Scene City

Filipino illustrator Daniel Tingcungco depicts beautiful little scenes of Manila and beyond, reminding us of the capital’s oft-forgotten charms

Interview Patrick Kasingsing
Art Daniel Tingcungco

Hello! Kindly introduce yourself.

Hi! I am Daniel Ansel Tingcungco, an illustrator and art director from Manila. I am currently a senior art director for Leo Burnett Vietnam and a member of Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan (Ang InK).

Can you recall when you first got into illustration? Was there a particular moment in the past that convinced you that the artistic track is what you want to take?

I’ve been drawing for as young as I can remember, influenced by a lot of books, cartoons, and animation. I won my first poster-making contest in grade school and continued being the class artist up to high school. Never thought of it much until my brother encouraged me to take Fine Arts in college. I graduated from college and started working soon after. I experienced a kind of ‘quarter-life crisis during this period. A lot of my friends in college seemed to have already found their artistic style and voice, especially those in illustration. While I was happy with my work and with how I’m drawing as a hobby, I sought to “find myself” by taking illustration seriously. By taking inspiration and influence from a lot of artists and styles I love, I’ve been able to slowly develop a style I’m comfortable with. I’ve encountered so much frustration and confusion; but I was able to get through with the help and support of mentors, friends, and family. It’s still a long way to go, but now I’m having fun as I keep evolving and experimenting.

Your take on illustration has a nostalgic and very traditional vibe about it; one is reminded of picture book illustrations from the 1950s and vintage travel posters. What influenced such a style and why do you favor such an approach?

Growing up, I’m influenced by a lot of picture books from my childhood, together with cartoons and animation; then moving forward and being exposed to various art styles and illustrators. But a particular influence came from a trip to Japan a few years back, as I got exposed to the artworks of shin-hanga (new prints), an art movement in 20th century Japan that came after ukiyo-e, that uses the same woodblock print process but incorporating elements of Western art such as light and perspective and inspired by European Impressionism. Those artworks, especially by Kawase Hasui and Yoshida Hiroshi, moved me so much. Also, Tatsuro Kiuchi and his work have inspired me so much. I consider him a kind of mentor as he’s given me valuable advice from time to time, most especially with techniques and the approach to work when I met him in his studio in Tokyo. Their use of light and color, composition, use of simple and complex details, all create a timeless mood and feel that inspire my illustration style, which I believe, is still evolving.

View 12, Regina Building, Escolta, Manila

This issue is our ode to Manila, a city close to our hearts but criminally underappreciated. We noticed that a lot of your artworks paint Manila in a positive and very picturesque light. What is it that you love about this city?

This personal project, ‘100 views of Manila,’ was inspired by Hiroshige’s ‘100 famous views of Edo,’ and also stemming from the feelings I’ve always felt coming home from travels abroad. There was always this frustration of what a certain country has, that Manila doesn’t, especially in terms of aesthetics of a city. But through fresh eyes and looking at Manila as I would marvel other countries, I was able to change those feelings by looking at Manila at a differently – accepting it for what it is now, but also hopeful of what it can be. I realize through every artwork that there is so much beauty in this city if you just keep looking – a lot can surprise you. It’s when you’re far away from home that you realize how important it is to you.

What do you hope to accomplish with your Manila illustrations? What message do you want to convey with your works?

I’d like people to look around Manila with a different perspective, to realize that there is so much to love here, as much as any other place in the world. Hopefully, as that love grows, and everyone would appreciate it more, to help in growing its potential in their own way – not just occasionally, but always, in everyday life.

As a creative, can you suggest points of improvement for Manila in the aspect of supporting a vibrant, creative community?

I believe it all starts with one’s self – having a mindset that believes in the possibilities Manila can be. Believing in the place, believing in the people are keys to building this city. It may take some time, but surely it is the foundation of this community. We need to love our country more, nurturing what we have and taking action rather than just complaining and comparing. From here, the rest will surely follow.

View 18, Manila Bay Sunset

We’ve all heard the stuff we hate about the city but what is one thing Manila has that no other city possesses? Are you reminded of little moments or personal anecdotes that illustrate this?

Amid all the hateful things we know and hear, people in Manila always find ways to smile, be happy and help other people as much as they can in their own way. One of the many moments I remember is that whenever I ride a taxi or a ride-sharing vehicle and encounter terrible traffic, most of the drivers I encounter tell jokes and chat to keep light of these daily downers. In effect, I forget the traffic and soon arrive at my destination with a smile and a light feeling. It’s these small things that still make it home for me.

Can you give us a brief outline of your workflow for the illustrations you make how do you obtain references and decide what scenes to draw?

Every illustration starts with me spending a lot of time thinking and letting ideas simmer in my head. Then, I plan my artwork based on the mood I want to capture, creating some initial sketches. For the ‘100 views of Manila’ project, I visit the specific place I want to illustrate, get to feel the atmosphere of the place at that moment. I take a lot of reference photos, trying to explore angles and perspectives that best represent the place. I make quick sketches, sometimes already drawing it directly to digital. Colors take some time to finalize as I keep experimenting until it is right. It takes a few hours to finish a piece, more if it had detail. But I don’t dwell much on these as I like the sketchy feel of imperfect and rough strokes. I finish as soon as the mood has been wonderfully captured in the artwork and it feels complete.

View 19, Metro Manila Skyway

We currently live in a reality riddled with fake news, misinformation, and false promises. What do you think should our role be as creatives to halt the progress of such negative forces?

As creatives, we have the power to communicate. Whether it be through visuals, words, or music, we must always be present and take action with all that’s happening around us to protect the truth and freedom we’ve always fought hard for. Go out, take a stand, talk, and take action from beyond the screens. Just keeping silent removes us from our purpose and meaning in society. 

Aside from illustration, what other hobbies or interests do you pursue?

I enjoy film photography from time to time, taking long walks as often as I can and snapping moments that move me. I also spend a lot of time reading books and watching films. All of these have an influence on my illustration. But most of all, I enjoy a lot of coffee! I make it a point to always go around cafes around the city and whenever I travel. I take time brewing my own cup everyday, and for friends, too. This pretty much explains my Instagram name, @cafedandy. Let’s have coffee! •

This story first appeared on Kanto No. 3 2018. Edits were made to update the article.

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