Sketchbook Assignment #1: Same Picture/ Different Views

I recently signed up for the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) by CalArts, entitled Live!: A History of Art for Artists, Animators and Gamers with Jeannene Przyblyski, Ph.D. I’m so excited to learn about so much that I don’t know yet! I am also inspired by the fact that there are thousands of students around the world taking this course for free, made possible by Coursera.

Our first assignment in this eight-week course is to make two sketches: one, that stands for what I think art really should be, and the other, what I think people in the world think art should be.

That seems so broad, with so many possibilities about what other people think it should be. I felt stuck…I tried to sketch but could not capture it in just one picture. It ended up being a whole lot of written words in my sketchbook!

But it got me thinking, about one tiny aspect of this, and recalling a personal story…

If we talk about “the art world”, what comes to my mind are galleries, exhibitions, art collectors, auctions, and artists trying to make it up the ladder of “success”. And in that world, there are many intellectual people, many sincere artists, but also probably many that just go see art for the sake of the status, the crowd they want to be associated with—I come from the Philippines, and this was often the case, in a country where art is not “as accessible” to everyone.

I remember, as a young teenager, though I loved going to art exhibits to see the works, I didn’t really enjoy “that crowd” so much. I did not understand the mind of an art critic (definitely something I hope to learn more about in this course!), or the mind of an art collector, for that matter. I only knew that I loved to create, and wanted to learn more about creating. Plus, many of my friends were artists and it was something we did together, for fun.

Years later, in 2005, I held my own solo exhibition at the Sheraton hotel of Kamapla, Uganda. I’ll tell you that story some other time, but the particular moment that this assignment led me to think about, was when—as a result of that exhibition—the Kabaka (King of Buganda) purchased my painting. What an honor and experience.

Here is a photo of that artwork, entitled “My People”:

MY PEOPLEAs it became public knowledge that the king himself owned my art, I was soon getting more phone calls, and people wanted to buy “that painting”. Of course they couldn’t have the original; only a duplicate.

And I made sure to tell them, “It won’t be exactly like the picture—it will be similar, as I can never reproduce one exactly like that one.”

No one seemed to mind. Sometimes, they didn’t even know what the picture was. They’d never even seen it, or a picture of it. They’d say, “Just paint me the one the king bought.”

I ended up selling reproductions of that painting eight more times.

Although I love this particular piece of art, only I know what inspired me to paint it, and the moment I came in contact with this tribe. Those who paid to own the artwork itself will never really feel what I felt at the time, a respect and sadness/concern for the community where this nearly-forgotten tribe lived, way up on the mountains.

So I use this picture in my assignment, not because I think art SHOULD be like my art, but to represent what the process of art means to me.

To me, the picture was a symbol of:

  • Exploration (both the long journey to reach the tribe, as well as the process of creating this with pastels on felt paper)
  • Expression (The personal process of creating something)
  • The power to change one’s circumstance, or one’s outlook
  • Communication
  • Life (Art should be vibrant, exciting, striking, I often use deep colors)
  • Awareness (Hardly anyone knew that this tribe, called the “Ik”, existed. I wanted my portraits of them to tell their story, to show their faces, fears, and dreams)
  • Bridging cultures (too much to say on that!)
  • A personal experience we can (and sometimes, should) share

I know what the painting meant to me at the time…but it became valuable to others for an entirely different reason. So if I am allowed to do so, I’d like to use this picture for both illustrations.

Thanks for reading! I’ll update about the new things I’m learning from this exciting course as we go along.

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Light On Uganda

It’s been nearly eight years since I set foot on the red soil. It was my home for nearly four years. And there, I learned so much.

To live, to walk, to love, to know heartache, and death. And to keep on loving.

The memories I have in Uganda still seem like yesterday.

This Aquarelle is35x25 cm, and on sale for just €65, part of proceeds for charity. Payable via Paypal, with free shipping. Please contact me if interested.

Last week, the country celebrated its Jubilee, 50 years of Independence. I painted the portraits below to commemorate the beautiful there, who taught me about life, its challenges, its treasures.

I am selling these paintings to help raise funds for an orphan school in Gulu, North of Uganda. My friends, who are still working there, have some wonderful and needy projects happening in the war-torn rural parts.

(Photo above): school for orphans, in progress

This one below was sold yesterday, 70% of proceeds to start the collection for the orphan school.

Look out for more of my collection–let’s kick off the Christmas spirit of giving early! 🙂

Ian Wright Sews Pictures

It would be a shame to travel the world and not capture what you see in either photographs, sketches, or words.

Globetrekker’s funnyman Ian Wright keeps some of his paintings and sketches online at his blog www.ianwright.tv, but he recently started sewing, too!

“My wife bought me a sewing machine,” he told me, during our interview last year (read the full article here) and I thought it quite comical, till I saw the finished products on his blog.

The tapestries are delightful colors of detailed beaded work and whimsical designs. See for yourself!

Postcards From Como

Yesterday, we finally bought an Internet stick device so that we can finally have some connection in our little apartment. It’s painfully slow (I have loaded about four pages in 30 minutes) but at least I finally feel a little more in tune with the planet.

Not that being out of cyber-touch is so terrible at all, though. Whereas before, I would wake up to check emails, news and updates, now I wake up to quiet mornings by the lake where I can run in peace while the boys are still snoring. Whereas before, I would stay up past midnight, staring at my computer screen, now I am back at the canvas. Good old aquarelle paint, an ink pen, and many glasses of shared red wine.

Recently I have painted a series of postcards inspired by the views on Lake Como, from the Northern tip where we live. When I tried to buy some postcards at the only department store in town, there were none to be found, and even in the bigger towns, there were no postcards from our small town that could accurately depict life as it is here.

I decided to paint the scenery I’ve captured, both through my eyes and my camera lens, to paint stills of life in motion, and to bring color to where it is mostly a thousand blue hues. Already, there has been some local interest in my art, and even the town priest has requested postcards of our simple chapel and bell-tower that stands by a river cascading down to the beach—just a short walk from our alleyway house.  A few other local cafes and hotels are also displaying my art for sale, and that makes me quite happy.

Ours is a tiny town, but so charming. You know it’s small when you go out to the corner cafe, and run into your only upstairs neighbor jogging, your landlord going for cappuccino, and the mayor’s bunch just leaving the bar.

I feel strangely at home, and “home” is where my heart feels alive.

On Palettes and Packing

I’m in an abstract state today, thinking of upcoming changes and travels. On Friday, we head cross-country, down South, on the move again.

My life is going into boxes–one item at a time. Keeping the essentials, throwing out the useless, storing the sentimental. I’ve narrowed it down to one box, full of paintbrushes and papers, journals, and summer clothes. I’ve downsized to three pairs of shoes and that is a huge feat in itself.

Our destination? Italy! We will be camped at the beautiful Lake Como.

You bet I’ll be blogging.