• James Abayon Lolo is a student and an artist who creates artworks with ballpens.
• His artworks have gained much online attention, filling his schedule for commissioned works.
• Last year, James’ sketch of Vincent van Gogh went viral.
• After he finishes his course in Technical-Vocational Teacher Education, he said he will work and earn enough to send himself to take up Fine Arts.
An artist from Mindanao, James Abayon Lolo, is currently gaining online attention for his well-drawn pieces and incredible drawing skills using ballpens.
But what is more amazing is that he is able to put food on the family’s table by selling those extraordinary artworks using a medium that many might consider ordinary.
In a Manila Bulletin interview on Wednesday, Feb. 10, the 21-year-old student from Anibongan in Maco Davao De Oro, shared his journey with his art, and how his artworks have fed his family.
Life of a working student
James, who is studying at the University of Southeastern Philippines in Tagum, is taking up Bachelor of Technical-Vocational Teacher Education (BTVTEd) through online classes at home.
Like other students, James admitted that home-based online classes is a bit challenging, with the added need to juggle time for his study and time for his source of income.
“Papa is currently unemployed so I am the one who is supporting them,” James said in Filipino. He lives with his father, mother, and a younger sister.
To help his family, James is doing commissioned works and he also sells available artworks. “This is my source of income now,” he said.
When he started, James would earn around P5,000 a month. Now, he earns as much as P20,000 or more. “Malaking tulong na po para pang bili ng pagkain (This is a very big help so we can buy food),” he said.
His popularity has filled his schedule for commissioned works that he has informed clients that he will start accepting orders again in March.
“At times, I do my drawings at night and I set time for my studies,” James said. “It’s a little difficult because I sometimes finish my drawings the morning after,” he added.
Talent knows no boundaries
James started drawing when he was in first year high school. Due to lack of resources, he used ballpoint pens for drawing.
“My first medium at that time was a ballpen,” he said. Eventually, he got used to it and started developing various drawing techniques.
James’ inspiration is Nicolas Sanchez for his precise ballpoint pen techniques. “I’m also in the process of developing my techniques but I am still learning,” he added.
Last year, James’ sketch of Vincent van Gogh using multi-color ballpens went viral. Since then, he continued uploading his works and used various online sites to get online attention for his sketches.
“I am very happy, I did not expect that people would like an artist like me who uses ballpoint,” James said. At the same time, he is also thankful to “God for giving me this achievement.” His parents, including all his relatives, were also very happy for him. “They did not expect that my work would be getting so much attention,” he added.
James had wanted to take up a Fine Arts course but due to financial difficulties, he decided to take up his current course.
“If I am able to finish my course, I will work using this degree,” he said. “I will try to earn and in the future, I will send myself to school [to take up Fine Arts],” he added.
Like most children, James dreams of pulling his family out of poverty. “I want to become a successful artist someday but my ultimate dream is to help my family, especially my parents,” he said.
James urged students facing difficult times not to give up. “To those students who are struggling right now because of the pandemic, let’s not think about the problems that would give us stress.”
He also urged fellow students to put aside time for themselves and do the things that would make them happy. “Wag natin ipilit ang sarili natin sa bagay na pwedeng maka sira ng ating mood (Let’s not force ourselves to do things that will ruin our mood),” he added.
James encourages students to try expressing themselves through art. “This is very good when it comes to relieving stress,” he said. “It’s a good way of expressing all your emotions – bad or good – and put those onto paper,” he added.