FOR MICHAEL Sibag, a painter and an artist from Koronadal City, painting seems as natural as breathing.
Coming from a family of painters, Michael started joining poster making competitions when he was in Grade 2. He started using oil pastel while being trained by his older brother.
There are four children in the family – each one with their own genre of painting that they explore. While his siblings are into abstract art and doodling, Michael ventured into a genre other artists might deem to be the most difficult and challenging – realism.
Painting for 16 years now, Michael said most of his artworks are products of his imagination, of his own experiences, and the lessons he got from his brothers. With people seeing how beautiful his paintings are, they might not be able to believe that he never spent a single day in a formal arts school.
“When I was younger, I really wanted to go to a formal arts school and take Fine Arts in college. But our family had limited finances, and so for college, I opt for Hotel and Restaurants Management (HRM). I figured I could use my artistic skill in this course such as in fruits and vegetable carving activities among many others,” Michael shared in vernacular.
It was in college that he made an edible dragon with all its parts made from bread alone – its red eyes a candy. When asked what the edible dragon was for, he said it was just a project in school. “I am that competitive,” he said.
His being competitive started way back in high school when he joined a competition by a toothpaste company on a theme on dental health. He won first place and his artwork was sent to Baguio City for the national finals, which also declared as the best among all the other entries.
Though not being able to go to a formal arts school, Michael’s art pieces can very well be laid side by side with the paintings of known painters. Although very much a fan of continuous learning through life’s insights and the lessons he gets from his own experiences, Michael believes that the technicalities and theories sometimes taught in formal school may hinder and box one’s own creativity. Now he feels liberated as an artist being able to express himself without any borders hindering him to do so.
“I also learned to limit or totally avoid using pencil as guides before I start painting. I feel like I’m just deceiving myself if I continue to do that. I stroke a lighter black paint as a guide on my canvass instead. I think it can show how good you already are if you don’t use pencil guides before painting anymore,” said Michael.
With his artistic direction now towards realism, most of his artworks are portraits of people and nature. Depending on the client’s request, he sometimes copy on provided photographs or just extract the picture purely from his own imagination.
“I think in painting, it’s just a sense of logic. You imagine where the sun or the source of light is so, of course, on the opposite side is where the shadow should be. You can start from there,” said Michael.
He is the kind of artist who does not want to spend more than a week in a single artwork. Competitive as he is, he wants to come up with the best painting in an efficient manner. The fastest work he did was of a portrait of a graduating student intended as a gift. It took him only 3 hours to paint while the longest he spent on a painting was of horses galloping on the waters. It took him four days.
“When I exhibited this horse painting in a mall here in Koronadal City, there were offers to buy it. Some priced it for P15,000 to P20,000 but I declined. It was that precious to me,” said Michael.
When asked how he price his artworks, he jokingly but half-seriously said “Depende sa friendship”. It’s seemed like a very odd attitude for an artist. Some would even argue with their friends that art is art and they should pay the artist they commission whether or not they are friends. But Michael is different. He sees art as self-expression and not something that should bind and hold one’s freedom. A very happy-go-lucky and yet very competitive artist, indeed Michael’s artistic eyes, hands, and attitude has a long way to go.
Now as he starts to master realism, Michael said he wish to also explore pop art – amazed and interested of the many colors this genre conveys.
Only recently he was tapped as an arts coach by Expressions City Mall Koronadal for their PINASayang Sining Summer Workshop teaching arts to kids of 4 to 11 years old. Outside being an artist, Michael also has a day job as a teacher in Green Valley College Foundation, Inc.
“My advice to those who want to pursue arts, start young. Try young,” he said.