Sense of Wonder: In pursuing the fruitful life of an artist, Jomike Tejido creates works that hark back to the simple joys of art-making and creating.
By Mara Fabella
There’s a natural warmth in the art of Jomike Tejido. Whether through vibrant colors or lively shapes, his paintings exude an infectious love for creation. They draw on the childlike sense of wonder in conjuring up imaginary landscapes and vistas out of the simplest of forms. Yet the architect-turned-artist’s art is anything but simple. Each work is meticulously planned, coming from years of experience in visual design. It’s a testament to this expertise that he can create works as technically skilled as they are “nakaka-happy.” People are drawn to the comfort of Tejido’s paintings, just as he is drawn to the joys of a creative life.
Tejido is one of the most prolific artists working today. He has exhibited his works with numerous prominent galleries, including Galerie Stephanie, Galerie Joaquin, Galleria Nicolas, Art Anton, and Mono8 Gallery. His early works have also been shown at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and UP Vargas Museum. Tejido paintings have become a staple at events like ManilArt, Art Fair Philippines, and Art in the Park. His latest show, Scintillate, at Galerie Stephanie marks his 16th solo show, while in the works is Love + Light x Laughter, a two-person show at Galerie Joaquin Rockwell with his fellow artist and wife, Haraya Ocampo-Tejido. In an art climate replete with abstraction, Tejido’s brand is clearly one that’s highly sought after.
As an artist, author, and illustrator, it’s no wonder storytelling takes center stage in Tejido’s works. Shapes overlap and weave into each other across each painting, teeming with detail so they appear to be portals into other realms. Suns, moons, trees, and different abstracted forms peek through. Curvilinear shapes are punctuated by lines and concentric masses of small circles, topped off with finishing touches of loose scribbles that the artist likens to graffiti. Viewing his paintings is akin to reading them, as the eye instinctively follows the colorful paths drawn through each canvas. This keen eye for visual narrative reveals an equally keen understanding of visual fundamentals.
This understanding is rooted in his background as an architect. From his formal training, he picked up on the principles that would continue to guide his work to this day. Among the most formative of these principles are design, sequencing, draftsmanship, symbolism, and texture. The design phase of his process begins digitally, where he allows his elements to come together organically before finalizing his studies. As a draftsman, he translates architectural sequencing to the 2D plane by varying the visual qualities of his elements. Some lines and shapes stand out from afar; others are seen clearly only up close. Symbols, specifically those of mid-century modern design, manifest in his works through the visual allusions to science, space, and discovery. In the artist’s words, these kinds of symbols make him feel “excited and unbounded.” Lastly, while Tejido’s works have a polished, graphic quality about them, when seen in person, their textural nature comes alive. As an architect, he learned how to appreciate the physicality of his materials. As a painter, he applies the same appreciation to his paint, using tools like palette knives to allow rougher textures to accumulate in some areas and smoothen out in others, further emphasizing the depth he achieves in his works.
While in college, he learned about Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan. His work with the group led to him partnering up with Adarna House, where he would begin a fruitful career as a children’s book author and illustrator. Among his many locally published books are Ang Pambihirang Sombrero, Tagu-Taguan, the Nasaan Po Sila? series, the Claysaurus series, Ma-Me-Mi-Mumu!, and the Jepoy the Jeepney series. In the US, Tejido’s books include Will you be the ‘I’ in K_nd?, There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Book, and James Patterson’s Middle School series. His work as an illustrator has earned him two Golden Book Awards, a spot on the International Board on Books for Young People’s Honor List in 2004, as well as an honorable mention for the PBBY-Alcala Illustrator’s Prize in 2006. In the same year, he was a runner-up for the prestigious 16th Noma Concours for Picture Book Illustration in Japan.
Through painting, he can work with abstraction and symbolism in a concrete and tangible way. And while illustration warrants a more organized approach, it’s here the artist is able to indulge his inner child and draw exciting things every day. Both are a form of world-building, Tejido says. Much like the shapes on his canvas, they stand out distinctly in some areas and overlap in others.
Illustration allowed him to veer closer towards the more adventurous side he has explored through art. As an illustrator,he would work with different mediums, such as watercolor and clay. In 2005, he created the cut-out papercraft toys called “Foldabots” that could transform into robots resembling everyday objects and animals. From 2007 onwards, he exhibited his banig paintings, featuring decorative semi-abstracted works painted on handwoven mats. His exploration with mediums would eventually lead him to sculpture, where he’d rely heavily on his architectural background. His solo show Invencionismo at Galerie Stephanie in 2020 took his shapes out of the canvas and assembled them into rigid geometric structures. The following year, at the same gallery, he debuted more organically shaped works in Kinetic ABC, where he exhibited mobile sculptures that would form the letters of the alphabet. Working amidst the scarcity of materials during the pandemic, he brought together ideas from his many disciplines to reinvent and rediscover the possibilities of his practice.
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Through his art, Tejido draws inspiration from modern era artists that investigate the abstraction of basic forms. Influential to his studies is the Bauhaus movement. The Bauhaus school of the 1900s merged principles of art and design, resulting in art that emphasized the manipulation of formal elements over emotional expression. At the time, painters like Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee painted more minimalist compositions using simple shapes. Tejido was also influenced by the strictly geometric abstraction of De Stijl artists like Piet Mondrian, who worked only in verticals and horizontals. For more free-flowing abstraction, he looked to the likes of Joan Miro and Hilma af Klint.
Both artists experimented with a biomorphic approach to form. Af Klint’s vivid colors and encompassing shapes more closely resemble Tejido’s mannerisms. Le Corbusier, also an architect and painter, painted semi-abstracted figures and shapes that intersected and overlapped. He would also take inspiration from the whimsical illustrations of Mary Blair. Armed with a robust arsenal of artist influences, Tejido has cultivated an artistic style both historically informed and wholly individual.
Joan Miro aimed to create art that expressed what he called “the sparks of the soul.” Perhaps the same can be said for Tejido. Beyond all the trappings of research and technique, there is an inherently welcoming character to his paintings—as if his manipulation of elements ignites something familiar within his viewers that keeps them coming back to his art. Color is the mood-setter in the artist’s pieces. Through his use of color, he evokes a sense of awe, inspired by magnificent sights like light shows, fireworks, and even videogame concept art. His colors, whether bright and cheerful or more muted and quiet, not only appeal to a general aesthetic sensibility, but they recall what may be one of Miro’s artistic sparks—why people love color, and why it brings them such joy.
In his final year in college, Tejido had the chance to host the children’s TV show, Art is Kool. He taught young viewers how to create art projects out of normal, everyday things. Awakening this childlike sense of joy through art has been a consistent through-line in Tejido’s work. This passion for creating and for sharing his skills with the world still carries through to his practice today. From a rich background as a creative, he continues onward, challenging himself with each painting, sculpture, book, or project he works on, all the while keeping the same enthusiasm he’s always carried with him: “I get to wake up every day energized, knowing that I will spend an entire workday creating something out of nothing.”
What is it about basic shapes and colors that elicit such wonder? For Tejido, it’s the simplicity that takes one back to younger, more carefree days. They remind people of childhood toys, games, and experiences that bring with them a nostalgic sense of comfort. Though perhaps more than recalling a feeling, the earnestness in his works reminds viewers that they, too, are capable of creating. That they once built fantasy worlds out of the simplest and most common tools. And maybe, without too much searching, they may find that they are still able to do so today. This is what drives Jomike Tejido as an artist. “This is the reason why I paint—to evoke happiness and inspire creativity.”