I’ve been asked several times (not many times, as there’s nothing complex about what I’ve created) why I went into line drawing and watercolor painting, what is my process. My short answer is that I simply connect with an object, a place or a picture, and when I have a positive emotional connection with that, then that’s what I draw or paint.
The not so simple answer is, I was drawing and painting to transform energy.
About the middle of June 2020, I started to feel very sad, not about one particular thing, but a combination of reasons, some directly connected to the coronavirus pandemic, some not. It was truly inconvenient at the time, because my children’s birthdays were coming up, and I had to somehow drum up enthusiasm for something I knew deep inside I was truly happy about. But at the time my sadness was so deep that I had to fake it. I felt guilty about this, and ashamed. I am an intuitive healer and an NLP coach. How could this happen to me?
When my high school best friend Martina passed away in 2019, there was nowhere I could put my sadness. There were no words I could write that could assuage my feelings. I discovered that when I put my paintbrush into water, and touched that diluted pigment onto paper, it made me smile. And so, in spite of writing deadlines and full-time motherhood, I would paint nearly every day. I focused on flowers, because that’s what I liked at the time. My watercolor paper was postcard-sized, that’s all I felt confident doing. I framed these paintings in a loose mandala. In the center was the bird of paradise – that was how I saw Martina.
Perhaps it is no accident I chose watercolor as my preferred medium for painting. The experiments of Dr. Masaru Emoto on how written and spoken words can influence the crystal structure of water showed that: a) words have power and can influence the matter around it (as evidenced by the effect of words on water), and b) we humans have the power to change ourselves and our reality by the very words we choose to think, speak and write. And perhaps, it should be no surprise that water also has the power to transmute human experience. As much as we influence water, we are also influenced by it. At least, that’s how I felt whenever I painted. I smiled while I painted. I transformed my painting mistakes into “effect”. Soon, I felt better.
I started picking up painting again in February 2020, because I wanted to make a portrait of my daughter. My good friend and neighbor on the next mountain Kora Dandan Albano came over to talk me through it. When you paint the face of someone you love, as you build on each layer of light yellow, darker yellow, light crimson, and the darker shadows and lines, you can’t help but fall in love deeper with your subject. Even the shadow formed by the lower lip is a detail that cannot be missed, and makes the image more 3D.
With the quarantine, life became a different kind of hectic, exacerbated by an undercurrent of fear. I forgot about painting, in the endless cycle of family, multiple working streams (coaching/healing, teaching, writing), household. I lost myself for a while in the busyness of it all. My sadness was a signal from my subconscious, telling me that I had to re-examine my beliefs and change my experience of life.
Then Kora once more threw me a lifeline. She tagged me on Robert Alejandro’s Mindfulness Drawing video. He taught all of us who viewed the video to love and appreciate ourselves, and to create from that truthful, spiritual vibration. When I began making my first line drawing, I chose something I loved that was right in front of me, and as per Robert’s instruction, I observed more and more deeply as I kept drawing. I was drawn in as I drew. It was like meditating. I was completely present to what was in front of me and what I was doing.
I have been journaling since I was 8 years old, and I still meet my inner self on the page, a kind of automatic writing from my soul. But line drawing and watercolor painting have become new ways for my soul to breathe on the page. I choose subjects I am drawn to, that I feel a connection with – my living room, my plants, a gorgeous Baguio sunset, my children. As I create, I am pulled into the holiness of the present moment. And in the truth of the Now, I feel “Eternity in an hour,” as William Blake once wrote. I feel myself disappear, until there is only spirit moving the hand that paints.
No, there is nothing deep about what I am painting. What is so profound about our gray, second-hand sofa whose cushions need to be restuffed and probably reupholstered? But drawing every corduroy stripe of it is a way that I name the things in my life until it is suffused with love.
The poet Rainer Maria Rilke says in “The Ninth Elegy” of his collection called The Duino Elegies,
Perhaps we are here in order to say: house, bridge, fountain, gate, pitcher, fruit-tree, window…
But to say them you must understand, oh to say them more intensely than the Things themselves ever dreamed of existing.
I’m not entirely sure what Rilke meant, but how it comes to me is that by paying such precise attention to the objects of our life, a connection is formed and deepens. In this connection between the life in us and around us, a quiet joy is born, and love blooms in the driest of deserts.
Something I read recently stated that when someone buys something one has made, that they are “Partaking of your joy.” That thought makes me happy. When you view my work, I hope you feel it. Please, partake of my joy, for now it is yours.
(My show “Pause: Hidden In Plain Sight” can be viewed at Hatch Coffee, 135 Easter Road, Manzanillo Subd., Baguio City. To view the show, kindly make a reservation through Hatch Coffee on Facebook or IG.)