There is something cinema-like about how, as a seven-year-old kid, Nathaniel San Pedro was consistently competing and placing among the top three in on-the-spot painting contests. Nathaniel was a boy-wonder in terms of colors and composition. In high school, he was a member of the Young Artist Club of Saint Joseph’s College in Quezon City where he honed his creativity and painting skills even more. But there came a fork in the road and Nathaniel was nudged toward a different path. He shared, “My parents insisted that I take a course that is related to medicine or science. Being an obedient son, I took up a Bachelor of Science in psychology to appease my parents and graduated from Our Lady of Fatima University.” But the painter inside him was restless — like a bird poised and ready to take flight.
“When I started working in the corporate world as a recruitment specialist, I realized that drawing-painting is something innate. I looked at it as my never-ending passion,” he explains.
Now, the artist is back on his chosen path as Robinsons Land ARTablado presents Nathaniel San Pedro’s latest exhibition titled “Wanderers: Exhibition of Diverse Beauty of Philippine Birds,” on view from April 1 to 15 at the ARTablado space in Robinsons Galleria.
To get back into the groove, Nathaniel did the necessary work.
“For two years, I got serious in art and thoroughly studied painting,” he says. “I came to know the basics of painting, the process of paint application, the mixing of tonal values of paints, the combination of colors and right proportion of drawings. I took up an associate degree in fine arts at Global Knowledge in Boni, Mandaluyong City. I tried to study and enhance my painting skill even while working in the corporate world. After studying the basics in oil painting, the rest was self-taught by watching videos of oil painting on YouTube, reading books about drawing and painting, and even engaging in small talk with different artists. These things will help you hone and expand your skills.”
San Pedro had his first solo exhibition in 2020 which was about the passion and journey of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary. The idea for his follow-up show began when he received a Christmas gift: a book titled Birds of the Philippines. He was awe-stricken by the variety and beauty of the winged creatures we have in our country. When he made trips to Bulacan and Pampanga to see and study religious images, he chanced upon even more birds.
Birds became a symbol for the artist, how beauty in this world is becoming truly fleeting because of how humans are destroying the environment. The splashes and colors in San Pedro’s paintings are emblematic of how birds and their habitat are slowly dying. According to the artist, his art serves a greater purpose: an eye-opener for people to start taking care of the world we live in and all the creatures we share it with.
“Yes, I believe that painting is a powerful tool to convey a message. I want to render the beauty of the Philippine local birds, especially the endangered ones. It goes hand in hand: when we see the beauty of birds in nature, we tend to appreciate and protect them, and we need to protect nature, including seas and trees, in order to conserve their habitat and food. By starting to appreciate birds, we are also starting to protect the whole part of nature-biodiversity.”
San Pedro has also started to involve himself in NGOs supporting local birds. He is currently supporting Wild Club Birds of the Philippines, sharing 10 percent of his earnings from exhibitions. The Wild Bird Club of the Philippines is the foremost birdwatching group in the country. Formed 20 ago, the club seeks to raise awareness about the Philippines’ avian biodiversity through birdwatching. To date, the club continues to work with various government agencies, LGUs and the private sector to promote birdwatching.
Peace, hope, harmony… These are the words that come to mind whenever San Pedro paints birds. “God created them and they are part of our nature. We need to do our part to take care of them.”
It is fitting that Nathaniel San Pedro is mounting his exhibition at Robinsons Land ARTablado, an exhibition venue that has allowed artists from all walks of life to exhibit their works, share them with a larger audience, and showcase their talents. ARTablado has allowed Filipino artists to soar.
“I believe that my second solo show is an answered prayer,” says Nathaniel. “I’ve been seeing ARTablado exhibitions from time to time. And since I’m also a constant follower on Instagram and Facebook, I see posts about their shows. So I prayed that one day I’ll also have my exhibit in ARTablado. Very accommodating kasi ang ARTablado, they give opportunities to new and aspiring artists like us. Without hesitation, the people involved gave me a slot to showcase my new work and style. And I know that ARTablado will reach not just the art collectors, but also people who are into arts as well as people who may not necessarily be into arts but appreciate skills and creativity.”
And as the ARTablado visitors and mall-goers gaze at the winged wanderers of Nathaniel San Pedro, may their imaginations and aspirations reach even greater heights.