Small Changes and a Poetry Reading

I went into the room feeling both excitement and distress. Excitement, because I had been asked to read a poem I’d written. And distress, because I’d been asked to read a poem I’d written. It was the thing that was foremost in my mind as I said my “Hi-s” and “Hello-s”, and stole biscuits off the trays.It’s been a long time since anyone has shown any interest in my writing. It’s been a long time since “I” have shown interest in my writing. I’ve written no new stories, and no new poetry. I’ve somehow, let myself be defeated by my own mind, always thinking about how difficult writing is. I even use my art as an escape. I draw, because I cannot seem to write.

So reading my poetry, in front of a public audience, when I’ve never even let my own friends or family read them before seemed like such a huge step. And the random people of the internet who have read my writing cannot be compared to people who will be standing, and “listening” right in front of me.

It happened yesterday. I stood in front of a podium. I was flustered, so I joked around like I usually do, shrugging it off. I was just one among six others, so it wasn’t really anything special, but it was special to me, as all first times are. I don’t know if I’ll start writing poetry again. I don’t know if I’ll start writing again. I am always held-back by my own thoughts, which I am trying to change.

I’ve changed many things for myself this year. I’ve decided to be more involved in friendships, to be more honest with my emotions, to speak more freely, to be, in fact, more open. It may not be hard for others, but it is a challenge for me. Reading too many books has gotten me used to always knowing what is in the characters’ minds. I felt, as a child, that characters in books were truer, more honest friends, than anyone I could ever possibly meet in real life. This wasn’t a concrete thought in my head. But I now realize, as an adult, that I was a very distrusting child. If they weren’t family, then I spent too much time wondering over their motivations, wondering why they were talking to me, wondering why they wanted to be my friend. All the thinking finally became too bothersome. I escaped into my books again, where things were easier, and you could predict the ending.

Things have only changed for me this year, because I actively fought for that change. And most of the fighting was done with myself. I realized the only person truly holding me back was me. I still find it hard, but that’s because I’ve got two decades worth of bad habits. And there’s no “Eureka” moment like in all the movies. No, inspired, Coach Carter-type person who suddenly comes into your life and puts you on the right path. I realize that it’s still just me. Still just my thoughts fighting with my doubts. That there is no “Eureka” moment, but just small opportunities for change that I can either choose to take, or let pass me by. That there are inspiring people, but they come in small, subtle, doses, in the form of friends, family, and newly met acquaintances. That they can be blogs on WordPress or just pictures on Tumblr. And that I can either choose to let myself be inspired, to be changed, or I can hold myself blind and ignore everything.

I still don’t know if what I’m doing is working. I’ve joined art exhibits, gone back to school to finish my thesis, and tried to be closer and more dependable as a friend. But despite these small successes, I am still plagued by thoughts of what I didn’t finish. Of the loose-ends I still haven’t tied up. I don’t know if I’ve moved forward for good, or if I’ve taken two steps back.

But small steps are all I can take. And if being more “open” means accepting an opportunity to read my poetry in front of others, then that’s what I did. And I feel…lighter.

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Children’s Book Haul!

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I’ve gotten into the habit of dropping into whatever secondhand bookstore is near me just before I go home. I start with the children’s book section which is always put at the front at Booksale stores, and then I work my way to the paperbacks, and then the hardbound books. These days, I’m mostly buying children’s books. I’ve just downloaded a torrent of over 1500 sci-fi and fantasy books, so I’m full-up on my favorite fiction. I buy children’s books entirely motivated by the quirky, cool, awesome, scary, child-like, artsy, illustrations I find inside. This was a haul from two days worth of dropping by Booksale stores. I got some pretty good finds.

Written by James Clavell

Designed and Illustrated by George Sharp

P100/2.22USD

 Written and Illustrated by Colin Thomspon

P10/0.22USD

 Written and Illustrated by Kit Williams

P10/0.22USD

Written by Ursula K. LeGuin

Illustrated by Julie Downing

P20/0.44USD

Written by Betty Jean Lifton

Illustrated by Fuku Akino

P10/0.22USD

 Written and Illustrated by Raymond Briggs

P10/0.22USD

 Written by Eddie Campbell

Illustrated by Dan Best

P60/1.33USD

Overall, I only spent about P220.00, which is about 5USD. My favorites by far are Thrump-O-Moto by James Clavell and George Sharp, Masquerade by Kit Williams, and The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard by Eddie Campbell and Dan Best. The last one’s not really a children’s book though. It’s actually a graphic novel, but I found it in the children’s book section of the bookstore. I love it when they do that. Nobody but kids and hurried moms look at that section most of the time. I bought the Ride on the Red Mare’s Back because it was by Ursula K. LeGuin, who is an amazing SFF writer. The watercolor paintings inside by Julie Downing are pretty good too. I am planning to write a review of each of these books, with plenty of pics of the pages inside. :D

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Ps: Sorry about my mess of a desk. I didn’t have anywhere flat to take pictures on.

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Birthday Watercolor-Doodle!

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This week’s Monday was the day that my friend, Mike, turned a year older. I like Mike. He’s one of my best friends, and he doesn’t know it, but because of our friendship, I’ve actually become a much nicer, stabler, human being. He’s always so positive, and encouraging. And if I ever feel like I need a good conversation to stave off my sometimes, intense, feelings of isolation, all I need to do is drop a random line on Facebook, and he’s sure to reply back.

Mike works at this happy, weird, coffee-scented wonderland called Fuel, where the people are passionate dreamers and even better friends. Before his birthday, the peeps from Fuel dropped me a line, saying that they weren’t going to greet Mike at all that Monday, but would, instead, throw a guerrilla party on Tuesday, and would Doodle Thursday please make a birthday doodle for Mike. I said, OF COURSE! I called my DT friends, set up a chat on FB and we got started.

Mike’s awesome, so I wanted to do something really special. Only thing I’m pretty good at is watercolor, so I thought of doing his portrait, while the others could doodle around it. I think for a good birthday doodle, you need someone who can write the words “Happy Birthday” and make ‘em look good instead of chicken scratches on the dirt. My hand-writing closely resembles chicken scratches, so it was Denise to the rescue. Denise is my awesomely busy friend who is obsessed with lettering. I’m glad she had some free time to help out.

Anyway, despite not having much time, I think we did pretty good. We’re not expert doodlers, but I think the doodle speaks for itself on how much we love Mike. He’s one of us. Certified Doodle Thursday Banana! Just one of the best people all around!

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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.

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

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