From a small Philippine town comes colossal shape and colour
Mark Magnaye works from a small town called San Jose Del Monte. Here he talks to us about his journey into illustration, and where he hopes to go next!
Hi! I am Mark Magnaye (AKA Blok) a freelance illustrator. I’ve been illustrating for over 5 years now and loving every day of it. I guess I’ve always loved drawing and being creative. Since being a small boy I knew that I wanted to do something creative when I grew up. Initially I wanted to be a comic artist; a dream that was influenced by the animes and cartoons of the 1990’s. Though that changed when I entered art school. I was suddenly exposed to other art forms that I wasn’t all that familiar with before. Suddenly I was torn, because I loved everything!
It was during my junior year that I discovered illustration, or rather saw it in a new light. I used to hang out and kill time in the libraries in between classes. Sometimes I’d have three-hour breaks and spend all of it looking at picture books. That’s when my love story with illustration began, and I decided I’d like to pursue it as a career. It wasn’t necessarily an easy path. I’ve had my struggles, especially when starting out, but luckily I managed and I’m now represented by MP Arts. I’ve been working with international clients I never thought I’d have the chance to work with!
San Jose Del Monte is a a small town in Bulacan, in the Philippines. Not much happens here, at least creatively speaking. It’s about 2-3 hours away (depending upon the traffic) from Metro Manila where there’s a livelier art scene. I go whenever there’s something interesting going on, and visit exhibitions, fairs, etc. What I really like about living here though is the laid back atmosphere. It’s quiet most of the time, unless somebody in the neighborhood has a birthday. Filipinos can go crazy with their karaoke!
I was hugely influenced by anime when I was growing up. When I went to art school I was then exposed to other forms of art and came to appreciate them on a much deeper level. I didn’t have a solid style back then. It was a time when I’m just trying everything and learning from it. It took me a while to develop a style that I was happy with, and could say confidently “yes, that it’s ‘me”. I also worked as a children’s illustrator for a time, which hugely influenced my work. It encouraged me to try and remember to inject a certain whimsy and humour into my work wherever possible.
This quote by Antoine De Saint-Exupery has become my aesthetic mantra: “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
As I’ve grown older I’ve to appreciate simplicity more and more. When I was younger I used to do these really busy compositions, something I’d call a fiesta. But now I’m more refined using basic shapes and bold colours.
When I’m not working, I enjoy doing nothing. It’s nice to just sit back and not have your day planned! When I’m not being a homebody I like soaking up the sun and going out too. I love spending time in the outdoors (the Philippines has great outdoors!) and when I can, I go hit up nearby trails or beaches with my brother or some of my closest friends.
I also love travelling. It’s where I mostly spend my money. I’d like to travel more and further afield if the budget permits. I just love the feeling of excitement I get being in a foreign country. I have been to three countries so far–not many! – but I’m planning to take many more trips in the coming year. This may sound weird but one my favorite moments of a trip is waiting to board the plane. It’s like a threshold moment, if that makes sense!?
I’m currently working from my bedroom in our little bungalow. There’s a single bed in the corner, a desk on the opposite side, and some shelves where I stack my small collection of books. It’s not much really but this set-up has worked so far. I’m looking to get a small studio space somewhere but home is just so convenient for me.
I collect stationary, like almost every illustrator I know. Small notebooks and pocket sketchpads litter my desk, all with pages that will likely never see the light of the day. I also collect picture and children’s books. Almost all of them I got from elbowing my way in thrift/second-hand bookstores. I probably get weird looks from people when I line up next to the children in the kid’s section but hey I’m still a kid–at least at heart. I like buying from thrift stores…going in without any idea of what I’ll find that day. It’s more romantic that way. It makes each find extra special.
My there most treasured, and therefore read books would be ‘The little Prince’ by Antoine De Saint-Exupery (This is like a bible for me); ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell (I have a gorgeous 1963 copy); and ‘My First Nursery Book’ with illustrations by Franciszka Themerson.
I begin my process by sketching ideas on paper first and then working on the finals digitally. Dermatographs are awesome! I love using dermatographs and grid paper for sketching. They’re like a crayon-pencil hybrid and instead of sharpening you just peel off the skin. It’s super cheap, and really nice for sketching. My PC and a small Wacom tablet for digital work are my staple. I’m quite frugal with technology, and not one to buy and get updated with the latest tech. All I need is a big calibrated screen, a smooth pen tablet, a fast internet connection and I’m good.
Currently I’m working with a couple of projects with the lovely people of Brand New School NY. It’s mostly developmental work so that’s all I can say for now. I should have a couple editorial bits coming out this month both locally and internationally. Usually I share newly published works on my Instagram account @blokism.
2017 has been really great to me. I’m just hoping the coming year will be even better. I hope to get the chance to work with many more dream clients. I’d really love see my work not just in print or online. I’d like to see it on walls and product labels too.It would be awesome if I could get a brief or a project that involves a lot of traveling, maybe all-expense paid. *cough* The Jaunt *cough* I’ve been writing stories too little by little. Hopefully I can finish them and get them published too!