Ardie Aquino illustrates with attitude. Drawing inspiration from the great graphic novelists and cartoonists of the last few decades, his designs are laced with a bit of punk and grotesquerie and full of humor.

At the end of the day, though, his style is all his own—and clients love it.

We chatted with Ardie Aquino about where his inspiration comes from, how he got started on 99designs and where his career is headed.

Ardie Aquino

Name: Ardie Aquino
99designs handle: ArdieAquino
Location: Philippines
Specialty: Illustration

How did you first get into illustration? 

Art has been a part of me ever since I was a kid. I remember when I was 3 years old, I had a big sheet of cardboard that I used to draw onto while lying on the floor and watching cartoons.

I did not go to art school, however. In fact, I graduated with a degree in nursing. To improve my artistic abilities I did self-study using available resources like books, online articles and videos to improve on my skills.

Friends also made a great impact in the development of my skills. I am lucky that the friends I have are so willing to impart their knowledge on art.

punk rock album art by Ardie Aquino
Album art concept for punk rockers BRIDGER

Do you have any favorite resources that really helped you advance your illustration skills?

Yes I do! I visit my favorite illustrators’ websites, do walks and watch TV to update myself on the events that is going around.

How would you describe your style? Where did it come from?

I would describe my illustration style as an appealing cartoon for adults. There are lots of inspirations behind it. International artists like Gary Baseman, Craig Thompson, Luke Pearson and Nick Edwards have been very influential on me, for example. They have really shaped my aspirations.

ardie aquino illustrations
Bold illustrations for heavy metal performer Beef Savage and funk rockers Entice the Mice

Have you found it easier or harder to connect with clients because of your style?

It’s harder to connect with clients that are looking for the usual take on designs. I explain to them that the style that I offer is outside that line. I always tell them that my style will be something really different from the norm and that made them embrace the outsider style that I have.

For other clients, sometimes the connection is like love at first sight. You easily jive and the process of working with one another is super smooth. Usually those contests are for posters and album covers.

back to the future illustration by Ardie Aquino
“Back to the Future” spoof for fitness apparel company, Gym Hero

Given your particular skill set, how do you look for contests on 99designs? 

I look for contests that capture my interest and seem like they will challenge me. Or sometimes it is just that I really like the vibe and the feel of the contest in a way that is hard to pinpoint. With any contest, the most important thing is that I can enjoy creating the piece of art that I will be submitting.

What’s the first thing you do after reading a brief? 

I try to do sketches first and after that I use the good ol’ pen and paper to ink my design then after that I color it digitally.

ardie aquino illustrations
Book cover for “The Heartbeat of an Entrepreneur” and t-shirt for Run for Your Lives

Do you have any projects you particularly enjoyed or found challenging? 

If I had to single out one key moment it would have to be the first contest that I joined on 99designs. Being my first time, I just really wanted to showcase my skills to the client. It was quite a thrill when I actually won it!

What is your advice to other designers looking to break into illustration?

Don’t be afraid to share your work with the world. The first step is to believe in yourself. As long as you love what you do, everything else will follow.

beer label illustration by Ardie Aquino
Space-themed illustration for Rocket Brewing Company

What else is going on in your life?

Well, I am currently residing in the Philippines. At the moment, I am working at a multinational company as a Web Support Specialist while doing indie comic books on the side.

I also love to play computer games and travel with friends—two things that really help a lot in terms of conceptualizing new ideas. Right now my goal for the future is to publish a graphic novel.

See more of Ardie Aquino’s work here.