This Filipina creative shares what motivates her during challenging times and where she finds inspiration

In the What Matters To Me series, a Generation T honouree describes what they do, why they do it, and why it matters.

Isabel Reyes Santos is an artist who loves to observe and comment on contemporary culture. Her particular style involves repurposing and reconfiguring images and icons from pop culture, such as comics and old Hollywood. Last year, the Filipina creative beat more than 10,000 other entries to win the Uniqlo UT Grand Prix T-shirt design competition, a partnership with New York’s Museum of Modern Art. 

Here, she shares more about how she overcomes challenging times and where she sources for inspiration.

See also: Filipino Investor Mica Tan on Innovating and Seeking Opportunities During A Crisis

With the pandemic causing so many delays in scheduling, I was hit by a lack of motivation. There was a period of time when my shows were postponed every two weeks as the alert or quarantine levels in the Philippines kept changing. It was also hard to create [anything] when you’re faced with bad news every day. I began to think why should I keep on pushing and creating. Am I still needed here? That being said, this pandemic gave me more time with my work; I can edit, stare at them and work on them more. I had extra time to think about myself as an artist. 

I am an over-sharer but something people might not know about me is that I studied European and German studies in college.

See also: Chef Julien Royer Of Michelin-Starred Odette Just Wants to “Cook to Make People Happy”

Tatler Asia
Isabel Santos by Joseph Pascual
Above Isabel Santos by Joseph Pascual

Artists that have wowed me are Marcel Broodthaers, Helen Frankenthaler, Edward Hopper, Hilma af Klimt and Van Gogh, of course. Jasper Johns has been recently on my mind since I just saw his big show at the Whitney Museum of American Art. I admire him because, like me, he was not formally trained in the arts but still has been able to create confident works with varying mediums. I aspire to have that [same] confidence. I also look up to Lawrence Weiner, who was a conceptual artist and a judge in a contest that I won. I recently met with some people at MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) and we talked about his passing. They said he was one of the kindest artists they've ever worked with who loved helping young artists. I love that. It makes me regret that I did not get to meet him due to the pandemic.

Remember that not everyone is going to like your work. Just choose to listen to the opinions that matter to you. 

See also: Meet 9 Of The Biggest Social Media Stars From The Philippines


Tatler Asia
Isabel Santos by Joseph Pascual
Above Isabel Santos. (Photo: Joseph Pascual)

I try to stay in the studio or a creative space when I'm in a rut. I want to develop the habit of having notepads around me so I am ready when an idea strikes! But also, sometimes accepting that you’re in a rut and giving yourself a break helps too. 

A regular part of my week is watching the various TV franchises of The Real Housewives.

My favourite book is Silmarillion, which is a collection of mythopoeic stories by the English writer J R R Tolkien, who also wrote The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.

When not making art, I love spending time with my dogs, Noah and Benny, and browsing Instagram to look at fashion posts. 

See more honourees from The Arts category of the Gen.T List 2021.


Tatler Asia
© 2023 Tatler Asia Limited. All rights reserved.