In anticipation of National Arts Month in February, let me tell you about a Filipino artist and her colorful adventure in turning her artworks into postcards. This is the story of Doodle ni Maria.
Doodle ni Maria is a small art and graphics business run by artist Ma. Luisa “Lui” Ronquillo-Hikong. She started it during her college days as a platform to upload her various art and crafts projects.
Ronquillo-Hikong’s journey started around 2019, when she commissioned some hand-carved stamps based on her own design. Soon, she was creating and selling more of her works.
Doodle ni Maria started with mostly sticker designs, marketed to planner and journal users. One of her customers told her that the artworks would be perfect if they were on postcards and encouraged her to try to print and sell them. And that’s how it began.
To start her path of postcard-making, she painted iconic Philippine mythological creatures such as the kapre, manananggal and mangkukulam. She chose to feature these creatures as they evoke memories of Pinoy culture and she was fascinated with them as a child.
After seeing good feedback, she began to create and release at least a new series every month. Since then, she has printed somewhere between 3,000 to 5,000 cards every quarter, with the last quarter of 2021 holding the most number of sales. “It is due to people sending seasonal postcards to their friends and family, and how people have a lot of money to spend on gifts during that time,” Ronquillo-Hikong said.
She also designs and creates other items like mugs, calendars and posters, and can even be commissioned for portraits and graphic design, but most of the time she focuses on her postcard illustrations.
What inspires Ronquillo-Hikong? She said, “I think of Pinoy themes. I think of what I would like to send and I base my works from my thoughts and from the environment around me. I also make seasonal art, like for Valentine’s, Halloween, Christmas and so on. I also take into consideration the request of my customers, an example being postcards featuring COVID-19. When it comes to the designs themselves, I look at inspirations and I work from there.”
Another special inspiration? Her family. “If you look at my works, you can see how my characters are all just a rotation of characters, it’s because I base them on my family, mainly my two lovely daughters”.
Doodle ni Maria grew organically. “My customers started buying from me as they learned about my products just by word of mouth,” she said.
Ronquillo-Hikong enjoys what she does. “I really like drawing, I love making illustrations because I like thinking about how to portray a scene and telling a story from my art. I like making people happy and just hearing their wonderful comments about my works make my day . . . Even though some of my works take a lot of time and effort to make, just seeing my customers enjoying them makes it worth it.”
But what makes her work unique? She said, “I really think that the detail that makes them different is how they are uniquely Filipino- themed but geared to an international audience, which is something that is hard to find even locally. Even though there are many local artists, I feel I am more accessible, and my works are tailored to my customer’s liking. I also try to keep the prices low. I just want people to be inspired by my works knowing that they spent their hard-earned money on them.”
She appreciates her customers. “When people buy even as few as five postcards, it is special because I know they thought hard on what designs to pick.”
Ronquillo-Hikong also makes sure she gives back to the community in her own ways.
In January 2020, after the Taal Volcano eruption, she made a special postcard and donated the proceeds to victims of the eruption.
In November 2020, she launched an artwork auction and the proceeds were donated to the victims of Typhoon “Rolly” (international name: Goni).
In March 2020, she launched the project Cards of Hope, allowing people to buy three front-liner themed postcards for P99 and two of the cards will be sent to a front-liner in a chosen hospital. It was Ronquillo-Hikong’s way of showing front-liners her appreciation for all their hard work.
She said, “I just want people to be inspired. When they feel down, when they feel lonely, I want them to be able to look at my artworks and feel happy. Sabi ko nga, even if I just touch one person with my art, I feel like worthwhile na ’yung pinagod ko.”