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, October 25, 2015

Gentile da Fabriano Madonna and Child

Madonna and Child alla Gentile da Fabriano
by jojo sabalvaro tan
Acrylics, gold leaf on 9" x 12" Fredrix Archival Watercolor Canvas Board

CB, one of my high school classmates, suggested that I paint a spiritual Madonna and Child for this year's Christmas card. When I think of spiritual, to me it evokes the Madonna and Child paintings produced by the Renaissance painters such as Boticelli, Da Vinci and Raphael, to name a few. I am an admirer of the work of the International Gothic style artist Gentile da Fabriano (c. 1370-1427) especially what I consider one of his masterpieces, his Adoration of the Magi.  I saw this piece for the first time when we visited the Ufizzi Museum in Florence and I was in awe. Even though the scene is familiar to every Catholic (it commemorates the time when the three Magi paid homage to the Baby Jesus), every time I observe this particular  painting I find something unexpected, exquisite and even funny.

Adorazione dei Magi (Gentile da Fabriano) - Wikipedia
Photo from Wikipedea - Adoration of the Magi by Gentile da Fabriano

A detail from Adoration of the Magi by Gentile da Fabriano. If you look closely at one of the magi, there's a man crouched by his feet adjusting his shoe ornaments. I found that very amusing.

So, for my spiritual Madonna, I decided to copy another one of my favorite paintings by Gentile da Fabriano called The Madonna of Humility.

The original Gentile da Fabriano The Madonna of Humility (painted around 1420-1423) featured in an Italian postage stamp released in 2006. The original painting is housed in the Museo nazionale di San Matteo, Pisa.

While the original was done in tempera, I abandoned my watercolors in lieu of acrylics since I felt acrylics mimicked tempera a little better. Similar to the original, I used a lot of gold in the painting - both gold leaf and iridescent acrylics. Someday, I hope to master the use of gold leaf.  Gold leafing techniques are taught  in iconography classes which I hope to be able to take in the near future. Iridescent metallic paints just do not capture the feeling of being totally immersed in spirituality that the Medieval and Renaissance folks experienced as they prayed in candlelit churches in front of paintings of Jesus, Mary and other Saints enhanced with the  luster of real gold.

For the surface, I used Fredrix Archival Watercolor Canvas Board to get a closer feel to the panel used in the original. My canvas board I'm sure is a lot more textured than the smooth gessoed panels used then. Making smooth gessoed panels for Icon painting is another one of the skills I would like to learn.

Here are some of my painting-in-progress photos:

After the initial tracing of the cartoon sketch, I started basecoating, Mary's Robe and the skin.

Continued basecoating the background (drapes and floor)

Painted Mary and Baby Jesus and added details to the floor

Added gold leaf and paint and shading and highlights

The completed painting, Madonna and Child alla Gentile da Fabriano, 2015
by jojo sabalvaro tan

In the interest of full disclosure, here is a photo of my work table as I was working on the project. Pretty messy, huh!

This was a challenging and intimidating project since I was attempting to copy directly from an old master. I knew the finished product can not be and will not be an exact replica of the original. But, I do feel that there's a lot of me  in the painting too. I think I can use this painting for our personal Christmas card especially since I am not making money out of it and it is my own painting albeit an adaptation  from an almost 600 year old original work. Can some legally minded friend or reader tell me if my assumption is right. Unless I am breaking any laws, this painting will definitely be a candidate for our 2015 Christmas card.

So now, there are three paintings to choose from. Let me know which one is your favorite by commenting as an anonymous guest below. So excited to see what you think.

Contemporary Madonna and Child (#1)

Kalinga Madonna and Child (#2)

Madonna and Child alla Gentile da Fabriano (#3)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Mellerstain Tapestry Project

Mellerstain Tapestry embroidered by jojo sabalvaro tan from kit by The Crewel Work Company (16" x 20")

After I saw the Bayeux Tapestry in Bayeux, France, I was itching to make an embroidery project similar to the Bayeux tapestry style which I blogged about earlier in  In Bayeux - Art, Architecture, History and Embroidery.  Across the street from the Bayeux Cathedral there is a little needlework shop selling embroidery kits and patterns based on sections of the original Bayeux tapestry. But, being one who analyzes all the choices, there was just not enough time to make a choice since we only had a few precious hours in Bayeux.  The shopkeeper  informed me  that their kits can be ordered from the store on line, so I decided that I would just wait and make my purchase from home.  As soon as I got home, I started scouring the net for Bayeux crewel embroidery projects, which are done with thicker wool threads instead of the thinner cotton threads or floss. My search took me in a different direction from the Bayeux Tapestry kits I was searching for when I came across the British embroidery company run by Phillipa Turnbull and her daughter, The Crewel Work Company (http://www.crewelwork.com/ ) , which specializes in historic British needlework. I decided to purchase a kit from them called the Mellerstain Firescreen. (purchase info here, if interested). I love the Jacobean style embroidery that flourished in the early 17th century and this pattern reminds me of the ones produced  during that period replete with fanciful and exotic flora and fauna.

Photo from www.crewelwork.com

I ordered the kit so I would get it in time for another one of our European vacations. I like to bring needlework on trips to work on to ease the wait at the airport, tedious airplane ride  and for down time at the hotel after a whole day of sightseeing. Unfortunately, this kit did not arrive in time for our trip which was a bit disappointing but then again, I pacified myself with the thought that I can just plan another trip somewhere. The kit arrived beautifully packaged and organized with the Jacobean linen twill screen printed with the design, Appleton 2 ply crewel wools and gold plated needles, along with instructions and stitching charts.
The Mellerstain Firescreen Kit
Sit-On Embroidery Hoop/Frame Holder
My friends and family know I have this thing about tools, gadgets and accessories for my projects. So I just had to buy this sit-on embroidery hoop frame to work on this project at home to keep in character with those 17th century ladies.

The actual embroidery of this project was completed in a span of almost  two and a half years. I took my time, embroidering bits while watching TV but most work was done when we go on trips. It was fun stitching satin, long and short, french knot stitches. It reminded me of the first time I learned how to embroider when in grade school. Back then I learned to embroider on a fine linen square that was to be a handkerchief. I used my handkerchief proudly, until I eventually lost it.  I am really happy with the way the Mellerstain tapestry turned out although I would like to stitch this again in slightly brighter color as I imagined the original from which this was based on would have been when it was first stitched. It does feel like I have just made a piece of needlework history. I am now in the process of preparing the tapestry for framing. It would have been nice yo use an antique firescreen frame just like the original they were a bit pricey and I can not be sure that the tapestry will fit.. So I just bought a stock  frame from a big box arts and crafts store with a 16"x 20" opening, it fits but the embroidered area touches the edge of the frame. I may have to go up in size a bit.

To be honest, I was sure this project would end up in my U.F.O. (unfinished objects) pile but working on it bit by bit, before I realized it I was done. Now, I am a little  sad it is completed.

Details of the birds

Details of the squirrel

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Contemporary Madonna and Child

Madonna and Child 2015
5.5" x 7.75"
Watercolor on 140# Arches watercolor paper plus gold leaf
by jojo sabalvaro tan

This is another Madonna and Child Painting I completed a few weeks ago. I am now on a mission of producing a painting for our 2015 Christmas card. I thought that I would go the more contemporary route this time. This painting was a little bit more playfully executed. 

First, I dropped a variety of colors on the paper and let them intermix and flow down the surface. To add more texture, I sprinkled salt on top of the still wet paint and when the paint completely dried out unexpected patterns materialized. I dusted off all the salt and then lightly sketched the Madonna and Child image on the paper using parts of the  textured painted surface to my advantage. I did some negative painting to enhance the figures and painted the faces. In negative painting, the subject is not painted directly. Instead, you paint around the shape of the image to produce a positive image. This technique is helped a lot by the background colors.  

I debated whether to add gold leafing to the halo which I ended up doing since I felt it elevated the painting. This painting took me a while since I was not used to negative painting and so it was not a natural process for me. But, I really liked how it turned out. I love the tender moment that Mary and Jesus shared in this painting. On a side note, I really have to quit watching a certain TV show since when I finished the painting, Mary's face reminded me of the lead character in the show.
Streams of paint treated with salt created a pleasant texture for the Madonna and Child image I started to showcase with negative painting.

 The painting in progress.

This painting is the second of the Madonna and Child paintings I did this year which is in contention for our Christmas card. The first one is the Kalinga Madonna and Child (below) featured on omy blogpost Kalinga Madonna and Child Painting.

"We never give more honour to Jesus than when we honour his Mother, and we honour her simply and solely to honour him all the more perfectly. We go to her only as a way leading to the goal we seek - Jesus, her Son."
--Saint Louis de Montfort

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Our Mother of Perpetual Help Icon - Madonna and Child 2015 #2

Madonna and Child 2015 #2
by jojo sabalvaro tan
 Watercolor on Arches watercolor paper

While on a long vacation in Manila, I took along my basic watercolor art supplies for travel sketching. A friend of mine requested that I paint a Madonna and Child for her. Since I did not have time to paint before we left for the Philippines, I decided that I would paint the piece there. And that was the first Madonna and Child I did for 2015.  I usually end up making several paintings of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus throughout the year, one of which will end up as the image on our Christmas card.  In addition to the Madonna and Child I painted for my friend, I decided to make one for the family home of my husband. They have a large altar that is filled with images of Jesus, Mary and other Saints. I still remember my mother-in-law sitting in front of the altar praying. The piece I painted was going to be placed on this altar.  It is based on The Our Mother of Perpetual Help icon, an icon whose original is said to be painted by St. John himself. I thought it was fitting since my mother-in-law was a devotee of Our Mother of Perpetual Help.

Icon of St. John Painting the first icon of the Virgin Mary (from campus.udayton.edu)

The icon I painted placed on the Tan Home altar
The veneration of Our Mother of Perpetual Help is very popular in the Philippines. At the Baclaran Church in Metro Manila thousands of devotees come to the church every Wednesday for the traditional novena to ask for a special favor or to offer thanksgiving for the hope and help Jesus had bestowed upon them through the intercession of the Our Mother of Perpetual Help.
baclaran church
Inside Baclaran Church on Wednesdays

<b>Our Mother of Perpetual Help (Baclaran</b>, ParaƱaque) (Photo by Noli ...
Altar at Baclaran Church with the Our Mother of Perpetual Help Icon as centerpiece

When I was growing up, you would find this  devotional prayer book in almost every household in the Philippines. At that time the Philippine population was over 90% Catholic.

Through the intercession of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, we offer prayers for all our relatives and friends who have passed away. May they rest in peace. we  also implore the aid of Mary, Mother of God to provide succor to our family and friends who are sick. We thank God for all our blessings  and keeping us safe. Amen