New Life in a Charming City

Vic Yambao
Charcoal on Bristol


I’ve moved to Baltimore. My girlfriend, whom I think is alright and want to continue to live with, went here for grad school. So I sold the majority of my artwork, packed everything else, got on a Budget truck and we drove down to the land of blue crabs and HBO’s the wire.

It’s been extremely hot the first two months but now that the weather is starting to cool, we’ve finally started exploring our new neighborhood. Before I moved here, I was told that Baltimore is like a grittier Boston. I understand that now.  I mean, I currently live in what was described to me as a “Oooh Faaan-cy” neighborhood near a major university. So I can’t really speak about the “dangerous” neighborhoods too much. Yes, there are sketchy parts. But what major city doesn’t have sketchy parts? I mean I remember moving to Roslindale, MA, a part of Boston that’s not even really known for being dangerous, and two weeks after moving in, my girlfriend gets shot in the face with BB gun, some cops knock on our door asking when was the last time we saw our neighbor, there were two different homicides that happened two blocks away from us, and then a different neighbor had cops watching his apartment because he was under witness-protection.
Ok, I will say this about one of my first Baltimore experiences. Late one night our trusty GPS had us driving through an empty street full of abandoned (but, like occupied….?) houses with tattered clothed people just sitting (some sleeping…god I hope they were sleeping) on stoops, there were even some who fit the stereotypical image of hobos pushing shopping carts full of what looked like garbage through a cracked sidewalk which had overgrown weeds. I was telling this to a friend and they asked, “Have you ever seen that much poverty in real life?”
And I thought “no”… but holy sh** I have! I suddenly remembered growing up in Caloocan City in Manila, Philippines. Surrounded by neighbors living in corrugated metal and scrap wood shanty houses. To quote Jim Kelly in “Enter the Dragon” “Ghettos are the same all over the world. They stink” It’s a shame and it’s ugly, but again what major city doesn’t have this type of problem? And really, that’s just one negative experience in a majority of positive ones. Ever since moving here, I’ve met interesting people, joined a Lindy hop class, hung out with international students, found great places to eat, and met lots of artists. It really does remind me of Boston, except less expensive.

Speaking of artists, I’m slowly exploring the art scene and this place is huge on the visual arts. Everywhere I go there’s a mural of some beautiful artwork. Someone I talked to described the Baltimore art scene as “An Art scene without an ego.” Whatever that means, it sounds promising.


I decided to rekindle my love for charcoal. I wasn’t sure if I remembered how to use the medium. It’s been so long since I’ve created something with that stuff. So as an experiment, I drew my cousin.

"Pachuchay" 2016 Charcoal on Toned Paper

Charcoal on Toned Paper

Now confident that I remember how to use these things, I started on my series:


“Masked” 2016 Charcoal on Bristol

"Half Buck"

“Half Buck” 2016 Charcoal on Bristol

I have a few more ideas to draw so…uh… more to come.


My whole VICISSKETCHY tumblr page is dedicated to my drafting skills, so most of the stuff I post on there are from the pages of my sketchbook. When I’m in need of a subject to draw, I go through a list of topics in my head. These are things I always find pleasure in drawing, whether it be star trek, or halloween-related things, or Dr.Who they are always things I enjoy sketching. One of these topics are capoeira-related things.
I call these, “Capoeira studies”

Capoeira study 1

Capoeira study 1 Inkwash

Capoeira study 2

Capoeira study 2 inkwash

Capoeira study 3

Capoeira study 3 Inkwash

Capoeira study 4

Capoeira study 4 Ballpoint pen


Capoeira study 5

Capoeira study 5 Inkwash

Capoeira study 6

Capoeira study 6 Ballpoint pen

Capoeira study 7

Capoeira study 7 Ballpoint pen

Capoeira study 8

Capoeira study 8 Ballpoint pen

Capoeira study 9

Capoeira study 9 Ballpoint pen

Capoeira study 10

Capoeira study 10 Ballpoint pen


Capoeira study 11

Capoeira study 11 Colored Pencil on Toned Paper

Some of these studies are available for wall art or t-shirt print in my Society6 shop under my capoeira collection.

I have the first two in men's small.... yeah, small...shut up.

I bought myself the first two from the left in men’s small…. yeah, small…shut up.

I wish more people did Capoeira. I joined a capoeira club here but so far we’ve had one class and two cancelled classes, so I’m hoping there will be more full classes than cancelled ones so that I can continue sketching these.


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I’m not gonna do my end of year checklist, like I’ve done in the past. Also, goddamn I haven’t been using this blog thing. I just noticed there’s only been two blog entries after my 2014 end of year checklist.

Anyways— let’s talk art!

In the past, I would phase in and out of interest in using ballpoint pen as a medium. But pretty much since beginning of 2015, something made me decide that ballpoint pen will be my medium of choice from now on or at least until further notice. I made so many drawings in ballpoint pen in 2015 that I made this compilation video of only some of them.

Here’s a speed video of my ballpoint pen drawing process:

Check out more sketches and drawings in my tumblr account:

I have a few undeveloped ideas of where I want this style to go as far as pushing my art forward, so stay tuned.

This was supposed to be included in my “Spill Thoughts and Define Later” series. But I realized while I was painting, that I may have had some underlying context or meaning in creating this piece, which would go against the point of the spill thoughts series. Anyways, check it out:

I have a few more acrylic painting ideas in mind…again undeveloped ideas, so stay tuned.

And here they are


Laugh Boston’s “Karaoke or Die”


Improv Asylum’s “The 5th Annual Laffenhaus (2015)”


Graphic for Improv Asylum’s “High Seas Humor” (Summer 2015)


Poster for Improv Asylum’s “NXT: How I Spent My Summer Staycation” (2015)

Halloween 2015_poster 1

Poster 1 for Improv Asylum’s “Halloween Show: Netflix and Kill” (2015)

Halloween Show Poster _brighter_small

Poster 2 for Improv Asylum’s “Halloween Show: Netflix and Kill” (2015)


Capoeira Gerais June Open House Poster


Capoeira Gerais poster

open house October_2015

Capoeira Gerais October Open House poster

It’s only 13 days into 2016 and I’ve done a few more so stay tuned.


A few art I made for my society6 shop


Great Scott!


The Crazy Never Die!

capoeira girls

Capoeira Girls


Capoeira game


PMP Philms, the youtube channel I’m involved in made 12 videos in 2014…. we made 1 in 2015…. and that video was meant for 2016. Anyways, here its:

the PMP family (or Phamily, amirite?…god that joke sucks), is expanding with more talented folks and we’ve got plans for 2016…so stay tuned.

2016 is brewing up to be an artistic year.
Stay tuned.

I close with the “year in review” -usual picture of my sculpture, “Time Slave”

“Time Slave” 2007, Barbed wire and wood

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Maple Wood Verga for a Berimbau

It’s been a little bit more than a year since I’ve started training in Capoeira. I got my first cord last spring and I’ve been continually waking up parts of my muscles that have been dormant for years. Shoot, I even got a capoeira nickname: Tartaruga Ninja (translated to Ninja Turtle)
…this nickname stems from the time I played against a chair, dressed as Raphael.

Yes, there’s footage of this. Yes, it’s online.

People usually just refer to me as Tartaruga, which I have to say… doesn’t have the same ring to it as Tartaruga Ninja. I sound less like a hero in a half-shell and more like that dude-bro from HBO’s Entourage.

“Turtle Power”

This summer, my capoeira buds went to Belo Horizonte, Brazil for the Festival Mundial de Capoeira Gerais. I asked my friend Lily to buy me a berimbau (a single-string percussion instrument) while she’s there. They’re mad expensive in the states but super cheap in Brazil. She did not disappoint and came back to deliver me this beauty:


Quick  breakdown of the Berimbau parts:

-The largest part of the berimbau is the long wood bow called a VERGA.
-The wire string (bending the verga like an archer bow and barely visible in this picture) is called ARAME.
-The lone chopstick looking thingie is called a BAQUETA and it’s used to strike the arame to produce sound.
-That gourd attached to the verga is called a CABACA and it amplifies and resonates the sound.
-That weaved basket looking thing below the baqueta is called a CAXIXI and it works like a maraca or a toy rattle.
-That flat egg shaped grey thing is a DOBRAO, a piece of stone pressed against the arame and changes the pitch of the sound

Got it? Good. Moving on.

I got so excited I even customized a dobrão

I like turtles

Lily also bought one for herself. The verga was shorter than mine and she was having trouble stringing it. STRINGING by the way, is bending the verga so it’s arched and you can tie the wire tight enough to produce a good sound. Stringing a new berimbau  is nerve wrecking. You have to put your knee on the middle of the bow and pull so it bends. The whole time you’re hoping its flexibility keeps it from snapping in half. I had no problem stringing mine and felt compelled to show Lily just how easy it was to string hers. I started to string the verga and without warning “SNAP!” and that was the end of her berimbau.

I felt bad. Just awful. Of course I had to give her mine. She got it for me after all. But by that time, I had already started to eagerly learn how to play this instrument. I only needed a new verga since I had the other components already. Only problem was, the traditional wood to make a verga is not something you can buy from a home depot and the tree the produces this wood is not native in North America (hence why they’re mad expensive to begin with). So after a lot of research online, I found out that people in the U.S. have been using different types of North American hardwood to make a verga.

Since there seem to be an abundant amount of maple trees in Boston, I decided that’s where I’ll start with. I walked around near the Charles River and started harvesting.

I stripped off the bark and any branches to make it at as smooth as possible

Carved out an inch long peg on the bottom part (the widest part of the stick). This is where one end of the arame will be attached.
I glued and nailed in a piece of rubber and leather on the other end of the verga. This is so that when the arame is strung, it won’t split the wood.
Adding rubber is something I decided on because the leather I used wasn’t thick enough. Typically, the leather used is about half an inch thick (sometimes they use two pieces of leather). People usually get the leather from old belts, jackets, bags or in my case….

From these

Remember when I said I had all the components except the verga? NOPE. The freaking arame snapped too. This wire is usually pulled from the inside of tires and it is a pain in the ass to dig out. I was almost debating if I should just buy piano wire like someone online suggested, but then I visited my mom’s house in New Jersey and found a flat spare tire my dad hoarded when he was still alive. Another bonus was that my dad’s tool box had a utility knife. Score! I started digging. Two things: The first was, the tire my dear hoarder of a father kept was dirty as sh*t… like, I don’t know, it looks like it was collected from under a mud hole near the porta potties at bonnaroo. The second, my dad’s utility knife was super (SUPER) dull.  Like, it was a step up from a butterknife-dull. But instead of buying another utility knife I just started slicing through the tire. The first thing I did was slice the tire in half. Then I started cutting where the internet told where the wire was.

I should also mention, it was in the middle of the summer and it was 90° plus everyday.

I would spend 2 hours a day hacking away at strips of rubber until the summer heat became too unbearable. After the third day though…


I got me four long wires out of one part of the tire. I was going to dig out more from the other half of the tire, but I think the mud welded the rubber to the rim. Seriously, it won’t come off and it was gross… I took my wire back to Boston, sanded tire parts off of them, wiped WD-40 until they were all shiny and stuff.

I looped one end of the arame (to be put on the peg of the verga) and attached a piece of rope on the other end of the arame. Then I used them to pull and arch the maple vergas so that they’d retain that shape as they dried.
Drying time takes about two weeks.

After two weeks I un-strung the verga and started sanding it smooth.

Soooooo smooooooooth…

Then I coated it with this:

Then I coated it with this:
So the verga now looks like this:
And when put together with the other components, it looks like this:
But what does it sound like?

It sounds like this:

Yes, I know. I suck at playing this instrument. I’m new. But the sound is pretty good. Hopefully with more practice I’ll get better at this…. or atleast be able to play the instrument and sing at the same time. BUT! I accomplished my little experiment. I’m actually drying another piece of maple wood right now as a second verga. This time I’m just going to wipe it with multiple coats of linseed oil and hold off on the wood finish, because I kinda like the whiteness of the wood. One day, I’m going to purchase me an authentic biriba wood berimbau… but it’s nice to know there are alternatives if I accidentally snap it.

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