Story Behind the Art: A Tribute to Frida Kahlo

While Singapore is on the other side of the world from Mexico, Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) still makes its appearance here thanks to voluntary organizers in collaboration with the local Mexican community.

In last year’s festivities (2016), I had participated in the art open call and created a watercolor and ink piece featuring PenguinGirl as La Catrina, jamming with her mariachi penguins and the singing cactus, and serenading the little purple penguins out of their desert igloo:

Illustration: “Day of the Penguin Dead” (2016)
Watercolor and ink on watercolor paper, 8.3 x 11.7 in.
Available for sale with Utterly Art, contact Keng Hock at

This year’s art open call was a tribute to Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo, and while I’m no stranger to her name, I’m not that familiar with her works, and so I started my research.

From what I’ve gathered of her works, she’s known for her numerous self-portraits, and thus when I came across “Yo Y Mis Pericos”, I just knew this was going to be my inspiration.

Frida’s original painting “Yo Y Mis Pericos”:

And so I’ve married my “Day of the Penguin Dead” (2016) with Frida’s “Yo Y Mis Pericos”, and created “Yo Y Mis Pingüinos” (2017) for this year’s festivities:

“Yo Y Mis Pingüinos” (2017)
Watercolor and white gouache on watercolor paper, 8.3 x 11.7 in.

I even brought the singing cactus along! I just had to; I find him pretty amusing.

And here is a 4-min speed painting video of the making of this painting:

While I don’t consider myself a portrait artist, I’ve already been creating my own self portrait since 2014 through my character PenguinGirl. And it’s fun to have different opportunities to create different versions of her, and to see how my work has evolved over time in medium, style, my color choices, and the symbolic elements I like to incorporate.

And to top it all off, when the boyfriend and I stopped by the Dia De Muertos event yesterday afternoon, we witnessed the painting getting sold right under our very noses!

And so I look forward to the new Dia De Los Muertos inspired artwork I’ll be creating next year.

Until then, stay tuned for other updates from the life of the real PenguinGirl, and her multiple illustrated versions. <3

About MaryAnn Loo

Visual artist - whimsical paintings and illustrations
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