What you are about to read is an excerpt of Urban-Muse Magazine Issue #2, currently available as part of $5 pledge on Patreon.com. Over the course of the next month and a half we will release all 5 interviews on the blog. Work on Issue #3 and a new set of artist features is already in progress. When you pledge on Patreon you will be sent a download link for Issue #1 of the magazine, as well as #2, If you want to read all the features, see the specific layouts/images chosen, read additional articles that will not be on the blog, view the images in High Res Lossless Quality, and support the project ensuring future issues can be made. Please consider supporting the Urban-Muse Magazine Patreon here:
Alen is a young Filipino artist who has been doing some really great work these days but is still fairly early in their career so their portfolio is still growing, it’s often fun to talk to these artists on the rise because they’re doing such great work already early in their careers, so their future is very bright, Yellow Lemon Cat in the previous issue was like this as well, an artist with a relatively small portfolio but with infinite potential. Alen like Magion02’s “Ms. Assistant” project has a large project of his own called “F.E.A.R.” that focuses on female robot assassins that maybe someday we’ll see in a Anime, game, or manga! As a Filipino this is also special to Urban-Muse because we pay close to our viewer demographics and a huge portion of the people liking/interacting with Urban-Muse on a daily basis are Filipino! We want to continue to highlight fantastic artists from the Philippines like Alen, and other countries we know are important to the Urban-Muse fanbase.
Introductory Statement: Urban-Muse is really honored to be highlighting your work Alen, you have a really clever and unique style that seems to resonate well with out fans, and you seem to be creating some really nice pieces and your Overwatch pieces are particularly noteworthy!
Urban-Muse.com: Let’s get started, you’re a Filipino artist living in Olongapo, Philippines. Most people don’t know this but the Philippines is one of the top countries for fans of Urban-Muse.com. The Philippines is #4 for fans behind the US, Mexico, Brazil and Taiwan. Quezon City/Manila is our #3 City behind Bangkok #1, and Mexico City #2, So We might have lots of Filipino’s reading this! For those not familiar with the Philippines what can you tell our readers about what it’s like to be an artist there? Has your environment influenced your work at all?
Alen Rocha: Oh, wow! I was not aware of that! It’s really cool to hear that a lot of the viewers are from the Philippines. Yeah, an artist’s environment can have a huge impact on their growth. Depending on where you are, if you’re surrounded by other skilled, hardworking people, not even artists per se, they can either influence you (directly or indirectly) to work harder and support you. If you’re surrounded by negative people, they can influence you to stop doing art and drag you down. I feel lucky to be part of an art community that helps each other out with their art and inspire me more to make better art.
Urban-Muse.com: What artists have inspired you? Current and past?
Alen Rocha: There are so many I don’t even know where to begin haha. I have a lot of people I look up to like Craig Mullins, Ruan Jia, Mariusz Kozik, Chase Stone, Jaime Jones – to name a few. The list keeps increasing as I discover more and more amazing artists! Aside from realistic painters, I also love anime style. My first art idol was a Japanese illustrator called ‘redjuice.’ The way he mixed anime style and realism really had a huge impact on me back then. For the longest time, I tried to imitate his art style. You can still see those art I made on my deviantart or my facebook page haha. My whole foundation was based off of his style. Even today, I still try and paint art that’s borderline anime and realism because of his influence.
Urban-Muse.com: What are your favorite movies, video games, anime, and TV shows?
Alen Rocha: I’m a huge anime fan haha. One of my absolute favourite is this show that aired not so long ago called Hibike! Euphonium. The main reason why I loved it (aside from the yuri undertones) is because it’s so grounded to reality. The show centers around Kumiko and her life and struggles in concertband. I won’t go much into details of the show (for the sake of those who haven’t watched it yet. Go watch it!) but all I can say is that the personalities of the characters, the story and the animation are so fleshed out, so detailed it’s just amazing. If you’re someone pursuing something in life, be it painting, music or sports — anything, you might also find it relatable. I also love Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo for the same reasons as Euphonium.
Urban-Muse.com: What’s your creative process like? What do yo do to get in the right mindset to start creating art? Is there a certain place you like to work to get inspired?
Alen Rocha: Whenever I get an idea on what I’d like to paint, I first research everything about it. Recently, I’ve been meaning to paint a woman in a kimono being served by two geishas so I researched and watched some documentaries about kimonos and geisha history. It was really interesting and I learned a lot. The point of this research is that I want to get my facts/references right so if ever a real i.e. Japanese or an expert of the culture looks at my work, it feels real and believable to them too. After that, I’ll start sketching and thumbnailing just to flush out more ideas. When I’m happy with the thumbnail that I chose, only then I’ll proceed to the actual sketching and reference gathering. I really don’t have any particular place that I go to to get inspired. As long as I can sit comfortably on a chair and a table, I can draw.
Urban-Muse.com: How do you manage your time and find time to create art?
Alen Rocha: Find time to create art? Like personal works? Hmm.. usually, it’s after finishing a client work (or in between client work where I wait for feedback) I get to sketch and explore some more. Right now, I have a bunch of personal artworks piling up that I want to finish. Gotta update the portfolio with new art.
Urban-Muse.com: You have a personal project with characters called “F.E.A.R.” can you tell us about this project? Years ago there was a video game series called “F.E.A.R.” but I don’t think this is what you’re doing, why is it called that? What does it stand for? What is the story?
Alen Rocha: Ah, yes. I wanted to design a line of scifi characters and did some explorations back then. The name stands for “Frontline Elite Android Respondents” haha I’m actually embarrassed to explain it. I still have quite a few characters designed for it uploaded on my facebook profile. The unit consists of different girls with different abilities to use in combat. I’ve been saving that idea for a while now because I have a feeling I’ll turn it into something else in the future hehe. Now that I think about it, the proper term should be Gynoid not Android.
Urban-Muse.com: I want to talk to you about this piece, this I my favorite of your pieces. “F.E.A.R. Trainee” I have to be honest the reason I really liked it is because she reminded me a lot of an ex girlfriend of mine who I miss sometimes. Your character has a really cute smile, and cool pose, and I really like pieces of art with girls wearing glasses, I liked it so much I even briefly used it for the profile of the Urban-Muse Facebook. I am dying to know more about this character you created. Tell us as much as you can about what you envisioned her being like and how you designed her, and what her story is.
Alen Rocha: She’s the protagonist in the FEAR project I have saved up. I’ve actually been contemplating on what her personality should be. Is she the cheerful, energetic, stubborn airhead-type shouting “Hey! Hey! Everyone’s favourite first year is here!” as she arrives in late to class? Or the shy/sensitive type who gradually opens up to others? The initial story I have for her is that she’s enrolled in a training program to join the FEAR unit. I’ve been trying to design a lot more characters and build a world for her. So far, everything is still in bluesky phase. I still haven’t given her a name yet either haha.
Urban-Muse.com: Do you have a favorite piece of your own?
Alen Rocha: Hmm.. I kinda liked how the FEAR Trainee and D.va turned out. Those two are the ones I least hate in my work haha. Looking at it now, I can see a lot of stuff that needs to be fixed and can still be pushed further.
Urban-Muse.com: Has there ever been a piece you particularly struggled with, but were eventually able to finish? How did you get through that? What did you learn from this?
Alen Rocha: Every piece is a struggle for me haha. I just think of the piece as an opportunity to experiment and explore some more. The thought of having nothing to show in my portfolio is more than enough to keep me on my toes and finish the piece I’m working on. You really can’t have just ‘WIP’s and sketches or doodles. You need to finish something. If you don’t have any finished illustrations to show people, you won’t get clients.
Urban-Muse.com: Sometimes artists feel like they just want to give up. Have you ever felt like that? How did you overcome that feeling?
Alen Rocha: All the time! Haha! The creative industry is a very emotionally, physically and mentally draining field to be in. But at the same time, it’s a really fun place to be part of. The rewards outweighs the cost, for me. Other than to make art, I really don’t have any other skill set haha so this is the only job I can work in and enjoy doing it. I’m sure I won’t last long working in some office cubicle doing paperwork or lifting heavy equipment under the scorching heat. I’d go insane.
Urban-Muse.com: How do you deal with situations where the inspiration just isn’t there, but you want to create, how do you deal with “artist’s block” and how did you overcome it and get inspired again?
Alen Rocha: Whenever I get that feeling, usually, I just do something new. I listen to new music, watch new shows, watch new documentaries, anything to get back that curiosity. If that doesn’t work, I attack it with brute force and work on a piece even if I don’t feel like it and give myself a strict deadline. I don’t recommend this to everyone because it might just drain you even more and rage quit art haha. If you’re willing to gamble then try it.
Urban-Muse.com: You seem to be a primarily digital artist, what are your tools of the trade? Tablet model, kind of computer, Operating system, and programs?
Alen Rocha: The tablet I use is just a Wacom Bamboo Splash. It gets the job done. As for my PC, it’s outdated aswell. I need to upgrade soon since this PC is kinda giving me a ‘glass-ceiling.’ It slows down most of the time whenever I’m working on large canvas illustrations and detail-heavy artworks. I mainly work on Photoshop.
Urban-Muse.com: Do you use any specific brushes or plugins you can recommend?
Alen Rocha: Most of the brushes I use are from other artists. I just found them online. As for plugins, I don’t really use any aside from the brush preset window on Photoshop for easy access.
Urban-Muse.com: Do you do any extra activities like focusing on getting enough sleep, working out/diet, relaxation techniques, or relationships (romantic and or friendships). Do you think things like this can help you be a better artist and live a more fulfilled life?
Alen Rocha: Hmm… I get a good 6 to 7 hours of sleep a day so I don’t pay much attention to it (I should though, probably). But whenever I finish a project, I try and sleep a lot longer to get ready for the next batch. I think it’s important to do workouts, take a break, step away from the computer from time to time and just recharge. As for relationships, we’re pretty social creatures, whether we admit it or not. Too much solitude will make you yearn for other people, too much socializing can make you want solitude. It’s great to interact with people to get your morale back up and do more art. I’m not in any romantic relationship for a long time now. I’m mainly dedicating my time with art, which is sad haha.
Urban-Muse.com: According to your Facebook profile it says you’re currently working at “Gunship Revolution” what can you tell us about what it’s like to work there? What do you do? How are the people you work with?
Alen Rocha: I work as an illustrator for a company here in the Philippines called Gunship Revolution. We make illustrations/promotional art, trading card art, concept art and iso/mobile icons and acts as an outsource for other companies in their games. So my day begins and ends with me doing art haha. I joined the company last January and so far everyone’s really amazing. I’ve learned a lot since joining and really like working here.
Urban-Muse.com: Facebook also tells us you studied at “Ramon Magsaysay Technological University” what did you study? Did you study art there? Or did you learn to draw and paint elsewhere? How do you think your Education has affected your art?
Alen Rocha: I studied there and got a degree on Hotel and Restaurant Management back in 2010. I didn’t learn art in school or anything. All of the stuff I know came from the internet. I discovered my passion for art while I was studying there so I’d like to believe that my time there was not wasted haha.
Urban-Muse.com: If you could talk to a younger version of yourself, knowing what you know now, what would you say to them?
Alen Rocha: Hmm.. that’s a tricky question. It would depend on what point in my life I was/am at? If that made sense haha. If I know what situation my past self is at, I’ll be able to (finally) have the right answers. If you’re talking about when I first started with art then, yeah, I’d say study the foundations. I know how boring and repetitive it is but trust me, it’s super important! The farther you get in your professional career, the more valuable it becomes. When you’re practicing, practice with a purpose. Similar to what I said earlier with the kimonos and geishas, have a target to hit. If you want to do an illustration of something you’ve never done before, slow down and do some studies of it first. Once you get familiar with it, apply that knowledge in your illustration. A couple of nights’ studies about a certain subject is better than a lifetime of guessing in your work! Skills aside, you also need to develop the right mentality. Learn to be patient. Things take time. Learn to accept criticism and develop a thick skin. If somebody said something bad about your artwork but there’s some truth to what they’ve said, accept the message –not the delivery of the message. If they’re just trolling you then, learn to just brush it off. Lastly, have fun! Enjoy making art.
Urban-Muse.com: What are your goals and outlook for the future for yourself and for your art?
Alen Rocha: Right now, my main focus is to get better and improve on my skills. I still have a vauge idea of what I’ll do with my art. I’ve only thought up of what I’ll be doing three years from now. Within that span of time, I hope I find something I’d want to do next. I might travel around and get more life experience haha who knows?
Urban-Muse.com: What do you think the future of art will look like? What will society change in relation to the arts? Do you think there will be major technological advancements that may help artists create?
Alen Rocha: With the advancement of VR and AI, a whole lot of possibilities opens up. It’s a bit scary and at the same time, an exciting time for us artist. On the VR’s end, there’s 3D painting. On AI’s, you have them generating images in just a couple of clicks. I just hope there’s still jobs left for us artist in the future haha!
Urban-Muse.com: Thanks so much for being a part of this Alen!
Alen Rocha: Yeah, thanks a lot! It was fun chatting!
You can Follow Alen Rocha here: