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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Do You Have A Filipina?

I admit I am elated that my artwork made it to a cover of a book. I remember when a friend told me, 'Oh we can't hang with those guys (pointing to authors and artists)... they're already published in books!'

Well my artwork is in the cover of a book now what? Do I jump for joy or shout to the world hey my painting's in a book!


I choose to be grounded about this because the bottom line is the message.

It hurt when I first heard about the story Europeans referring to Filipinas as maids!

And just this morning on Facebook, a friend posted a video of a Pinay hit by something hard on the head by her 'master' in Kuwait. Her face was oozing with blood while speaking begging for her countrymen to help her.


This is just a sample of what Filipinas go through when they try to get out of a country that doesn't really support women's rights because of deep-seated 'macho' culture.

It is a great honor and help for my kumareng Barbara Jane Reyes to put my art on the cover of her book 'Invocation To Daughters' because my message will be seen by more people and that IS my goal - to spread awareness!

Here's the link...

More power to you thank you mareng Barbara. :-)

A Political Party Of One.

Yes I am not afraid to stand up alone! I am a political party of one.

If You Happen To Be In Manila On November 11, 2017. Come visit my one man show at the Boston Gallery, Cubao Q.C.



Friday, July 23, 2010

On Being An Artist

“How can you say one style is better than the other? You ought to be able to be an Abstract Expressionist next week, or a Pop artist, or a realist, without feeling you’ve given up something… I think that would be so great, to be able to change styles. And I think that’s what’s going to happen, that’s going to be the whole new scene.”

I came across this statement by Andy Warhol. I have been an Andy Warhol fan a long time. Say what you will against him but we cannot deny he’s a genius. My favorite quote from him was when he was asked a question and he didn’t say anything. He just raised his shoulders and pointed to his colleague and let him answer the question.

He once said that ‘while they are deliberating whether what you created was art or not… make more art.’

I think explaining or talking about a painting puts boundaries to it. That’s why I don’t like making statements about my art. It distorts things up. My art is my statement.

Of course I still write art statements because galleries require it and I don’t mind bending.

I have been an artist all my life and I think art is a way of life. It’s not a profession for me. It’s just the way I live. Just like everybody, I’ve been drawing before I can write but the difference was that stopping never crossed my mind.

Our system tend to put artists in a box. They want you to be something that they can identify with like a cubist, a realist, impressionist etcetera.

For me I cannot stick to one style or genre. I get bored easily. I just enjoy doing want I want. It’s my way of not being totally controlled by whatever the system dictates. It’s my way of going against the grain. Free of dogmas.

I started with the pencil when I was about 5 years old. I grew up in a remote area in the Philippines and I was just fascinated when I saw my older brother’s sketch of the Volkswagen beetle we used to own. I got hooked instantly. I started copying Superman and Spiderman from comics. I got influenced a lot by great Filipino komiks illustrators such as Redondo, Alex Nino and Malgapo because that’s the kind of art available to me at that time. I love looking and studying their drawings.

Drawing also became my refuge due to my insecurities while growing up a ‘probinsyano.’ or ‘syano’ as they say.

When I was in high school, (Quirino High School, QC Manila) I took graphic arts as an elective and started using watercolors, oils and acrylics. I was the school’s representative in art contests and coveted 2 awards for me and them.

I don’t excel in academics and this puts me down mentally during that time because as I said earlier, the system wants you to excel in academics to be accepted. They want you to be doctors and engineers. Me? I just want to draw that’s all.

I was about to take up painting in college but my brother adviced me not to because there’s no money in it.

See what I mean?

I took up advertising instead (University of Santo Tomas)and it worked out perfect because the advertising experience made me different from most artists. I had 9 years of advertising experience (Avellana and Associates)and it gave my art a fresh dimension. Advertising taught me illustration, layout, and thinking about ideas. It sharpened my conceptual abilities and learned to use non-standard materials.

I tried going back to advertising when I migrated here in the US but I got frustrated because of the culture difference. I know we were taught how to be an American back in P.I. but my provincial self persisted. I just realized I don’t have to play that game anymore. I have to be myself.

I was happy because that was the time I really started ‘painting.’ My first love.

I met Santi Bose in Oakland and he became my mentor even if he didn’t know. Up to now, I haven’t seen or met an artist like Santi that I could follow. I can relate to him because we have similar background. I gave up already because most of the art I see today are all about selling. Sorry to say but mostly they’re about the buyer not the artist.

I have no gallery representation or anything like that but I don’t mind. I’m on my own. I know myself. I dictate my art and future and have no intention of following anybody’s rules because I have to follow my own path.

I love my job as a printer, I love my family and I give them equal time and enthusiasm as my art. I accept imperfections because that's the way life is. I am an illustrator, a painter, a cubist, an impressionist, a realist, a tattoo artist, graphic designer, digital artist/printer, commercial artist, former drug addict and alcoholic, factory worker, dental assistant, production artist, abstractionist, expressionist, modernist, conceptual and pop artist, stent winder, flash artist, cartoonist, portrait artist, social realist, watercolorist, a musician sometimes, caricaturist, a cook, a son, a father, husband, brother, friend and proud of it all.

Being an artist for me is not about sticking to one or two genres. It's not about hardship or isolation. I have to be present at all times without preferences bacause art is all about life experience. I know because I am my own proof. I am an artist and living it.

Cow Palace Tattoo Expo – March, 2010

I was at the Cow Palace Tattoo Expo last month with Underground Creations of San Jose, CA. Thanks to Darius Agustin and my kumpareng Ariel Cruz for letting me in.

There weren’t too many clients.

I guess it’s the economy.

I still enjoyed and learned a lot. Dee (Darius) gave me some pointers on tribals. He uses super black by intenze inks and uses plain water to break the skin first then apply the black next. The result was very smooth. You can’t see needle lines.

There were 3 new young tattoo artists and they inspired me a bit because of their guts. If they can do it, I can do it too. It takes courage to do ink because it’s on human skin. I’m actually doing it slowly but surely. I’m in no rush.

I didn’t want to be bored so I just banged away three and a half drawings for my flash. I felt like a performer when I do drawings at these conventions because I do it in front of people. I admit I still appreciate the comments but I don’t want to get it into my head because I still want to learn.

Nancey Plew introduced me to Stan who wants something done. He wants an Oni mask that looks like himself. Nancey recommended me because she saw a similar drawing that I did before. Stan just emailed his picture after the convention and I started from that. The other drawing has a generic face.

I haven’t met my homeboys for a long time so I really enjoyed meeting them again. I was with them I think about 3 or 4 years ago at Pomona, LA. I really enjoyed their company and I talked about them in my old post. I wasn’t drinking anymore when I met them but I gave it another shot because I wanted to know them more.

They talked about their gang banging days but that was past and I don’t really want to elaborate. Overall, they were fun guys and it was really nice meeting them again.

I know tattooing isn’t considered as ‘high art’ by the ‘experts.’ Art is my first love and my wife knows this :-)

I haven’t really discovered how to fuse my experience as a tattoo artist and designer with my art but I know I’m getting there. I’m starting to get some ideas.

I saw Ed Hardy’s paintings at Pusod, Berkeley about 10 years ago and that was the first time I’ve heard of him. He was incorporating Japanese and sailor style tattoos into his paintings. It was very fresh and I guess the fusion he did made it become ‘art.’

The experience I’m having in the tattoo world worried me at first because I was thinking it will take over my time for art but I immediately realized Ed Hardy. Give me a few years and I’m sure my future paintings will be influenced by it. Actually I started incorporating my flash designs into my paintings in my last exhibit with Kwatro Kantos.

It was accidental though. I didn’t pursue tattooing. It just came to me and I’m enjoying it. It’s been like this for me always. It’s like nature’s leading me to it. I just make art and all the ingredients just flow in naturally.

Oh and by the way Ike Greca, one of Ariel’s tat artists won first place for the celebrity portrait category. Congratulations Ike! Way to go. Sorry I forgot to take a picture of his winning piece.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Sabong Tattoo at the Cow Palace

We just concluded another tattoo expo at the Cow Palace. It wasn’t as good as the last one but we got by.

I got excited because one design I did way back got inked for the first time.

A pinoy asked me If I have an image of sabong or cock fight. I showed him the drawing and he said that’s exactly what his friend was looking for so he ran and called them.

Two friends came. They’re all around 60 years old. Darius saw one of them wearing a shirt with the Philippine map printed in front. Darius hollered, ‘hey! wer’d ju get dat shirt?’

‘Pilipins, Pilipins.’ Why?’ The guy answered feeling a bit agitated on how Darius approached him not even saying ‘manong’ ‘po’ or ‘ho.’ You know how mainland pinoys see Fil-ams as hambugs or ‘mayayabang.’ Darius is a Fil-am who understands tagalog and ilocano but cannot speak it. Darius answered, ‘oh, because I have one here’ pointing to his temple. The Philippine map was tattooed on the left side of his forehead.

I noticed the guy calmed down because he only got the map on his shirt while Dee’s (Darius) got it on his forehead.

The guy liked the cock fight design and got it inked by Ariel. I did the design as outlines only then Ariel filled in the colors. I really made it outline only so that the tattoo artist can play with the colors.

The guy was very particular with the colors. He showed us a cell phone picture of the kind of cock or rooster he wants.

I know the other one is ‘talisayin’ but I didn’t know what they call the red one. ‘Talusapi’ he told me which my brother commented that’s bad luck because the name suggests ‘to loose.’ Talo or talu means ‘lost’ or ‘loose’ in tagalog.

I was really amused when I met the 3 sabungeros because I know their kind. My father used to own a cock fighting farm back in P.I. They remind me of my father’s friends with their polo jack, sparkling white sneakers, pomade and blue jeans. We hit it off right away.

I translated quite a few names in baybayin or alibata. We have this printed guide where there are Spanish letter translations. You won’t find Spanish letter translations in the internet like ‘ra,’ cha,’ fa,’ ‘ca’ or ‘ja.’

I also learned how a consonant can be just the consonant like instead of ‘ba,’ it will be read as ‘b’ only by adding an accent. Without accents the character will always be read as BA, KA, DA, GA and so on. Accents make the characters read as BE, BI, BO, BU or KE, KI, KO, KU.

Our group was international meaning there were two Irish, a Brazilian, Korean, Mexicans and Filipinos.

Ricky, a Mexican-American whose whole body was filled with Mexican pride tattoos told me, ‘hey Mel I can tell you’re a nice guy.’ I told him ‘yes, I always try to be.’ ‘No, no.’ he said. ‘I can tell you have a good heart just like most Filipinos. That’s why I have 3 stars and a sun tattooed on my arm.’ He showed me the tat. A small sun and 3 stars in a sea of Mexican pride tattoos. That made me feel proud and good.

I was only able to go Saturday because I had to babysit Friday and Sunday. As always, I enjoyed the company and the experience.