The Pen Tool on Illustrator

Ugly confession: I’ve been using Illustrator for years now but never really got the hang of using the pen tool. I never took classes so I just learned as I went along the way. I would cringe whenever someone would suggest I use the pen tool to illustrate or make typography.

Learning it is long overdue. The need for me to learn this skill was 5 years ago. I needed to learn fast.

Luckily, I found Philippa Berry Smith’s youtube channel  containing links on how to use the pen tool. Out of the dozens (?) of videos I saw, hers are the ones that I found most informative and useful.

Find them here.

Will post my practice pieces in a bit. In the meantime, enjoy!

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The Difference between Art and Craft

My friend Missy chanced upon this video and she shared this with me. What a great educational video! Thanks TED-Ed for posting videos like these! Happy watching!


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Arvin’s Photo Journals

It was a privilege to make journals for Arvin to give away as his Christmas gifts. He wanted something unique to give to his colleagues and employees, and since everyone knows he’s an avid photographer, I thought it best to design journals that would highlight his skill.

I pitched the idea of using his photographs as part of the cover of the journals. I had long wanted to try this design to collaborate with photographers who want to showcase their photos and place them in a practical canvas that’s easy to transport and easy to hand around.

Here are the finished products. Photos taken by Arvin Yason.

Here are the finished products. Photos taken by Arvin Yason.

Arvin’s photo, despite them being black and white, are very nostalgic. The photos he took were designed by his 5 and 7 year old sons. The boys dropped food coloring on bottles filled with water. It was a beautiful experiment captured and translated into art. (Segue: These photos also hang in their home.)

I asked Arvin to prepare 3 photos for each journal. One of the 3 photos is placed on the frame-like cover, while the other two are placed in an inside back pocket.

The sheets are dotted making it more unique than the regular lined sheets.

The inside cover of the journal is a back pocket containing the other images taken by Arvin.

The inside cover of the journal is a back pocket containing the other images taken by Arvin.

It took a lot of trial and error to get the journals right, but I’m glad I did. 🙂

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maARTey’s week with Michael Jackson

The concept behind my week with various artists is to creatively practice a craft. I also practice and do drills, but the monotony can get discouraging and boring. Doing the weeks with challenges me to come up with funny and punny lines for each day of the week I’m practicing. I’ve done Barry Manilow, Air Supply and Michael Learns to Rock for calligraphy. This week I needed to practice my typography + watercolor + mixed media with Michael Jackson.

Here are some of the photos. 🙂

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Migui+Aisa Nuptials


I met Aisa through her sister Carmie, and we formed an instant connection, because aside from having the same name, Aisa radiates happiness and love. Naturally, I was all in when she asked me to be a part of her wedding. Here are some of the things I’ve done for her and her husband, Migui.

Calligraphy on wedding invitation envelopes

The first thing Aisa asked was to write on the envelopes of her wedding invitation. Her wedding invitation was simple and fun and she wanted her envelopes to be the same way. Her color scheme was aqua and brown and we picked aqua to be the color of the invites.

I designed the lettering to be similar to the monogram, and it took me a while to get the font right. I’m glad she liked it on the first go.

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I liked how the envelope was made out of parchment paper. It cut my work time as I did not need to have to line the envelopes. I just got a lined card that snugly fit the envelopes and wrote straight away. The couple asked to write nick names and monickers on the envelopes and it was fun guessing who these people are. 2013-10-30 09.55.44

The ink, however, took longer to dry. It had a sticky substance that made the ink stick to other sheets of paper when stacked. (Note to self, and to you too: Vallejo drawing ink is sticky!)


Leather sleeved journals

Aside from that, Migui and Aisa also asked to have leather-sleeved journals made as gifts for their Ninongs. They had already bought fountain pens and they thought that the journals made a nice accompaniment to them.

The journals are made out of raw, untreated leather stitched with abaca yarn. The leather is rough to the touch, which added to the rustic theme the couple wanted. They also chose dotted lines as inside sheets, to add a unique touch to it.

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Surf board Signage

The best project they asked me to do was to write their welcome signs on SURFBOARDS. Yes, you read it right! These two surfers had boards shaped and asked me to have them painted. I used brown acrylic paint (I mixed a little gold to add some glimmer when the sun hits the boards) for the letters and teal for its shadows.

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The boards are ready to be painted on!

This is the study of the boards. The calligraphy here is the same as the wedding invites!

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to photograph the finished product. Luckily Ian Santillan was able to capture it! Watch the video here:

Migui+Aisa SDE from Ian Santillan on Vimeo.

Yay! Congrats again Migui and Aisa!

The beautiful bride entering her ceremony with the surfboards at the background. Photo courtesy of Ian Santillan.

The beautiful bride entering her ceremony with the surfboards at the background. Photo courtesy of Ian Santillan.

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Hello from Bicol!

Currently writing from our boatride from Caramoan to San Jose, Cam Sur. I conducted workshops (both kids and adults!) at Naga and will be having more in Daraga, Albay the next week. R and I took a little “birthday adventure” in between in Caramoan. We are sore and burnt but very happy with this experience.

I’m excited to write about this!

Til then.


That's me sleeping on the corner! Photo courtesy of Ram Guanlao

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Workshop descriptions

Attending the workshops in Bicol? Here’s a little info on what to expect. 🙂


Drink and Draw:

Each person is capable of drawing, so in case you’ve forgotten how, Drink and Draw is a perfect way for you to revisit your drawing skills. If you claim you have “zero” drawing skills (which I really doubt), D&D can prove you otherwise.
We start each session with creative and drawing techniques. From there I am able to gauge each person’s skill level. Then we work on some drawing techniques. By the end of session I guarantee that you can draw still life.

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Illustrated Recipes:

Here I show you an alternative way of making recipes that you can share with your loved ones. I personally find written recipes hard to follow (or maybe the rebel in me is not too keen on following instructions!) so I draw my recipes in hopes that people understand it better. Cooking and making recipes is a great way to bond between couples and mothers and kids.

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Creative Journaling:
I love journaling but I’ve always had a problem writing. Creative journaling (via drawing, doodling and lettering) is another way of documenting and reliving memories without having to think of the perfect words to say. Why have the need to write when a more colorful outlet is available?

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Each participant will receive a drawing pad or journal. Drawing/art materials will be available for sharing. If you wish to attend illustrated recipe or creative journaling but is hesitant because of (or lack of) drawing skills or because you haven’t held a pen in a long time, I suggest attending drink and draw to warm up.

If you have other questions please don’t hesitate to email me at You may also want to register here.

See you there!

Isa Silva

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