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Spending my birthday in Taipei

The day started out pretty bleh. I woke up having gotten just a few hours of troubled sleep. The cold weather had gotten to me while drawing outdoors the previous day, and I woke up on the day of my birthday with a clogged nose, a sore throat, a slight fever, and feeling as if all my mucus was in my throat (too much info?). I felt terrible and contemplated staying in my hotel the entire day to rest off what I felt was going to turn into the flu. Never mind that it was my birthday. I’ve never made a big deal out of my birthdays anyway and prefer to treat it as just a regular day. But the weather forecast told me that that Saturday was the only day in my seven-day trip to Taiwan when the sun will be out. Indeed, it had been drizzling and overcast the past few days. I forced myself out of bed, deciding to take advantage of the current weather and thinking the sun will warm my bones and my sinuses and perhaps make me feel better. My first meal of the day was a leisurely lunch at a street stall serving Malaysian food. I was so pleasantly surprised to have THE. SUPER. DUPER. B E S T. Hainanese Chicken Rice I’ve ever had. My clogged sinuses didn’t get in the way of my sense of taste haha. I love chicken and this chicken was juicy and tender; the rice was so flavorful. Mmmmm! I’m salivating just thinking about it. After that I went to take the train in search of a certain coffee place I found online. I got off at the station and spent a few minutes looking for the place on Google Maps… only to get lost and come up empty-handed. I dunno– I wasn’t able to find it. I went to another coffee shop instead, and had waffles and coffee. Their coffee was REALLY, really good, and the warmth really soothing for my sore throat. Since I was already there, I thought I’d check out other places I could go to in the area (para di sayang ang punta ko). Checking Google Maps, I saw that an artsy creative hub I read about online was not too far away, so I decided to go. I walked towards that direction, but saw a sign for the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall instead. I knew nothing about it but the park grounds looked inviting so forgetting my original plan, I turned in that direction instead. Entrance was free, the Memorial Hall impressive, and the park was spacious. Also seen from the park grounds was a pleasant surprise– Taipei 101, formerly the world’s tallest building. It’s a Taiwan landmark but I hadn’t planned on visiting it because to me, it was just a building. Still, it was nice to see it, even if unintentionally. It was photography golden hour. I was feeling better already, and true to the weather forecast, the sun was out that day. It was pleasantly cool and everything was bathed in soft, golden light. I was surrounded by people taking leisurely strolls and little kids running around, blowing bubbles that were glistening in the sun. An old man was flying a kite nearby. Everything was so charming and idyllic. If it had been a scene in a movie, it would’ve had a soundtrack– light, happy music with children laughing in the background. I found myself in between two Taipei landmarks with the sun reflected behind me, and managed to get this shot. I recognized this moment as God’s personal birthday blessing for me. I hadn’t asked God for anything specific or grand for my birthday, but He knows I’ll find joy and delight in these “little” things (which, to me, are big things) anyway– the delicious chicken lunch, wonderful coffee, idyllic time at the park, unexpected landmarks, the sun shining. Before my trip, I had prayed for the Lord to direct me to where I need to be and that I “always find myself at the right place, at the right time.” I realized this was a manifestation of my prayer being answered. I may not have planned to be here (wanting to stay in in my hotel, getting lost and not finding the coffee shop I wanted, planned on going somewhere and took an unplanned turn instead) but here I was in the perfect spot, and at the perfect time as captured in the photo. I realized God was showing His favor upon me and that I was exactly where God intended me to be. A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. Proverbs 6:19 NKJV I settled down on the sidewalk to draw in my travel journal. A Taiwanese lolo came up to me and started talking in Chinese, thinking I was a local. He complimented me on my drawing and showed off my sketchbook to his wife, who greeted me coolly and didn’t seem pleased about her husband talking to a single female half his age hahahahaha. Then I went home because it was starting to get dark and my pocket wifi had run out of battery. It had been a wonderful day 🙂 * * * The next day was a Sunday. The English mass at the Catholic church I had found was at 9:45 AM. The night before, I prayed, “Lord, if You want me there, help me get there in time.” (Let’s be honest, minsan tamad tayo mag-simba.) I had misread the subway map and underestimated my time, so I lost a good 15 minutes of travel on the way to the church. I arrived during the second reading and settled in at the church pew. Some of the songs sung at mass were Filipino arrangements I was familiar with, and I marvelled at how mass is the same in other countries. I’ve been able to attend non-English Catholic masses in Macau and Italy, and one can still get a sense of what’s going on even if the mass is celebrated in a foreign language. How nice and comforting that the Catholic church is the same wherever you go, I thought, smiling to myself. And when communion started, the song sung was How Lovely is Your Dwelling Place. It touched me to my core and I wanted to cry. I felt the Lord acknowledging and affirming what I had in my thoughts. God wanted me to be here, in the comfort of His church 🙂 After the mass, they asked the first-time visitors to the church to stand up. I did, and I was given a Holy Family prayer card along with the other first-timers. Then they called all November birthday celebrants to the front where we were prayed over by the priest. The congregation sang happy birthday, then we were given an envelope with a birthday card and a prayer booklet. I realized– the day of my birthday might have been over, but the birthday blessings from the Lord were not. I went out of the church and went about the rest of my day with a happy heart, hihi. This entire trip was a delight, and I felt the Lord’s blessings and favor upon me all through out. But these are the ones I especially wanted to really document and write about. It was a good way to start off a new chapter in my life. Thank You, Lord! I am eternally grateful 🙂

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Quirky, illustrated Taiwan

Hello from Taiwan! 🙂 I felt like getting away for my birthday and booked my flight to Taipei a little more than a month before my departure. Why Taiwan? I actually was considering going to Japan or Korea (both of which I’ve been to before) for my birthday trip but thought Taiwan would be cheaper (and it is), haha! Also, I’ve never been to Taipei beyond passing through its airport for layovers. I thought Taiwan would make for a good Asian trip for its proximity to Manila, availability of inexpensive airfare, and its street food. But my biggest deciding factor? TAIWANESE STATIONERY. I’m a sucker for stationery– stickers, notepads, pens, notebooks, and all sorts of art supplies and paper goods. I knew Taiwan has them in abundance, so that was a huge plus in deciding where to go for my birthday trip! I’m traveling solo so I also thought this would be a perfect opportunity to turn this into an art trip– to draw and paint while traveling (more on these things in my upcoming blog posts!). So I landed in Taipei a few days ago… and I TOTALLY did not expect that Taiwan would be like quirky, illustrated Japan! Right off the bat, I was greeted with illustrated signages at the airport’s walkways. I had time to kill before checking in to my hotel, so I wandered a bit around the airport souvenir shops and found these. Super cute! There was more when I rode the MRT into the city. I was starting to wonder why Taiwan was so heavily into illustrations for their advertisements, much like Japan. I vaguely recall Taiwan being a hub for cartoon animation in the past and some cursory googling confirmed as much. Perhaps that influenced their use of illustrations for advertising and information visuals. Most people will just ignore these signs and walk right past them but remember, I’m an illustrator (and a reluctant graphic designer)! I love this kind of stuff! I was the only person taking photos of the illustrated backlit displays and posters hahaha (it was a refreshing change from advertisements in Manila plastered with faces of celebrities!). I also like how their food packaging is illustrated. I was walking around the city and saw several electric boxes (?) painted with actual paint (instead of the usual printed laminate). It’s a pity there’s graffiti on it but the art is still pretty! And take a look at my Easycard. It’s a reloadable card/keychain you can use to pay for train/bus rides and convenience store purchases. As I was buying my Easycard, I was asked to choose between a Chinese-looking flowery design and a Mr. Potato Head one. Why Mr. Potato Head was an option, I have no idea (and of course that’s what I picked). But it’s added quirk to love about Taiwan. Can you imagine paying with a Pong Pagong MRT card (uy, nahahalata ang edad) in Manila? Is the Philippines quirky like dut? I don’t think so. (We’re quirky when it comes to politics and other things, but not design-wise). There are so many cute and illustrated quirky things to see in Taiwan that I’ve pretty much stopped taking photos coz they’re just taking up space on my phone. What a pleasant surprise for me to discover that illustration-wise, Taiwan is every bit as cute and adorable as Japan. Do let me leave you with one more photo– my favorite illustrated signage so far, seen on the MRT: I’m keeping my eyes peeled for more illustrated quirk for the rest of my stay here, knowing that this trip will influence my work as an illustrator in the future 🙂

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20 Ways to Draw a Strawberry (and 44 Other Elegant Edibles)

I posted a video on TikTok of me drawing in this book and the video blew up, with over 680,000 views 1.5 million views and 170,000 likes 352,000 likes as of this writing (tbh it’s lowkey stressful to have that many notifs blowing up my phone 😅). People have been asking the title of the book and where to get it so I decided to write this post 🙂 The book is 20 Ways to Draw a Strawberry and 44 other Elegant Edibles by Zoe Ingram. It’s available here on Amazon, but I got my copy from the Big Bad Wolf book sale in Manila last year (2018): 20 Ways to Draw a Strawberry, published by Quarry Books, is a simple book with prompts, blank pages, and sample drawings to get you started on unlocking 20 (or more!) different ways to draw food items: Twenty premade drawings are provided by the author/illustrator, Zoe Ingram. The rest of the page is left blank for you to fill in with your take on 20 more ways to draw the item given. And yes, from the way it sounds, it’s quite a creative challenge to think up ways to draw a single object differently! Your creative juices will be squeezed and your artistic muscles flexed in filling up this book. I’ve filled in several pages using different media– watercolor (don’t use too much water; the book’s pages aren’t for wet media), colored pencils, pens, acrylic markers, and brush pens. I bought this book on a whim at Big Bad Wolf because it was so inexpensive (maybe Php 100?!). It makes for good practice to challenge oneself to think out of the box and suspend whatever art style you have (if you already have one) and try out new things. I’m looking forward to filling in the other pages (I will TikTok it!) in between more serious creative work. This is the video on TikTok that blew up, by the way: Follow me on TikTok! My username is @regsilvadotcom. 20 Ways to Draw a Strawberry and 44 Other Elegant Edibles: A Sketchbook for Artists, Designers, and Doodlers is available on Amazon for $5.53. Check it out here: https://amzn.to/2nRrBt8 (Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.)

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I got into abstract painting as a joke. Joke’s on me.

Warning: very colorful post ahead. In my younger years, I hated going to art museums and galleries and seeing crappy (to me) art being sold for a ton of money. I had a strong dislike for abstract art– the kind where the artist seems to just randomly throw goopy paint at a canvas and call it art, complete with a highly-philosophical, baloney-sounding artist statement about identity or some inner crisis. What I hated even more was the fact that people were buying it for a price the artist commanded. I’d have my eyebrows knitted together, thinking if perhaps I’m not a real artist (because I make happy, colorful things and I’m not filled with existentialist, suicidal angst?) and I just don’t get it. WTF, I would think. Anyone can do that! It got me thinking… why don’t *I*?! And so in 2017, fresh from having let go of my illustration agent and free from having to do commercial children’s book projects, I purchased some tubes of acrylic paint. My mission: to randomly throw goopy paint at a canvas and call it a hot mess art (“ahhhrrrttt”). And then troll people with it, making them think it’s some sort of deep, high brow, highfalutin conceptual art they don’t understand but will pretend to anyway because they’re pseudo-art connoisseurs (I had to google the spelling of “connoisseur”). If I could make money from it, it would be just a bonus hahaha. Yup, that really was my aim– my idea of a joke I can laugh about in private. That’s why I am quite neutral and actually quite amused about Richard Gomez’s dick painting at ManilArt. Hey Goma, gets kita! You’re trolling everyone! I hope whoever is rich enough to buy your Php 196,000 ($3,800 USD) penis painting is a troll, too! I started looking around on Instagram for abstract painting ideas. In the course of research though, I found myself inadvertently drawn to modern abstract artists on Instagram who were doing pretty, colorful things on canvas. Abstract, yes, but pretty. They were nothing like the drab abstract art in museums that I would be so incensed by. My mind was opened, and so inspired was I that I started doing my own, laying down random splashes of paint on paper (paper muna, pang-practice haha). I quickly found out that abstract painting wasn’t as easy as it looks. Or maybe I wasn’t letting myself off easy– I couldn’t JUST throw paint at a canvas (Sayang! Mahal ang paint!). I still had to consider aesthetic, visual balance, and color composition. Before I knew it, I had built up some very bright and colorful abstract paintings. Oops. What’s surprising was I actually enjoyed working on these– for real, and not because I thought it would be funny to troll people into thinking this was real art. I posted my paintings on my Instagram and my followers also liked what I was doing even if it was immensely different from my usual work. My abstracts got more likes than my real, thought-out, binuhusan-ng-effort illustration stuff. Hahahaha. Oops again. I ceased painting abstracts as a joke and started painting them for my enjoyment. Coming from years of digital illustration and pixels, it was so refreshing to pick up a real brush and use actual paint. The bright and happy colors I was using was therapeutic and the act of painting, relaxing. My abstracts are mindless, experimental, exploratory, and exists just for the sake of existing. Art for art’s sake, unlike my illustrations which had mostly been for clients or commercial applications. I started painting my abstracts two years ago, in 2017. It’s 2019 now, and I occasionally still do paint abstracts when I’m feeling listless and in need of loosening up artistically. I’m looking to eventually even sell off the paintings I’ve accumulated because some people have been interested in purchasing them. They do look good on neutral-colored walls as decorative paintings 😛 I’ve actually done more than just abstracts with my acrylic paints– I took up painting lessons this year to learn how to REALLY paint. I’m talking landscapes, still life, and realism. But that’s another blog post for another day 🙂

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Wooooh. Convicted!

Note: This is a post I originally published on my personal Facebook account on March 25, 2018. In mid-2016 I was getting the sense the Lord was telling me I needed to delete my private online journal for safety and privacy reasons in the wake of a suspected cybersecurity issue (among other things). My LiveJournal (hello LJ friends who had access to my account!) had hundreds and hundreds of journal entries dating back to 2001. I had a strong emotional attachment to my journal. Journaling was my outlet and therapy; my journal was where I vented my frustrations, wrote for posterity the things I wanted to remember, told stories about my joys, hurts and heartbreak, funny things that happened to me, and everything in between. My journal was my life. But fast forward to now. Long story short, I did delete my online journal (albeit a year after I first got a nudge from the Lord that I was to delete it) but not before a lot of tears, hemming and hawing, deleting and undeleting. But before I made the final purge online, I compiled all my journal entries into a 970+ page .PDF document and stored it on my hard drive. (Sumunod nga kay Lord, pero kung makakalusot, lulusot) “Israel, you have in your possession some things that I ordered you to destroy! You cannot stand against your enemies until you get rid of these things!” Joshua 7:13 When I read the verse above from my Bible reading today… I knew. I had to delete the .PDF, too 😥😭 so I did that just today, crying over it for a while before I hit the delete button. That’s 15 years of my life… gone. My reflection: we cannot have a new life if we keep holding on to our old lives, and we can’t start a new chapter if we keep rereading the old ones. Just as the enemy holds us back by bringing up our old issues, we cannot move forward if we keep entertaining the past. The old has gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). So now… I’m truly and finally moving forward and I’m looking forward to seeing what NEW stories and journal entries God wants me to write… in the safety of a paper journal. P.S. I love it when God speaks directly through His Word. Kahit minsan masakit 🙁

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I went on a social media fast for a month. Here’s what happened.

A month ago, on September 1st, I deactivated my Facebook and deleted Twitter and Instagram on my phone. I’m gonna go on a total social media fast for at least a month, I thought. I’ve come to realize I may have a smartphone/social media addiction, and it’s getting out of hand. We all know social media can be a blackhole but my phone tells me I’m on my phone for an average of 7 hours a day. SEVEN HOURS! ANO TO, FULLTIME JOB?!

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“Congratulations!”

That’s what the priest told me in the confessional when I went to confession recently. The past 6 months have been a struggle. I experienced spiritual fatigue, burn out, betrayal, doubt, persecution, hurt, loneliness. I also stepped down from my position in ministry to take care of my non-community priorities, and with it came speculation, rumors, gossip. Some people I thought were my friends weren’t friends, after all. I stopped talking to most people because I didn’t know whom I could trust. “Ano ba yan, Lord,” I sulked. “Ginagawa ko lang naman yung pinapagawa Mo sakin.”

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How to make tampo with God– the right way

I was standing next to a friend and co-intercessor during worship. When worship ended, she took me aside and asked me a question. “Yung nagtampo ka kay Lord, gaano katagal?” I wasn’t surprised at her question. “Aling tampo?” I wanted to ask.

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To all the sketchbooks I’ve loved before

I laid out my sketchbooks recently and was quite surprised to find I’ve gathered up quite a bunch already. I’ve always had sketchbooks even as a kid but I drew in them sporadically. I only started to fill up an entire sketchbook in 2010. I wasn’t an illustrator yet then; I was working as a fulltime graphic designer and drawing was merely a hobby– a mindless and inconsistent pastime for idle moments at work while I was waiting for client feedback on my design projects. In 2016/2017 when I already a professional illustrator, upon God’s leading, I let go of my illustration agent (more on that in a blog post some time in the future). Without client work limiting my art, and struggling with artist’s block, I decided to make sketchbooking a regular, “official” habit. I say official because I started labeling my 2016-and-beyond sketchbooks as #1, #2, #3… I didn’t want to impose a daily drawing habit on myself (I didn’t want it to become an obligation) but I drew often enough that I felt off/weird if I went too long without drawing in my sketchbook. I would draw what I wanted, and often drew the things on my mind– song lyrics, Bible verses, random thoughts. My sketchbook ended up as a visual journal of sorts. I did have one rule in my sketchbooking: NO USE OF PENCIL. My rationale behind this was I wanted to keep my drawings fast and loose, no overthinking. After all, it was “just” a sketch. I wanted to lay down lines on the page and just go with whatever I end up with, mistakes and all. I almost exclusively used colored pens for my first few sketchbooks but veered to using watercolors and acrylics as well because some of my sketchbooks were for wet media. The beauty of sketchbooks is they’re not as intimidating as a blank, white, pristine canvas– I feel like my sketchbooks are a dumping ground of whatever art I feel like chucking out for the day. My work doesn’t have to be polished or finished. They’re a snapshot of what’s currently going on in my art, like this “weird art phase” I went through after I let go of my illustration agent. It was a reflection of my uncertainty then. I was so unsure of where my art was going, I started doing abstracts, hahahaha! At the time of this writing, I’ve just finished sketchbook #4 and I’m starting on a new one. I said at the beginning of this post that I was surprised to see how many sketchbooks I’ve had already. I was focused on the simple, consistent act of drawing one page at a time, which is small, slow, and it doesn’t seem much. But when you take a step back, you’ll see how these small, consistent steps compound over time to build up a larger whole. Here’s to more sketchbooks in the future! I am just getting started 🙂 Check out my YouTube videos of my sketchbook flipthroughs: Sketchbook #1 Sketchbook #2 Sketchbook #3

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10 books I’ve read that have stayed with me

Note: I’ve had this post (originally from a Facebook meme) saved in my blog drafts since 2015, and I’ve decided to publish it on my blog just now, four years later. Sayang kasi 😛 I love books. Before the Internet exploded and competed for my attention, I always had my nose in a book. My mother actually had me “banned” from my grade school library (she instructed the librarians not to let me borrow any books) because I would check out and bring books home to read instead of studying, and my grades in school suffered because of it. Indulge me as I share my list of 10 books that have stayed with me– not necessarily my favorite books but books that have made an impression on my young mind and I’ve carried into my memories as an adult. Note: This post contains affiliate links.

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