dreams from thin air

MARTIN DIEGOR finds out how pas­sion can trans­form into day jobs, or some­thing much much big­ger.

Scout - - CONTENTS -

I USED TO DREAM of dig­ging up di­nosaur bones. I also wanted to be­come a spy in­fil­trat­ing global de­fense head­quar­ters, to be a travel show host and get paid to en­joy the world, and for some time, to be a cashier so I can scan gro­cery items and wait for the amus­ing beep. Though I never re­ally did any­thing to get closer to those dreams, ex­cept that, maybe, that I al­ways drew them. My mom used to bring home heaps of scratch pa­per from her of ce be­cause sketch­books were ex­pen­sive. She knew I was the art kid in the fam­ily.

I was gifted art ma­te­ri­als Christ­mas af­ter Christ­mas that un­til now, I ac­tu­ally still have a few boxes of un­used crayons. I never re­ally at­tended a se­ri­ous art work­shop, but my grade school teacher saw my ea­ger­ness and trained me to com­pete in in­ter-school poster-mak­ing con­tests. For my rst com­pe­ti­tion, I drew a leafy plant with a golden gear as its ower, grow­ing out of ashen soil with a bright red sky be­hind it. It was sup­pos­edly a sym­bol for grow­ing to­wards suc­cess. Hon­estly, it looked more like a streetlamp, but hey, easy on the six-year old. At least it won gold.

I never re­ally un­der­stood art then. I only saw it as a hobby I was re­ally good at. I grew up, and per­haps some of my rel­a­tives thought I’d grow out of it, too. The six-year old boy turned 1 , and a few months shy from grad­u­at­ing high school. It was another Christ­mas, but no crayons in sight. The whole fam­ily had a re­union. Aunts and un­cles were present, and so were ques­tions about my col­lege plans. Imag­ine the awk­ward si­lence and quiet nods when I told them I will be tak­ing an art and de­sign course. “So will you be in showbiz?” Uhm, no. “What will you be your line of work?” Uhm, I... “But it’s hard to sell paint­ings!” Facepalm.

This year, Job­steeet.com’s top three high­est-pay­ing post-grad­u­ate jobs are all IT-re­lated, with start­ing salaries pinned at no less than P20,000. The rest of the list in­cluded en­gi­neer­ing, law, and sales-re­lated po­si­tions. IT ju­nior ex­ec­u­tives also en­joy an av­er­age monthly pay of P3 ,000. Log­i­cally speak­ing, it would make sense to choose a col­lege de­gree that would prom­ise you a healthy sav­ings ac­count and less chances of end­ing up in your fam­ily’s list of peo­ple to throw away in in­def­i­nite ex­ile--a good rea­son why a lot of peo­ple le art un­der “pas­sions to pur­sue dur­ing free time.”

Re­al­ity was harsh, and I was scared. I even con­sid­ered tak­ing a busi­ness course in­stead. Be­ing the over­thinker that I am, I pored over ca­reer ar­ti­cles and job list­ings. As I looked for work re­lated to art, I en­coun­tered a new term: graphic de­sign. It wasn’t art per se, but it was de nitely artis­tic. The de­bate about their sim­i­lar­i­ties and dif­fer­ences would take more than a thou­sand words to ex­plain, but if there’s one thing I’m sure of, good de­sign needs the eye of a good artist.

Back then, ev­ery­thing about graphic de­sign was un­char­tered wa­ters to me—from lay­out and ty­pog­ra­phy, to photo ma­nip­u­la­tion and edit­ing. But I was ob­sessed. I im­me­di­ately got Pho­to­shop on my desk­top com­puter. I fol­lowed de­sign blogs like Ab­duzeedo and online port­fo­lios on De­viant Art. I read up on it and learned the ba­sics online. It was lit­er­ally a new world to me, and much to my sur­prise, I found out that there is a com­mu­nity of graphic de­sign­ers whose work made me re­al­ize that art and de­sign are so much more than the tra­di­tional setup where you merely ob­serve mas­ter­pieces in a mu­seum. It made me see that in other parts of the world, art and de­sign is ac­knowl­edged as an ac­tual ca­reer—a way of life.

In New York, names like Paula Scher and Ste­fan Sag­meis­ter are shap­ing the re­la­tion­ship be­tween de­sign and pop cul­ture by work­ing for clients like Mi­crosoft, The Rolling Stones, and HBO. Lon­don’s pre­miere art school Cen­tral Saint Martins was voted best higher ed­u­ca­tion build­ing in 2012, with pro­grams like fash­ion, theater, and graphic com­mu­ni­ca­tion. In the same year, Staff.com re­leased an in­fo­graphic that the av­er­age an­nual salary for graphic de­sign­ers in Aus­tralia and Switzer­land range from 0,000 to 0,000.

Then there’s Manila. As of writ­ing, the an­nual pay re­ceived by a Filipino graphic de­signer is pegged at P1 0, 2 ac­cord­ing to Payscale, a site us­ing crowd­sourced in­for­ma­tion to pro­mote aware­ness on proper com­pen­sa­tion for em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees. Sucks, right? At the end of the day, it all be­comes a mat­ter of whether or not your job can pay the rent and bring food to the din­ing ta­ble. Well, the truth of the mat­ter is, it can.

I took up mul­ti­me­dia arts in Be­nilde know­ing that the in­dus­try has po­ten­tial. There were 3, 00 fresh­men in Be­nilde’s School of De­sign and Arts when I en­tered. There were , 00 by the time I grad­u­ated. There is a grow­ing ap­pre­ci­a­tion to­wards art and de­sign that no Filipino gen­er­a­tion has seen be­fore. It has gone out­side cold gallery walls and into the streets. A col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Stu­dio Enkanto and artist Leeroy New has just re­ceived an in­ter­na­tional grant to cre­ate oat­ing in­stal­la­tions on the Pasig River, pulling at­ten­tion to its care and de­vel­op­ment. Art fairs and bazaars sprout all over the city, from Cubao to The Col­lec­tive in Makati. An artist port­fo­lio re­view was re­cently held at Cebu. R.A. 10 , also known as The Na­tional De­sign Pol­icy Law, was passed by Sen­a­tor Te­ofisto Guing­ona III to ex­pand de­sign cul­ture and its im­pact on na­tional econ­omy.

Manila has a long way to go, but at least it has started small steps. Per­haps, un­less, an ex­cit­ing de­sign stu­dio ver­sion of The Devil Wears Prada is pro­duced, then things might go a lit­tle faster (imag­ine the same amount of stress and Star­bucks, but there will be ghts be­tween what font to use in­stead of which belt will go with your shoes.)

It’s been 10 months since I was ac­cepted as art di­rec­tor in this lit­tle mag­a­zine called Scout. It’s been crazy—the hours are long, the work is hard— but re­ally, it’s just like any other job out there, with a few more perks, I guess. Hon­estly, I don’t draw as much as you may think. “So what does an art di­rec­tor do?” my un­cle asked me last Christ­mas. I had to make it easy and sim­ply ex­plained that I, along with the ed­i­to­rial team, make sure the mag­a­zine looks good. He asked be­cause his grand­kid, my niece, would like to in­tern some­day. She just en­rolled her­self in col­lege. Fine arts. Fi­nally, I’m not the only art kid in the fam­ily any­more. I am happy and kind of en­vi­ous of her ac­tu­ally—there’s so much to learn about the world of art and de­sign to­day that didn’t ex­ist ve years ago, and I’m sure that will con­tinue to evolve. I think, the six-year old me would have had a blast. It’s a great time to dream, don’t you think?

Imag­ine the awk­ward si­lence and quiet nods when I told my fam­ily that I will be tak­ing an art and de­sign course in col­lege.

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