Aldy Aguirre's Reflections in Watercolor

The artist.

One of Aldy Aguirre’s earliest aspirations was to have a children’s book published. Today, he has successfully fulfilled this dream over and over, his illustrations finding their way into books and awakening the imagination of children and adults alike. Yet, with his newest collection, Those left unnoticed, on view on Cartellino, he reminds that amid this dreaming, there is fulfilment in staying grounded and slowing down. 

To look at a work by Aguirre is like being swept into one’s most cherished recollections. Light and wispy—almost too light to grasp—it is his colors that offer his nostalgic scenes of play and repose an enveloping vividness—ready for us to step into. “Most of my first art idols are local book illustrators,” the artist tells us, discovering his knack for storytelling early on. From there, he went on to join the Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan (Ang INK), the Philippines’ first and only organization of artists dedicated to children’s illustration, where he found himself suddenly working side by side those he had once looked up to and drawn his own artistic fervor. 

Still figuring out his process with regard to medium, composition, and conceptualization, Aguirre found his footing through an array of local competitions such as the Philippine Board on Books for the Young People’s Alcala Illustrators’ Prize (PBBY). Since then, the artist has worked with writers and publishers from all over, earning his most recent accolade for Papuntang Community Pantry, as finalist in the 2022 Bologna Children’s Book Fair Illustrators Competition. “Now, I’m a bit more comfortable with my process,” he reflects. “I can make bigger works than before although I’m still learning and trying to break from certain practices; still trying to improve but in my own pace.”

Today, Aguirre is most known for his dreamy watercolor works depicting scenes of children at play. Although he had begun working with various mediums, he now prefers watercolor for its inherent “unpredictability and lightness”. In fact, the artist divulges that he had once underestimated the medium as an easy one to use. However, he has since discovered and defined his own process of getting to really know it: “it’s a collaboration between me and the medium—I plan first what to do, then I just let it do its work, with its unexpected washes, blots, and patterns. I can somehow control watercolor, but no fully, and I like that. Not all my strokes and movements need to be precise and calculated.”

Those left unnoticed, a collection of ten works, embodies these revelations along Aguirre’s personal journey and frames it within the context of our ever increasingly fast-paced society. “We’re going too fast,” the artist notes. “Everyone is chasing something.” Dreams seem to be disposable and the idea of success has become slippery. Amid these changes, beside his own progression as an artist, Aguirre is steadfast—determined to remind himself and others to allow breathing space and remember what we may have not noticed as we rushed along. He returns to his love of books and his own hope for his works: “I think art in children’s books can transcend age, gender, language. It can stir a child’s imagination, inspire, and teach them; it can also remind adults about what truly matters, and pause, and just appreciate the simple drawing they’re looking at.”

Quotes were edited for clarity.

Those left unnoticed closes tomorrow, November 12, 2023.

About the artist

Aldy Aguirre is an artist and illustrator based in Quezon City, Philippines. He's a member of AngINK and most of his works can be seen in children’s books from different publishers and independent writers. He has been given awards and recognition for his works locally by the Philippine Board on Books for the Young People (PBBY) and National Book Development Board (NBDB); and abroad by ILUSTRARTE in Castelo Branco, Portugal, and Sharjah Exhibition for Children’s Book Illustrations. His illustrations for the book, "Papuntang Community Pantry", were recently chosen as a finalist in the 2022 Bologna Children’s Book Fair Illustrators competition; and the book, "Si Kian", is included in the White Ravens Catalog by the International Youth Library in Munich, Germany.