#ArtdropSpotlight | Rachel Halili
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#ArtdropSpotlight | Rachel Halili

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With every interview we release, we see more of our artists' humanity and vulnerability. Hearing about the struggles and fears of people you admire is quite surreal but, doesn't it only make you look up to them even more? Creatives are strong and resilient - and it's been a huge privilege to hear from them firsthand. What we've learned as a platform, is that it doesn't matter whether that person has been an artist for ten years or ten weeks - their experience is valid and worth learning from. It's also worth sharing and that's why we do what we do.

Today on #ArtrdropSpotlight, we share our conversation with Rachel Halili Aquino. When we were in the early stages of building this brand, Rachel was one of the first people we knew we wanted to work with.

Her taste is impeccable. Her graphic design style is reminiscent of the simpler crafts of our childhood. And her photos either make you long for nature or ache for the lack of it around you. 

Rachel is a go-getter with a million dreams and an achiever with many projects under her belt but, she's definitely not your typical Type A hustler. You can definitely learn a thing or two about the way she runs her brand as creative director of Where To Next, her personal art practice and her life in general.

She isn't only an explorer of the actual world, but also the world of art. She is both a seasoned artist and a humble beginner - and that is the kind of mindset we all need to keep growing. Let's hear from Rachel now, shall we?

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Artist at work. Photo from by Sara Erasmo.
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"Four Seas" by Rachel Aquino. Starts at Php 2,800.
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You're one of the rare creatives who went straight into freelancing full-time. What was your thought process as you entered the industry? What gave you the courage to pursue your own path right away?
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When I finished my summer internship in an advertising agency, I knew that the 9-5 routine wasn’t for me. I envisioned a slow paced life where I could create in my own terms and I couldn’t wait to make that happen. I had an online business selling university hoodies even before graduating so having that source of income gave me a reason to convince my parents that I didn’t need to find a desk job. I am not selling hoodies anymore, but that little business has allowed me to venture into creative projects that have led me to where I am now. I am privileged to have a family that supports and encourages the things I do and I am truly grateful for them.
 

What are some of the things that didn't happen for you because of the pandemic/lockdown? How has all of this affected your creativity?
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I just got married right before the lockdown, so I was looking forward to our honeymoon and going on little trips together throughout the year! I get a lot of inspiration from traveling so staying at home for the past 5 months has somehow affected my creativity and flow of ideas. Looking back on old photos, maps and postcards has helped me exercise my imagination at home.

"When the lockdown started, I had zero design projects and no one was buying products from Where to Next. I felt discouraged, but the feeling wasn’t new to me because as a freelancer, there are times when projects come like rain. But there are also days when workload feels like a desert. Through the years, I’ve learned to face both seasons and be creative in finding ways to sustain this lifestyle."

This quarantine, I’ve learned to create digital products for my shop (fonts, templates, e-books) and explore the world of making collage commissions.

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Painting, a quarantine discovery. Photo from Rachel Aquino.
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More painting explorations. Photo from Rachel Aquino.
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How are you these days? Walk us through your general routine.

I’ve been feeling better now compared to the first couple of months in quarantine. Nowadays I wake up at 8am, clean the house, water the plants and prepare breakfast by 9:30. I work in my own creative space until 4pm with a lunch break in between. I then go for a run or do some sort of exercise in the afternoon. Have dinner by 7, watch Netflix or relax on the bed by 9pm, and fall asleep before midnight.

With my line of work, the more time I get to stay home, the more work I am able to accomplish. Living in quarantine the past 5 months, I’ve done more creative projects (both for work and for leisure) than I expected. I’m really grateful for the gift of being able to make art despite everything that’s been happening.

 

What are some guilty pleasures of yours this quarantine? What gives you peace/keeps you sane nowadays?

My guilty pleasure would be scrolling down my social media feed. I delete Instagram and Facebook on my phone around 3 times a week because it increases my screen time so bad! Looking at my phone has become a habit so I try to delete anything that makes me want to check my screen. Not a day also goes by without scrolling through Pinterest. It’s where I get most of my ideas nowadays.


What keeps me sane is any activity outside my screen. Learning how to paint has been so fun and therapeutic. Working out, jogging and doing sprints with my husband is something I regularly do in the afternoons. He is a physical trainer and coach so I have no escape from exercising! I also started doing yoga recently, thanks to my friend Kara! Weirdly, quarantine has made me move more than before.

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Rachel's lovely art prints for Shelter Fund. Photo from Rachel Aquino.
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You do a lot of different things - collage art commissions, creatives for WTN and now painting. What keeps you going? Why do you do what you do?

I do a lot of different things because my brain can’t focus on one task. I think it also helps that I’m not a perfectionist. I like the rush and excitement of working on diverse projects rather than mastering one. I also love taking breaks. I think I’m able to do multiple jobs because I take my sweet time in energizing my mind and body. Creating will always be a process and the downtime is part of it. I think that at the end of the day, you are the only person who defines what productivity and success means to you. I feel most accomplished when I’m able to balance work and play.

There’s this quote in Where To Next Planner written by my co-founder, Ayen. It says “It’s okay to be passionate about many things. Spend time on projects that feed your bank, and pursuits that feed your soul. Working on the former doesn’t mean you are less passionate about the latter. You are capable of overflowing.”

That last last line keeps me going. God has filled my cup with the ability to create things and all I want to do is maximize whatever is given to me.

 

"I never want to stop making art because it’s more than just a career, it’s a calling."

Artwork in photo: "Class Outside" by Rachel Aquino. Photo by Stella Pangilinan.
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Lifestyle shot of the latest WTN Planner. Photo by Artu Nepomoceno.
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We always end on an uplifting note and ask our artists about the lessons they've learned this year so far. Rachel says she's learning to appreciate the little things and embrace the in-betweens. She continues, "Sometimes, I can’t help but think of leaving the country or moving to the province, somewhere far away from this congested city. But when I pause for a bit and count my blessings, I realize that I already have everything I need and even more. I am surrounded by my loved ones, and being able to make art despite these trying times is already a miracle."

"I always thought that learning happens out there so I traveled as much as I could the past couple of years. But recently, I learned that home is also a space where you can grow and evolve."

Rachel has been with us from day one and it's our honor to share her story. Like we said, there's so much to learn from everyone. Optimism and gratitude are hard to come by these days but, when you see people like Rachel turn their worries around and simply proceed with their head up, it makes you want to try to as well. 
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See more of Rachel's work on Artdrop here. To contact Rachel directly, visit her website or check our her work on Instagram.

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