Artist Spotlight: Nia Pasumbal

Artwork by Nia Pasumbal: Tsismosa/Chismosa

Meet Nia Pasumbal, an amazing artist based in NYC/NJ!


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What inspired you to start creating art?

The short answer is anime. In middle school a friend had gotten me into anime and I'd see her drawing characters from shows or even original characters and I thought it was so cool. One day in class, I saw her draw a face from start to finish and I thought, 'huh, maybe I could do that.' After that I just never stopped and eventually started to think of art as a career path. But if you ask my mom, she'll tell you that I always loved drawing. When I was little, I would bring arts and crafts projects to church and doodle in the pews instead of listening to the sermon. My mom likes to tell me how embarrassed she was when I would even cut paper while the priest was talking and the loud 'CCRRRRSHH' noise of paper-cutting would echo through the church.

What’s your process like when planning out a piece?

It's changed a lot since I started doing mainly digital work. I recently bought an iPad Pro, which I'm really happy with. With traditional work I would do a lot more sketching and planning beforehand, but with digital it's much easier to make adjustments as you go. But I always start with an idea and some visual research--it could be anything from a pose, a pattern, a motif, or an attitude to reference. Next is the sketch, which could take multiple tries or adjustments to get right. Once that's done, I'll test out color palettes and after I find the one that fits, I go on to the final. I also like to jump between the pieces I'm working on. It helps me stay productive because sometimes I'm more in a mood to sketch and adjust than color and refine, so I'll just have multiple projects going at the same time at various stages.

Artwork by Nia Pasumbal: Lady In Profile

What or who do you pull inspiration from for your artwork?

Anything that's had an influence on my life has probably had an influence on my artwork. When inspiration strikes and stays, it's great--the piece almost makes itself because I have everything I need in my head--but more often than not, that's not the case. Inspiration comes from a lot of self-reflection and research. Then eventually, I'll find something that I think, "maybe I could make something out of this," and then maybe it'll work, but maybe it won't.

Recently, I've been more motivated to use my culture in my work. I was born in the US, but my family is from the Philippines. I definitely inherited the Pinoy Pride from them, but sometimes I still feel disconnected from my roots. So exploring it in my artwork and research, and then being able to share (and get critiques) from family really helps me feel more connected.

One other thing I really love is psychology. I think it's fun to learn about why people do what they do and what makes someone human. This really shows in my character design work. I think it's fun to develop a character that has a fully fleshed mentality that reflects on their appearance visually. How do you overcome any challenges you face?

Self-pity and shame, haha. I've come to realize that this is a part of almost every artist's creative process. The trick is to let it motivate you and not stop you from trying anyway. But it's definitely harder than it sounds. The difficulty is in finding the right balance. If you're too hard on yourself you'll burn out or give up, but if you're not critical enough, then you'll never improve. I still struggle with this, so if anyone has any good advice for me, please let me know!