Summer and Bali

Just when I thought that this blog will never be consistently updated (what with the long hours I spend for studio work and illustration projects in-between), by some miraculous twist of fate, I have somehow found a way in my current schedule to allot days devoted to blogging. Having said that, this post is intended as a final hurrah to summer. Yes, even if the rainy season has already set in.

A summer ago, I and my friend, Evan, found ourselves in Bali after exploring temples around Yogyakarta. While it was scorching hot in the latter, Bali weather was erratic, much like the current weather condition here in Manila – one morning we’d be sweating while taking photos and marveling at temples, the next thing we know we’re running and looking for shelter from a sudden downpour, usually settling for the nearest cafe (with Wi-Fi!) we can find. We arrived on a rainy night; our flight from Jakarta was even a couple of hours delayed. A one-hour cab ride took us through lush rolling hills and rice terraces to the town of Ubud, Bali’s center for arts and crafts, dance, and music. We had difficulty looking for our guesthouse as it was tucked away in a narrow residential area, a good 10-minute walk from the main road where most of the other guesthouses, curio shops, and restaurants are located.
IMG_1621 IMG_1916The best part of our room was the huge terrace overlooking the guesthouse’s garden. I would wake up early each morning and enjoy my quiet time alone, having breakfast and sipping a good cup of coffee. I brought my handy sketch pad with me, and I would draw away during lazy afternoons and evenings, listening to Beirut and Florence and the Machine. That terrace is just perfect!

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Jaipur and Patterns

Jaipur was next on our itinerary after a day trip to Agra. A 2-hour train ride took us to the Pink City on a cool April night in 2011. We stayed at Baba Haveli, which was just a quick tuktuk ride away from the train station. The owner, Mr. Vijay Gautam, was an excellent host – a relief after an exhausting and quite a bad day in Agra. Albeit not so spacious, the rooms and hallways are quaint and charming, lavishly decorated with elaborate frescoes and tasteful furniture that exude old world charm. Our room has a tiny balcony facing the street. Despite that, we didn’t have a problem with noise and were able to sleep soundly.

Early the next morning, we started our tour. Tuktuks (autorickshaws) and local buses are the best modes of transportation to get around the city. But for time-challenged people such as I and my friend during the time we visited, private cars are available for rent. I highly recommend Real Rajasthan Tours. Aside from English-speaking drivers, they offer various tour packages and even customized ones for your convenience and travel satisfaction.

Dubbed as the “Pink City,” Jaipur takes pride in its distinct pink-painted buildings, which were intended to resemble the red sandstone Mughal architecture. The capital of Rajasthan is a bustling city filled with magnificent forts and palaces, and bazaars teeming with varied textiles, shoes, and Rajasthani jewellery – the latter being its famous commodity. It boasts of being India’s first planned city, known for the width and regularity of its streets. The city is at its most picturesque during late afternoons when its rose-colored architecture glows vibrantly under the rays of the setting sun.
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Glorious decorative patterns can be found on almost every wall and structure, whether painted, carved or etched. I tried to capture these in photos as best as I could for future painting references. Composite tickets are available at a reasonable price of 300 INR for tourists that would grant you access to five monuments – Amber Palace, Nahargarh Fort, Jantar Mantar, Albert Hall, and Hawa Mahal. Additional charges apply for some sites if you’d like to take pictures.

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Wanderlusting: Udaipur

It’s usually during these times, when I’m cozily cooped up in my studio on quiet, lazy evenings that wanderlust strikes hardest. I sincerely do not believe in that cliched adage, “Money can’t buy you happiness.” Other than a warm cup of coffee with a dash of cinnamon sprinkled on it, happiness for me comes in the form of plane tickets and a travel itinerary for that next big trip that could go on for weeks or what ever span of time I feel is necessary for me to temporarily escape the mundane daily grind. Not that my day to day activities are boring; it actually gets pretty spontaneous and exciting most of the time. It’s just that travel has always been number one on my priority list, and it is during these trips, when I lose myself in strange and exotic new places that I feel that I am most alive.

But since I have sworn a vow of poverty in preparation for a trip on September, I content myself by musing and browsing through photos of past travels. As I type this, I am trying my hardest to stop myself from packing my bag and disappearing for the the rest of the week into the rustic town of Vigan. Yes, despite the rainy weather.

Udaipur in Rajasthan, India is currently that one place I fondly recount memories of when I’m wanderlusting – the sights, the sounds, the food. The romantic White City isn’t called “Venice of the East” and “City of Lakes” for nothing. This vast expanse of scenic beauty is home to temples and Rajput era palaces of utmost elegance, and four picturesque man made lakes – Fateh Sagar, Pichola, Udai Sagar, and Swaroop Sagar.

When I feel alive
I try to imagine a careless life
A scenic world where the sunsets are all

Scenic World (Beirut)

While it is a must that one should experience travelling from one city to another via Indian Railways, I and my friend took a quick flight from Jaipur to Udaipur due to time constraints. We had limited time to explore the Rajasthan area as we had to be in Punjab at a certain date for a good friend’s wedding.

A piece of advice when taking train rides: It’s best if you book at least a day prior to your trip so that you can get to pick the best available sleeper coaches. But if you don’t mind squeezing in at the fan-cooled general coaches, then by all means, book on the same day. Don’t forget to be friendly with the chai wallahs walking through train cars. Especially for long overnight rides when you experience difficulty sleeping, you’ll find that fresh cup of masala tea they would readily serve you with a smile most soothing. Continue reading

February Projects in Retrospect: Postura Project Art Wall & Picket Lines

Dalawang Maria
Watercolor and ink on paper

While most of February was spent preparing for 2 exhibitions (“Women on Women” and “Tattoo My Colors”), I was able to squeeze in a couple of projects sometime towards the end of the month. One of which was an illustration for Postura Project’s Platform Event.

Postura Project is a movement started by four fashionalism advocates, namely Knox Balbastro, Sarah Meier, Arriane Serafico, and David Guison. It aims to inspire and get Filipinos to patronize local brands and to incorporate something Filipino into one’s everyday outfit. And how do they aim to do that? By starting a blog that documented themselves wearing a piece of Filipino fashion for 30 days which went on from mid-February up to the later part of March.

The four Postura fashion advocates posing on the art wall I illustrated (L-R): Arriane Serafico, Knox Balbastro, David Guison, and Sarah Meier.

The Platform Show was the culmination to the 30-day fashion challenge. It was a huge youth culture convention held at the Ronac Art Center last March 18 that showcased the works of young designers, retailers, and entrepreneurs. The art wall I illustrated was put up on that event along with the works of 4 other artists. I was in Jogjakarta at that time, so I unfortunately had to miss out on it.

My design for the art wall was my first foray into fashion illustration, and seeing photos of it made me feel like a proud momma. Plus, it was a refreshing experience to suddenly shift back to watercolor and ink, given that I was working with oil for a couple of months before I accepted the project. It gave me an opportunity to come up with a Filipino-themed piece – something I’m now considering in developing into a series of paintings for a future exhibit. I took “posturang postura,” a local expression used to refer to someone who looks very well dressed, as an inspiration for the concept and translated it into an illustration of two Filipinas, looking poised and regal in traditional gowns.

One other project that kept me busy last February was shooting portraits for Kooky Tuason‘s upcoming coffee table book called Picket Lines. Yep, I got to put my camera into good use again. As much as I want to post samples of my work for the book, I’m not allowed to do that until the book gets launched. But I am, however, allowed to post this:

Model: Roxanne Barcelo
Make-up and Styling: Gab Lopez

Note that this is just a teaser and not the actual photo that was chosen for the book. Anyway, it’s an amazing project I’m really happy to be part of. I worked with a really hardworking all-women crew that managed to make our working environment a fun and healthy one no matter how stressful some days may be.  And most importantly, I got to take portraits of awesome women, all experts in their respective fields. Picket Lines is set to be launched this merry month of May! The sales of which will go to the Women’s Crisis Center.