Isabel Echevarria has been painting portraits since 1983, when she was very young.
She now lives in the Canary Islands (an integral part of Spain) where she draws inspiration from its climate and clear skies.
Last year, Isabel came to Cebu to visit her mother, Leonor Majul de Echevarria, and attend a series of reunions with classmates from St. Theresa’s College (STC) in Cebu. It was a great opportunity for her to hold an exhibit of her recent works which found ready buyers.
The exposition was held at the Casino Español de Cebu where her late father, Ramon Echevarria, had served as president. Now Isabel has returned, this time with a retrospective of portraits she has done in the past 30 years.
The exhibit, “A Medley of Glances,” opened at the foyer of the Casino Español de Cebu last May 11 with a large turnout of friends, many of them the subjects of her paintings.
May Ocaba, general manager of the Casino Español, opened the program and asked club secretary Edgar Chiongbian to introduce the artist.
“I did not expect to talk, but I will say a few words about myself,” she said with characteristic candor. She recalled how she came to Cebu in 1968 when he father was assigned to head the office of Kerr & Co.
She wanted to study art but her father would not allow it. So, Isabel learned how to draw and paint on her own. She developed a very good sense of perspective and gave her works more than just two dimensions.
In 1983 she did her first portrait, that of Amparito Llamas Lhuillier, which bears a remarkable likeness and captures her vibrant personality. Of course, the painting was in this exhibit.
“I have involved in all these years, as you may have noticed,” she said. “and that may also be because of my subjects. They are all so beautiful! Let’s get on with the program.”
Isabel then cut the ceremonial ribbon, assisted by Amparito, Honorary Spanish Consul Anton Perdices, and Edgar Chiongbian. They proceeded to unveil a canvas of a work Isabel was donating to the Casino Español.
It is a large painting which depicts a melding of the present Casino Español façade with that of the previous building. “There are some familiar people in it, can you recognize them?” she asked.
There was her own mom, with a stylish head band. On the right hand foreground is Lourdes Narcise and her aunt Pilar Alvarez Picornell for as Isabel said,” I was trying to look for a photo of the old Casino, and she found it.”
Oh’s and ah’s
The viewing drew oh’s and ah’s and quite a few like Mariquita Yeung have made appointments with Isabel for portraits. “Also of Carlos Yeung, Isabel added.
Carlos and Mariquita’s children figure prominently in the exhibit—Carla McKowen, Martin and Jewelle who is herself a painter.
Ma. Del Carmen Muertegui’s pastel done years ago and that of her late husband Felix Muertegui drew admiration. So did the one of their daughter Ma. Angeles Antigua. “Like it?” she asked. “I’m à la Tom Sawyer, or is it Huckleberry Finn?” It certainly is original, she was told.
Elvira Luym lent her portrait where she is cuddling a poodle. Husband Kelly and their children Javi and Kaye Sala were around.
Jun and Cherry Munteurto also lent her pastel portrait which attracted superlatives. “Spot the changes,” Cherry jokingly told her admirers.
Isabel’s family is well represented in the show, with her mom Leonora, dad Ramon and brother Cito who some years back figured in a tragic and fatal accident.
There’s a portrait of Annabelle Luym and daughter Amanda as well as a solo of Annabelle in a red gown. Above it is the one of her husband Douglas Luym which elicited many favorable comments. “I used a passport photo and did it in three days,” Isabel said.
There were more Luyms in the exhibit: Evelyn Luym, Rosita Luym, Tim and Johnson Luym. More portraits on the exhibit are of the following:
Ronnel Rivera, Jane Gollon Rivera, Angela Paulin, Iris Arcenas, Cecilia Bernad, Mary Mendoza, Alexis and Angel Mendoza, Debbie Rivera, Alex Mendoza, Ceding Larrazabal, May Tan, Iñaki Rocha, Monica Figueroa and Simone Figueroa.
A small portrait of the late Msgr. Virgilio Yap evoked memories. He was an accomplished artist and no doubt encouraged Isabel in her artistic pursuits.
Eminent Cebuano painter Boy Kiamko who was present said that Isabel is a true genius. This whole exhibit confirms it. Portraits are not as easy to do as it may seem. The most important factor about a portrait is Physiognomy.
That is the art of discovering temperament and character from outward appearance. Facial features do reflect qualities of mind or inner disposition. Remember the saying that eyes are the windows of the soul.
Hands are also expressive in portraits. Some painters charge a higher price for the inclusion of a hand and even more if there are two. “Is it a great effort?” we asked Isabel, who answered,” not for me, or look at the portraits in this exhibit.”
Numerous viewers have come to the Casino Español de Cebu foyer to appreciate Isabel’s exhibit. It will be on up to May 25.