Watercolor “magic”

IWS-Philippines-Different-StrokesIt has been tough, really, to write and produce a book about Filipino artists for it is not easy to describe in just a few words how wonderful their artworks are.

Different Strokes is a series of books about Filipino artists and their work. It is aimed to honor the artistry of the Filipino artists, based here and abroad, and to introduce to the broader audience their work. Furthermore, the Different Strokes series is also aimed to become one of the references of students in their art appreciation classes.

The first volume, titled Different Strokes: A Book on the Ingenuity of Filipino Artists (The Filipinas Institute for the Advancement of Arts and Culture (FILARTS, Inc., 2015) showcased the finest works of visual artists in the Philippines who have mastered the techniques of producing something beautiful from scratch.

The book is not that perfect but it is a monumental piece of work for it has showed the craftsmanship and wisdom of the local artists, who had made their indelible mark in the art scene, both in the Philippines and abroad for it has featured 47 artists – 46 painters and one sculptor.

The beautiful works of Hermes Alegre, Remy Boquiren, Cee Cadid, the late Cris Cruz, Fil Delacruz, Caloy Gabuco, Rudolf Gonzales, Rafael Maniago, Jun Martinez, Nemi Miranda, Do Noble, Al Perez, Pancho Piano, Matt Relox, Fidel Sarmiento, Fernando Sena, Boi Sibug, Otep Ablay, Raquel Arboleda, Philipp Badon, Lito Ballaran, Frank Caña (Valencia), Seb Chua, Joseph Clavita, Norman Cristobal, Ola Dela Fuente, Orlando Distor, Jo Florendo, Maryrose Gisbert, Harold Gomez, Jo Hombrebueno, Oying Madrilejos, Chris Magbuhos, Erwin Mallari, Nik Masangcay, Eric Mercado, Raks Molata, Clyner Navalta, Emmanuel Nim, Charles Rivera, Roland Rosacay, Roger Santos, Roland Santos, Joey Simsim, Abu Urag, and Rence Tatad graced the pages of the book. Despite of the shortcomings, the book was warmly welcomed by the art community.

Popoy Cusi
Rafael “Popoy” Cusi’s Coral Symphony in Turquoise Blue, 36″ x 36″ watercolor on arches paper

This second volume, titled Watercolor Magic: The Works of the Best Watercolor “Magicians” of the Pearl of the Orient Seas, presented the finest works of the best watercolor painters in the Philippines: Menchu VB Arandilla, Philipp Badon, Cee Cadid, Caña, Popoy Cusi, Paul Dimalanta, Edgar Doctor, Caloy Gabuco, Jose Hombrebueno, Bonnie Jimenez, Domeng Labordo, Luis Llarina, Oying Madrilejos, Nic Masangcay, NemiRanda, Ernie Patricio, Al Perez, Pancho Piano, Loreto Racuya, Mat Relox, Melencio Sapnu Jr., Fernando B. Sena, Abu Urag, Vic Bachoco, Lito Ballaran, Jing Banawan, Jen Utleg Consumido, Janet De Grano, MD, Jerry Dela Rosa, Dario Buan Encinas, Roy Espinosa, Angelito “Jojo” Florendo, Mildred Garrido, Maryrose Gisbert-Domingo, Roderick Imperio, Edgar Jose, Margarita Lim, John Mabatan, Rosalinda “Naning” Molata-Gavin, Lloyd Orosa, Joie Pabilando, Romualdo “Rommel” Perez, Andy Pernia, Erwin Pineda, Charles Rivera, Augusto Santiago, Karen Sioson, Jimmy Uy Tablante, JC Vargas, Norbing Villes, Jose Armin Virata, MD, and Avic Zamora.

The texts were edited by a good friend of mine, Paula Isaiah Lopez Panganiban who is now based in Malaysia, while the photographs were taken by no other than Mark Nilo Odiaman, who is a well-known stills photographers for movies during the 70’s, 80’s and the 90’s. Now he is actively taking photos for indie filmmakers and producers such as Madam Baby Go, who became the guest of honor during the book launch on 08 August 2016.

Calming the Water, Taming the Storm

Watercolor, artists admit, is one of the hardest mediums to use but it is also the most interesting and exciting medium to explore for it teaches one discipline, determination, and being precised when it comes to creating something beautiful on paper.

To quote Maestro Rafael “Popoy” Aranillo Cusi,

Watercolor is a medium that embodies free and flowing movements. At the same time, it is contained by limited brushstrokes that you can make on the watercolor paper. The medium challenges me to work on two perspectives: precision and spontaneity; and in some sense, it is reflective of my thoughts and feeling about my life and art.

Just like a wild animal, watercolor is a medium that you need to carefully tame for it has a limited room for mistakes.

Art teacher and master watercolorist Roland Santos said:

The challenge of watercolor as the hardest medium to handle motivated me to work with it. Every painting is unique in terms of its characteristics, which is incomparable to [any] other mediums.

English watercolorist Alan Lee has expressed:

I like to work in watercolor, with as little under-drawing as I can get away with. I like the unpredictability of a medium which is affected as much by humidity, gravity, the way that heavier particles in the wash settle into the undulations of the paper surface, as by whatever I wish to do with it. In other mediums you have more control, you are responsible for every mark on the page — but with watercolor you are in a dialogue with the paint, it responds to you and you respond to it in turn. Printmaking is also like this, it has an unpredictable element. This encourages an intuitive response, a spontaneity which allows magic to happen on the page. When I begin an illustration, I usually work up from small sketches — which indicate in a simple way something of the atmosphere or dynamics of an illustration; then I do drawings on a larger scale supported by studies from models — usually friends — if figures play a large part in the picture. When I’ve reached a stage where the drawing looks good enough I’ll transfer it to watercolor paper, but I like to leave as much unresolved as possible before starting to put on washes. This allows for an interaction with the medium itself, a dialogue between me and the paint. Otherwise it is too much like painting by number, or a one-sided conversation.

To cap it all, watercolor is a medium where the artist can find himself really at work: not only with the medium but with himself. As a critic and a chronicler about arts and culture, I intend to focus on the aesthetic process and the outcome, rather than the life of the artist itself. The life and the struggles of the artists are good things to know, and it can serve as a beautiful background to the story, but it is their works that make them who they are: an artist, a reflector of the beauty that is visible and invisible.

And with the Watercolor Magic, we intend to honor that process, and to honor the ones who had labored that much to be able to capture–and immortalize–beauty on paper.

For the photos of the launch, you can access it here.

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