June 2023 | Member of the Month: Aica Arvisu @aicaarvisu
Hi, my name is Aica and I'm from the Philippines but I've been living and working in Malaysia as an English teacher for the past few years.
Aside from art, I love reading novels and have a terrible habit of buying books to put on a bookshelf to collect dust which is a horrible idea since I don't live here permanently and will have to deal with what to do with them when I leave, but I guess that's future me's problem, though I have been good for the last year or so sticking with my Kindle.
I've also recently been reunited with a childhood hobby of cross stitching which I find really fun. I like cooking and being able to feed myself but I am incredibly lazy and don't cook as often as I should. I haven't got any pets because I tend to move to different countries for my job, but I've always wanted to have a dog or a lop-eared rabbit.
While I was living in Vietnam, I came to the realisation that my life was all about work and decided that I wanted something else to balance it out. I used to scroll Pinterest for hours while I wasn't working and I would see really cute doodles and bullet journal layouts and thought I could start there since I already had the notebooks and a bajillion pens.
It wasn't until January 2017 that my art journey officially started, back in the Philippines, with art supplies that weren't very good and exploring all sorts of things like mandalas, lettering, and urban sketching. I bought a watercolour set that was super cheap and chalky and I was using it to add colour to sketches and it was fine at the time until my newly opened Instagram account started showing me the possibilities. I found the transparency and softness of watercolour so beautiful.
When I moved to Malaysia, I ditched the cheap watercolours, got a Koi field sketch set, watched countless classes, and kept painting. The funniest thing is that I was using cheap sketch paper from Tesco and didn't get proper watercolour paper until later. But I loved it and I couldn't get enough.
By 2019 I had invested in professional grade paint and it finally got challenging when I started painting larger landscapes and florals on student grade paper and it just wasn't doing what I wanted it to do or what the tutorial was showing me it should do. I upgraded to 100% cotton paper and things went a lot smoother after that, but definitely still with its challenges at times.
When I got serious about watercolour, I was absolutely certain that I was going to be a landscape and floral artist only. I knew for a fact that I would never paint people but I also wasn't particularly interested in painting animals at all which makes it incredibly surprising that it's now my favourite subject to paint. I'm most drawn to painting birds though I'm not sure I could tell you exactly why, but I'll let you know when I figure it out. I enjoy doing architecture based projects as well like buildings, doors, and windows. I prefer cool, neutral colours and tend to avoid bright reds, pinks, and oranges.
I painted a Rhinoceros Hornbill with the intention of gifting it to a friend. I had just completed the birds class and felt brave enough to try and paint one with only a reference photo and no tutorial to guide me. It was the very first bird that I painted on my own and it showed me that I was capable of figuring out how to do it, figuring out the sketch, the layers, colours, and techniques to use. I didn't tell my friend I was painting it in case it ended up a horrible mess she'd never have to know about it, but when I finished it I was so happy with it and extremely proud of what I'd accomplished.
I am a proud Founding Member of the Academy. I was two years into my painting explorations when I came across a marine animals class that told me I could paint a sea turtle. I had never painted any animals before so I had my doubts, mostly in myself and my abilities. By the end of that class, I had painted four animals and even painted the sea turtle twice (because my sister asked if my niece could have the first one and I said yes--she's now four, loves animals, and says she wants to draw animals just like me). The second turtle is framed and displayed proudly in my living room.
I have Paint Wild to thank for starting my watercolour wildlife journey and teaching me how to be a better watercolour artist. From mixing colours using the primaries to investing in better paper, my foundations were laid here and my confidence in myself kept growing with each completed tutorial.
My favourite part of the Academy is the ease it provides. When I have time to paint, I can just choose an animal and get started straight away because the references and outlines are there which makes it really easy to just start. There is a lot of guidance through the painting process with options for alternatives along with valuable support and feedback afterwards.
I would like to continue painting realistic wildlife and growing my portfolio of my own paintings. For now, painting is a hobby that I do when I'm not too busy with work but I do think about turning it into a career at some point in the future. I'd love to turn my paintings into products like prints, postcards, cards, bookmarks, and stickers. I might swap teaching English for teaching painting.
My big dream right now though is to publish a book of my paintings. Maybe it will be all my birds or how to paint them.
My advice is to be brave and just start. Don't be afraid to play or make mistakes because they are the best ways to learn. Don't let perfection be a barrier and don't let social media dim your light. Create art for you because it brings you joy. For me, it took watching hundreds of tutorials and trying them all to find out what I really loved and every single one was worth it. Invest in good paper.
Check out more of Aica's work on Instagram @aicaarvisu