Sketching from the Neck Up #5

Remember the Kids of Smokey Mountain


I found this photo journal blog by a gal named Sab (short for Sabrina – titled SMOKEY MOUNTAIN: A WALK THROUGH THE SLUMS OF MANILA, PHILIPPINES. Below  are her words. In the sketch I present is from 2 of Sab’s photos, a lone shack in the midst of a mountain  of trash and kid who struck me profoundly that I had to include him.

Smokey Mountain is a world you’d rather don’t want to see. In Manila’s largest dumpsite the poorest of the poor are making their livelihood by picking up garbage.

Smokey Mountain is a completely different world. It’s a gigantic 50-meter high mountain of garbage that consists more than 2 million tons of waste. It’s insane. If you get closer to the mountain you can see all the layers of rubbish: plastic bags, wood, metal, bottles, iron, fabrics, tires and more plastic bags. All squashed together. It’s heartbreaking.

The place is called Smokey Mountain because of the constant fire. They burn tires and wood. The air smells rotten and is heavily polluted. I have no doubts that breathing this air every day is poisonous for anyone. It’s hard to believe that over 25,000 people are living there. Families with kids. Every day people die here and babies are born.

The scavengers are all dirty, their faces are covered in mud, their clothes are worn out, their arms have scratches….

The living conditions are unbearable.

They live in simple shanties or shelters, some of them in huts made of wood, iron, plastic or whatever they can find to build walls.

One thing that really struck me was the fact that I barely saw old people. It’s a very young population.

And then I thought about the children I met at Smokey Mountain. They don’t have a future. But they laugh. They run around with their dirty faces and worn out clothes and they seem happy.

Seeing their joyful faces has changed my mind and enlightened me. Happiness has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with wealth. Humanity shines even brighter amidst poverty. These kids can bear more difficulties in life than we can ever imagine.


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Sketching from the Neck Up #4

Boodle-ing Away


Boodlers is such a funny word. The dictionary defined a boodler as one (especially a politician) who seeks or receives a bribe or other illicit payment. In other words, a boodler is a political grafter. It is also a 19th century baseball slang of a person displaying unsportsmanlike behavior. In addition, the root word ‘boodle’ is also defined ‘the lot, pack, or crowd’.

Well, once a week, I enjoy meeting with a ‘pack’ of bikers (the peddling types) for breakfast who call themselves “Boodlers & Bikers Club”. No! They are NOT political grafters. Though they do have a lot to say about politics. They are actually a bicycling club of mostly fun loving retirees who love to eat hearty breakfasts and talk a variety of popular topics. What first attracted me to them was their neat little bikes. They all rode Bromptons which are cool British-made folding bikes with their characteristic tiny wheels. I always loved it how they parked their Bromptons with the back tires folded tightly into the frames. The club partakes in community events throughout the country. One of their latest escapades was a fun ride somewhere way up north of Manila.

My sketch subject is made up from 2 photos. The foreground is a boodler who rode her Brompton at an event. In the background is the group happily lounging and planning for their next adventure… down south somewhere.

If you want a Brompton yourself click here.


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Sketching from the Neck Up #3

Phone Booth in the Countryside


I truly appreciate the many photographers throughout the world that have contributed their work in the internet. I found an e-magazine that featured 40 of the “Most Beautiful Pictures of Villages around the World”. Of course, I could not help saving several landscape photographs that would make neat sketch/illustration subjects. Today’s subject is an English country landscape. How did I know it was English? Check out the only distinctive RED object across the country lane from the village church. That is clearly a phone booth, which is rarely seen these days, except maybe in England.

So, I thought how neat would this illustration be if I included an English phone booth in the foreground. I found a good photograph and sketched it out into an illustration. I have to say, I had fun with this project. By the way, if anyone recognizes this English village, please email me back, so that I can pinpoint it in Google Earth.


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Sketching from the Neck Up #2

Waiting for an Order


It was just one of those days, as I was heading home, when I noticed a group of young people waiting on the sidewalk with their bicycles. They all wore the deep pink shirt uniforms of the delivery service of Foodpanda. This was evident from the bulky insulated delivery boxes strapped on the back ends of their bicycles which also were colored a deep pink with a big smiling smiling panda. I have been noticing a lot of them lately through out Bonifacio Global City. According to their website, Foodpanda is the leading global online food delivery marketplace. They have provided users to conveniently discover food around their neighbourhood and directly order their favourite meals online or via their mobile phones. Headquartered in Berlin, Germany, they operate in more than 40 countries across 5 continents. In the Philippines, foodpanda was launched in June 2014 and has since grown to over 1,000 partner restaurants nationwide. [Click here to check out their website]

Anyway, these guys and a gal had their noses in their cell phones. My guess was, they were waiting for orders or playing games. I asked my companion to get his own cell phone out and take a quick picture (after I asked permission, of course).

When I got home, I went straight to work on my Photoshop program. The subject I chose was a young man sitting on the sidewalk with his bicycle propped up behind him. I decided to keep this illustration simple. The first thing I did was cropped out the subject I wanted to focus on. Then, I made the picture go transparent about 50%. After which, I more or less free handed the outline which started out rough. Then, I re-did the outline with cleaner lines. From there, I implemented some Photoshop magic and got the results that I was looking for. The final touch was the pink color of both the bag and the rider’s shirt.

Foodpanda anybody? Enjoy!

An Alleyway Somewhere in EuropeEU-alley-with-steps-w.jpg

Because of my spinal condition, the chances of me ever going to Europe is realistically quite slim. But I am not really depressed about it. I thank the Lord for Google Earth where sometimes I can spend hours touring different parts of the world. One of the features that I appreciate about Google Earth is that contributors had posted thousands upon thousands of photographs of their travels; a great number of which I saved. Well, I was going over those pictures to pick my next drawing exercise. One picture jumped out at me. It was a picture of a quaint alleyway with brick steps going up. Unfortunately, I am not exactly sure where this picture was shot. But I remember was that this place was somewhere in a village in Eastern Europe.


This drawing was somewhat a challenge. The photograph was in low resolution and somewhat pixelated. Drawing the outline was a little time-consuming but I managed to get it done in about three hours. In the original photo, it was empty of people. So, I sketched in a man up the alley. All in all, the outline looked good and this gave me inspiration to play with different mediums. Photoshop have a neat filter feature called the Paint Daubs that I wanted to experiment with. It looked pretty good. I wish I could have painted it myself but Photoshop gets all the credit.


In my next drawing, I used the outline and super imposed it over another image of a brown crumpled parchment. I then applied Photoshop’s charcoal filter and then finished it with light shadows.

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Sketching from the Neck Up #1

The Interactive Statuette


In my world of being a quadriplegic, I have developed an aesthetic appreciation of my surroundings. I look at an object and say to myself, “that would make a good sketch!” I thought about trying to teach myself to sketch and paint using my mouth. After all, there are many PWD artists out there who do exactly that. However, most of those artists have enough muscles in their backs to support their heads, so that they can beautifully manipulate pencils/brushes to create fantastic masterpieces. Here lies my dilemma. Even if I can hold a pencil in my mouth, I am unable to execute the right pencil strokes for sketching. I hated the thought that I could not sketch. Fortunately, by God’s grace, there is a digital solution for me.

One day, a social media penpal of mine from Norway posted a picture of a snow clad tree that I liked. I opened up my Photoshop program and using my camera mouse setup, I proceeded to manually sketch the tree. When I say “manually”, I mean I tried my darndest to avoid using Photoshop’s magical features that automatically transform a photograph into a sketched out drawing. Okay, I cheated just a little.

Anyway, after a number of practice runs, another idea popped into my head to publish my sketches/illustrations into my blog titled “Sketching from the Neck Up”. In fact, that title was actually coined by my wife, Mavis, who is a genius in this kind of thing. As my first subject, I focused on a statuette that I noticed a bunch of little kids having so much fun with. It was a concrete interactive statuette of an oversized chameleon perched on a black boulder. I called it interactive mainly because built on the chameleon sides and tail are almost 400 little rollers each of which had 4 color facets (green, yellow, blue and red). A nearby teacher of the kids would call out saying that the chameleon is standing by a specific fruit like an apple or a banana. She would ask what color would the chameleon be and the kids would laughingly turn each of the multicolored rollers to either red or yellow. This statuette can be found at the 28th Terra Park, Bonifacio Global City. Come and check it out for yourself. Be a kid again and enjoy.

PWD – person with disability


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