Saturday, July 7, 2012

Two kids with paintbrushes

Tonight I hosted a reunion of guys who had once studied art under the master artist Fernando Sena. Fernando Sena has taught art for over 35 years, and he has literally taught everyone from some of the most famous figures in the country (former President Cory Aquino, for example) to some of the Philippines' most well-known artists, to some of the poorest boys in Tondo.

I was fortunate enough to be one of his keen students when I was a little girl. For years I attended two sessions of art classes every Saturday: the elementary classes in the morning and the advanced classes in the afternoon. The advanced class had students much older than me and most of them were boys, for some reason; but anyway I hung around and tried to go along with the class anyway.


Actually, there were two of us who did the all-day routine simply because we loved drawing so much. It was me and Elmer Borlongan. I never really continued art after high school because I decided to do other things, although I still keep an art studio in Japan where I paint whenever I find the time; but Elmer Borlongan stuck to his craft and he's become a very big name in the local art scene.

He's such a big name now, in fact, that there are major collectors lined up to purchase his works even before he's put a paintbrush to his canvas. Some people have been waiting for years.

In fact, the major art collector I had dinner with last night -- one of the most famous art collectors in the Philippines, actually -- told me to remind Elmer that he's still waiting for his painting, when I happened to mention last night that Elmer was coming over for dinner tonight. 


But way back in art school, we were just two little kids spending our Saturdays painting; and when we weren't painting, we were going down a slide that was in the garden of our art school. Elmer told me today: "I still have a photo of the two of us, sitting at opposite sides of that slide, with our teacher in the middle."

I won't mention the names of all the guys who came over to my house tonight, but they formed the core group of young boys who really took art seriously back then. Save for one who has become a very respected art dealer and collector (Albert Avellana), all of them tonight have become pretty famous artists.

What fun it was to have them in my house, where we talked art all night. Even if we were from different generations, we'd all done a very serious course on art basics that, we all agreed tonight, would put many a college fine arts course to shame. These art lessons have turned out to be very useful in life, whether we continued on with art or not. It gave us all an eye for design, an appreciation for color, and a definite taste for the interesting and beautiful.


And how convenient to have an art gallery owner and some pretty famous artists in my house all at once, to critique the paintings I have on my walls and to give me an instant art education on them as well.

They personally knew almost all the artists whose works hang in my house, and they told me which ones had real talent. Fortunately, I was told tonight that all the artists I chose (I bought most of these artists way before they became famous) have gone on to become award-winning and highly-collectible artists.

There were only two they didn't really know or like. Fortunately, the one they didn't really think much of was just a gift from someone and it was hanging in my kitchen, so it didn't matter so much.

As for the one they didn't really know, they all admired his artistry and technique, and they complimented me for buying a very large painting by a virtual unknown at an auction. He's a very young artist, you see, so I'm hoping he has a bright future ahead of him. And, as usual, I just bought the painting because I liked it.

"Who is the artist?" They asked me, as we stood in my foyer looking at his painting of a girl in a red shirt, holding a mobile phone and looking up, amidst an elaborate construction site. He's so unknown that even I'd forgotten his name, and he hadn't signed his work in front.

So the guys decided to lift this very large painting to see his name at the back, out of curiosity. Unfortunately, they had a pretty hard time putting the painting back, and they spent a good five to ten minutes trying to get it hooked back up to my wall again.


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I had to laugh at the irony of it all, from the perspective of the art world. Here was a painting of a completely unknown artist; and some of the most famous artists of a certain generation -- painters who have collectors lining up to buy anything and everything they can get their hands on -- were actually sweating it out, trying to put his painting back on my wall.

That's when I said to Elmer: "Don't worry. No need to fix it completely. It's just temporary anyway. That wall's reserved for you."

Yes. I decided then and there that I need an Elmer Borlongan painting on that pretty large wall. I actually don't have one, believe it or not. Fortunately, he smiled, and I'm taking that as a sign that I'm getting parachuted to the top of that very long line of eager and desperate collectors. We go back 30 years after all, to a time when we were just two little kids with paint brushes.

Just another day in a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.


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