What was a case of mistaken identity turned out to be a serendipitous delight when I mistook the artist Raul Deodato Arellano for my dear friend, the Snail Man and Makiling graduate Datu Arellano. Since I owed Datu an article, having interviewed him for a milestone exhibition of the Anino Shadowplay Collective, of which he is a stalwart, I got in touch with Raul.
Well, it turned out that it wasn’t Datu, but there was no turning back. I read a few articles about Raul and I was impressed by what they said of him as an actor and visual artist who had come home from the United States to pursue the muse right in his land of birth.
What was there to lose from writing about him? Never mind that I still owe Datu an article, but that’s another matter for now.
Raul and Datu belong to the illustrious Arellano family of artists, their common forebear being the prewar architect Juan M. Arellano, who designed such historical landmarks as the Manila Metropolitan Theater (1935), the Legislative Building (1926) that now houses the National Museum of Fine Arts, Manila Central Post Office Building (1926), Rizal Memorial Sports Complex (1934) and Central Student Church (today known as the Central United Methodist).
To go further down our history lane, the Katipunan propagandist Deodato Arellano was Raul’s great grand uncle, being his grandfather’s uncle.
For all that has been said of his distinguished family, though, Raul admits he himself did not meet his architect grandfather because “I was born five years after he passed away.”
Raul seems to have had this peculiar luck of not meeting relatives who matter, such as his own father who, he said, “left us when I was seven. Not that he wanted to, he just got into a situation and he had no choice but to live outside the country.”
His mother, instead, “singlehandedly raised all seven of us her children in Davao so I did not really grow up with the Arellanos.”
Paints like his grandfather
Notwithstanding the physical and generational distance, Raul, his elder relatives said, painted like his grandfather, who was better known as an architect. “I was already 21 when I first saw his works and it came as a very pleasant surprise. It was worth the wait. I am very thankful that I possibly inherited his natural inclination to painting,” Raul said.
Proust Redux of the Daily Tribune (PRDT) sent questions to Raul who gamely sent us back his answers.
Proust Redux of the Daily Tribune (PRDT): Tell me about how your family’s legacy in the arts influenced you in your own personal art.
Raul Deodato Arellano (RDA): I grew up in Davao so I was influenced mostly by what has been happening in my surroundings and not directly by any member of the family. It came as a pleasant surprise to discover that the things I am mostly interested in are the very same things some members of my family, like my grandfather and uncles are also into. They’re even successful in them.
PRDT: What inspires you?
RDA: I love reading so I must say I am inspired by the books I have read. Aside from books, friends, loved ones and nature are my sources of inspiration.
PRDT: What goes into your personal process of creation? Do you have a ritual before you begin painting? How long do you think of a subject before you paint it?
RDA: I am usually emotionally excited whenever I am facing an empty canvas and figuring out how to execute the idea but I can’t get anything done if I will just plan it. It can only be attained if I start strong with no doubts or second thoughts so the ritual begins as soon as I put paint on my brush and I draw the first contour line on the canvas.
PRDT: Who have been most influential in the practice of your art? Idols? Mentors? Art buddies?
RDA: I have loved painting outdoors. So again, nature — trees, insects have mostly been influential ever since. You can learn more from observing nature, rather than sitting down in any classroom.
Also, I have two kinds of working systems. If I want to acknowledge God, I go outside and paint His creations. If I want to discover something about myself, I close my eyes and come up with a subject from within. This discipline gives me absolute satisfaction.
PRDT: What is your message in these works being exhibited? What stage of your career do they represent?
RDA: People will have their own perception of whatever is the message. I am just a painter.
As for what stage I might be in as for the moment, probably I am at a point where I no longer have any second thoughts with whatever I intend to accomplish.
PRDT: What is the Filipino artist in you? What is the international citizen?
RDA: For me, there really is no difference. One can grow and create regardless of his nationality, wherever he is. Our senses will always work actively and will only stop when we lose our breath.
PRDT: Of Filipino artists younger than your generation, who do you admire?
RDA: I have not been paying attention lately because I am so busy in the farm so as of the moment I don’t know anyone yet.
PRDT: What is your essential message as an artist?
RDA: Art is DOING.
PRDT: What is your purpose for creating?
RDA: First I have to feed my spirituality. I can share my ideas.
PRDT: Your father must have been different from the usual fathers. What are your fondest memories of him? How did his worldview affect you as an artist?
RDA: My father was a wanderer who appreciated beauty and could sing his troubles away. I don’t think he had any world view but he was a man of the world. He had been a well travelled man since he was a teenager.
PRDT: If you are not painting, what is keeping you busy?
RDA: I am busy with my garden.
PRDT: What can you say about the Philippine art sector? What is missing here that you found ample in the United States?
RDA: Actually, the Philippine art sector is doing very well. Nothing is lacking.
PRDT: What is in your artistic bucket list?
RDA: I hope my plans of having a house and a car, designed and built by myself can happen soon.
PRDT: Would you take the same journey you did? Given a second chance, what would have been the reroutes and detours?
RDA: Given a chance I would have focused on my art early when I was still a kid, I wouldn’t have stopped to do different activities although I can’t deny that my present art is an expression and result of all my previous experiences that had nothing to do with art, so I have no regrets.
Island by Raul Deodato Arellano is showing at Altro Mondo Creative Space, 1159 Chino Roces Avenue, Brgy. San Antonio, Makati City.