We caught up with illustrator Clarisse Provido, who’s always ready to make ideas, images and concepts that pop, bloom, inspire, give life and relevance. By using watercolor, mixed media art, and natural textiles as her mediums for visual storytelling, Clarisse creates portraits and images that “capture humanity while beautifying vulnerability and showing strength in adversity”.
Iuliana: Hey Clarisse! How are you? Thank you for the time today. Before diving into details, tell our readers about yourself.
Clarisse: Hi Renouveau, thanks for having me. I’m Clarisse, a Filipina illustrator and designer who immigrated to the US a couple of years ago. I’m attempting to marry my obsessions: beauty and texture in illustrations, fashion that mirrors imperfections, nature, as well as resilience amidst pain and adversity. I love collaborations that stretch out my skills and widen my horizons as an artist. I’m currently developing a series of artworks exploring sex, eroticism, and queer stories.
It wasn’t a goal set in stone – I just really liked drawing. I had ideas of pursuing medicine or even business as a line of work but it just made sense to follow what felt natural to me – drawing and creating.
Iuliana: What made you want to become an illustrator? Share with us a little bit about your background and how you got into it. Is it something you have always done?
Clarisse: I started drawing out of curiosity. For me, it’s the strongest pull of anyone trying to do something creative.
In my 6th grade, I usually get random newspaper spreads from my mom’s office and start drawing, stylizing, and exaggerating faces of people on these spreads. I gravitated towards learning. I drew things that I had deep emotional connections with: games, movies, animes, people I look up to, and visual interpretations of music. It blossomed into the idea of pursuing art as a college course, and became a BFA in Advertising Arts student. Until now, it feels true to me to make peace with my thoughts and my interpretation of the world by drawing and refining stimuli.
From a personal hobby of newspaper doodles, it bloomed into a professional pursuit to connect to others. Since the onset of the pandemic, it has been challenging for me and it got me questioning and pinning down why I create drawings and illustrations — to realize and mirror a human’s hopes and fears, and make peace with them.
Iuliana: How has your creative approach changed over the years?
Clarisse: Initially, my creative approach is feeding on as much great art as possible – to refine and figure out my own taste. I fed on a lot of different art forms to bridge the gap of finding my voice, and bits and pieces from other artists (who make movies, music, take photos, make clothing, etc.) together with our life experiences. At that time, my focus was skill-building and refining.
As of today, I have been pulling more inspiration and references from my own life, and generating the momentum and inspiration from within. I needed to deep dive into my own set of values and emotions to find something to unearth in an artwork. At this point, the subject and story are more important than the technical skill. I now look at a new skill set as something to refine and make my messages more effective. I really stick to believing in something and moving forward with it.
Iuliana: What specific tools do you use for visual storytelling?
Clarisse: Collage elements, watercolor, paper, pen, textile, embroidery – basically, mixed media. I have a great love for showing imperfections, nature, pain and beauty using those tools. But out of all the mediums I mentioned, watercolor is my favorite.
Iuliana: How would you describe your visual style in three words?
Clarisse: Imperfect. Organic. Raw.
Iuliana: What kind of projects have you worked on recently? What was the most challenging? The most rewarding?
Clarisse: I recently contributed to the #ArtForMedPH project with an online platform named Woman, Create. We were able to raise funds for PPEs for frontliners serving public hospitals in the Philippines. Art did not only serve as a way to raise funds. I also met new people who crave and feed on the same values, art, and feelings about life and ourselves through their one-word prompts. More than anything else, art has the power to connect other people. We launched it during the first few months of quarantine which also saved me personally. At a time when art is not deemed “essential”, the act of making and using it as a tool has made me realize that the world still needs art during these trying times. I’m hopeful that it can help us cope, and ease our fears and anxious thoughts by offering a distraction.
It was challenging because I had to juggle my anxious thoughts on my own situation, together with musings on how I can also use this tool to help – beating deadlines for work, commissions, and the fundraiser.
Some of my favorite projects also include the artistic embroidery pieces and face masks that were a challenging pivot in making wearable art for @ClarisseTheLabel. It turned into a bonding session between me and my mom when we just eased into the time that has opened up this quarantine.
Iuliana: How much attention do you pay to the feedback of others on your work?
Clarisse: I’m always searching for people who crave the same flavors, if not values with me when it comes to art and life. They serve not only as good friends but also honest critiques. I always value criticism and feedback because skill and storytelling can always be improved. I’m such a BIG FAN of focus group discussions because through product presentations, you get to see different perspectives! I’d rather have a negative or positive reaction for my artwork than no reaction at all. I want my art to make people think and feel. As for non-constructive criticism and plain hateful comments, I always keep track of them. I deduce these remarks as a cause to repel certain people. As long as there is a group of people who resonate with my work, I intend to attract and be close to them (even if it’s a small group), then it’s good enough for me. I know what I meant in my work and that the process of creating will always be the greatest joy.
Iuliana: Inspiration – necessary, or a myth?
Clarisse: Inspiration – it is a necessity – but can be summoned if you act and think openly.
Based on experience, INSPIRATION can come in 3 variations:
1.) EXTERNAL – inspirations of these kinds are usually during the early stages of creativity where one continues to feed on other artist’s taste and help fill the blanks to their identity (sifting stage).
2.) INTERNAL – inspirations of these kinds are what come in after the work of other artists’ are not enough. At this point where one reaches a ceiling point (not permanent but a more evident one) on a skill, we tend to crave for meaning, find subjects and messages for the skill we have mastered or acquired. We can get these inspirations from our own life experiences, insights, and feelings.
3.) COMBINATION – SWEET SPOT – There is a sweet marriage of both external and internal, where something exciting and new forms and tastes are created. Owning your narrative but also being inspired by others is such a treat. I always aim for this. But when I do feel I’m stuck, I go back to internal, then external and eventually do a combination.
Iuliana: Which illustrators or artists working today do you admire the most?
Clarisse: I admire Andy J. Pizza, he is a fun friend I wish I had and I’m so lucky to be able to stumble upon him while looking for podcasts. A true gem! I totally suggest you listen to his Creative Pep Talks.
He may not be an illustrator, but I also admire a writer and director named Neil Druckmann of Naughty Dog. He wrote the great story and created the game named “The Last of Us”. I’m such a scaredy cat, but the flavors of horror, love, humanity’s resilience, and moving forward, even in adversity appear as a beautiful combination for me. From a former intern for the company, he is now the vice president — this reflects how dedicated he is.
I admire the Filipina designer, Patis Tesoro, for her intuitive approach to creativity. She has integrated community, innovation, and authenticity on her works on natural textiles and dyes; her process and management of her production team – how she creates an overall experience in her business endeavors including her cafe, bed and breakfast. I want to have the same confidence and contentment as I grow old.
Iuliana: What would your advice be to aspiring illustrators?
Clarisse: Just like most of them, it started out as a joy-inducing hobby in my childhood. I continued to pursue the craft of illustration in high school and began freelance work in college.
As I’m still in the early stages of my creative career, I may not be able to give a good decade’s advice. But here are the three things on top of my mind:
• Learn to be comfortable in being honest and vulnerable when learning and doing your craft.
• Always search for mentors to guide you in your way and try to offer value that you can give to them.
• There is no such thing as wasted time when you try new things and experiments (personally I’d rather have failure or rejection rather than regret).
I’m very much open to connect and learn with my fellow creatives! As they continue to cling on to their aspirations, I’m inviting young creatives to subscribe to my monthly newsletters, and read on “Dear Artist” entries on my blog.
Thanks for having me!
Follow Clarisse on Instagram here.