Growing up with art in my life

Artist Quote

If you ask me how much I loved drawing or anything related to it, you will need patience and time, because it will be a long story. It will be my first time today to write extensively (from memory and previous artworks) and curate a few of my old drawings (traditional and digital) with the objective to document my growth as an artist and also as a person and to inspire anyone to meet the artist within himself.

The other day, it was Jas’ birthday; she is an old friend and colleague. I’ve worked with her when we were still in college and part of the schoolpaper. She’s one of my friends who illustrates and writes excellently, and she shows her creativity too in cosplay.

After I greeted her and encouraged her to chase her dreams, she told me to do so too, along with these words that helped me see the relationship between our life and our art:

“Your work tells a lot about your journey.”

When I think about art, drawing, illustrating, I can’t help but feel a bit sentimental, because it is a significant part of my life. My main perspective on art and purpose for it before was this: a channel of my emotions. It’s how I expressed myself, and the process has been cathartic all throughout.

This is still one of the reasons I do art presently, but of course, there are added responsibilities, realizations, and motivations now behind why I create. Also, this is now my profession by choice and the purpose with which I feel deeply is where God calls me to perform to my best abilities to glorify Him as the source of all beauty.

But I’ll save that for another entry.

For now, I’d like to share how everything started with me in drawing in the hopes that it can inspire you too to find the artist within you.

Every Child is an Artist

I agree with what Pablo Picasso said – that every child is an artist. Art is a way of expression, and we can do it in the manner we believe can appropriately portray our thoughts, feelings, and hopes.

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Sometimes, our fears or prayers.

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Impressionistic, abstract, classical… Watercolor, oil, gouache, graphite, charcoal… Wood, canvas, paper, metal… The styles and the medium can help in informing the viewer of our work about our message and sentiments.

For me, if I wanted to show doubts, I may use charcoal.

If I wanted to show the beauty and hope there is in light, I would make an impressionistic painting of a vast field and light pouring down the gaps of leaves and branches.

If I am extra emotional, I would release my frustrations or joy in an abstract painting, or I may use graphite and shade and stroke and crosshatch with firmness, hardness of hand against the surface, and power. Sometimes, tears.

If I wanted to calm down, watercolor is the best to set my mind and heart at ease with the slow and fluid way the water and pigment mix and create something unexpectedly lovely.

Our way of expression is unique just as our lives and personalities are: two different children or persons will surely come up with two different outputs.

If it was created with heart, with a message of hope, with a story and intention behind it, with emotion, it is art, and it is important to that person.

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Art stirs people up. It moves us though we are stationary, gazing at it from a distance or with closeness. It initially makes us feel something, and sometimes when it’s powerful and personal to us, it can make ourselves or others act.

There is immense power and persuasion in art.

As a child and an adolescent, I believed in what I was putting in my creative processes and my output. I remembered what I felt when I drew my past artworks, when somebody praised them, and when somebody criticized them.

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And up to now, thankfully, I am still drawing. I think about others though who have the movements, grace, and talent – and those with the potential to learn (well, that means everyone because we all can learn something) – who didn’t hone their skills. Who didn’t take the opportunities presented to them. Who let fears, hurts, and circumstances take away their voice and passion. Who didn’t make time to do something they loved and were good at or could be better at.

“A love of music, nearly perfect pitch – without knowing it he had a gift to play the accordion. He even loved that sort of music – polkas and tangos, beer hall music – and had he begun to play, he might have been among the best. But the idea never occurred to him and no one suggested it. Not that he was a failure. He had a good job, an adoring family, but his successes were not like those he might have had if he had played the accordion. Mediocre lawyers with the exact hands of surgeons, painters who should have been poets – how often does a person take a wrong turn or doesn’t find the right one?” – p.33, The Porcupine’s Kisses with Illustrations by Howie Michels, Stephen Dobyns

I know, because I was there. Sometimes, I find myself in that space of insecurity too at the present.

Art doesn’t necessarily have to be our bread and butter – it can be our form of communication, of emotional release, of healing. When we form drawings and paintings on paper or sculpt with clay or carve with wood, we show our heart’s desires and inner thoughts.

For me, it is my chosen field, and I choose to do it until I pass. Truly, I believe that art is for everyone, and we don’t need to be as magnificent as Leonardo da Vinci – that is his own story, pace, and talent – and we all have ours, and whatever we produce in beauty and goodness for ourselves, people we love, and a noble purpose, the Lord approves.

And we must take delight in what we create and finish, the same with taking delight in what others create and finish although their way of expression may differ from ours.

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You and I are artists. The children are artists, and we must teach them to look around and find beauty, and that if they cannot see it at times, they have the permission and power to create it.

With the word ‘artist’ though, I don’t want to limit that word to people who just draw, paint, write, dance, sing, or sculpt, for an artist too can build a house, clean and fix teeth, sweep the floors, and teach Math. We all have been gifted with that creative spark from our one true Artist and Creator.

“With loving regard, the divine Artist passes on to the human artist a spark of his own surpassing wisdom, calling him to share in his creative power.”Letters to Artists, St. Pope John Paul II

May I start with the spark that’s in our family.

My Dad is an architect, so he has experience in designing houses. With rendering, he gets to draw and color. His lines and strokes are calculated, clean, and straightforward. He also has taken the hobby of taking videos and photos – he’s amazing at perspective, composition, and capturing his subjects.

My Mom also used to draw back when she was in high school or elementary. She’d draw girls with fashionable clothes on – something that I did too as a child.

Meanwhile, Tita Susan, my Dad’s sister, loves to paint. You may view more of her works and her business here. I just love how every piece she creates is distinctly her and unique from her other works.

My cousins love to draw too!

I think I may have inherited God’s gift of drawing through them! I’m thankful for my Mom and Dad for giving me time always to practice what I loved to do as a child.

In my early years

My earliest memory of my drawings are distorted or incomplete circles (with smiles!) and two sticks for their legs. If it was a girl circle, I’d draw a ribbon on top of it. I wish I could still find and save any of my drawings as a child.

I think that children naturally love to take crayons or pencils and draw on walls and books. I know I did them, of course, at the telling of my parents! But I recount the times I found my old books, like Disney’s The Little Mermaid.

It was a hard-bound book, and I recall having drawn zigzag lines across the pages. We tried to express already what it was in our hearts, though we were unknowing and much too young.

My Mom and Dad bought me picture books then, and that was how I got into reading. And perhaps it was the way I was introduced to art and to stories. Not just picture books – I grew up on Disney and Pixar animated movies as well – this somehow manifested in my dreams as a teenager, because I still hope that I could work someday in Pixar (or Tonko House!) up to now.

I was exposed more to drawing when I would visit my cousins, and they would draw on their notebooks too. They’d have a visual reference of a character and copy from it, the same way I would learn someday. I remember them drawing Yu Yu Hakusho (but it was Ghost Fighter for us then – Eugene, Alfred, Vincent, and Dennis!) and Dragon Ball Z characters.

Then I took to my own and drew on drawing notebooks girls with pretty dresses. Sometimes, I would draw the usual provincial scene we all loved to make as kids too: a tree with a cloud-like outline, birds that looked like chubby letter M’s, a house with two windows, a door, and triangle roof, zigzag grass, clouds, and the sun! I know I enjoyed drawing those!

I have a vague memory too of my Mom and Dad enrolling me in a watercolor workshop for kids. I remember what we were asked to paint: a tall vase with flowers!

Elementary school days

My friend Gail and I used to play Pokémon on Gameboy Color or Advance. We also played with our other classmates with our Pokémon cards. Not to mention the times we borrowed Pokémon Adventures from her too and read! Eventually, in high school, I bought a few copies and reawakened my appreciation for the Pokémon story arcs. And my classmates and I connected our Gameboys too and fought against each other with our 6-Pokémon team. I miss playing the games. I miss Pokémon, but underneath this yearning also means that I miss our childhood.

You can tell by now that Pokémon is a big influence of mine in drawing…

In third grade, Gail and I would use our scratch pads and draw our own Pokémon and come up with their moves as well.

I drew too with my friends who loved drawing like Judee, Luz, and Gracie.

My cousin Ate Nina has been a big influence of mine too. She draws in almost anime-style before, and I’ve always admired how she designed clothes and drew the ruffles and folds so elegantly.

We used to play with her siblings Ate Ling and Toni these games on Playstation 1: Rhapsody – A Musical Adventure, Lunar Silver Star Story, and Legend of Mana. If you’re familiar with those games, you’d know that the characters are very well designed and their costumes are out of this world! We drew the characters to our hearts’ content.

And then comes Cardcaptor Sakura. I used to search for wallpapers before and copy Sakura, Syaoran, Eriol, Tomoyo, and Kero! But I enjoyed drawing Sakura the most because of the costumes Tomoyo made for her.

Besides Cardcaptor Sakura, there was also W.I.T.C.H. comics and K-Zone. Eventually, these all catapulted me to engage in drawing and writing stories alongside them.

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The memories! These made me feel nostalgic.

In fifth grade, I remember that Gail and I too wrote stories of our own. In the story I wrote, my classmates and I were the heroes and heroines.

It was also in elementary school too that I learned to use Microsoft Paint. Before Photoshop and Illustrator, there was MS Paint and all its pixel brushes we appreciated so much before.

But nothing beats crayons, colored pencils, and oil pastels! I also loved joining Poster Making and Slogan Making contests before. Haha!

Expanding the horizon during high school

I still drew Cardcaptor Sakura in high school. It was the time too when Tsubasa Chronicles was released. I’m pretty sure I’ve memorized and mastered how to draw Sakura’s hair by then.

I also didn’t lose my interest in writing – it only became stronger.

In second year, I remember writing our own stories for fun with my friends Girah, Kim, Kate, Miko, Trisha, Novie, and Athena; I’m pretty sure we were many in that endeavor. We would read one another’s stories, and I’d accompany mine too with drawings. My story, I recall, was entitled “The Race to the Land of Bliss,” and my main characters are my classmates and I.

For some reason, my liking of RPG games, reading as a child, and my valuing of true friendships gave me a sense that the best adventures are when you’re with family and friends – the people you love.

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These chibi characters are some of my classmates and I during our third year. I loved drawing my classmates a lot! Sometimes, they would ask me to draw something for them as well.

I just loved to draw then, and I would draw too at the back of my notebooks or on our scratchpads. When it’s time to pass our notebooks for checking of the teacher, uh-oh.


Second year high school was also the time I got into blogging, Adobe Photoshop, deviantArt, and watching anime and reading manga.

I’m thinking if I should include the links to my old dA accounts. It’s not that I’m not happy or embarrassed about my works. I think I’m just more embarrassed with the way I wrote before. So energetic, happy, and with smileys like these: 8D, XD Haha!

Anyway, you can view my old accounts Chancepi and Fickle-worm. Chancepi is composed of my high school works, while Fickle-worm has a mix of my high school and early college works.


deviantArt was my very first art community. I was exposed to a wide range of styles there! Even up to now, I still can remember the people who have inspired me and whose styles influenced my drawings.

I started out drawing in anime style, probably because of Cardcaptor Sakura.

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I used to scan pencil drawings then colored them in Photoshop. Coloring by mouse was a challenge, but when you practice, the movements are natural.

I have one particular strong memory then: I saw this illustration by Trenchmaker, and I believe that was how I decided that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I wanted to draw and use it as a way to share stories. I’m very thankful to her and to the many people who inspired me, all because they used their own voices and made use of their talents and practiced, practiced, practiced, and shared, shared, shared. (By the way, the rightmost watercolor above was inspired by that particular drawing of Trenchmaker. I remember making it right after being so inspired by it!)

“We lived on 82nd Street and the Metropolitan Museum was my short cut to Central Park. I wrote:

“I go into the museum
and look at all the pictures on the walls.
Instead of feeling my own insignificance
I want to go straight home and paint.”

A great painting, or symphony, or play, doesn’t diminish us, but enlarges us, and we, too, want to make our own cry of affirmation to the power of creation behind the universe. This surge of creativity has nothing to do with competition, or degree of talent. When I hear a superb pianist, I can’t wait to get to my own piano, and I play about as well now as I did when I was ten. A great novel, rather than discouraging me, simply makes me want to write. This response on the part of any artist is the need to make incarnate the new awareness we have been granted through the genius of someone else.”

A Circle of Quiet, Madeleine L’Engle

I also joined 100 Themes Art Challenges and making art memes in dA. I am so embarrassed with my art memes, but hey, it’s something we put our hearts out on before!

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So colorful! Some of these were done with a theme in mind, as part of the 100 Themes Challenge in dA.
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An anonymous dA user once called one of these drawings ‘mediocre trash.’ If I remember correctly, it’s the leftmost one. I took it so hard then and cried about it.

I was discouraged so much that time. I worked so hard on something that I truly believed was one of my favorite works, but it was called less. However, it is during these times that we must see it as a challenge rather than a disappointment or failure on our parts.

‘You’re not feeling all right about your writing.’

‘That will pass, too. Do you know how applejack is made?’

For a moment she thought that he must have made himself another drink. 

‘No.’

‘You put apple juice in a keg and leave it outdoors all winter and let it freeze. Almost all of it will turn to ice, but there’s a tiny core of liquid inside, of pure flame. I have that core of faith in myself. There’s always that small searing drop that doesn’t freeze. Don’t worry about me, my darling. I’m all right. And you must get some sleep. – Madeleine L’Engle

As high school progressed to the months before starting in college, I gradually transitioned from drawing in anime style to my own.

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Here you will see the transition. I was slowly moving out from what was comfortable for me, and that was drawing anime.

Adobe Photoshop helped a lot too with my growth as a student and artist. I taught myself how to use it, and thankfully, all those early years of learning it paid off. There’s not an illustration or design work that Photoshop can’t handle. Haha! I even remember teaching myself and using Windows Movie Maker for my video edits of slideshows I made.

Besides those disciplines though, I also was just discovering patterns, brushes, and filters. Again, my classmates were my subjects! Photography is another interest and hobby of mine, but that’s another story.

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College days and discovering myself more

College was the time I took a formal art education. I enrolled in Mapúa Institute of Technology (now Mapúa University) and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Multimedia Arts and Sciences.

My venturing into drawing, illustration, writing, photography, and editing videos has made me a multimedia artist. Haha! My elective was animation, because I firmly wrote in my high school yearbook that my ambition was to be a visual development artist in an animation studio.

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One of my biggest influences again is Emmy Cicierega. I loved how she drew both girls and boys with lots of character and emotions, her short comics, how she captured light, and how she drew backgrounds with her intended ambience and atmosphere to tell a story.

Because of her, I stretched myself in what I could illustrate more of.

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Early college years. I also made a Tumblr then and posted my drawings there!
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I tried coloring in 3D like the Cornered piece, and I tried incorporating stories more into these illustrations.
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I had a phase too of drawing the sky so much, dotted with plenty of 3px and 5px soft round brush stars with outer glow 30% opacity… Haha! You’re not funny, Arli.

As college went on, with academics and my responsibilities in our school newspaper increasing and intensifying, growing up to know myself more, failing and winning, and other personal matters and life events, my art changed gradually.

If I’m being honest, I was moody then. I was having challenges in some classes; I remember that time my friends waited for me as I rendered my midterms for an animation class. (Hello, Autodesk Maya and rigging and animating!) I was so ready to give up, it was late, but they never left me. And one of them reminded me of “Ohana.”


College was a time that I was trying to learn more about myself, to encourage myself because my esteem was incredibly low then. It was also when I was learning how to work under pressure, to meet new people and not let my shyness get in the way, and how to manage stress.

I depended my feelings on other people as well. I cried many times in the dorm. I didn’t like being left out nor anyone being left out. I tried to channel my emotions more elaborately, clearly, and carefully to art, which was the only way besides writing I knew how. If I compare myself today with who I was then, I can say that she was fragile, sensitive, emotional, vulnerable, and felt lonely all the time, even if she wasn’t.

Have you watched the Studio Ghibli movie Kiki’s Delivery Service? Do you know that part where Kiki is left after Tombo goes after his friends to go to the dirigible? She slumps when she comes home, lays down on her face on the bed and says to Jiji, her cat something along the lines of being able to meet a lot of people and be friends with them but still feel like an outsider. That’s how I felt at some times.

Art was what I would turn to channel my emotions and make sense of my feelings and thoughts.

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appreciate

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I listened to sad music too which kind of magnified my emotions but still provided comfort.

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What we go through life and how we perceive what’s happening are reflected on the art we create. They can show our journey in life, what we’ve been through, what molded us, what made us stronger.

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I can say that most of my outputs in college (personal ones, of course, not the academic requirements!) showed a different side of me. Growing up, I was light-hearted and happy although painfully shy. Then I became rather pessimistic and moody and negative, and it showed in my works. Today, I can say that my art is more hopeful and calm. Yesteryears, it was strong, bold, and maybe just sad to some extent.

But I’ve learned later on that acknowledging my weaknesses, failures, shortcomings, and sadness with art and writing helped me embrace the negative parts of life.

It comforted me.

It taught me.

And it helped me grow more as a person.


Before this transpires to an emotionally-driven piece (too driven), art can also reflect our appreciation for other people.

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Remember the cereal guy meme? I drew my friend Jas as the cereal girl for one of our graphics in an article of The New Builder, the Official Student Publication of Mapúa. Being part of the schoolpaper also exposed me more to layout and graphic design and the ever so reliable Adobe InDesign. 😉
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Speaking of our schoolpaper, this is my contribution before for our Rampage issue. But this isn’t the colored one though. I had the privilege to draw it for one issue – if Kuya Paulo, our Rampage Editor could read this, thank you for the opportunity! In the drawing, you’d have to find the objects enumerated in a list. Here, I also drew my co-staffers and senior editors. We also have the tradition of signing our names in many places and available spaces in the illustration.

Art was also my way of showing my love and appreciation for movies, shows, or books I loved.

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It is also a platform for me to share my love for animals and nature.

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And hand-lettering too can be of help to remind us of important things or to marry a written story and illustration with.

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After graduation

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Trying out new styles by December 2013

After college graduation, I was able to work in an IT company in Makati. I started as a Marketing Designer, then Creative Media Head, then Marketing Head OIC. All throughout, I was able to meet and work with great, understanding, supportive, hard-working, patient, and creative people, co-employees, managers, and mentors.

My skills sharpened, most especially in graphic design, layout, marketing (which I knew nothing much of before!), and video editing.

During those times too, I met more new people by joining and being accepted in Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan. (Everyone there and their art is amazing! We all have our own unique styles, but you can say that the works produced are always with a lot of intention and heart. Check out our website here!)

My inspirations in art also grew more from my admiration of Hayao Miyazaki, Pascal Campion, Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi, and Robert Kondo. It’s because of them that I loved drawing light more and more.

In personal matters too, my relationship with God started in 2013, the year I graduated. In 2014, I grew closer to Him.

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My drawings still portrayed my feelings whether they are sad or happy.

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My thoughts, feelings, and faith all showed in the media I used, in the drawings I made, in the stories I wrote.

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Although I may not be as sad as I was in college, you may find that some of these paintings have subjects who are either sad or have their eyes closed. Or some may just be showing a small smile.

My Dad would always say that my subjects are sad. I told him gently that they are not.

They are in peace.

Perhaps the artist is in peace?

One can say that.

I can go through life’s ups and downs, the joyful and sorrowful moments, the happy memories I look back to and the past hurts I’ve learned from, because of letting God love me as I was – as I am. The subjects I draw aren’t sad – they are secure, in peace, in the Creator’s love for them.

Now I realize that the Lord is the biggest influencer in my art and in my life.


The artist and her art today

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The Divine Reminders is a personal project of mine where I illustrate verses from the Bible which are close to my heart. This is also an effort to try to understand God’s Word better through art.

After three years of working in Makati, I am now a full-time multimedia artist specializing in illustration, writing, and graphic design with a strong desire to work as a visual development artist in an animation studio someday.

I also hope to be able to write and publish my own book with writings and illustrations as well. All in God’s time, grace, and will!

As I look back at the way my art progressed, I can say that the colors of my anime drawings have mellowed down, and the expressions of my characters have toned down and softened to that of a quiet reverie and contentment. And my sad and lonely pieces have found their way to peace.

But just because the full and happy of my past elementary and high school drawings aren’t here anymore nor the gloomy and emotionally-driven works I did in college, this doesn’t mean that the current art is not beautiful anymore. Or is not you anymore.

I changed.

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You changed.

People change.

It is understandable and only natural that our art changes alongside us; the way we express too. The art you created before and today and in the future all show you and your life.

Every child is an artist, said Pablo Picasso. The problem is how to remain one when we grow up.

When I had to go through difficult times in my life in the past, I acknowledged these circumstances happening. But I did not let them hinder me from expressing.

With the words of the late Carrie Fisher:

“Take your broken heart, make it into art.”

If I kept all my emotions locked in, I don’t know how I’d be here right now. If I did not surrender to God all my worries and fears, I won’t be here right now. If art and God and my family and close friends weren’t there to support me, this entry would be inexistent.

Whatever that hinders you from giving a paintbrush or any art tool or material you like to the child artist within you, use it as your inspiration. Use your pain, grief, or the bad things you’ve went through or witnessed in the world be your driving force to create something beautiful out from it. Use it as your fuel. Long before, I realized that my best and detailed works were the ones I did while I was going through something difficult, something that entailed growth.

It may help you do the art, but let it not be about sadness entirely. Give it hope, just as you want to give your life hope. Give it joy, forgiveness, value, time, and love.

Though you primarily used pain as the fuel, may the output be hopeful. May the output be beautiful. May the output be true. May the output relate to someone who may need it. May the output be good.

Like how God can create and see good men and women in us sinners, so can we create and see good art with our own unique message and style from the things that prevent us from embracing the child within ourselves. The one who wants to express and say something important, hoping that somebody will listen and appreciate what she has to say.

God is already listening. He’s always been. He’s the first!

So may that next person to see the child’s potential be you.

My dear friend, anything you and I create with love (a painting, a house, a photo, a performance, a song, a doll, a dress!), with care for the viewer, and with praise to the Source of all our gifts is art. May our work reflect the goodness, forgiveness, grace, love, and mercy we received from Him. May the fruit of labor show the life we’ve lived and how God pulled us through the rough and bleak times with His strength. May whatever art we do glorify Him – the Creator who made the best masterpieces He has ever made:

You and I.

Everyone.

In the words of Erwin McManus:

“Though we may create many beautiful works of art, the most important works of art to which we will ever give ourselves are the lives we live.”

May the artist within us be happy about her life.

And may we finally let the child grow.

From the girl who loves to draw light,

Arli


This, I believe, is the longest blog entry I ever made in my life. Haha! Thank you, dear friend, for reading. 

5 Replies to “Growing up with art in my life”

    1. Thank you, dear Denise! For your kind words and constant encouragement and support. Let’s both keep sharing and glorifying God who bestowed us both the gifts. Huuugs to you, Denise! Keep sharing, keep creating! 🙂

      Like

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