Thursday, August 12, 2021

Hues of HopeL An Art Exhibit of Optimism

I was asked by PGW President, Pinky Peralta, to write about our annual exhibit, Hues of Hope which she intends to be submitted to newspapers and perhaps, magazines. I wrote it last night, August 11 and finshed it  this morning.  


        In 2016, a set of young, very promising artists, linked by their love for an art medium reputedly to be the hardest one of all – watercolor, decided to form a group that would, among others, introduce the public to the medium. This is not an easy task as there is just a very limited audience who is also partial to the more popular classics done either in oil or acrylic. We have never known a watercolor painting to be an end in itself.  We always thought that watercolor is, at best, a preliminary work, a study on color harmony and composition for a much bigger opus.  This is understandable simply because the common tao is not attuned to the idiosyncrasies of the said medium. In a country that does not see the aesthetic value of modern art, in spite of the fact that it has been with us since the 19th century rendering this genre anachronistic, hence, it is less likely for them to understand the fluidity of colors, the looseness of style, with various hues bleeding and oftentimes applied out of the line as we were told to do when we were young as characteristics of watercolor painting.   Present, too, are several misconceptions, i.e. it is not as lasting as oil or acrylic simply because it is put on paper and not on canvas, it fails to stand the test of time as oil or acrylic does rendering  it a cheap art form.

Notwithstanding the odds, this group of idealistic watercolorists prevailed and after a year, the founder and President of the International Watercolor Society or IWS, Mr Atanur, took notice and invited them to be a part of the international organization.  Encouraged, they took it as an opportunity to invite more people to join and the organization grew bigger. Several years thereafter, the organization took a refining and in 2020, in the hopes of a much needed hegira, underwent a reorganization, ratified a new Constitution and By Laws, voted a new set of Board of Directors and eventually, its officers.  Thus, the Philippine Guild of Watercolorists or PGW is born.

Among the activities embarked by PGW include seminars and workshops, plein-air sessions and exhibits to name a few.  The membership has grown and now include a good mix of newbies, mostly professionals who have been long time aficionados and those who have just picked up the brush trying their hand on a new hobby mixed with professional painters who enjoy the camaraderie brought about by the association, learning other ways to express themselves using the medium.  The group also has a pool of Filipino masters called Honorary Members, who will be there to offer guidance and inspiration. 

The group has gone a long way from its inception to the present.  As a community of artists bound by their pursuit to explore and promote watercolor, the group met once a month at the GSIS, invited practitioners of the medium to make demonstrations and have the participants paint based on what they have learned that day until Covid 19 came.  The pandemic did not deter the enthusiasm of the group,, though.  Meetings were conducted via zoom where the officers hatched different ways to benefit its membership.  During the first year of the pandemic, the organization launched the Kwentuhan series whereby invited professional watercolorists were interviewed kwentuhan style. Thereafter, these professionals made a demonstration of their techniques.  The series ended with an online exhibit at the end of the year capping it with a catalogue of all the entries coupled by a narrative of the artists talking about their craft and their experiences doing their exhibited painting. 

Once again, the Philippine Guild of Watercolorists, will be launching another show entitled Hues of Hope.  Scheduled to have its annual exhibit on September 2 – 30, 2021, at the LRI Design Plaza, the organization decided to kick it up a notch.  This year, it has been decided to do a juried exhibit whereby all entries shall undergo the scrutiny of a jury, not of their peers – yet - but those so-called masters.  The term masters cannot be underplayed for they are truly respected in the field here and abroad.  The illustrious jury include: Ze Ze Lai, Praful Sawant, Eudes Correia and our very own, Cid Reyes and Ferdinand Isleta.  To encourage its members to join, as if the honor of having ones work put on display at the famous LRI gallery is sufficient reason to brag about, the organizers turned the exhibit into a friendly competition among the members with a bag prize of Php50, 000 for the champion.  The month long exhibit shall be filled with different activities like live demos of different watercolor styles and virtual ones conducted by international masters, seminars on copyright, how to market ones paintings, etc. 

Why Hues of Hope? Why not? There are a lot of reasons why the group has turned painting in watercolor an avenue for optimism.  The hobby of painting is therapeutic especially witnessed by the newcomers who found solace in painting as a means to while away the time during the lockdowns and NECQ’s or never ending community quarantines.  Some of them have begun selling their masterpieces to friends and surprisingly, strangers who discovered their art making their hobby an even more worthwhile enterprise.  Lastly, the organization has encouraged its members to join international competitions in which, once more to their surprise, their works were accepted.  While a member has yet to win a major prize abroad, this endeavour paved the way for our watercolorists to be known and have the country be recognized as a true hub of well-known watercolorists.  Truly, this exhibit provides a lot of hope and positivity amid uncertainty and turmoil brought about by the pandemic. 

                A River's Burden

        Watercolor on Arches Paper

                   15 X 22 inches

Wicked Abstraction

Mushroom Growth 

  This is the exhibit statement that we submitted to the gallery, Artblado, that will feature abstract paintings from ten artists formed by Ella Hipolito.  The show was slated to open in July but was re-scheduled twice due to a lockdown during the pandemic.  It is now scheduled to open on Sept 1, 2021.


                Wicked is a powerful, negative word. As such, anything related to it, either directly or indirectly, is seen in a bad light and frowned upon.  So why would ten artists embarking on a show opted to be identified with the word wicked?  Simple – it is a word and as such, changes its meaning as it did several years ago.  Words as single units of a language tend to change their meaning because these are the results of an evolving culture. As man uses the spoken word, its meaning continuously changes according to his/her circumstances and experiences unlike Latin, the only dead language, there is.  As the word gay, for example, used to mean happy but now means a sexual persuasion a person has, the word wicked has changed its meaning to the younger generation as simply “awesome”.  For example, "That new spaceship launched this afternoon cost a billion dollars and was made with top of the ine materials! It’s really wicked!”

                 Wicked abstraction showcases ten individuals as they continue their artistic journey laying bare their only passion which is painting. They have developed their own personal styles and are now at the brink of experimenting on a different path which leave their individual selves in a manner that threatens to expose their vulnerabilities as they bare their very souls. Each individual has toiled hard to express himself/herself in a way that is devoid of any exigencies or pressures from outside sources and without any inhibitions.  True to the maxim ars gratis artis, a time honored principle that means art for art’s sake, these free thinking individuals worked on their ouvers without any care in the world armed only with  their intuitions expressing their truth ,  their individuality and aesthetic ideals quietly hoping to create fanfare nevertheless. Hence, it is the art works that are their own excuse for being, the mere raison d’etre if you would and nothing more.  No high-falluting, intelligent arguments that is usually, in reality, pretentious and a sham that could let any na├»ve individual be sucked in.  No! There won’t be any child shouting “the King is naked!” this time for they have been unselfish in showing everyone their true selves. A coming out of age, like the first buds of a flower peaking at the light of the glorious sun for the first time. A blossoming during springtime, when the leaves of a plant are dampened wet by the morning mists and when bees and butterflies kiss the flowers unwittingly pollinating them to bear fruit. Such serendiipity as nature works not only for our pleasure but our very sustenance. With this collection of works, these artists seem to prove that positivity springs eternal. At this time, we can safely say we have seen their strongest and weakest side during their artistic journey and that is truly “wicked!”

                           Blossoming Tale  

                      Burgeoning Whispers

                     Germinal Expression

Friday, May 21, 2021

The Littlle Boy at Five Two and Oh

I saw a litte cloud up in the air
tiny droplets of blue haze
swirling and twirling peacefully
as I intently fixed my gaze
Expecting to see it form into a car,
a boat, a dragon or a horse
as clouds normally do,
a gust of wind blew
and it is gone after two
the boy at five two and oh
my bundle of joy, source of my laughter
my warmth and my relief
never denying me of the tightest hugs
sweetest kisses as he welcomes me with delight.
Sorry my dear but I cannot share
your fondness for the iron beasts
while you look at them with glee
as they roar and pass us by.
I know it will take you away from me.
I could have helped mould you into a fine shape
with my bare hands, my experience
and most of all my heart
but this boy at five two and oh
has left as I feared.
I couldn’t even ignite the fire
of the kiln to harden the shape he is in.
The cloud is now settled on a different shore
where it would form into a stallion, a unicorn
an angel perhaps and I cannot see it transform.
The boy at five two and oh
Shall have a different tongue
I can barely understand
He will have no memories of me
for he has just turned two.
I shall always bear in my heart
his tight embrace, flying kisses
the wonder in his eyes
his grunts and requests to take him out
to walk in the park
Goodbye for now my sweet little child
I hope I have planted something in your heart.
Lolo pogi

Thursday, May 06, 2021

My Art

 I just received a very interesting query from a very good friend of mine, Dave Buenviaje, definitely a connoisseur of the arts who has gone to different museums in Europe and other places with his wonderful wife, Drea, marveling at the masters. I am very much pleased that he would take notice of my work - enough to pique his interest and pose a query. It goes something like this:

"Tito Rolly, serious question... but hope it lands well. Your style is like the furtherance of a conversation with the great HR Ocampo. Is this a conscious effort, or is there a historical, artistic connection that ties you to that style? How you're pushing the works is very interesting. Sana art historians will see this"
This question made me ponder and try to understand how my style came to be. This is what i have come up with:
It is quite interesting that you would have been reminded of H.R. Ocampo viewing my work. I can understand where this is coming from. He is one of my favorite Filipino painters alongside Cesar Legaspi, Vicente Manansala and Botong Francisco. As you can probably have noticed, their styles border on cubism as well.
My style is brought about by a project in college. In that project, I experimented overlapping the colors with a different color resulting from the merger ex. the juxtaposition of yellow and blue – resulting in green. It is that very basic concept that I try to capture in my paintings. The project I am referring to is somewhat of a Tsuru bird as it takes off amid a landscape of a field and a big, robust sun. You could just imagine that my palette was generally warm colors. I liked what I saw, but did not do anything about it. It was later on in life, while trying to develop a style, that I am reminded of the experiment and over time had made improvements on it. What I would do is draw several targeted forms, mostly people and apply overlapping colors resulting in transparent figures, hence the name transparent cubism, a name made popular by Manansala which and I decided to call my style..

So, my style is the interplay of colors that would from cubes unintentionally, hence its cubist tendencies further developing, this time, consciously and intentionally into transparent figures. The forms, when viewed from afar and without any effort to dissect the overall appearance would look like H. R. Ocampo’s design. However, a closer inspection of the work would reveal figures which would probably be reminiscent of Legaspi, Manansala and to some extent, Botong Francisco. Having looked at their works, admiring their skill somewhat rubbed off on me, I guess. So there! Not exactly a treatise, but nevertheless an explanation of what style my work is trying to conjure.

Oil on Canvas
20 X 30 in

Anticipated Vibrations
Oil on Canvas
                    30 x 30 in

Saturday, January 02, 2021

The Year that Almost Brought Everybody Down


 Many are too glad that the year 2020 is gone. Why not? It brought the economy down taking with it many households.  Hard hit were those hand-to-mouth families who depended their day's existence on their daily earnings.  Many businesses have been affected as a result of the government's lockdown policy to stop the spread of the pandemic that is affecting the entire world.  Everybody had to learn how to start working at home, schools have been closed for almost a year and it seems like studying off campus phenomenon shall continue for the last half of the school year.  

The year that was started with a bang!  I was in Tagaytay on January 11, 2020 for a plein-air session with my watercolor group as we celebrated a post- Christmas party. We were all in jubilee as we painted the scenery not knowing that it would be the last time Taal would be seen that way.  It exploded the following day as it spewed ash to as high as 14 kilometers or so.  People from villages affected by the explosion were evacuated by the thousands.  Massive ash fall dropped from the sky affecting nearby regions including Manila which is almost a 100 kilometers away.  Everybody was advised to wear face masks to prevent from breathing those toxic fumes.  Unbeknownst to everybody, wearing masks shall be a standard protection together with a face shield to ward off the intrusion of what is now called Covid-19, a  deadly  virus that affects the whole world.

My family has not been spared by the tragedies brought about by the year 2020.  On May 3, my only brother, Reynaldo, was cooking chicharon when he accidentally dropped the pot of scalding hot oil on his legs.  He was immediately given an ointment by my nephew, Dr. Manny Glorioso, with instructions never to touch the blisters. I have not personally seen how bad it was for I was locked up in the house like everybody else.  A few days later, I was told that the blisters turned into a nasty wound as it exploded while he was taking a bath.  One day, he was going down the stairs when, probably because of weakness brought about by the wound, he fell down the stairs. He must've slightly hit his head which turned out to be fatal as the x-ray showed that there was blood clotting in his head.  I say again, he slightly hit his head but considering his age, it was fatal. Two days in the hospital and he unceremoniously passed away.  He was ordered to be cremated the following day as he was proclaimed to be a Person under Investigation, but the test results for Covid was still to come after several months.  This is the part which hurt me most.  He had cancer and he knew he would die and was foreseeing himself being survived at a wake in our house should the time of his death arrived.  He had many friends and he wanted  to be  with them for the last time.  It never materialized.  When we got him from the hospital, all we did was pay the for the expenses and immediately ordered to have the body removed as they did not have a space to store my brother  in.  He was cremated with nobody in attendance. The urn that contained his ashes were put was picked up by my nephews and brought home the following day.  He was seventy-seven. 

Almost three months have passed when we received news that my Ate Becky was throwing up blood and her stool also showed blood  since Saturday.  We were having lunch on July 27 when we received the news.. A few minutes later, they called us again saying my sister is gone. I cannot believe it! I told Nitz, my wife, not to believe it until it was confirmed by her son. I called him and he said it was true.  This was all too sudden.  Nobody knew she was ill.  All they can tell me is that my sister was suffering from ulcer.  When my doctor nephew asked how my sister behaved that day, they told him that my sister did not know what to do. She would lie down, stand up, walked, sit down and lie down again while writhing  in pain.  Dr. Manny said it couldn't be ulcer anymore as she could not have managed to stand and much more walk to and fro if it were ulcer.  He suspected that her ulcer erupted and the acid went directly to her pancreas which was really deadly.  True enough, when the  coroner arrived, she was declared dead by, I forgot the term, but something like peptic ulcer.  As my sister has died inside the house, she was not suspected to have Covid and so we were able to have a three day wake for her before she was finally brought to the crematorium to be cremated. 

To this day, I could not believe that two of my siblings passed away in the same year with only less than three months apart.  Now, there is only the eldest, Linda, which is eighty three years old and myself, the youngest, who are still alive.  Hopefully, we still get to enjoy my sister's company for a longer period of time. 

On the night of November 25, I was getting ready for dinner when Nitz's phone rang! She was in the kitchen cooking so I looked at the phone to check who it was.  It was my daughter, Kim. I picked it up and answered and to my surprise, she was crying intensely.  The thing that came to my mind was that she got into a fight with her husband.  I calmly asked her what happened and in between sobs, she said that her Tita Angie, Nitz' youngest sister who lived in Saipan,  was gone! I was on speaker phone and Nitz heard the news and began to cry!  It turned out that she had a massive heart attack.  Bhiya, Kuya Ben's sister lived with her in Saipan narrated that Angie went home ahead of her and that she had several grocery bags with her.  As they lived at the third floor of the building, Bhiya told her not to take the groceries to the house, leave it on the floor, wait for her so that they could bring them up together. Angie did not take heed.  She brought them up just the same as they were not there when Bhiya arrived. So she went upstairs only to be greeted by Angie sprawled on the floor.  She probably just had a bath as she had here towel with her.  She was already gone.  The paramedics of 9-11 could no longer revive her. 

She was very fond of my grandson, Kauai! She would call Kim practically everyday to see Kauai, talk to him and always be amused by his antics.  She would also send money to Nitz saying we can only battle the pandemic by eating good food. So every time she  received  money, she would send us some dollars much to enjoyment of Nitz.  She would distribute this money to her other siblings so that they can share with the blessings unselfishly given by Angie.  This happened more this year like as if Angie had a premonition that she was going away for good.  Her remains were brought home and we managed to have a wake for her at a chapel and had  her buried at the Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina.  

So, there! These were the tragedies that my family experienced during the pandemic.  And their deaths were not even brought about by the dreaded disease. 

The only consolation I have with 2020 is that this is the year that I have been constantly selling my artworks.  Thanks to a gallery, The Good Art gallery, my paintings have been selling for a good price plus I have been receiving good commissions lately.  If this continues, I may establish my name as an artist and would continue to at least have an income in spite of having retired from the workforce.  Hopefully it will be smooth sailing this year and the years to come.  

So, in spite of all the negativity of the past year, from my family to yours, here's wishing you all a safe, healthy, covid-free but a very very happy, productive year ahead!