Illustrator Marrione Manalo Is Making Asian Mythology Mainstream

Illustrator Marrione Manalo Is Making Asian Mythology Mainstream
Credit: Provided courtesy of Marrione Manalo.

Marrione Manalo is an Asian-American illustrator. She and her aunt, writer Fairlane Raymundo, are creating “Aswang,” an NFT graphic novel highlighting Asian mythology. According to Marrione, “Aswang” is the story of five young creatures who were disowned by their monster clans. In an effort to survive, they enroll in a special school where they must train to become superheroes. 

Keep reading to learn more about Marrione in her interview with Artisan Joy. 

Tell us about your craft.

We are publishing the very first Asian mythology-inspired graphic novel NFT. It is going to be a series and will contain more than 200 modernized mythological characters. It will also transition into the metaverse. People will be able to digitally interact with the mythological characters and digitally see and experience their world. 

How did you get started creating art?

My father was an artist. Before passing away, he was in the middle of doing a graphic novel that’s centered on modernized Asian mythology. My aunt, who helped raise me, asked me if I wanted to take over the project. I was trained by my grandfather.  

Credit: Marrione Manalo.

When did you realize that you could turn your artwork into a business?

When I was in my teens, I got into Kpop. I would design tshirts and others and sell them. It was more of a way to earn back the money I spent on concerts and CDs of my favorite artist. It wasn’t until recently that I decided to earn from it. 

How do you define success for your business?

At this stage, completion is success for me. Creating a graphic novel is not just time consuming, it’s emotionally draining because a huge part of yourself goes into the illustration. As soon as the graphic novel is released and the metaverse is launched, that would be success for me. I believe commercial benefits will not be immediate in a project like this because of adoption issues.  

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

The memory of my late grandfather. This was really his project with my aunt. I also just love Asian literature, entertainment and  history. It’s exciting for me to be able to create a bridge between that and the rest of the world. 

What’s one piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you first started your business?

“Keep a record of your mistakes.” Had I been better at keeping my sketches, failed projects, and others, I think I would be more appreciative of my progress. We are always told to move on, we are never told to appreciate the past mistakes that contributed to our growth. 

Credit: Marrione Manalo.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start selling their art or creative product?

Just do what you want to do now but don’t hesitate to evolve. A lot of artists are caught up in being “true to themselves” that they reject any kind of change. Change is part of growth. Just because you change your style or the way you work or the nature of your business does not mean you are selling out; you are just evolving. 

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

I had cancer when I was 7. I think it’s a given I kicked that big scary C out the door. 

Credit: Marrione Manalo.

As creatives, we can be continuously creating and refining our art. How do you handle perfectionism?

I’ve come to realize that a huge part of my perfectionism is insecurity. There’s always a nagging feeling that what I have done is not good enough and that other people will reject it or criticize it. So, I just embrace it. I embrace criticism, look at its benefits and also learn that at the end of the day, it’s myself I have to deal with. Now, I know that absolutely nothing is perfect. So, I just go for the next best thing. I just get it done. 

What’s something that surprised you about running a creative business?

That the creativity part is the least of my problems; it’s the business part that’s killing me. From deadlines to contracts to budgets; it is what’s really draining me. It’s so important to delegate those things—which makes it important to find someone you can trust to do those things. 

What’s your advice for handling the highs and lows of running a business?

You can’t save everyone. Cut down on expenses in areas you can cut down. Cut your losses. Fire who you have to fire. Survive with as much dignity as you can during the worst times. Once you realize you can survive the worst, growth will be a little easier. 

Has someone ever criticized your work? How did you handle it?

Yes. I look at the validity of the comment. If they have a point, I try to improve. If they don’t, then I thank them and move on. 

Credit: Marrione Manalo.

What’s a cause you are passionate about?

Helping one kid at a time, and one organization that does this is

Can you share the name of a supplier or vendor that you use for your business that you just loveone that makes running your business a bit easier? 

We use Amazon Publisher. It’s printing on demand. It’s great because we don’t like inventory. 

What brings you joy?

Waking up in one piece. The rest of the day is a bonus. 

Thanks, Marrione! You can learn more “Aswang” at

Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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