An Interview with Illustrator Beatriz Lugtu

Vintage illustrations and New Yorker cartoons have always been a love of mine, so when it was time to roll out some fun new ads, I thought it would be cool to try to depict a Devil’s Food party that way.  Fortuitously, our GM, Jane Barmore, and Staffing Manager, Joyce Gazmen, had recently introduced me to the talented young illustrator, Beatriz Lugtu.  ‘B’ and I worked together for months and ultimately she put together some of the most amazing illustrations and ads I’ve ever seen.  When the project was completed, I wanted to sing her praises as much as I could and tell her story a bit.  Here is an interview we had not long ago:

DFC: Where are you from?  Where did you grow up?  Tell us a little about yourself, your upbringing, what’s important to you.

B: I’m originally from Southern California. I feel like I grew up all over the West Coast from Irvine, San Diego, & Los Angeles, California to Eastside Las Vegas, Nevada. I say this because wherever our family was staying, my family would go visit and stay with them during the weekend throughout the year, or during the weekdays during summer breaks. I never really felt like I grew up in just one area.

I’m a first-generation Filipina American, who grew up in a household where my parents and grandparents made sure to instill our Filipino roots and ancestry in me each day. Even if I was born in America, they made sure I understood what being a Filipina meant. I appreciated that growing up and to this day. My family, ancestors, and Filipino culture are important to me because I feel like if I don’t understand the past and where my family is from, I won’t be able to fully understand not only about who I am, but how I made it to where I am right now.

DFC: What led you to drawing?  

B: My Mom purchased my first box of Crayola Crayons for me when I was 4 years old. From that day on, I began doodling on the living room walls. I thought I’d be able to hide them behind our tall velvet chairs, but of course you know that didn’t go as planned.

After a few time outs from my parents, from drawing on the living room walls, my Dad decided to teach me how to draw on actual paper this time. There’s a song in my culture called Bahay Kubo, that my Dad would sing to me every day growing up so I can understand Tagalog. The song is about a Bahay Kubo (nipa hut) surrounded by a vegetable farm and names each vegetable in it. So, he drew out a Bahay Kubo scene: the nipa hut with a coconut tree, a simplified farm, with triangle mountains in the background, the rising sun, and v-shaped birds that were supposed to be the crows. He sat on the dining room table with me and went over the sketch and had me illustrate the same exact scene over and over again throughout the month until I drew it correctly. I fell in love with drawing since then.

DFC: How long have you been drawing – both recreationally and professionally?  What sort of training do you have in your field?

B: I’ve been drawing on and off since I was 4 years old. Most of my high school days I spent hours in my art class, which was one of my favorite subjects besides music class. Back in the day, it was more of a hobby that I didn’t know can turn into a profession. 5 years ago, I picked up a pencil again to help me de-stress from working in the streetwear industry doing Product Development. Again, it was only a hobby. That hobby turned into my profession over time.

I’m a self-taught creative. I never went to school for illustration or graphic design, but I was always observing, learning and soaking up all the information I can. I taught myself by attending art showcases and watching live painting by other artists. Other times I’d learn through other artist friends who went to school for the arts, researched through YouTube, or just analyze and breakdown other works done by other creatives.

DFC: What sort of drawing interests you most?

B: Cartoons from the 1920’s & 30’s, 1960’s, and 1990’s interest me most. Examples would be Walt Disney’s Silly Symphony, Black and White Mickey Mouse Sound Cartoon, Looney Tunes, and many more. Also I love Studio Ghibli!

DFC: What influences do you have?   What are you trying to showcase in your own art?

B: Most of my influences come from watching Saturday morning cartoons as a kid, which can be seen in most of my illustrations. Also, growing up around food. From Sunday morning breakfast with the family or running back and forth re-filling the empty hot plates at family parties. Those memories really made me fall in love with illustrating food in different design concepts. It taught me to grasp the movement and shapes of food, ingredients, and bringing life into illustrative dishes, from just observing.

What I’m trying to showcase in my own artwork is more of a storytelling concept of memories, my journey as Filipina in America, and the influence I’d like to instill in the youth to keep our culture alive into the next Filipino-American generation.

DFC: How do you know/how did you meet Jane and Joyce?

B: I met both Jane and Joyce at Magna Kusina, a Filipino restaurant in Portland, OR. I met Joyce first, she was my manager who then turned into a good friend of mine. We clicked instantly since our personalities, humor and upbringings were similar. While working as front of house with Joyce, I met Jane. She began to come in frequently with her son. I always remembered her because her son would order our pancit, it was one of his all-time favorite dishes at the restaurant. Over time we spoke more through messaging online, since I left Portland beginning of 2020. I’m very grateful for Jane, who connected me with James to create this fun, interactive, illustrative piece for Devil’s Food. I hope to catch up with them soon over some good food and drinks.

DFC: What is your typical work process like?  What was your process like for creating these particular drawings for Devil’s Food.

B: My process creating the Devil’s Food illustration was actually really fun. I started off studying James’s mood board, which gave me a better understanding of what he was wanting the characters to look like and the overall color story. From there I began to create personalities for each character. Imagining what would they wear and how can their outfit, expressions, and posture bring out their personality since they can’t speak for themselves.

DFC: What did you enjoy about the process?

B: I enjoyed working with James and bouncing off ideas from one another. It really was a collaborative piece that he and I put together. Also, learning more about Devil’s Food, who they are and what they do. The stories of events, the food that Devil’s Food is known for, and the type of places and people they’ve catered to throughout the years has been very enjoyable to hear. Very inspiring.

DFC: Ha!  You’re too kind.  What are your professional goals?

B: I’d love to work more with the food industry and creating more design work within it with chefs, bakers, catering businesses, and restaurants.  I would like to see how far I can take my illustrations to, within this industry, with various design concepts.

DFC: What do you like to do with your free time?

B: When I do have free time, I enjoy cooking in the kitchen, baking, going on hikes, or just spending time at the beach to unwind.

DFC: What is your favorite dish?

B: My favorite dish would have to be a Filipino dish my Mom is known for in our family, Dinuguan. Dinuguan is a savory stew of pork blood, garlic, chili, vinegar and pieces of pork and other goodness in it. Pairing it with the soft warm puto, rice cake, is the cherry on top. It hits all the tastebuds of sweet, savory, salty, sour, and a hit of some heat from the chili.

DFC: Favorite beverage?

B: My favorite beverage would be a good well-made old-fashioned.

DFC: Thank you so much, B!  Let’s have a well-made old-fashioned together soon!