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