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, May 7, 2016

T'Boli Paintings

Among the paintings I displayed for the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Art Exhibition presented by the Chicago Public Library are four watercolors featuring the T'Bolis, one of the indigenous groups of the Philippines occupying Southern Cotabato in Mindanao Island. They are known for their colorful intricately woven costumes and material as well as elaborate ornamentations in their jewelry and headpieces. I wanted to feature these elements in my paintings.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Art Exhibition Blog

Here are the paintings;

T'Boli Woman, 2016
Watercolor on paper
by jojo sabalvaro tan
The T'Boli Woman watercolor painting was featured in my blog T'Boli Woman.
Ano and iyong tadhana, anak? (What is your destiny, my child?) 2016
Watercolor on paper
by jojo sabalvaro tan
With Ano ang iyong tadhana, anak ?, I wanted to make a statement about today's youth many of whom seem to place a lot more emphasis on the pursuit of leisure and beauty than their future.

T'Boli Woman Musician 2016
Watercolor  on paper
by jojo sabalvaro tan
This painting is of a T'Boli woman playing the hegelung, a wooden two-stringed lute. According to Wikipedia, 'the Tboli believed that they could learn to play the hegelung if they rubbed their fingers with an insect called a meglung and the leaves of the meglung vine because the names rhymed. They thought that rhyming names could help them acquire the skill to play the instrument.' This is one of my favorite T'Boli paintings since it exhibits the ornate costume and ornaments of the T'Boli woman.
Ayoko!! (I don't want to!!!) 2016
Watercolor on paper
by jojo sabalvaro tan
With this little T'Boli girl, I wanted to capture the petulance and irascibility of youth one can observe anywhere you are in the world.

I do hope by painting the indigenous people of the Philippines, I am able to feature them to the world and help protect their art, culture and traditions.

An Icon Painting of St. Peter Damian

Icon of St. Peter Damian 2016
Written by the hand of jojo sabalvaro tan
Acrylic gouache on  9"x12" Aquabord

I was inspired to write (paint) another icon after revisiting the St. Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine in St. Augustine, Florida this year. It is truly a wonderful place to visit and a surprising find in the middle of the old part of St. Augustine.
For the feast day (February 21) of St. Peter Damian, I wanted to offer our parish church, St. Peter Damian Catholic Church,  an icon of its patron saint  St. Peter Damian was  born in 1007 in Italy and one of his brothers took care of him when he was very young after his parents died. Another brother, the Archpriest of Ravenna, later took him under his wings and sent him off to many good schools. He became a professor. He later decided to give up teaching and devote his life to prayer and fasting with the Benedictines. He became an abbot, the cardinal-bishop of Ostia and a papal legate and was often  called upon by the Pope to work on peacemaking within the church. He loved the poor and zealously worked to save them. Dante Alighieri, recognizing him a predecessor of St. Francis of Assissi, placed him in one of the highest circles in his allegorical piece Paradiso.  He died on February 22, 1072. In1828,  St. Peter was declared a Doctor of the Church.

This icon was painted on an Ampersand Aquabord panel with LeFrance and Bourgeois Goauche Tempera paints. I used egg yolks mixed with some water as the thinner and it lent a somewhat glossy finish to the dried paint. This is the first time I ever used egg yolks as a medium. I used watercolors to paint my icons and illuminated manuscripts before and this also the first time I used  gouache tempera. I liked using the goauche tempera as a medium for writing icons better because the colors turn out brighter and more solid as opposed to watercolors which are more transparent. I also think it might be the closest medium to what is used by real iconographers without having to grind my pigment or use already available ground natural pigments. Although I did not use the traditional icon writing techniques and materials, I tried my best to stick to the divine rules of icon painting.


  • Before starting work, make the sign of the Cross, pray in silence, and pardon your enemies.
  • Work with care on every detail of your icon, as if you were working in front of the Lord Himself.
  • During work, pray in order to strengthen yourself physically and spiritually; avoid all useless words, and keep silence.
  • Pray in particular to the Saint whose face you are painting.  Keep your mind from distractions, and the Saint will be close to you.
  • When you choose a color, stretch out your hands interiorly to the Lord and ask His counsel.
  • Do not be jealous of your neighbor's work; their success is your success too.
  • When your icon is finished, thank God that His Mercy granted you the grace to paint the Holy Images.
  • Have your icon blessed by putting it on the Holy Table (of your parish church).  Be the first to pray before it, before giving it to others.

Never forget:

      • The joy of spreading icons throughout the world.
      • The joy of the work of icon writing.
      • The joy of giving the saint the possibility to shine through his/her icon.
      • The joy of being in union with the Saint whose face you are revealing.

        Saint Peter Damian is represented in art as a cardinal bearing a discipline in his hand; also sometimes he is depicted as a pilgrim holding a Papal Bull, to signify his many legations. I chose to depict St. Peter as a cardinal holding a Papal Bull. I wrote St. Peter Damian's name in Greek, the typical script used in icons. This icon has a bit more contemporary look than the traditional icons. I was inspired by the works of Serbian iconographer Todor Mitrovic whose work I saw in an article from the Orthodox Arts Journal (http://www.orthodoxartsjournal.org/interview-with-todor-mitrovic/).

        Icon by Todor Mitrovic
        On the margins of the St. Peter Damian icon, I have included the words of St. Peter Damian:
        For me, writing an icon is saying a prayer. Icons are meant to be the work of God rather than the work of man. I believe that all that the materials used to write an icon is provided by God and so are any artistic talent, skill, time and energy. It is our task to return God's gifts back to Him manifold and share them with others.

         “O Divine Lord of all that exists”
        Stages of Writing the St. Peter Damian Icon
        Sketching and basecoating
        Adding Details
        Completing Details
        I showed an iconographer I met at St. Photios  Greek Orthodox National Shrine in St. Augustine some photos on my phone of icons I painted and he said that I show real talent especially with no formal iconography training and using watercolors. He  suggested that I visit the Orthodox Churches in our area to see if they have someone that can provide me with formal training on traditional icon writing. He also suggested that I light a candle and play some sacred music to get into a meditative and prayerful spirit while painting.  I pray that someday I would be given the opportunity to receive formal training  in iconography especially with Aidan Hart in England who I consider one of the masters of the genre today. But first, I will start calling the Orthodox Churches in the area to find if there is someone in their community that teaches icon writing.