His story began in Balanga, Bataan, where he spent his childhood and was surrounded by nature. As a 10-year-old, one of his responsibilities on the farm was pasturing their carabao (water buffalo), which he did twice a week. While gazing at the fields and mountain scenery, he would sit on top of the carabao and stay there for hours and hours, just enjoying the surroundings and at the same time, daydreaming. Occasionally, he would be accompanied by a heron.
Music also played a vital role. David enjoyed the town fiestas, where there would be several brass bands to enhance the celebration. “I would be one of the children,” he remembers, “in front of them, mimicking an instrument with my hands and making some sounds with my mouth.” When he was big enough, he became part of the town band playing the clarinet.
He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. His father, Rafael Tuazon David, initially did not approve of David pursuing an art career, thinking he would not be able to raise his future family. But his mother, Generosa de Leon David, always believed in him. She told him to be the best of what he wanted to be.
He won a scholarship from the Italian government to take his post-graduate studies in Rome at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Roma and Scuola Ornamentali di Roma. In December 1965, at the Primo Concorso Romano di Pittura Extemporanea, he won first prize in the on-the-spot painting competition with the city of Rome as subject. And, while studying fresco painting in Rome, his professor, Giuseppi Ciotti, asked him to assist him in doing a mural for the Vatican.
David also studied art restoration for painting and monuments at the Centro International d’Etude pour la Conservation et la Restauration de Biens Culturels, and paper restoration and fine bookbinding at the Istituto de Patologia del Libro. Both institutions are in Rome.
Upon his return in Manila, he did restoration and conservation of Filipino masters’ artworks, as well as important documents on paper owned by individuals and the Philippine government.
He taught fine arts in Manila at the Philippine Women’s University, College of the Holy Spirit, and the University of the East. Now a resident of New Jersey, he continues to teach art. “Uplifting fledging artists to a certain level of success,” he explains, “drives me to keep teaching.”
David’s forte is watercolor, of which the “pouring technique” appeals to him. He puts the first layer of watercolor onto a wet surface. Then, he tilts the paper to totally control it. When he introduces the second color onto the same surface, it is combined with the first, producing a new color. He keeps tilting the paper until he is satisfied with the outcome. Although a bit messy, he enjoys it very much when the colors mix, blend and fuse with one another. The process is repeated. After producing layers and being satisfied with the outcome, brushes are used minimally to emphasize the details and also to complete and finish the painting.
Of his favorite watercolor paintings, he easily states the reasons: Ruby Red (“multilayers of paint meticulously executed”),
Pahaquarry Landscape (“moving towards a loose approach in painting”), and Poconos Landscape (“essence is captured, fewer details; just an impression of the scene; simplified approach”).
If he were not a visual artist, he would have been a concert violinist. “I have a natural gift for music,” he says, “and I can play a tune or two just by listening.” He plays bandurria in a rondalla trio, Ang Tatlong Rondalista (The Three Rondalla Players), which is an offshoot of an active bigger group, the University of the Philippines Alumni & Friends Rondalla.
Art has always been Angelito de Leon David’s first love, and he paints to express himself, not so much for money or fame. This gives him total freedom because he is not rushed or pressured by time or any person.
“When I have finished a painting, I’m fully satisfied with what I did,” he continues. “Because the paintings speak for themselves, money and success naturally follow.”
Rey E. de la Cruz, Ed.D., writes from Chicagoland when he is not loving the arts and traveling. He is the author of the children’s book, Ballesteros on My Mind: My Hometown in the Philippines, which also has Ilocano, Spanish, and Tagalog versions.
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