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Brave(he)art: An Interview with Shai San Jose

BY KB MENIADO

One of the most important facets of growing up and learning who you are as an individual is being able to express yourself. It can be as diverse as the clothes you wear to the music you listen to down to the words you choose to use. For Shai, watercolor is her weapon and art is her game.

Shai San Jose is a 17-year-old Animation and Game Development student. Creating art is more than just a hobby for her. When she’s not drawing, she’s drowning herself in books, movies or TV series—any of those three, or she’s probably sleeping. Follow her @shairabea and on Facebook. Get copies of her artworks from the Bookbed Store.

Hi, Shai! We met through Book Club Philippines, and I was drawn to your art because most of them are based on books. I want to ask: Was it books that encouraged you to make art? Can you share your favorites growing up and how they inspired you?

Well, frankly, there are a lot of things that encourage me to create art, and books have one of the major roles. It all started with my all-time favorite, Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan. It wasn’t just the series that inspired me to create art, but the fandom. There were a lot of fan arts created by awesome Tumblr artists, and I was encouraged to create some myself because it really looked fun. And it is!

Here are my Nico di Angelo fan arts from 2014.

Oh, Tumblr! You’re right—a lot of stuff there are really inspiring! My next question is that, how did you get from being inspired to creating? Were you always an artist?

It all started when I was younger, with scribbles and doodles. I remember drawing Powerpuff Girls and Wonder Woman—all my childhood favorites. Then, my parents bought me these magazines about Disney Princesses, and I used them as my references which helped develop my skill.

Was that why you made Tale As Old As Time? (I mean, apart from from the fact that a new film version was just screened!) Speaking of this Beauty and the Beast-inspired bookmark , I notice you lean more towards portraits, and almost always in watercolors. Can you talk more about this, and maybe also share with us your favorite pieces?

I prefer doing imaginary portraits because I want to capture the emotion I want people to see. Watercolor is one of my favorite art media—digital painting is another one—and I enjoy blending colors and textures that watercolor can provide.

Onto favorites, I have quite a few. Three of them are Tranquility, Blue-Haired Maiden and Andromeda. Tranquility (available here) gives me a soothing feeling, and I’m proud of what I did with the colors here.

With Blue-Haired Maiden, I just deeply enjoyed creating every detail—the face, the hair, the background.

Last but not the, Andromeda. In fact, this is my most favorite. When I look at her, I feel this queen-of-the-galaxy vibe and elegance that I really admire. She seems like the epitome of a strong woman I want to become.

And you’re well on your way to becoming a strong woman! For example, you’re putting your work ‘out there’—that’s brave! Can you talk about your starting-out experiences, your fears, your hopes?

I have mixed emotions on having my work ‘out there’. Excited, overwhelmed, scared. I know that while people will start noticing my work, I also realize there remain artists who are far greater than me, and that there will always be a comparison.

Why is it important to keep creating art (finding time, finding inspiration, etc.)? What piece/s of advice would you share to aspiring artists such as yourself?

Creating art is an emotional release—my stress reliever and my happy pill. So to find time to create art is like giving time for myself. It’s like discovering the best in me by creating art.

My advice? Never give up. I know it’s a rusty line but it really works. If you think you lack the skills, think again. The truth is we all have skills; we just have to make time to learn and develop them. Explore, create and improve.

And never let anyone bring you down, instead accept it as challenge!

Great encouragement! What do you think are the next steps for you?

Since I already have my own pen tablet, I’ll be resting from watercolor for a little while and [shift to] digital paintings. I’ve been also thinking about producing an art zine in collaboration with fellow artists.

Sounds exciting! Do you think you’ll ever create an illustrated book of your own? If so, what do you think would it be about?

Frankly, I have never thought of that until now. It seems impossible for me—creating the plot, the story and the art! But we’ll never know what might happen, maybe I’d have one (or two) someday. But if I were to create one right now, it might fall under the category of fantasy and adventure, or maybe dystopian!

EXTRA, EXTRA

Your favorite books?

I can’t choose! I’m torn between The Hunger Games trilogy and the Percy Jackson series (including Heroes of Olympus series)!

Favorite authors?

The throne belongs to Rick Riordan.

Words to live by (Favorite quote)?

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”—Robert Frost, Road Not Taken

Shai San Jose’s artworks are available on the Bookbed Store.
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