Making use of her experience as a writer to tell stories with her art, Thea Torres takes bits and pieces of the everyday and incorporates them into an expression of herself. A multimedia artist from Manila who truly aligns with Leon's identity, Thea draws inspiration from all mediums, down to the smallest corners of pop culture. A woman of many talents, this young, promising artist makes use of all sorts of tools within her disposal, be it software or handmade cutouts of magazines.
Meet Thea —
Despite her warm personality and the humility she exudes, beyond Thea Torres's smile is an opposition to pressing socio-political issues through her art. Constantly consuming media, she also progressively creates pieces that embody the emotion felt by society in the hands of oppression and maltreatment in addition to her staple feel-good collages.
In the end, she encourages artists and creatives to simply go with the flow; to her, a small idea is as good a place to start as any. Reflective of her creative process in collaging, Thea promotes the practice of developing ideas, and letting them break apart. Being open to what she refers to as "happy accidents" is key to her work— the method to her madness. As a result, Thea's pieces cement a moment in the history of pop culture, the feeling and emotion behind making pieces that society may consider timeless.
So would you say that making collages was your main form or art style?
Thea: I think it kind of just happened. I didn’t say, “this is it, this is my thing.” There were times I thought my work wasn’t that expressive, and I wasn't impressed with my collages. As you can see in my art style, it always changes. Sometimes I draw, sometimes I make vectors— it’s all over the place. That’s why I think it’s natural for collages to become a bit surreal, as I like to play around with bodies and body parts.
There was even a point in my life I was thinking I wanted to do something else, but in the end I would just come back to wanting to do illustrations and comics and collages. That’s where I feel the most comfortable, where I could whip up something within an hour. Even if it's not that great, I feel accomplished and it is to me sometimes a therapeutic experience. When I work I have no idea how it will come out, but the process of trying to fit pieces of the collage together, it works for me.
How do you primarily create your art? Do you use photoshop more or do you form the collages by hand?
Thea: Photoshop has always been the main thing since I started, but very recently, I began doing actual paper collages. I've been doing a lot of those recently since I got a little bit bored of always being on Photoshop; I realized collaging really started out with pieces of paper and magazines, so it’s a way different process. And I realized the traditional way of cutting up stuff is much more fun.
We noticed some of your works draw inspiration from pop culture… would you consider your art to fall under the style of pop art?
Thea: I think it's always been a common theme. Pop art has a really artistic definition, like Andy Warhol and the such. It is a common theme in my art, and my perspective on pop art connects to speaking the message of relating my art to another person or another person’s media. Pop art has always been so interesting to me because it’s very relevant, and it will never not be. Coincidentally, my art happens to do that because I consume so much media. I always end up knowing what’s happening with people, music, movies, celebrities, and that’s where the inspiration comes from.
Would you say your art style is an expression of yourself and/or your beliefs?
Thea: For sure. I’ve done a lot of political pieces because that’s how I can pinpoint my own self expression through what angers me and concerns me. I’ve done a lot of political art: very in-your-face, very anti-Duterte and all. I would also do pieces on topics such as Martial Law. But aside from that, I still make the collages that don't really make sense and are sort of surrealist, these are therapy to me. They reflect whatever I'm going through or what I'm feeling. Sad or happy, I just want to have that moment where I'm not thinking, and I cut up some paper and go to Photoshop and drag some things around. I feel as though those are my better work, and I'm actually more happy with them. When I’m really feeling something, and I cut up some pieces of paper and throw things together on PS, I think to myself, “Hey, I made something I really like.”
What are your earliest memories of creative endeavors as a young artist? And what work could you say you're proudest of?
Thea: My earliest endeavors were in writing. In highschool and college, I was a literary writer turned editor, and my first job ended up being a writer for Noli Soli, but that was more on news feature writing. I even did some film stuff before— my friends and I would group up and try to shoot short films. I guess those were my earliest memories of being creative and creating things.
When it comes to what I’m most proud of, it’s a mix of different things. With collage art there's always, in a deeper sense, a feeling of unoriginality, as I am taking from existing media. There was always that piece of me that would make me go back and forth, causing a learning practice for me.
"How do I make something that already exists and turn it into something original?"
So, what I’m most proud of is basically the ability to take many tiny pieces and (hopefully) making them work together.
Do you have any tips for aspiring visual artists/beginners in collage making, or if there's one secret you can share from your experience to them, what would be?
Thea: My tip would be to go with the flow. Creating collages is different from drawing where you can make a pencil sketch of your ideas. With collages, it’s really different, so just go with the flow. If you have a small idea in mind, it’s completely okay if it breaks apart and you decide to make something new.
“What I really love about collaging is that it's a really forgiving form of art and you always end up repeating the same mistakes, and these mistakes help. It’s full of happy accidents. Just make sure you’re not so rigid and afraid of making a mistake.”
You can even use the opposite of whatever you learned in design school or art school and make that your whole concept.
Another secret I have is that I keep this digital and actual folder of cut-up paper/PNGs. When I'm bored, I just cut up pieces of things I like, whether from my own photographs, magazines, etc, and they’re all bits and pieces I keep as a collection. When I suddenly want or need to make a collage, I get from those pieces and it’s a quicker way to make a collage, almost just like a puzzle.
Leon’s main message is “Allow Léon to be your means for visualizing timeless works, and using those as inspiration in expressing yourself.” In what way is your work timeless?
Thea: I really do hope my work is timeless—ultimately, up to the audience.
"I would say that what makes it timeless would be the way my art is forgiving. Because it’s always far from literal, you can place yourself in any of the art with almost anything as your point of reference— "
be it pop culture, politics, or whatever you’re going through at the moment. . I hope I get to convey in my art that they are filled with emotions and stories, but that there isn’t really anything that chains them to a singular idea. At the end of the day, at any point in time, the meaning could be all up to you. I believe that what could make it timeless would be that anyone can look at it and either just find it interesting to look at, or resonate with how empty or full it looks, not as if you have to know this to understand that.
To view more of Thea Torres’ work, make sure to check out these online platforms:
Photos courtesy of Thea Torres