What’s your name and where are you from?
Hello, my name is Mimi Sarmiento but I’m more known as my online moniker, dollicandy. I’m from Manila, Philippines. I’m a Fine Arts graduate; major in Advertising, from the University of Santo Tomas here in the Philippines. I’ve always loved art as a kid but I was only able to learn more about watercolour, acrylic, oil, and other forms of art during college.
How did you get started?
Before college my main passion was photography, which is why I’ve been a working student as a wedding photographer ever since high school. I stopped in college for a while because of my ovarian cyst surgery, which later I took as an opportunity to focus more on freelance work. Looking for a creative outlet, I found myself coming back to painting (focusing more on watercolor). I started self-studying more with an academic grade Reeves gouache paint set that was given to me as a gift. Some of the other academic grade materials that I acquired during my first year in college are: Prang watercolor set, Canson watercolor papers and Berkeley synthetic brushes.
What Inspires you?
I constantly look at for inspirations and lesson from a couple of artists. Some local artists that inspire me are Shardula, Tokwa Penaflorida, and Kate Paints to name a few. Most artists I follow are from Japan. Ever since i was a kid I’ve been really interested in Japanese art and anime. My work is influenced by it.
Samples of Mimi’s very old work. It’s evident that she was really influenced by anime <3
My greatest inspiration then was a Japanese artist I saw in pixiv, たえ (Tae), whose works captivated me so much it inspired me to practice portraits. During those practices, I relied so much on her works and learned a lot about painting faces. I also got to know my art materials better, especially using my gouache as watercolor. Even now I really admire these artists because they’re the reason why I was inspired to paint again in the first place.
Samples of Mimi’s old studies
How have you grown and developed as an artist or creative person?
I figured it was best that I set my drawing fundamentals again so re-learned the anatomy of the face. This was to widen my knowledge in art to be able to develop my own style. I also started attending small intensive art workshops around Manila to get personal philosophies from other local artists I admire.
Since I started accepting commissions, I invested on my very first artist grade paints and paper: 18 set Holbein Watercolors and Hahnemuhle Watercolor Papers; but I was still working with my old decent synthetic brushes.
“I explored more with different faces and started incorporating floral elements. The flower in the middle was my output during the floral workshop I attended under Valerie Chua (who is not only a great artist but also a great teacher!)”
“Here’s an unfinished work because it was only later that I found out that the paper I used wasn’t capable of handling a lot of washes. It was during here that I realized that next time I really need to spend a lot of time on getting to know my art materials. That’s why till now I limit my art materials to what I’ll only be using. I’m obsessed with getting to know how each of my materials behaves and I develop personal connection with them. It’s a bit weird. Haha. But it really helps me work better. Working with more than 3 kinds of one material makes it a bit hard for me to adjust.”
I read a lot of art books and currently I’m obsessed with re-learning art history. I have this future dream to professionally share my knowledge as an art professor. So I feel it’s a must to further solidify my formal art knowledge. Although the art scene right now in Manila is growing, it is still very limited and the community is very small so I believe studying thru books and the internet gives me the access to art philosophies and culture outside our country. I believe that’s one way to make me well-rounded. Now I’ve just started conducting workshops under our humble group, Art Hub MNL, where I teach key concepts on how to get started on painting portraits with watercolor, mostly based on my personal techniques.
Here are samples of Mimi’s current work
What are some challenges you have faced and what advise would you give?
I’ve faced challenges with finding my own voice in art, the community in art, and maturing as an artist.
From what I’ve experienced, the most challenge that I ever got as an artist is feeling that everything relies on me. I fear the feeling of being imbalance because it puts off every work I have to do. I stop, I feel insecure, and I get stressed out, which simply stops from doing anything. Ultimately, this makes me drown in what every artists fear the most – Art block. This is why I see myself struggling in the stretched path of an amateur. I still depend on my ‘inspiration’ or ‘mojo’ to get back on track. These insecurities, along with the discouraging views of the “purist”‘, has made me question myself. I wonder if I’m even worthy to be in this field. Emotionally I feel like I’m drowning in a deep sea of doubts and I don’t know which way is up; lost in a bigger world, losing my own voice in art. Even though I personally think I’m not yet in the level to be worthy of owning my own voice, I feel very insecure that I don’t have it.
This is a very emotional struggle I’m sure many artists relate to.
I don’ t have any concrete advice to solve these problems but what helped me was the support and genuine happiness for my achievements coming from friends, rather, my Art Hub MNL family. They cheered me on and provided me with good tips on what I can focus on to improve. Our discussions would helped me put together scattered ideas I had before, which helped me to feel better again. I started painting with a vision in mind.
It’s also a great bonus for me to have a very supportive partner — My boyfriend who gives me 101% support and puts up with all my dramas. I wouldn’t be courageous enough to do the things I do now if it wasn’t for him.
I’m proud to say that I’ve grown out hating. I realized that the more I am serious in art, the less time I had to compare myself to other artists. I realized that I didn’t have the luxury to spend time on petty issues because I’m constantly fixated on running a race against myself to improve. Being concerned with other people’s issues didn’t help me improve at all! I realized that artists make great art not because they were struck by luck, but because they invest a lot of hard work, passion, and time on their work. Now I try my best to appreciate and give support to other artists. Simple acts of kindness would help them as much as it helped me. I’m just proud of how I developed as an artist so far. I hope to keep it up for a long time.
I think, more than being surrounded by great artists, it would really help to be surrounded by positive people who only have the best intentions. It was a great help to put my mind in peace and break the negative cycle.
Be the best example by spreading love and support towards other artists despite how big or small they are. One little act of appreciation goes a long way for an artists, especially if they’re in dire need for it, like me most of the times.
Now, I stay true to my virtue that people don’t need to be mean to one another – spreading gossip, namedropping, etc. I found myself being close to people who share the same sentiment. Now I’m just really contented with the art group that we were able to form.
What are some of your goals as an artist?
Influencing and Art Hub MNL
The group of friends I mentioned earlier is Art Hub MNL. It is a collective of artists whose one of the main objective is to showcase and influence the art scene in its best form here in Manila since me and my friends believe that our local market deserves to see a wider scope of our local art and artists. Along with outside artists who share the same vision with us, we started by organizing quality workshops offered to art-enthusiast (artist or not). We try to make them see that art is a very beautiful thing and everyone is capable of appreciating it.
Being thankful and staying humble
I feel like I’m always in a dream whenever people express their love for what I do, even more so when they share how my works inspire them in their art journey. Like most people, I’m just an ordinary aspiring artist who endlessly seeks improvement. But it’s a very humbling experience to be able to participate in other artists’ progress, especially with the little skill I have.
It’s also a great challenge to stay grounded. Receiving thanks makes me float but I remind myself that in the art universe, I’m nothing buy a tiny speck of dust in a museum. I believe staying humble gives my every work way to speak in great volume.
Beginning in art
Every time a beginner asks me how to start painting portraits, I automatically direct them to learning how to draw first the skeletal system, the muscles, and the skin. Then learn how to render them realistically. This way they don’t only learn how to render nicely, but they also get a sense of how each of our face features / body parts are related to one another and be able to effectively translate that in their output. Being equipped with fundamentals is an artist’s best starting base.
I’m a bit hard-core but I believe that’s how I’ve gotten here in the first place. I still have A LOT to improve on but because I was lucky enough to go thru formal art with plates and the whole formal deal (where most we did was endlessly paint realism), I believe I was able to jump the hardest part in starting. Honestly I didn’t see it as very helpful before but now the lessons that I thought were worthless before takes me to greater heights now. At present, almost everything I do is all thanks to what I learned in college and I’m nothing but very grateful.
If your course isn’t anything art related, don’t let that stop you! There are tons of lessons and free books in Google that can help you just as much. As long as you’re on the right path of improving, you’ll be ok!!
So why do I advise learning how to render realistically first when modern art is all about impressionism nowadays? Traditional art and all included in it (history, and principles, and the likes) are solid foundations an artist needs to appreciate first before splashing on some random colors on a canvass and labelling art. I see impressionism as, more or less, a distortion of realism, and without knowing a subject’s realistic form; one will not know what they are distorting.
What is your creative process like?
My creative process relies heavily on my studies. Actually, my works right now are 95% studies and only 5% finished works.
For original pieces, I make 1 to 2 studies or more before painting in a large scale. The number of studies depends when I’m able to get what I want to do with the final piece.
Study – WIP – Final
“This Doctor Strange fan art is my first finished Marvel character painting. My style is usually feminine and minimalist so I knew it will be a challenge to achieve that fantasy/comic look. Having a study here definitely helped me foresee what I needed to do to be able to achieve the effect I wanted. I can see a lot of areas I can still improve on but I’ll just let this be for now.”
When I feel like I still haven’t achieved what I want to do with the final piece, I scrap it and start from the beginning
Study – WIP – Final
I scrapped the final piece of this 4 times before arriving at the latest piece. Yes, those are full large pieces. It was a total waste for great paper. Haha. But I couldn’t help feel unsatisfied and think that it could still be better.
I believe I still have a whole lot of room (a mansion actually) for improvement. Or rather, I believe there’s never a limit to knowledge because as they say, it’s only when you believe you’ve learned enough that you will start going downhill. At the same time, I push myself to make a finished output that can translate my overall skills. Even though it’s not finished because in the end, what’s important is not that it is perfect but it’s that it is finished.
If I were to share a message for the many struggling artist out there like me, it would be the motto I heard from my college professor, “Strive to do what you love, and the universe conspires on your behalf”. If things seem very rock bottom, just hold on to your passion. I know how hard that is because I’ve been there a lot of times but it’s the journey that matters and it will all make sense eventually”