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Mum’s “Exploding Orchid”

Mum’s been on my case to paint more realistic watercolors lately. She says it’s more “practical”. I guess she doesn’t like my usual stuff so much. I am both saddened and resigned. I love my mum, and she’s great. She’s one of those parents who are “supportive against their better judgement”. She knows that life as an artist will most likely be difficult for me if I decide to pursue it. She’s a Mom, so, she wants me to have a comfortable life where my income actually surpasses my needs. However, she also doesn’t want to stop me from doing something that will make me happy. Like I said, she’s great. She bought me an easel even though she told me she wouldn’t, all because she felt sorry for me and my back.

Anyway, since she’s decided to support me, such support comes with artistic advice. Enter the advice on realistic paintings. On one hand, I just want to do my own thing, which is for now, two-tailed cats and girls with slits for eyes. Like the one below.

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On the other hand, I too, want to be more practical with my life. I don’t want to be a leech who constantly asks for donations from the “parental fund” for more watercolor paper. So I guess I’ll give realism a try. And not the comics kind with the cool characters and action scenes, but traditional realism with the landscapes, the still-lifes, and the cute little children playing in the sun. Sort of as a practice painting, I made her this orchid watercolor. I found a book on orchids while I was going through the house and it had all this big high-res pics of flowers in it. (Wowoot! Another stock photo book I can use!) The colors were a bit on the dull side though, so I just started playing around with it to see what would happen. I was very realistic on the “shape” of an orchid, but I kind of missed the realism thing with the color.

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At least you can see it’s an orchid, right? It’s recognizably, an orchid. Might look like a mutant orchid, but it’s still an orchid. I call it, the “Exploding Orchid”. And in my head, it waits around for the unwary to step onto it’s path, and then it spits a gush of highly acidic liquid at them. Of course, I didn’t tell mom this. She thinks I’m just calling it “orchid”. I don’t really want to tell her any differently.

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Janiuay Parish Church

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Here’s a sketch of the church in Janiuay. It’s pretty new compared to most of the churches you find in the towns here. The old one probably met an earthquake and didn’t live to tell the tale. I feel bad for the oldies. They survive mice, wood-munchers and rampaging Spaniards bent on razing them to the ground. Then here comes Mother Nature, turning over in her sleep, wiggling her ass a little, and down they go. The little humans are sad for a while, then they build a new church over the old one and that’s that. Goodbye and thank you for the memories.

I miss being a nerd.

I feel like I’m losing hold of my identity. Nobody thinks I’m a nerd anymore, even my parents. I have to constantly tell my friends I’m a nerd, or they won’t even imagine it. In the good old days, all I needed to do was to talk or move, and people would just immediately think, “nerd”. I was fine with that. I understood it. It was a label I could wrap my head around.

But now, people keep thinking “artist”, and my head enters buffering mode. I don’t know how to act. I know how to be a nerd. I think I’m a weirdly adorable one. But an artist? What’s that? It’s a different set of rules entirely. It’s a different way of talking. A different way of walking. And a different set of expectations to address. People ask me all these deep questions about art and stuff, as if I know what they’re talking about. Did I watch this or that movie? No. Did I read this book? No. What are my thoughts on the theoretical, etc, etc…? Um… I don’t know? Why can’t people just automatically assume I’m a nerd and not ask me such hard questions. I don’t watch indie movies unless they’re SFF. I don’t read books unless they’re SFF. No, I don’t understand art theory, but I can talk about the Science of Discworld. Would you like to know about Roundworld versus Discworld? No? Sad. And every time I pull out my 42 joke, nobody gets it. What? Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a classic!

I don’t like feeling out of my depth, so I’ve been trying to do a ton of research on the side. I’m a History&PoliSci double major, so research should be my forte. Research isn’t uninteresting. The movies are good and almost everyone’s got good taste. I’ve got a list of new books to read, animes to watch, and music to listen to. But I feel like I haven’t read a good SFF book in too loooooong. I want to read that new Brandon Sanderson book. And Pratchett’s Raising Steam? I’ve heard it’s good. And I haven’t met up with my RPG group in months. Nor have I played Shadowrun in who know’s how long. I just feel like my comfort zone of the “familiar and predictable” has suddenly been swallowed by the “wyrd and unexpected”. Just cuz I joined a few art orgs and went on a few artsy-fartsy activities doesn’t make me an artist. People shouldn’t lump me together with real artists. What I’m doing is more like…community service.

My days are fun. I don’t want to seem ungrateful. Doing things with my hand apart from writing is a stress reliever, and I’m learning a lot. Learning how to get better at drawing is interesting. Travelling is fun too. Sketchcrawl is an eye opener. It’s just that, sometimes, I wish I could talk about geek stuff with this new crowd I’ve got, like I used to with my other friends. My brain has the tendency to bring up randomly geeky thoughts that I used to just blurt out, but now I don’t becaue no one would get it.

I just miss nerdy conversations, that’s all.

Sketchcrawl: Janiuay Cemetery

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I went on sketchcrawl to Janiuay with some friends. It was an hour long trip, and I normally, would’ve snored through it, but I’d bought some bread for everybody and ended up eating most of it during the ride. We got there, looked at the church, sketched it, walked around, got stared at by the locals (maybe we had a “NOT FROM HERE” sign on our backs), and went to the cemetery. Why did we go to the cemetery? Cuz it’s part of the local tourist route here in the Philippines, along with churches, beaches, and haunted houses. People like old things riddled with ghosts, and so, we went to a cemetery, sure to have a ghost or two, and sketched a bit.

There’s a guaranteed “surreal-ness” to a cemetery. You go there and you’re like, “Oh shit, this place is so surreal.” Next thing you know, the word “surreal” is the only thing coming out of you and everybody else’s mouth. Can’t help it. It’s like a word trapped in your head and it can’t get out anymore.

But look at this place, it’s got stairs of the dead, encased in cement boxes, climbing up to the horizon. How much more “surreal” can you get?

PS. This wheelbarrow might also, possibly, be surreal. Can you feel it? Can you feel the surreal vibes it’s letting out?

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I’m just joking. Have a nice day!

Smile

(Found this little poem while I was going through some old writing accounts. I used to be pretty active on writerscafe.org.)

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Smile though your heart is aching
Breathe though your eyes are tearing
See, that the world does not end

Take a deep breath and
Feel the wind against your face
Open your arms and welcome

What comes after the sadness,
What comes after the pain,
Is happiness and joy, not everlasting
But worth living.

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“Triskele” Painting

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“Triskele” by Jam Lebrilla

24×30

Acrylic on Canvass

Submitted for Vision 2014 Art Exhibit in Museo Iloilo from Oct 3 to Nov 4, 2014

This painting was an experiment with acrylic and canvass. I usually use watercolor because it’s easier for me to get hold of the materials, but I had just been invited to join a show and I didn’t have the time to make a watercolor and have it framed in time since the invitation was a bit last minute. I’ve recently been inspired by the works of Dave McKean and Shaun Tan, and have been doodling in my free time with random shapes and trying to form figures with them. This painting actually came from a doodle I did in thesis class.

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Everyone’s thesis seemed to be related to fishermen. I was sitting there, listening, and just wondering why everyone was so interested in displaced fishermen, fishermen contesting territorial rights, fishermen who’s livelihood were affected by the recent slew of typhoons, etc…I’ve got nothing against their topics. I was just wondering why there wasn’t more variety. So I just started doodling, allowing my mind to wander, and I came up with a giant fish swimming atop a city, with a fisherman on his back.

I’ve always liked patterns, so I eventually came up with a slew of inspirations, like old celtic art, and native tattooing traditions from my country like the “pintados”. Pintados was a term used by the Spaniards, who colonized the Philippines, for the natives who tattooed their bodies. They would normally be found along the islands of Cebu, Bohol, and Leyte in the Visayas region of the Philippines. The word itself means “painted,” and was first used during the Spanish colonization of the Philippines. The tattoos are applied by pricking the skin with sharp pieces of iron and then applying black powder to the open wounds which is absorbed into the skin permanently. I imagine it to be quite painful. If I ever get a tattoo, I’m doing it the easy way.

I named the painting “Triskele” because there’s a triskele on the whale’s forehead. It’s an old pattern that can be found in places all over Europe and some Asian countries. It means a unity of three. Whether this is a unity of three elements, powers, gods, etc…who knows. The symbol is so old it can mean anything. Its open to interpretation.

The painting is actually my debut into the painting scene here in Iloilo City. Whether anyone will take me seriously, who knows? I must say though, I definitely did like the experience. It forced me to get out of my comfort zone and explore other medias. I’m a person who’s kind of set in her ways when it comes to certain things, so joining the exhibit and forcing myself to use acrylic made me learn the medium’s not so difficult after all. Kind of fast when it comes to drying, but if I make a mistake, it’s easy enough to paint over.

Well, I think I’ll try oil next.

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2nd Sketchcrawl: Oton, Iloilo

I live in Oton, so everyone decided it’d be fun to do sketching over at my town, with me acting as guide. As if I really knew anything about the place. Before the day, one of my friends asked me if there were other places to go to other than the plaza, and the church. My head was a blank. I wanted to come up with a clever answer and pretend I was an expert on the place, but I couldn’t think of anything. So I decided to be honest and admit my ignorance. Besides, no half-thought lie would have really held up against continuous questioning.

The plan was to sketch a bit at the church and the plaza, then on to my grandma’s house/cafe-thingy for some coffee. And then continue with the sketching after. But I completely freaked and decided to go on a cleaning spree. Nobody’s used the cafe for months so it’s become a dust bunny haven. I hate cleaning. I’m asthmatic, so me and dust are a no-no. I procrastinated on the cleaning cuz I hate it so much, so I didn’t start until about an hour before they were supposed to arrive. Needless to say, I didn’t leave the cafe until they appeared for their coffee. Already half the sketchcrawl session gone. I hate cleaning.

But we went out for talaba afterwards! Yay! Oysters! I love talaba. Definitely one of my favorite shellfoods. Sketched some fake flamingos in this seafood resto we happened to find. The guys were looking for beer. I just wanted oysters.

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I don’t think I really learned anything new about Oton. But I walked around, enjoyed some fresh air, and generally felt buoyant about being alive.

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Btw…talaba is “oysters” in english.

Sketchcrawl. My First One at Iloilo Esplanade.

It was raining when I got off the jeep and walked to Esplanade. My friends were already there when I arrived. Not a surprise since I was already two hours late for the session. It was kinda funny to walk towards the meeting place and see them from afar, waving from the second floor of a coffee shop. 

At first, I had no idea what to draw. I have no real experience with landscapes since I’ve always just drawn people, but hopefully, a few more of these sessions will help me out with that. This is only my first sketchcrawl. My first try was awful, a landscape. So afterwards, I just stuck to people. I sketched my two friends, Mark and Christian. 

Mark’s head is all weird. I gotta do better next time. He’s reading something on my cellphone in this one. I thought the position was interesting because he looked like he was really absorbed in what he was doing. 

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This one’s a bit better. It almost looks like my friend. In this one, Chris is playing around with his tablet and this cellphone, making up bits of music. He’d had a piano app on his cellphone, and a drum app on his tablet, and he was fooling around with the keys. (Check out his page!)

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We stayed there until 8pm, just drawing, talking, and me drinking coffee. It was an awesome 5 hours. I’ve never drawn outside before with so many other people around. I’ve always, kind of, hid what I was doing by sitting in empty cafes or lonely benches. I’m pretty shy, so drawing outside with my friends there as some kind of buffer really helps. 

Hope you guys are sketching too. Go outside and sketch. Get some people together if you’re shy like me. 

Cheers!

A Knack for Drawing

There is a strange bit of pleasure to be found in drawing. A happiness in jotting down your thoughts and finding that it forms an image on the paper. I call the pleasure strange because everyday, I still find it faintly unbelievable that I have the ability for it. I’m not good at drawing or painting. No one would every call me an expert, but I’m not bad either, and I believe that to be an incredible piece of luck for me.

I’ve always fancied myself a writer. I spent my days inside libraries and in bookstores. If ever I drew, it was only in school when the teacher bored me and I could not sneak a book to read. The teachers had cottoned on to what I did, and I could not bend my head down for any length of time without them getting angry with me. Oh, I admired people who had the talent, and envied them their passion for it, but I never could quite find the same passion in myself. Instead, all my dreams were of books and writing. Strange worlds. Strange creatures. Strange cultures and practices. All in my head and waiting to be written.

Which is why I call myself lucky, because despite all the time I’d spent on reading and writing, every time I picked up a pencil and decided to draw for a bit, I seemed to get a bit better at it. Oh, not fast. Most times, I find myself unbearably slow at it, and I stop. But somehow, through all those years spent mostly reading, I seem to have picked up the knack for it, just enough that when I draw, I can get the faces right at least.

I’m still horrid when it comes to arms and legs, and any sort of anatomy whatsoever. But faces make me happy, because with just faces, I get to see what my characters look like if they were real. My head is too much of a scatter-brain. I forget things too easily, which is why I must write them down.

I wonder when it was that I started bringing a notebook not to write in, but to draw in. I think it was in the middle of college. I was in a bit of a crisis. I was bringing myself down and getting all dull and grey. Classes were a pain and I seemed to stop moving. Just. Stop. Moving. Life slowed for me and I couldn’t find the energy to speed it up again. I started skipping and getting late for things. I didn’t submit projects on time. I didn’t even bother remembering my teacher’s names, or my classmates faces. I kept forgetting dates and losing touch with reality. I wasn’t going crazy. No. Just escaping, for a bit. And my books didn’t help at all. Instead, they just helped me escape more.

But drawing helped. I don’t know why. There is a strange bit of force to be found when someone draws, as if gravity pulls you to the person, tempts you to look over his shoulder, peak at what he’s drawing, and ask questions. Truly, I don’t know if this happens to everyone, but because I drew, here and there, I seemed to have found friends. New friends. People who talked more and had such energy. Sometimes, I feel a bit like a plant, soaking up all that energy, willing myself to get excited, to join it, to move, to act, to push myself into reality.

There is an openness to drawing that I haven’t yet found in my writing. An easier path for finding people, for finding fun. Writing is fun, but it’s a lonely sort of thing.  Right now, I write. But I draw too. And I count myself lucky everyday for having the knack for it. For somehow, bit by bit, year by year, finding the ways of it. Just enough, just enough, that I sometimes get things right. I’m happy when I draw, and when I write. Someday, my stories will be both.

Some Post-Iloilo Comicon R&R

I’m definitely darker. Definitely. I just got home from a post-ICCON outing at Villa Igang in Guimaras, and I’m staring at my new tan. I forgot to put on sublock, so now I look ridiculous. I’m sporting three shades of color. I’ve got half-baked, baked, and burnt. My face, is ridiculous.

But…it was TOTALLY WORTH IT.

I didn’t know what we were going to be up to today, so I just threw some clothes into a bag and zipped away to the port. I’ve been going through two days of ICCON in a haze of sweat and busyness, so I’ve hardly thought of anything else. In fact, I completely forgot that there was going to be an after party thingy once we were done with everything.

And it wasn’t really a party. We went Island Hopping!!! ICCON organizers, plus the guests at the Con.

After dropping our stuff off at the resort, we got into a small skiff, or what we Ilonggos call, a “katig”.

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And then, we went to our first destination, a SEAFDEC Marine Center. The water was so clear, you could see the bottom. The whole ride to the center, I kept dipping my hand into the water as the boat ran. And the whole time, the image kept repeating in my head of a shark coming from nowhere to bite my entire arm off. I blame Soul Surfer. That movie just made me more paranoid. But it wasn’t going to defeat me. So I kept my arm in that water and told the imaginary shark in my head to go fuck himself.

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Hah! Eat that, Jaws!
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Us arriving at the Marine Center.
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Rickety! This bridge is so rickety!

When we got to the center, I felt like an amazing amount of inspiration dropped down on me there and then. Right from the murky depths of small fish and netting came a giant. It was slow, ponderous, and intent, circling it’s small partition of space once, eyeing us interlopers with our wide eyes and gaped mouths, before going back to its dwelling below. It was a giant. A monster. A king of groupers. The biggest Lapu-Lapu I have ever seen. It was as big as me.

The Monster!
The Monster!
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Showing off.

Therefor I hereby state that the world is amazing. And strange. And filled with so many things to see and explore. I Will See It All.

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Weird looking spikey fish.
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Once again, the Spiky Fish.

And now let us go back. To the sand. The sea. The surf. And the awesome rock formations I saw underneath the water when a bunch of us went for a dive and some snorkeling later. Haha. Manix Abrera, author of Kikomachine, lent me his snorkeling gear, so I didn’t need to rent it anymore from the guys in the katig. He’s a pretty laid-back dude. Very cool. I got an awesome drawing from him during ICCON.

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I also learned to tread water and swim. I’m a pretty bad swimmer. I would even say, that technically, I don’t know how to swim at all. But I can hold my breath. I can float. I can tread upright. I think that’s good enough for a dip in calm water and some snorkeling time. After all, for snorkeling, you can hold the katig and just float on your face. And you’ll see everything. That’s pretty much my formula.

But, to be honest, there was a moment when I couldn’t breathe and I kept drinking salt water. I panicked. A little bit. Just a little. But I’m fine, excellent in fact, and the overlords don’t know about it, so all is well.

And then…Turtle Power! I held a turtle. Carried it up a beach. Took a picture with it. Touched its head. Didn’t touch its mouth. And shook its flipper. It was hot, sandy, and magical. I could just imagine this turtle, swimming through space, with four elephants on its back, and carrying a flat-shaped world called Discworld. It even has little Discworlds, floating around, surrounding it.

Turtle Jrs.
Turtle Jrs.

On the way back, we got treated to a closer look at the cave formations at the side of the island.

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I wish we had time to go even closer, perhaps even go in. But time was up, and we had to eat. I hate my shrimp allergy. Two of the dishes in the buffet prepared for us had shrimp and I couldn’t eat them. I always worry when I eat at seafood restaurants. Somehow, they manage to sneak shrimp into the unlikeliest places. During lunch, it was revealed that the guests were planning to go back to Iloilo early.They weren’t going to stay overnight like the organizers. I was really relieved. Before I had left the house this morning, the overlords told me staying overnight was a definite NO, so I was glad I had people to go home in the afternoon with. Before I left though, I did one last thing.

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There’s a cave near Villa Igang, that is small, but extremely interesting. I collect rocks and am fascinated by rock formations, so caves are definite things I like to explore. It was a small, and slightly treacherous, but it allowed access from the beach to the other side of a small tendril of rock that had pushed forward from the cove.

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The floor of the cave was not a walk in the park. It was a slippery slidy hell, especially when you’re carrying a cellphone and trying to keep it above water. I wanted to take pictures, but halfway over I left it on a rock as I was having some definite problems with balance. Kantilado. That’s the right term for it. This is what we use when footing underneath the water gets dangerous due to sudden changes in height.

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Got one really dark photo of the others.
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Cave Conquered!

 

I felt sad when I had to leave. The waves were getting stronger. I won’t have many pictures, but that cave will always be there. So if I ever need to refresh my memory, I can always go back and blunder my way through again.

And I am definitely going back. And this time, I’ll explore all the islands left unexplored.

Everywhere is walking distance ifyou have the time. Steven Wright.

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