How BenCab encouraged ad man to become a full-time artist

by Cathy Rose A. Garcia,

Posted at Jul 07 2014 10:36 AM | Updated as of Jul 07 2014 06:40 PM

Baguio-based artist Roger "Rishab" Tibon stands in front of his paintings at the Art Elements Asian Gallery, SM Aura Premier in Taguig. Photo by Jonathan Cellona for

MANILA, Philippines - If it wasn't for National Artist BenCab, Roger "Rishab" Tibon would probably still be working in the advertising industry. 

Thanks to BenCab's encouragement, Tibon is now a full-time artist whose works have been shown not just in the Philippines but in Taiwan, Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore, Japan and the U.S.

Tibon, who was born in Aklan in 1960, is a self-taught artist. He dabbled in art as a teenage, but considered it as a hobby.

"Noong high school, gumagawa ng T-shirts, nag-airbrush din ako ng mga jeeps at sign boards," he told

He moved to Cebu, where he started working as a freelance artist-designer. "Freelance artist-designer ako, pero noong kumukha ako ng work sa Ogilvy sa Cebu, gusto nila ako mag-apply... Yung may-ari inaya niya ako sumali sa kanila. Naging art director ako," he said.

In the mid-1990s, he settled in Baguio, where he started teaching at a private art school. Then he met National Artist Benedicto Cabrera, more popularly known as BenCab.

"Nalaman ni (BenCab) nagtuturo ako ng arnis, martial arts. Tinanong niya, ano ba trabaho mo dito? Sabi ko, nagtuturo ako ng art, at nagpapaint ako... Siya ang nag-encourage sa akin maging full-time sa painting," Tibon said. "Siguro kung di niya ako in-encourage nasa advertising pa rin ako."

Asked if BenCab offered him any advice as an artist, Tibon said, "Wala naman, kasi sabi niya, maski punuin mo lang ng pintura yun canvas, may magkakagusto at bibilhin yan (laughs)."

But no one can accuse Tibon of just filling the canvas with paint when you look at his paintings at his on-going solo show "Musings" at Art Elements Asian Gallery in SM Aura Premier.

Paintings by Roger "Rishab" Tibon are displayed at the Art Elements Asian Gallery, SM Aura Premier in Taguig. Photo by Jonathan Cellona for

His vividly colored paintings grab the viewers' eyes with its fantasy elements and meticulous detail. He shuns labeling his work under one style, but some have described his paintings as "mild contemporary surrealism."

"Minsan lumalalim ang surrealism side, minsan kinokontrol ko... Kasi minsan may concern din ako na baka di mabili or ma-appreciate. Pero ngayon hinahayaan ko na lang kung ano ang gustong lumbas," he said.

Tibon said he doesn't need inspiration to start working on a painting. Instead, he just opens his mind and lets ideas flow freely.

"Sabi nila kailangan mo ng inspiration, ako hindi. Minsan ako nag-cre-create ng inspiration para dumating sa akin. Parang nasanay ako sa creative writing process na yung once nagsulat ka ng isang word, marami nang lumalabas na connections. Ganun din, pag-umupo ako marami nang lumalabas na ideas," he said.

Overseas shows

Aside from his solo show, Tibon has been busy preparing for other overseas projects.

He was the only Filipino invited to participate in a group show honoring iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo in east Los Angeles. ChimMaya gallery gathered 50 artists from the US and Mexico for its Frida 2014 show, which opened July 6.

He created two new Kahlo-inspired works for the exhibit.

"Si Frida Kahlo isa yan sa influences ko, yun surreal style and mga image niya lumulutang-lutang lang din... Hindi yun pagiging morbid or macabre side, but more of yun surreal style," he said.

Tibon is also getting ready for an exhibition in Singapore later this month.

"Musings" may be his first one-man show in Manila, but he has done numerous shows in Baguio, as well as group shows at the National Museum, Metropolitan Museum and Ayala Museum.

He has also been invited countless times for group and solo exhibitions in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia and Japan.

Taipei's Guandu Outdoor Sculpture Festival, which only invites a handful of artists every year, has invited Tibon "4 or 5 times."

In South Korea, he has participated in several shows, including the Geumgang Nature Art Biennale in Kongju.

Tibon's installation "Bridging Peace" can also be found in Dorasan Peace Park in Paju, near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea.

Tibon credits social media for allowing him to promote his art on the Internet. In fact, many art galleries from abroad have contacted him directly after seeing his works on Facebook.

For instance, the ChimMaya gallery spotted his Kahlo-inspired paintings on the Internet and prompted them to invite Tibon for the Frida 2014 exhibit.

A work by Roger "Rishab" Tibon

Asked if he has any advice for young artists, Tibon said they should just continue to work on their art.

"Ang isa kasing dilemma ng mga young artists, napuput-off sila ng criticisms. Dapat wag nilang pansinin yun. Gawa lang ng gawa. Sali lang ng sali sa exhibit, attend ng shows, magbasa ng libro at sa Internet... At wag sila masyado concerned agad as monetary reward. Ang daming batang artist ngayon ang mahal ng presyo ng mga works nila," he said. "Iwasan lang ang intriga, dahil yun ang nakakasira."

Tibon is holding a solo exhibit "Musings" through July 21 at Art Elements Asian Gallery, Level 3, SM Aura Premier, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.