“I don’t have any inkling that I would become a painter,” said furniture-designer turned painter Ida Robles during our interview for the magazine that I was formerly editing.
Robles is an interior design graduate from the Pontifical and Royal Catholic University of Santo Tomas, in Manila; and she said, she took up the course in interior design because it was a necessity for she wants to help in the family’s furniture-making business.
Though as a young girl, she admits, she’s into arts and crafts particularly creating paper dolls and dressing them up. And that’s about it. And she said she didn’t envision herself of becoming a painter whose works will be displayed in an art exhibit, together with other artists.
It’s all because of her Yannie
But it seems that she is fated to become a visual artist when she saw her youngest child, Dianne (or Yannie, as she was fondly called), has a potential of becoming an artist.
“She was very talented,” she quips, talking about Yannie, who at the age of two, can scribble something nice.
To hone her daughter’s talent, Robles decided to enroll then four-year-old Yannie into art class of the late Maestro Solano Cruz.
“To assist my daughter, I also enrolled in Solano’s class,” she said to this author. Seeing her work, the late Solano Cruz prodded her to take painting seriously for she has a future in it. But, Robles is not keen on dipping her hands to the world of painting, giving her mother and wife duties as an excuse.
Later, she has enrolled daughter in the workshop of Maestro Fernando “Nanding” Sena. Robles said she has to join the class, too, to keep her daughter motivated. That’s the first time that she has enjoyed painting.
The “coming” of Ida Robles as a serious painter
A time came, in 2002, that she has to join a group of mothers whose children are studying in the same school as her daughters, also interested in learning how to paint. This is to break the monotony, she said; for her “work” revolves around taking her youngest daughter to school and fetching her later. And her routine is the same of those other moms, of course.
They would have Pol Mesina for their teacher and their classes were held every Tuesday, hence the moniker “ICA Moms-Tuesday Group.”
Robles shared, while her colleagues are learning the basics, she has been busying herself doing other things. She would draw and paint according to what she sees or envisions inside her creative head, thus developing her style of painting people doing things in the milieu that they are living in.
But, as usual, she paints as a hobby; not until that her daughter finished secondary school and she has been “relieved” to the send-and-fetch-Yannie-to-school routine.
That’s when she felt that emptiness, and the only thing that can fill that void is—painting.
Her “people” with Chinese or small eyes, look like wearing glasses, but they were actually eyebrows, cheeks, and nose bridge intersecting each other, hence creating an illusion that the figures are wearing huge glasses, similar to the late President Corazon C. Aquino’s spectacles that she always wears.
Their bodies or torso are quite large and round, the same as their limbs, reminiscent of the style of Victorio Edades when it comes to anatomy, and Mauro “Malang” Santos when it comes to colors—bright, vivid, and lively.
“It was a friend of mine who told me not to paint landscapes and still-life anymore for they are a passé. You should paint like Malang, she said. And I tell her jokingly, okay, I will become Malong,” she told this writer laughing. Malang just died June 10th, 2017, only two months before this interview with Robles has happened.
But she said, her primary influence, of course, are the modern artists that she has encountered during her college days—the Pasigueño artist Cenon M. Rivera, whom she said, had taught her freehand drawing in UST; the famed Antonio Austria and his “little people”; and Leonardo Hidalgo, an artist from La Union, who is also an alumnus of the UST and the Accademia di Belle Arti, a prestigious art school in Rome under an scholarship.
More about the local culture
The late Mohandas K. Gandhi once said, “A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.”
In her paintings, you would see the glimpse of the country’s rich and colorful culture, which is community and family-centered.
Sadly, as we have entered the era of modernization where gadgets are a means of entertainment, and the social media has become the “new community” for the Filipinos, especially among the youth, some of the things that we accustomed to like the old toys and the old games that children, before the advent of the internet, used to play.
Rendered in her own modernist style, Robles has been able to capture the things that even this writer can vividly remember—flying kites and playing piko (hopscotch) during summer afternoons; the palo sebo competition during town and barrio fiestas; and the traditional Filipino clothing—the baro’t saya and the patadyong that you will now only see during some special events.
But mostly, she paints about mothers and their daughters. Again, her reference is her love for her unica hija, Yannie.
Besides the mother and daughter, she also paints about family, and just like we have mentioned earlier, about traditional games and amusement that are almost forgotten by the younger generation.
She does this because she wanted to remind how fun and how beautiful our traditional games are.
To simply put, her works are about happiness, unity, and going back to your roots and never forget about it. Just like what the old Tagalog saying goes, “Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makararating sa kaniyang paroroonan.”
And to her audience and patrons, she just wanted to say: “I want the audience to see my art as something positive; something that they can lift their spirits up. I want them also to see them as a proof of a mother’s love to her children.” (Written on September 27, 2017)
Nota Bene: The author has corrected the mistake that Leonardo M. Hidalgo is the multi-awarded artist from the 19th century. The original text was, Ida was influenced by Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, who happens to be a kin of Prof. Hidalgo of U.S.T. Thanks for pointing out the mistake.