Some answers to some questions regarding my art
My gratitude to all my 'watchers' as well as to all of you have given my works a 'favorite'. In the course of time, many of you have written me and asked some questions regarding my art and my life. I have answered all of them, but individually. Now I wish to share all these to the rest of you.
1. What is your medium?
Metallic gel pen on the black (reverse) side of illustration board
The brand I use is Dong-A, a Korean brand that is available here in the Philippines. It is the only one with metallic colors, other brands have glitter pens. Unfortunately, there are only seven colors available: Silver, Gold, Copper, Metallic Red, Metallic Green, Metallic Blue and Metallic Purple.
I work on standard illustration board, often in the following sizes: 51x51 cm (20X20 inches), 38x51 cm (15x20 inches), 25.5x51 cm (10x20 inches) and 25.5x38 cm (10x15 inches).
A funny note about here in the Philippines, we measure short distances in the English system (inches and feet), whereas when it comes long distances we use the metric system (kilometers).
2. What inspires you to create such imagery?
My art has always been a sort of advocacy, where I share for people to experience more on what I know . . . and in this case it is the divine world. I am in pursuit of my spiritual path, and in that journey visions are revealed to me which I share through art, and at times I share them through the written word.
As a reminder, not all my drawings are visionary in nature, whereas some are purely aesthetic and technical (trying a different techniques such as textures) pursuits.
In my earlier works, my paintings also revolved an advocacy to share aspects of the traditional indigenous cultures of the Philippines, such as their myths and arts. This was nurtured by my interaction with the various indigenous groups here, and I have been adopted by two "tribes".
I still pursue sharing about their cultures through my writing and research. Although I have also begun traveling again and interacting with several communities.
3. Why shift from painting to drawing?
I have been exhibiting my paintings on indigenous culture since 1990, and had started on my drawings on the spiritual path in 1999. However, I decided to stop all art making by 2002, that was when my daughter was born and I started teaching in a university.
When the yearning to create art was calling in 2009, I saw that the gel drawings were the best avenue to pursue since my spiritual life has evolved to a higher level by that time.
Another added bonus to this art style was it was also the best medium in which I can complete a work in one sitting. Where as my paintings (which resembled traditional weaving) could only be finished in at least one week. In a practical sense, this was the art I could pursue in balance with raising my daughter and my teaching job and the administrative position I held in the university, as well as my voluntary work in environmental and human rights causes. I also take on special projects in production design, which can be parade floats, film sets, events, and more.
4. What are your other hobbies and interests?
Aside from drawing and painting, I sometimes dance in a form based on the traditional Pang-alay of the Tausug people (whom I had lived with). I also love to cook, and have the knack of inventing new recipes.
I have begun to travel again and even climb mountains.
With all of these, I also see my teaching as a hobby, since I enjoy doing it very much.
And the same passion and enjoyment goes for my writing, even if it has an academic slant and very steeped into my advocacies.
In the past, I have written poetry, sang in two professional rock-and-roll bands, did some fashion ramp modeling, and even did some events coordination / directing.
My hope is to open up my own restaurant / café (obviously with art in it), after I retire from teaching. There, I can pursue all my interests of cooking, art and music in one place. I might conduct a few workshops in the place, just in case I miss teaching.
5. In many of your works, you depict the feminine form in a particular manner. Why so?
In my works, I depict the feminine in the divine form or that as the goddess. Hence she voluptuous to indicate her nurturing (the fertility symbol) side, yet muscular to show her strength (and not the weaker sex). Yet in all that strength she is graceful.
She is beautiful, as an analogy to the beauty of divine inspiration.
When I first started with these visionary works in 1999, I was more in pursuit of the masculine side my spiritual nature. Hence almost all my early works featured the male archetype. And often, than male image was mine own. Not that I was narcissistic, but the only means to understand the masculine energy was to know my own.
I believe I was able to explore my feminine spirituality by getting to know my wife in a deeper level, and by raising my daughter and bringing the nurturing side on me. Thus, I also started exploring the goddess energy in spirituality.
6. How do you get your 'visions'?
There are many ways I get these divine inspirations; through dreams, in meditation or even in flashes while I am doing something else.
There is no telling when I would get inspired, and it would take me some time before I can actualize it into an artwork. Often I have to contemplate further on the image, until I fully grasp the personal message of the vision.
7. So are these visions only for yourself to know?
The each vision has a personal message to me, but when I translate it into an artwork I know the viewer will get a different message which is just as viable and important to them.
Sometimes as viewer may understand the deeper meanings of the symbols that I have rendered as in comparison to myself, and that allows me to hear the message from someone else. Other times, an image I have made is meant for someone else, and when I meet that person, I show them the work and it immediately resonates to them.
8. You always mention the "divine", so what is your religion?
I was born and raised a Catholic, but now I am a universal / ecumenical believer. Hence I can speak to any person of their personal faith, and come to agreement with them as based on a universal truth of love and harmony.
I admit I have experienced many supernatural and mystic events in my life (entities, witchcraft, UFOs and such), yet I am not concerned with the pursuit of honing any magical skills or psychic gifts. I am on a spiritual path, in which I am continually evolving my relationship with myself, my fellow man, nature and the whole universe; and that is all that matters.
While in this spiritual path, I still try to be abreast with some aspects popular culture, knowing real well that I might alienate myself from others and fail to be grounded enough to deal with everyday people. That is also why I take on commercial design projects and I work side-by-side with my carpenters and electricians when we do a production.
I also take time to enjoy the not-so-serious aspects of life, including watching "Spongebob Sqaurepants" with my daughter, or some other inane activities. I believe that with all the work I do, I need to laugh every-now-and-then. And having some good-old rock-n-roll blasting through the speakers can be such a welcome perk up for the day (I am more particular to the classic rock music such as Carlos Santanna and Led Zeppelin).
9. You said you are a teacher, so what do you teach?
In the university I handle almost all courses in the Fine Arts curriculum (covering painting, sculpture and commercial design), but my expertise in is Art History and Art Criticism / Theory. The only subjects I do not teach art computer graphics and photography.
I also handle all the freshmen Fine Arts and Architecture students (at most 600 students in a semester) in a Peace Education course that I had designed.
Every-now-and-then I hold art workshops for children and adults, which is individual centered. What I mean by that is that I teach each student based on the medium and subject matter they want to master. So at one class, I can be teaching up to eight different students with eight different syllabi.
My wife and I also have a self actualization Mandala drawing and meditation workshop, following the principals of the making of a Buddhist / Vedic Mandala for the learner to discover themselves and their relation with the divine.
I always wanted to teach, but took my time traveling and experiencing as much as could to really share with the next generations. It was only when I went to the Smithsonian strip / mall in Washington DC and went through all those museums and went face-to-face with all that great art (which I had only seen in books, there was no internet then), it was then that I decided that I was ready to teach full-time in a university.
10. Where are you from?
I am a Filipino, currently residing in Quezon City (which is part of Metro Manila).
I have four native blood lines running through my veins. All these roots can be found in the island of Luzon: Kapampangan, Tagalog, Ilocano and Bicolano.
11. Do I take any . . . ?
I do not take any mind bending substances, organic or otherwise in my life processes. In fact I hardly take any alcohol, probably five beers each time I go out, which is about four to five times in a year.
I know a lot of people who are into taking such substances, and I respect their decisions as long as they do not hurt anybody and that they may still remain productive to society.
If I do take any of these substances, I end up thinking and acting very very normal . . . which is very boring.
Hence my only intake is coffee, and brewed at that. And in my younger days, I had traveled around my country sampling the various coffees grown by the various communities.
I also have some home made teas to perk me up.
12. Your name is John Paul, but you use the moniker "Lakan". What does it mean?
John Paul is my birth name, and Lakan is a name I chose as I go through my journeys. Lakan is an ancient word from my people the Tagalog ("Taga" or from and "Ilog" or river, which means people of the river), which means warrior / chieftain. It is a name that I do not take likely, because by taking on this name, I know I have to live up to it everyday and live my life with that name to carry me on through my journeys.
Lakandiwa, on the other hand, means "Way of the Warrior". Which is also the name of the book I am writing on the traditions of the ancient warriors of the Philippine ethnic groups.
13. You are very adept in animal physiology, how did you master that?
Ever since I was I a child, I have been fascinated with the natural world and interactions in our bio-diversity. Later, I started to work out and later became a gym trainer, where I learned to understand the human physiology much much better. And later I realized the similarities in the operations of animal and human physiques that I could easily draw animals or humans or even hybrids in an anatomically believable poses.
14. Are you the only artist in your family?
Nope . . .
My wife is a writer, graphic artist and a dancer. Presently she has been semi-retired from commercial design and is in the process of experimenting in painting for exhibition.
My daughter is also into dance, and loves making sculptures out of clay. She also likes to write her own stories and make them into mini picture books. In fact, I have illustrated one of her stories (Master of the Bubble World", which I have featured here. During out Mandala workshops, she joins the students in making mandalas using clay or beads. Obviously that immediately intimidates the workshoppers. I do not teach my daughter on art techniques, as I allowed to experiment on her own and not be prejudiced by my art.
My mother used to paint, until she started working. Now that she has retired, she is now doing mosaics. She also writes.
My father used to work as a producer in the local music industry.
My brother, like many members of my clan, is a writer. He specializes now in sports journalism.
Several of my other clan members are also journalists / wroters, and there are four interior designers and one singer. However, everyone was afraid to branch into the exhibiting arts except for me. After my third solo exhibition, one cousin tried her own hand in painting and now has exhibited here in the Philippines and as well as in London.
15. What is your favorite animal?
Cats . . . they are easier to take care of.
But one day I would like to have a Pug or a Pig, which ever comes first.
My animal totem is the snake.
16. Are you a vegetarian?
Nope . . .
I practically eat anything except pork. Well, I used to eat pork, then after a unusual experience with and without pork while living in the mountains with the Ifugao (Northern Philippines) and Tausug (Southern Philippines) people, my body finally started to reject anything with pork in it. I do miss the taste, but I get very sick when I eat it. Some my relatives also miss those great pork dishes that I used to cook.
17. How long does it take you to complete an artwork?
Around four to eight hours, and that is just the drawing time. It will take longer, if you include the meditations before a visionary work or a mandala.
Usually I start around 3 o' clock in the afternoon and go on through the night, with breaks to wash up, cook dinner, play or study with my daughter, have a drag (yes, I smoke cigarettes) and stretch my body.
18. Who are your artistic influences?
When I was very young (around four years old), I was already exposed to the works of Gustav Klimt's richly sensual imagery and Alphons Mucha's complexly engaging works.
At six years old, I like all kids I started drawing cartoon characters when anime officially entered the Philippine shores with television shows such as Voltes V, Daimos and Mazinger Z.
By eight years old, I began delving into books on the mythic arts of ancient Egypt, Greece and Maya. During that time, I was also drawn into the plight of the Native Americans and Africans.
At ten years old, I was intrigued by the tenacious creativity of Leonardo Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso and M.C. Escher.
By twelve, I loved the grandiose figurative paintings of the Filipino painters Juan Luna and Carlos 'Botong' Francisco.
At fourteen years old, I fell in love with the classically rendered fantasy works of Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo, as well as the dark haunting pieces of HR Giger.
By sixteen years old, I was excited by the graphic works of Patrick Nagel and Milton Glaser.
At eighteen years old, I start delving into indigenous cultures of the Philippines, which I would later explore and integrate into with my work anthropological research and environmental activism. The most impactful experiences I had was living with the Ifugao and Tausug people, although I have worked with the Buhid and Hanunoo Mangyan of Mindoro island, the Baogobo Klata of Davao, the Aeta of Zambales, the Dumagat of Quezon, the Itawes of the Cagayan Valley, and various Manobo people in Mindanao.
By twenty years old and on, my interests expand to many disciplines:
In CULTURAL STUDIES, I delved into the arts of the Chinese, Japanese, and Indian people. My earlier interests in martial arts acted as a springboard to these cultures.
In MUSIC, I grew up on the classic rock-n-roll of Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Creedence Clearwater Revival; the pure genius of classical composers such as Ludwig Van Beethoven and Peter Tchaikovsky; the harmonies of Blood, Sweat & Tears and Earth, Wind & Fire; the golden age rock-n-roll of Elvis Presley and The Ventures; the ass-kicking sounds of The Cult and INXS; the New Wave tunes of Depeche Mode and The Cure; the heavy metal of Van Halen, Metallica and ACDC; the soft music of Sade and Oleta Adams; the big band music of Glen Miller and Artie Shaw; the OPM pop of Basil Valdez and Apo Hiking Society; the jazz of Spyrogyra and Pizzicato 5; the lounge-ness of Morcheeba and Enigma; the OPM folk of Joey Ayala and Grace Nono; the OPM rock-n-roll of the Juan Dela Cruz Band and Asin; the grunge of Garbage and Sound Garden; and the meditative Imee Oi.
In PAINTING, I loved the depth of Jasper Johns' flag and seasons series, the perseverance Roy Lichtenstein in his earlier pixelated paintings, the dynamically haunting flight series of Ismail Abdul Latiff, the simplicity of Piet Mondrian, the creative splendor of Salvador Dali, the dreamy imagery of Rene Magritte, the powerful portraits of Chuck Close, and gracefully powerful women of Tamara De Lempicka.
In FILM, I was influenced by the imagination of George Lucas (I was making fully detailed small scale models of the Star Wars mecha with cardboard by age 10), the creative mastery of Ray Harryhausen, the unpredictability of Kwak Jae-yong, the somber characterizations of Akira Kurosawa, the comic genius of Stephen Chow, and the underdog determination of Sylvester Stallone (he was a complete unknown when he wrote and starred in Rocky, which won in the Oscars).
In SCULPTURE, I am in awe of the power of Theo Jansen's creatures, the ethereal glass pieces of Dale Chihuly, the mobiles of Alexander Calder, the poetic visions of Constantin Brancusi, the urban humor of George Segal, the playfulness of Claes Oldenburg, the monumental installations of Christo, the elegant sensuality of Michelangelo, and the rebellious works of Marcel Duchamp.
In EROTIC ART, I enjoyed the idealized women of Alberto Vargas, the sensuality of Olivia de Berardinis, the sexiness of Hajime Sorayama's robots, and the surreal erotica of Pierre Lacombe.
In PHILIPPINE SCULPTURE, I was influenced by the shamanic installations of Robert Villanueva, the organic worlds of Jun Yee, the massive yet majestic works of Napoleon Abueva, the toungue-in-cheek reality in terra cotta by Julie Lluch, the haunting glass works of Ramon Orlina.
In PHILIPPINE PAINTING, I was drawn to the mystical prints of Fil Dela Cruz, the grandiose paintings of Juan Luna, the fluidity of Raphael Pacheco's hand-painted worlds, the folksy naturalist images of Jose Blanco and Botong Francisco, the playful colors of Pacita Abad, the emotionally wrenching paintings of Ang Kuikok and Cesar Legaspi, and the light-hearted influential spirit of Kidlat Tahimik.
In ARCHITECTURE, I am relished the enormity of Leandro Locsin's structures, the breezy nature of Bobby Manosa's buildings, the boldness of Frank Lloyd Wright, the eclectic works Frank Gehry, and the simplicity of Tadao Ando.
In FASHION, I loved the freshness of Gianni Versace, the innovative work of Filipino designer Inno Sotto, the elegance Christian Dior, and the sleekness of Giorgio Armani (I plan to have an Armani suit made).
In PHOTOGRAPHY, I look up to the breath taking images of Ansel Adams, the haunting portraits of Edward Sheriff Curtis, the graceful images of Horst (Paul Albert Bohrmann), the humorous erotica of Jan Saudek, the dream-like pictures of Howard Schatz.
In ANIMATION, I look up to the exciting stories of Katsuhiro Otomo, the urban grit of Ralph Bakshi, the imaginative worlds of Jim Henson, the deep characterizations of Hayao Miyazaki, and the timelessness of Rankin Bass.
In COMICS ILLUSTRATION, I am a fan to the realism of Alex Ross, the grimness of Frank Miller, the details of George Perez, the originality of Jack Kirby, the dynamism of Jim Lee, the classical nature of Joe Kubert, the off beat works of Michael Golden, the simplistic yet very dark images of Mike Mignola, the unearthly works of Dave Mckean, the clean cut art of John Byrne, and the humor of Sergio Aragonés.
In DESIGN, I have great respect for the modern genius of Alvar Aalto, the hip products of Philippe Starck, and the sculptural works of Isamu Noguchi.
I would like everyone to know that in all my drawings of the heavens, the stars I have rendered are approximations of actual constellations in a particular period of time and hemisphere, depending on the actual message and concept of the image. No star map is drawn on any guess work.
That is all I can share for now.
Salamat (thanks) at Samuli (and until then),
To all those who have given me at "DA watch" and "Favorite", I wish I could thank you all personally, but it is quite overwhleming.
My thanks to you all.
Listening to: My Heart
Reading: The Lines
Watching: The Screen
Playing: With my nose
Eating: Smoked Fish Pasta
Drinking: More Highland coffee