We’re proud to bring to you today an interview with one of Bacolod’s finest digital artists and illustrators – Ramon Puasa JR.
Ramon skillfully blends traditional painting with technology and creates beautiful fantasy illustrations for clients overseas. Ramon, a.k.a Monztre is best known for his illustrations in several international award winning card games and video games.
Ramon graciously took time off from his busy schedule to come and talk to us – Here is our interview with the awesome artist who brings honor to Bacolod with his beautiful artwork!
BFH: Thank you for joining me today. Could you please tell us how did you get into becoming a digital artist and card game illustrator?
R: When I was a little boy in elementary school I had no idea in my mind that I wanted to be an artist. In my high school years I always thought that I would pursue a career in architecture. I had many interests back then. I would draw comic book characters, anime characters and collected trading cards.
Back then there was this popular collectible card game called Magic: The Gathering. I wasn’t very interested in it until one of my classmates asked me to draw for his physics project. In exchange for my drawing he would give me his collection of Magic cards – several shoe boxes full!
Was the project very difficult? – No not really. I enjoyed looking at the artwork and I thought at that time I wanted to become a card game illustrator. I just didn’t know how to – I was just a kid in high school at that time.
BFH: How did you start with digital illustration?
R: I had background previously with digital illustration because I was able to work with a local studio owned by sir Von Caberte. He is the person who I consider my mentor. He was the one who opened up my mind to the fact that there was a studio in Bacolod that is working in the gaming industry. It was there in his studio where I was able to hone my skills in Photoshop. I spent about two years in his studio learning and practicing my skills. He taught me so much not only in doing graphic design but also for 3D art and game assets such as the user interface, game assets and on how to be a concept artist.
After a while I decided to strike it out on my own, we parted ways and I started with freelance work on Odesk and tried applying to different jobs. I wanted to be independent?
BFH: What was the first job you ever accepted?
R: It was a job for a mobile game that I didn’t get paid for!
BFH: Oh wow! What’s the name of this game?
R: The name of the game was BLOX for the iPhone
BFH: Is it available today?
R: Not sure (laughs)
BFH: What did you do for this game?
R: All the art, the UI (user interface) , the animation, the blocks – I did everything.
BFH: That’s a lot of work! Did you have a hard time?
R: It was my first job online, I was really excited to pour out all I learned and it turned out that the guy who hired me didn’t pay me at all. The communication between us abruptly ceased.
BFH: That’s insane! How much did he owe you?
R: I don’t really remember but the starting fee was really low. Anyway I learned from this experience to be more vigilant from accepting jobs from sketchy people. He suggested I work for free in exchange for exposure, royalties, etc…
BFH: Well that was a bad experience but you’re now older and wiser. After this experience you worked on more projects?
R: From there I started on graphic art, like user interfaces, all sorts of online work such as creating comics, storybooks for kids, a lot of work for independent publishers. I did a lot of work but it wasn’t related to what I really wanted – which is to be an illustrator. I felt my skills in illustration weren’t getting developed so I decided to shift my work to illustration even though my income would take a hit and it would be a major transition. I started looking for clients who wanted illustrators for card games.
BFH: What was the first card game you illustrated?
R: The first card game I illustrated was Quest For Arete. Quest For Arete is a fantasy card game. The game play included elements with fantasy chemistry, physics and mixing magic elements. At this time I also began posting some of my artwork on deviant art and it was there where one of my artwork was noticed by AEG.
BFH: AEG! They’re a board and card game publisher aren’t they? What artwork were they interested in?
R: One of my artworks they got and renamed it into a Doomspawn for their game, Thunderstone Advance. They really liked it! After this, the marketing director of AEG approached me and asked if I would be interested in making ten more pieces of art for them! This is where my career in AEG started.
BFH: So what other works did you work on for AEG?
R: I also did artwork for Legend of The Five Rings(L5R). When I was in college I had seen people in Bacolod playing the card game and I liked the artwork so I approached AEG and asked if I could do some pieces for them and they said yes. They really liked my work and thought it fit the L5R art style. For their other game, Doomtown Reloaded – they called all their available artists to work on it.
BFH: What projects are you working on now?
R: I’m currently working on stuff for Fantasy Flight Games. I’m doing artwork for their LCGS (Living card games.) My current projects now are for their Star Wars LCG, Lord of the Rings LCG and their Android NetRunner LCG. I’m also working on illustrations for some fantasy novels.
BFH: While browsing through your work, I saw that you also have worked on video games. This piece of artwork that you did – It’s for a game on Steam right?
R: This art is for an indie game – The Fall of the Dungeon Guardians.
BFH: What was your role in this game?
R: I made the UI, the logo, the splash screen, the character portraits and the main game illustration as well as the buttons and the menus. I really enjoyed making the illustrations because it was similar to the Dungeons and Dragons RPG games.
BFH: Working for these game companies – has this brought you international recognition?
It all depends on the kind of cards you’re illustrating. Card game players like rare and useful cards and if you’re the illustrator for those kinds of cards you get some degree of recognition. Of course making great artwork for those cards is important but sometimes rarity and function is also a factor in recognition.
BFH: Are you well known locally? In Bacolod?
R: I’m a very quiet person. I usually do mall events, I join local game shop events as much as possible.
BFH: So what are your plans for the future?
R: It is my ambition to become an illustrator for Magic: The Gathering. Although I have done a lot of work already I still feel like a student, everyday I learn something new. My focus now is to improve my work and just keep learning day after day.
BFH: What is your message for the budding artists out there?
R: Just keep on going. There are some times that an artist finds difficulty in finding inspiration. You don’t have to wait for it, you have to hunt it down (with a club)
The journey is long and tough but always remember that if at first you fail, just call it an Alpha Version. A rough draft.
For those interested to see more of Monztre’s art please head over to the following pages:
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