Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Colorblind Painter

5:05 AM

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My brush is finally in the hands of someone who can control it: its dampened tip glides in fully deliberate, yet fluid movements, blooming golden hues on paper. This is far from the fumbling it’s used to, the heavy-handedness causing it to lose one too many hairs. Everything on the blank canvas is finished, at least in the head of that which the hand belongs to, so that each perfectly orchestrated stroke spreads exactly the way he wants it. Nothing is wasted: every pigment, every drop of water maximized.

“Don't use the rag to dab the extra paint! That's an advanced technique. Go with the happy accidents. If there's too much water, use a dry brush,” the colorblind painter demonstrates as he quickly swipes away the extra water I used on the yellow-dyed rosebud I was painting.

The bud is part of a photo taken at Dangwa: Unnaturally-colored roses and callalilies radiate from a tightly packed center. Painting dyed flowers wasn’t what I had in mind when he yielded to my birthday wish. I have waited months for this moment to happen because he is, at best, too tired, and apart from the hasty beso, it would be customary not to interact with him much on weekdays.
His hands are rough, but he is in his element. The only signs of softness are hidden in movements that compensate for the times he had been burnt by bathroom acid, scalded by cooking oil. His colorblindness betrays him; he asks my mother which pot of paint contained the yellow watercolor.


On weekends, I wake up past noon and descend the stairs to the sound of a harmonica over some Miles Davis, else a guitar rendition of George Benson with a just a notch more gain than it should have.

“That way, it sounds more slanted,” the colorblind painter once said to me of how it differs from a clean amplifier setting. Slanted. His word choice eluded me–what kind of auditory ache was I supposed to be feeling? It sounded the same to me.

The colorblind painter surrounds himself in his senses at home; this is the only time he can do so. On weekdays, he works 12-hour day shifts, cities away from home. Working at a job he feels no passion for has led him to be irritable at best—we’ve tied him down to a life of routine.

He is the kind of man you expect to meet in a steamy pub at 2 a.m., the kind you see multifaceted through your glass of bourbon, as he quietly carries his guitar case to the stage, unearths, plays for hours, and quietly proceeds to the bar after his set. Engage him in conversation, and he will probably also mention his love for quantum physics in passing. Throw in a temper boiling just beneath the surface, calmed only by the feel of his fretboard. His three guitars and accompanying musical gear are scattered around the living room, like overstaying guests in a house with barely any room left.


It was difficult not to poke fun at—I once had the nerve to give him a color quiz with some multicolored markers.

I showed him an orange marker. “What’s this?” I asked, shamelessly. With eyebrows furrowed, he answered, “Green.” I laughed in his face.

I brought out a royal blue marker. He saw violet.

I brought out green. He saw reddish-brown.

My childish antics and inappropriately inquisitive nature tended to put things into perspective for him. “Your favorite word was ‘why,’” he once reminisced, as he attempted to answer question after question about the way the world worked—forming, in effect, so much of my impression of the world in my formative years. He treated his first child–his first and only daughter–like royalty. I’ve seen numerous sketches of me as a baby, as well as photographs of a new dad working on his MS-DOS computer, with the other hand carrying a watching infant—as if it would’ve been emotionally unbearable to put me down for even a moment.

Since the birth of Diego, my only sibling, in 2001, he started referring to us as a collective – mga bata. These four syllables rendered our seven-year age gap meaningless. He could be dropping off only Diego to our cousin’s house, and he would still say “hatid ko na yung mga bata” even if I were right beside him. If one of us leaves a textbook in the living room–“ang kalat-kalat talaga ng mga bata,” with consequences for us both. We were responsible for each other, which keeps us close despite our widely differing ages.


In spite of the temporal distance that separates me and Diego, our lives are curiously punctuated at the exact same time by our respective transition periods. He was born in 2001, the same time as I entered grade school; he donned his first white polo-and-chino getup, entered grade school in 2007, just as I entered high school; he will enter high school this year, the same time I was supposed to leave college.

We commiserate with each other in this way, but we both know that this will stop–there is a resignation of sorts to the endpoint drawing dangerously close. Diego will have the opportunity to study and navigate the strokes I have haphazardly made in his wake, taking great care not to make the same mistakes.


The rosebud I had attempted to paint this morning had zero definition. "That can’t be saved," he says with a laugh. He asks for the “gray” rag beside me, and I hand him what’s actually a green rag, sparing him the teasing I was fond of in my childhood.

I am haphazard at best. All I seemed to put on paper were accidents—not even the fabled “happy” kind. Perhaps my technique could no longer be saved; the bad habits have been ingrained from years of misuse and lack of practice.

Colorblind painter, if you ever want to know what your next work should be, go to the upstairs hallway, enter the second room on the left. There is a boy there who is convinced he doesn’t need you; you might’ve missed his reds and greens over the years.

Guide his hand ever so gently. Place it in front of the blank sheet that he is reluctant to soil.

Article by Rissa
Art by Sean
Sean is a 15 year old muggle-born who is proud to say that he is perfectly abnormal, thank you very much. Peculiar in many ways, he is a far cry from that common stereotyped teenager.  He has a great passion for art, and would love to do nothing more than making collages and other creative thingamajigs. 

Rissa writes around the place, reads in the car and bleeds caffeine. ​See her think aloud over at"


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