"My life as an artist, how I fought for it, and how I enjoy it now"

Colorful paints, different size of brushes, smooth canvases, markers and art books, did you know that before, these simple things were always on my wishlist? When my birthday was coming or when my teacher asked me to write a wishlist to Santa Claus for Christmas, but these never came.

20 years ago my father introduced me to painting and calligraphy. Back then, chances to practice were very limited and I was not allowed to just write on my notebook because that's for school. My parents are less fortunates, so they didn't really pay attention to my skills because they knew it will cost them a lot of money to buy drawing and painting materials. Also, if they ever gave me a favor to buy what I want, my two siblings wouldn't be happy because that means, they also want something. We all have our own hobbies. My sister loves music and dolls, and my brother loves to play basketball. So we all just looked for ways to sustain our hobbies without costing a lot of money from my parents.

How did I feed my need for art? Well, In school I always asked to do the mood board, school intramural logos, handmade posters and invitations. My school provided materials for this, if I was lucky I got free supplies for handlettering and drawing, I will make make some artwork, and sell it ;-).

When I was in college, I studied BA Psychology in the Philippines. Financial support was very tough. My father and mother had to work hard in order to finance our studies, they worked day and night. The situation became more difficult for me and my creativity just drifted away. I asked my mom if I could switch my study to Fine Arts / Advertising, because I knew that I could be successful. But the answer was no, practically speaking Art was not a realistic career for less fortunate like us. So I finished my degree in Psychology and finally found a job, it paid well but unfortunately it was not related to my study. Now, finally money was no longer an issue, but I wasn't happy.

I worked hard, 6 days a week, lot of overtimes. It payed well and I enjoyed my money and finally being able to buy painting supplies, markers, decent paper and so on....but... I dont have time for art. I hardly ever had a day off and if I have one I dont want to do anything but rest. After 3 years of the same routine, I decided to resign and look for my destiny, something that would give me more pleasure and make me more happy.

I took a layoff for 3 months, finally I had time to do art but then I was worried about my savings. I needed to do something! The feeling was similar to when i was a child, I had enough time but I was worried about my future. ;-( Art is hard really!

One day during Siesta time, 3pm , I got a ring on my Nokia 3100 phone, a friend of mine asked me if I want to come with her to Europe and look for a host family for being an au-pair. We can stay in Europe for a free round trip ticket with free allowance, freedom to travel and one year time to enjoy the beautiful continent. I don't need to pay anything, the host will provide all the expenses and in return I just need to babysit their child 20-30 hours a week. The rest of the time was mine to enjoy freely.

When I heared that, my sleepy head woke up and I jumped up from the sofa and went to the internet cafe ( back then, computer with internet is not common in the house). After two days of searching, I found a host family from The Netherlands who wanted me to get to them as soon as possible. Of course I was very excited when I heard the news, so I fixed my passport and all travel documents, and yes - after 3 months I flew to Schiphol to meet my host family.

It sounds easy, but it's not. Although it was a dream coming true it was also very hard and difficult to leave my loving family in the Philippines behind. It was also hard for them but I knew they understood me. I made the decision not for the family, but this time for myself to search for my happiness.


In Europe I visited fantastic places like Amsterdam, Paris, Antwerpen, Brugge, Gent, Cannes, Monaco, the Alps in France, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Saint Tropez....and many more.

I didnt even realise that during this great adventure, I would be exposed to my passion, my dream. Art!!! In Europe art is everywhere, the cradle of famous masters like Vincent Van Gogh, Mondrian, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Dali, Monet and so on. My heart was hit with a blast of happinesss. I then realized that....this is where I should be. This is me.

The plan was to stay for a year but I just decided to stay a little bit longer. I then found this adorable guy whom I dated for a year, and we decided to stay together for good ;-). After the hustle and bustle of long distance relstionship we decided to live-in together. I then started my career as an artist. I attended art classes, studied the language and started to become part of the society instead of being a tourist. I found a job that fits for me - working part time in an artstore giving advice about painting and drawing - and here's the best part: I can finally buy art materials!

It's ironic. I know.

After joining local exhibits and selling some works internationally, I then decided to start my own company called JVTotañes Portraits and Art, which includes painting commissioins, exhibits, to sell artworks, to conduct artworkshops for beginners. I also created my own website www.jvtotanes.com and totanesjesamine.wixsite.com/happycreations, the latter is and addition mainly for illustrations, crafting, calligraphy & handlettering workshops and DIY tutorials.

I enjoy things that I missed before when I was a child. But I also give it back to this generation,

Through art I can help those who are less forunate to achieve their dreams.

I give painting workshops to those who want to learn painting.

Through my artwork, I can reach out to Filipino people that are victims of typhoons or other natural violence and many more.

I feel blessed to have a skills, that can make someone's life better.

Now, after 20 years of struggles and a long journey, I can finally say that I am happy to where I am right now. I have enjoyed the adventures of a once struggling aspiring young artist, that successfully made things happen in the end.

I thank you all, those who believed in me and supported me through the years. Without you I couldn't have made it.

"Don't dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer." Denis Waitley

My Handlettering Workshop

My proud piece of art

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