“The wonder of life is often most easily recognizable through habits and routines.” – Anne Lamott

These days I’m more inspired by everyday moments with friends and loved ones than I am by grandiose landscapes and exotic places. I don’t know if it’s the Leica that I’m shooting with now or because my perspective is changing but I’m discovering visual narratives during routine Sunday dinners and weekly get togethers with friends that feel more personally relevant than faraway tourist destinations. Here are my faves from January.

My little cheetah asleep on my lap during a weekly family dinner. I think this is my favorite photograph of all time.


Our friend Lucila visiting from Argentina, at H&D’s house. ‘Twas an evening of food, whiskey and playstation motion games.


We celebrated dad’s birthday with a night of bowling and pub food. I love the glow of the candlelight on his face.


Birthday brunch for German, pulled off on a Monday (MLK Day)!


Squishy face!


Aftermath of German’s 3rd and last birthday party of the month.


Finished at 4am. Not bad, not bad!

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Asian water buffalo

February 11, 2015

Here’s a piece that was inspired by my Philippine origins.  The “carabao” or  Asian water buffalo is the country’s national animal and has been essential to the rice industry for centuries.  I grew up seeing them in the fields whenever we visited my grandparents in the province each week.  I have a soft spot for bovine animals and enjoyed the process of collecting different tribal patterns from all over the world to put this piece together.  Created with gouache on paper.  More from this series can be found on my art site denisegamboa.com

Original 9x12, gouache on paper. Signed and dated.

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Ciego, the series

February 11, 2015

Here’s a sneak peak at my latest work. The series is called “Ciego”, which means blind in Spanish. Each piece is drawn in one continuous line, without peeking down at the paper! They’re all available for viewing at denisegamboa.com along with my other work.
Original 9x12, gouache and watercolor on paper. Signed and dated.
Original 6x8, gouache and watercolor on paper. Signed and dated.
Original 9x12, gouache and watercolor on paper. Signed and dated.

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Happy home, happy dog

January 29, 2015

I take a certain level of pride in her walking in and claiming the house , and everything in it, for herself. If you’ve ever had a shiba, you’ll understand what I mean.

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One afternoon exactly one year ago in London, I met a man who changed my life. He was on the Millennium Bridge clad in construction clothes tinkering at something on the floor. Like everyone else, I walked past without a second thought in a rush to visit the Tate Modern after a media briefing in the city several blocks away. I was on a mission to sit in awe with Rothko’s Seagram Murals hoping to feel their power and be moved by “pure emotion” like the documentaries proclaim.

The Millennium Bridge is, without a doubt, my favorite spot in all of London. It connects the City to Southwark and Saint Paul’s Cathedral to the Tate Modern – a literal and proverbial bridge between old and new. Perched high above the river as if on wings, it’s one of the few places in the city where you can stand in stillness and feel the expanse of the sky and river around you.

Halfway across the bridge, I noticed a small boy taking a photograph of something on the floor. Curious, I took a closer look and chuckled with surprise. Tiny painted drawings littered the pathway barely noticeable to the hurried pedestrians just passing through. I made a beeline back to the construction worker to confirm my hunch that he’d had something to do with my glee.

His name is Ben Wilson, also known as The Chewing Gum Man.  His was a face glowing with joy – the kind of joy I notice on people with strong faith, with inspired passion or on people having just returned from a marvelous holiday. The look of contentment and peace in his eyes shook me with envy and enamored me to his cause. I wanted to know everything about him.

We sat together awhile as I peppered him with questions. Ben creates chewing gum art and he’d been painting miniature scenes on the Millennium Bridge almost daily for the past five months. More specifically, he painted scenes based on passersby’s stories of love, reunion, family and friendship.  Art, he said, is the great connector.  It enables us to feel connected to something other than ourselves and instantly destroys barriers.  And with chewing gum as a canvas, he feels his art is accessible to everyone.

He said that when people feel disconnected with the world, they hurt others. They don’t realize that they’re hurting people.  When you’re truly connected to something, you love it. You love it for all its imperfections and faults.  He talked about his studio, his humble home, and how he split his time between his art and family.  A man of little means, he seemed completely content with the process of making art just for art’s sake.  His passion, zest for life and openness to connect with me, a complete stranger, for what felt like the whole afternoon planted a seed inside me that has never gone away.

I’ve been thinking about Ben a lot lately.  Our encounter forced me to think hard about purpose, connectedness and the impact we can make on each other and our world. Anything done with love, authenticity and empathy has the power to break barriers and change lives.  I’m being very purposeful about what I spend my time on these days and how I do it. Intention and the desire to touch others has been a driving force in my motivations as of late.  It’s the kind of clarity and motivation that makes me hopeful about the year ahead.

Happy new year!  May 2015 be filled with love, art and bolts of wisdom like Ben Wilson and the Millennium Bridge.

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I read recently that “Danny Glover dedicates every performance to someone – it might be Nelson Mandela or the old man who guards the stage door – but he is always working for someone other than himself. This focus gives his acting purpose and makes his work rich.”

Struggling to get through my own daily art project, I decided to try this for myself. Instead of drawing something random each day, I’m finding inspiration by dedicating each piece to someone specific. I’m amazed at what a difference this act of giving has made in my energy levels and in the type of work I’ve produced. The drawings look and feel completely authentic to who I am and what I was trying to express in that moment. I’m less judgmental of myself and what is produced because there’s meaning behind the piece – something bigger and more important than mere composition or color or balance (I’m never technical about these things anyway but am constantly bombarded with feelings of inadequacy every step of the way). The act of dedicating something to someone outside myself quiets the ego and infuses joy into every minute of the process.

Today’s project is dedicated to my friend Andrea, whose big dreams, humor and constant friendship transcend the miles and oceans between us. 🙂

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Here’s a round-up  of some of my favorite articles from this week.

Denise Gamboawww.agirlintheworld.com Denise Gamboa, denisegamboa, agirlintheworld.com

On making hard choices
This talk could literally change your life. Which career should I pursue? Where should I live? Big decisions like these are agonizingly difficult. But perhaps they just might give us the power and clarity to define who we are and who we want to be. My favorite line “Drifters allow the world to dictate who they are”. May we all find the courage to be captains of our own lives.

Erotic Intelligence: The secret to desire in a long-term relationship
This talk by Esther Perel is both insightful and eloquent. How do we balance our need for security with our need for surprise? And how do we keep alive a healthy, playful dose of desire and sensuality in our relationships? The wisdom is liberating.

9 Qualities of Remarkably Confident People
Confidence, for me, comes in waves but I think it’s a state of mind and a state of mind that can be practiced. Listen. Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to look silly. Perhaps counterintuitive but healthy, especially the part about not seeking approval from everyone.

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Big Ben The Elephant

December 5, 2014

I’m currently on sabbatical and indulging in a personal Renaissance.  I feel like a kid in a candy store with the luxury of time to read, write and paint like a mad-woman. It’s as if a decade’s worth of child’s play has been unleashed and the five-year old me is back with a vengeance. I haven’t had this much fun nor felt so myself in a very long time.

I’ve been working on several art projects and am particularly excited to share this piece called Big Ben.  I painted him back in August during a pretty dark time in my life when “making” was all I could do to keep it together.  I’ve had a long, dramatic love affair with London and it has been muse to many creative projects, both written and photographic. It’s the city where I first came into my own, outside the confines of expectations and old roles.  In London I met lifetime friends, fell in love, got my heart broken, battled loneliness and pretty much pushed my boundaries in all ways possible.

Big Ben is a celebration of the places and memories that made my life “away” so special.  Gordon’s Wine Bar, the falcon family that took roost at the Tate during the summer of 2010, my discovery of Rothko’s Seagram murals, a string quartet on the Jubilee Bridge, and the panoramic view from Primrose Hill on a blue sky summer’s day.  Big Ben is joy and nostalgia and therapy for the part of me that won’t ever be able to let go of one of the best cities on earth.


Ink and watercolor.

Want one?  Click here.

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