A sk any artist which medium they least like to work with and you’ll most likely get a similar answer: watercolor. “It’s very challenging because it has a life of its own. It takes time to master it,” explained watercolor artist Renato “Rene” Canlas to Lifestyle. “It’s like a wild horse, but you can tame it slowly.”
He said that watercolor is considered the hardest medium in painting. But it will not be as difficult as long as you practice regularly and have a love for the medium. “Huwag lang hihinto, that’s my advice for newbies.”
Canlas is among the grand winners of the 34th Kulay sa Tubig, the invitational watercolor competition by Gallery Genesis that gives recognition to the best of the best Filipino watercolorists. The awarding ceremony was held on Oct. 3 at SM Megamall. Winners were given a trophy, certificate and cash prize.
“We are proud that we have uplifted the medium of watercolor to the status where it is today, quite almost the same as oil paintings,” shared Gallery Genesis chair Ernesto Salas.
Three hundred artists from all over the Philippines and other parts of the region joined the long-running watercolor competition. This was pared-down to 90 through a pre-screening process. Finally, five grand winners and five runners-up were picked by a panel of judges that included Felipe de Leon Jr., former chair of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts; Metropolitan Museum president Tina Colayco; Joselito Zulueta; Dr. Laya Boquiren-Gonzales; Kenneth Esguerra and Maritess Mendoza-Pineda.
The five grand winners are Canlas (“Spring of Hope), Rolando Guina (“Bike Check”), Ralvin Dizon (“Sa Pagitan ng Pahina at Paalam”), Dan Macapugay (“Ina”) and Richard Romeo (“A Golden Hour in Basilan”).
The runners-up are Gilbert “Berto” Enriquez (“The Happiness of Hope”), Jun Velasco (“Igorota Hand Weaver”), Arnold Estrella (“Danggit”), Vic Nabor (“Cleansing”) and Aizza Joy Allid (“Ang Pagtatahi”).
Despite acknowledging watercolor to be a challenging medium, Canlas said it is his most preferred because it is very handy. “I don’t need a big studio. I can go out, I can do it on the spot, en plein air. I can work even in a small corner.”
This is the third time Canlas has landed among Kulay sa Tu- big’s five grand winners, meriting him a spot in the Hall of Fame next year. He found aiming for a third win the toughest because there’s more pressure on the artist, and also because many watercolorists are getting better each year. He’s grateful to Gallery Genesis for encouraging artists to pursue the medium, especially since making art is also a way for them to cope with the stresses of the pandemic. “Matibay yung gallery, talagang may direction,” he said.
Canlas advises beginners to not be afraid of the medium. “All of us were once beginners. Start with small subjects, things that you really like.” It also helps when you have artists who you look up to, said Canlas. He counts Andrew Wyeth and other American and European watercolorists among his idols.
Macapugay’s grand winning entry, “Ina,” is based on a photograph taken by a friend. He was drawn to the photo because the woman in it resembled his grandmother. “I named this ‘Ina’ because that’s what we call our grandmother, and each time I see this I remember her,” he explained in Filipino.
He said he no longer has pictures of his grandmother—“Wala nang natira”—so he asked his friend if he could borrow the photo and use it as reference for his painting. His friend obliged.
“It’s even more difficult to do a watercolor painting in a large format,” explained Macapugay. Kulay sa Tubig has a standard size for all entries, 21 inches by 29 in.
“You need to use a bigger brush. It’s easier to use the medium if you’re doing a small piece,” he added. “Especially with our weather, it tends to dry faster than you’d like.”
It is Macapugay’s third time to join Kulay sa Tubig and first time to be among the winners.
“A Golden Hour in Basilan” is based on a photograph which Romeo took during a trip to Basilan during the pandemic. He said he was taken by the artistry and workmanship of the colorful local boats moored at the port.
What Romeo finds remarkable is that these boats aren’t made for tourists but for the daily use of the local folk. “They make these bangka for themselves which made me appreciate their art even more, the pureness of their culture.”
He took the picture during sunset which made the area even more scenic. “It’s just a regular port but the place is really relaxing,” shared Romeo. “Just take away the safety factor, the place alone is very beautiful. That’s why I chose it for my subject.”
An architect by profession, he became familiar with the medium because it’s what they used in school. He makes it a point to do at least one painting a month “just for the art.”
This is Romeo’s third time to join Kulay sa Tubig and has won twice, only short of one award before he can land in the prestigious Hall of Fame.
“I really love to join competitions because you get to learn a lot and you also get to meet a lot of fellow artists,” he said.
Hall of Fame
“We don’t really restrict in terms of theme because we want the artists to do whatever they want to do … What they want to put on the canvas, that’s really up to them,” explained Gallery Genesis president Patrice Salas.
“The judges all have a discussion, a deliberation depending on the subject, style, technique. They don’t know the artist when they see the artwork, no names so that there won’t be any biases. It’s just really about the artwork,” she added.
Aside from the winners, Gallery Genesis also elevated previous three-time winners to its Hall of Fame: Manuel “Manny” Baldemor, Nel Canasa (+), Rodelio “Toti” Cerda, Jose “Ping” Ceriola, Edgar “Egai” Fernandez, Araceli Dans, Antipas “Biboy” Delotavo, Clarence Eduarte, Renato “Ato” Habulan, Benjie Ladrido, Margarita “Marge” Lim, Noli Principe Manalang, Christian “Chris” Mirang, Victor Ng, Ernesto “Ernie” Patricio, Virgilio “Billy” Pomida, Pablo “Adi” Baen Santos (+), Jimmy Vista and Shui Long Wong.
Beyond the economic benefits, it has been the gallery’s intention to give equal opportunities to unknown artists. “Gallery Genesis provides opportunities where there are none. We do that because we want to help the artist,” said the older Salas, who takes pride in the gallery’s reputation for quality.
He said that the gallery will continue with its mission to help, whether in a small or big way, artists who need support along the way.
“In the past 34 years, we have helped many artists, directly or indirectly, in a small or a big way, in uplifting their careers, their education and their names in the art industry. We hope to continue this in the coming years.” INQ