The Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival is this weekend in Historic Seville Square, one of several events featured as part of Pensacola’s 2019 Foo Foo Festival. There will be a juried art show, Heritage Arts area and Children’s Arts Festival.
Since 1999, GGAF also has featured an Invited International Artist.
This year’s special guest is Esmeraldo Abalde, a self-taught artist from Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines. The thirty-one-year-old painter is the first Invited International Artist to come to GGAF from that Southeast Asian country.
“It’s an honor to me and to my country, for me as an artist, to be here and to be part of the wonderful festival,” said Esmeraldo.
The young professional, who still holds a day job at a financial firm, did much of the legwork to connect with the Pensacola festival. He found the GGAF website online, submitted an application, and sent samples of his work. His efforts paid off.
With Gulf Winds Credit Union helping to pay for his travel, which was the most expensive to date for a GGAF Invited International Artist, Esmeraldo has been able make his first trip to the United States and bring many of his paintings with him.
“It’s a great opportunity for a struggling artist, self-taught artist, like me to sell the art, especially in the United States,” he said of the career exposure.
Esmeraldo began to lay the groundwork for this “great opportunity” long ago, at his home in the Philippines, initially inspired by the artistic talents of his mother.
“When I was a kid, when I was with my mother, she drew (what) I kind of remember it was a snake or something like that in front of me,” he said. “And, wow, I was fascinated about it.”
He was so captivated that he repeatedly imitated his mom’s drawing on the wall.
Without any formal training, Esmeraldo built on his early natural skills by picking up what he could at home and at school.
“At school, my teacher, (when) we had a special project, my teacher always asked me to draw the pictures on the board and that’s what makes me (motivated) me to paint or to draw, to create art,” he explained.
Beyond learning from his mother and artist friends at school, Esmeraldo says he’s been driven to gain more knowledge on his own.
“I read and I look at the other work of artists, because by looking at their artwork, you learn from them.”
In college, Esmeraldo wanted to study architecture, but he wound up majoring in Business. Utilizing his degree, he began working in the financial sector.
With lots of encouragement, and his salary to pay for bills and painting supplies, he decided to follow his dream of becoming a professional artist.
“When I met other people, they would ask about my art,” Esmeraldo began. “Then, when I show my paintings on my cell phone, they would say, “Ooh, I like this one. I want to buy this one. How much do you sell this (for),” So, at that time, I believed that I could make money out of it, from art.”
Additionally, his business degree has not only provided dependable income, but has been a valuable asset for promoting his art.
“Yes, a lot, because if you’re a self-taught artist, you kind of multi-task. You have to make your own website. You have to market your art you made and make a lot of people (aware) that you have new paintings done, and all the things you need for your paintings,” Esmeraldo explained.
For his paintings, Esmeraldo prefers to work with oils and he draws much of the inspiration for his pieces from colors.
“Yes, color is one of my favorite; I feel like the world is always beautiful because it’s filled with different color,” he proclaimed. “I use colors to express my feelings; like landscape and the cityscape, when I take a picture of a place, when I transfer it on canvas I have my own color preferences to express my feelings.”
As an example, he explains he might choose lighter, brighter colors if he’s feeling really good or happy about a place.
He describes his style of painting as Impressionism.
“I don’t know (what) you call this, but I tend to blur my paintings to create abstraction,” Esmeraldo said of his preference not to have his work look realistic. “Too much detail on a painting I feel doesn’t challenge the viewer, so I blur some parts of it in order to have some space for some imagination.”
From his booth at the Great Gulfcoast Arts Fest this weekend, Esmeraldo will display and sell his works and conduct demonstrations. What you might notice is that many of them feature cityscapes and there’s a very good reason for that.
“I love to paint my city because I really love my city and I want to inspire people in my place to make love of cities,” he explained. “So, through my painting, I want to bring something you need to uphold our city, to promote our cities.”
During his visit to Pensacola, Invited International Artist Esmeraldo Abalde will be talking to elementary school students about his own city, Filipino food and culture, and of course, his art.
An open-to-the-public event is set for this Wednesday evening from 6:00-7:00 at the Pensacola State College Anna Lamar Switzer Center for Visual Arts.
The Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival is Friday Nov. 1 and Saturday, Nov. 2 from 9 a.m - 5 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 3, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.