#ArtdropSpotlight | Kil Camalongay
I called Kil for an interview on a sunny morning at 10 o’clock, which might already be late for some people but early for the two of us night owls. “I can wake up early and not do a single project kasi sa gabi talaga gumagana yung mind ko! Lately, I’ve been trying to be more mindful of my capabilities. I’m actually learning a lot about myself,” she says.
Knowing yourself, your limitations and abilities, can be a good start in coming to terms with everything, especially during the pandemic. As a designer previously based in New York, Kil shares her firsthand experiences on the ups and downs of 2020.
“Super unexpected talaga kasi I was able to come back here pa last February for a quick visit… I spent time with my family and friends and then flew back to the States. Right after, the pandemic hit. I worked for a week and then all the businesses started shutting down. Yun na, we were working from home and eventually, we were let go.”
Kil has been working as a designer ever since she graduated from the University of the Philippines Cebu. She has worked with prominent design studios and furniture companies in the Philippines and in New York. For Kil, being an artist was just a sideline and she never really thought of herself as one until she moved to New York where she has been invited to exhibit her unique collection.
Kil, I’ve seen photos of your art for the RAW Artists Exhibit online and they’re amazing. How did you develop that?
“I was able to really express my abstract, collage-ish style in New York. I received a lot of positive feedback there which helped me become more confident. Right now though, I’m not limiting myself. I’m still exploring other things but that’s where I’m comfortable at, at the moment.”
Looking at your art and the kinds of materials you use, I would say you’re very resourceful.
“Yes, I actually think that’s my greatest strength.”
“As a kid, I would complain about not having enough art materials or seeing classmates with these expensive scrapbooking things and my mom would tell me to just be resourceful. Now, I do what I can and it’s really translated into my process as an artist and a designer.”
“Before I knew how to use Illustrator, I would go on PowerPoint to work on my design! Can you imagine? I would send PowerPoint files to the print shop!” *laughs*
Well, before I learned Photoshop, I relied heavily on Microsoft Paint!
“Humble beginnings talaga! We just have to be resourceful and self-sufficient! I don’t have a manager or representative so the logistics side of being an artist, the contracts and whatnot, I really had to learn! It’s just a part of being independent.”
By the way, I was looking at your portfolio, and I was really amused by this line that you wrote, “As an artist, Kil specialized in not specializing.” So witty!
“That was kind of my dilemma then! I found it so hard to settle on an art style kasi there’s so many things you can do and so many types of medium. I did in a way.”
Aside from mixed media art, what are you into these days?
“I got into baking this quarantine, but one thing I really specialized on was my own perfect recipe of Chocolate Chip Cookies! *laughs* It was a huge hit for the first 7 weeks or so until I had an indefinite hiatus to figure out what I really want (and need) to do with all the spare time I have. Aside from that, travel! I just miss experiencing places for the first time without fear of getting Covid.”
“Hmmm. I've talked to my friends briefly about this, but I'm also interested in looking into starting a podcast or YouTube series about figuring life in my 20s, because I feel like I've been learning a lot of young adult stuff lately, and it might also help me organize my thoughts more. We'll see how that pans out!”
I’m looking forward to it! Do your interests inspire you and your process?
“Hmm… My art isn’t very intentional, it’s more spontaneous really! I mostly look into my state of mind because, as I’ve said, I’m trying to be more mindful these days.
“My process is more of an honest expression of my inner reflections. I don’t try to sugarcoat it. I don’t just do art when I’m happy, I try to express even the saddest moments of my life. That’s one thing I don’t ever want to lose in my process.”
“It's a constant thing, the mayhem 'up there', so many thoughts all at once. Before I used to fight it; making a hard time for myself. I used to refer to it as a 'battle', but I try my best to just be kind to it. Art helps me with that. It helps me compartmentalize and give, like, a visual understanding. It's like seeing the 'beauty' in the chaos.”
One thing I came to admire in Kil’s art is her authenticity to herself. It’s one challenge to make art as wonderful and whimsical as hers and another to deal with the problems of life. “I was living with no income and it’s so expensive pa naman there!” Kil exclaims. “Uwi nalang ako kasi parang lahat ng savings ko napunta lang sa... survival.”
“I was contemplating going back to work when I got to Cebu because there were offers from my previous companies. Kenneth Cobonpue and Obra Cebuana reached out to me but I decided to use the time to think things through.”
“Thankfully, meron naman ako mga previous clients who reached out. There’s several projects that’s keeping me busy at the moment. Freelance work which is something I’m thinking of pushing through! I might be more active in social media, especially with branding projects, but I’ll still incorporate my artist side from time to time.”
There was a lot of uncertainty last year. What’s something you really held on to?
“To sum up the whole pandemic, what really got me through was this lyric, “Rest in His love and cast all of your cares on Him.” Do you know that song? At times, I forget to be in touch with my faith! My mind is always on the problems and the distractions in life. Sometimes, I let it get the best of me and you know naman when you overthink stuff, you forget to just live and appreciate the everyday.”
As of now, Kil keeps herself busy as an independent designer, doing design and creative direction for brands and businesses in Cebu. “It's not as stable as having a 9 to 5, but there's a certain thrill to it too and I'd rather have that,” she shares.
“I've been a risk taker ever since choosing my career path. And it's been hard especially because I'm the eldest, so everyone in my family looks up to me. Imagine their dismay upon finding out I will never be a doctor or lawyer though my dad still insists I take up law. Since I chose the creative path, I'm sort of responsible for my downfalls and successes now.”
Some people have yet to see the legitimacy of a creative career but, for Kil Camalongay, designing and creating art is a strength, an essential part of herself.
“I'm still constantly trying to prove myself to them, but I just have to keep reminding myself that ultimately, it is my life.”
Written by Cate Cue, Artdrop Creatives Team