John Benjamin Tesoro

December 5, 2020

“By nature, men are nearly equal; by practice, they get to be far apart.” This age old adage may have originally pertained to the hierarchy of discipline applied to martial artists which constantly depicts masters as ancient beings, full of wisdom and seemingly possessing an endless abundance of skill then passed on to deserving disciples after proving their worth in displaying positive virtues such as humility, integrity and righteousness as in despising anything that is evil. Usually, patients and their loved ones are almost always more compliant whilst being treated by older medical doctors with longer tenure due to supposedly exuding loftier experience and wisdom than their younger counterparts but thankfully, in this more broadly aware day and age, have proven untrue in some cases. Inherent talent is also not enough because the hardest worker can actually surpass individuals who possess more skill and natural ability since the tempting tendency to become complacent due to overconfidence cause many to fall on their own self-assured hubris. The key factor of course is having the discipline to continue pursuing the path of excellence of your chosen passion which in this particular paradigm, we shall attempt to look at a sampling size of Solomon Saprid’s love and devotion for the fine arts.


He was never truly a fan of the abstract form since it mostly depicts serendipitous results of the medium whether it is a painting or sculpture. The artist more accurately depicted as the creator must control “the intervening substance through which sensory impressions are conveyed or physical forces are transmitted” and not the other way around. The late Bob Ross (1942-95) was an American Artist, art instructor and TV host who successfully catered to the ordinary enthusiastic individual to believe in themselves as bona fide artist-painters after they’ve completed a few landscape artworks filled with “happy accidents” applied in the brushstrokes and as Ross would repeatedly mention in his telecasts, “there is no such thing as errors in your painting since this is your world.” His show is appropriately titled, “The Joy of Painting” and true enough, fans and students are sometimes fortunate enough to make an actual living out of this “hobby”. An extreme exemplification of this profession are the Mabini painters who used to proliferate the surroundings of the humble Emita church in Manila.  Tourists used to purchase a lot of these typical sceneries such as the Mayon volcano, Pagsanjan falls, the Manila Bay, Intramuros, the Banawe rice terraces, etc., which were executed as if in an assembly line. Religious depictions of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus sweating tears of blood and especially “The Last Supper” were needless to say, quite sellable indeed. Unlike Ross’s televised on the spot creation that were all products of his cognitive memories of his past dwellings combined with his impromptu imagination of inserting additional nature elements at a whim in real time, the Mabini artists’ works were derived from actual professional photographs from post cards and magazines which they no longer referred to by sight anymore due to numerous repetition. There is nothing demeaning about using these painters as examples for they are both highly skilled and talented plus their quick painting technique is the result of their diligent experimentation and constant honing of their innovative discoveries. Some of their students and apprentices are in for a disappointment when they try to apply to a prestigious art institution like the University of the Philippines where the applicants are subjected to the non-artists’ antithesis: the dreaded “talent test” where the applicant is to draw or paint what is directly in front of them. From still-life, a live model, a classic renaissance sculpture and actual landscape using all the available techniques in visceral conventional drawing where no personal “interpretation nor alternative version” is allowed thereby, eliminating the excuses of imperfect proportions and lack of basic rendering knowhow like shading, position of the light source producing coexistent shadows and visual perspective that would ideally separate the potentially gifted enrolees from the mediocre ones who were just using the supposed easier path to officially enter the college via the “Fine Arts.”


Sculpture as an art form, debatably requires more intricate attention than 2 dimensional paintings on account of being viewed meticulously at all angles and this was where Saprid excelled which arguably elevated him from some of his other renowned contemporaries who, whether intentional or by plain oversight, have failed to consider that sculptures are not to be surveyed statically.  It does not require a discriminately trained eye to notice that some of these (sometimes very huge structures) appear unfinished especially from its rear position. The skeletal support rods and beams are unflatteringly prominent and serves as an undesired distraction that lacks aesthetic purpose albeit arbitrarily. Solomon respected the classic conventional drawing technicians like Leonardo Da Vinci and believed that a premeditated starting point should be established before proceeding purposely in the creation of an artwork in both flat format and 3D. Thus, transitioning from preternatural beings that made Saprid famous such as the “Tikbalang,” “kapre” and other mythical figures into the human world of laborers, posed minimal challenge for the master. His in-depth knowledge for the anatomically correct musculature plus the appropriate metal medium in portraying the subject matter’s hardiness due to the individual’s chosen profession, seamlessly fit like a hand to a custom made glove. There are various examples of livelihood that require a lot of physical exertion which metamorphosed the worker’s overall composition in exuding durability due to stress related activities. This does not necessarily mean that the sculptures have become stiff and rigid because what differentiates Saprid was his ability to manifest his usual portrayal of “frozen motion.” The dynamism of the respective poses of the figure subtly guides the viewer’s anticipation of the next chronological action as in the direction of the casted net by the fisherman after hurtling the trapping tool into the targeted seafood bounty. What is truly remarkable is that the deceptively simple task of a female water bearer still manages to emanate strength and power from an almost static position whilst maintaining to keep perfect balance in order to prevent the burden from spilling. The artist ingeniously integrated the wider cut latticing as garments which cleverly disguised the additional support material functionally, thereby becoming a popular theme itself in several variations of course whilst not diminishing its gracefulness at all.  The water carriers gave Saprid the inspiration to divulge in mixed media by introducing a significantly sized jade piece to his artworks which have become successfully desirable by art collectors as well. Therefore it is not surprising to see several scales of the “Jade Carrier”. A bigger version can be currently viewed at the National Museum in Padre Burgos Drive, Manila.


Part of Saprid’s legacy was his constant yearning to innovate that has become clearly evident in his latter works where his creations have become rather gaunt and elongated however, maintaining the rules of the musculoskeletal system were still a deeply imbedded prerequisite per disciplinary specialization. Moreover, his lingering hunger relentlessly motivated him to sharpen his skills further resultantly, achieving a level of competency that would make it quite difficult for future counterfeiters to duplicate. Only intimate members of the Saprid family are truly qualified to distinguish the genuine articles from blatant forgeries, so please refer to the “BEWARE OF COUNTERFEITS” section on this website for more information.

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