Arts & Culture


Jappy Agoncillo is one of the Philippines’ most sought-after visual artists. At a young age, he was already able to give life to some of the country’s favorite brands and places. In an interview with The Feed, Agonicillo tells us of his humble beginnings, inspiration, and his most memorable works.

/ 24 March 2021

Jappy Agoncillo’s works have always been discernible–his passion in turning plain and simple spaces to lively and vibrant sights earned him a spot in the country’s contemporary art scene. Brand after brand sought Agoncillo’s aid so they, too, could capture the public’s attention with captivating wall designs and various materials.

At the tender age of eight, Agoncillo knew that his creativity was unlike any other child his age: “I started making things when I was eight. It was at eight when I started to do art and have a finished output not just for the sake of coloring and whatnot. I think making my own things is so appealing to me because what was in my mind can become real.”

But from an imaginative kid to a full-fledged and full-time creative, Agoncillo had to face several challenges like every other artist who ventured into making art for a living. When he was just beginning, Agoncillo did everything from scratch. He had no mentor, no guidebook, and no connections that could help boost his profile.

Photo courtesy of Jappy Agoncillo

“I think once I got the idea that there is something that needed to be done to make a viable living, I started ramping myself and my work up. The roadblock in the beginning was doing it all from scratch: No mentors, no guidebook,  no network or connections. So my mistakes were all mine, and I didn’t have people who could help me avoid them,” he shared.

“I continued to look for opportunities for myself, figuring it out as I went. Not to say that having any of that is a bad thing though, or it makes me better or lesser than anyone else. I just accepted what my starting point was and did what I could,” he added.

Photo courtesy of Jappy Agoncillo

The young artist describes his output as “ever-evolving” pieces of art. He remains true to his roots and incorporates hobbies like skateboarding, reading comic books, and playing video games to his craft. “I always like to add more into the formula and discard what doesn’t work anymore.”

Agoncillo has already experienced working for the country’s biggest brands. But for him, he did not intend to make art as a living, everything just fell into place with hard work and determination.

“I didn’t have very much of it planned out–so I followed the natural progression of things: my murals got bigger, brighter, more expressive, my market got larger and wider as well, and I kept on publishing my work on social media to get more audience. If I didn’t do these things then who would? I joined contests, sold merch at conventions, art markets, bazaars, malls, concerts.”

Photo courtesy of Jappy Agoncillo

His favorite works are those that remain on the streets for the public to see–his murals. 

“Personally, it’s the smaller pieces I do on the streets that stay with me the most. I think maybe because it’s just all me, and I have fond memories of creating them. There weren’t any rules except to make good art, and there was no other purpose but to create.”

According to Agoncillo, life is all about using every good and bad experience as a way to learn more about the world. “Each experience is a step up the ladder, I tried to soak up as much as I could: lessons from mistakes, lessons from success, advice I thought was useful, corrections that needed to be made.

“When I hit a roadblock, I just choose to pick up where I left and move forward, doing what I can to keep it going. To this day that’s still more or less how I manage the business, just having the goal of growth every step of the way,” he shared. 

Given our current times, the art sector was among those who were badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. That is why Agoncillo made sure that no time will be wasted. He made use of the lockdown and improved his works by looking back and learning from his past mistakes. 

Photo courtesy of Jappy Agoncillo

“I wanted to make the best use of the lockdown time and get better at what I do. I educate myself and learn from past mistakes. It was just my way of coping in the same way people enjoyed more time to watch films, or online shop, or start a home garden, I enjoyed working.”

Agoncillo knows that many students have to put their artistic dreams on hold as the quarantine has yet to end. His advice?

“Have dreams that are ‘flexible’.” 

“Your dreams have to be a bit flexible, because you can’t always control what happens in the world, but you can control how you respond; you choose how you will act when faced with a situation. And of course, the current state we find ourselves in is far from ideal, but you can either wait for something to happen, or take your dreams into your own hands and adapt,” he said.

“There’s no better time to do that than the age we live in: everything is online. Post your art there, post your music there, start a vlog, or a zine, or a stream, find classes to learn new skills from. Do what you can, so when the world opens back up, you’ll have gained so much and be ready to take it on,” he added.

As of writing, Agoncillo dreams of  working with shoe brands Nike, Vans, or adidas. He would also love to work with Marvel or DC. “I’d love to do something for Nike or Vans or adidas, like an actual collaboration. I’d love for Marvel or DC to have me make something for them, that’d be a dream come true.”

Photo courtesy of Jappy Agoncillo