What is chevere?
I grew up in Manila, Philippines in the 80s, during a period of uncertainty and instability some time towards the end of the Marcos regime. It was a period of dismantling a fascist government, and rebuilding a new democracy. But things were really tough in the arts for a very long time, and we did struggle financially. Both my parents were activists and both also worked in the arts, my father as a painter and a professor of fine arts and my mother as a gallery owner and an art director for film. In spite of all our problems, they continued to pursue their aspirations and excel in their professions. I guess these are the hard lessons in life that teach us to appreciate every opportunity that comes our way, and to help others as well, to pay it forward to our own communities they way other people have done for us in times of need. And so, whenever things get tough in life, in the family, or in my career as a painter, I always look back and tell myself, “Things will get better one way or another, life is good, chévere!”
If you could describe your life (or career) (or personality) with a movie title, what would it be?
I love vintage films, one of my favorites, easily, is Blow-Up by Michelangelo Antonioni. The main character, is a photographer driven to insanity by his passion and curiosity to get to "the truth" past all the distractions, in the search for meaning and authenticity in his life and career. This paints a true picture of what goes on in the minds of every serious full-time artist trying to make it out in the real world, struggling to communicate our experience of life through our art, constantly reevaluating our priorities, and having to redefine our standards of what success truly means, being an artist among so many.
If you listen to music while you paint/write, does it effect your work and how?
I don't think it's possible for me to paint really long hours without music. I paint a minimum of 12 hours a day, and on large-scale pieces up to 16 hours on some days. Music keeps me physically and psychologically upbeat, it's the only way for me to keep my body active and my mind motivated and preoccupied without interfering with the intense visual concentration needed for painting. I've got about a hundred gigabytes of music on my iTunes ranging from Electronic Dance Music, to Chucho Valdez, Janis Joplin, Lionel Richie and Giuseppe Verdi to help me dance, laugh, cry, or sing while painting, (not necessarily in that order).
Is there a color you dislike so much you won't use it?
I don't like anything with too much saturated color, which is why most of my paintings are kind of subdued, almost sepia or monochromatic. But in terms of pigment in oil paint, I don't like using manufacturer's black. For some reason, with my own technique, the ones that are ready-made from the tube tend to dull, "dirty" or gray up skin tones, so I end up making my own near-black version of mixtures that blends much better with everything else I use to achieve nice cool and warm tones.
How many times have you ventured outside of your comfort zone?
Always, I like the challenge of making really large paintings, the last one was a 24-foot wide piece, entitled "A Bullish Market", that took an exhausting five months to finish. I absolutely love Rubens' work, so I've also learned to appreciate painting small pieces 6x9 or 9x12 inch pieces, fill them with as many figures and details possible but still achieve that certain flow or movement in spite of its "tightness". I also like painting difficult or uncomfortable social issues to provoke the comfortable, but at the same time, try to loosen it up, make it a bit funny, make its meaning more accessible to a whole range of cultures and to somehow preserve its "palatability" or beauty in the eyes of the viewing public.
What is the strangest thing that you ever made art on/with?
Last year, I painted on electrical boxes with acrylic paint along a public road in Las Vegas in a Clark County project called ZAP. The weird part wasn't the art itself, but more of the experience being surrounded by homeless people during the week-long affair. There was a kind homeless woman who bought me a hotdog meal at the gas station because she insisted I was starving and homeless too, and then there was this other homeless guy, with swimming goggles on, who spontaneously squirted half a bottle of my cadmium yellow paint into his pants just like that. It was definitely a fun but bizarre and surreal art experience for me, I'll never forget it.
Tell us about your current series.
Right now, I'm really interested in painting about vintage film especially on World War 2 fiction and propaganda. This new series emphasizes the influence of American Culture through a shared history of global conflict, and focuses on the role of fiction in filmmaking as a means of converging the many different ideologies from many different regions of the world.