Chennie Cano Tanfelix
Bilao Painter | 25yo | Cavite, PH
Chennie would lose in art competitions, get turned down by art galleries. Her own mother once told her her work wasn’t beautiful. But whatever happens, Chennie says art will always be part of her life. She currently works as a medical technologist, and helps in financially supporting her siblings’ education. She dreams of becoming a doctor, and at the same time representing the Philippines as an ambassador of the arts.
FTV: How did you get started with bilao painting?
CCT: During pandemic I had a hard time buying art materials from malls due to mandatory lockdown. I have lots of oil paint but I don’t have canvas. Then I saw a winnowing tray in our kitchen that made me realize that the pattern of it is very unique. I used it and created my first three winnowing tray paintings.
FTV: Did you start out with more traditional canvas or paper?
CCT: Yes, I explored a lot in the arts. It took me 15 years before I found winnowing tray (bilao), and during those years I managed to use different materials including blood from my first successful blood extraction back when I was a Medical Technology student.
FTV: So your current job is in the medical field?
CCT: Yes I’m a Registered Medical Technologist here in the Philippines
FTV: You’re a practicing medical technologist, and at the same time an artist?
CCT: Yes, I’d like to succeed in both
FTV: How different is it when you paint in a bilao?
CCT: It took me a while to master and think of the right brush, the right materials because winnowing tray is a very challenging type of board because it’s not soft, and it does not have a flat surface.
FTV: What are the other challenges of that canvas?
CCT: Bamboo fiber can distract and ruin the details, so I need to take out the excess fiber before starting my art. The rough surface is difficult when putting the details. Also, the reality that my work may not be preserved well because wood termites can destroy the material.
FTV: Why did you choose bilao as your canvas?
CCT: At first I was just being creative and resourceful. But after the mandatory lockdown, I continued to use it because it’s very Filipino and unique. Also, art galleries that turned me down before, have shown interest in my first three tray paintings.
FTV: What is your statement as an artist if there’s any?
CCT: As an artist, the moment you can see the value of your work is the first step to make other people see it too
FTV: Do you dream of painting becoming your full time job?
CCT: I do want to explore going to different countries by doing art. It would be nice to become a Philippine representative. But I’m also a passionate medical worker, and I want to provide care to my fellow Filipinos. If given the chance to pursue a medical degree, I will grab it because I want to become a doctor. But I have responsibilities to my siblings with regards to their school expenses and tuition. That’s why my dream of becoming a doctor is just a fantasy for now.
FTV: Were you ever in other forms of art? Anu-ano?
CCT: Yes I explored a lot until I found the art materials that made me comfortable and proud to use.
FTV: Why did you pursue being an artist, even if you are in the medical field?
CCT: It’s not actually a decision, it’s just the way I am. It’s a part of me that whatever I feel, whatever my status and work, and even how busy I am, I still do art. I do it to express my thoughts and boredom. Art is in me. It will never go away. It’s not something that I can stop doing. I know that whatever happens, I will come back to it because it’s part of who I am.
FTV: Ano ang nag inspire sayo mag pinta?
CCT: I have many inspirations. It can be a person, a movie, a song, a place but when I was young it was only my mom that inspired me to paint.
FTV: Did you have good experiences in the arts when you were young?
CCT: Hindi po. Palagi po akong talo sa competitions. That helped me to learn in the hardest way.
FTV: How did your mom influence your art?
CCT: She inspired me the most when I was young. She uses oil paint too, sometimes charcoal and does mural paintings. She was my only art idol before and her affirmation is my only go signal that my drawings are good. Until one day, she stopped and criticized my work and said that it’s not beautiful. She did this because she wanted me to believe in myself. I took it hard and stopped doing my art. I ruined all my artworks because I felt that the only person who values my arts is now gone. But after a long period of time, I realized that my passion for painting never faded. Now whatever her side comments are, whether good or bad, I no longer let it affect me and I just do my art the way that I want.
FTV: How does she feel about your art?
CCT: Very proud
FTV: Anong nais mong ma achieve bilang artist?
CCT: I’d like to be a Filipina representative in the field of arts.
FTV: How do you wish your art to be perceived or viewed?
CCT: I want my art to inspire others. Disturb the comfortable, and give comfort to the disturbed.
FTV: How is the life of being a visual artist in the PH?
CCT: It’s very challenging and inspiring. It took me so many years to find my trademark. Artists in the Philippines are very competitive but supportive. It’s hard to prove yourself in this field but It’s not how long it takes, but I’ll do whatever it takes. And that keeps me going.
FTV: How does art make you feel?
FTV: What for you is the essence of painting?
CCT: Art is beautiful and that beauty is not appreciated by all, that is why art is something that can’t be forced on others. The essence of painting is doing what you love without expecting that everybody must like it or love it. You as a painter should feel and value it first, and without doubts. Painting is not for the doubtful artist but for the brave one.
FTV: Message to Filipinos around the world if any?
CCT: Love your work for it to become worthy
FTV: Anything else you want to add ?
CCT: I hope someday this will be a personal live interview in Canada.
FTV: Anything else you’d like to share?
CCT: I never went to an art school, never had a diploma in arts or even an art certificate in an art workshop, and yet here I am answering this interview question from a media entity based in a different country. It’s really a dream come true for me, it’s not what I expected and this is more than what I deserve. And all these is given from above to me as a person who has faith in Him (God). I always believe that whatever I have now is a gift. This is a blessing, I will cherish it and use it and hopefully inspire others in the world of art.
You can see more of Chennie’s work here: Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/filipinapiece/. Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/filipina_piece/?fs=e&s=cl