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.

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.


  1. A beautiful post...That actually sounds like a fun technic. I'll play around with it, using acrylics.

  2. It should also work with acrylics. You might need to add some flow medium to make the paint flow better or wet the surface well before applying your paint. You are a very dynamic and intuitive painter, so I think that this technique will work well for you.