Sunday, December 20, 2015


"You have a visitor behind you...", "They are affectionate whenever it's inconvenient for you, like when you're doing homework..." , "C'mon let's go find a cat!" Those are some of the conversations I overheard while at the Cat Cafe.
I don't own a cat myself, but I was curious to see what the very first Cat + Cafe looked like since I made reference to the "Catfe" on one of my instagram posts about a Cat character named Furnando that I created for a painting competition:
The place is actually a cafe and adoption shelter. There were seven resident cats that were carefully selected from the SPCA. The requirement: They needed to be the friendly ones. I was on the waiting list for walk ins as reservations were necessary to regulate the number of people coming in without causing too much stress on the cats.
When my name was called, two other cats were called as well. They had been successfully adopted! The entire wall on one side looked like one long shelf of hollow squares with holes for the cats to pass through. It was where they slept if they chose to and played if they didn't feel like coming down.
This is Jose. He's a black and white cat with a pink nose and he's very laid back. He became the subject of my painting. As I spent my first hour thinking about how to capture the essence and vibe of the place, I watched and interacted with the cats and took some pictures.
The concept that I thought of was to portray the life of a cat in the cafe by using the cubby-squares as the back drop. To ensure that the boxes don't look like cages, I did two things:  The holes that they passed through had to be visible within the perspective that I drew it in. The second was to draw a cat walking through 2 of the boxes. 
The cats you see are images of just one cat. The color doesn't represent the cat's fur but it's temperature, ramping up from cool and calm to active and alert and back to just being chill. Click on the image to view a bigger size. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015


The Vancouver Urban Sketchers was at the 33 Acres Brewery Pub joining the crowd for some onsite sketching, drinking and food. It was a rainy Saturday afternoon and the place was buzzing with activity.

I didn't have any lunch yet so a doughnut and coffee was all I could get. This was an earl grey's doughnut with what I thought were chili flakes. They were actually fresh rose petal sprinkles.
This was the beer paddle ordered by a couple of urban sketchers. It's a good way to sample different flavors and hop levels. 

I couldn't stay too long as I had an appointment to keep, promising my 6 year old nephew that I'd come over to play video games with him. I painted just two beers and planned on finishing it when I got home. It was a long day for me and arrived home at about 1130pm. I must have caught a second wind since I was wide awake and could not wait to paint. So that's what I did. After my nightly rituals, I set off to paint at around 1245 and took my time. I believe a pizza was ordered and consumed in between and I finished at around 430am.

Saturday, December 5, 2015


Somewhere in Vancouver, on a Friday night, a "Hang Up" party was happening. 

Backtrack to a week ago, we were invited by our buyer and friend, Lea, to her home for what she called a Hang up" party. It's a small gathering of friends, snacks provided, for the unveiling of the painting that we did live in 80 minutes, at the Battle of the Brushes competition in November. I was pleasantly surprised to know how she created an entire event just to welcome the painting in her home. I was more than happy to come by and see it all unfold.
On the night of the party, upon my arrival, this long brown fabric draped over the painting was in the center of the living room. I brought with me an envelop with an original Certificate of Authenticity and colored print of the "behind the scenes" chronicle of the painting.
We had the chance to tell our story to everyone, how the idea started, the revisions and versions that it evolved into, how my painting partner and I started working together, our journey from joining this competition being handicapped from having totally different styles , and never having tried painting in acrylics.
The "behind the scenes" chronicles was passed around the room and it was just a privilege as an artist to see and witness the moment when your art is seen in this regard, hearing the response and interacting with the people. 
I was so glad to be part of this reception. She added that the painting will help warm up the place and get them through the cold winter season. 
 Here's a 15 second video I made of the unveiling.

If this one painting can make two people smile, why not make another one? A bigger one, but this time, getting more people, the people of Vancouver involved in the making of the painting.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


This next onsite painting with the Urban Sketchers was in a flower shop in Kitsilano called Aria. The place looked nice from pictures off the the internet. I actually almost didn't make it that day. However, when the sun is out, it would be a shame not to partake in the outdoors and sunshine.
I arrived a bit late and met Jason and Michelle, the owners of the place. They were very congenial and gave me a quick tour of the place. They had chairs around the room for us to be sit on when sketching, a tea station and a platter of biscuits and chips. The reception was very warm and the energy in the room was flowing.
I asked about a few flowers that say "Vancouver" and Elantra, from one table away was kind enough to stop what she was doing to show me the flowers. She was one of the flower experts in the shop. After a brief chat, she offered to arrange those flowers that I asked about. She did such a fantastic job with the flower arrangement, this had to be in the center of my painting. They are Sunflowers, Calla Lilies and Snap Dragons.
I had an idea of how I wanted to compose the painting. It was a matter of mentally choosing the type of flowers, the length of the plants, size of pot, trying to "see" how the colors would match up beside each other in my head. I took pictures while I was doing the exercise and when I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted, I started sketching. When I was done, I had only about 15 minutes left to partially paint the center piece 
I deliberately stayed away from any Christmas themed flowers and went with the ones that can represent the shop in any season. I wanted to capture the personality of the place by just the flowers alone, with an exception of a teddy bear for added interest because how can you give flowers without them? From the left: Teddy Bears holding 3 pink roses, Bromeliad, Antherium, the Center Piece, Moth Orchids, Spineless Cactii with Ilex Berries, succulent.

Sunday, November 22, 2015


SOLD! Ten characters all in all were painted. The sky and the clouds too had to have their own personalities. We offered to touch it up for its proud new owners to make this 80 minute on the spot painting worthy of hanging in a home. 
This cupcake represents the slices of life: Life ain't a piece of cake (wrapper), sometimes you're on the rise (cake), other times you just gotta step it up and give it a whirl (whipped frosting) But at the end of the day, it helps to remind ourselves that we are making a life, in this place which we call, home. (the cherry on top) 
 ANIME-ted thoughts of Vancouver: Touch ups done on the 80 minute live competition done for its proud new owner, Lea! The theme: ANIME. Here's a close up of another character: Sue-shi!
This orange kitten, Furnando, represents all the feline friends living in Vancouver. There are lots of cat lovers here, so much so to even warrant the very first ever cat cafe in the city. A purrfect way to spend an afternoon with some freshly brewed java juice and a mid-day catnap
Everyday as I step out of the door, I see trees everywhere. In fact, I take a shortcut through the woods on my way to work. Douglas, is a tree that represents nature in all its abundance in Vancouver. With him are two tree saplings, a bird's nest and 3 eggs.
The Vancouver sun peeks from behind two other characters, almost teasingly playing hide and go seek much like how it does during the fall and early winter seasons.
Timbit, is a tribute to Timmy Hos. It became "policy" in the workplace that whoever shows up 20 minutes late will have to bring in a box of doughnuts for the team. Mornings become just a little better having your fill of these doughy sweet rolls.
 The HEART is where all our THOUGHTS of Vancouver (characters) flowed out of and EXPLODED into the painting. It totaled 10 characters altogether. There were more characters we wanted to include but quality must come first, especially when time is of the essence.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


I read somewhere that to dream is free, but to hustle is sold separately. Man did we hustle.

Anime was the theme and acrylics was the medium.
We had little knowledge of anime + zero experience with  acrylics. Perfect.

Our first concept paid tribute to Howle's Moving Castle and the Heritage Hall. We didn't know how big of a job it would be. After the first 3 sessions, we became more familiar with how acrylic paint behaved, how drying time was a big factor, how the opacity of paint helped in creating the effect that we wanted but was so hard to achieve in so little time. In other words,  Self-Taught Acrylics 101. I'm a watercolor artist and she's a sketch artist. This was nothing like the paints we were accustomed to. It became clear right away that we were biting off more than we could chew. (Click on images for a bigger view)
It was a Wednesday night and our painting was not going according to plan. That was a sign to either get better quicker or change direction. Mentally and physically exhausted, we took a break and I started researching for ideas on the internet. While surfing aimlessly, thoughts of coming back from a trip to Spain doing the El Camino came to mind. It was an amazing experience and Spain was beautiful however, as soon as I stepped out of YVR, these very words came out of my mouth: "I LOVE VANCOUVER". A friend of mine said that it was a reflection of how satisfied I was with the country I called home. I shared this with Davie and she too felt the same way.
We quickly brainstormed about Vancouver. Not about icons but the things that resonated with us. They turned out to be the little things, the simple joys that we can sometimes take for granted. We wanted to paint something real and relevant. Something that anyone can relate with, something that wasn't Japanese and then ANIME-FY the heck out of it.

That same night, on my way home, I had the composition in my head and what the characters would more or less look like. I couldn't wait for tomorrow to do it. Strike while the iron's hot. It was 1130 pm and I detoured to a Wendy's for a late dinner. I quickly sketched what was to be half of the piece. I got home, scanned it, created a color study in Photoshop and worked until 230am. I woke up at 730am to finish it off before heading out to work. 
We started timing ourselves with a few caveats: 1)  The style should be graphic 2) It must have smooth outlines 3) No stencils or templates.  It's got to be done old-skewl, free hand style.  Each session shed new light to acrylics, refining our strategies and improving our coordination. It was no longer about the competition against the others, but a competition against ourselves, to see if we can finish the concept the way we wanted. 

The concept went through a couple of more iterations. We simplified it further as we didn't have enough time to finish off the details, like the cherry on the cup cake.  We carefully selected what stayed and what had to go. There were many things to consider when working on a piece this big, with another person different in style, and a time constraint. Proportions and appealing shapes, drying time of paint, having a steady hand when inking the lines, coordination, time awareness, details that  should be added in at the very end, crafting a description that was short and authentic. All this and so much more became lessons we picked up along the way during practice. We totaled 10 main characters to paint, each having a different color, personality and a face. The sky  and clouds too are characters in themselves.
The piece turned out to be ambitious and technically challenging, but we made it work. During the competition, we had our references and strategy detailed on paper. Not once did we pull it out. We went on auto pilot. Everything we did, everything we practiced just flowed spontaneously. And we didn't forget the cherry this time. 

Thank you to everyone who voted for Team 3 and for showing some love to these newbies in the art scene. Big thanks to Lea and Tyler who won the bid. Rest assure we will come together for one more time to clean this up and make it home-worthy for you. 

--Practice doesn't make perfect . It reduces the imperfections. - Anonymous (or maybe

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


I remember telling myself, "What a charming little house peeking through the trees...but there's just so much foliage around! I need to simplify. Thank god for ovals and triangles!" As I worked on this a bit more, the sketch started to re-shape itself and with it, the story behind this painting . It evolved into something bigger, something more than just being a house in the woods but a home in the forest. 

The space that we decide to claim as our home is the same space other creatures call theirs. They have been here first, we just don’t see them. Hidden in this painting is a bear, a coyote, an owl, a squirrel and a bird. Do you see them? They are all around.

This will be exhibited at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts as part of the Vancouver Urban Sketching Burnaby Exhibition for the Culture Days Event on Sept 26th. The preliminary sketch, concept sketch and value study will be presented along with this original painting to show how this came to be. If you have some free time on the weekend, drop by and get your fill of art, inspiration, color and community!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


Mad About Flamenco! at The Basic Inquiry Life Drawing Studio and Gallery. I tried a different approach to sketching, keeping the pencil on paper for as long as I can without lifting. It's almost like tracing what you see with your eye and then letting your hand follow along. The first 3 poses were done in 3 minutes and the last two were 15 minutes each. There were times I noticed the edge of her dress tremble as she held these very difficult dynamic poses for us yet she never flinched and always had a smile on her face. Click on the image below for a bigger view!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


This was a result of a plein air study I did during a urban sketching meet up. I chose the Holy Rosary Cathedral on Richards and Dunsmuir because of it's architecture and the way the light and shadow presented itself on it. It was also another chance to use my watercolor easel and learn something new from life!

It was a bright sunny Saturday morning and I found myself away from everyone in the group. I spotted 2 of my fellow urban sketchers within an eye shot from the 4th floor of a nearby parkade. The vantage point was better than ground level, but location wise was a bit challenging as the parkade walls impeded my vision.

I had to lean out to get a good look. I decided to take a picture of the full view and have it ready when I just needed to quickly look at something. 

Here's a thumbnail working out the composition and value distribution. Working small is a great time saver and it saves your much needed energy and focus for the actual piece to paint.

My objective was to simplify what I saw and target values. Color will be arbitrary.

Things that I learned from this experience:
1) When you see the light and shadows that you like, don't be tempted to change it later when you see another light and shadow pattern form because the light source, the sun, has moved. Take a picture of the scene first and then capture of it by eye as much as you can. The picture can serve it's purpose  when the light and shadow pattern changes later.

2) I used negative space to describe areas where the light is hitting.
3) Stairs adds repetitive shapes and establishes a directional element to lead the eye.

I wasn't happy with the turn out but after all, it was just a study. Right after finishing, I immediately picked it apart, critiquing the areas that I liked and wanted to change. My painting was filled with little scribbles, mostly what I wanted to change.

I worked on the new one, and this time, with a renewed energy and vision. I knew what I needed to avoid doing, what to keep and what to do differently. I took my time and tried to keep it loose and suggestive. When it comes to details though, it's hard to simplify the shapes without losing the overall look. I decided to slowly paint the the smaller designs slowly but not too carefully to keep it suggestive and loose.


Sunday, August 9, 2015


I did it! This next competition took me all the way to West Vancouver. I got lost on the way there and was a bit late. Thank you to Alfonso L. Tejada who advised that I register at the end so I can get started. This challenge took 3 hours and there was no specific theme other than paint anything that catches your eye. The weather was mostly gray skies and thankfully, it only started to drizzle at the end. Thank you Alfonso, Ferry Building Gallery and Opus Art Supplies for all your efforts in organizing this event. The wine and cheese reception after was very different and fantastic!

I tried a different approach this time to use use the white of the paper to describe light. I was uncertain whether this was too much of a subject to paint within the allotted time but time was ticking, so I went alla prima and just prayed that it didn't rain.

The view of the boathouse. There was lots of other details, bits and pieces, rocks and logs scattered on the beach. Quite an intimidating subject to start with I think. 

There was cheese and wine after the event too. This was only available to the artists who registered and entered the competition. Look at the lovely spread! It should've been more than enough to get my appetite kicking since I hadn't had any breakfast that day, however, the adrenaline was still going and hunger and thirst took a back seat.

I had an amazing time. It was a unique way of ending the painting challenge. Thank you to Alfonso, the jurors Ann, Tatiana and Maria, and Opus for making all this possible. 


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