Mission Statement

This blog journals my quest of art, whether it is a piece of work that is inherent in nature or one created by artists known or unknown or that I created myself. During this search, I have come to appreciate the magnificence and generosity of God who in his infinite wisdom surrounded us with exquisiteness everyday...everywhere and inspired our human spirit to create beauty that feeds our bodies and souls. Come join me on my journey to find art through my travels and my own creative endeavors. Maraming salamat.

All rights to all posts and contents on this blog, including photos and artwork are reserved by jojo sabalvaro tan.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Madonna and Child Painting on Watercolor Canvas

Madonna and Child 9" x 12"
by jojo sabalvaro tan
Watercolor on Watercolor Canvas
I try to challenge myself with different kinds of medium when it comes to painting. This time instead of painting my Madonna and Child on watercolor paper, I decided to use watercolor canvas instead. I found it difficult at first as the paint did not absorb on the canvas as well as it did on paper. I also found myself painting in a different way, more short repeated strokes as opposed to letting the paint 'work' on the paper by itself. One advantage is that when I make a mistake, the paint can be lifted off to the white of the canvas and then you can start all over. But at the same time, you have to be careful to not lift off an area that you would like to keep intact. I used an acrylic sealant to protect in between layers of the painting I am pleased with, waiting for the sealant to completely dry before I do any more painting.  I like the resulting painting because it feels oil painting-like although, it does not have the unique transparent quality most look for with watercolors.

Detail of Virgin Mary's Face
With this particular painting, I was displeased with how Mary's lips turned out after I completed it. Months after, I was still able to erase and change my painting of the lips.

Another advantage of the watercolor canvas is that you have the option not to frame. I worry though that without proper protection that parts of the painting might just be obliterated by accident. I will seal this painting with sealant to oblivion to make sure it does not happen. I'll have to get the UV Acrylic sealer that the manufacturer recommends.

I used Frederix watercolor canvas which is 100% archival that is on a stretcher frame already, so I did not experience any buckling as you would with watercolor paper. I applied gold leaf to accent this painting and give it that renaissance period look. Overall, I am pleased with how the painting turned out and I like the texture of canvas on my work. This painting was inspired by one I saw in one of the churches in Italy. I do not recall which church, we went into so many and do not recall the artist, as well. I'll have to surf the web and see if I can find more info.

Will it be my Christmas Card painting this year?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sewing Caddy and Pincushion

Japanese Print Sewing Caddy with Pincushion
by jojo sabalvaro tan 2011

Since I opened up my Etsy shop, I am now always thinking about or in search of unique items I can make that I can sell in the shop. My latest project for the shop is this cute little sewing caddy, a small little purse that you can put your sew as you go supplies such as scissors, thimble, pin cushion, needles, pins and thread.

The materials I used were fabrics from my collection of Japanese prints, felt that I used for lining, beads for embellishment, batting for the pin cushion  and the handles and the normal stuff like thread, needle and scissors.

The caddy is 4" x 2.5" x 3" with a base of 3" x 4". The pin cushion is 2" in diameter.

Here's an excerpt from the description of the caddy in the shop:

The interior fabric is made from a red Japanese floral print. Both the caddy and the pin cushion are trimmed with red glass beads. For ease in carrying from work area to work area , I added double handles that were made with glass beads as well. This pretty little caddy is ideal for keeping your needles, thimble, embroidery scissors and thread in place as you sew on the go. The pin cushion is attached to the base with velcro and is detachable. The caddy opening is secured with velcro as well.

This is an ideal gift for any sewing enthusiast in your family and is cute little addition to any sewing area.

Top View
The caddy's interior
I basically put together the components on the sewing machine except for the side panels which I attached with a blanket stitch using red pearl cotton. All the beads are hand sewn.  

Tip: after I sewed the wrong side of the panel to the wrong side of the back panel of the components and inverted it to the front side, an opening is left . Instead of sewing this opening with needle and thread I used fabric glue. I felt it was not a risk since this item will never see the washing machine (hopefully).I found the fabric glue very sturdy after it dried. I also used the fabric glue instead of pins.

I think I will make more. Who knows, it may be a best seller.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Firebird Painting

Firebird 20"x30"
Watercolor on Canson Watercolor Board
by jojo sabalvaro tan

Firebird Detail
Detail of Firebird Head
This is a watercolor painting of the mythical firebird that I did under the mentorship of renowned artist Helena Nelson-Reed at a class offered by Dick Blick Art Store. There are many legends attributed to the firebird. The most popular is where the firebird swoops down from the sky to steal the king's magical golden apples.  I prefer the one where it flies above the village giving hope to the townsfolk below.  I ended up as the only student so I had one-on-one instruction time with Helena. I was intrigued and amazed by her work which are visionary, ethereal and mythical at the same time. If you look at her watercolors, it is almost unbelievable the amount of detail she gets into a piece.

One of Helena's paintings

Helena taught me to let loose and be bold with color. The very first thing we did was splashed color all over the watercolor board, mixing them up by having them flow into each other right on the board. I could not visualize how this would come out as a coherent painting, but she assured me it would. As we were painting, we discussed psychology in life and art. She had a sort of new age approach to both. Going with the flow, she showed me how nuances in the paint flow can lead to unique design elements in the painting, organic shapes that take form.

I have yet to get used to this kind of approach to painting. I am sure it takes years of honing one's instinct to pull it off. It is definitely freeing, even though you can not tell by Helena's finished paintings. If one did not know, you would think that each and every brushstroke on her paintings was meticulously and painstakingly planned, It is certainly time-consuming. Her process is actually more intuitive and free-flowing yet looks very complicated. A mark of a master artist.

Her paintings are spectacular. She is a great teacher and person and I was lucky to be mentored by her. I feel flattered that she thought enough of my talent to invite me to paint with her plein aire or at her studio.

For more information on Helena Nelson-Reed and her work, please visit  http://www.helenanelsonreed.com.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Learning New Knitting Techniques - Fair Isle Knitting

My First Fair Isle Knitting Technique Project
Fair Isle Handbag
knitted by jojo sabalvaro tan
I am now beginning to think of myself as more than a beginner knitter and wanted to challenge myself with new knitting techniques. The first one I tried that went beyond the normal stockinette and garter stitch is the cable which I talked about in an earlier post, Knitting a Snood. Now I decided to learn how to do the Fair Isle technique, which I particularly like since you get to play with colors.

Fair Isle is a knitting technique used to create patterns with multiple colors. The traditional Fair Isle patterns are normally limited to 5 or so colors and use only two colors per row. It is worked in the round using circular  or double pointed needles. It is also referred to stranded colorwork since as you are knitting using alternate colors of yarn, the unused colors are stranded across the back of the color.

For more about the Fair Isle Knitting Technique please visit :

Fair Isle-Style Handbag

I first tried this technique with a handbag. I found the pattern in the August/September 2011 issue of Knitting Today Magazine. The pattern is called Modern Folk Bag by Deborah Newton. I used 4 coordinating colors of 3.5 oz./100g medium  weight (#4) wool yarn and size 8  (5mm) circular knitting needles). I used Addi Turbo circular needles which are currently my favorite since I find using them easier and faster. 

A Fair Isle Knitting Chart

The bag was knitted in 2 sections, a front and back which are identically worked. With this technique, I had to contend with two new skills, working with two colors at the same time and  working with  a chart. The two colors and stranding were awkward at first, but once I got into the rhythm it was not as difficult as I imagined. It helps that you only work with one stitch, the stockinette. Tip: Make sure that you carry the yarn not in use loosely along the wrong side of the work, so your stitches and design do not bunch up. 

I lined the bag with an ultra suede material, although the instructions did not call for a lining.  I could not find the strap used in the pattern so I just purchased a pair that I thought would work with the bag at a local crafts store. I like how the bag turned out and what more, it fits my IPad perfectly.

Fair Isle-Style Hat

Fair Isle Winter Hat
knitted by jojo sabalvaro tan
After completing the bag, I embarked on a new challenge - working with double pointed needles. I decided to make a winter hat for my husband, adopted from a pattern on Creative Knitting Magazine (September 2011) called Sugar Loaf Hat and a beret from the Fall/Winter 2010 issue of Debbie Bliss Knitting Magazine. This particular issue featured a number of Fair Isle projects and what was what inspired me to learn the technique. For the yarn, I used left overs from the bag project.  For needles, I used a set of 5 size 6 ( 4mm) bamboo double point needles. I liked working with bamboo needles but they tended to curve after prolonged use. I must not be a gentle knitter and need sturdier needles. On a recent trip to New York, I found a knit shop along Jamaica Ave. in Queens and bought a pack of Susan Bates Quick Silver double pointed knitting needles. They are made from a lightweight metal and had a smooth glasslike finish that made it a joy to knit, plus they are relatively inexpensive and available in many craft stores. Working with double pointed needles for the first time is quite challenging, especially when working the first few rows of the project. I can not count how many times I had to rip out and restart this project due to dropped and loss stitches from the needles, but I persevered.

Place these little rubber needle guards at the non-working end of each needle to minimize the chance of the stitches coming loose from the needle. These ones are from Clover.

I am very proud of the finished product and my husband said, he loves the hat and would wear it this winter. That's all I can ask for. Next, I'll try socks.