Tokwa Penaflorida

“I dream of painting and then I paint my dream.”-Vincent Van Gogh. 

When asked about how his job as an artist influence his life, the 22 year old Tokwa Penaflorida took out a few lines from Alanis Morisette’s song “Hand In My pocket” to answer the question.

“I’m broke but I’m happy, I’m poor but I’m kind/I’m short but I’m healthy, yeah/I’m high but I’m grounded, I’m sane but I’m overwhelmed/I’m lost but I’m hopeful, baby/What it all comes down to/Is that everything’s gonna be fine, fine, fine/’Cause I’ve got one hand in my pocket/And the other one is giving a high five”

It’s probably because he doesn’t consider being an artist as a job, because for this talented illustrator, art is indeed life itself. According to Tokwa, he grew up in a family of artists-his mother and his uncle are both painters and interior designers. So it’s no wonder that this young artiste magnifique has the word “art” written all over him.From his enchanting fantasy-like artworks on women to children’s books, the level of beauty and talent in Penaflorida’s illustrations is definitely unparalleled.

Looking at his paintings is like wandering into a beautiful dream,surreal, enchanting, and spellbinding. And in this exclusive, Tokwa will take us all into journey and talks about his inspirations, love of art, fashion, and as an added treat, he talks about his experience of meeting America’s Next Top Model‘s Allison Harvard for the first time.

Who is Tokwa Penaflorida,can you tell us a little something about your background and how your journey as an artist/illustrator began?
As far as I can remember, I’ve been drawing ever since and I’m always doodling during my spare time. I came from a family of artists, my mother and my uncle are both painters and interior deisgners. So I think the exposure in art and design at an early age really affected my interest in that area.

I graduated from the University of the Philippines, Diliman last 2010 with a degree in Visual Communication. Then, I worked in an advertising agency for almost 2 years. I never really aspired to work in an advertising agency, not that it’s not good or anything but I always knew that I wasn’t cut out for it. I guess I only took an interest when I was looking for a job and that was the only opening I could get a hold onto during that time, haha. During my stint in the advertising world, I got an offer from a book publisher to illustrate a children’s book which was written by my boss, he was actually the one who referred me to them, thank you Russel Molina! And after that, another offer for illustrating a children’s book came and that was for “Ang Bonggang Bonggang Batang Beki!” written by Randy Garlitos and at that point I realized that illustrating and painting was what I really want to do. I dediced to quit from my job so I can focus and render more time on my passion, art. And right now I’m happy being a freelance artist.

What’s your favourite medium to work with at the moment?
I don’t think I really have a favorite medium because I’m more of a mixed media artist. Though my works are mostly done in watercolor, I always try to use other media as well, both the traditional art media and the unconventional ones. It’s just more fun for me to work with other materials than to stick with one, I’m still amused how different stuff works together so well sometimes.

Your work is simply beautiful and spellbinding. Where does your inspiration come from?
Thank you so much! Most of my works are inspired from songs and existing literature, especially the ones that convey some strong emotional messages. It’s always like trying to illustrate the idea, the mood or that particular line from song or story that strikes me. I try to make it simple, I don’t like having too many layer of stories behind my works. I love Angus and Julia Stone, Lana Del Rey, Regina Spektor, The National, Adele, Bon Iver and … I think you’ve got the idea.

Could you give us an idea of your typical workflow when starting a particular artwork?
I’m not maarte at all when it comes to prep time, I just start off by cleaning my working place, be it on the floor, and making sure I have all the materials that I need.

I think my process always start by having a concept, or at least having an image in my head of what I’ll be doing. When I’m feeling a little more ambitious, I start of my production with a couple of studies. After that, it just happens – nagpepaint na ako.

To what do you attribute your success as an artist?
I don’t see myself as a successful anything, not yet, not because of insecurity or anything, it’s honestly because I think there are still a lot of things to learn and to discover, I still feel like I’m a student.

How would you describe your artworks to a blind person?
Art is not just something you see visually – it’s an expression of any sort – music is art, even love is art (naks!). It’s anything that can make you feel something.

There’s a hint of fantasy and avant garde fashion in your artworks. Is it intentional?
I’m also a fashion illustrator, I love drawing girls and portraits from my imagination. I think it ends up looking like that because of my fascination with any otherworldly things like, aliens, folklore, mythical creatures, mythology, even X-men and Pokemon. Its intentional at times, but most of the time, my girls just look like that they are not from this planet, I prefer it that way.

Tell us something about “Hello Sailor” and your collaboration with Soleil Ignacio.Soleil and I are really, really close friends ever since college. I think having a two-man show with each other is really going to happen no matter what. We both share the love for drawing girls with flowy hair, and what would be more apt subject than mermaids?

The show happened during summer and I guess it was very timely. It was also a collaboration with Heima homestyle and furniture and the show opened last April 14 in Heima, Cubao X. The artworks that were featured are all done mainly in watercolor that depict are our own interpretation of mermaids. The idea was that the audience will be the sailors, and our mermaids will be the alluring seductresses of the sea (maybe chanting, “Buy us! Buy us!” HAHA).

Do you love collaborations?
Yes! I love collaborating with artists. I love seeing their visions interacting with mine, its just amazing.

Have you considered venturing into graphic novels as well?
Actually, one of the personal projects that I’m planning to get to start with this year will be an online graphic novel about a story written by a good writer-artist friend of mine, Hannah Manaligod. I’m really excited for it.

You met Allison Harvard of America’s Next Top Model just recently. Tell us something about that.
Haha! Yes! Im not a big fan of ANTM until I saw her, she is just wonderful. I met her with stylist Melvin Mojica after an interview in a hotel room, just being in a same room with her already made me nervous. I only got the news that I’ll be meeting her the night before that day. I remember thinking that there is no way I’m not going to give a painting, but I don’t have any available painting to give that time so I just decided to paint a portrait of her, I’m just so happy I finished it and she liked it.

What are your current projects right now?
Right now, I’m painting for a group show that will open this June 8 in Vinyl on Vinyl, The Collective, Makati. I’m also doing some commissioned portraits at the moment.

You seem to love fashion as well. How would you define your personal style?
Fashion is another interest of mine, though I’m never really good or interested in brands. I think I’m more interested with personal styles more than fashion per se. My personal style is ukay style, I thank you.

And lastly, any words to the aspiring artists out there?
When people ask me for tips and advice, I still don’t find myself to be in a position to do so. I just share what I know. Here is something I read somewhere, I cant remember what the line actually was, but it goes like; Do what you love – keep doing it – if you keep at it – you’ll get better – if you still love what you are doing – you are on the right track.


For more information on Tokwa Penaflorida and his artworks,visit
Follow Tokwa on Twitter! @toksva

This entry was posted in Art, Fashion, People and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Tokwa Penaflorida

  1. alec says:

    I saw him on etc and so hes paintings, I thought it was Mark Ryden’s with an anime touch but it was Tokwa’s art. its very original, pop, and with a story and clinging experience to tell. I am really inspired. i just wish that i could be like him…

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