I've painted several bahay kubos before but never one big enough to hang in our living room.
To revive my art that has been dormant since time immemorial, I decided to make one for myself, riding on the momentum created by some demo paintings I was volunteered to do for my son's class in school. Bahay kubos
are the easiest to paint and so this should be a breeze. So, I thought.
Oil on Canvas
60cm x 80cm
Priming the canvas and sketching some initial forms were easy enough. But, believe it or not, almost a year elapsed before I could move on to the next stage. Though I can truly say that some unfortunate and time-consuming developments in my daily schedule were valid enough excuses for the delay, I think the real reason was trying to work purely from imagination without any clear idea where I was going. It's certainly much harder to prioritize, let alone finish, a painting when one doesn't know how it looks like when it is finished.
The first stage consisted in laying down the foundation. I quickly covered the whole canvas with thin dull tones of red, yellow and green. The gradation from dark to light and back to dark was done on purpose in anticipation of a backlit landscape. I knew instinctively that somewhere in the lightest area there would be a morning sun shining through a thick forest where the bahay kubos would be situated.
While the foundation was still wet, I roughly sketched some trees and houses. Working entirely from a loose imagination, I placed a river and some rocks in the middle which seemed to be the most natural additions. Although at this stage, nor at any stage, I still had no idea how the final image would look like, I had decided the bahay kubo at the left would constitute a part of the main focus of interest.
One fine day, after what seemed like an eternity of zero activity, I firmly decided this forever-in-the-making artwork should be brought to completion by hook or by crook. Unpacking my brushes and paint tubes and setting up my easel required almost superhuman effort, to say the least, but once I made the initial brushstrokes everything seemed easy and free-flowing afterwards like the river I was trying to paint. After four days of concentration, I finally reached the most exciting stage which was putting in the finishing touches. Needless to say, signing the artwork was absolute joy.
The first task upon resumption was to finalize the forms that would go into the final landscape. I settled with two clusters of huts placed on opposite sides to balance things out. I surrounded the huts with trees and gave the river an 'S' shape as a way to lead the viewers' eyes to the different areas of interest. Somewhere in the distance, I gave the hint of a waterfall.
Here, I added more layers of paint with the view of refining the forms ever more. I replaced the warm distant trees with cool misty hills which fit more naturally and painted lights emanating from the windows to indicate it's an early morning scene. I toned down the nipa huts especially the shadow sides. I also started working on the river, painting the reflections of the huts, trees and sky.
I painted more shrubs and small trees around the huts. The purple color of some serve as contrast to the yellow color of the huts. I also started painting highlights and reflected lights on the trunks and branches. I did more detailed work on the reflections on the water. I then cooled the shadow sides of the huts with a glaze of blue and warmed the sunlit parts with more yellow. Everything is now set for the finishing touches.
To finish, I brightened up the focal area by adding flowers and by intensifying the highlights on the main hut and on the dirt road in front of it. I partially darkened the sun-lit parts of the roofs to prevent them from drawing too much attention. I then brushed in a hint of sun rays shining through the hill tops and turned the sky into a more vibrant blue. As an afterthought, I quickly painted a brick well to add more drama in the main area of interest.
It was so tempting to go on and on with more enhancements but since this piece was due a year ago I decided all work must end. Anyway, my main goal of painting bahay kubos
was already achieved, and the unity, harmony and balance in the composition appeared to be acceptable.
For the title, I was actually thinking along the line of "Serenity," "Morning Calm," "Care for the Environment," or anything related to the conservation of Mother Earth. But, my six-year old son had other ideas. When he first saw it, he insisted the title should be "The Village.
" Yes, of course, how could I have missed it. Isn't it obvious it's a village? Later on, he changed his mind and said it should be "When the Sun Rises in the Village
," and, still later, "When the Sun Rises in the Village and the Lights inside the Houses are Turned on
." Before his title became a full-blown story, I hurriedly assured him "The Village"
was just fine.