Yeah, so I’m teaching. The Ayala Museum contacted me awhile back and asked if I could a basic oil painting workshop for the summer. In the spirit of doing things that scare you, I said yes.
It was a three-day workshop and I tried to cover the basics. Oil can be an intimidating medium for some. Watercolor seems to be the popular painting medium nowadays (at least among my circle of friends and some casual practitioners). But I’ve always loved the look of oil. It just feels so substantial.
“String theory envisions a multiverse in which our universe is one slice of bread in a big cosmic loaf. The other slices would be displaced from ours in some extra dimension of space.” – Brian Greene
“If a coin comes down heads, that means that the possibility of its coming down tails has collapsed. Until that moment the two possibilities were equal. But on another world, it does come down tails. And when that happens, the two worlds split apart.” ― Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass
Last month, Sergio Bumatay and I had our second two-man show, this time held at Galerie Stephanie. Serj and I admittedly approach things differently, so coming up with a common subject matter was challenging. In the end, we realized that our work and our background in image making ran parallel to each other. Both us are heavily into illustration and visual narratives. In a sense, our bodies of work were like parallel universes to one another.
The Stuff of Science Fiction
I grew up reading science fiction and comic books. Science Fiction (or speculative fiction) has always been a home of weird ideas about the future. But as much as they talk about the next step in human evolution, SF also talks about the present, filtered through the lens of scientific allegory.
Many of the science fiction pulp magazines and comic book stories of the past are populated with characters whose origins stories were borne out of exploding planets and radioactive contaminants. Their covers have their own instantly recognizable visual iconography. In a way, these images are no less rigid than Christian iconography found in altars and religious icons.
Pulsars and Space Jesus
Having grown up Catholic, religious iconography is part of my visual landscape. And these images are not only confined to churches – they’re everywhere from public transportation to fashion. So I guess, that informs a lot of what I do.
In coming up with images for the exhibit, I wanted to use the theme of “parallel universes” to talk about personal relationships filtered through science fiction iconography. In fiction and in art, we can talk about exploring time and space, but in the end, these journeys are about exploring and understanding ourselves and each other.
“Identity is an assemblage of constellations.” – Anna Deavere Smith
“Inside a black hole time stops altogether. Whether or not this theory will ever be proved, I’m moved to believe this would be the perfect place to love someone.” – Shane Koyczan, Tomatoes
In my third novel there is an actual black hole that swallows everything you love. – Jonathan Lethem
“Within his orbit, I was nothing but a flat noodle. And I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up.” – Dee Lestari, Rectoverso
Our Strange Gravities
“Sometimes I think gravity may be death in disguise. Other times I think gravity is love, which is why love’s only demand is that we fall.” ― Shaun David Hutchinson, We Are the Ants
“What is love if not the gravity of souls?” ― Courtney M. Privett, Shards of Chaos
For our collaborative piece, Serj and I worked on a quadtych, sharing a single horizon line.
Shoutout to our curator Ricky Francisco and Galerie Stephanie’s Abby Teotico for helping with the birthing pains of this show. I don’t have a photo of them, so here’s a picture of Sergio and myself, with a cameo appearance by Abi Dayacap.
I am currently represented by Galerie Stephanie. The gallery is located at Unit 1B Parc Plaza Bldg., 183 E. Rodriguez Jr. Ave., Libis, Quezon City. For inquiries, contact the gallery at (02) 709-1488 or at email@example.com.
I’ll be participating in a group show organized by Canvas Gallery this September entitled “If Trees Could Talk”. The show opens on Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014 (4pm) at the Asian Center Museum, University of the Philippines, Diliman. The exhibit runs until Sept. 19, 2014.
In 2005, my friends and I made a short film for our Electronic Media class about a boy and a box that took him to different places. The short stars Joel Torre (On the Job) and Elijah Castillo (Pisay).
There’s a scene (SPOILERS) wherein the boy finds his box mangled and discarded in a trash can. I took that scene directly from my own childhood, wherein a box that I had played with and imagined as a submarine was mangled and discarded when I got back from school. A few years later, I revisited the idea of magical traveling box for a little comic strip I did for an Ang INKCatalog.
Now, I’ve made a painting featuring another box.
My father worked in Saudi Arabia in the late 70s and early 80s back when they still called them OCWs (Overseas Contract Worker). Many of my friends also have parents or relatives that have worked and continue to work abroad. The idea of having at least one OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) in the family is a common Filipino experience. The promise of a better life by working abroad is a well-worn cliché, but it nonetheless continues to pull families apart.
Part of the experience of having a relative abroad is receiving a balikbayan box – a package of gifts and goodies ranging from chocolates to gadgets. Sadly, in the same way that gifts arrive in boxes, sometimes loved ones arrive home in the same way – a body in a box, a victim of violence and tragedy.
Ideas Arrive at Odd Places
The image of body parts stuffed in a balikbayan box struck me while I was driving along EDSA. As grisly as it sounds, gore wasn’t what was on my mind. I held the image in my head until I got a chance to draw it.
But when I got around to putting it to paper, the image I drew didn’t live up to what was in my head. So I left it unfinished.
Revisiting Old Boxes
When it was time to make paintings for my exhibit with Sergio Bumatay, I revisited the balikbayan box sketch and made some adjustments to the composition. I ended up with this:
When I was satisfied with the sketch, I transferred the drawing onto canvas.
Then the painting began. I decided to go a bit monochromatic with the painting, using more desaturated colors and dull hues.
I started with the figures, although in hindsight maybe I should have done the background first. I honestly don’t know.
I like reading about how other artists made their works. I love how the curtain is peeled back on the finished product to reveal what went on behind the scenes. Here’s a little of what went on while working on my most recent painting: The Secret.
This painting went through several incarnations. The first one was more elaborate, but the main focus was always the two children holding on to something. This first sketch was more surreal, with the children burying something that reminded me of the mandrake root in Harry Potter. I tabled that sketch for a few months but I knew I was going to include it in my two-man show with Serj Bumatay.
When I was finally cramming for the exhibit and feeling that I had very little time left, I redid the image into something simpler. I removed all the other elements and focused on the children. And once again, I set aside the sketch for a bit while I executed the other paintings that had more definite images.
When I had finished all the other paintings for the exhibit, I went back to this piece and tried to flesh out the sketch it out into a size proportional to 4 x 3 ft.
For some reason, I couldn’t do it. I was uncomfortable with the proportions of the image. I can’t explain it better than that.
So I redid the entire thing. Since the exhibit date was fast approaching, my mind was working on overdrive and suddenly the image of two children tangled in branches popped into my head. The children were holding something, I decided it was a box. What’s inside? Does it matter?
Preparing the canvas
I bought my canvas, pre-primed, pre-stretched and mounted on a boxframe with a plywood backing from The Oil Paint Storebut I still wanted to prime the canvas with premium gesso.
So applied several layers of white gesso on to the canvas, while sanding down the surface in between layers.
Then, I used modeling paste to texture the surface of the canvas.
I applied the modeling paste with a rubber paint spreader and a pallette knife.
While the paste was still wet, I etched lines and patterns on to the surface of the canvas using this thing:
When the the modeling paste dried, I sandpapered the surface. The result looked like this:
Then, I covered the entire surface with gray gesso. I had previously mixed up a batch using black and the white gessoes.
Paints I Use
I use Cobra Water Mixable Oil Paints mainly for health reasons and convenience. I work in a small space and using solvents with traditional oils releases a powerful smell throughout the house. Water mixable paints on the other hand, can be cleaned with soap and water.
Transferring the Drawing
I used a grid to transfer my drawing onto the canvas. Some people use ink to darken and permanently fix the drawing on to the surface. I sometimes do that, but I decided to go with my pencil drawing.