Hues of Hope: The 4th National Watercolor Convention and Juried Members Exhibition

I joined the Philippine Guild of Watercolorists this year.

I was a member of the Facebook group even before I officially joined the organization so I had a feel of what the organization is like. There were many demos and paint along activities all geared towards the improvement of one’s skill. I like that.

When they had call for submission of artwork for a juried exhibit, I wanted to join. The deadline seemed achievable for me so I started planning my piece. The theme was “Hues of Hope” and it is open for artist interpretation.

We all need a tiny speck of hope in this pandemic. I am partial to botanical subjects so I tried to recall what sparked hope for me. I remember my cousin, Azenith, who is still actively working in the frontline in fight against COVID-19. At the beginning of the pandemic, she was stationed at the city’s command center. It was a bare hall since it was setup just for what seemed like a temporary space for emergencies. The mood was somber with looming uncertainty in the atmosphere. She started to bring flower arrangements from our garden to brighten the space. I asked her to send me as many photos as she can for future reference photos. This was in 2020. Little did I know that I would use her photos as inspiration for the exhibit.

These are some of the photos she sent me.

So I created my artwork based of her photos.

I am a tight painter and I do not like spaces. Ha! So the 15″X22″ were filled with pigments.

This is the piece I submitted.

It was a juried exhibit and there were only 55 paintings chosen for the physical exhibit. I am happy that my painting was chosen!

I was thrilled.

The exhibit opened on September 2, 2021 at LRI Design Plaza in Makati City. The opening program was done online due to quarantine restrictions.

This is my first physical exhibit and I won’t be able to visit. I requested my friend to visit the physical exhibit and he sent me these photos.

Hues of Hope is not just a juried exhibit. It is also a watercolor convention. The organizers had lined up a month-long activities-filled calendar. I registered as a participant to get access to the valuable content that would improve my watercolor skills.

I purposely availed of the access that expires by the end of September to force myself to be present in every activity.

No regrets. All the the activities are worth more than the convention fee I paid. I learned a lot and I am excited to apply them to my future art pieces.

Here are the things I learned:

1. I paint with too many strokes. As a tight painter, I am fond using size 2 brushes even with a full sheet watercolor paper. I would take me a week to finish a piece. Imagine my relief to finish a still life painting in 3 hours. This was my output for an on-the-spot still life painting activity. I should try harder to showcase the transparency of watercolor.

2. I can let loose. This is my first paint-along output with Mr Gejo Jimenez doing the demo.

3. I need angle brushes. Ha! It is amazing how Mr Emmanuel Silva did his brush strokes effortlessly and the result was realistic florals. He was using angle brushes. I was following his strokes and mine did not turn out as good. As a botanical painter, I always use small round brushes to get it right. I should practice more.

4. It feels good to be around likeminded individuals who share your interests. Whenever I could, I would join the group zoom activity. These were the on-the-spot painting contests. Even if I did not have a chance winning against these people, it was the fun atmosphere of painting with others that drew me to the activity.

5. I should not be afraid of painting figures. I always choose botanicals for subjects because figures scare me. The demo from Mr Art Cunanan helped me ease through subjects that I avoided. As long as an activity does not affect personal safety and health, it is always good to try something new.

6. I should not be afraid to commit mistakes. In the demo by Sir Uhky-Uhky Estremos, he talked about telling your story, knowing your intentions, not to fear mistakes, to feel good and be happy.

7. I can paint with my left hand. In one fun on-the-spot painting contest, we were all required to paint with our non-dominant hand. The organizers made sure that the non-dominant hand was used by checking them beforehand. We were made to write with our left and right hands and masking tape was placed on our non-dominant hand so that it can easily be identified in the video that we are using it all the time. I even signed with my left hand. Thus, the wobbly signature.

8. I can try to be spontaneous. It is amazing to see how fast Ms Yuko Nagayama worked on her piece! She said that arranging the composition took 60% of her time since she paints using real objects in front of her as reference.

I can relate with Ms Yuko when it comes to not cleaning the palette.  This is my palette.  Much of the green was from the large piece I did last month.

9. Familiarize the subject I am painting. Mr Jayson Yeoh said that the shortcut to being good at what you do is practice, practice, practice. Practice does not really end. His strokes were quick and I saw the abstraction but his whole piece magically transformed before my eyes. Honestly, I thought I wasted my paper trying to follow his style but I am glad I did not give up so easily. I am happy with my output.

10. I must try painting portraits again and again. I watched Mr Dino Pajao and Mr Gilbert Miraflor’s demo but I always avoid painting people. Finally, I tried Mr Dan Macapugay’s demo.  I hope I remember  tips on color combinations for skin tone and leaving whites. I need to practice, practice, practice the drawing part. This output does not look like the reference photo. Ha!

There were a lot more demo artists and talks other than those I mentioned above. I love how the artists talked about their art process as well as the life lessons on being happy, sharing your talent, continuously learning, telling stories, knowing your intentions, being spontaneous, knowing yourself and a lot more. I love how humble they all are. They do not rest on their laurels. They do not shove their achievements to your face. Instead, they let their works speak for them. It is truly inspiring to hear them speak and observe them work. I hope to apply everything I learned to my work and in my life.

I am truly grateful for this convention. The convention activities came at the perfect time. I had something to keep me at home and keep my mind off the rising COVID statistics in my city. Hospitals were full. Oxygen supply was scarce and I was waiting for the 2nd dose of my Sputnik vaccine to arrive. (I got fully vaccinated on September 27!) The convention was my saving grace- Hues of Hope, indeed! Thank you to all those who worked hard to make this convention a success. I felt like I found my kind of people. Thank you for the new Facebook friends, art inspirations and life lessons! My heart is full!

The convention ended today, September 30, but the physical exhibit is still ongoing until October 31, 2021!

And in case you want to join us in PGW,  this is the link: https://phguildofwatercolorists.com/register/membership/

 

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.

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.

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