't have anything out there that's 100% my work. Most of my own stuff is online, and some actually wound up in Imagine Prime, the 2nd artbook of Imaginary Friends Studios, which is available for purchase through . Maybe when I gather enough material, I can eventually publish a sketchbook or something along those lines, but I seriously think only a handful of people would actually buy that hahahaha

Do you imagine yourself (and perhaps your family) eventually migrating to Singapore or remaining as Filipino citizens?

As much as Singapore is a breath of fresh air compared to Manila (for one, you can go walking around way past midnight without fear of being stabbed for your cellphone), there are some cultural traits here that just do not fit my personality. It's great working here, but I would still prefer to raise a family in Manila. A few years from now, I'm sure I'll be back. And when that time comes, I hope I can finally make a significant difference for the Philippine Digital Art Industry. Because I believe that we can help uplift our country from the rut it's currently in, in our own, unique ways.


jsoriano said...

Go Chester!

Update mo na si Kitty Barracuda haha :D

Allison said...

Awesome interview! It's always interesting to know how artists end up on their respective pasts and how they got into the industry. We always thought Chester would be a kick ass artist. w00t!

Chester, I would DEFINITELY buy your collection and I'm sure your other fans would too. DA fans alone would merit the endeavor. ^_~`

And lastly, so many talented native Filipinos abandon the Philippines in search of something better. It is damn inspiring to see a Filipino artist still wanting to return to the Philippines, even when he could obviously earn so much more abroad. Kudos!

Allison said...

Correction: "respective paths"

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