#ArtdropSpotlight | The Curious Creative
“Honestly, one of my first memories was scribbling all over a blank wall at home and getting yelled at once I was busted. Not even the wrath of a Filipino mom and the dreaded tsinelas [could] make me rethink life as a creative.” Nicole Lunario, also known as The Curious Creative, shares that she started creating from the moment she learned what she could do with a pencil — and has never stopped since!
Growing up abroad, Nicole never really had the opportunity to see people like her. She recalls cartoons and actors from Western cinema and wishes that she was more exposed to Filipino representation. “Maybe my art would be more impactful if I was, but I’m trying to make up for it now. I just want everyone to know that it’s okay to be the representation when you can’t find one for yourself.”
Today, you’ll find that her illustrations stand out, not just because of the warm and welcoming colors she uses, but also because of the message she shares - that there is beauty in inclusivity and power in femininity.
Hey Nicole, it’s great to meet you! How have you been doing lately?
“Okay naman! I was recently hired as a graphic designer which I’m happy with. I’m 4 months in and doing well! My previous job used to coincide with the scheduling of my personal projects as The Curious Creative. Now, I find myself having more time to create art for myself rather than for clients. A good start to 2021!”
When I asked Nicole how she came up with her pseudonym, she explained that she wanted something simple yet memorable; something that could serve as an extension of herself and a dedication to her journey as a creative. Though the journey hasn’t always been smooth, The Curious Creative and her illustrations have piqued the curiosity and interest of thousands of people, myself included.
“I went through so many stages, panic muna bago acceptance! When I quit my job right at the end of 2019, there was so much regret on my part. All I could think of was, “ano na gagawin ko? Saan ako kukuha ng income?” Nicole exclaims. The first few months of 2020 was truly a struggle but Nicole adopted the mindset of making the most of what she had. In this case, it was her eye for color and penchant for developing brands.
“At first, I didn’t know how to market myself! I just imagined the brands that I wanted to create then put them out on my social media. Luckily, Benefit Cosmetics found me and really gave me the validation that I could do this, that I could push through with this.”
Was it difficult to balance your work and your personal art before?
“It was! I worked 8 hours but then so much yung nakakain ng commute papunta and pauwi! A big chunk of my time went there rather than where I wanted which was creating my art and managing my social media.”
How do you manage your time when you’re in the process of creating art?
“My creative process is... nothing fancy compared to other members of Artdrop! *laughs* I try to discipline myself, practice a scheduled time to create the illustrations I want to start with. When inspiration strikes, I’ll try to squeeze everything out of me at that moment! Only because it takes up a lot of time to get the inspiration back. If it isn’t, I like to browse through fashion Instagram accounts and posts that might inspire me.”
Is that a way to stay authentic to your art? To ensure that what you’re creating reflects the feelings you’re experiencing in that exact moment?
“One of the main things I’ve actually struggled with was finding my art style and being authentically and unapologetically myself. With all this pressure from social media to stand out and constantly be creating, I guess it comes as no surprise that at some point it felt as if I was creating for the sake of a few minutes of relevance online as opposed to just enjoying the process.”
“Getting into a headspace where you favor your own preference rather than your audience’s can be a challenge—especially at a time when insecurities kick in and you can’t help but compare yourself to the standards of other artists and how their audience responds to their work. I find comfort in accepting the fact that every artist will never truly find their style because style is always evolving and we’re each at different stages in our pursuit of creativity.”
“As cliché as it sounds, it’s a marathon not a sprint and as long as you stay true to what you genuinely wish to convey through your art then you’ll get to the finish line eventually.”
Nicole started her first job at a print and design company where she and her coworkers were encouraged to make a line of postcards in collaboration with other Filipino artists. Nicole recalls that the timeline given them was shorter than the one given to other artists and that she really had to scramble for a distinct style. “I kind of pressured myself into evaluating... kung sino ba talaga si Nicole Lunario. That was the trigger, for me, to develop what I should put out to the whole world as The Curious Creative.”
“When I started freelancing, a brand reached out to me. They needed a brand book and they asked me to work on everything from scratch talaga! The whole process made me think about how people look at brands and what I realized was that the first thing people notice when they scroll through social media is the color and how it makes them feel. When you’re commuting and you pass by billboards with cool tones like blue and white, you might think of something medical. Warm tones naman might make you think of happiness. This really affected the way I see and use color in my work which was why I started looking into skin tones.”
“Kung mapapansin mo, there are pops of browns and kayumanggi in my art. It’s because if you’re a morena girl and you see something that you relate to online, it might have a positive impact on how you see yourself. And for me, that’s an already achievement.”
It definitely is! Representation is such an important topic, and I feel that your art truly represents the Filipina woman. Are there projects that you feel most relevant to what you just shared?
“Secret pa siya! *laughs* Hindi pa ready pero yung second pwede ko na sabihin kasi today lang siya nag-launch! It’s a nipple cover brand called Tapies. The owner asked me to handle the branding and ang galing ng marketing team nila! They’re an all woman team dedicated to sharing the message of the brand rather than just selling in each post! It’s genuinely focused on inclusivity and women of all colors which is something I relate to the most.”
I can tell! Do you have any goals for yourself or for your art?
“One of my goals is to contribute to the representation of Filipina artists and inspire other like-minded individuals, regardless of age or status in life, to pursue their own creative endeavors no matter how small of a step they start with.”
“Hopefully, more people look to their roots for inspiration and we collectively move forward in introducing and representing the Philippines on a global level and be able to educate more people about our culture and traditions.”
What’s your advice for those who want to pursue their own creative endeavors?
“To quote a famous fictional chef, “anyone can cook’. In this context, I say, “anyone can create.” Although it may not come as natural to others, that just means it’s going to take that much more effort to get to the same point where someone with natural talent starts out. But practically speaking, I guess another piece of advice would be to gain a source of income. Something you also enjoy doing that can provide you financial freedom to pursue your art career.”
“For my girls (or those of you who identify as female) out there, as you begin your journey in the art scene, know that there are existing stereotypes between men and women in the creative industry still to this day which may require you to work a little bit harder. I know.. It sucks. But please don’t let this discourage you. Instead, let this be your motivation to become a wave of gender conscious artists who are able to recognize these social structures and dismantle them through art.”
Throughout the interview, Nicole worries that her answers are not as articulate as the other featured artists. I disagree. For me, her heartfelt message of representation and inclusivity shone through in every question she answered and her illustrations of women only serve to highlight her message — that the modern day Filipina is strong and beautiful in her own right. In her words...
“The modern day Filipina is far from the Maria Clara image that people box her in. She doesn’t follow any strict conventions or descriptions and if there is one I could think of, it would be… She simply is who she is.”
Written by Cate Cue, Artdrop Creatives Team