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Where are you from originally and where do you live now?

I was born and raised in the Philippines and came to the US for college. I had a bad case of culture shock for the first few months, but I really enjoy the independence now. I live in Brooklyn, close to a several funeral homes and a drive through Dunkin Doughnuts.


How did you get started making art?

My family is full of creatives. My mom, dad's mom, great grandfather and great great grandfather (or something like that) were all painters. Growing up, my mom would have painting sessions with her friends at our house. I loved the smell of oils. My favorite works of hers were the ones of pancakes and eggs in the kitchen. I would just stare at them and get hungry. Drawing has always been something that I've enjoyed and have been relatively good at. My notebooks and pads of paper in school were full of doodles. When I finally admitted that I wanted to do illustration, my parents were not surprised.

It's Not the End of the World

Would you say that you're a summer person?

YES. I hate the cold and probably have an undiagnosed case of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Summer just makes me think of road trips to the province, hanging out in the beach with my friends, consuming refreshing things and wearing shorts. Happy things. The heavy air feels like home and the beginning of an adventure.

Warm Water

How do you create paintings like "Swimmers" and "I hate Selfies" that have so much intricacy and detail? Do you make sketches or just dive in?

I make many little tests before starting on a final, getting used to the poses, figuring out what colors to use. For "I Hate Selfies", I did a pencil sketch of all of the figures and used it as reference for the final. I made "Swimmers" because I was obsessed with trying to make a perfect swimmer and ended up filling the page with them. I try to keep things loose and fluid. For this summer series, I have an equal or greater number of rejects/failed starts. I should learn to make my own paper out of these. Oh, I also listen to a lot of TV shows on Netflix to keep me company while working.

I hate Selfies

As a young illustrator + recent grad, what are you most excited by?

Besides this?! I'm pretty much excited by everything that comes my way. It's all new and strange. I just got recruited by Rookie as a staff illustrator. They are some cool girls and I'm pumped to do some work for them. I also have a couple group shows coming up too!

I heard that your work has recently "blown up" on the internet. How did it happen? Was it unexpected?

Oh my! I am not sure, but I'd credit Tumblr! A lot of traffic came from when a piece got on the radar and since they invited me to be part of their directory. I'm really thankful for all the internet love. It's still hard for me to wrap my head around. I freaked out at first when I first saw a a lot of new people following me and was too afraid to post anything. It's so encouraging to hear people like my work. I am just looking forward to making new work and sharing it with people.


Back to the show!


Monica's website and blog.