Learning humility through the art of painting – studio process

The more I paint, the more humbled I become. There are times when I paint and all the elements fit in perfectly and it seems as if I’ve finally gained mastery. I go through the day feeling victorious, thinking, “haha…am genius after all….” Only to come crashing down like Icarus on the very next painting. To tell the truth, more paintings than I care to admit have been borne out of violence in the studio. So much frustration and seemingly endless adjustments ensue to create a vision of beauty and calmness. So today I decided to show the process for “O Brave New World.” Artists are always loathe to reveal all the work that goes on in the studio. There is a fear of ruining the magic. But I get asked by other artists about my process, so I am going to share this bit of studio madness. I took a detour in the background landscape for this painting, going from immense panorama illustrating a vast ‘new world’ to an intimate island sheltered under the umbrella of an enormous tree. There is a struggle, but the reward is a painting that is closer to what I want to say.

Subscribe in a reader
Subscribe by Email

O Brave New World – the artist’s statement

“O Wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t.”

-William Shakespeare, “The Tempest”

O Brave New World
O Brave New World

The above quote from Shakespeare is perhaps a fitting artist’s statement. To be an artist is to see everything with fresh eyes. One always hopes to preserve the wonderment of childhood. The adult questions too much and hesitates at her work. Each painting for me is a personal journey. So the painting “O Brave New World” was conceived from this idea of embarkation and arrival. It is a painting as much inspired by the museum (my eternal muse) as by childhood nostalgia. But I believe I’ve gone beyond nostalgia and painted my artist’s statement. Perhaps in this painting I’ve finally dared to declare my arrival. “Here I am, the artist, and welcome to my world.”

Fatima graduating from kindergarten in 1982

As a classical idealist rather than a classical realist, I create my own version of Arcadia. I draw much inspiration from the pastoral tradition in the works of Shakespeare, Watteau and Giorgione, to name but a few. Pastoral allows me to set metaphors for personal journeys where my own memories merge with mythmaking. I am not an intellectual painter. I paint instinctively, preferring to let the story and characters unfold. In this way, I preserve the romance and magic of ideas coming alive through paint. There is beauty and wonderment everywhere.
– Fatima Ronquillo

Learning to Draw: the virtues of copying

Originality is a quality highly prized in art. How does one begin to be original? By learning the basics. When it comes to learning the craft of painting and drawing, I believe that there’s nothing more beneficial than copying and studying great works of art. It’s how I taught myself to draw and then to paint. My journey began quite by accident.

In 1987, I had arrived in the Texas from the Philippines and found myself swiftly enrolled in an American junior high. Slow in making friends and always bookish (yes, nerdy) I spent most of my lunch hour in the library. Small as it was, it had a nice collection of art books. Apart from poring over the artworks published on the back cover of my grandfather’s Reader’s Digest magazines, I had never seen many paintings in print – I had yet to see some in person, at that time. First, I discovered a book on Renoir (who became my first art love, he gave me the fondness for rounded forms). The librarian joked about the nudes. I was embarassed by the jokes but I was so happy. When I got home, I started copying what I saw, not because I thought it would be a good way to start drawing, but because I wanted to memorize those paintings. I remember the books that followed: Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Rubens, Fragonard…I think it was “The World of Art” series, an encyclopedic collection of books about the great painters. I copied for pleasure and with such a passion that I made it part of my schoolwork. It was a simple and humble beginning to a lifelong education.

I still copy and study the works of other artists. One of my habits is to do daily quick compositional studies of master works. It’s how I learned to compose pictures, to learn visual rhythm. By learning from the past, I’ve come to a stronger sense of my own personal vision and style.