Hello, I am Mayleen Laico. I am from Cebu City, Philippines. I am a physician specializing in Internal Medicine with a subspecialty in Nephrology. I am also a part of the administration of Chong Hua Hospital as an Assistant Medical Director for Continuing Medical Education. My husband is a neurologist and I have two children. My son is a law student and my daughter is a ballerina.
When I Discovered Art
I was not an artist when I was growing up, nor was I interested in art at all. However, two years ago, when the coloring book craze for adults was at its peak, I decided to give it a try. So, I started my art journey with Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest. After showing my friends the books’ pages I colored, they encouraged me to try drawing and painting my own artwork. I was very hesitant at first until I decided to join a watercolor workshop conducted by a very good friend. Then a new world literally unlocked its doors for me.
As a beginner, I struggled with an utter lack of knowledge for art to be able to translate my love for it into something tangible and real. I started collecting books that would teach me technique such as The Watercolor Bible by Joe Garcia and The Watercolor Flower Painter’s A to Z by Adelene Fletcher. Since then, my bookshelf is now half art books and half medical books.
I also looked up different internet sites that conducted online tutorials and displayed art work. Joining the World Watercolor Group tremendously helped me because I was encouraged by seeing the beautiful works that were posted. While doing this, I practiced painting every day so that my skills improved together with the knowledge I was gaining.
All About Flowers
My subject from the beginning has always been flowers. I particularly like soft flowers with hazy or misty backgrounds. It might be because I started with coloring the pages of books filled with flowers, but it is probably more because flowers make our world so beautiful. Flowers are so innocent and so natural.
They are soothing to the eyes and they definitely brighten anyone’s day. They have a wide variety of colors and shapes and they can be anywhere. But most of all, they are the most forgiving subjects. They do not complain, no matter how they are portrayed in a painting.
When I started painting watercolors, I tried several types of paper. Slowly as I gained more experience I discovered what works best for me. My ultimate favorite is Arches Aquarelle Paper, 100% cotton, 300 gm/m2. This paper can withstand so much water and allows me to put layers of paint yet still appear very neat. I particularly like the fact that when I use masking fluid for white flowers, the paper does not peel off with it.
I also love Strathmore Ready Cut Watercolor Paper Hot Pressed 300 g/m2 specially for painting roses. The paint does not dry fast, allowing me to manipulate the paint pigments. This paper also can take a lot of water and does not buckle easily. For regular everyday practice I use Daler-Rowney Aquafine Booklet, Arches Journals and Monologue Sketchbooks.
I feel most comfortable with Daniel Smith Watercolors when painting. I find these paints to be intense and brilliant, yet they can be muted and subdued when I need them to be. The paint is so concentrated that I need very little to produce the desired strength. My favorite colors are Quinacridone Rose, Permanent Rose, Quinacridone Magenta, New Gamboge, Hansa Yellow Light, Yellow Ochre, Deep Sap Green, Burnt Sienna and Raw Sienna.
I also like the Kuzakabe paints specially in painting light delicate flowers. I like the transparency of these paints. Since I travel a lot, I bring along my Winsor & Newton Cotman Pocket Watercolors with me all the time. I usually paint while waiting for flights, which are more often delayed than not. Ironically, I like flight delays because they allow me to complete my paintings.
My favorite brushes are the Escoda line of brushes. I use the Escoda Aquario which is a mop brush for my backgrounds. I use Escoda Optimo and Reserva for painting my flowers particularly for petals and leaves. These brushes are soft for soft edges but at the same time the tip is perfect for neat edges.
Another brush I like is the Alvaro Castagnet Neef brushes, also because of their softness. For fine details I use Momiji brushes from Japan. When I travel, I still use the Escoda Travel brushes but I also use the Winsor & Newton brush that comes with the travel set.
The most important thing when starting a painting is finding the inspiration and the need to paint. Finding inspiration is not difficult. The Philippines is blessed with so many flower varieties, all of them so beautiful. My inspiration can be a person whom I want to give a flower painting to or it could be an emotion I feel for that day. The need to paint is constantly there, but stress is always the driving force. When I feel anxious or stressed, it’s time to pick up the brush.
Before I start, I make sure I have good lighting, Daylight is best, however, I like painting indoors. I have two lamps with white lights, one on each side of my desk to eliminate shadows. I prefer white lights since they do not distort the colors.
I always start with the background using a flat brush or a mop brush. I use ultramarine blue and hansa yellow light for the sky, and I add new gamboge for more sunlight. I lightly paint the outline of the roses, making sure they are not uniform and that they face different directions and are in different stages of blooming.
I use the lightest paint first for petals then add darker paint for petal outlines and centers. For the leaves I put the darkest leaves in deep green, gray and blues where shadows should be and leaves in the light will be painted lighter greens.
For white flowers, like daisies, I use masking fluid for the white petals then paint the background and surrounding leaves and grass. Of course, I make a sketch of the flowers first with pencil. This is the same for sunflowers, except I don’t use masking fluid.
The Journey Continues
At present, I continue to paint every single day. My first love is always painting with watercolors but I have expanded a little bit to oils too. My oil paintings are flower fields.
I paint for my friends and colleagues. I don’t accept commissioned works, I always paint first, then, it’s up to them to choose what they want. I give my paintings to whoever will take them as long as it makes them happy. I have participated in five art exhibits, three of which for the benefit of our charity patients. Through art and watercolor, I feel I have helped other people, but most of all I have opened several doors for myself too.