Pursuing a career in the arts takes courage, especially for those who were not born into privilege. While it is easy to say that all it takes is talent and hard work, the truth is that it is easier for some people to chase after their passion when they have a fallback or emotional and financial support. That isn’t the case for everyone.
In a country where there is still a lot of pressure on children to pay back their families for education, and expressions like “Walang pera diyan,” are the norm, the lucrative path would be to become a doctor or lawyer or settle for more practical choices like nursing or information technology (IT). As for Cyrill Acuña, it was the latter. But he is not settling. Despite the uncertainty, Cyrill, an IT graduate, chose to pursue a career as a freelance illustrator. In an interview with CREATEPhilippines, Cyrill discusses balancing passion and practicality.
When did you discover your passion for art? How has your art evolved through the years?
I’ve been drawing since I was a little kid, but I started to learn the basics and other technicalities of drawing when I was in Grade 10. I explored different mediums and genres and felt that I didn’t see myself in the art that I was creating back then. That’s why I experimented with other subjects and ended up with the art that I’m currently making.
Do you plan to pursue a career in IT or do art for a living? How do these two aspects of your life influence each other?
Yes, I still want to pursue a career in IT while doing art for myself and maybe a few commissions here and there.
I think my knowledge of IT also helped make my life easier. For example, I could code my own website if I wanted to. These two career paths help me manage burnout. If I am tired of creating artwork, I can practice coding and web design, and vice versa.
As an artist, what are your insecurities, and how do you overcome them?
My insecurity in art is that I didn’t go to art school. So I don’t have that vast knowledge of art history and techniques. And I didn’t get to experience being constructively criticized by art professors and the art community within art institutions.
I overcame it by having friends from the art community who also did not go to any prestigious art school and have different careers outside of making art. I can ask for their thoughts if I need constructive criticism on my work.
Can you elaborate on why you were hesitant to pursue art? What advice do you have for aspiring artists who are dealing with the same dilemma?
I think when your other family members tell you things like "There is no money in art" or "Only people with connections and money can succeed," it can get to you. That’s why I was hesitant at first, because they felt like I didn’t have what it took to succeed. I do feel that they were just concerned for me and my future, which is why I still took and finished my undergraduate studies in IT as a backup plan. But right now, making art is the thing that truly makes me happy, and that’s why I still choose to be on this path.
My advice for aspiring artists who are dealing with my same dilemma is to trust your gut, be brave enough to pursue things that truly will make you whole as a person, and at the end of the day, do what feels right for you. Assess your feelings and your needs right now. I do feel that we have our own timelines, so what I can advise is to know yourself and go for the decision based on what you need most at the present.
What do you hope to accomplish through your art?
One of my goals is to be an established illustrator here and abroad. I want to be a published illustrator, create my own graphic novel, and release my own art books. With those goals in mind, I just want longevity in my art. I have my whole life to figure out and cross out my goals, one step at a time. And there’s always more to discover and learn about making art. I am just excited to keep working hard and learning more about myself and my art.