Category: Journal Art

The Life of Olaudah Equiano

Today’s art journal entry is about a book I’m currently reading, The Life of Olaudah Equiano. It’s my first time to read a slave narrative, all I know about those dark times were what I read in history books and books on African American social issues. Slave narratives connect with you in a very different way. I find Olaudah’s narrative overwhelmingly sad, and one can’t help but wonder about the incredible capacity of humans for cruelty. I’m halfway through the book, I have a few more slave narratives lined up. The illustration in the journal entry is about Olaudah’s description of an iron muzzle, a contraption put on a slave’s head to prevent them from talking or eating while working on the field or in the kitchen. Like I said, it’s an overwhelmingly sad read.

Learning Something New

I recently bought a sketchbook that uses kraft paper from The Unplanned Life. I love that it can take fountain pen ink and light watercolor and water soluble graphite washes, but it really shines best with colored pencils. I bought this small set of Caran d’Ache Pablo color pencils sometime last year, I was hoping to learn how to use it, but I just didn’t have the time to sit down and figure it out. The first time I tried to use it, I had a hard time layering colors and making the values show through, so I just stopped and then I forgot to pick up again afterwards. I was trying out different mediums on this notebook so I remembered about these colored pencils and dug them out from under a pile of books on our bed’s side table. This time I kept at it until the drawing looked closer to how I wanted it to be. That was pretty satisfying, but it took much longer than I expected. I’m probably going to invest on a bigger set soon, I need more browns and yellows for my food drawings.

Beef Pares

Yesterday’s food journal entry is about beef pares. In the excitement, I forgot to take a photo of the actual dish. Beef pares is a popular street food in the Philippines, usually served with garlic rice and beef soup. The most popular iteration of beef pares is sweet. You can find some that are salty, but that’s not what usually comes to mind when we think of street pares. I think it’s really a testament to the Filipino sweet tooth. My husband likes his pares with thick and sweet sauce. The dish is just a simple braise but with the addition of brown sugar and star anise. It’s best to use beef brisket for this dish, but I used beef shanks because it’s what I currently had in the fridge.

Shopping during this pandemic is very challenging. Amid the spread of the deadlier, more transmissible Delta variant, we just have grocery delivered through apps. I miss going to the grocery store, markets, and meat shops to look at the meat and find cuts that have good marbling and good color. Having a stranger pick out meat for you is just not the same, but these are the times we live in right now.

Star anise also wasn’t available in the shopping app we use, but I realize that it’s available in Lazada. You can’t substitute anything for star anise. It’s what gives pares that characteristic taste and smell. Simple ingredients, simple cooking methods. What’s more important (aside from getting the seasoning right) is to take your time and slow-cook the meat to perfection so that the fats are rendered and the tendons are melt-in-your-mouth soft.

Just Draw.

I recently ordered a sketchbook that uses kraft paper from The Unplanned Life. I promised myself that I will draw more, I will practice loose , direct sketching regularly so that my hand will obey my mind better. When writing in my journal, the flow is just continuous and natural. I haven’t been able to do that with my art. I can never seem to get out of my own way and just relax and enjoy the process. I promised myself that I will try it again this time and that I will not be too precious about my sketches. Just draw. ūüôā

Art and Protest

I recently participated in the art protest movement started by Tarantadong Kalbo on Facebook. The connection between art and protesting has been established many times throughout history, there are so many great examples out there from Guerilla Girls’ performances, Ai Weiwei’s art, Nan Goldin’s protests highlighting the opioid crisis, and many, many more. I think TK’s #tumindig artwork is an example of a movement that ignited and grew right before our eyes precisely because it connected with our emotions. It connected even with people who are unable or previously unwilling to articulate that feeling of indignation at being bullied or pressured into conformity or silence. I realize a few years ago that I’m living through the proliferation of another cult of personality and it has been very ugly.

Through the past years I’ve tried to connect with how I felt about what is happening in our country through art. Oftentimes I would find the imagery in my head before I found the words to describe how I felt. The experience of sharing my art on my limited platform online was a mixed bag. Some of my friends ignored it, some sympathized with me, some have unfriended me, very few have tried to talk to me about it. This is the first time in my life that a few friends have leveled cruel words at me in behalf of a political figure (of all people). As much as I’ve resolved not to do the same, sometimes it gets on my nerves too. The past few years have shown me how dangerous subscribing to a cult of personality can be. It’s unsettling how people I personally know have changed in very noticeable ways, and it’s been really heartbreaking to see this unfolding in real time.

It’s almost as if these followers have formed a human shield around the object of their affection, and the conversation has ceased being about policies, laws, etc. It has become personal. Attacking their “idol” is tantamount to attacking them, and they retaliate passionately against you. It has gone beyond healthy debate and become damaging to relationships. How can I rationalize this as just being patriotic when people I used to love and respect are alternately denying extra judicial killings of alleged drug addicts and justifying it, depending on what they read online that day? Among many other reasons. There’s no rhyme or reason to this. Yes, it’s important to recognize the good, but it’s equally important to be cognizant of the failures.

I think the genius about TK’s #tumindig art protest is that the more the DDS trolls attack it, the more they prove TK’s point. They’re not attacking a personality but a set of ideals that are not inherently wrong. The post which became a protest movement is, for me, a statement against the groupthink this DDS cult is prone to. It urges us to reject conformity for the sake of a cult of personality. Detractors insist “drawing lang yan”, but they could not be more wrong. Each #tumindig avatar has a real person behind it. The discontent and the dissent is real, but more importantly, the impact of art as a means of protest can also not be underestimated.

The different art forms have a way of connecting with people on a level that other means of protesting can’t. It has a way of chipping away at your prejudices and forcing your mind to take a different path of interpreting things. If nothing else, effective art should set your mind free from the constraints of conformity.Throughout history, when cults of personalities paved the way for totalitarian governments, art persisted. Real sentiments of real people longing for the freedom to be heard, longing for change, inevitably rise to the surface, like the need to come up for air. For now, I appreciate that art (for the most part) cannot land you in jail yet. I am cognizant of the fact that in this political climate, it’s not impossible that this path will lead to that reality.

It’s also important to note that we’re in the midst of a deadly pandemic, and people are hanging on by a thread. If there ever was a time to hold the government accountable for their actions (and inaction) and to demand transparency from them, it’s now. The lives of our families, our own lives, are on the line. Now is the time to call out the inefficiencies and the poor pandemic response. Now is the time to call out the anti-poor policies, to demand transparency on vaccine procurement and distribution, to hound our “leaders” on distribution of aid. Now is the time to question, to demand more, to expect more, and not to just meekly accept the propaganda. Now is also the time to push back on the wanton and casual red-tagging of people who are merely dissenting.

An interesting side note is that I don’t recall an equally inspiring movement from the DDS crowd. It’s funny that their response to TK’s #tumindig art is to bombard him with lewd drawings depicting penises (perhaps compensating for something IRL?), immature and lewd comments, threats, boasts about their preferred politician’s ability to violently quash dissent…again, proving TK’s point more than anything. How is it that there’s nothing inspiring and edifying coming out of the DDS corner when they are eager to show that they have artists on their side too?

All of the #tumindig avatars I made for myself and my friends, after the jump. Continue reading “Art and Protest”

Review: Kolibri Series 333 Miniature Brushes

I recently purchased this brush set called Kolibri Series 333 from ArtNebulaPH for detail painting. I bought it specifically because I wanted to try a different look for the little food sketches I include in my Hobonichi Cousin’s weekly spread. I was pretty happy with the little sketches but these are really just quick drawings that aren’t too detailed. They’re what I call my daily writing/art ritual, something I did to get my mind focused on one thing for a few moments before I logged in for work. I’ve been doing these little sketches for about a year and a half already and I was hoping to change it. I had in mind the little food illustrations in cute washi tapes–more like paintings than quick sketches–but I knew I needed smaller brushes for that. I’m really happy that I purchased these miniature brushes. They really made adding little details to the paintings a lot easier.

I picked the set that has red sable brushes rather than the synthetic ones, since I will be using these for watercolors. The set has a #4 flat brush, and 2, 0, 5/0 round brushes. The brushes that I use most are the 0 and 5/0. I like that they can load more water than I expected them to; enough to make painting small things comfortable enough without  having to dip the brush in water too often. At first I thought the brushes would fray often and not hold their points but after just a few minutes of using it, I got used to the pace of how often I should dip, and the brushes really held their points so well.

I think the brushes are really easy to hold and they’re a joy to work with. They pick up water easily and it’s easy to lay them down and control the strokes. I’ve had a lot of fun layering these small food paintings. The brushes don’t dump too much water unintentionally either, they’re really easy to control. The 5/0 brush can lay down really fine lines, finer than the finest fineliner I have (say that 10 times, fast).

I think I can go smaller with the paintings, too. Maybe I’ll try that this weekend. So far I’ve only used them on illustrations that fit the daily columns on the Hobonichi Cousin’s weekly spread.

I need a lot of practice and a lighter hand on the pigments, but overall I’m happy with the results. I¬† need to work on it some more to achieve the look that I’m hoping for, but I feel I’m on the right track. These little paintings are so cute, they look even better in person. The little details are just so much fun to look at. These detail brushes give really great value for money. I’m very happy with them.

Good Bread Day

Today’s journal entry is about having a “good bread day”. I’m not a consistent baker yet, probably because I don’t have a lot of time to practice these past few months. Last Saturday my bake was on point, though.

I realize now what I had been reading in baking tutorials. You gotta get out of the time-bound mindset, like kneading your bread a certain number of minutes and a certain number of times. What works better is to really “listen” to your dough or to observe when it’s ready.

My dough last Saturday felt like fluffy, elastic marshmallow that grows steadily when left alone. I committed the texture and feel to memory so that I can recognize it again next time, then popped the dough-babies in the oven and prepared myself to enjoy my favorite part about baking–the minutes that follow, when the scent of freshly baked bread fills the house. I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of that moment.

It’s hard to believe that just a few months ago, “baking bread” was in my to-learn list along with pen turning and pottery. I think it’s important to remain curious about the world around you, enough to want to learn new things. I think I’ll practice more so that I’ll be consistent with my output before I learn something new, though.

Edible Shrooms

Today’s entry in my food journal is actually just a test page. I bought a set of Kolibri miniature details brushes from Art Nebula PH (click here for the link to the product page). I bought these specifically to add little details to my food journal entries. I’m still getting used to them¬† but I’m pleasantly surprised that they hold a point nicely and they load more water than I thought they would. I tried miniature brushes before (synthetic hair) but it was frustrating because they wouldn’t load enough water and it was hard to control the amount laid down on paper. I really enjoyed these Kolibri brushes, though. It’s easy to control the water laid down on paper and the points can make hairline-thin strokes. I think they would be really fun to use on my journals.

Roasted Spatchcock Chicken

Yesterday’s food journal entry. I don’t roast chicken a lot so I’m not familiar with the different techniques of doing it. I remember that I first came across spatchcocking a chicken in a British cooking show and I was intrigued by it. last Sunday I decided to try it myself. Turns out that spatchcocking a chicken is pretty easy as long as you have kitchen shears.

I’m trying to do more detailed food watercolor paintings in my food journal and wow, painting really small details on tomoe river paper is a bit challenging, but I’m pretty happy with this attempt. I’ll try my best to improve on it with every entry.

The recipe I used on last Sunday’s roast chicken is a variation of something I watched on Facebook. I just tweaked it to make it mine.

I marinated the spatchcocked chicken in salt and lemon, and while it’s marinating I prepared garlic confit. I did this by submerging peeled garlic with olive oil in a small castiron skillet over very low heat. Making the confit takes time so it gives the chicken time to marinate as well. When the garlic confit is finally ready, I mashed the garlic into half a stick of butter and added about two tablespoons of the garlic-infused olive oil. I added fresh rosemary into the butter as well. I rubbed the chicken with the garlic butter mixture and slipped a generous amount of it under the skin. At this point I preheat the oven to 350F.

Then I used the garlic-infused olive oil to sear the bone side of the chicken on the stove top. At this point, the house smells so delicious. You can really smell the butter, garlic, rosemary, and the caramelization of the chicken. Once the bone side is browned, I add more of the garlic-infused oil on the skin side and then pop it in the oven. I take it out after 30 minutes to drain the juices and sprinkle just a bit more lemon and oil on the skin, then I finish it off in the oven for another 20 minutes or until it’s browned.

After taking the chicken out and laying them on the plate to rest, I tossed French beans in the skillet where I cooked the chicken and seasoned it with salt. The result was pretty awesome. Adding the garlic confit in the butter really made sure that the chicken absorbed the flavor of garlic, even the thickest parts. The skin was bursting with flavor and has just the right amount of acidity and saltiness. Spatchcocking the chicken also resulted to a more even cook and more crispy skin. The greens were also very flavorful, my husband enjoyed it a lot. Overall, it was a delightful lunch and my husband asked me to cook it again soon.

His only feedback was that he wanted more of it next time, lol.

A Deeper Loss

I realized yesterday that I haven’t added an entry about current events in my art journal for a while. The last one was from December 4, 2020. I came to a point where I just had to take a break from social media. Except to post food photos and browse through my favorite hobby groups, I stopped using Facebook. More importantly, I stopped consuming news from Facebook. The comments sections disheartened me. Not gonna lie, posts from friends supporting the drug wars disheartened me too. I feel like people aren’t seeing the human cost anymore, and I was losing faith that we would ever recover from this.

The change in our social media spaces was so distinct with the past presidential election. There was so much hate, so much misinformation and paranoia. All of a sudden, people couldn’t even agree that fighting for human rights is important for all humans. As in all of us. All of a sudden “human rights” became bad words. Words that triggers an “us versus them” attitude, prompting certain people to go on attack mode. All of a sudden I have friends who actually unfriended me, not even because I confront them over their politics (I try to do that only in person), or that I actively post a stream of anti-Duterte memes or articles on my wall (I don’t), but because I don’t agree with their politics. Many Duterte supporters openly resented democracy and freedom, which I found odd. We “wokes” and “liberal yellows” have “too much” freedom, they say. These people who grew up and thrived in an atmosphere of hard-earned freedom don’t want the same for their own children? Weird.

I think about the fact that the issue of extrajudicial killings have not compelled many Duterte supporters to think “hmm, is this even true”? I guess it’s easier to automatically believe that all operations in the drug wars are above board because the police say so. It horrifies me to be confronted with the fact that the distance between the poor and the privileged is so far that people can become so disconnected from it because it’s that far from their daily reality. That many can be unperturbed by persistent accusations that the state has turned against some citizens is very disturbing for me, until you realize that it has, in fact, happened before. Before DDS stood for “Diehard Duterte Supporters”, it was “Davao Death Squad”, after all.

I feel that this has blighted our land. Not just the miscarriage of justice but also the deadening of the senses to the loss of lives without due process. Does it not disturb us that people are allegedly being dragged out of their homes and killed? The answer of most people, apparently, is “it depends, saan ba sila nakatira?” Try to imagine people just ignoring the persistent issues surrounding the drug war if these controversial operations were to happen inside the walls of exclusive subdivisions and gated communities. I can’t imagine it.

In other places, governments try to heal drug addiction by rehabilitating the addict and trying to address societal ills that lead to drug abuse. In the Philippines, “drug addiction” is the blanket excuse to take out a bludgeoning instrument that indiscriminately strikes and kills. All people killed in the drug war are guilty until proven innocent, and there’s no great hurry to prove that innocence. The dead aren’t going anywhere, anyway. To grow insensitive to this just unmasks the fact that the poor are seen as less than human in this country, and the cost of human life has become so cheap that the sound of families crying is nothing more than “drama” and even mere children can be shot dead in the streets and people can just shrug and say “meh, collateral damage”.

I grieve over this.

“He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their maker,
but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.”
Proverbs 14:31