Artist Micat Po explores the unique world of watercolor abstraction

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Micat Po
Watercolor abstractionist Micat Po. Photography by JT Fernandez

The young artist channels nature, emotion, and healing in a psychedelic world of watercolor


Watercolor is a medium that is rarely at the forefront of contemporary art. It is usually overshadowed by movements in mixed media, installation, and digital pieces. Despite this landscape, young artist Micat Po dares to experiment with the medium—going beyond to paint exciting psychedelic abstractions.

Micat Po
“I always loved watercolor because I’m trying to capture emotions and feelings,” says watercolorist Micat Po

Unlike traditional watercolor painting, which often depicts recognizable subjects like landscapes, portraits, or still lifes, watercolor abstraction focuses on the expressive qualities of color, shape, and texture rather than realistic representation.

I can think of just a few watercolor abstractionists. Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky come to mind. And even fewer in the contemporary art scene in the Philippines, where most artists veer toward figurative watercolor paintings.

For Po, her dreamlike, fantastical elements flow organically, leaving little room for mistakes with watercolor’s fluid nature and transparency. “I always loved watercolor because I’m trying to capture emotions and feelings. And I feel like the water does it the best because there’s just nowhere to hide,” Po says.


Inside Micat Po’s watercolor world

Po’s private space, which doubles as her studio, is telling of her psychedelic watercolor process. In her early 20s, the room is decorated with elements of her personality. 

A poster of Led Zeppelin’s 1973 album “Houses of the Holy” leans against the wall. Her cat, a silver shorthair named Moony, luxuriates on different surfaces, walking over the plastic sheets of the folios containing Po’s paper artwork. Binaural music plays in the background—a meditative frequency to attract positive energy. 

The artist was born on the summer solstice, considered the longest day of the year. The day marks the beginning of summer and for those who believe in the symbolism of the stars, a deep connection with nature, something close to Po’s heart and practice.

READ: Is politics in the stars? A look into the astrology charts of our Philippine presidents

Po had been painting since she was a kid, undergoing training in high school and studying different mediums. But her artistic practice took an unexpected seven-year hiatus as she studied marine conservation. “Then one day it just came back to me,” she recalls. “I think it was the ocean that coaxed it out of me.” 

At the time, she was studying everything about the ocean, as she finished a bachelor’s degree in ocean conservation in Hawaii. She had also been surfing and was in touch with the conservation community in Hawaii. 

“That’s also where my style comes from because I was painting water, doing lots of layers and bubbles, and kind of just investigating that texture. The shapes started to change. More colors came out. I started seeing pinks. But still glassy, water-looking,” Po explains.


A deeper dive into the watercolor layers

Po’s abstract watercolors naturally ventured into psychedelic territory. She draws inspiration from artists like Mark Rothko, whose color field paintings she likens to portals. “I think paintings can convey energies that you can’t always capture with words. I feel like I’m a bad storyteller with my words, so I’d rather just do it through colors and shapes,” she says.

The watercolor process is meticulous and time-consuming, involving the careful layering of shapes and colors. Po paints vibrant color fields, gradients, and organic shapes, often experimenting with the medium’s bleeding and pooling effects to create a sense of expression.

Micat Po art
Psychedelic rock that echoes her psychedelic artwork. Po cites the energies in her paintings that resonate with songs like Kula Shaker’s “Infinite Sun,” which features chant-like lyrics and sitar melodies.

Sometimes, her visions come from dreams. “My best guess is that these are places in my mind that I’m trying to put into physical form.” While many of her pieces exude gentleness, others capture more intense emotions like anger or trauma.

Actress Carrie Fisher once said, “Take your broken heart and make it into art.” Po did just that as painting became her therapeutic outlet, something like a visual manner of journaling that is helping her navigate personal challenges.


“I realized I started using my painting to work through my issues and my traumas. This is when I moved back home [two years ago]. Basically it [art] was a place for me to work on my inner traumas and my grief and start to heal.” This realization led to a shift in her approach that moved fluidly. “I started painting from feelings, then leaning into my emotions, and letting it do what it wanted. A lot of the time I felt like I was just watching it unfold and I had to put the pieces back together after… I feel like a subject then I have to be a scientist.”


There’s definitely a big sense of those invisible “energies” in Po’s work, and nature seems to play a crucial role in this. “I think it [nature] is a place where I can connect most with creative energy. I’m always thinking about the sun, the flowers, and the patterns I find in nature. I find this really exciting. That’s also what I’m trying to get across with my work, especially living in the city. Now I feel pretty cut off from nature and where I tend to create,” she explains.


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Besides surfing and the sea, Po shares that she immersed for a time in caves. I ask her if she’s found a space out of the city that she resonates with since moving back to the Philippines. Siargao, maybe? It’s not for her, she says.

Soft-spoken with an obvious artistic temperament, Po reminds me of Patti Smith’s reflections in her memoir “Just Kids”—”Where does it all lead? What will become of us? These were our young questions, and young answers were revealed. It leads to each other. We become ourselves.”

Micat Po
Soft-spoken with an obvious artistic temperament, Po reminds me of Patti Smith’s reflections in her memoir “Just Kids”—”Where does it all lead? What will become of us? These were our young questions, and young answers were revealed. It leads to each other. We become ourselves.”

For the young artist, the path forward seems to be one of continued exploration and self-discovery through her unique approach to watercolor abstraction. Her vibrant, emotionally charged art bridges the gap between the inner worlds and the natural environment, pushing the boundaries of the watercolor medium often overlooked in contemporary art. 

As Po continues to experiment with the fluid nature of watercolors, layering emotions and experiences into each piece, she develops her voice while contributing to the evolution of watercolor abstraction, possibly unassuming it. Po is carving out a distinct niche in the contemporary art world, proving that with art trends dominated by digital and mixed media, there’s still uncharted territory to be explored in the realm of watercolor.

Explore the work of Micat Po here.

READ: The value of giving new life to forgotten objects, according to visual artist Christina ‘Ling’ Quisumbing Ramilo

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