The threats of climate change make us conscious of what we do every day. For artists, it’s an opportunity to stretch one’s artistry by using sustainable materials in creating artworks. Jonathan Ivan Belisario, also known as Alla, uses soil to paint his subjects.
Alla who hails from Valencia Bukidnon said that he’s always been an artist. “Since childhood, I used to draw sketches and patterns, make my own arts and crafts like keychains and dreamcatchers. I would also create my own accessories. Eventually, I learned painting on canvas,” he tells My Pope Philippines.
However, soil painting wasn’t instantly friendly to Alla. It required a different level of skill that he didn’t yet have. This, combined with his relentless love for art and culture, was what made Alla seek the guidance of a mentor. (Read: Catriona Gray Is the New Ambassador for Indigenous Handicrafts)
Learning Soil Painting
Through the help of his mother, Alla got to connect with Waway Saway— the leader of Bukidnon’s Talaandig tribe. He sought his mentorship in soil painting and even went through community immersions to properly learn the indigenous ways of handling soil art.
“I was introduced to Waway Saway and went through community immersion for some time,” says Alla. “I got along with the locals on many ways and learned indigenous ways of handling soil art.”
But learning soil painting is just the first step— sourcing materials is another challenge. Unlike acrylic and oil, a variety of colors doesn’t come easy with soil, so Alla goes around communities and immerses with locals to source his materials.
“I collect various shades of soil to obtain different colors, mix it with water, and apply my imagination on canvass,” Alla says. (Read: This Artist Paints Romantic Pictures of the Past Using Coffee)
Hence, with mentorship and community support, Alla has found his medium.
Family and Community
Alla credits his family for his growth as an artist. “Pursuing something is not that easy if you are in the wrong circle. Fortunately, the support of my family, especially my wife keeps me going and wanting to do more. The passion itself and support is a very important factor for an artist,” he says.
He also wants to help his community by using his art for cultural awareness and preservation. These are evident in his subjects that depict Filipino values, symbols, and practices. (Read: Who is Abdulmari Imao, the inspiration behind the Imao Obra Typeface?)
“I want to be part of a group that promotes the art of soil painting adhering to local cultures,” shares Alla. That is why aside from soil painting, he also raises cultural awareness through cultural shows where he is a performer, choreographer, and director.
Since soil isn’t a common medium for artists, Alla aspires to have his own exhibition to promote its use. “[I want] to have my own exhibition to promote consciousness about the benefits of soil as a sustainable medium for the arts,” he says.
Alla looks forward to passing his knowledge to young artists who would champion sustainability through soil painting. And he’ll do this in the same manner that he learned it from Waway Saway.
Catch Alla’s artworks and cultural performances on Facebook and Youtube.