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Inspiration Kathleen Torre: Ensueños Designs and the Life of a Filipina Polymath Artist

Fabrianne

Who is Kathleen Torre? How did one aspiring artist grow into a multidisciplinary artist? How did Ensueños Designs begin?

In this article, we will take a look at the personal and professional life of ZenART’s Wordsmith and resident artist — art teacher, jewelry designer, art editor, and our ZenARTist of July 2021, Kathleen Torre.


QUICK LINKS
Early Life in Cagayan De Oro City
Of Fairy Tale Books and the Makings of a Young Artist
The Torre Siblings
Natural Progression Towards Artistic Pursuits
The Torre Siblings’ Arts Champion
Arts Scholarship in the Philippines
Kathleen for ZenART Supplies
Selected Pieces from Kathleen’s Body of Work


Kathleen Torre is a multidisciplinary artist, writer, art teacher, and wire work jewelry designer. Her body of work comprises surreal mixed media pieces often exploring the human figure. Kathleen is currently ZenART’s resident artist and Wordsmith. She is responsible for the in-depth articles on techniques, and color theory among many other topics aimed to help our community improve their art practice. 

Moreover, she received full scholarship from the prestigious Philippine High School for the Arts. She later studied Fine Arts majoring in Painting at the University of the Philippines. Kathleen currently lives in Manila with her partner Jobry and their little poodle, Maya.

In this photo, Kathleen is standing with her painting, Sari-sarimanok (2018). Photo taken by Toni Muñoz

Early Life in Cagayan de Oro City

Kathleen Torre was born on the 1st of March 1985 in Cagayan de Oro City in the southern region of the Philippines. Jurosi Torre, her mother, studied pharmacy and is a self-taught artist. On the other hand, Angel Eugenio Torre, Kathleen’s father, may not be an artist, but he was a lover of knowledge and arts. He was a seaman by profession who worked his way up through the ranks to become a ship chief mate.

Kathleen’s grandfather, uncle, father and mother along with her siblings. 

Fate was unkind to the young family. Kathleen’s father met an untimely death at the age of thirty-two. Their ship capsized and sank in the middle of the Antarctic Ocean. As a result, Jurosi was widowed and would go on to raise their five children on her own. Meanwhile, Kathleen was only three at that time, with her fifth sibling soon to be born. Indeed, Kathleen admires her mother’s strength to support all her children amidst loss and grief.

Kathleen in a red dress with siblings and mother, Jurosi. 

Of Fairy Tale Books and the Makings of a Young Artist

Kathleen’s earliest exposure to art came by her beautifully illustrated fairy tale books. Storybooks that her father collected from his travels all over the world. She marveled at the complexity of the detailed drawings in these books. Furthermore, Kathleen poured over them both words and illustrations. This is so she could attempt to copy all her favorites. This was the start of the artist in her.


“I started copying those (drawings from fairy tale books) I liked best. Eventually, even the white walls of our house weren’t safe from my drawings – I had to clean them up later, of course!” 
—Kathleen Torre


A newspaper clipping about one of Kathleen’s exhibitions in Manila.

One day, Kathleen’s sister needed to submit a portrait of a scientist at school. Since there weren’t good ones available at the bookstore, Kathleen’s mother drew one instead. This particular memory of her mother creating a realistic portrait further inspired Kathleen and her siblings.

The Torre Siblings

Creativity was always encouraged in Kathleen’s household. As a result, they all grew up to be successful creatives. One by one, the Torre siblings moved to Manila to pursue their studies and follow their own career paths. Like Kathleen, her siblings are accomplished in their own rights. They also received scholarships from prestigious schools in the country.

A rare photo of the 5 siblings complete in one decent photo, with their Uwa (Grandmother) who was the their beloved second mom.

Leia, the eldest, and Rose the youngest both received scholarships from the competitive Philippine Science High School. Similarly, Noelani, the second sibling, along with Kathleen, both received scholarships from the esteemed Philippine High School for the Arts. Hence, all sisters progressed to study at the University of the Philippines. At the same time, their one and only brother, Jan, went on to study IT at the Don Bosco Technical College. He now works for IBM, the leading multinational technology corporation.

Natural Progression Towards Artistic Pursuits

Kathleen and her siblings grew up surrounded by books and art materials. They were pretty much left to themselves to draw, paint, and create away. In addition to visual arts, they also entertained themselves by doing all sorts of daily creative things. For example, they’ve created mock stage sets, did poetry recitals, played musical instruments, sang, acted and even danced.

Image on the left: Kathleen doing her sister’s make-up for a shoot? Image on the right: Rose, Kathleen’s younger sister playing the violin.

Moreover, the Torre children were also encouraged to craft handmade cards. Cards that they send to their grandparents and various relatives for holidays, birthdays and all other special occasions. Consequently, Kathleen found out that some of these cards still exist today and are lovingly kept by the people who received them.


“I have no definitive memory how it all began, I just have memories of being surrounded with all sorts of creative things – not just visual arts but the other art fields as well. Growing up, it was just a natural progression to create various things myself.” 
—Kathleen Torre


The Torre Siblings’ Arts Champion

Kathleen’s inspiration and the siblings’ greatest arts advocate is their paternal uncle.

Nestor Torre Jr. was a prominent name in the Philippine entertainment world. He was known for his work as a writer, editor, film and television director, scriptwriter, theater actor, and media critic. It was he, who pushed and encouraged Kathleen to explore her art practice. For instance, when the siblings were younger, their uncle would often take them on nature trips with sketch pads and drawing materials in tow.

Kathleen with her uncle and her siblings.

Kathleen fondly remembers their impromptu performances during power outages. Their Tito (uncle) used a flashlight as a spotlight to encourage the children. Unbeknownst to their young minds, they were already being trained by a legendary Filipino polymath.


“I wanted to paint Tito’s (her uncle) portrait, but he would always say, ‘Not now, when I’ve lost some weight.’ – I think he won’t mind one now as my fitting tribute to him, and to remember how much he has pushed me to keep painting when I had set it aside for other things.”
—Kathleen Torre


- Filipina Polymath Artist Kathleen Torre ZenART Supplies
Kathleen with a traditional stained-glass window in a Filipino ancestral house during a film shoot with her uncle. Photo taken by Nestor Torre Jr.

Arts Scholarship in the Philippines

Kathleen received her first formal art education in high school at the age of twelve. Out of hundreds of hopefuls, she was awarded a full scholarship at the Philippine High School for the Arts. As entrance to this boarding school is highly competitive, it has a small population of 130-145 students at any given time. Consequently, young Kathleen had to leave her family and move to her new school.

The Philippine High School for the Arts campus is located at the National Arts Center in Mount Makiling in Los Baños, Laguna. Clockwise from top left: “Stairway to Heaven”, stairs leading all the way up to the cafeteria. Next: Ballet studio, the nearest art studio to the dormitories. Next: A scenic view on the way to and from classrooms and the dormitories. Last: Entrance to one of the dormitories, rooms are connected by walkways. All structures were designed by Philippine National Artist for Architecture, Leandro Locsin.

The Philippine High School for the Arts is a prestigious high school offering arts-centric education. On top of the prescribed basic education curriculum, it also offers a number of arts specializations for its students like Visual Arts, Creative Writing, Dance, Music and Theater. 


“I spent 4 years in this art school that’s built on the magical Mt. Makiling, a mountain taking the form of a reclining woman – Maria Makiling. Though it was a time of great pressure to do well and maintain good grades (so one doesn’t get kicked out and lose scholarship at the end of each year), it was also a time of great learning and healthy competition between peers.” 
—Kathleen Torre


Top: Kathleen with her Philippine High School for the Arts batchmates at the NAC Theater. Bottom: The National Arts Center (NAC) Theater.

Jewelry Design with Ensueños Designs

How did Kathleen’s jewelry brand start? It all began when Kathleen crafted jewelry for herself. Then one day, after seeing her unique wire work pieces, her friends started inquiring about them. Soon, she revealed that it was actually her designs. As more and more people expressed interest in owning one, she then decided to create a brand out of it. Finally, Ensueños was born.

Ensueños was a name suggested by Kathleen’s late grandmother. An apt Spanish word that means ‘Daydreams’ in English. All pieces are handcrafted and most of them feature complex wire-work designs. Later when asked about her creations, Kathleen explained that she is “quite attached to the textural quality and intricacies of wire-work jewelry” that she decided to make it the brand’s signature design.

Kathleen’s recent pre-pandemic designs include leather work combined with her signature wire work designs. Furthermore, she also experimented with wire-work art objects. Sculptural art objects that aren’t jewelry but somethings that can be displayed. 


“I like to experiment with various ‘found’ materials and anything that springs to my mind that might be fashioned into jewelry pieces. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. It keeps things interesting for me” 
—Kathleen Torre


Kathleen for ZenART Supplies

Want to level up your art skills? Then learn the various art techniques Kathleen imparts with the ZenART Community by reading her instructive articles in our Toolkit section. Furthermore, you can also join our group on Facebook Painting Inspiration Daily.

ZenART Tutorial - Filipina Polymath Artist Kathleen Torre ZenART Supplies
Image on the left: Kathleen in one of her ZenART tutorials. Image on the right: ZenART Turner Collection water media brushes.

Selected Pieces and Designs from Kathleen’s Body of Work

A true Filipina polymath artist, Kathleen received rigorous training on painting, printmaking, and sculpture among other things. So, let’s take a look at this compilation of Kathleen Torre’s notable works through the years.

Hair Up Kind of Day (2019) by Kathleen Torre

Hair Up Kind of Day - Filipina Polymath Artist Kathleen Torre ZenART Supplies
Hair Up Kind of Day (2019) by Kathleen Torre, acrylic on canvas

Armor of the Day (2021) by Kathleen Torre

Painting Armor of the Day - Filipina Polymath Artist Kathleen Torre ZenART Supplies

Collagraph Print and Mask Mold (2001) by Kathleen Torre

Collagraph print and Mask Mold - Filipina Polymath Artist Kathleen Torre ZenART Supplies
The image on the left is ¼ Collagraph print for Kathleen’s 2001 printmaking class. Next image is the final cast made of plaster of paris for Kathleen’s Materials class in 2001. Kathleen studied the process of clay molding. Creating a plaster mold of it, then a cast of that mold. This is a one-piece mold without any undercuts, the finished cast was also used as the mold  for creating papier-mache masks for a mask-making plate.

Theater Stage Designs by Kathleen Torre

Theater stage design - Filipina Polymath Artist Kathleen Torre ZenART Supplies
A small compilation of the stage set Kathleen designed for a musical.

Large-Scale Sculpture (2016) by Kathleen Torre

Christimas tree sculpture - Filipina Polymath Artist Kathleen Torre
Christmas tree  designed by Kathleen for the Municipality of Abra.  The trees are about 20-30 ft tall and are made from locally sourced bamboo, to feature one of the town’s main resources. The trees were designed to function as sculptural objects.

First, it is worth mentioning that Kathleen’s art journey and the life she led with her creative siblings reminded me so much of the March sisters in Louisa May Alcott’s coming-of-age novel, The Little Women.

Second, don’t forget to say hello to our July 2021 ZenARTist through her newly created Instagram @kathleentorre_art.

Finally, did Kathleen’s story inspire you to start painting? Have some questions for Kathleen? Don’t forget to write them all in the comments section below! 


— MEET THE AUTHOR—


Fabrianne is the Ambassador of Art Buzz at ZenART, resident eccentric pocket-sized art curator, editor, and art world liaison. She builds and develops relationships with the arts community and makes sure that ZenART’s inspirational articles get to you “hot off the press.” She co-founded an online contemporary art gallery, worked with over 100 artists on exhibitions and performances, wears only black clothes and when she’s not creating buzz or curating and saturating in art, still daydreams of becoming a quirky Wes Anderson film character.


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