Art Watch: Artist Caroline finds her colors

The artist, Caroline "Bing' Taojo & her artworks "Moseying Splendor" & "You Alone"

“I think I will grow old painting,” said 58-year-old Tagumenya Caroline Galang Taojo, who took part in a recent group exhibition at the Tagum Tourism Gallery. “Merging Ground” was her first “official” stint as an artist, she said, pointing out that she was able to create artworks that came from her heart. 

Fresh from high school in the 80’s, art found Bing, as she is fondly called, when she was enamored by the Louella de Borja’s artworks in her hometown. It sparked her fascination with creative expression, and said to herself, “I want to paint.” 

“My grades in art class were not even encouraging,” she confessed. But her awakened passion was mightier. 

Textile was her canvas—towels, napkins, hankies, blankets. “I love painting on fabrics, and even pots, things that can be used for the home. Louella was there to guide me with her pointers.” 

However, marriage and family made her put down the brush, but she surrounded herself with art. She frequented exhibits, and in 1996, started collecting pieces of favorite artists and Philippine masters who inspire her, including Betsy Westendorp, who generously shared tips from material sourcing to dealing. 

Several years later, when the children came of age, she picked up the paintbrush once more. In 2014, Bing started joining art workshops. It was a series of learnings and discoveries. In one workshop, she was taught to tap into her inner spirit and create freestyle art exploring four colors- the three primary hues and white. In a Davao studio, she explored oil paints but discovered it was not for her. In her hometown, she delved into a more structured workshop, which was like a crash course in color theory, learning color values, she said. From then on, she continued painting. 
Tools of the trade

“I learn from listening to my teachers Ega Carreon, Mean Guinoo and Victor Dumaguing, research, and reading books. My artworks follow the principles. For me, learning the basics is my license to take the next step to developing my own style.” 

“Going through art books and visiting galleries, my heart skips a beat whenever I see abstract art. I think I have developed my appreciation for abstraction and see the beauty in it now. I’m drawn to the ‘more accessible style of abstraction’ in which you can still distinguish the figures.” 

Abstract Impressionism touched Bing. It was a light to the path she can tread on. 

“I create my art based on my readings and research. Sometimes I go through the art I’ve collected through the years and study how the artists achieve a certain stroke. There is a personal approach to my paintings now. But if I feel uncertain, I seek the help of Mr. Dumaguing, and he is appreciative of my direction.” 

In her work space

I paint from the heart

"Roxas Vendors" The artist's favorite painting by far

Painting is a process for this artist. She primes her own canvases at home, the larger size she finds more appealing, like what she sees in the galleries. When she paints, she hangs it on the wall to check if there’s a charm to it, passes by it several times until it grows on her, then continues where she left off. If she’s in the mood, like working on a black canvas, the strokes flow and she finishes faster. 

“In the family, my eldest son is the art critic. I turn to him for comments. But there was one particular painting he chanced upon and asked if it was mine. He said it was striking and liked it very much (seconded by her husband). My daughters are very appreciative as well. When they visit my work space, they mark their claims on paintings they like.” 

It was at this point that Bing felt she was doing something right. To be appreciated by a family, who can utter the most honest of critiques, is very gratifying, she said. 

“I just paint, and paint for myself. The finished artworks are not intended for exhibition, just my practice pieces. I know I can pass it on to my children.” 

As fate would have it, Bing got invited to be part of an exhibition with Kublai Millan, Rene Milan, Jing Cosio, June Porlares, and Nelly Porlares, the first show for the Tagum Tourist Center and curated by a mentor, Victor Dumaguing. 
The artist & her paintings at the "Merging Grounds" group exhibit at the Tagum Tourist Center last August

Though still uncertain of her talent, she gave her nod knowing she’s the neophyte alongside the seasoned artists. On the onset of her pursuit of the visual arts, she’s been admiring their paintings. However, she felt the acceptance of the group. It was a boost to her morale. 

For the exhibit, she selected the uniform-sized large paintings and she opened her mind to whatever reviews that may come. This was going to be her first exhibit of artworks she poured her heart into, paintings she can claim as her own. 

Flowers dominated her exhibited collection. For her, it was the most acceptable subject to many and can be displayed in any part of the house. 

"From the Heart" Diptych & "Forget Me Nots"

“So far, I’m still on that path. I plan to make more flower paintings experimenting with different styles. Flower paintings by artists I look up to lift my spirits up, and I do love to stay in this direction for the moment.” 

"Bougainvillea Whisper"

The artist shares that the bright-colored flower piece received the most offers. Though she was elated that people wanted to own her works, she confesses that at this point, she can’t part with any of them —yet. It’s like her children and she wants to see them everyday, she said. 

"Ranveer Imman at 2" & "Fish Vendor"

Bing was told that an artist will know her direction when she exhibits. Whatever subject gains more appreciation, go in that direction. But she also knows that if she wants to be an accomplished artist, she should take the path the heart points to. The joy it gives is incomparable. 

What is a style that Bing can call her own that she applies to her paintings? 

“I think it’s the colors. I mix a certain palette of awkward tones. It’s a no-no to the teachers and the basic principles of art. I don’t know but I really love doing it.” 

A first solo exhibit? 

“It’s a dream. But for now. I will continue painting, and I see myself growing old painting.” 

Also published in the SunStar Davao newspaper.

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