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.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cuzco Paintings

Filipiniana Madonna and Child 2012
16? x 12"
by jojo sabalvaro tan
Watercolor, gold paint, gold leaf, colored pencil on handmade parchment paper

My cousin Bong sent me a whole bundle of beautiful handmade paper. It was given to her by another one of our cousins from the Philippines. She knew I could use it with my arts and crafts projects. The paper had dried flowers and leaves embedded on it. For my first project, I wanted to try painting with watercolors on the paper.

The first challenge with using watercolors on this paper is that it does not have any sizing so that the paint runs and absorbs more. Other challenges were the uneven surface and the placement of the embedded flowers and leaves which could generally detract from the whole composition..... Yet, I was determined to use this paper and just make adjustments to my style and technique to cope with the challenges. If the ancient Egyptians were able to paint and write on parchment thousands of years ago, so can I. Right?  well, who am I kidding, these guys built the pyramids after all.

I opted  to do a Madonna and Child painting Surprise! Surprise! It was a natural choice because I am now getting quite comfortable with painting this subject matter and would only have to contend with the paper challenge.  I had always wanted to do my version of the religious art from the Cuzco School which originated in Cuszco, Peru and subsequently spread through the other areas of the Andes such as Bolivia and Equador. The Cuzco School originated in the colonial area where Spanish painters were brought in to teach local artists religious art in the interest of spreading Catholicism in South America. The local artists incorporated their local influences and interpretation into the European style dynamics of these paintings. This singular expression and representation of European religious art combined with Peruvian sensitivity became known as La Escuela Cusquena or School of Cuzco Painting. For more information, please click on the link Cuzco Painting and Cuzco School.

Virgin of the Rosary of Guápulo, ca. 1680
Peruvian (Cuzco)
Oil on canvas
67 1/4 x 43 1/2 in. (170.8 x 110.5 cm
At The Metropolitan Art Museum in New York City

For my painting, I decided to do a Filipiniana - Cuzco Painting borrowing from the tradition of combining the traditional European religious art and indigenous. I did some preliminary sketching on my sketch pad and once satisfied with my composition, I decided to sketch directly on the handmade paper rather than trace so I can work around the flowers and leaves. To give it stability and prevent buckling while painting, the paper was stretched on a foam core board with bulldog clips. I usually use artists tape to attach my paper but given  the delicate nature of the paper, I did not want to risk tearing when it comes time to remove the tape.

Early Filipina in Baro't Saya

The Madonna is wearing a typical Filipino costume called Baro't Saya. I am using a red, blue, white and yellow palette to pay homage to the Philippine Flag and the national colors. Of course, I will be using gold leaf and gold paint as embellishment in keeping with the typical European and Cuzco School. I am leaving my background unpainted to showcase the handmade paper. This is a departure from the Cuzco School where backgrounds are dark, heavily embellished or painted with pastoral scenes.

Face Detail

The Madonna is painted with downcast eyes as the Incas would have done in comparison to the Europeans who depict the Virgin Mary with her sight towards heaven. I also tried to depict a non- smiling Virgin Mary , in the tradition of Byzantine Icons, to honor the gift that was given her of knowing the fate of her Child.

One tip I have for those who are going to attempt painting on handmade unsized paper is to really gauge the wetness of your brush. Too much and your colors will run into areas you may not want the color. I call those happy mistakes because it gives me the opportunity to be creative by working the negative into a positive. Too little water and your paint won't adhere to the paper. I also start painting furthest from an area where the color changes dramatically such as when painting a dark area that is adjacent to a light area. When the brush is a little drier, I can come closer to the lighter area. Another tip is to be sure the paint on the paper is completely dry before starting on another area unless you deliberately want them to blend together.
Painting in progress

As in any painting, you never know how it is going to turn out. I imagine those Cusquenan painters saying a prayer as they paint asking for God's guidance and grace like I do. And if the painting does not turn out like you wanted , well there's always the next one and the preceding ones were guides to make me paint better. I couldn't help thinking, though, if the Incas received 40 lashes when they made a mistake.

I have never been to South America and one of my travel goals is to go to Peru and visit Macchu Picchu and see the Cusquena paintings in their native settings. I have great sensitivity to altitude and become very ill which has made it very difficult to embark on a trip to the Andes. So in the meantime, I live the experience vicariously through, Don Carlos, a friend who is lucky enough to go there often and takes along friends who photograph and write about their experiences wonderfully. Maybe one day soon, he can take my husband and me too.

Art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does the better.

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