Art + Illustration

Save the dates!

Added on by Arlene Sy.

Hello! I'm very happy to announce that I'll be holding my very first art sale this September 27-28 at the BGC Art Mart at Bonifacio High Street, Taguig. I'll be selling a few originals and prints of my past work, plus some new work and paper goodies! So excited for this! Will be posting more details in the next few days!

Hiatus from wedding-related work

Added on by Arlene Sy.

I've started counting down my last few wedding invitation projects of the year. This one here's an illustrated border I created for an enchanted forest-inspired invitation, which I recently completed. I loved working on this one, particularly since my client gave me their full trust, and I was only too happy to give more of myself. This is probably the most detailed artwork I've done for an invite. As of this writing, the layout has already gone to press. I can't wait for my copy!

Having said that, I'd like to announce (with some sadness) that I am taking a break from wedding-related projects. Currently, I have just three of these projects left on my plate, until the end of this year (clients who already booked me way in advance). I've thought about taking this break for some time now, and it's been a difficult choice to make. No doubt, working on wedding invites has given me so many new opportunities and growth as an artist (in fact, I wouldn't have learned to paint flowers this well if not for all the floral-themed wedding invites I've made!). To my clients who appreciate and support my work--I thank all of you for trusting me with your big day!

I'm afraid I need to let go of a few things, to make way for the creation of new ones. I hope these new things will give me fresher eyes/hands as an artist, and help me once again grow as a person. I'm happy to share that I've started working on some of these personal projects, and I sincerely hope they materialize in the next few months. Please watch this space for updates!

Carissa and Ryan's best day ever!

Added on by Arlene Sy.

I had the chance to travel to Cebu early in July, to take part in and capture a beautiful moment in Carissa and Ryan's wedding weekend! It was a couple of firsts for me--finally seeing Cebu with my own eyes, and doing live event painting.

Carissa, still a bride-to-be several months back, approached me with a very unique proposition--would I be game to capture a wedding scene on the spot? Honestly, I had to think really hard about it, and it became an easier decision to make when I started checking live painting videos online. It turns out, live wedding painting is a big thing in the US, so I wondered why I'd never seen it being done here (not to my knowledge, at least).

Granted, most live event painters were doing it using acrylics, so it really seemed easy to execute. I spotted a few doing it using watercolors (how do they do it so flawlessly, though??). I was a little scared but my excitement to try something new prevailed.

On Carissa and Ryan's big day, I was to capture the scene of the wedding reception, but two moments among other things--their first dance as a couple, and the fireworks that would happen simultaneously. Having flown into Mactan Island the day before, I was able to do a quick ocular of Mövenpick Hotel and was also able to confirm the exact spot where I'd be painting. It was a great vantage point.

I spent the morning of the wedding day in my hotel room to do some pencil prework. I did my best to relax and enjoy everything about this trip. Still, I didn't want to throw too much caution to the wind, and I knew laying down pencil outlines would be my best bet in creating a realistic rendition of the celebration. A couple of hours before the dinner party, I headed down to Mövenpick's Ibiza Beach Club to set up and start painting in the details.

This very fine seascape greeted me as I settled down. Oh my gosh. It's the best studio ever!!! The weather was perfect--the right amount of warmth and breeziness came together, despite the persistent rains that fell over the island the past few days. A beautiful afternoon!

By that evening, I managed to complete most of the left portion of the 20" x 30" artwork. I think I painted for four hours straight, with breaks in between. I'll be very honest though--perfect as it might have looked, my workspace started presenting challenges: the wind kept blowing in my direction, and despite having secured the easel and paper, sudden gusts would threaten to completely knock off the whole set-up; and, it became harder and harder to paint as the evening progressed, mainly due to the disappearing sunlight (even my portable lamp was not enough to light up the paper) and the overall hustle and bustle coming from all directions. I was so obviously used to a quiet, controlled environment.

But all these things didn't stop me from witnessing the wonderful, intimate event as it unfolded: Carissa and Ryan's first dance as husband and wife; the huge burst of fireworks in the sky; the incredibly heartfelt words from the couple, as were from their family and friends; and overall, the brilliant and carefully planned execution of every party detail. Carissa and Ryan definitely wanted everyone to have the time of their lives!

Back home, I continued working on the piece for a week. Carissa was so understanding and was nice enough to let me finish the work at home. With Birdie's help, I was able to take several shots of the party as it progressed, giving me plenty of references. I filled in the rest of the background, seascape, and decorative elements, followed by the bride and groom, then the guests last of all. People are always the most challenging to do!


Here's how it turned out in the end! This was my first time to work with Holbein watercolor tube paints, and I love how it yielded rich and vibrant colors, considering I'm a very lighthanded painter who's used to subdued palettes.


Thank you so much, Carissa and Ryan, for your absolute trust! I enjoyed and learned so much from this exercise. In the process, I got to know a beautiful couple, and got acquainted with beautiful Cebu on top of everything! Wishing you both a very long and happy marriage!

Sample Room Packaging Design (2014)

Added on by Arlene Sy.

It's here, it's here! My brand collaboration with Sample Room is out, and I'm just gushing with happiness over how the final product looks! The output--a special edition pouch for Sample Room's exclusive premium brand launches--turned out exactly the way we envisioned: an illustrated room scene combining elements of a chic living room and beauty boutique. Rendered in pastel hues and evoking girly, shabby-chic style, this bag carried the beauty brand's personality.

Apart from client being so easy to work with, I was delighted with how the printer managed this project. I was a bit nervous because it's not often that I send my work for offset printing, so I was very cautious and meticulous with the way I prepared and sent the files to them. The result was just gorgeous, with the colors and quality coming out as intended! I wasn't sure what type of paper was used, but I loved that it wasn't too shiny, but had a nice silky touch to it.

In my previous WIP post, I shared part of the process that went into creating the artwork. Aside from using a finer brush to define the small details in the scene (which I thoroughly enjoyed), I really liked the way I was able to produce the colors I wanted using my humble Prang watercolor set. The digital enhancements (mostly tweaking shadows, highlights, brightness, and exposure) followed after I scanned and stitched together the left and right parts of the scene.

Client also requested I render their logo and social media icons in watercolor, so I provided separate artwork layers for those, and incorporated them into the Adobe Illustrator file for the printer's use.

After sending the final files for printing, I eagerly waited for Sample Room to send me my copy of the final printed samples. When I finally received the package, it came with a lovely surprise inside--they gave me my very own set of Burt's Bees products! I was jumping with happiness. (I'm a big fan, and I'm even currently alternating between two of their shampoos at the moment, teehee.)

Client sent me another package the following week, this time containing the smaller version of the pouch. (Isn't the tiny one so, so cute?!?) I learned that they were sending the small bag to their members for the launch of their GlamGlow collaboration.

Sample Room is "the Philippines' first ever beauty and lifestyle sampling website. It is an interactive community that offers free samples, localized product reviews, and where all beauty lovers are valued." Interested to learn more? Visit their website at Check them out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and catch up with them using the hashtag #SampleRoomPH!

Summer's swing

Added on by Arlene Sy.

On some weekends, my husband, Birdie, gets invited to Gawad Kalinga's Enchanted Farm in Bulacan to help facilitate and speak to social entrepreneurs at GK's start-up business camps. Me, I'm always the willing soul ready to tag along! I try to assist Birdie with setting up his workshop on design thinking, but I'm mostly also there for the chance to get away from Manila and squeeze in some personal art.

Last weekend was probably my fifth time at the farm. A few months have passed since the last time, and we were thrilled to see so many developments going on everywhere. It was incredible. Yet even with all the new things, I couldn't help but once again gaze lovingly at my favorite spot--a charming bench swing nestled in the middle of a garden, right beside the open dining area. It's surrounded by lush trees, on which a few colorful lanterns hang. (The swing has always been there from the start. Oddly enough, I've never actually sat down on it! It must be my weird sense of respect for these kinds of special, quiet vignettes.) To me, it's always a little reminder of summer, no matter the season.

The Enchanted Farm is a hectares-wide, GK-owned property where a local community is supported through the collaboration of various local, sustainable social projects and start-ups. Their vision of becoming a non-traditional Farm University is constantly growing with the help of volunteers and entrepreneurs alike. If you're interested to see and take it all in for yourself, schedule a visit today (see here)!