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Valerie Chua

Valerie Chua

Meet painter from the Philippines, Valerie Chua.


Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hello! I’m Valerie Chua. I’m a Filipino-Chinese painter based in the Philippines. I started out as a commercial illustrator in 2012 but in 2015 I switched to fine art painting. I’m mostly self-taught. I graduated with a degree in Humanities and tried out different mediums when I stayed in NYC in 2014. I live with my husband, and my Iggy dog, Sasha.


Describe the city you’re living in and what it’s like to live there.

Living in Manila is great so far. I used to dislike it a lot because it’s hot and people seem too relaxed and they take their time. Most of the planning for the day is circled around traffic and delay estimates. I used to be extremely high strung so it wasn’t for me. I had to frequently move to fast-paced cities like Tokyo or New York in order to feel at ease. But eventually I changed my frame of mind and I started to like it in recent years. I accepted that it’s a city with a lot of potential and color, with the right amount of chaos, you just have to be forgiving. I also realized that Filipinos are really some of the most hospitable people in the world.


Best thing – unpredictable chaos, which is great for creativity.

What is the best and worst thing about living in your city?

Best thing – unpredictable chaos, which is great for creativity. Despite being in a chaotic place like Manila, people are still often relaxed and smiling and they don’t take everything too seriously. Worst thing – the traffic lack of efficient public transportation. A location 4km away can take 50 minutes in a car. We have disappearing sidewalks and the weather is too hot during the day. Sometimes you have to fall in line for hours to hail a cab or bus, especially in business centers.


Give us 3 words that describe what it’s like to be a creative in your city.

Emerging, Curious, Uncertain


How did you start your career in art?

I used to watercolor a lot during my graduating year in college and I frequently posted my work on Deviantart. I was discovered and hired by my 1st commercial client, Vgrafiks. I liked the experience of working with brands and clients that I decided to pursue commercial illustration full-time. In 2015 I was scouted by a mentor who saw my watercolor works and recommended that I explore different concepts and mediums. The transition was very difficult for me in both technique and marketing. I had to start from the bottom but we were able to make it work. I’ve been enjoying painting full-time since then.


I had to start from the bottom but we were able to make it work.

Were the people around you supportive of your decision on working as a creative?

My friends were very supportive. I’m unsure about my parents because they never expressed their opinion on my work and career trajectory. I was slightly secretive. I had to do part-time work that doesn’t involve art in order for them to not question my career choices. I felt that being Chinese, you have to be secretive about your passions, or financial success must be evident in your passions.


What are some goals and ambitions you have for your future work?

If you asked me this 2 years ago, I would have given you a list of seemingly unattainable goals but my life has drastically changed over the past year. I am a lot happier now. I’m trying to live day-to-day and do the best I can in my current circumstances and projects lined up. I definitely want my work to leave a mark in history but it’s not something I want to fixate myself with.


I’m trying to live day-to-day and do the best I can in my current circumstances and projects lined up. I definitely want my work to leave a mark in history but it’s not something I want to fixate myself with.

If you could collaborate with any person in the world who would it be?

I never could find the answer to this.


How would you describe the women around you?

I had a very negative experience growing up with the women around me. I rarely saw my mother growing up and I was left with a female caretaker who violently abused me for years. A lot of older women were unreceptive to my cries for help and teachers (mostly female) had a hard time understanding me. I always had to fend for myself growing up in constant fear. Unfortunately, this was my impression of what adult women are. It’s not pleasant at all but I am happy that I had friends who are girls who were there during the most turbulent part of my life. Despite such, I never blamed women for my past misfortune. I believe that sexist and abusive systems in place created this environment.


Were there any local female creatives that you looked up to when you were growing up?

There weren’t a lot of local female artists online when I started taking art seriously in 2009. Although I remember listening to a couple of local female musicians like Imago (2001 album!), Cynthia Alexander, and Sugar Hiccup. Their music got me in the mood to draw and I think that my earlier watercolor works emulated their melodies.


Are there any challenging aspects of being a female in your industry?

I believe that the fine art industry is still predominantly male (both creators and buyers) but there is a surge of female artists in the recent decade. There are some really incredible female artists right now. I don’t really feel any gendered struggle because I’m being helped by a male artist whom I look up to. He is pushing my work and I’d like to extend the same goodwill to another artist in the future. Fellow female artists are also very open and helpful. Personally, I think there is a struggle of being a local artist as a whole rather than gender. A lot of local artists, especially those who work commercially, have a lot of negative experiences with financial compensation.


Lift others as you lift yourself.

Do you have any advice to young women who are aspiring to work in your field?

Lift others as you lift yourself. Take joy in the process of working. Take joy in your mistakes. Never do it for external motivation like public praise or recognition. You will burn out faster when you are motivated externally rather than intrinsically. Congratulate yourself whenever you do something good, no matter how small it is. You deserve it!



Photos courtesy of Valerie Chua.