Affordable Filipino Art Gifts for Balikbayans

If you’re looking for unique, non-mass-produced & affordable Filipino gifts for your balikbayan relatives & friends, may I suggest checking out some items from my shop? 🙂 I admit that in my early years as a graphic designer, it was always a struggle for me to create work that was distinctly Pinoy (unlike my husband Arnold who is an expert at it — it was all over his TEDx talk too). When I started drawing though, the Filipino themes in my mostly pop culture themed work came out naturally. Whodathunkit? So here’s a list of the stuff I have that I believe would make nice gifts for relatives & friends based abroad who may be missing the Philippines. 🙂

Native Filipino Fruits Note Card Set


The design for this note card set is a pattern composed of native Philippine fruits that I remember eating as a kid – atis, macopa, rambutan, chesa, duhat, mabolo, santol, sinigwelas, calamansi, etc. It’s sad that most of these fruits are not commonly found in grocery stores so I felt I had to pay tribute to and raise some awareness for them somehow by way of these drawings. A Native Pinoy Fruits sticker set (below) is also available at the shop.

The Passenger Series Watercolor Art Postcard Set

As you know the traffic situation in our country is ~ horrible ~ so I tried to find some positive in it and ended up drawing fictitious love stories emerging from random commuting encounters. The paintings are done in watercolor and the cards are available in the shop (Jeepney / Bus / MRT). You may also find them at Hey Kessy UP Town Center and Common Room in Katipunan & Alabang Town Center.

Philippine Food Sticker Sets

filipino food stickers

My Pinoy Food stickers were born out of a love for eating! Hehe. Seriously, I grew up eating good Filipino comfort food everyday as my mom is Kapampangan and, to me, she cooks the best Pinoy meals on the planet. <3  I made these just for fun over a year ago but I’m happy to see that others have enjoyed these sets as well. There are five sets all in all – Almusal, Kakanin, Merienda, Ulam, and Panghimagas. Available in my shop and also at Hey Kessy UP Town Center and Common Room in Katipunan & Alabang Town Center.

The Local Music and Indie Films Art Postcard Series

This print series features illustrations inspired by local films “Ang Nawawala” and “Rakenrol” (by my friends, filmmakers Marie Jamora and Quark Henares, respectively) and music (by my ’90s rocker pals & collaborators the Eraserheads).  You can find the postcards and art prints at my shop and, again, at Hey Kessy UP Town Center and Common Room in Katipunan & Alabang Town Center. Incidentally, you guys should also pick up DVDs of the films as they will make wonderful gifts!

Hey Kessy Filipino Food Fiesta Washi Tape

And finally, how can I not include this washi tape! I was very excited when Hey Kessy approached me & fellow Filipino artist Megan Dino (you guys should check out her portraits & merch) to collaborate on a special washi design featuring Filipino fiesta food! Meg & I coordinated via Viber and drew Pinoy food commonly eaten at fiestas — lechon, sisig, kare-kare, pancit palabok, sapin-sapin, halo-halo, bar-b-q, etc — and submitted them to Hey Kessy who turned it into a washi tape for us. It turned out really cute, right? I will stock them in the shop soon but for now they are available at Hey Kessy branches at UP Town Center and Alabang Town Center.

Our Coloring Books – Local Color and Flutterby

Local Color is a coloring book with Philippine fantasy-themed drawings (diwatas, engkantos, etc) by my husband Arnold, and Flutterby contains my drawings culled from childhood daydreams. You may order these online from our publisher, Chamber Shell Publishing via their website and FB page. (While you’re at it, please also check out my husband’s graphic novels over there!)

Hope you guys are able to find a Pinoy pasalubong gift idea in this list. I am in the process of brainstorming for more items to design and draw so please feel free to leave suggestions in the comments section. 😀


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My first solo exhibit – “Girl Jam” at Pablo Gallery BGC

Girl Jam exhibit Cynthia Bauzon Arre Pablo Gallery

Happy New Year! I know this is late but I wanted to tell you a bit about my first solo exhibit, “Girl Jam” which is still on display at Pablo Galleries Fort but only until Saturday, January 6. If you were to tell my 18-year-old Fine Arts student self that I will be having my own show some years — okay, decades — later, I wouldn’t have been able to believe it because back then I wasn’t really serious about pursuing painting. I mean, I drew and painted a lot for school but my heart was bent on working in the advertising industry. Which was exactly what happened, but I digress…

A few years ago, when I started revisiting watercolors, I posted these practice sketches on Instagram —

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A friend from the music scene days, Indi, wrote me privately to say that she would love to see me paint local female musicians. I loved the idea but I wasn’t confident enough at the time so I said to her (and apparently to the Universe?), “maybe someday.” I forgot about it but somehow I got obsessed with drawing portraits and capturing accurate likenesses, as you will see if you scroll down to around 2-3 years ago on my IG.

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Drawing and painting everyday I really did improve. By late 2016, when I had already been selling art prints online for a year I was trying to think of what series to draw next and then I remembered that conversation with Indi. So I asked a female musician friend, Myrene of Sandwich, if I could paint her and she said yes which was awesome. <3 When I had lunch with my friends, writer Chinggay Labrador & artist Christina Dy, I mentioned that I was going to make a postcard series starring female musicians but then CDy said, “postcards? Why not have an exhibit instead?” I was surprised because it was an idea playing in my head too but I guess I needed a boost from someone else? She encouraged me to contact a gallery then & there. Pablo was top of mind since I had already taken part in two group shows at their Cubao X gallery years ago and I also remember promising the owners, Yo & Osie that I will have my first ever show with them. So when I texted them, it was an instant yes and my show was almost immediately scheduled! No turning back anymore.

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That was in December 2016. I had, roughly, a year to prepare but I still had to figure out what style to do and what materials to use. I practiced with different mediums and decided to use Turner Acryl Gouache since the bright opaque colors suited the look I had in mind. I purchased my initial Acryl Gouache set from ArtWhale 2 or so years ago but they were almost used up so I decided to buy big tubes of White, Perm. Red, Perm. Yellow, and Ultramarine Blue plus a couple of small tubes of Burnt Umber. All the colors I used are mixes of those colors. (Btw All the canvases were purchased from ArtWhale as well. They were a great big help to me. <3)

Once I had the look figured out it was time to decide on my muses. I made a list but I also asked my friends Buddy & Raymund (formerly of the Eheads) for suggestions on who else to draw — particularly from the younger set — since I wasn’t that immersed in the local scene anymore. After finalizing my list I finally got to work. This was in July 2017.

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I have to be honest, I was thrilled to be working on a personal passion project but there were also times when I would cry out of frustration & exhaustion. Sometimes I felt like giving up, but it was the thought of making my family & also Arnold proud that pushed me to go on. In the end I decided to just let go because I know that I gave it my all.

Since the show is still up I would like to invite you to check out the paintings in person over at Pablo Gallery, South of Market Residences, 11th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, which is just a couple of blocks away from BHS and Serendra. 🙂

But if you can’t make it, you can view my IG for a few photos plus more backstories. Also, here’s a quick peek via this Twitter thread. 🙂

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How I’ve been trying to improve my figure drawing

I’ve always been frustrated with my figure drawing skills (or lack thereof) and, until recently, have been getting away with “charmingly” distorted figures as popularized by indie comics and fashion illustration. For example, the figures in my work for Ang Nawawalang Soundtrack obviously defy human structure logic.

That kind of drawing is acceptable, yes, but I am married to a very skilled artist who always tells me that I have to know anatomy before I can deviate from it. Remember, even Picasso had a realist period before the creative genius revolutionized the art world with his abstract depictions of society. So I made it my mission to practice drawing figures whenever I can and this is how I’ve been doing it.

1. I hang out in coffee shops where I can watch people and draw them inconspicuously. I usually sit in a corner where no one can see me drawing or else they might shy away and turn their backs on me.

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2. I’ve been attending life drawing sessions such as Who Are Maro’s Life Drawing Setup. The session is divided into two halves — one for the male model and another for the female model. Each half is divided into 5, 10, 15, and 30-minute pose sessions so it really trains the artists to draw what they see without overthinking it. Arnold and I have been attending almost regularly since last year. You can follow their FB page to find out when the next one is. Here’s a video of my drawings from the latest one. The first time we joined I just used pencils. The following time I used watercolors, and for this most recent one I used Viarco graphite sticks and tailor’s chalk from ArtWhale.

Using different mediums is training me to think and act quickly before the minutes are up and the model assumes a new position.

3. I watch gesture drawing videos on YouTube. The artist Proko’s human anatomy playlist is definitely a good starting point as he demonstrates drawing, explains bone joints and describes muscle groups in an entertaining way.

4. Sometimes I use Arnold’s action figures to study anatomy. The Final Fantasy XIII figures (which he has a complete set of, lol) are *gorgeous* and I like to pose them around so I can use them as models. They’re also great for studying lighting.

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5. When watching TV series or movies here at home I sometimes sketch from the screen just to train myself to observe lines and angles carefully while setting them on paper. I found it really hard to capture likenesses at first but after much practice I think I’ve gotten a little better at it. Can you guys tell that this is Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie? J/K 😀

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My figure drawing is still very much a work in progress but I hope this post has inspired those of you who are also struggling to get figures done right.

Kuretake Zig Pen Meet 3
By the way, if you guys aren’t doing anything this Saturday, September 9, I’d like to invite you to come to the Kuretake ZIG Pen Meet 3 at the ShangriLa Plaza. I’ll be there among around 50 artists who’ll be doing live art. My slot is from 3-5pm and I will be at the “Illustration Alley” section. Not sure what I’ll be drawing yet but for sure I’ll be doing it in watercolors. Hope to see you then!

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My DIY Portable Watercolor Kit

DIY postable watercolor kit

My work space at home is still the most ideal location for painting but there are times when I need to work outside the house like when I do demos or live portraiture and also when I meet with friends for art dates so I DIY-ed a portable watercolor kit that comfortably allows me to bring my at-home work experience wherever I go. In case you’re in the process of making a watercolor travel or plein-air kit too, I’m sharing mine with you. 🙂

DIY watercolor travel kit

The actual kit is a red pouch that measures 11.5″ x 8.5″ that I purchased for P88 years ago in Daiso. I think it’s a travel accessory pouch but I’ve found it suitable for storing my painting materials especially since the mesh front pocket allows anything that might still be wet inside it to air dry even when already packed. The kit is sitting on a wooden book stand (bought from Fully Booked but it’s similar to this one) that I use as an easel when doing on-the-spot portraits. I have a portable table easel too, you’ll see it in use in this video, but it’s bigger and heavier so I only use it for outdoor events or when I hold workshops.

DIY watercolor plein air kit

The back of the pouch has two more pockets where I store watercolor journals, pads and paper towels. See just how sulit this P88 bag is? By the way, the Clester journal is from Sekaido in Tokyo (I also use the Albireo journal which is slightly cheaper) and the Bockingford pad is from ArtWhale.

What’s inside the bag:

  1. Brush stnad (given by my friend Jovan (@starshuffler). I believe she bought this in an art store n Hong Kong), Never leave your brushes submerged in water, guys. You can rest them on paper towels when not in use but I particularly like how this holder lets my brushes’ bristles dry while keeping their shape.
  2. A roll-up tool case I bought from crafter friend Nikki of Tweed & Twine. I like that this tool case has wide pockets so I can keep rulers and small pocket palettes in it too. Also, fabric = breathable!
  3. Flat water bottle from my Holbein Pro Compo II travel set – a kit I stopped using because it’s quite heavy and bulky. I transferred the paint from it into a folding palette.
  4. My husband‘s 20-year-old Schmincke watercolor palette (video of when I first discovered it here), resurrected for my personal use.  😛
  5. Collapsible water pail that I bought in Sekaido (Shinjuku main branch) last year.
  6.  Little tin container bought for P29 in Landmark. I have lots of these and I use them for storing extra paint pans or graphite sticks.

The usual art materials:

  1. Silver Black Velvet Brush #8, a gift from my cousin abroad, locally available from Craft Carrot. The bristles are synthetic and I like how I can make both fine lines and semi-thick washes with it.
  2. Artetje Canlon Pro 5/0 brush I bought in Sekaido. I think it’s meant for miniature work and I only use it for detail work if necessary.
  3. Escoda Aquario #12 Squirrel Mop from ArtWhale — my all-time favorite brush. It’s a great mop for laying down initial washes of transparent color and if I forget to bring my other brushes, the pointy end is awesome for sketchy detail work too.
  4. Escoda Reserva #8 Kolinsky Sable Brush, also from ArtWhale — my next favorite brush. It’s collapsible so it’s perfect for travel. It can hold a lot of paint and is great for laying down juicy strokes of color which supplements the initial base washes made by the Aquario. I have a video of the two brushes in action on my Youtube watercolor tutorial channel.
  5. Some of the paint in the original palette has dried up so I filled it with colors I actually use which is a combination of Shin Han, White Nights, and leftover Shcmincke pans. I alternate this palette with my other folding palettes (see photo below), depending on what I’ll be painting that day.
  6. Viarco ArtGraf Water-Soluble Tailor Shape Graphite Block in Sanguine and ArtGraf Graphite Stick, both from ArtWhale. These are awesome and dissolve unbelievably smooth with no obvious streaking, perfect for live figure drawing sessions.
  7. Selection of paper — usually Strathmore. Khadi and Bockingford from ArtWhale, Hahnemuhle from Deovir Arts, Fabriano from NBS, and Canson Montval or Arches from IFEX or NBS. See my old blog post comparing different watercolor papers and on my watercolor tools (part 1, part 2)

watercolor palettes

My alternate folding palettes. I love this kind of palette since they are light, inexpensive and they have ample space for mixing colors. The one on the left is the palette I use the most since I’m already accustomed to the paints in it. You can refer to this old post for the colors / brands it contains (though I replaced 3 or 4 of the colors since writing that post). The palette on the right contains Holbein paint from that I transferred from my Pro Compo II travel kit which, as mentioned above, is really too bulky for me to lug around.

And finally below is what the portable setup looks like when in use.

Also here 😀

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How about you? What’s in your portable watercolor kit? If you have blog posts about it please do share the links with me in the comments section. 🙂

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I'm Cynthia Bauzon-Arre, a Filipino watercolor artist & graphic designer. I live in QC with my talented graphic novelist husband Arnold and our friendly marmalade tabby Abbas. This blog has been chronicling my life, likes, and loves since 2001. [ more ]

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