Q + A with illustrator Jingo M. De La Rosa

Jingo M. De La Rosa didn’t expect to stay in Indianapolis when he first moved to the U.S. from the Phillipines. But after trying out a few other cities, he kept getting pulled back. He has made a name for himself both as an illustrator and as the founder of the visual and performing arts event, DRAWN. PATTERN sat down with Jingo to talk about his monthly event, DRAWN, and what it’s like being an artist in Indy.

Allie Coppedge: I saw you grew up in Manila, Philippines. Has that influenced your work in any way?

Jingo M. De La Rosa: The best kind of art is personal. My work right now is more influenced by western culture, which isn’t necessarily bad considering I’ve lived here for about 13 years. Staying here has definitely shifted that. Although once in awhile I will, as an illustrator and having my work narrative based, create work inspired by my culture. I would love for it to be a little bit more influenced by the Philippines. But admittedly, that has been difficult.

AC: Growing up, did it ever occur to you that you could be an illustrator?

JR: Absolutely. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut because I was fascinated by space and the great beyond. But then I remember seeing the original Beauty and the Beast for the first time with my mom. I watched it in awe of what artists can do and it made a huge impression on me. As soon as the credits rolled I thought, screw it. I just want to be an artist. Plus I’ve always loved to draw; I think every kid does in some capacity. I grew up in the Philippines in the ‘80s/early ‘90s. During that time, there was an energy crisis because it was right after the dictatorship. Everything is unstable after a dictatorship. There were blackouts every single day from 4pm until 10 or 10:30pm. We grew up not having generators, just battery powered lamps and that’s how I learned how to draw because that’s all we had to do.

AC: What made you settle in Indianapolis, Indiana?

JR: When I moved here, my late grandparents had already lived here. They were the ones who sponsored me, so that’s how I ended up here. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t love at first sight so I’ve lived in other cities. But I kept coming back here. It wasn’t what I was used to, Manila is very densely populated, so coming here was a culture shock. The more I got to know the people here, that’s when I realized that this is a great city with the greatest people.

AC: How do you balance making work for others while staying true to yourself?

JR: It’s a balancing act for sure. When I talk to clients, I make it clear that I have a style that hopefully they’re looking for. It’s not easy because you want to please the client and make work that you’re proud of. Generally I just do what I do. It sounds so cheesy, but if you just be yourself and you’re honest and truthful about that, people will see that. That’s the power of art, whether it’s personal or professional.

AC: What is DRAWN?

JR: DRAWN is figure drawing, but with a twist. I wanted something that was as unique as this city. So I call it a sketch and live performance event. Instead of having the traditional figure drawing model we have musicians and they’re the models being drawn by artists. If you have a model standing there it’s too comfortable. If they’re moving, it takes the skill level up a notch. That’s what I do when I’m out and about, I go to coffee shops, parks, and small gigs to draw people once they’re moving. It’s also improved my observational skills, so I thought other people could learn from that too. Plus, who doesn’t want a live performance from legitimate musicians in the city?

AC: What compelled you to create DRAWN?

JR: To create a common space mainly. Initially I just wanted to have a cool unique event that I, myself, would go to. Instead of waiting for someone else to fill that gap, I filled it myself.

AC: What are you aiming to achieve with these DRAWN events?

JR: I’m making it up as I go, I’m not ashamed to admit that. Indianapolis is a city that gives value to community and I want to be a part of that. I want the artists to be an active part of the community. I want an event that artists, or anyone, can come to. One of the goals, if not the main goal, is to have everyone realize their creative potential. As an artist and an arts educator, I want people to realize that they too can be creative, it’s not exclusive to artists. If people who don’t consider themselves artists come in and realize their potential, it’s already a success. As far as 5 or 10 year goal, I don’t have one. I’ll keep doing it until nobody comes or until we run out of artists in the city.

AC: What can people expect from the next DRAWN event?

JR: Right now it’s at Rabble Coffee on the Near East Side. I love that area because they value community. And DRAWN itself, I believe is a community event. Whenever I host the event, I always encourage everyone to meet someone new. Sometimes I feel like people think art is unattainable. To me, art is accessible. At the event you can talk and interact with artists, from both the performing and visual side. From the [DRAWN] events that I’ve done, that’s what I’ve seen. People interact with one another regardless of who they are and what they’re there for. It’s one of those things that just fell into place and has a life of it’s own that I didn’t expect.

My priority is being an artist but I’m addicted to community.

AC: Is there anything you see lacking in the arts community in Indy that you hope to change?

JR: It’s an exciting time to live here, really. I might be blinded by the fact that I feel like we’re on the ground level, as far as creating our culture and our identity as a city. Regardless, there’s still a lot of work to do. The reason why cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, all have successful art scenes is because people are involved, whether you’re an artist or in the audience. It’s slowly happening here, but not everyone feels that way. I’m not trying to force everyone to be involved, but at least give it a try. In Indy, we have events like First Friday, which is my favorite day of the month, [pauses] besides DRAWN. The city feels so alive because you have people out and about. It’s the one day of the month where the city really wakes up and comes alive, and that’s all thanks to the arts.

AC: How do you prioritize and stay organized with all of the organizations you’re a part of while ensuring everything is done and you reach all of your goals? Any particular system?

JR: Yes and no. First of all, I’m an artist. That influences almost everything I do. I work mainly in my studio, doing client and personal work, which dictates everything. More specifically, being by myself almost all day is kind of unhealthy. Which is why I try to be involved in the community. Interacting with people informs my artistry. I don’t really have a system, my priority is being an artist but I’m addicted to community. I’m an illustrator but I’m also a community artist. Both inform one another and that’s what keeps me going. Yes it can be exhausting but my system is making sure each is codependent with one another.

AC: You’ve mentioned before that you love getting out into public spaces to draw, how does that spark your creativity?

JR: When I lived in Chicago, one of the things I did was draw on the train; it’s the best place to draw people. At first I did it to hone my observational skills. Slowly, I realized I love being around people. When I draw people there’s a part of me that feels connected to them in a subconscious way. I’m trying to tell their story without even knowing them. My way of interpreting that is by putting it on paper. There’s something ethereal about drawing a person that I’ll never see again.

AC: Has anyone ever caught you drawing them?

JR: Only once. I’ve developed superior ninja skills when it comes to drawing people. Except for this one time when I was drawing someone at Rabble coffee shop, just doing my own thing. He stands up and comes up behind me, but I didn’t even realize. Then he yells ‘I knew it!’ and I froze. I thought he would think I’m a freak, but that wasn’t the case at all, he loved it. I’m trying to make sure that it never happens again.

AC: Do you have a particular favorite project that you’ve done?

JR: That’s like asking me who my favorite child is, and I don’t even have kids. I do have a very memorable one though. I was part of the Monster Project, which is an arts initiative that invites artists from all over the world to recreate monster drawings originally drawn by kids. Last year I had the privilege to be invited, I was one of 100 artists, which is crazy. They have us pick monsters, and immediately I was drawn to one. I found out the kid was from Austin, TX and it just so happened I was going to Texas in the fall. I reached out to the founder, explained the situation, and asked if it would be possible to meet the kid. It all worked out, I met the kid, gave them the monster myself, and we spent some time together drawing. That’s one of the most memorable ones because I was connecting with someone, with art as the catalyst. And now we’re bringing it to Indianapolis, the first Midwest city to have it. We partnered with one of the IPS schools so some Indianapolis kids will be represented.

AC: What goal(s) do you hope to accomplish next?

JR: I just want to make art, man. I did say that with DRAWN, I make it up as I go. But don’t we all? I try to stay true to myself more than anything. But I think that my goal is to… make art until I die. It’s the one thing I know that I’m good at. And I want to use it to impact the city. Hopefully I can be a small cog in building this community that we have right now. I want to see Indianapolis as a legitimate art city. We’re the fly over state, an after thought. People disregard us because it’s Indiana. One of the things I love about this city is we don’t care what people think about us. We do our own thing. And there’s something powerful about that; staying true to who we are as a city and not trying to be a New York or Los Angeles.

You can find out more about Jingo on his website or follow him on Instagram.

The next DRAWN event will be Thursday, August 17 at 7:30 pm at Rabble Coffee. Yadin Kol and Allison Victoria will be performing.

Photography by Miller Kern.

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