Koalanov will be a giant of Philippine illustration, rest assured

Also known as Ivee Pendo, Koalanov is a graduate of BS Computer Engineering with no art degree, who had a career in Database Administration prior to turning artist.

Admin's loss is illustration's gain, as the Filipino artist delights with watercolour-like work that radiates with charm and brightness.

We interview Koalanov about her art, along with showcasing select pieces from her glorious portfolio

What subjects and figures do you enjoy drawing the most?

I’ve always loved drawing scenarios that seem to be someone else’s vivid memories. It could be two companions enjoying their time together, or just some silly mundane things you do when no one's watching. I tend to believe people see it as something quite familiar to them and make them recall a seemingly random memory that they haven't thought about for a very long time. Or it may just be a fragment of fake scenarios they used to daydream of.

But whenever I just want to de-stress and not pay too much attention to storytelling, I just draw girls striking poses, like how you see models in magazine catalogues.

How would you describe your style?

My approach in drawing is stylized but I still use realistic proportions when drawing forms. It’s sometimes surreal but not too out of touch with reality especially when I want to indirectly convey a thought. Some people say it feels strange in a way probably because of the contrast between the subject matter and colour palette I use. 

In technical terms, I think the most noticeable thing is the texture wherein I still use watercolour treatment on warm colours even digitally.

What traditional and digital tools do you use?

I use watercolours and Copic markers but my most favourite nowadays is Procreate on iPad. It's with me everywhere I go because it's so convenient to use.

I also like drawing outdoors so doing digital illustrations has never been this easy.

The Philippines art scene seems full of talent! Please tell me more about the network and scene out there.

Filipino artists, especially the young, are some of the bravest and most compassionate people of all. The art is not just for aesthetic but with an actual purpose, especially now that a stretch of terrible events and injustice has happened and we need to spread awareness and be reminded of the change we were fighting for. We use our art and platform to do important things that need to be addressed.

It’s also quite easy to engage with other artists even if you’re a newbie here since everyone is friendly and is open to discussing. You can also think of many ways you can support them like purchasing their art prints, commissioning art, collaborations, or just by simply helping them out through word of mouth and sharing their art online.

We also like doing art trends that have been super fun and truly helpful specially to some who are still growing in the scene and who haven’t even started one yet. It makes it more interesting and engaging. Everyone just wants to progress altogether and that’s just quite amazing to think of. We enjoy publishing our own zines and 'komiks' that we sell through art conventions and I’m sure that’s the top thing everyone misses here since all art events have been cancelled because of the pandemic.  Someone even created a Facebook page where we all pretend to be selling in an art convention, haha!

What projects of yours are you most proud of?

I recently worked on an art cover for the newly released song of one of my favourite J-Rock bands, Lucie, Too. I’m just glad that they trust me on this as I’ve been a fan of their music for years now.

I’m also happy with the collaboration I did with another very talented artist who happens to be my significant other, Mark Bantayan (@popgun9 on Instagram), also an illustrator and a screenwriter. It’s a high-fantasy comic called Lamplight; and we sold copies of it at the last art convention we attended. I’ve learned a lot from it, especially drawing backgrounds, which I used to find very intimidating before. Now, I learned to enjoy the process and actually become an important part of my pieces.

Who and what are your inspirations?

It’s a mishmash of all sorts of things, honestly; the music I listen to while on my way home, the new artworks my mutual artist friends posted on my timeline, the experiences of other people I’ve heard of, the shows I’ve recently watched, the dreams I’ve probably had - the fragments of these are the building blocks of what I can create depending on what I feel at the moment.

Some people may be able to make interesting pieces in just one sitting. My creative process doesn’t work like that. Most of my favourite concepts are those that just popped in my head while doing other things like when I’m taking a shower or washing the dishes, to the point that I have to pause to write it down just so I won’t forget it. It’s not during the actual creative preparation wherein a blank canvas is right in front of me waiting to be drawn.

Now for the specific people I look up for inspiration, I really like director Wong Kar Wai’s composition/colours and Edward Yang’s themes and movie structure. Every frame I see from their works blows my mind and makes me want to pull off something similar but in a form of drawing.

You seem to love cinema: what films are your faves?

I'm a fan of Taiwanese New Wave and I remember binge-watching some of Edward Yang’s works for a week. He only makes amazing films cos he’s a genius but my favourites are A Brighter Summer Day and Yiyi.

I also like Rebels of the Neon God by Tsai Ming-Liang. I like Tsai’s use of elements that tend to make you feel anxious through certain elements he kept using. It’s like when you see these things, you know it’s him. Short-lived encounters are common among the characters but it’s presented how they’re interconnected in a meaningful way, even with less dialogue.

What would you like to do next with your career?

I want to work with more people in the music industry especially with musicians I look up to. I’m open to collaborations with other illustrators and I’m planning to join international art conventions to reach more people.

I’ll continue making personal projects like comics and prints and maintaining my art presence online. My doors are always open for more interesting opportunities as a creative.

How can artists inspire our strange world these days?

I must say, impress yourself first before anyone else. Other things like being inspirational and influential might follow without even us knowing it. Frustrations and inevitably crippling self-doubts would always be there as an artist and that just means you’re ambitious enough to be a better version of yourself.

Also, be kind. ALWAYS. Use your platform for a good cause. Eventually, there will be someone out there who will look up to you and may be moved by your words to start their own thing.

Who knows, you may just have awoken the next big artist of this generation because of that kind gesture you did.

Follow Koalanov on Instagram.

Related: Designer Raxenne Maniquiz on her bright, nature-rich portfolio that's impossible to pigeonhole

Note: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site, at no extra cost to you. This doesn't affect our editorial independence. Learn more.

Read Next...