Thursday, January 3, 2013


gouache and ink on paper
9" x 13"

My grandfather's a farmer back in my mother's hometown. He'd wake up every single dawn at the same time, walk towards his land, tend to his farm and coconut trees, and a little before mid-day, he'd be back to eat his lunch of ripe tomatoes, dried fish and steaming hot rice sprinkled lightly with some salt. He'd hang around for a few minutes to play around with his grandchildren before he heads back outside to do the rest of his day time chores. This was how my cousins would tell me about his daily routine. Being one of his city-bred grandchildren, I only knew of him from stories my relatives would tell me each time any of them would come for a visit in Manila. I never really had the chance to hang around him except for those few summers my brothers and I were whisked off to the province.

It was during one of those summers that I did get to know a little of my grandfather, and it involved his aversion to bathing. You see, my grandfather only takes a bath once a year - during Good Friday.

"Seriously?" I asked my cousin Ruby when she told me about our Lolo Uto, while I was wiping a glob of spit from my cheek that she let loose when I discovered where she was hiding as we played hide-and-seek.

"Yeah," she muttered, as she climbed down from one of the thick bamboo beams of the bedroom's ceiling. "You want proof? Tomorrow's Good Friday, you'll see. He'll also be wearing his white shirt and shoes."

Come to think of it, the whole time I've been in my grandparents' house that summer, not once have I seen him take a bath. Neither could I imagine him wearing… shoes. I was pretty sure Ruby was passing one on me and I couldn't believe what I just heard.

Our grandfather… wearing shoes… impossible. That would be something short of a miracle. He's got farmer's feet. He has very thick callouses that even a half-inch long thumb tack that got stuck on his sole never even made him wince in pain. He didn't even notice stepping on it until Joy, a younger cousin, pointed it out to him. He merely plucked the tack from his thick, cracked sole, examined it for a few seconds and said, "Good thing it didn't get crooked. You can still use this," and handed it to a wide-eyed me.

The next day, when I walked out yawning from the bedroom, I saw my grandfather was wearing a stiff, ironed white shirt, and a pair of khaki pants. He was standing in front of the hallway mirror combing back the sparse white hair on his freckled, shiny head with some strong-smelling green pomade. He was humming lowly when I greeted him, "Good morning 'Lo." He turned his head around and the faint hint of a grin was on his stoic wrinkled face. I stood there by the doorway of the bedroom and just looked at him - awed. My grandfather, like Ruby said, has indeed taken a bath. It was unmistakable when I caught a whiff of the smell of soap lingering in the air mixing itself with the minty scent of his pomade. 

He gingerly placed the comb on the small dresser in front of the hallway mirror, patted me on the head and slowly, with an uneven gait, began to walk towards the living room. I thought there was something odd with his pained gait until I saw what he had on. He was wearing a pair of shiny black shoes… real shoes! Those farmer's feet were squeezed inside a pair of shoes which seemed to be a size bigger than his feet. He wobbled slightly and walked measuredly, perhaps trying to steady himself as he maneuvered himself through the living room and outside of the door.

It was a vision of my grandfather that would stay would stay with me for years to come - an odd vision of him in his Good Friday best and the smell of soap wafting from his body.

"And it is the only time of the year when he'd actually go inside the church too," whispered Ruby in my ear when she crept behind me by the bedroom door.

I nodded.

Monday, December 24, 2012


 Below is a step-by-step description on how I developed "The Pearl".

STEP 1. Put some ideas on to paper. Make sketches. (Sometimes, I end up making the
rejected sketch also into another painting.)

STEP 1.a. Second sketch done. Selected for painting. I like her breasts.

STEP 2. Transfer the drawing on to a 20"x24" stretched canvas. Sometimes there are small adjustments made to the image when laid on the canvas. In this case, cover the breasts a bit to put a bit of "mystery" to her chest. But the real reason is of a more "prudish" nature. The mermaid's a bit too shy. :-) Oh, and I am still thinking whether the whole scene would be under the light of the moon or in daylight. Or perhaps a gloomy sky before a storm. Let's see what would evolve.

STEP 3. Paint the base colors. Although I have a general idea of the main final colors I'd use, I just let the colors "evolve" as I go along. However, I like to begin by applying a darker base paint to cover the main image grounds - like the sea and sky. Why? I exclusively use acrylic and as I apply the lighter colors later, I can chose to let the darker base paint "peek" through - or not. It'd depend on how this evolves.

STEP 4: Here's an example on how colors "evolve" as I go along with a painting. Facing my window, it was rather gloomy outside and it somehow found its reflection on the colors I chose for the sky - not the blue hues we generally associate a clear sky with. i like the way that it is "fluffy" and blown wave-like towards the horizon. I also began doing the water. I use Turqouise Pthalo Blue to color the waves. I'm still a bit iffy with it, but I'll see as to how it would later relate to the mermaid's color.

STEP 5: The leaves and the blue tree. How often does one see a blue tree anyway? Not that often and as rare as one would see a mermaid. I applied "Sap Green Hue" for the base color for the leaves. I would later build on each individual leaf body with "Pthalo Green (yellow shade) and Naples Yellow Deep with a dab of Titanium White and Primary Yellow to give it that roundish look. For the blue tree trunk I use Blue Hoggar (I wonder who came up with that name, it sounds so "macho" with an "umphf" and the color has that "electric" feel to it) tempered with Pthalo Blue and accented with Titanium White and a dash of Naples Yellow Deep here and there.

STEP 6: The waves, the tail and the leaves are done. I like the idea that the tail echoes the color of the leaves. I used Titanium White for the tail tip giving it a dynamic green gradient and showing the curling. Using Pthalo Blue richly on the edges of the waves and highlighting each with Naples Yellow gives it a rich surreal feel.

STEP 7: Even with the torrential rains pouring outside and opening up my place to friends for refuge, I still managed to continue with this painting. The mermaid now has her mane of orange hair.

STEP 8: If there is one thing peculiar or distinct with all my figures - it is the way I paint the eyes. With each figure I draw or paint, I want to achieve that 'soulful' set of eyes that can convey the story of the whole image. The gesture of the hand, the placement of the feet or the sway of a hip can tell the event of that particular moment, but it is the eye that narrates the story and the emotions, and gives it that soul I always look for in an image.

She now has eyes.

STEP 9: The pearl has been painted. I chose to simply paint it with titanium white instead of the new-fangled pearlized acrylic I was tempted to use. Methinks it works better to keep it straight and simple. This is also the part when ones excitement builds up and with a few more strokes the painting is done. 

She, the mermaid, has emerged. The fisherman is with his catch. The only thing the cache of fish.

The Pearl
acrylic on canvas
20" x 24"

STEP 10: "The Pearl" is now done. 

Finished the fish in the net, placed my signature, and just letting it stand for a couple of days before I put on the paint varnish. Let it fully dry for a couple more days and then she is ready to be rolled and shipped. 

Friday, February 17, 2012


See those painted masks two posts down?

Here's how two of them looked like after they got framed. It reminds me of those framed Chinese porcelain masks they sell as souvenirs in Beijing stores.

Kinda cute too.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


I haven't written even a single word in this blog for like a gadzillion years!

I have this overwhelming sense of being like Prince Charming (yeah, fancy me being one) walking through thick brambles and thorny plants as high as the great wall of China and discovering behind it a long forgotten castle. I open its creeking gates with the rusty hinges and lo and behold, a magnificent edifice untocuhed by human hands for hundreds of years. THAT is exactly how I feel when I managed to open again this blog and WRITE something.

And what great news I will be writing here. Yup, great news indeed. In a matter of days, I.... moi... will be published as a children's book author AND illustrator. The illustrator part isn't new really. It's the "authoring" part that's tickling me pink.

As a teaser to myself, and to whoever it is that manages to stumble into this corner of cyberspace, here are two images from "ze book". It will be out... soon.


Note: The editors and me are still in the process of refining the pages, so some things might still change. I am so, oh, excited. :-)

And yes, it is mainly in Tagalog and I also wrote the English translation. (I am eating a Kitkat now while I wait for the editors' notes. Thump-a-thump-thump...)