"These jewel-like paintings intuitively fuse different aesthetic traditions, folk art and old master, with natural grace and an uncanny quality that may be a species of magic." —American Arts Quarterly
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.
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.
My inspiration for this is a small copper painting by Adam Elsheimer, “The Flight into Egypt.” Painted in 1609, it was the first painting of its kind which showed the biblical scene in a nocturnal forest, as described by Matthew (2:13). His contemporaries marveled at his rendering of the Milky Way, which has never been depicted before. I was struck by the lush quietness permeating this nocturnal scene. The moon in the picture reminded me of the many full moons which have taken my breath away. Few scenes elicit a mysterious mood as beautifully as a nocturne.
Here is a preliminary sketch. When I have an idea for a painting, I quickly scribble in the composition. Sometimes I go straight to the panel in oils with only a cursory plan, as I did with “In the Moonlight.”
My first landscape featuring the area around Santa Fe. In my painting studio I have a view of pinon trees on a hill. I witness ravens, rabbits, lizards and prairie dogs. This painting incorporates a lot of Santa Fe. My Santo Nino from the Philippines feels right at home in this land. I suppose my figures have a little of the “Santo” in them.
Young ravens apparently love shiny objects and have been found to steal them. They are also some of the most playful and intelligent birds. I’m not sure whetherthe bird on the left is expressing his joyful excitement at the game about to begin or his displeasure at the other one’s premature grasping of the ball: “Let’s play” or “Cheater! Cheater!”
An inspiration, a gift from my mother, a Philippine Santo…