Hello Sailor!

10:00 AM

Blogger's Note:  This is a re-post from my previous blog feature published February 2013 at thatfabulousblog.blogspot.com.

Naturally green eyes. A mysterious aura.  Entirely magnificent artworks.  These are just few words to describe Tokwa Peñaflorida, a 23-year-old UP Fine Arts graduate who happens to be one of Manila's most promising illustrators.  To be hailed by Philippine Star does mean something.

Tokwa Penaflorida. As seen in Philippine Star Young Star feature Manila, this is art by Carina Santos

Tokwa's initiation to arts was early and perhaps genetic.  He hails from a family of artists and among his early influences was his mom, Mariz, who studied at the Philippine School of Interior Design.  He considers a doodle he made on his mom's shirt his earliest artwork. But being surrounded by creative minds could only take Kuya Tokwa just as far.  It was that ambition to become an illustrator that was ignited by his love for illustrated books that made him the young prolific artist that he is now.

Perfect Match (2011).  The cuteness brings my childhood back.

Tokwa is mainly a watercolor painter but incorporates other media such acrylic and colored pencils to vomit his mind.  Considering how great of a talent he is, Tokwa still struggles as to how he can define his style.

"It’s always a struggle to fathom the words to describe my art style, simply because, I really don’t know what it’s called. Art-nouveau, a little bit of Japanese pop art, fashion, fantasy, feminism? Something of everything mentioned, I guess."

Women are Tokwa's dominant subjects, perhaps he considers his art feminist. "Honestly, they are so much fun to do," he declares. "The lines and curves, I think it favors my style more than applying it on male subjects. I also make art using male subjects, but girls are more fun to do."

"Everything you thought you could hold.
(Slipping through your fingers)."
Watercolor and colored pencil.
From Vinyk and Vinyl' group show, "Volition"

"Im attracted to sad things really," Tokwa says when asked to where he draws inspiration. "Not just because of sadness per se. I think sadness is the most honest human emotion."  His penchant for sad things are evident in his works as most of his artworks reflect a pensive look. Music, particularly sad songs, tops his list but he enlists literature, such as poetry and books, as among his art stimulants.  
"Then there are other artists too," he adds. "I have a lot of artists friends and we always inspire each other." And with friends, he means his roommates in Thursday Room, a design collective of "young and dynamic professionals hailing from the University of the Philippines Diliman", composed of  fashion stylist Eldz Mejia, videographer Fold Canela, illustrator and sculptor Kris Abrigo, motion graphic artist and sound designer Chi Jihan, copywriter Jill Adolfo, and illustrator and Tokwa's bestfriend Soleil Ignacio whom he has worked with in Hello Sailor, a two-man exhibit at Heima Cubao X and which Tokwa considers as his and Soleil's "first 'outing' in the local art scene."

Thursday Room. As seen in Garage Magazine February 2013 issue. From (L-R): Fold Canela, Soleil Ignacio, Eldz Mejia, Jill Adolfo, Kris Abrigo, Tokwa Peñaflorida, Chi Jihan

"It was fun as always," Soleil says when asked about how it is to work with Tokwa for Hello Sailor. "We're used to working together naman since we've been best friends since college. Everything just happened naturally."

Hello Sailor Promotional Poster
Aside from his mates, international artists Alphonse Mucha, Toulouse Lautrec, Gustav Klimt, Vincent Van Gogh and Hayao Miyazaki are the people he considers his idols and inspirations.

It might sound that Tokwa was born to make raves in the local art scene but the road to success didn't go as smooth as others might think it had.  

"I think any path anyone takes, there will always be difficulty," he says. "Its just a matter of believing in what you do and as long as you know it makes you happy, don’t stop.
" I used to work in an advertising company, I’m not really well off and the job is giving [a] good salary. I was really hesitant to quit since it was really helping me with the financials, but it was not giving me a sense of fulfillment. It was also taking most of my time and I have hardly enough time to make art. I wasn’t happy. Quitting was really hard, but I did it anyway, I’m happier now."

The decision had been hard initially but the rewards outweighed all the cost. He is now being featured in prints, both locally and internationally, something he considers as his biggest achievement by far.  The feature Thursday Room had in ETC as well as in nationally-syndicated magazines Metro and Garage, to name a few, catapulted not just him but his team to nationwide recognition.  Allison Harvard could also be attributed to Tokwa's popularity, after the two-time ANTM runner-up, albeit being one of the most well-loved modelstants of the hit American reality TV show, tweeted about the portrait given to her by the young illustrator. Allicat brands it as the sweetest gift in the whole world.

Screengrab from Allison Harvard's Twitter account.
"Ive always been a fan of her, kahit noong si "creepy-chan" pa siya," Tokwa admits.  

And what they did when they met at Alli's place? "We talked about pokemons and digimons".

To be known by a wide audience is something to be thankful for. But above all of the fame and all other perks, the feeling of self-achievement knowing that "you are doing what you love and the people around you is appreciating the effort. That’s priceless."  And priceless it is indeed.

Tokwa's success boils down to his efforts.  He says that he doesn't consider any of his artworks as the hardest since he loves his artworks equally like a parent to his child.  "I always try push myself, so I cant really say what’s the hardest one to make since each art was done with passion. Kinakarir ko lahat."  All the effort was worth it since he gets so much love from all his Tumblr followers and clients, which includes the multi-hyphenated fashion designer and Ang Babae sa Septic Tank director Marlon Rivera and socialite and IT girl Divine Lee.
"Manghahabi (Weaver)".
Watercolor, acrylic, and digital

The stars shine brightly for Tokwa Peñaflorida as he promises an exciting year for everyone.  He is currently working on major shows while waiting for the time when he could collaborate with his favorite artists like Conrad Roset.  Wishful thinking it might seem but with Tokwa's determination, perseverance, and dedication to his craft, the dream could really be a reality one day.

An inspiration he has been to me and for every art lover and enthusiast like me, he got these things to say: "Just keep doing what you love to do. Always push yourself, you’ll be surprised how far your efforts will take you. And lastly, respect art. Don’t do it if your only motivation is money or fame, do it because it’s your passion. Respect art."

Tokwa has inspired many with the greatness of his work but it is his dedication, humility, and respect to the art that has endeared him to many.  That might be the secret why he stands out and why he isn't just like any other artist, unlike how "Lorem Ipsum", which is a tattoo he has on his thighs, could be so default.

Revel on his awesomeness at tokwap.tumblr.com.
And if you really can't get enough of his art, you may purchase them at ava.ph.


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DEEJAY WRITES is a proudly Boholano lifestyle and travel blog by LifestyleBohol in-house writer Deejay Arro. Launched in June 2014, DEEJAY WRITES ranks among the Top 200 Entertainment and Lifestyle blogs in the country and has been consistently receiving positive feedback from readers..