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These Local Visual Artists and Designers Are Creating New Worlds for Us to Embark On

As part of Preview's Creative 25, visual artists Aren Santos, Inha Arceo, Jethro Ian Lacson, and Jellyfish Kisses give us a glimpse into the world they've created.
These Local Visual Artists and Designers Are Creating New Worlds for Us to Embark On
IMAGE courtesy of jethro ian lacson, jellyfish kisses, aren santos via charisma lico, inha arceo
As part of Preview's Creative 25, visual artists Aren Santos, Inha Arceo, Jethro Ian Lacson, and Jellyfish Kisses give us a glimpse into the world they've created.

Art may not often receive the recognition it deserves, but its impact on society was felt even more during the past couple of years. Our imagination took over and allowed us different escapes in a time where we cannot be mobile. While time at home gave us the opportunity to explore creative endeavors, visual artists took this a step further by concretizing their flights of fancy and inviting us to partake in this realm. 

Offering another way of seeing the world, visual art opens doors even when none are physically in place. Be it an inward glimpse, or a projection of one’s outerworld, artists possess the imagination and ingenuity to translate the essence of what is to the possibility of what can be. Using whichever medium they deem fit, these brilliant minds create worlds that we can escape to for entertainment, solace, and even acceptance. 

What does it take to be part of this special breed of erudition? We learn that it's all about being unapologetically yourself. Read on and glean inspiration as the four honorees of Preview’s Creative 25 talk about how they started on their artistic paths and where they hope it takes them. 

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Preview Creative 25: Visual Arts and Design

Aren Santos - Set Designer

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PHOTO BY courtesy of Aren Santos via Charisma Lico

With his uncanny talent, you’d be surprised to learn that notable set designer Aren Santos only embarked on this profession at the suggestion of his photographer wife, Charisma Lico. Already in the field of construction and design, Charisma recommended he try his hand in production. Not only was he able to put his interest to use, working alongside her allows him to draw inspiration and motivation to excel. 

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Highly in demand for editorials and cover shoots, Aren lets his design speak for itself. Believing that you can’t force the creative process, he explains that translating a vision into something tangible is something organic. This is why he stresses the importance of doing non-creative things such as playing games, cooking, and conversing with his spouse, as these "procrastination" activities that he enjoy actually breathe fresh life to ideation. Not one to rest on his laurels, he treats all project as unique and constantly strives for being better than the last. 

"Staying or being relevant, in my opinion, is a by-product of hard work and passion"

In today’s turbulent times, how do you stay relevant and keep up with the ever-evolving creative scene?

"Staying or being relevant, in my opinion, is a by-product of hard work and passion. It should just flow naturally. So instead of seeking it, I try to focus on the process and the delivery, instead of focusing on the by-products of it. I always open the door for collaborations–to listen, to acknowledge, and to step up if needed."

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PHOTO BY courtesy of Aren Santos via Charisma Lico

What do you have to say to any aspiring creatives who want to get started in the same industry as you?

"Just do it. Words can’t really justify what’s on the field. You really have to do it to get a feel or to fully understand how things work (provided that you’ve done proper research and assessment on what you are planning to put out). Just don’t forget to enjoy the process."

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Inha Arceo - Visual Artist

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PHOTO BY courtesy of inha arceo

It took Inha Arceo a pandemic to slow down from her jet-set corporate lifestyle and discover her talent as a digital illustrator. A marketing girl through and through, it was the same eye for beauty that made her a success in the cosmetic industry that catapulted her to her journey of global entrepreneurship. “The way I visualize things, my marketing background has a big influence talaga on it,” the content creator reveals. Now selling “art prints for the soul,” she makes customizable prints with uplifting messages of self-love. 

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With her art finding its place in homes all over the world, Inha makes sure that her Filipino heritage is also honored. More admirable though, is how she makes sure the trail she blazed remains unblocked for any Filipino who wants to follow her lead. 

What do you hope to see more of from the design field in the near future?

"Ako focus on our country na, sa Philippines, because I really see the potential. Not that I’m an expert or anything. But really when I started out, just to give you context, ang dami ding nagme-message sakin na, I think they’re very young kasi parang when they talk to me it’s like “Ate” or like young artists na iba-iba, they speak Tagalog to me so they’re Filipino. But sometimes meron ‘yong stereotype [message] na “hey how do I start?” ‘yong mga gano’n. But they’re Filipinos. Sabi ko, honestly how I see design, especially here in the Philippines, is really introducing Etsy, or even starting their own shops in Shopify, putting up their own shop, to make it more tangible. You can view my website to see how I envision how I sell my own prints or my own art."

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PHOTO BY courtesy of inha arceo

"How I see it is, since everything is digitizing right now, I feel na more people can be more empowered to the platforms that are being introduced now like IG Reels, Tiktok. They can actually spill all of their efforts into making something for themselves...now that the world is becoming smaller because of technology."

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"You have to stick by your vision and yourself, and everything else will follow."

What do you have to say to any aspiring creatives who want to get started in the same industry as you?

 "I think it’s very cheesy, pero you have to believe in yourself and be yourself. Actually that’s it. Be yourself, believe in yourself, know your vision, and how you want to express yourself. When I started posting my works that really resonated with what I like, I found the people with the similar interest and I just felt more connection. I felt when I really believed in my own vision, things really started working out for myself. There’s hesitation when you start to enter the art world, and then parang ang daming magagaling, right? So in a way, I got intimidated initially. But when I started just being comfortable in my own skin, I just wanna do my own thing. Then, that’s when it all started. Everything else follows but if you really don’t believe in your own self  and your art, nothing’s gonna happen talaga. You have to stick by your vision and yourself, and everything else will follow.

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Of course, keep learning. There are so many avenues for you to learn. Moreso now online resources. You don’t have to enroll in an expensive course like an MBA or something to learn something really unique."

Jethro Ian Lacson - Visual Artist

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PHOTO BY courtesy of jethro ian lacson
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For someone who gets inspired by the outside world, the lockdowns took a toll on Jethro Ian Lacson. The visual artist shared that during the beginning of the pandemic, the uncertainty dried up his motivation to create. Like most of us, the going ons in the world seeped its way to his personal mental space. "I feel like there’s a creative block that also means that there’s something that I am not doing well as a person. Maybe like not taking care enough of my health or not taking care of my relationships or not taking care of other stuff that’s going on in my personal life. So I guess, it’s a reflection also of how I’m handling that," he tells PreviewSlowly but surely, he was able to to regain his creativity and even branched out to digital illustrations and exploring different mediums. 

"I would love to see more queer creators and more content that’s not been done before. [Art] that’s more personal, that’s telling more of their story because cos that’s what we need I guess now is to see more stories and more people that we can relate to and see ourselves in."

Drawn to the arts from a young age, Jethro Ian cited his mom’s drawings as the jumping point for his love affair for the pencil. “I was always so fascinated with how a person can make a picture. I guess so that's where the inspiration really came from,” he shares. He finds being able to create so magical, that it still amazes him to this day. “When I see something or someone that's beautiful I try to capture that on my own and then when I try to do it and I try to put it in drawing somehow it turns into a different thing. A completely different beautiful thing, which encompasses what inspired me in the first place,” he expounds. It is this gift that allows him to create the whimsical worlds that he hopes more queer creators will have the opportunity to partake in as well. 

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What do you hope to see more of from the the Visual Arts and Design industry in the near future?

 "Oh, that’s a really interesting question because there’s so much or like, in terms of creativity and art there’s so much topic that we’re already discussing. I guess it’s just how we can add more numbers to that. I really love how there’s a vast majority or how there’s a really nice group of queer creators right now that are really putting out really important work, starting really important conversations.

I really love how people are also like being more receptive of work that has more meaning and that has more ‘me’ to it. I guess I would love to see more queer creators and more content that’s not been done before. [Art] that’s more personal, that’s telling more of their story because cos that’s what we need I guess now is to see more stories and more people that we can relate to and see ourselves in."

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PHOTO BY courtesy of jethro ian lacson

What do you have to say to any aspiring creatives who want to get started in the same industry as you?

"There’s so much ways that you can approach doing art or creating. First, you have to figure out what makes you happy. Does this really make you happy? And then after that, if it does, which I hope it does, it's gonna be so much easy after that because what makes you happy is so personal, and so true to you, and if you stick to that, you’ll find yourself just creating stuff that you really enjoy and that resonates with you. And if you want to take it professionally, there’s lots of resources on the Internet. I would suggest studying art history, and you know deep diving into those kinds of texts because there are really lots of resources that can mold your taste. Once you figure out that you like art, it's just fine tuning your language, and for me that’s like picking apart different resources and picking and like collecting things that resonate with me.

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So, for me I guess, since I took up Multimedia Arts in college, I was introduced to various media, movies, music, books, art history. So it’s really I guess when you’re starting out and you're figuring out what your creative language is, start from there. Read your art history books and there’s lots of, actually, there’s really lots of creative ways that you can learn from or the art masters or whatever. Also, I can see now that it's so easy to communicate and connect with fellow creatives so, start local. Connect with your local artists, communicate with them, share ideas, I guess that’s a nice way to start your creative journey. "


Jellyfish Kisses - Visual Artist

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PHOTO BY courtesy of jellyfish kisses
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For the zest and vibrance of works by Jellyfish Kisses, you are right to expect a bright and colorful person behind it. Drawing inspiration from varied passions, she creates art that she refers to as autobiographical. "Ayun, mixture lang kasi siya, parang lahat ng experiences ko in life, ginagawa ko siyang art," she tells Preview. Putting her essence into form allows her to develop a deeper sense of fulfillment with her work. After all, "personally, nag-aapply siya. Mas genuine ito with the work itself. Ito ka talaga; it’s not just for the trend or you’re not doing this for clout kasi ito 'yong trendy ngayon, [or] ito 'yong–'this is something that sells'."

"[My work] is specifically for 'yung people ko, more on queer individuals. More focused siya on that kasi nakaka-relate sila with my work pero feeling ko naman kasi in a way, universal naman mga topics....I think para siya sa mga taong kailangan ng some kind of hope, for someone to relate to."

While she believes that art is personal, she also reiterates that art can be universal simply because of our shared humanity. This allows us to resonate with works that may not necessarily be from people we associate with, and it's finding this connection that makes art all the more compelling.

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In your opinion, what makes you standout from the rest of the artists out there?

"I think 'yung difference lang naman ng art ko and 'yung art ng iba is it’s 100% completely me. Minsan parang cringey… alam mo ‘yon kasi ginagamit palagi parang mga personal details na normally, hindi mo naman sasabihin sa public. Ayun, sinasabi nila na habang tumatagal, nagiging more honest 'yung work ko. Syempre, mayroon ka pa ring hesitations [about] what you’re willing to share to your audience. Napapansin lang nila na it’s very genuine daw. Kasi focus ko is 'yung complications of being human, gan’on, mga taboo topics. Ginagamit ko lang 'yung self ko as an example kasi for me, mas comfortable ako na gamitin 'yung sarili ko instead na gamitin 'yung other people as work. Nagamit ko lang 'yung ibang tao as example ng experience; parang shinoshow ko lang kung anong nangyayari pero more on my perspective.

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PHOTO BY courtesy of jellyfish kisses

What does your work stand for/represent? For who or what is it dedicated to?

"It is specifically for 'yung people ko, more on queer individuals. More focused siya on that kasi nakaka-relate sila with my work pero feeling ko naman kasi in a way, universal naman mga topics. It doesn’t mean na queer ka dapat para maintindihan mo siya kasi everyone knows naman what it feels like to go through things; sometimes, 'yung mga dark times like depression. I think para siya sa mga taong kailangan ng some kind of hope, for someone to relate to. Ako, mahilig ako sa art, and minsan lang ako maka-connect with an artwork. Sobrang happy ko when nakaka-connect ako with an artist or with an artwork. It is for everyone naman as long as there’s something there for everyone."

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What do you hope to see more of from the Visual Arts and Design field in the near future?

"Siguro ito, based sa mga nakikita ko… more opportunities, I feel, for female and queer artists. Better representation for them kasi feeling ko kulang pa rin. Improving pero kulang pa rin. Feeling ko better opportunities, like everyone, more people. Parang konti lang kasi 'yung mga nakikita kong upfront female artists. Dominant pa rin 'yung male, in general."

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