How I Did Three Versions of One Painting

There is always a story behind every artwork I do. Sometimes, the story would be “I just like to paint this” and sometimes the story presents itself like this piece.

My friend wanted something to put on her wall so that she has painting as a background for her Zoom meetings. I think this request came last year and I only fulfilled it this year. I saw how she set this up in her office. I guess it was no longer for Zoom work-from-home background. Oops, I delivered too late.

Her instruction was to paint something nationalistic. She also wanted something she can readily mount on her wall. This means that I have to paint on a canvas using acrylics. Acrylic is not really my first choice of medium. I am primarily a watercolor artist. I had to rely on what I think would work with my acrylic painting skills. I had to plan what would represent a nationalistic painting given the limited subjects I have done before.

Planning this painting required much thought. There is a theme I need to convey: nationalism. This made me think about the history and culture lessons in school. Ha! So this was my thought process:

1. There must be flowers. I like painting flowers. Maybe, I should paint sampaguita.

2. How about the Philippine flag? Why should I paint a Philippine flag when she can actually hang one on her wall? Ha!

3. How about animals? Carabao, tamaraw, tarsiers, Philippine eagle, perhaps?

4. If I put flowers and animals, is that nationalistic enough? I should put a person with hand on the chest to show respect for flag.

This is what I initially came up with: a field of plants strategically positioned to look like a Philippine flag with Mt. Mayapay in the background. I pushed to paint a person with hand on the chest. I browsed through my friend’s Facebook photos and decided to put a woman with the same dress as her. I added the sash because I saw in one event of her office that they used sash for their honored guests. The woman in the painting does not look like my friend though. I just painted a random face that is formed from my brushstrokes. I figured that she may not want her face in a painting that could be seen in a Zoom call. I added the Philippine eagle because I wanted to fill the space with different subjects.

The red plants are mayanas which supposed to be bounded by a fence made of T’nalak weave of the T’boli. I had trouble replicating the pattern using acrylic so I made a decision to change it to green plants, adding dark blue as shadows. I added white fence as border to make the color pop. On the foreground, I painted white orchids.

It was supposed to be a field of sampaguita but I have not seen a field of sampaguita ever. I do not think it will look like an all-white field. I think it would be patches of greens with specks of whites for the flowers.

I showed the progress of the painting to my friend to check if this is what she had in mind.

She was kind of uncomfortable with the woman I painted because she identifies with her even if the painting did not look like her. (“I think that is me.”) I understand how she might feel awkward because it would seem like she displayed a portrait of herself in her office- a government office, that is. She said she does not mind changing the person into a painting of her son.

So I changed it to a boy in a barong.

But I am not happy with the way I painted his son. The advantage of using acrylic is that I can change and correct it by adding layers of paint. So I changed it again to a woman with her back turned and facing the views.

I think it is nationalistic to nurture and be proud of the beauty of our country.

And that is the story of this painting that has layers of paint underneath. The textures produced on the surface became the visible proof of the heart and soul I put into it. Cheesy much? Ha! The painting was already sealed with a fixative. This is the final piece.

That ends my short art talk. Hehehe! Till next time!

My COVID Stories: Home Repairs and Spring Cleaning

For more than ten years, I have been using a toilet and bath that has a defective flush, uncovered shower drain and leaking sink. Our toilet flushed so well when it worked before because Papa, the mechanical engineer, configured the toilet system with vent pipes. He explained the configuration to me before when I asked why our toilet flushed better than the other house but I forgot the science behind it. Don’t ask me the details. The problem with ours then was that we needed to change the toilet bowl itself. Rust developed and the tank could no longer carry water for flushing. So, for more than ten years, I was using a pail of water to flush my toilet. Yes, more than ten years.

Family and friends who stayed overnight in my house knew this. I had family and friends from first world countries who had to contend with my lousy toilet. They endured the inconvenience and I never heard them say anything bad about their stay. You know you have friends for keeps when they remained friends even after subjecting them to a primitive toilet system.

Finally, I decided to do something about it this year. Since I have been living with an ugly toilet for years, I went beyond the bare minimum and decided to really make it beautiful. I was not aiming for just a repair. I wanted a makeover.

This was day 1 of my toilet renovation. Workers removed everything and started working on the floor and walls. I did not take a “before” photo because that would ruin whatever good reputation I have. Makadaot ug dungog! Hahaha. It was that bad.

I have a 1.8 meter by 1.5 meter toilet and bathroom space. It is fairly small but the space is enough for me. Without further adieu, this is my finished bathroom.

toilet

I bought a pre-fabricated enclosure from a hardware store so I do not have to scout for suppliers or contractors for the enclosures.

shower enclosure

I also chose a narrow sink to save space. The sink is so narrow that I had to gingerly wash my face. Bawal malaki ulo sa sink ko, guys. Hahaha I also found a narrow cabinet from a home store for my toiletries and towels.

bathroom

And I now have a manual bidet. Tabo no more!

toilet

I kept our old louvered door but opted to turn it to sliding one to save space.

louvers

My toiletries are very minimal.

shower

While the workers are still available, I took advantage of tapping them for the minor repairs in my house. I had my leaking roof fixed and some parts in the ceiling had to be replaced. I also had the cabinets in my parents’ room repaired. The house was infested with termites years ago and the damages on the cabinets are still there so I had them fixed.

Fixing the cabinets meant I had to unload everything in it. I still have some of my parents’ things. It has been more than 10 years since they have passed away.

spring cleaning

These are the interesting things I found and each piece has a story to tell of the life we lived.

I found my toy train and letters from friends.

toy train

I remember Papa asking me what I wanted him to buy in Cebu. He and my cousin, Kuya Edwin, went to Cebu to buy materials for the construction of my aunt’s house. I told him that I wanted a toy train since the impressionable child in me saw in a book an illustration of children playing with trains. Papa, the educator, had to chime in that the men on the moon went to Cebu to buy me a toy train. (Papa’s name is Neil. Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, gets?)

I live in Butuan City but I spent my high school in Davao. During summer vacations, I wrote letters to friends to keep in touch with what was happening with their lives. In these letters specifically, they wrote about where they would be enrolling for college.

Speaking of college, I found some IDs I had in college. The library of the UP College of Science then went digital. Library cards were replaced with Borrower’s ID with bar code. And I used to have a student’s discount card for Philippine Airlines. Plane fares are expensive. I only used this a few times when I traveled alone. I usually traveled by ship if I had someone to accompany me.

IDs

I also found my ballet costume. I had ballet lessons for a year and it was supposed to train me to have a better posture. Indeed, I had a better posture when I dance. I could do the pirouettes, plies, arabesque, jete and others. I was told I was a graceful dancer but when I am not dancing, I am back with my bad posture. Ha!

ballet

This is my aunt’s maid of honor dress that she used during my parent’s wedding. The little girl is my cousin who will be turning 50 soon. (I will not identify who she is. In real life, she looks way younger for her age. )

maid of honor

This is my Mama’s wedding gown and Papa’s coat. My parents would have celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary this coming May.

wedding

I also found my father’s job acceptance letter. I was 5 months old when he got a new job at a match company. He was paid Php 950 a month then. I hope it was enough to feed an infant who drank milk like it was water. I was an S26 (milk brand) baby.

letter

I also found a few of their old passbooks. My parents always had a bank account even if their savings were minimal.

passbook

Owning a refrigerator then was a big deal. They were issued with a Certificate of Ownership.

refrigerator

Owning a stereo system required a deed of sale. Wow.

deed of sale

I still have that unit but the different parts are now used as a tables.

stereo

The stuff I found gave a glimpse of how my parents took good care of their things.

I am lucky to inherit their things.

This was my mama’s dresser even before she got married.

dresser

I replaced the mirror, changed the knobs and repainted it. I am now using it in my bedroom.

dresser

There were also things I needed to let go.

This was my parent’s bed. It had been my bed since birth. (I slept in their room until my father’s death. Papa had a separate bed in the room).

bed

This used to be our setup. Mama and I slept in the big bed;Papa in the small one. (My Mama had separation anxiety when it came to me. I was away for school for 8 years.) When Mama died, I slept in the big bed alone and Papa still slept in his bed.

When my father died, I moved to my room but I brought with me the top mattress of the bed.

That is the only bed I had …until recently. The springs were already poking me. Before tetanus kills me, I decided to replace the bed.

I had the carpenter customize the bed for me. I wanted lots of storage space…

bed

…and an upholstered headboard. Voila!

room

Since I wanted a makeover, I decided to rearrange things.

This was how my bedroom used to look which, I think, was already cozy.

my room

This is now my new bedroom with my new bed and mama’s dresser. It is more functional this time around. I painted the artwork so that I have my own art in my own room. I moved my photos over my bed to a different area in the room. The photos still need to be updated. I have new nieces and new dog.

room wide lens

As a postscript to all these stories of repairs and spring cleaning, I also found the house plans that my father kept.

My father had these plans made when he and mama planned to buy a lot in a good subdivision here. They were not able to buy the lot because the money they saved for it was used to help my grandparents redeem their pawned property.

This was supposed to be our house.

house plan

I am kilig that they labeled it “daughter’s bedroom”. My room!

plan

My parents acquired another lot in another subdivision and Papa also had a plan drafted.

 

And there’s the daughter’s bedroom again. Excluding their planned walk-in closet, my room is bigger than theirs. Awww.

plan

I have always wanted a bedroom on the second floor.

But life is what happened when we are busy making other plans.

We did not live in a subdivision. My parents already sold that subdivision lot. We live in a small house in a small barangay. My bedroom is not on the second floor but I would not trade our house for another house. This is home. This will be my home for as long as God allows me.


Oh, I realized my father did build me a second floor bedroom even though I do not live there. I was even part of the planning. I even made a layout using Sketchup. This was the last project I did with Papa.

sketchup

This is my backup home for the zombie apocalypse. hahaha

house

I wish my parents lived longer. We could have done a lot of cool stuff together.

I should go back to cleaning before I get sentimental and bawl over these memories. Grief, they say, is love persevering. Something like that. Writing this post is my excuse for taking a break from cleaning.

I can do this. Aja!

My COVID Stories: I Keep on Painting

We are now a year into this pandemic. I am currently anxious. It is not because of the surge in the number of COVID cases in the country. (Thankfully, the active cases in my city have declined.) It is because I currently have a lot on in my plate right now. I have embarked on a major personal project and I can’t wait for everything to be completed. While that project is still in the works, I take a breather by writing about my art. I have a list of pending commissioned works and the list is growing. Let me take this opportunity to thank all my friends who support my art. I am deeply touched and inspired by all the love you have for the art that I do. I know I am a slow painter. Rest assured, your requests are in queue.

To tick off a lot of pending commissioned works on my list, I started working on my friend’s requests. She wanted four paintings: succulents, fruits, dolphins and an abstract portrait of her daughter. This request was made a long time ago. Like many of those who ordered commissioned works from me, I always tell them that it takes time for me to complete something. Lucky for me, they are willing to wait for their commissioned pieces. Thank you!

I started with the easiest to do since I have done this several times before: succulents. However, this is the first time I am painting succulents using acrylics on a canvas. I am always open to new challenges.


Since I noticed that I really did not know how to estimate the amount of paint to put in my palette, I also simultaneously started another painting so that I could use up the excess pigments I squeeze out of the tubes. Acrylics dry fast. I didn’t want to waste them.


I started painting in the first week of December of 2020. Then, Christmas frenzy happened that I finished this during the first week of January 2021.

The next painting is the dolphin painting. I had to decide if I wanted them jumping over or swimming under the sea. I chose under the sea because I wanted to paint corals, too.


This was supposed to be just like this.

But then, I suddenly wanted to put sun rays illuminating what was underneath.

When I posted this on Facebook, my friend, Grace, said that it looked like a Christian Riese Lassen painting. I googled and his paintings were awe-inspiring. I should have known about him before I started this piece so I could have studied his techniques. But, there is also an advantage of not knowing beforehand. I got to express my vision for the piece the way I imagined it.

This was the piece I was doing along with the succulents and dolphins.


With the 3rd painting for my friend, I visualized abundance so I put as many fruits as I can. I also placed leafy greens in between. Like many of my paintings, I have this need to fill the empty spaces. Is this a reflection of my life? I fill emptiness with art, experiences and memories. Naks! Actually,  I just like to paint something. I am not yet comfortable with plain backgrounds.

While studying some painting techniques, I learned about underpainting. Underpainting is a monochromatic layer of a painting to define its tonal values. This is how the old masters did their paintings before. Think Titian or Vermeer. I am not comparing myself to them but underpainting makes sense because I sometimes apply several mixtures of the pigment to get the right tone. With the underpainting, the tonal values are already set underneath.

This is how it looks before I apply the right colors…

… and this is the result. I liked how it looked that I wanted a photo of me with the painting.


Before I started the 4th painting, I remembered another friend’s birthday. She wanted me to paint calla lilies for her. She has been patiently waiting for me to create a piece for her. We are talking years of waiting. Painting flowers is my kind of break from the challenging commissioned pieces. Painting these calla lilies was a welcomed respite from going through all the details of the previous commissioned piece. I already sent this to her. I am glad she liked it.

A child’s portrait was the last commissioned piece for my friend. I told her I don’t paint portraits because my final painting might not really resemble the subject which is her daughter. She was okay with an abstract version. But then again, I do not do abstract. (For now. I still cannot understand it. Someday, I hope I learn how to do it.) So I decided I just paint it the way I know how.

There were many permutations of the face until I finally settled on the last piece. The people in my house said it was close enough and I also sent it to my friend. She was happy with the piece so I am relieved.

As I said earlier, I always want to fill the spaces with objects so I painted her as a flower girl in a garden. Some objects are not done in the correct scale. Those birds may look bigger than they really are but I did not fuss about it anymore. It is my imagination anyway.

It is ironic that I made 6 acrylic paintings for the past 3 months when I am primarily a watercolor artist. And recently, I finally joined the Philippine Guild of Watercolorists.


To give honor to my first love- watercolor, I painted 6 landscape postcards in watercolor. Thanks to generous friends who allowed me to use their travel photos as references.

I read something like this somewhere: If I complete 2 paintings every week, I would end up with 104 paintings in a year! As much as I want to be a prolific painter, how do I paint 2 pieces in a week when I can only complete one in almost a month? Ha! I really paint according to my moods, feelings and with a lot of free time. I do not paint under pressure and I paint when I am happy. But then again, my art may evolve someday though. My moods may change. Till then, I keep on painting.

My COVID Stories: My Art Journey Continues

title page

It has been six years since I started picking up that brush again and thirty one years since I learned how to paint. Yes, I learned how to paint from the womb. Nah, I am a relic. Ha!

At the start of the year, I wrote about getting my hands into digital illustrations. I had plans of getting a cheap graphics tablet just to get some creative juices flowing. We all know that many of our plans for this year did not happen. I only created a single digital illustration this year. There was a toon me challenge on Instagram where you turn into cartoon the half of youf face. This was my take on that challenge.

illustration

On the positive side, I had ample time to do some watercolor artworks.

I have packs of postcard sized watercolor paper. So I started practicing painting dews. It is always a challenge for me to paint any form of water.

dew watercolor

So this is the first artwork for 2020.

leaf dew
And then Taal happened. I saw a video of the plumes of the erupting volcano.

taal volcano

Whenever I have pockets of free time, I paint on the watercolor postcards. A rocky brook, this time around.

I realized that I also made a rocky landscape 5 years before and I think I improved a lot.

I really think that constant practice matters. But then again, my art is also fueled with those intangible things like mood, inspiration and feelings. I think no amount of practice would help improve my art when those things are amiss. Even if I have the time but I do not have the inspiration, I don’t paint. There are no deadlines for me. But that’s just me. Other artists operate differently.

I always try to challenge myself. I have always avoided painting people because they look like caricatures when I paint them. Then I figured I will just paint the back view. Thus, this postcard piece. The reference photo is from unsplash.com.

And I tried to paint something metallic.

My aunt celebrated her 60th birthday last year. I had no gift. Ha! I was supposed to give her a koi painting after she expressed that she wanted one when she saw what I painted for a cousin. She wanted something bigger. I was not able to paint one for her birthday. I think it is never too late to give her one especially that I have a reference photo from the only place in the world with the widest variety of koi- Nishikigoi No Sato!

So after painting non-flowers, I had to go back to botanicals. Flowers are still my favorite subject for paintings.


By March, a friend messaged me if I have a painting that I can donate to a fund drive to help fire victims here in my city. There was a huge fire in a densely populated area. Many of the victims were informal settlers who took refuge in the community covered court. I had paintings in my file but they were unframed so I made one with a subject that has been brewing in my mind for a while.


Then COVID-19 happened. Although it has been on the news since the end of January before we left for Baguio, it was March 15 when community quarantine started and we were supposed to go to Dinagat by March 20 so it was cancelled. I can only dream of the sunrise/sunset by the sea.

My cousin also sent me bunch of beach photos. He had a bright idea to go to Batangas before the community quarantine. I sighed and I just painted.

The quarantine was really getting to my nerves. My stress level was up. My projects for the rest of the month were cancelled so I stayed at home, dreamt of nature and painted.


Somehow I needed to keep my mind off the internet for periods of time in a day. What better way to do that than paint a very detailed subject. Strawberries.


Those little specks in the indentations are actually the seeds. Thinking about it now that I am gardening, we should have saved some seeds! Here’s a backstory: These strawberries are the ones we bought in Baguio. They were huge so we were really enticed to buy even if it was expensive. The vendor told us it would last a week. We just have to leave it in room temperature in its packaging. Fast forward to 5 days after while we were still in Manila, the strawberries had molds. My inner brazen self was telling me that I could eat the parts without molds. Hahaha My cousin who is a nurse insisted that these should be discarded. We should listen to our health workers, right? So we threw away Php 900. Ouch. This painting was my therapy. A friend offered to buy it so that is also my therapy. 😉

strawberries
There were other things that occupied my time while in quarantine. And many of us are familiar with these scenes. *wink wink*


The thing with art is that I always try to challenge myself with something new. This time around I wanted to paint realistic hair. I found a Youtube video detailing how to paint hair and I applied what I learned in this piece.


On the other hand, this piece is not a new concept. However, this is a testament how my art is about how I feel and how I see things. I just wanted to paint peonies. Ha! This is the original piece.


I feel like it was too plain.  So I painted a dark background to make it pop.


Now I kind of miss the old painting. This is the trouble with watercolor. I cannot undo what I did unless I repaint everything. I just have to live with it. Just like life. (Naks! May reflections?)

I was also invited to an online art sale and exhibit, Love in the Time of COVID-19. Thirty percent of the proceeds of the sale was used to support relief operations for micro and small entrepreneurs, artists and designers that are affected by the pandemic. I sold seven paintings for that cause. Some of the paintings were made years ago. I just kept them for my dream art gallery. Yes, in my dreams, I will have my own art gallery. I guess the art gallery of my dreams had to wait. (Wala kang pera, Kat!)

The last two paintings, I did them in May which I also included in the art sale after the other paintings were sold. I am thankful for those who appreciated my art- most of them my friends. When you get such support from the people around you, you realize that not everything is bad in this pandemic. My friends also bought pieces from my artist friends. Thank you so much, friends! I feel the love! I have framed some of the works my friends bought.


My friend in Japan lives Niigata where COVID cases and population density are so low that they can spend their weekends outdoors. During cherry blossoms season, she sent me a lot of dreamy landscapes. They were so beautiful I could cry! So I painted them. I painted two pieces so far and I have at least two more planned when I have the time.


My cousin’s birthday came up and I promised her a painting. She wanted koi after she saw my aunt’s painting. I no longer want to paint koi for a while. I do not have a decent reference photo that I truly love to replicate. I told her I don’t want to repeat the same concept in my painting. Since her name is Cherry, I painted cherry blossoms for her. I even wore my dress that I painted with cherry blossoms.

I was busy with work from May to July so I was only able to find few pockets of time to finish a commissioned piece which almost has the concept of three paintings this year- the back view of a woman. This time, I painted the side view and placed a lot of red roses since the recipient loves red roses.

I shipped this framed painting without glass but it was protected with cold wax – the same way I did with my largest painting to date.


July was world watercolor month and I wish I did a few pieces but I just couldn’t find time to paint. I really do not paint that fast. I take my time. I plan how to execute it. It is a therapeutic process for me. I wish I can be prolific but I am not and it is okay. I still have a number of commissioned pieces on my list and I am thankful for the trust. I’ll take it one rest day at a time since, surprisingly, I still have projects coming in my other job. I thank God for the opportunities because, with this pandemic, my thoughts often wander. Should I find new ways to earn a living? Should I start a full-time creative business with my art? I tread this path carefully. Austin Kleon wrote in his book, ‘Keep Going’: “One of the easiest ways to hate something you love is to turn it into your job: taking the thing that keeps you alive spiritually and turning it into the thing that keeps you alive literally.” Art truly feeds my soul so I try to nurture it well. I try to keep it that way.

But then again he also said something about keeping a daily routine with art which I do not have yet. So far what I do is to challenge myself with a few techniques once in a while and I try to improve on what I already know. Hopefully, in time, I find my own rhythm and continue to produce pieces I really love. Never mind if others do not like it. I paint really for myself and, if others appreciate it, it is already a bonus. Art really helped me ease my anxiety with the pandemic. I get to create scenes I wish to see even if I am stuck in my little corner in this world. I hope I continue to find inspiration in the world around me no matter how bleak things are. I hope everyone struggling in this pandemic is able to figure out how to cope in these trying times.

 

More Digital Illustrations in 2020!

It is January 4. It is already 2020 and I still feel sluggish. I think I needed a break from the holiday break.  I probably feel this way because I was still working until December 27 at 11:57 p.m. emailing my report to the client. I was the one who chose that deadline so I should be able to commit to it. I put pressure on myself and I barely made it. I submitted in the nick of time.  So since then, I was embracing my free time- waking up late. I scheduled activities late in the afternoon like paying bills and meeting friends.

I had so many wonderful plans to jumpstart the New Year. I planned to wake up early and start walking. I planned to start cleaning up my room.  I planned to do more art. I planned to write my pending blog posts.  I was reading people’s posts about their past 10 years. I think I had an interesting 2010s and I wanted to write about it but it meant digging up photos and memories. I could not continue without shedding a tear.  I spent the past ten years of my life without my parents and I was able to survive it unscathed but with a lot of inner struggles.  It would take time for me to write about that so I decided to write about something else. (Galing ng segue ko. Ang haba ng sinabi. LOL) Oh, well. Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.

So, let me write about this new art form I tried the past year- digital illustration.  People who know me know that I do a lot of watercolor paintings. I love doing it but it is something I do with intent and the intention is to do it well. So I take my time. Every output I do is planned. I try not to commit mistakes because my art materials are expensive. (Don’t tell my Tita.) I cannot just paint and then throw them away after just because I did not feel good about them.  This made digital illustrations attractive to me. For the times I feel like doing art and I cannot commit them on paper, I can do digital illustrations. I can always erase, edit and redo digital illustrations. And to do that, I use Adobe Photoshop since I am most comfortable with that application.  I just needed to practice the pen tool.  This game is very helpful in getting me acquainted and be at ease with the pen tool. https://bezier.method.ac/

My first digital illustration was this anemone. I think I only drew two flowers and tried to create patterns. This is the pattern in one square.

And when you try to put multiple squares side-by-side, the flowers connect. Cool, eh?

I needed inspiration in doing digital illustrations so I turned to Instagram. I followed illustrators and hashtags. I found out that there was an illustration challenge running at that time. It was #urbanjungleweek. Those who want to join were asked to create an illustration interpreting the prompt of the day. There were prompts given like succulents, park, edible and wild.

This is what I made for succulents. Since I was new to digital illustration, it took me the whole day to finish this one. I was using the track pad of my laptop. Dragging and clicking were tests of the dexterity of my fingers. Ha! I liked the way it turned out.

The next prompt was park. I am bad at drawing people so I only drew a girl on a swing. This is such a lonely park. Haha

The prompt here was edible. Those who organized this challenge may have meant this prompt as edible plants. I interpreted it as any food. When I did this, I was on low-carb diet so I was deprived of all these yummy goodness.

This ‘wild’ prompt was just a mishmash of wild plants.

When the #urbanjungle challenge was over, I was compelled to practice more so I did an interpretation of a Bailey Zindel photo, a digital illustration of hydrangeas and a landscape scene of Dinagat (since I just came from a vacation then).

I also joined the flora and fauna challenge in August and the prompts were water, tropical, mountain, desert and forest. These were my outputs.

I love these challenges because I get to practice and I also get to see what others did by clicking the hashtags on Instagram.

So for 2020, I hope to join more challenges, improve the skills and expand my illustration portfolio.

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