For Lexter Ang, art is a passion that permeates most of his everyday life. Ang has been a graphic designer for almost 15 years. He founded the company, Art Tap Design Studios, and started sketching for fun during the pandemic.
Sharing his personal experiences with CHiNOY TV, Ang reveals his personal insights into the arts, a field that continues to evolve, especially now, in a rapidly modernizing world.
1. Art is a field where learning never stops.
Despite having led an art-related career for more than a decade, Ang admits that he hadn’t really thought of himself as an artist. He was, first and foremost, a graphic designer.
“I wouldn’t consider myself an artist because the difference between an artist and a designer is that [as] an artist, you’re creating art for yourself. But as a designer, you’re doing it for a certain purpose — for a business application or business purpose. So I would say [for the] majority of my life, I would consider myself more as a designer rather than [as] an artist.”
It was only during this pandemic that Ang was able to focus on art as a more personal expression. Taking great strides in discovering his identity as an artist, Ang created Sketch with Lex, a Facebook page dedicated to showcasing his sketches, which he started doing in June.
“During the pandemic, everything got affected. Things got slowed down. So, during this time, I was thinking I wanted to do something new. I wanted to learn a new craft… I wanted to get into digital arts. I originally bought the tablet because I wanted to do logos and quick sketching for work on a tablet. But instead, I realized that it’s so much fun to draw — to do illustration work here. So I just started in June to learn to draw us as much as I can. And I eventually got really into sketching.”
2. Art can be profitable, and business can exist with art.
As someone who grew up with Filipino-Chinese parents, Ang has encountered what many consider to be a Fil-Chi norm: parental apprehensions about the creative industry. Ang reveals that though his parents were supportive in honing his creative skills and interests, it was difficult for them to imagine a successful career in the field.
“They were supportive [when it was] a hobby. Like, ‘Oh, you know, you love to draw! We’ll support you. Hone the skill. But when you go to college, make sure you come back to the business,’” he said.
After studying fine arts at the University of Santo Tomas, Ang returned to his hometown in Bacolod to help with the family business. However, this did not mean that he had let go of his artistic aspirations. Ang always made time to work on his own personal projects.
“I was mixing the two worlds. So the way it works is that during the day, I was helping with the family business. At night, I was doing my projects. So that’s essentially how I built it,” he shared.
Around 2013, he decided to move to Manila.
“I said, ‘If I’m never going to pursue my design career 100%, I’ll never let it grow.’ You know what I mean? Because I’m always mixed. I’m always 50/50. I’m 50% in my family business. I’m 50% in my design business,” he added.
Ang’s efforts weren’t for naught. Since his time in art school, Ang has pursued an undergraduate degree in marketing and a master’s degree in design in Canada. Now, he manages his own company, Art Tap Design Studios. His current passion project, Sketch with Lex, also serves as the illustration side of his business.
“It’s been a struggle to really show the parents, especially traditional parents, that there is a career, and that there is a profession in art. They don’t see that because they’re not familiar with the industry. As an artist, as a designer, you really have to prove that. You really have to show them that these are the opportunities.
“My parents are always like, ‘There’s no career in art or anything like that.’ But it’s just that if you really love what you’re doing, if you’re really obsessed with what you’re doing, you’ll really find a way no matter what. So I really had to prove to myself and prove to my parents that there is something here. You just really have to be obsessed, and you really need to be driven enough to pursue it,” he advised.
3. Art is a process. Progress comes with both time and effort.
When Ang started his sketching journey in June, he decided to make himself a promise: He would create 100 sketches by the end of the year. After all, to create great artwork, one has to really take the time to do so. In early December, he said he was already at sketch 93 or 95, well on his way to his personal goal.
“And I have to admit that when I started this sketch, I was doing two to three sketches a day before. People asked me, ‘Holy cow, why are you sketching so much all the time?’ And for me, I was just doing it for fun. I wanted to learn. So I said, ‘The more I get, the more practice I get, even though the artwork isn’t as great, it’s still a learning experience. That’s why I put in the time.’”
For those as passionate as Ang, discipline is crucial for fostering the skills you love. He puts in four to six hours of drawing every day. Not only does he dedicate his free time after work to sketch, but he also makes it a point to study from both books and online sources — to train himself to see the technicalities of portraiture and art.
“At the end of the day, if you don’t practice, it’s useless, right? So you really have to really put in the time. And there are days when I didn’t feel like drawing, but I still draw. I forced myself, actually. Like you know, before, if you have free time, you just watch TV and you get back to work. For me now, my free time — my allocation for doing other things like watching TV — I just use that for drawing.
“If I’m stuck, I take the time to really study. Trying to learn from other people, trying to learn from books or online. And I guess, because of that — this whole process — now when I look at people’s faces, I don’t look at them as people. I look at it very differently. I just don’t see regular faces anymore. Because I trained myself so much in portraiture, now I’m looking at things so differently. And that’s the thing about artists, right? It’s because we see things so differently. Creating artwork is a way for us to express that.”
Dedicated to the pursuit of his craft, Chinoy designer and artist Lexter Ang shows that merely walking the creative path is not enough. With family expectations to shoulder and industry misconceptions to smash, there is only one way to succeed in a field where many don’t expect you to, and that is to go in full-force and never look back.