How I prepare for travel sketching.

Travel sketching is a productive way to pass time while still being able to appreciate your surroundings. But since I’m usually pressed for time whenever I travel, I keep my sketching checklist short so I can go right to the drawing part quicker. 🙂


What notebook or sketch pad to bring is easy; I usually go for the smallest and lightest. It’s the pens that are overwhelming — I have way too many fineliners/colored markers/watercolor pencils/brush pens, and taking a hoard of them is impractical since I’d probably use only a handful during the trip.

How do you know beforehand which ones you’ll need? Two words: you plan.

Boracay, March 2017. Watercolor on cold-pressed paper.


Beach destinations are quite easy because colors are always the same: shades of brown for the sand, dark blues and greens for the sea, and light blue for the summer sky. But if it’s a place I’ve never been before, I make sure to tick off two things:

  • What does the place look like? Are there any dominant colors?
  • What’s the weather condition?

The reason why it’s important to know the weather is because most travel sketches are done outdoors, and  colors change depending on the sky’s mood.

Nami Island, Seoul, December 2016. Pilot fineliner and Finecolour markers.

Case in point: part of our itinerary in South Korea last December was to visit Nami Island, where I could spend an hour sketching its towering pine trees. Before the trip, I did a Google search on what Nami Island usually looks like at that time of the year. It won’t be covered in snow yet, and AccuWeather expects a sunny sky despite the chilling five degrees of winter air. From those information, I plan the colors I’ll bring: shades of brown, grays, blues, and a couple of greens.

All in all, I took with me about 10 markers for our South Korea trip, which was a huge cut to what I would have brought had I selected pens at random.

Sketch from a photo of Lotus Pond Twin Temples, Taiwan, April 2017. Various brush pens.


Sometimes when I’m in the mood, I do an actual sketch of the place I’ll be visiting from photos I find online, just to get the feel of it. It’s like exercising my muscle memory; when I’m finally sketching the temples in Taiwan, my hand might remember its strokes from practice and I’ll be able to finish the sketch a bit faster.

Of course, all this planning is suitable only to specific scenarios. If you’re the spontaneous type, there’s no telling beforehand the colors you need if you’ve never seen your subject before. Or maybe you’re not big in colors and prefers monochrome sketches instead. Whatever your approach is, I hope planning could still help you to some extent.

After all, the most important thing is that we get to capture a bit of what we see with our eyes on paper. 🙂

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Boxing, take two: My body is still sore.

It’s the good kind of pain, though. And I like it.

I went to the Elorde Boxing Gym last Tuesday to restart my fitness regime. I used to box at Gerry Penalosa, where I managed to do 11 sessions (I wrote about my first day here). But after all the Christmas and New Year eat-outs, I gained twice the pounds I lost.  Come January 2017, I was too embarrassed to return. 🙁

I didn’t tell the Elorde folks that I’ve had boxing sessions before, but I suspect my trainer could tell. He kept saying that I nailed the form and punches pretty quickly. I bluffed that I tried learning by myself through YouTube, which also accounted for already having my own hand wraps and boxing gloves.

And so, at 8:30 AM, my first boxing session of 2017 started.


There are a lot of activities promoting weight loss, but I went for boxing because I find it approachable, for lack of a better word. What I mean is, punching feels more natural than shooting to the hoop (basketball) or swinging one arm to smash a tiny object (tennis). As long as you’re not going pro, there’s not much rules and terms to master.

Before boxing, I tried other forms of fitness like hitting the gym, running, yoga, and zumba. I got bored with all of them eventually, and now I finally figured out why: because in boxing, my body — my fists, specifically — connect with another object, and I can feel my power, my strength behind it. It’s not just memorizing the routine, repeating the same moves. In boxing, I am aiming at something tangible.

It’s been two days since my session at Elorde, and right now, both the left and right side of my upper body hurt. And I think some parts of my upper back hurt, and my lower arms hurt, and my thighs kind of hurt. The exercise may not have been as intense as I expected, but it still made its mark. And I’m happy. I’m happy because I’m back at boxing again. I’m happy because the pain means that my body is responding to the workout.

Tomorrow, I’m going to return. 🙂

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Life at 29, birthday blues and some.

(Thank you, company, for the mini cake. I really appreciate it. 🙂 )

I just turned 29 eight days ago. I wish I could say that I had a blast celebrating it, that I’m really looking forward to what being 29 would bring, that everything’s great and I’ve been to some exotic island to savor the moment. But no, nah and nope.

They call this the “birthday blues,” or that melancholic feeling of being unsatisfied with yourself as you add another year to your life. It’s midlife crisis triggered by birthdays, and man, am I getting really triggered right now.

When I started working at 20, I had a pretty good image of where I would be after 10 years: my own place, a stable career, a special someone. Along the way, I picked up a few hobbies, i.e., photography, illustration and lettering, and I thought that by 30, I should be working in at least one of those fields. Come 2017, one year before the big 3-0, and I am nowhere near my grand ambitions.

That’s not to say that I am completely unhappy. My Girlfriend is a constant presence and support who keeps me grounded and in check. My regular 9-to-6 job pays enough for my lifestyle. I have very few close friends, but I know that they have my back if and when I need a lift.

But I also know that I have not advanced my creative skills an inch since last year. I am not any clear as to where I want my life to go and what concrete steps  to take. Do I want to be an artist? My mind says ‘yes,’ my heart says ‘i’m not sure,’ and my actions say ‘not really.’ Maybe it’s going to take a lot of introspection to figure out my own head. Somehow, I have this feeling that I am created to be more than this, and that one day I’d get it. I just don’t know what it is, or when it will come.

So anyway, happy birthday to me. I’m usually an upbeat and optimistic person, and starting today, I promise to look at the brighter side of things. #


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Painting flowers with Jera of @inkblotsandpapercuts :)

Last Saturday’s loose watercolor florals workshop with my friend Jera (@inkblotsandpapercuts on Instagram) was the best creative workshop I’ve ever had. I brought my boss along and we had fun creating our own bouquet of loose florals. It positively changed my mind about watercolor, which was a medium I used to avoid because I made up my mind a couple years ago that it just wasn’t for me. Well, not anymore. 😉

The three of us met a few minutes past 2:00 PM at Gloria Jeans cafe in Eton Cyberpod. The setting was informal and very chill. Jera walked us through the basics, but as all three of us were exchanging banters every now and then,  you’d think we’re just three friends chatting over coffee and paints. We discussed materials first — at last, I already know the difference between coldpressed and hotpressed paper! — before moving to techniques, mixing our own color palettes, and finally creating a whole bunch of leaves and flowers.

It took us an entire afternoon to cover all topics, but here are my favorite takeaways:

  • In watercolor, there is such a thing as happy accidents. That rarely happens in hand lettering; heck, I get frustrated when accidents happen while I’m writing. I couldn’t help but compare how rigid lettering actually was compared to the more fluid movements of watercolor painting.
  • Now I know why artists leave their palette ‘dirty’. When I tried learning watercolor on my own, I always clean my palette every after use. I thought that dirty palettes were only for photo ops so people would think you know a lot about mixing colors. I didn’t expect it to serve a more practical purpose.
  • My favorite watercolor technique is lifting. You can create clouds with it, you can soften edges, you can correct mistakes — it’s so powerful!
  • Adding water does make a HUGE difference. Yes, I’ve only just realized that during this session because of this term called color value or the amount of light and dark in a color. #mindblown

I noticed that my hands didn’t get tired even after several hours of painting, which was a bit of a surprise because I know I won’t be able to say the same if I write in the same length of time with a brush pen. Whenever I conduct lettering workshops, I had to keep it at 2.5 hours max because lettering drills can really zonk your hand out.

Additionally, Jera’s workshop made me understand the difference between VALUE and COST. I finally understood that people are willing to pay the cost as long as they get the value, and Jera’s workshop is WORTH EVERY PENNY. It is an incredible insight as I’m also a workshop instructor myself. Now I look at my basic lettering workshop course with new eyes, and with the aim to consistently provide value at, or maybe even beyond its price.  I didn’t expect a watercolor workshop to be such an eye opener, but I’m glad it did. 🙂

By the end of the session, we were able to produce decent loose florals, and man, it felt great! We were also treated to free coffee, hee hee! (Sorry for the yellow sticker on my face — I didn’t look my best that day LOL)

If you’re interested to learn flower painting with watercolor, Jera’s workshop is very highly recommended. Very na, highly pa LOL! Go drop her a DM on Instagram. Well, what are you waiting for? 😀

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What La La Land says about chasing after your dreams.

Even if you are not a movie buff, chances are you’ve heard of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone’s musical film “La La Land,” which also happened to be the winner of six Golden Globe awards and three Oscars. It was a good film, and if you already watched it, you know that it’s not just about being in love; it’s also about having the courage to follow your dreams.

“People like what other people are passionate about.”

In the movie, Mia (Emma) ultimately wanted to be an actress, while Seb (Ryan) was a jazz purist struggling to make jazz relevant in the modern times. It was his burning passion that converted Mia from hating jazz to loving it because of him. When you are passionate about something — whether that’s playing the trumpet or doodling on paper or blogging — you do it with enthusiasm, which in turn is going to manifest in your work, and other people are bound to notice it.

I’m totally guilty of this: worrying too much about how my art is going to be received. Will people like it? Will they even notice it? In reality, it really should not matter at this stage. Last Monday, Yoko Ono tweeted: “Never mind them. Keep creating.”

It takes a huge amount of hard work and courage to keep going.

Mia left college to start her journey to stardom, but six years of relentlessly showing up for auditions got her nowhere. Still, she could have quit on her third, fourth, fifth, or sixth year of regularly going to auditions and not getting a single call back. There is something to be said for a mind and heart that refuses to quit even if hard work doesn’t seem to pay off.

Meanwhile, here I am, getting upset over not being able to break ground for something I’ve been doing — very irregularly, I should add — for only two years. It is a flaw in my character that I badly need to address soon, but the words have to be said even if they may sound harsh: that some people, like myself, don’t really give it our all on our craft, and yet we have the audacity to expect for results right away.

To myself and anyone like me, think about our year: the year when we can say that things are finally falling into place. And then say this to ourselves: it starts here in 2017.

Your grandest opportunity may come from your biggest disappointment.


So Mia decided to stop auditioning and write her own one-person show instead, and then perform on her own in the town theater. It turned out that writing plays was her first love and what got her so enamored in acting. But on the day of the play, only a handful of people showed up. Just when you thought it couldn’t have been any worse, Mia overheard a conversation from one of the audience saying that the play wasn’t even good. That was the last straw — brimming with tears and extreme disappointment, she packed her bags and refused to have anything to do with acting again.

That was when the callback came days later: a casting director saw her play and wanted to put her in a lead role for a new TV show set in Paris.

It’s insane how things like that happen. But in a subtle way, it tells us that when you’re doing what you love, both good and bad days are going to bring something invaluable. My bad days in lettering brought me to try sketching, and I discovered that it was something I could also do, and enjoyably so.

For those who already saw the film, you may say that chasing after your dreams also have some consequences, like what happened at the ending. Don’t worry, though; it’s not applicable to everybody. 😉 *wink wink*

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