You’ve seen her artworks as you log in to tumblr, on your dashboards as it earn hundreds of reblogs, and ring a bell on your tumblr radar. Born and raised in the Philippines, and a Parsons School of Design graduate, 23 year old Monica Ramos learns the real value of independence, and passion for her wonderful craft. In this exclusive interview for Tumblr Magazine PH, the Brooklyn-based artist talks about her art inspirations, a slice of her life and why Philippines will always be her home.
A little background on your life here in the Philippines. Where do you live? Have you graduated from college? Where and what course did you take up?
I was born and raised in Manila and am living in Brooklyn now. I graduated from the illustration program at Parsons.
The story behind the shift from the Philippines to US. Are you with your family, or are you on your own? How was the adaptation process?
I came here as a student and often come back home on vacation. It was really tough at first, the first few months especially. I had a real bad case of culture shock, but eventually opened up to people and started to appreciate the independence. I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity. Right now I’m focusing on promoting myself, planning a couple little shows and trying to get more work.
What was Monica’s dream when she was a kid?
I wanted to be either a princess or a rockstar.
How were you as a student?
Things that you miss back here in the Philippines.
The food! I l fresh coconut, bibingka, puto bumbong and, of course, my family and friends (and dogs).
Do you have plans of coming back here?
Definitely! The Philippines is always home.
(“Warm Water” —as seen on on Tumblr radar. Yeah. A Pinoy was behind this amazing painting.)
When did you discover your knack for watercolor painting?
I’ve always been fascinated and intimidated by watercolors, because when I was a kid my mom told me that it’s “the hardest medium.” I like how light and transparent washes can get and when the pigment gathers at the edges. You have to handle everything with a light touch. I don’t think there was a specific moment that I discovered a talent for it. It’s taken a lot of practice and I still am figuring things out.
Upon observation, I can see that most of the subjects of your paintings are nude people.
It’s a non-sexual nudity. Well, it’s a little sexual, but it’s not vulgar. I had a lot of Catholic School guilt about my body as a teen. I felt ashamed showing skin, so I wanted to make some work about our bodies are beautiful and natural. About how we are all the same underneath our clothes and that connects all of humanity.
I really find your art interesting, beautiful and detailed. To be honest, I was surprised after finding out that you’re a Filipino. It was after seeing one of your artworks with the word “Patay Gutom” on it. Monica, what are your inspirations for your artwork?
I am really into Chinese and Japanese paintings, especially how they hardly use 2 or 3 point perspective. They depict scenes how they were, seen by an all knowing observer instead of someone actually in the scene. It’s similar to Buddhist art from the Himalayas, which I also love. I feel like my personal work is mostly about dealing and expressing with emotions. Painting becomes a kind of therapy in which I make places where there are no worries.
You’re selling your paintings online.
How often do you paint? (Two or three times a week?)
God, everyday if I can. If I don’t paint or make anything new for a couple days I get angsty.
Artist/s you look up to.
I just saw a documentary about Gregory Crewdson. He’s a photographer that does these really eerie, mysterious, elaborately set up photographs of moments in between moments that are mostly set in suburban America. It’s insane how much goes into trying to create that perfect moment. His photos stir that dark lonely part of your heart. On a brighter note, I also really admire Hayao Miyazaki. His stories are the kind that make you wonder where have they been all your life. Like they are a part of your childhood that you somehow forgot about (or at least I did). The food in all his films is superbly animated too!
Some other artist I look up to are Eryka Badu, Jillian Tamaki, Jiro Ono, Daniel Clowes, Charles Burns, Adiane Tomine, Lauren Redniss, Misaki Kawai, The Doctor and all my friends.
Aside from painting, other things you’re interested with that you’d like to pursue.
I want to visit Japan and Tibet, travel around the Philippines, bike across the US, improve my Tagalog, learn Spanish and cook. I also want to work with charities that champion the environment and girl’s education.
Your favorite artwork.
"It’s not the End of the World"
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"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." -- Ferris, from 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off'
This serves as the official Tumblr account for the online magazine Tumblr Magazine Philippines, also known as TMPH. Operated by a group of Filipino microbloggers headed by Editor-In-Chief, Dexter Balita (dexternews) and seconded by Associate Editor, Pael Balbaboco (paelbalbaboco), this magazine caters different articles of different topics as according to the assigned theme for every issue.
Every month, TMPH releases its cover with a specific theme like art, body, travel, food, barkada, entertainment, books, literary, fashion, lifestyle, design, humor, photography, sports, politics, etc.
JULY 2011 - The Maiden Issue
AUGUST 2011 - The Art Issue
SEPTEMBER 2011 - The Body Issue I
SEPTEMBER 2011 - The Body Issue II
OCTOBER 2011 - The Travel Issue
NOVEMBER 2011 - The Barkada Issue
DECEMBER 2011 - The Holiday Issue
JANUARY 2012 - The Power Issue
FEBRUARY 2012 - The Green Issue I
FEBRUARY 2012 - The Green Issue II
MARCH 2012 - The Fashion Issue
APRIL 2012 - The Discovery Issue
MAY 2012 - The Style and Design Issue
JUNE 2012 - The Pop Cult Issue
JULY 2012 - The 1st Anniversary Issue (1)
JULY 2012 - The 1st Anniversary Issue (2)
JULY 2012 - The 1st Anniversary Issue (3)
AUGUST 2012 - The Rivalry Issue
SEPTEMBER 2012 - The Music Issue
OCTOBER 2012 - The Alpha Male Issue
NOVEMBER 2012 - The Femme Fatale Issue
DECEMBER 2012 - The Dark Issue
JANUARY 2013 - The Power Issue
FEBRUARY 2013 - The Art Issue
MARCH 2013 - The Fashion Issue
APRIL 2013 - The Literary Issue
MAY 2013 - The Photo Issue
JUNE 2013 - The Pop Cult Issue
JULY 2013 - The 2nd Anniversary Issue
AUGUST 2013 - The Food Issue
SEPTEMBER 2013 - The Music Issue
OCTOBER 2013 - The Discovery Issue
NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2013 - The Year-End Issue
JANUARY 2014 - The Power Issue
FEBRUARY 2014 - The Art Issue
MARCH 2014 - The Men's Fashion Issue
APRIL 2014 - The Summer X Travel Issue
MAY 2014 - The Photo Issue
LETTER TO THE EDITOR Submission