I am Suklin Chang and I live in Bacolod City in Negros Occidental, Philippines where we proudly grow sugarcane. I am a mother of 5 boys and a self-taught artist. My experience in watercolor painting started last May 28, 2016.
Four women namely Eileen, Jo, Irma and Minda visited Bacolod and I got inspired from how they sketched and painted on the spot. I was intrigued by their watercolor kits, water brushes, the beautiful pigments and the quality of the watercolors. I’d watched them do plein air painting of the places they went to, the beach, the mountains, the old houses, the ruins and the sugarcane plantations. They also sketched and painted the food they ate.
I thought, “I can do this! This is fun,” and asked them where they got the watercolor paints . They taught me about the paints and the watercolor papers they used. Quality art materials and supplies aren’t as easily available here so, I’d promised myself to get these products when I know how to paint properly.
The first thing I did was to buy a Prang 12 pan watercolor set (which was the best they had here in the bookstore) and some watercolor paper sheets that I cut up into smaller sizes. When I’d laid out the supplies and started to paint, I froze. I realized that I did not know where to start. Eventually, I started to sketch our staircase and I told myself this will be easy since it was will be painted in one color, brown! I painted some more, that time I did not know the proper mixing of colors, the wet on wet techniques and a lot of stuff. Sometimes, my colors looked gray due to too much mixing.
In the following days, I watched YouTube videos on how to paint in watercolor and read some books. The ladies then told me to join a watercolor group in July called “World Watercolor Group” on Facebook. I did not even know how to make a friend request but somehow I was able to get in maybe after another month.
Joining the group opened a new world for me. I saw a lot of different works everyday. I especially love Charlie’s posts which was doable and vibrant, the kind I like to do and need to practice on. I also learned a lot by looking at the posts of the other excellent and other aspiring artists. All the works were joyful, quirky, and colorful, inspiring me to excel in my work. I’d moved past the insecurity of making mistakes in my works, being in the mindset that no one will see them anyway and these paintings were just personal.
I would sketch anywhere when there is a 5 or 10 min window knowing that a good drawing is the basis of a good watercolor painting. I would sketch just about anywhere; in a plane, in a coffee shop or restaurant, in the car, in the garden either standing or sitting down then finish paint them on a later date if I can’t finish it. I take photos to bring home for reference. I started recording the daily events in my life, making it a celebration of life in color.
When painting, initially I wet the whole paper and leave it to dry. I find this pretreatment important. It kind of wakes up the paper and makes it ready to absorb the paints and make them flow better. Then I put different washes as a base , usually yellows and other colors, remembering these will be the undertones and will show at the end of the painting. I start to color then adjust to the flow of the colors. It’s important to leave the painting to dry and wait for the colors to develop. I usually stop and do some chores first. As they say, “patience is a virtue.” Then I fill in the blank spaces with more objects and color as I see it and finally paint the details. It is important to leave some whites to make the paintings alive and I try to keep the colors warm and bright. It is a celebration of life !
My mentor is my friend, teacher Eileen Escueta, I send her pictures of my paintings for comment. Also, she has encouraged me to finally buy artist quality paints and paper and a no. 12 Van Gogh brush. I finish my paintings with her tip of not forgetting the lightest light and the darkest dark. That’s when you know your painting is done, she tells me.
I mostly use Winsor & Newton paints, and Canson 300gsm paper nowadays but have recently acquired Arches and Fabriano gsm. However, I still use my old paints for quick studies.
To sketch and paint everyday, I carry my water brush a Unipin waterproof pen and a sketchbook or some watercolor paper with me. As they say, “practice makes perfect.” As I painted and sketched, I realized that I am recording life with so much of God’s daily blessings, journalizing life through my sketches and paintings. Painting makes us notice details we usually take for granted. I want to record memories by painting and remembering them for later as I am starting to be forgetful and my eyesight is not as clear.
I use Instagram to keep a record my work under @helenagoya. Charlie contacted me on Instagram and asked me to be a featured artist. What an honor, and I am still in shock since I am still new to all of this!