Debbie Tea’s Artistic Odyssey

Debbie Tea believes that her intrigue with the visual world began when her parents gave her coloring books back when she was in kindergarten. The process of filing in the images with color is what initially pulled her in. “Throughout my school years, from primary to high school, I completely consumed myself in reading manga, comics, and watching anime. The stories and visuals in these mediums completely captivated me,” Debbie reminisced, explaining how she delved deeper and deeper into visual art.

“There was a time in primary school when I became obsessed with Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon. I remember spending countless afternoons, sometimes well into the evening, practicing by copying images straight from Sailor Moon manga pages,” Debbie tittered. Slowly but surely, her drawing skills grew until she eventually began drawing many anime style characters aside those from the Sailor Moon manga.

When Debbie graduated from high school, Debbie wanted to pursue a career as a comic artist or designer. With the very limited knowledge that Debbie had at that time, she enrolled in an Animation study program. In the final year of her studies, she came to the realization that ANimation was just not her thing. Debbie then realized that she preferred making still images. In her view, the task of creating moving images really frustrated her and she found the repetition of drawing the same character hundreds of times for one short animation to be very dreary.

Shifting focus, Debbie went on to pursue fine art photography studies. It started with a classmate who introduced Lomography to Debbie. She was amazed to see the prints from a Holga camera. For Debbie, that period marked another chapter in her artistic journey. Pursuing photography not only deepened Debbie's love for the medium, but also significantly changed her as a person and her perspective as an artist.

Photography became a big part of Debbie's life to the point of leading her to times of depression for various reasons. After graduating, Debbie decided to take a break and enjoy quieter moments. She made sure to avoid constant overthinking and creation. Surprisingly, this period of reflection reignited Debbie's passion for drawing. Instead of merely for fun, making illustrations has now become part of her profession. According to Debbie, eventually, Debbie found herself equally passionate in both photography and illustration. She thinks that taking photos feels as natural as breathing, while making illustrations is like solving a puzzle that pushes her forward.

When it comes to her visual style, Debbie said that what she consumes always influences her in some way. When she first started liking anime and manga, Debbie's visual style was heavily influenced by this. Then, when he studied cartoons and animation, her character changed yet again. “I also recall spending a lot of time playing video games, like those tycoon games on Windows and JRPGs on consoles like Playstation. Often, I’d imagine creating my own JRPG [Japanese Role-Playing Game], designing the video game cover and scenes, all drawn on MS Paint,” Debbie elaborated.


When she began her professional career as an illustrator, these influences remained embedded in the development of her visual style. In the early days, she always used to choose thick black lines when making illustrations and this became a characteristic that she continues to carry to this day. For Debbie, using one color will be more efficient and practical, especially in converting images into physical products. However, in her development, Debbie is now starting to explore color. The NFT period became Debbie's entry into this visual exploration.

Following her graduation, Debbie created Pantainanas as a personal project. According to her, Pantainanas was born organically and was not intended to become what people call an “artist merch brand”. Pantainanas also emerged during Debbie's reflection period after studying photography. Initially, she thought Instagram was an inappropriate platform and actually somewhat devalued her work. However, seeing people around her using social media, Debbie started uploading her scribbles there without any expectations.

“To my surprise, this decision marked a turning point in my life. The feedback I received was beyond anything I had imagined, rekindling my passion for art. What started as casual, all-over-the-place doodles gradually took on a more serious tone, evolving into commercial projects and eventually, product designs. My follower count grew, as did the job offers. Before I knew it, Pantainanas had transformed into a brand, a development that was as unexpected as it was thrilling,” Debbie explained.

Pantainanas became a crucial factor in Debbies career. Her experience in running Pantainanas led Debbie to meet many artists and designers, broadening her horizons. “However, with the demands of my studies now taking priority, I've had to put Pantainanas on hold, as it’s impossible for me to give full attention to both simultaneously. I absolutely miss working on it and can’t wait to return in the near future,” said Debbie.

Currently Debbie is pursuing a master's degree in Graphic Storytelling in Brussels, Belgium. After spending about eight years as a commercial illustrator, Debbie found herself at a point where she felt lost and creatively stagnant. The desire to return to the world of education has been present for some time. This is an effort to break away from her established thought patterns and artistic techniques. She felt the need for guidance and an academic environment. Debbie admits, “Now, almost five months in, I can say I’m grateful for taking this daunting step.”

Although it’s less than ideal, for Debbie, the knowledge and experience she’s gained thus far academically has helped her let go of outdated creative patterns. “Before this, I never imagined myself making comics, let alone studying their history and theory. But now, I'm doing all of that and thoroughly enjoying the process, despite the occasional challenges they present at times,” Debbie revealed.

This journey has had a great influence on the development of Debbie's artistic thinking and process. Through this experience, Debbie has reshaped the way she creates, understands and utilizes visual elements and engages with the subjects in her work. Debbie explained, “I feel as though I'm moving towards a new direction that has reignited my excitement and passion for creativity.”

Currently, Debbie feels a strong desire to revisit manual techniques. She felt her early forays into the world of art were heavily influenced by commercial priorities, leaving little room for in-depth exploration of drawing techniques. After returning to school where the scope for exploration was wide open, Debbie has re-evaluated her artistic approach and actively tried new techniques to blend into her current style.

Debbie is now working on a personal project that she feels is much deeper and more substantial than her previous creative exploits. This upcoming project will require a lot of research and experimentation on her end. “It's still too early to share details, but I'm finding the process—full of trial and error—both enjoyable and challenging. I'm figuring things out as I go and learning a lot about the topic I'm focusing on, both in terms of technical aspects and content,” she said, closing our discussion.

About the Author

Daud Sihombing

Daud Sihombing has been writing professionally for the past 9 years. This fervent alternative publishing enthusiast prefers his quaint little town over the hustle and bustle of the city and doesn't let sleep stop him from watching every single AS Roma match.