Arts & Crafts

Tres Marias: art up for auction for the benefit of the survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan

If you’ve been following my Instagram, you’ve probably seen me posting progress pictures of a matryoshka doll set I’ve been painting for the past few weeks.

In 2012, I bought a set of black chalkboard matryoshka dolls from Muji.


I love Muji’s stuff– I always think their “blank” products are perfect for customising (see the Muji colored pencil tube I turned into a kokeshi doll). Their matryoshka dolls aren’t any different. These chalkboard nesting dolls came in a set of five with white chalk included (I’m trying to look for a product link online but Muji seems to have discontinued producing these dolls). I bought the dolls knowing I would paint something on them, someday, somehow… eventually.

Last September, Katha Magazine asked me, along with other local artists, to contribute original art to be auctioned off to raise funds for an event by Paint Some Happy, a non-profit initiative that aims to brighten up the walls of underprivileged kids’ surroundings with hope-inspiring art. However, in light of the recent disaster Super Typhoon Haiyan caused in Philippines, Katha has decided to redirect 100% of the proceeds from the auction to the ongoing relief efforts via The Philippine Red Cross.

By then the blank Muji dolls had been sitting on my shelf for more than a year, just waiting for me to figure out what to do with them. This then became the perfect opportunity to do something with the dolls, and for a worthwhile cause to boot.

For someone who doesn’t really paint (I took a couple of (not very successful) oil/watercolor painting lessons as a kid, but that’s it), it was pretty ambitious of me to pledge doing something that was way outside of my comfort zone (painting a curved surface, painting with acrylic paints, and just painting in general), but it was a welcome challenge and a chance for me to do something different from my usual digital work.

I decided to paint just three of the five dolls. Matryoshka dolls are Russian in origin, but I wanted to paint Filipino faces on the dolls instead. I started with some rough sketches, drawing typical, everyday Filipinas:


The happy tindera selling fish at the market, your über religious, rosary-clutching lola, and the young schoolgirl with big hopes and dreams.


I knew I needed to use high-quality acrylic for this project to make sure the paint won’t peel or crack long after the pieces have been completed. The cheap acrylic paint (*coughReevescough*) I use for general crafts just won’t cut it. So off I went to buy my first tubes of artist-grade acrylic paint. I’ve always wanted to try artist-grade paints (high quality, and more expensive, too) but couldn’t justify buying them when I don’t have a lot of experience painting in the first place. I never had a reason to make a purchase, until now.


I prepared my painting surface first by priming (with white gesso paint) and sanding down the Muji chalkboard dolls so that the paint adheres better to its surface.


I molded half a circle of hardening clay to serve as lola‘s hair bun and placed it on top of the biggest doll. Then I started sketching and painting.








I relied a lot on Google and for tips on how to paint with acrylic. Based on advice I read, I bought an acrylic medium / glazing liquid to mix with the acrylic paint to extend its working time (I also stored my palette inside a plastic bag overnight in between painting sessions to keep the paint wet) and to make blending a little easier.








I didn’t want to paint the backs of the dolls with the backsides of the three women, because how is that interesting? I thought of a different concept for the back– strips and blocks of coordinating colors and patterns so that the dolls can be displayed with either the faces or the patterns facing out.











You’ll notice that most of the colors I’m using are red, blue, and yellow– the colors of the Philippine flag. Those are also the colors you start out with when buying individual tubes of paint, so I was able to save on paint expenses by buying just five colors (primary plus white and black) 😛

These are the finished dolls. I worked on these slowly and on and off for about a month.

[pinit] Tres Marias: art up for auction for the benefit of the survivors of Super Typhoon HaiyanTres Marias: art up for auction for the benefit of the survivors of Super Typhoon HaiyanTres Marias: art up for auction for the benefit of the survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan

Tres Marias: art up for auction for the benefit of the survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan

Tres Marias: art up for auction for the benefit of the survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan

These dolls come as a set, with the biggest doll measuring 7 inches tall and the smallest one 3.4 inches tall. They’ve been sealed with a matte acrylic epoxy lacquer to protect the paint work (thanks to Kyx Castañeda of Wee Will Doodle for the tips regarding protective varnishes!). You can choose to display them with the faces out:

Tres Marias: art up for auction for the benefit of the survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan

Or display the back:


Or mix and match your display!

Tres Marias: art up for auction for the benefit of the survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan

These dolls, which I call Tres Marias, are UP FOR AUCTION as a set from November 18-30, 2013 via Katha Magazine, in an online auction for a cause called Padayon.


100% of the proceeds for the auction will go towards relief efforts of The Philippine Red Cross to benefit the survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan.

Update, December 2, 2013: BIDDING HAS ENDED! The winning bid was Php 7,500 or approximately $178 USD. Thank you to everyone who placed a bid!

Bidding for the set of three matryoshka dolls starts at Php 1,000 or roughly $22 USD (international bidders are welcome– please email me at wedgienet [at] gmail [dot] com if you’re from overseas and use a different currency). I will be shouldering the cost of shipping wherever the winning bidder may be– it’s the least I can do as a thank you for buying my art and for contributing to the relief efforts 🙂

Please support this project– not only will you get a one of a kind piece of art, but you also get to help those who need help the most. Win-win all around. I’m grateful for the chance to have tried something new and finding out that maybe I can paint after all (haha). But what’s more important is that I get to contribute my time and talent the way I know how towards a very important and worthwhile effort.


Thank you to Katha Magazine for inviting me to be part of this project!

Katha Magazine
Padayon auction catalog:
Facebook page:


  • filicia

    Reg! Oh finally, after being spoiled by the teasers on your instagram! finally got to see the full piece, so brilliant! love your ideas, and the color combo is very nice too!
    my prayer goes to Philippines and best of luck for the auction.

    • Reg

      Thanks for the nice words, Filicia! Haha, sorry about all the teasers, I had to keep the momentum going before showing the whole piece 😛 Glad you like them 🙂 Thank you <3

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