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 her 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: 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.

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