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, February 23, 2014

A Meditation on Jesus Christ through Painting

"By His Wounds You Have Been Healed"
Watercolor on Aquabord  4"x4"
by jojo sabalvaro tan 2014

We finally booked a trip to the Holy Land after many attempts in years past. The literature on the trip encourages preparing for the trip spiritually by engaging in prayer and meditation.  One of the suggestions was to go to church everyday and spend time in quiet contemplation. Another was to read The Magnificat, a monthly publication with daily prayers and mass readings. We proceeded to download the Magnificat app on my Ipad.  We also started reviewing the  biblical places we will be visiting to understand their significance in Jesus' life.  Our itinerary included biblical passages referencing the places we will be visiting. I must admit that we are not frequent Bible readers, but it was great to go though the Bible and read the passages from the New Testament in the context of following the footsteps of Christ and the Old Testament as a root for the three monotheistic faiths, Jewish, Christian and Islam, coexisting in the Holy Land. Life Magazine also came out with, Jesus,  a special feature publication on Jesus, which explained the importance and influence of Jesus Christ through two millennium and followed His footsteps to some of the important places of His ministry.
Cover of Life Magazine Jesus

In the past few years, I would prepare for Lent by doing a painting of Jesus Christ. This year, because of our trip to the Holy Land , I decided to start out earlier so I can prepare spiritually for our trip by combining meditation and prayer with the aid of painting.

I chose to do a painting of Christ crucified, which I, as a Catholic, consider one of the most significant and important events that occurred in the Holy Land. I used a 4" x4" Aquabord as my surface and decided to use as my medium Yarka watercolors because of their richness and intensity of color. Plus, not that it makes very much sense to anyone else but me, I happen to be watching the Winter Olympics in Sochi at the time I was working on this painting  and Yarka watercolors are made in Russia. So, in my own convoluted way of thinking, there is also some touch of the art of Russian Christian iconography at play here.

Base Coating

Completed Painting

I used EnviroTex Lite pour-on High Gloss Finish to seal the painting where you mix an equal part of resin and hardener and pour it on the painting. The effect was a thick glass like finish, almost like a glossy tile. Then I bought a 7"x7" pine wood plaque which I painted in first with an orange base coat, then once dried with black acrylic. Once the second layer dried I sanded and applied a second coat of black. When that coat dried, I applied an acrylic gloss varnish . The painting was attached to the wood plaque with super glue.

The finished  painting mounted on a 7" x 7" painted pine board.
While I was painting, the passage from Peter 2:24 stuck in my mind - "He himself bore our sins in His body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed."  I used the last sentence from this passage as the title of this painting..

Friday, February 21, 2014

Obsessed with Lace Knitting

My Grandniece snug in her Quill Blanket

I developed an obsession with lace knitting after knitting a baby blanket for my upcoming grand-niece. I wanted her to have a blanket similar to what Prince George (son of Prince William and Princess Kate) was draped in during his first public appearance with his parents. I looked all over for a pattern and finally purchased the Quill Blanket pattern by Jared Flood from Ravelry. This pattern is based on the Shetland Hap shawls. The design has  a center square and then stitches are picked up all around the square to add a middle border in a modified feather and fan stitch. Then a third lace border is added knitted in short rows. These shawls are usually made with thick wool since it was used in colder climates of the Shetland or the lace work could be very fine that it is reputed a whole shawl will pass through a wedding ring. The borders are usually done in different coordinating colors. I choose to use an off white wool fingering yarn for this blanket.  I pretty much followed the pattern faithfully except when I got to the lace border. For the life of me, my brain was not cooperating in figuring out how to add a knitted-on lace border so I ended up crocheting a lace border instead. This was an easy pattern to follow, except for the knitting the lace border (for me, at least) and it made for a lovely welcome home from the hospital wrap for the new baby.

My niece with her baby and the Quill Blanket

After this project, I was still inspired to make another knitted lace item again. I searched the internet and ended up with another pattern by Jared Flood, the Hemlock Ring Blanket , a free pattern from Ravelry. I utterly enjoyed this pattern and was almost sad when I finished the project. I thought I would not be done for weeks but I enjoyed the rhythm of working on it so much that I finished it in less than 2 weeks. I think, when I knit a Hemmie again, I will make it larger. I used the suggested Cascade Eco Wool yarn in green (my husband's color choice, as I was knitting the blanket for him). The blanket itself reminded me of a large doily.

My Hemlock Blanket in progress
Hemlock Block completed and blocked
Hemlock Blanket Detail
My husband keeping cozy with the Hemmie Blanket

At this point, I am getting pretty proud of myself for being able to tackle these lace projects, including some earlier prayer shawls I made using the feather and fan stitch. I was thinking, I was now ready for more complicated stuff. Again, I researched on the internet and was struck by the beauty of Estonian lace knitting. I decided to buy the book Knitted Lace of Estonia by Nancy Bush, who is, outside of Estonia, the leading Estonian lace knitter. The minute I got it, I was drooling over the different projects featured in the book. I decided to tackle one of the shawls and bought  some yarn at my local yarn shop, Wool and Company in St. Charles, Illinois. The yarn I chose was by a Chicago company that specializes in hand dyed yarns.  I selected a pink lace yarn from their Helen's Lace collection of beautiful colors. My husband was very supportive of my obsession for lace knitting and hand dyed yarns that he even got me a yarn swift and winder as a present.

The yarn swift and ball winder in use with the Helen's Lace yarn from Lorna Lace

I started out on the project pretty well until I got to the much talked about and dreaded "nupps". I had to take the project apart several times and finally had to shelve it. I promised myself I will conquer these nupps someday. If you are curious as to what a nupp is, here is a link on knitting nupps.

I couldn't waste good yarn, so once again I found myself browsing through Ravelry for another pattern so I can use my Lorna Lace yarn. The one I chose is called Utsukushi Wrap by Jennifer Dassau. This particular project used the Japanese Feather stitch and a Stockinette Wave stitch. I loved working with this lace yarn.
Utsukushi Wrap being blocked. I bought a set of those children's alphabet foam jigsaws to use for blocking. I laid the damp shawl on a towel placed over the foam squares.

Utsukushi wrap detail

All of these projects were knitted using  charts, which I liked.  I do not have a preference between charted or written instructions, but given a choice I would go for projects with both. After I finished knitting the blankets and shawls, I did block them. I found that this was an important step with lace knitting, as well as pressing with an iron on wool or silk setting, depending on the yarn.

Lessons I learned the hard way to make lace knitting easier:

  • Read instructions completely before starting
  • Put a stitch marker at the beginning of every pattern repeat. This helps in pinpointing where you are in the pattern.
  • When knitting in the round,  at the beginning of a row, I use  two stitch markers or use a distinct marker from the rest of the stitch markers I used for the other pattern repeats. When I get to this marker, I know I am starting a new row.
  • Count, count, count after each pattern repeat. This way you are sure you are working with the correct number of stitches all the time. It is easy to  drop or add a stitch with all the increases using  yarn overs (yo) and decreases with  knitting or purling 2 or more stitches together (p2tog, k2tog, ssk) 
  • Use a life line, a waste yarn or thread inserted in a row of stitches.  I usually insert a lifeline every few rows (depending on how complicated the lace pattern is) at the non-design or resting row (as I call it). This is normally the row where you usually just plainly knit and/or purl  -where increases or decreases (yarn overs or knitting  or purling 2 or more stitches together) are not predominant.. A life line saves you from having to rip out your work entirely.
  • In the case where a particular row on the chart  proves difficult to follow and no written instructions are provided, I will take the time to write out my own instructions for that particular row of the chart by using the abbreviation for each  stitch. I always use the pattern key provided but if there is none, common abbreviations for each stitch are available on the internet.  Double check and count the number of stitches on your own written transcription to ensure you did not make a mistake in transcribing.

I'm sure this is not the end of my lace knitting obsession and that I will be making more knitted lace items in the future, until I am confident enough to attack the "nupps" once again.

Thanks to the models: my niece Irene, my grandniece Mia and my husband.

Monday, February 17, 2014

2013 Christmas Card

Madonna and Child 2013 9" x 10"
 Original watercolor on 140# Arches watercolor paper
by jojo sabalvaro tan
used for 2013 Christmas Card
For a few years now, it has been our tradition to have one of my Madonna and Child watercolor paintings featured on our Christmas card. We consider this a special gift to our family and friends, for the process of making each painting is a meditation and prayer to bring the blessings of the Almighty God to all that will receive it. For our 2013 Christmas Card, I painted 4 mother and child  watercolors to select from.

The first one I painted was inspired by an Native American Indian photo  of a mother carrying a baby in a papoose which featured an embroidered leather cover. The baby had a similar embroidered hood and was covered in an embroidered blanket. The decorations on the papoose, hood and blanket looked more European to me, perhaps influenced by trade.

Native American Mother and Child
Watercolor by jojo sabalvaro tan

Detail from Native American Mother and Child
Watercolor by jojo sabalvaro tan

The second painting I did, was my interpretation of  the Dalit Madonna by Jyoti Sahi with  more of a South East Asian or Indian influence.

Madonna and Child 2013  9"x 10"
Watercolor by jojo sabalvaro tan
after Jyota Sabi

The third painting, was my typical renaissance-style interpretation of the Madonna and Child. This time, I based it on  a painting by Italian painter Luca Signorelli. I usually show the paintings to close families and friends and this was the hands down choice for the 2013 card, until another inspiration hit me.
Madonna and Child 2013  9"x 10"
Watercolor by jojo sabalvaro tan

after Luca Signorelli

Some areas in the Philippines were hit by a super Typoon Yolanda or Haiyan, as it is known in the Western hemisphere, the strongest typhoon ever to have hit land. The devastation and loss was immense. Whole towns and cities in the Visayas region were wiped off the face of the earth. I decided to paint a Filipiniana Madonna and Child honoring those that were affected by this typhoon. The Madonna is wearing a typical Filipina attire called kimono-style baro't saya which usually features intricate embroidery. Hand embroidered baro't saya on pina (pineapple) or jusi  cloth are priced in the Philippines. After I finished painting this Filipina Mother and Child, I knew it was the clear choice for our 2013 Christmas Card. Now that you've seen all four Madonnas, which one is your choice?

2013 Christmas Card 6"x8"
The card was printed by Vistaprint on heavyweight white stock paper with gloss finish, ready for framing

The note that accompanied the card:

A very blessed Christmas to you all. For our 2013 Christmas Card, I painted a Filipiniana Mother and Child in watercolor in dedication and honor to those affected by the super typhoon Yolanda. Our hopes and prayers for  continued relief and salvation go with the victims and their families. We wish this Christmas finds all of you healthy, happy and looking forward to the new year and always cradled in the arms of the Lord.