My Journey to the 35th Kulay Sa Tubig

I learned about Kulay Sa Tubig when I started following watercolor artists on Instagram. Once you follow one, the algorithm suggests another one. I learned that most of the Filipino watercolorists I admire have joined or won in Kulay Sa Tubig. At the back of mind then, I was wondering how I can be part of it.

So what is Kulay Sa Tubig?

Kulay Sa Tubig is the Philippines’ longest running and most prestigious invitational watercolor competition. This year is their 35th year of the competition which was started by Gallery Genesis’ founder, Araceli “Chichi” Salas. Dexter Matilla wrote that for almost four decades, the Kulay Sa Tubig Invitational Watercolor Competition by Gallery Genesis has remained as the highest standard by which Filipino aquarelle artists are measured- techniques, composition, precision, balance and the choice of subject are scrutinized by the most discerning eyes.

Every year, Gallery Genesis screens first-time artists to join the competition.

Two years ago, I saw a call for entries for Kulay sa Tubig. I sent my portfolio then and got a rejection letter a few days after.

The rejection email was my motivation. I also understand why I got rejected. In the early 2021, the art activities I have done then were the online auctions in support for COVID-19 frontliners. I have just joined the Philippines Guild of Watercolorists (PGW). I have not participated in any PGW activity yet. I have not really shown my art with fellow watercolorists. I have not gauged my skill level. I was an overzealous kid who thought she was ready to compete with the best artists. The universe has a way to put me in my place.

So for the past two years, I focused on improving my art. This is something I love doing so I might as well push myself to be better at doing it.

I joined Hues of Hope in 2021. It was juried exhibit and I was fortunate to be included to participate in the physical exhibit.

I joined Mindanao Art in 2021 with this watercolor piece as an entry.

I enrolled in Emmanuel Silva’s Masterclass to improve my skills. By the way, Sir Emman is one of the top 5 watercolorists in the 35th Kulay sa Tubig. He also had awards in the past Kulay sa Tubig competitions. Look at his winning piece! Magnificent!

I joined the Japan International Watercolor Institute’s International Watercolor Exhibition 2022 online.

I joined the PGW Pagsibol exhibit in 2022. I got a Vendor’s Choice Award. I got a Daniel Smith Alvaro Castagnet watercolor set as a prize.

I got accepted to join the Fabriano in Acquarello 2023 International Exhibition in Italy.

My painting was shipped there together with other artists’ entries. This is the photo of the actual exhibit.

I was thrilled to be selected as 1 of the 8 finalists from the Philippines for the International Masters of Watercolour Alliance’s 2023 Goddess of Beauty International Watercolour Online Exhibition celebrating International Women’s Day.

All these juried exhibits that I joined in gave me confidence to try my luck again in the 35th Kulay sa Tubig screening. I sent my portfolio and other requirements when I learned about the call for pre-screening for first-time artists (those who have not participated in the competition) .

Imagine the thrill I got when I received this email.

I passed the first round of screening! It is a great improvement from two years ago. The second round was an interview process and at the end of the interview, I was asked to submit a piece for approval.

So I reflected hard on what to paint. During the interview, Gallery Genesis President Patrice Salas said that Maam Chichi took notice of my white flowers. I knew I had to paint flowers. I was thinking of sampaguita (jasmine). I had painted a piece before. However, I do not have a new reference photo. Our own sampaguita in the garden has not yet bloomed. I thought of white santan and looked through my photos if I have one. For exhibits like this, I always want to use my own photos or photos take by friends where I can get their permission explicitly. The problem is I do not have a reference photo in my file. I remember going to Butuan National Museum and noticed the santan bushes. One afternoon, I specifically went there to take photos of santan. There were no white santan clusters so I settled for the pink ones. I picked three photos and combined them to come up with a composition I like.

These are my progress photos.

I added ants for fun. I remember last year that I painted santan for a collector and he suggested to put ants as an “easter egg” like in video games (something to look for). A friend also suggested before to put animals to my floral pieces to add interest and movement. So, here is my final work.

The overthinker in me created another piece so that Gallery Genesis has something to choose from. I also submitted a week before the deadline so that if none of my pieces gets the approval, I still have time to paint another. Yes, that is how I wanted to be part of the Kulay sa Tubig so badly. Good thing, they chose the santan.

The title of my piece is Santan Foragers. Can you spot the ants?

For this piece, I wrote: My art is always a form of storytelling about the world around me. What seems to be a whimsical and nostalgic ode to my childhood memories of sipping the sweet nectar of the santan flower has turned into a reflection of how I find inspiration in nature. These tiny ants may be unnoticeably small but behind their miniscule size lies strength, perseverance, hard work and commitment in achieving a goal. It is something I aspire. It is beautiful how nature has a way of teaching me the calm, quiet grace and veiled astuteness of an ant and the generous character of a santan (by producing multiple clusters of flowers that we can enjoy).

During the interview, Ms. Patrice asked me if I would be attending the opening if I get selected. I said, “Yes!”. I had purchased Cebu Pacific Travel Passes in anticipation of the art activities I wanted to attend in Manila this year. Talk about manifesting!

So last July 31, 2023, I was in SM Megamall Fashion Hall for the opening of the competition/ exhibit. I took a photo before the opening. I saw my painting from afar. Kilig!

I went before 6 p.m. and immersed myself with all the art. I tried not tear up with the thought that I was accepted to compete with these artists. I really feel honored to be part of this competition. So many awesome art! My heart is happy.

This is my favorite piece and it is one of the Top 5. I am really drawn towards realism and, for this one, I took a closer look. I wanted to learn how to paint light. One day, I am going to try it.

I was there when the Top 5 entries was announced and I was able congratulate Kevin Lacanaria. I was standing two feet behind him when his name was announced last of top 5 watercolorists this year. He really cried when he heard his name. I read his story and something resonated with me. Like me, his first attempt to join was in 2021 and he did not pass the first round. Unlike me, he tried again last year and passed. This year, he really made it his goal to be at least one of the runners up. He got one of the top honors. What an inspiration! He is an example that if you set goals and work hard to reach that goal, eventually, God, the universe or whatever supreme being you believe in will lead you to it. This is also proof that Kulay Sa Tubig levels the playing field for watercolorists. Whether you are a seasoned or a young artist, you are given the same platform and opportunity to showcase your talent and compete. Thank you, Gallery Genesis!

During the opening, I also met PGW members I used to only see online. I was happy to meet Ms. Joanne Gacayan, Ms. Le Sanchez and Mr. Arvino Yanuario.

I am thankful for friends who came to visit the exhibit: Sir Fred, Wilbert, Karen, Alan, Hannah and Sir Bogs.

I hope to join again next year. My inspiration cup is overflowing. Thank you, Gallery Genesis!

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10 Things I Learned from the Watercolor Florals Masterclass

Early October last year, I learned that Emmanuel Silva was offering a watercolor florals masterclass. I have been following his Facebook page and he paints realistic watercolor art. I really wanted to learn how. Flowers are the subjects I paint the most and I wanted to paint them realistically so I enrolled.

Classes were conducted online through zoom. There were six reference photos to be turned into a watercolor pieces. At least two 4-hour sessions per week were devoted to the lesson. In case I missed a session, videos of the lessons were saved in a Google classroom which I have a lifetime access. The advantage of being present while the teacher paints was that I could ask questions which he could instantly answer. We did have a messenger group where one could also ask questions to the teacher or chat with other classmates. Before each session, the teacher posted the reference photo, his pencil drawing of the reference photo and the materials to be used.

The first piece was the terry flared tulips. The special feature of the piece was that there was a crochet doily on the table and it required the use of a masking fluid. A masking fluid is a liquid you can paint on an area that you do not want to be colored. The fluid leaves a thin film on the paper that prevents pigment from seeping which can be removed when it dries.

This was the first time I used a masking fluid.

This was how it looked when removed.

I clearly missed some parts that were supposed to be masked. I had a clear masking fluid so I thought I masked them all.

Because I missed some areas to be masked, I got specks of the background in the petals. The doily also looked like it had some rips because of the unmasked parts. Let us just say that this is part of the charm of my piece. Ha! I continued following Sir Emman’s video until I finished it.

I gave this artwork as an exchange gift in a Christmas party with other artists. Another artist can now nitpick on my mistakes. Ha! I am a brave one. I should have thought this through when I chose a work as exchange gift.

The next piece was white peonies on porcelain. The special features of this painting that I must be able to work on were the white blooms, porcelain jar and the velvety fabric.

I botched the fabric.

This was the first time I learned about glazing in watercolor. Glazing is adding a wash over an underpainting. The underpainting sets the tone of the piece and when it dries, another transparent wash is painted over it to get the final color. Final color pops. In my case, I forgot to let the underpainting dry. When I applied the wash, the underpainting was wiped off with my strokes. Arggh.

Lesson learned. I just painted it the way I would paint it had I not taken the class. I need to be mindful of the mistake next time.

The third painting was the one with yellow daffodils. The special feature of this painting were the yellow daffodils, earthenware jar and the wooden table.

Knowing how I botched my cloth in the previous piece, I was careful this time around.

I realized also that I do not have that much yellow pigments in my watercolor selection of tubes.

For now, I just have to make the most of what I have.

The fourth piece was the white glory bush. The special features of this piece are the dewdrops and the dark, shiny leaves. This is my best output in the masterclass. (Ako lang ang judge, guys. hahaha ) After this, I felt like I can start painting all the reference photos in my files all these years.

I was amazed how the dark shiny leaves were done-just quick strokes, pure pigment and lots of confidence- that it would turn out okay.

This photo is the proof that I really did this painting. Hahaha

I love the bokeh effect of the background. (Buhat bangko moment haha)

The fifth piece was the one with roses, peonies and mocks. This is the only piece that the teacher did not use a masking fluid to protect the blooms. I tried to keep the background as light as possible that when I left it to dry I thought I had wax paper over it when I glanced over it.

Instead of masking, the teacher used a wash of the background and lifting the paint in the blooms part. Lifting the paint is done by removing the wash with a clean brush and clean water.

Of the six reference photos, this is the piece I wanted to paint the most. I like the colors and the dreamy feel of the piece. Of the six pieces, this output is the least that I like. I was not precise with the lifting of background to make way for the blooms. I missed a few spots because I can no longer see the pencil marks. I was painting by following the teacher’s strokes. I was also not that careful with adding another layer of wash that it does not look as flat as I wanted it to be. Maybe I will go through it some other time and correct my mistakes so for now, this is how it looks.

Christmas time came and I don’t know why I was swamped with things to do. The holiday came like a blur but my heart was happy. I was only able to do the 6th piece by mid-January. By this time, the masterclass was long over and I was trying to get my painting groove back as I have art pieces and commissions that I still have to do this year.

The sixth piece was an assortment of blooms in a glass jar. The special features of this piece were the varied blooms, foliage and the dark green background. I did not check the color guide in the google classroom. I just followed the video and when I did not have the perylene green pigment, I just mixed the greens that I have so I ended up having a lighter shade.

I still forget about the wash covering the pencil marks that I no longer got to see which parts I was painting. I was following the teacher’s strokes and just hoped for the best.

I have finished all 6 paintings and I am writing down what I have learned so I won’t forget.

1. Ultramarine blue and burnt umber make grey. Before the masterclass, my most used pigment is titanium white. In all the pieces, we did not use any whites or blacks. It makes sense not to use white because the paper is already white. Before, I used titanium white to correct my mistakes (like a correction fluid?! Ha). Now I know better.

2. Wet the back of the paper. Making sure that the back of paper is wet when painting is an assurance that the piece lay flat and that the paper expands and stretches well. I used to be a tight painter. I used to paint with small brushes and paint small strokes at a time so I can avoid the warping so I seldom have a wet paper. Now my problem with buckling is solved with wetting the back of the paper. I just have to make sure I am using 100% cotton 300 gsm watercolor paper.

3. Wet the front surface of paper before painting if you want gradient. If you happen to notice my previous pieces, I usually fill my paper with subjects. I do not have a background because my background tends to have streaks because I do not wet it beforehand. Now I get beautiful gradient as background.

4. Get a colored masking fluid. Schmincke has a blue one. I should get that before I start doing watercolor paintings on my own. I have a clear one and I tend to miss some spots because I thought I already applied it.

5. Angular brushes are wonderful tools. I used to be a round brush person. Size 2 and 4 natural round brushes are always in my arsenal. Now, angular brushes are my frequently used brushes. It is easier to create defined edges and lines with angular brushes. Brushes are expensive but I think I need a few more. I have yet to decide what sizes I need next.

6. A good drawing makes a lot of difference in realistic paintings. The teacher gives us access to the reference photo and his drawing. It is really hard to achieve a realistic watercolor floral painting without drawing the subject first. The botanical parts require precision to be realistic. I still use grids in drawing. It must be nice to learn proportions by constant practice without using grids. I hope someday I will be able to do that. I should try to sketch every day.

7. Use the darker pencil when doing the final drawing. My drawing was often unrecognizable after painting the background wash which made it difficult for me to determine which part I was painting. I should use darker pencil over the sketch. Also, when I removed the masking fluid, the sketch was removed as well. In the video, the teacher would patiently redraw the initial sketch while I just draw half-heartedly. I was too eager to paint that I just do a rough sketch over the initial detailed one.

8. Patience is great virtue to develop. There are art pieces that took the teacher more than two sessions to finish. There are a lot of waiting to dry, wetting, changing water and testing the mix. Plus, there is also strategizing what steps to take: should masking fluid be used, which area to mask, what pigments to use, which parts to start painting. The teacher would say be careful in this area you might paint over the highlights or this pigment may be difficult to lift. In my mind, I would say, “Nah, I like to be reckless.” Not really. Sometimes, I was just not patient enough.

9. Learn the properties of the pigments. I only learned recently about transparency, granulation and staining colors. Different pigments have different chemistry that I am still not familiar with. I do not do swatches of the pigments that I have. I should try to do that because it helps to know them and not repeatedly commit errors. Pigments are also expensive. It would be a waste to just randomly mix colors without prior understanding of the outcome.

10. Learn, unlearn, relearn. There were things that I used to do with watercolors that I need to unlearn in order to be open to new learnings. I might relearn them in the future and find my style and techniques. My art is the amalgamation of everything I learned, unlearned and relearned. My ultimate goal is finding joy in what I do. And there is joy in finding ways to be better with what I do. Thanks to this masterclass.

Here’s hoping that I would be able to paint more this year!

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/

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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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.


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. 😉

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.