Category Archives: How To

Getting started on your passion projects

I’ve been meaning to write something about getting started on doing passion projects. While I haven’t been doing that much work recently, I’m still in a better place than I was two years ago.

Passion projects are things you do outside of your usual work and daily life scope that gives you joy. At least, that’s how I see it.

On August 1, 2019, Canva Manila celebrated its 5th anniversary. Our art group, Kamote PH, was invited to speak during the anniversary celebration, The Best of Us. I, along with Jay Santos of Meow Project, represented the group. Here’s my quick take on how to get started on your passion project.

Photo of the author giving a talk during the Best of Us Canva Manila anniversary
Looking legit. Photo by Geryl Minguillo.

Starting from somewhere

Kamote PH began when a few of the designers at Canva Manila decided to sign up for Komiket and sell merchandise. A few of them had already been doing it, and thought to invite people—designers and non-designers (by this, I mean by job description) alike.

I enthusiastically said yes to the invite, but truth to be told, I was scared of failing. These people were mostly formally trained with art and design, or had at least several years experience doing it. It was pretty much a hobby for me, and it had been years since I actively and consistently did anything. Not to mention that I still didn’t have a clear style or aesthetic, while they had. The internal conflict I had whether I should do it or not was pretty strong.

But I did it anyway, and I have no regrets despite the rocky start.

Sticker I made floppy disks cassette tapes cactus video game controllers
Stickers that I made in the last two years. Slide from our presentation. Check out my Instagram.

Quick tips

Be genuinely interested

This must be something you like and really want to do. It is a passion project, after all. The drive to do this will fuel your creativity, and it will show in your work. There’s a huge difference in creating a design in a haphazard-looking style, versus creating work haphazardly. Be in it not just for the likes.

Be prepared to give it time

Time is a precious commodity—something that can’t be rushed, but goes by quickly. No matter how good you are, you’ll need to devote time in cooking up ideas, putting them on paper, and creating the product. You’ll also need time to get the word around and build your following. especially when you’re starting out. Time will also be needed to help you improve your skills (because there’s always room for that no matter what your skill level is).

Art supplies on a table
Image by Dzenina Lucac

Be prepared to fail

Or at the very least, leave room for errors. I always say there’s value in preparing well, but not everything will be smooth sailing all the time. There are factors you ca’t control, and even if you can, there will be some errors along the way. And when that happens…

Be kind to yourself and learn from those mistakes

Because they happen, and what’s done’s done. How you deal with it matters.

Start with what you have, and build on it as you go

I’m sure I’m not the only one who wants to have the best materials or latest gadget to get started. They’re nothing wrong with that, but using it as the ‘reason’ why you’re not doing anything, well, it’s really more of an excuse. This is admittedly a difficult hurdle for me, but you have to push through. I used to think that I needed Illustrator to create vectors, but there were other options available (try Inkscape. It’s free!)

Just do it

Take a leap of faith and start doing things. You want inspiration? Check out kuyaartist on Instagram. He’s 12 years old, around the same age as I was when I started doing fanart, and now he’s making his own stickers. He’s aiming to join his first con selling them next year.

Getting started with your passion project summary list of tips on starting by Kat Sales

Lessons learned along the way

Push yourself to do it

This lesson is pretty much similar to the immediate tip above. Sometimes you can’t wait for motivation, but you just have to push yourself to do it. Don’t be lazy. Don’t procrastinate. No one’s going to do the work you do but you.

Learn to plan

We always think we have plenty of time—until the day of the con or your deadline is near. Sometimes, because I didn’t plan things out, I find myself staying up late the day before a con printing and laminating stickers, then cutting them. I’ll be tired during con day, and I won’t have enough stock to sell. Not a good thing.

Find a community

When I was younger, I didn’t have enough friends who illustrated or drew. The ones I knew who did had different tastes than I do, and for most of us it was really just a hobby.

Kamote PH to me is like #romanceclass: I’m surrounded by people who are doing something similar and see value in it. Instead of competing, we inspire. We all may be doing stickers, and there may be several of us who likes the same things—like cats, dogs, Broadway shows, or Kpop—but our styles and aesthetics make them unique from each other.

Your community is a great place for support, encouragement, and learning. Knowing that there are people who understand what you’re doing and why is a big deal. I probably wouldn’t have done what I have in the last couple of years if I didn’t have a community.

GIF of young men in football jerseys doing a pre-game pep talk

You will learn new things and your process will change

When I first started out, I didn’t know how to do vector art. I crammed learning it in a month, and rushed the printing three days before the con. A few months later I was a little more confident with it. Later, I realized I could do away with vector for some designs and use watercolor. Sometimes I combine them, sometimes I experiment.

I also learned how to print my own stickers, and in the process learned about the best paper to use, the kind of inks, how to laminate, where to buy, etc. Most of all, I learned how to deal with people because as introvert as I am, I’m still the shopkeeper and I need to sell my work.

Someone will like your work

We’ve been hit with imposter syndrome one time or another, and it’s something that becomes a blocker. When I first started, I made designs that I wanted. I knew there will be a few who’ll like it (namely my friends haha) but I never expected enthusiastic reactions from strangers. It never fails to make me feel good, and want to make more cool things.

Have fun

I started this because I liked drawing, and I wanted to make something that I didn’t see from other artists. I didn’t expect others to like it, and that I’ll make money from it. Now I enjoy making it—and making money from it is a huge perk.

There will be days when you’d rather not do anything, and that’s ok. But if you really want to make a success of your passion project, you have to make time and do it.

Getting started with your passion project summary list of learnings by Kat Sales

Balancing act

Here are some questions that we were asked after the talk:

“How do you get word out about your works?”

We rely on social media. For most of us it’s Instagram, as it’s visual and easy to share. We also rely on word of mouth, especially if we’re going to be selling at cons or other events. Some of us cosign with stores like Common Room or La Local PH. Others market at our personal social media pages, and have family and friends buy our merch.

“How do you balance your passion project with work/daily life?”

I said that you have to make time, not just find it. I said something earlier about planning, and it applies to that. You plan what you need to do so you won’t have to rush things, and you find time in your daily routine that lets you do these tasks. I like to brainstorm while in transit, and if I can, write or sketch things down. Then on weekends, I make stuff. Sometimes, I even use my vacation leaves to do it.

Share your thoughts in the comments section!

How I made the Clockwork Droid mask

When Joiz and I decided to attend the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary party set by fellow Whovians, we thought it would be cool to come in costume, as we were sure many attendees will be doing. However, we had little time to decide which to go as and get it set up. We decided in doing some villains because for sure there would be a lot of Doctors already, and villains are a bit of a challenge.

I picked the Clockwork Droid from the episode “The Girl in the Fireplace”. I figured it would be easy to find the clothes as it was more or less standard for 18th century France. The mask was going to be the bigger challenge.

In the end, it was actually the other way around.

Basic materials (scraps and tools not included here)

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Budgeting blues

It seems highly unlikely that for a person my age and resources, I have never been outside the country. But indeed, I will only have my first international flight this coming June. Then again, there are a lot of folks who have never set foot outside the Philippines and do not really care. I’d be the same if it hasn’t been a lifelong dream of mine to see Japan.

What are the possible reasons why I never indulged in a trip abroad before? Resources, first of all. I do plan and try to save up but more important things would come up and I’d end up using the money somewhere else. Second, I’m usually not into traveling alone, so when I’d ask someone if they’d like to go, the response I usually get is “I can’t.”

Finally, I decided “To heck with it,” especially after my childhood best friend said she’ll be going to Singapore. Plus, I was so tired of feeling envious and feeling sorry for myself that I thought I’d just go right ahead and buy a ticket. I lucked out and got a sale seat, so instead of spending thousands in the five digit bracket, I only got to spend thousands in the four digit bracket (I hope that hasn’t confused you hehe). Thank God for seat sales and luck.

Now comes another challenge: Budget. Just because I was going with my friend doesn’t mean I’m ok, especially since we’re traveling with her mom, who will most likely foot a huge chunk of the bill. I do want to chip in my share, and I also want to have some money to spend for souvenirs and stuff.

How to do this? My original plan was to set aside some money from my salary. It’s possible, especially if my increase kicks in soon (any day now… *crickets*). However, given that I usually go beyond my budget most months, I don’t think it will work, unless I live on crackers and water until June (I’d be so thin, ugh). I am earning some extra money from my freelance side projects, which was small but if it’s consistent, may just work. So, I brought out my favorite thinking tools — a pen and paper — and got to work.
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Kitchen experiment again

When I was a kid, I hated Lent. First off because even though I had my cousins to play with, we’re not allowed to (Catholic tradition thing). Second, you can’t eat the “good” stuff (meat, candies, sodas) and third, you have to pray (an hour of kneeling isn’t something a kid can’t tolerate much). I’ve gotten past the first and last, but the second is still sort of hard to do.

Decided to cook dinner today, since I did manage to skip eating meat the whole day. I went to the grocery to buy my ingredients, but I didn’t really have a plan. I got cream dory, some mushrooms, a head of cabbage, dried seaweed and rosemary. Coated the fish in salt, pepper and rosemary, fried it in olive oil then tossed in garlic, onion, some water and a dash of soy sauce and sukang Iloco to taste. After the liquid boiled, I added the cabbage and mushroom, then for the heck of it, stirred in some dissolved sugar because I thought it was too salty. My sister suggested I added some evaporated milk and though skeptic, I did. I let it simmer.

It tasted fine to me, but it had to pass the judgment of my three siblings (Nunik was out because he was watching the Stone Temple Pilots). They all had one thing to say: “Masarap.” That’s good enough for me. I don’t expect them to wax poetic about my cooking, but the fact that they didn’t complain was testament enough. Did I mention that nothing was left of it?

Hurrah for another success!

The Art of Book Hunting

I love books, but they can cost a lot. There are days when I resort to ebooks because they are cheaper. Most days I wish we had a library, not just the one in schools, but a public library where I can borrow the latest books or DVDs, hang out for the day and just read.

Wouldn't you want to have this in your neighborhood?

Thankfully, we have the option of buying used books. Metro Manila has tons of secondhand book shops, many conveniently located in shopping malls. I frequent a lot of them and end up buying tons of books that would normally set me back a couple of thousand pesos. It’s a great place to look for out of print titles. Sometimes, you’ll find something totally unexpected in those bins.

My friends believe I have a skill when it comes to scouring secondhand bookstores. I find the books they want to have without much effort, and I’ve completed tons of series through here. I’m sharing lessons I’ve learned over the years of browsing through such stores. Ready?

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