My COVID Stories: My Art Journey Continues

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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.

How I Painted My Biggest Piece to Date and Why it Took Me Almost Three Months to Display it

Or maybe we should call this the post with the longest title!  Ha!

My art journey is slow and steady. I do not get to do art as much as I like this year but whenever I find pockets of time, I try to do one piece.  To keep the inspiration burning, I try to immerse myself in the creative world by visiting museums and exhibits in between leisure and work trips.  I also try to observe my surroundings, be in the moment and find inspiration around me.

I found that pocket of time in August, right after my trip to Baler.  This idea has been brewing in my head for some time. I wanted a piece of my own art in my own wall. I already bought my A1 size watercolor paper in June. My plan was already in motion. To visualize an A1 paper, it is 8 times the size of an A4 paper. Arrange two rows of four A4 paper in portrait orientation to get an A1 size paper.

So for a size that big, what should I paint? No question, it has to be something botanical.  I have files of plants and flowers I wanted to paint. I always check those files for inspiration. I decided on succulents because it is an ode to my inability to grow them.  I have tried growing them several times before. They always die. Painting them is the best alternative.

Painting a large piece requires me to allot space in my dining/office table.

Painting is really therapeutic. It feeds my soul so I always take my time. I do not hurry.  It is a pleasurable experience for me so I savor the moment.  (Ang drama ko! Haha)

What I enjoy most about painting succulents is that there are different varieties. It was an exciting process to paint the details of the different varieties.

Painting can be a cerebral process when you try to decide how you are going to add depths to the piece and where to add those specks to show texture and dimension.

Painting is an exercise of planning skills.  Since I taped the edges of the paper unto my table, I covered the piece with sheets of bond paper every time I was not working on it. I always emptied my water cup and placed my palette away from the table to avoid mishaps.  (Imagine this scenario: a lizard walking on my palette and over my painting. I do not want that to happen.)

I also used these pieces of paper to cover painted areas to prevent myself from touching those areas.

Painting tested my EQ, which I know I barely have. My initial plan was just to finish this with a white background.  This is supposedly the finished painting.

But no matter how I want to avoid mishaps, this happened. No use crying over spilled paint, right?  

So I added other details little by little.

I added more succulents until I was finally done with this finished piece.

I sent this to the framer and I finally have my own painting in my living room.

Well, not quite.

Since this is a watercolor painting on paper, this was framed behind a glass to protect it from the elements.   Large painting + glass= heavy painting.  So I kept the painting on my sofa reinforcing it with pillows. I was still trying to figure out how to hang this heavy painting.  I thought of buying brackets and additional screws but I was not able to find time to go to a hardware store.

Let me say that painting can be a test for AQ- Adversity Quotient. I recently learned about AQ from my smart friends. An adversity quotient is a score that measures the ability of a person to deal with adversities in his or her life.  I must admit that I have a really low EQ but I think I have a reasonable AQ score.

So here is the story. The painting had been sitting on my couch for weeks. My aunt kept asking me when am I going hang my painting but I was busy so I never had time.  One fine Sunday, my friends came for a visit. We were waiting for another friend.  (I feel like I am writing a blind item of some chismis column! Ha.) When the friend came he/she went to sit on the couch.  Our dog, Christian, was barking hard because he saw a new face. I directed him to smell the new visitor so he would feel at ease but instead of smelling, he jumped at the visitor prompting the visitor to lean back. Then I heard the cracking sound of my breaking heart chos of the glass.

I looked at my friend’s back and I saw no blood.  I was relieved.  My friend was apologetic. I told my friend not to worry about it too much as I do not have attachment to things.  Attachment to people, yes.  Chos! (Notice my effort of not identifying my friend.)

This is where my high adversity quotient comes in. (Buhat sariling bangko moment?)  It was easy to just have it re-framed but I would still have the same predicament as before. How do I hang the heavy frame?  Many watercolor artists have the same dilemma as me. How does one frame the painting without the glass? Glass is heavy and it adds glare when you tried to view the painting. A quick Google search led me to a painting technique-  apply cold wax. Cold wax is a substance often used to oil paintings as a medium and sealant.  Apparently, you can use it for watercolor paintings.

So when I went to Japan, I looked for cold wax from an art store there and they did not have it.  When I went back to Manila, I also went to Fullybooked and Art Bar but they did not have it.

I finally found an online store that carries it. Yay! I also bought a fixative as a backup.  I had work for the month of November so the wax application was put on hold.

Finally I found some free time in the first week of December so I worked on applying the wax. At first, I used a cleaning cloth to apply the wax but it seemed like the product was absorbed by the cloth .

So I used the best tool in the world- my hands. It really was easier to use my fingers because I could feel which part of the surface still needed to be waxed.

Waxing made the colors pop and it protects the surface from the elements. Plus, I did not have to buy brackets. The painting was light and easy to hang.


 Look at that!

I have finally decorated my living room for Christmas and hanged my painting!

All’s well that ends well.

My Inspiration Cup Overflows at ManilArt 2019

Whenever I visit Manila, I always try to do something worthwhile other than being stuck in traffic or trapped in a blackhole like a mall. I guess the Universe (or Facebook and Instagram algorithm, haha ) really knows what I enjoy that this sponsored ad appeared on my feed. When I saw this, my artsy fartsy heart did a happy dance.

The art fair was around the time I was in Manila after that Japan trip. I was able to drag my friends to SM Aura to see the artworks. I am thankful that these friends always say yes to my requests to accompany me to activities I enjoy. I always prefer experiences over shopping. The only shopping I always find myself having a hard time resisting is shopping for art materials, notebooks and pens.

ManilArt is dubbed as the country’s biggest visual arts fair and it was!

Ok, before I bombard this piece with lots of praises for the art fair, let me tell you first about something I hated. No, hate is a strong word. Something I dislike. No, more like something that makes me freak out deep inside my being. Ha! In the Japan trip, my friend, Gail, would have a heightened spider radar whenever we were surrounded by trees while I would have an unnamed creature alarm in my system whenever It gets dark and there is a grass. So at SM Aura, my alarm system is on rest because we are inside a mall. It was in the afternoon. There was no grass. Not! As soon as I stepped inside the hall, my eyes went straight to a large art installation of more than two dozens of the unnamed creature I feared most. I think it was some sort of a statement about the quest of finding a prince. (May time pa talaga ako magexplain no?) I quickly walked to the next set of display.

Good thing the next display area was awe-inspiring that I forgot about that frightening installation. This artist immediately became my favorite among all the artists showcased in ManilArt. Say hello to the works of Roel Obemio.

This is entitled”After the Girl with a Pearl Earring”. It is his take on a popular Vermeer painting but injected with modern theme.

He made the same approach with Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus”. He named this “After Venus”.

Here are his other works.

Roel is from Cagayan de Oro. Yay! A fellow Bisaya! (Feeling close agad, Kat! LOL) Anyway, he used to work for the Philippine animation studio of Hanna-Barbera (Yogi bear, Flintstones, Scooby Doo). I can see the influences in his storybook kind of paintings.

The amazing thing is that all his paintings had a dot in the labels. His paintings sold out!

Since I could no longer buy his paintings (kasi wala ka namang pambayad, Kat), I just opted to have my picture taken with the paintings. (Palusot!)

This series is cute. The characters are wearing Filipiniana but with a twist. One is holding a designer handbag. Another is holding a paintbrush. The last one is wearing a Minnie Mouse hat while holding McDonald’s french fries.

I will give you a run-through of all the other works (from other artists) that I love.

This is Shirly’s favorite painting because she is a coffee lover. This is Francis Nacion’s work. I love his colorful painting plus his paintings are in these gorgeous custom frames made by skilled carvers from Pampanga.

There are sculptures in the art fair. Can you see us in that piece in the wall?

Ramon Orlina’s glass sculptures are also in display but I stayed away because I was afraid I might accidentally bump the display. It would truly give me a heart attack if that happened.

I always gravitate towards realism. This one is made by an Iranian artist, Ali Esmaeilipour. I am a fan of Araceli Dans’ lace in paintings and that lace in Ali’s work reminded me of Dans.

I like how Ram Mallari was able to create a work of art from scrap metal.

Here’s my friend, Gail, looking at the details of Arnica Acantilado’s work.

This one is a take on John William Waterhouse’s painting of the Lady of Shalott from a poem by Lord Alfred Tennyson. The difference from the original is that there is no child in the boat and no floating lantern in the Waterhouse painting. It is interesting how this painting is also an inspiration in Ghibli. I saw a print of this painting inside the museum. Ghibli artists studied the works of Waterhouse to understand how he used colors.

This is a lovely bronze sculpture. I forgot who made this.

This is Argee Dacuyan’s ” Mag-iisang Tatanda” and “Nag-iisang Ilaw”. Ouch!

I stalked spied Romulo Galicano talking to some art patrons. I could have walked up to him and asked for a photo but he might start talking about art and discover that I am a poser. LOL. I do not know how to talk art so I just observed from afar.

This is his work.

It is fit for a museum. It is called ‘Ominous’. It is his take on the aftermath of Yolanda. That beautiful lady is mother earth struggling with the devastation. The angel of death is in the background. At first glance, it is a beautiful painting but after you have seen the details, it is also a sad, sad one. I think that is the purpose of art – to stir your soul.

I like happy paintings so after looking at all the pieces, Roel Obemio is still my favorite artist in ManilArt2019.

But my favorite painting is Efren Carpio’s Prutas. I think I have sent a photo of this piece to a lot of friends because I think the concept is really clever.

Did you get what it is all about? I remember older people telling me before that if I swallow a santol seed, the tree would grow inside my body. Efren Carpio was able to tell that story in this painting. Clever!

My takeaway at the ManilArt: The Philippine Art Scene is exciting. My inspiration cup overflows.

Hope to see this art fair again next year! Behind me are JP Pining’s works.

One Musical, Two Museums, Loads of Dimsum and Overflowing Inspiration

Metro Manila is not really a favorite destination of mine. There is so much traffic. It is so crowded. It really drains my energy. Navigating its streets is always a challenge. Nonetheless, there is no other way around it but to just face it. The place is unavoidable for someone like me who loves to travel. Metro Manila is a hub for a lot ot things I love. I just have to learn to survive and find a way to get the most of what it has to offer. And that was just what I did last March.

I knew that the musical “Ang Huling El Bimbo” was running in the Resorts World in March and I wanted to watch it. With the trip to Korea coming up, I worked on fixing my schedule to allow me time to watch the musical. “Ang Huling El Bimbo” is a musical featuring Eraserheads songs. The Eraserheads was the band of my generation so it was easy to convince three of my friends to watch “El Bimbo” with me. Incidentally, three of us went to the same university as the band members who rose to popularity while we were still gnawing our way in the dog-eat-dog world of college life. The scenes and some of the drama easily brought us back to our teenage years because the cast and their performances were awesome. I did not mind the possible neck strain of the partially distracted view of the stage because I bought the cheapest tickets. My view shifted every now and then from the stage to the large screen on the left where they projected the video. My friend got a good deal of ribbing from me for crying during some heartbreaking scenes. It was my way of fending off that tear that was trying to break free from my lacrimal glands. I really enjoyed the show. I look forward to watching more Filipino musicals!

I had a day to spare in Manila so I asked my friend, Shirly, to accompany me to visit the museums. Our first stop was the National Museum of Fine Arts. The museum was heaven for me since I love to paint. Immediately, when one entered the main gallery, Juan Luna’s Spoliarium stood with such jaw-dropping splendor. It covered almost the entire wall of the gallery. Incidentally, Eraserheads had a song of the same title and it was a soundtrack playing in my head while looking at the painting.

Spoliarium is so grand!

The museum had different galleries featuring different Filipino artists. Many of Juan Luna’s works were displayed. One notable painting is the Portait of a Lady. Esquire published a comprehensive history of the painting and it was a very interesting.

Another Juan Luna painting being displayed was The Parisian Life which was acquired by GSIS for around Php 45 million.

These were the other paintings/displays that caught my eye.

These sketches of Fernando Amorsolo gave a glimpse of the painting process of the national artist known for depicting rural scenes. One could see that there was a lot of planning being done to create a masterpiece.

It became easy for me to spot an Amorsolo painting.

A new favorite of mine is Vicente Manansala. I was drawn to his painting because it was a little modern, colorful and it was done in watercolor, my favorite medium.


This is another Manansala work.

I am not really intro abstract but I like this Jose Joya work. (Yung feeling na parang kaya ko naman ito gawin siguro pero hindi ko maexplain or mainterpret ang painting. hahaha)

And I am a fan of Araceli Dans’ lacework.

After immersing ourselves with all the artworks, off we went to the National Museum of Natural History. The museum was opened last year and it housed a lot of specimens of Philippine zoology, botany and geology.

There is a atrium in the middle which makes the space bright and airy.

The remains of Lolong, once dubbed as the worlds largest crocodile in captivity, can be found here. The bones are displayed suspended from the ceiling.

The ‘taxidermied’ crocodile can also be found in the one of the displays.

It was funny that I wanted to visit this museum but only to realize later that there was one particular animal that I was (and still am) afraid of and I knew that it would be displayed in one form of another (a photo, drawing, taxidermy or the real one inside a jar of formalin). Before we walked through an exhibit hall, I would ask my friend, Shirly, to see first if there was such a display. And indeed, in some halls, the display of such animal existed. Hah! I looked like this frightened woman in a horror house. I always took a peek first at the surrounding and spot the possible area that might had that kind of display. Yes, I could be crazy and paranoid with my phobia. All in all, it was a pleasant experience.

After all the walking around, we were done with the museum-hopping, we decided to go to binondo. I wanted my milk tea , dimsum and milk tea fix. Not counting the trip to the 168 mall years ago, this was my first time to walk around the streets of Manila’s Chinatown. My first order of business was to visit Eng Bee Tin.

This is Shirly and our Milk tea order. Hi, Shirl!

We dropped by this dimsum place. The place was small but teeming with waiting customers and they only sell this type of dimsum. I think the draw was that it was freshly made every time. Oh, I want this one product kind of business.

And off we went to Greenbelt to meet up with friends. Metro Manila is not that bad after all if you plan your day right.

And because I had a lot of art inspirations, I was pretty productive after the trip. I hope to paint more.

Push lang, Kat! 😉

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