Karla Sajona’s ‘Plumage’ highlights the beauty and importance of local bird life

A collection of striking and brightly colored paintings of flora and fauna

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Karla Sajona, 'Si Makisig'

Fresh from a double exhibit held in Los Baños a few months ago, artist Karla Sajona is holding a solo exhibit—her second—at ARTablado in Robinsons Galleria. “Plumage” is a collection of striking and brightly colored paintings of flora and fauna, particularly indigenous and endemic species.

Karla, a visual arts educator, creates intricate pieces that often feature pairs of birds preening among leaves and flowers. She frames these winged creatures with contrasting squares of color, using a variety of media, including watercolors, gouache, acrylic paints, and colored pencils.

'Pagbati sa Magandang Umaga,' and 'Magiting na Mandirigma II' 

The results are festive and gem-like but there is a deeper reason why she has latched on to this type of fauna. Sajona wants to drive appreciation and interest in local bird life but she also wants Filipinos to become more aware of the need for conservation. In fact, some of the species included in the exhibit have been declared as endangered or near-threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Her paintings and drawings serve as vehicles in educating viewers about the significance to biodiversity. “These are things we often take for granted but if we observe them closely, one cannot unsee the array of lines, patterns, colors and iridescence they radiate,” she said.

With careful strokes and a studied use of color, the artist is able to bring to life some of her favorite feathered friends including sunbirds, hornbills, kingfishers and roosters. There is even a drawing of a peacock and a peahen clad in what appear to be embroidered collars and jeweled necklaces. Her introduction to art came at an early age as she was born into a family of artists where both direct and distant relatives earned their keep as painters and crafters. 

“As a child, I used to draw princesses, houses, cartoon characters, but as I grew older, I leaned toward botanical subjects, landscapes and portraits, and began experimenting with mediums like watercolor, colored pencils and charcoal.”

She finds inspiration in the works of Van Gogh, Monet and Degas—particularly the latter’s ballet dancer series. Among our local artists, she said she honed her technique by studying the works of National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco and Vicente Manansala. 

Many of Botong’s large-scale paintings have a fantastical, mythical quality and consists of several vignettes while Manansala’s work hews to the idyllic and pastoral. 

“My aunt, who also happens to be a painter, was the first one to inspire me to pursue a career in painting. By reading about the lives of Filipino painters, I slowly learned and applied their painting techniques in my own obras. I’ve been practicing my painting style since I was in high school in the ‘90s,” Sajona said.

'Banana Feast,' 'Forest Rangers,'  and 'Love and Adoration'

She’s grateful for the chance to reach a much wider audience with her “Plumage” exhibit at ARTablado, which runs from Aug. 1 to Aug. 15. “ARTablado offers great opportunities to artists who wish to make a name in society. Having my second solo show here will be a huge breakthrough in my career. The exhibit offers a wide range of lively and vibrant feasts of avian wildlife. If you’re a nature enthusiast, this is the perfect event to visit!”

 'Dots and Whatnots,' and 'Keeping Company'