Finding Beauty All Around You with Jirah Millano of JMAM

February 28, 2022

Art has taken on many forms through the history of man, constantly evolving. There’s no single definition of art as it appeals to everyone differently. Many would consider dramatic explosions of color as art, and others would argue it has to look hyper-realistic to be considered “good.” The art from Jirah Millano of JMAM, however, expresses beauty in the mundane. The subjects of her works are the everyday stories we skip over, but Jirah sees the glimmering pull in each of them.

Jirah loves to paint, but art isn’t exactly a field known to pay the bills. She felt the pressures of growing up and needing to fit into a mold to stay afloat until she found a quote while scrolling through her phone that stuck:

“Don’t copy what others are doing. Focus on what you do well, and you enjoy doing, and start from there.”

At that point, she knew abandoning her dream to become an artist would be the biggest regret of her life. So, from that day, she set out to slowly fill in the colors on the blank canvas of her future when she started JMAM.

At first, she focused on wearable art—small paintings on tote bags, so her art would also serve a purpose, but soon after, JMAM has grown to become a medium of storytelling, art for the sake of art. As an official member of the Philippine Guild of Watercolorists, Philippine Botanical Art Society, Philippine Fauna Art Society, and the United Fine Artists of the Philippines, coupled with constantly painting new pieces, she doesn’t have much free time on her hands. When she finds her fingers idle, she is buried in a book or enjoying an indie film—both art forms she finds similar to her style. 

“My artistry can be defined by my keen observation of my surroundings. My watercolor paintings often highlight aspects of our daily lives that can sometimes be neglected. Sometimes, I’d pick seemingly random objects as subjects. My visions are the kind that others may not get right away. I paint with intention,”

-Jirah Millano, artist and founder of JMAM

She believes inspiration can strike at any moment, such as the beautiful ceiling patterns hiding behind a cautionary glance, reminding everyone that sometimes all you need to do is to keep your head high. Whenever Jirah paints her surroundings, she’s looking for the small, hidden beauties just waiting to be discovered.

“Ukit sa Kisame”

But more than style or observations, her pieces tell a story. In her painting “Sining at Kapangyarihan,” she depicts a weaver of traditional Ifugao fabric. The piece represents how weavers empower their tradition, artistry, and community while uplifting the Filipino culture and supporting their families.

“Sining at Kapangyarihan”

The idea of a struggling artist isn’t without its truth in the real world, and the feeling is all too familiar to Jirah. She knows not everyone will love or even appreciate her work, but there are just as many who will. With each commissioned piece, she’s given a chance to immortalize a memory someone had in the depths of their mind. Every painting opens a gateway to connect the past and the present.

For other artists afraid to take the leap of artistry full time, here’s what Jirah has to say:

“Actively look for opportunities to create and share your craft. Your art is something valuable — a product of your emotions, thinking, skills, and time investment. More people need to see your work and hear about the stories you share through your art.” 

Jirah hopes to continue painting stories and support herself through what she makes from JMAM and eventually release themed collections every year for exhibitions where people can appreciate her art. 

Photo and Featured Image by Axel F. De Jesus

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