Early oil paintings

“Ophir”, oil on plywood

This was the first painting I did. I have just spent three years trading with my boat in East Africa; Madagascar, Zanzibar, Mozambique, Kenya, Biblical Ophir, mad and magic time hard to convey by words. From Africa I sailed to the Far East, and I met Nat. She was running a marina on Malapacao Island in the Philippines.  One day her family came to visit. Brian, Nat’s brother, is  a painter, and when I saw the two of them confidently moving paint around the canvas, I thought: Hell, I can do it too. And at the age of 45 I started painting.

I have never had a problem with imagination, and in total ignorance of technical points I just started slapping oil paint on a piece of plywood. When the composition didn’t fit the plywood sheet, I reached for a carpenter’s solution. I took a saw to it and adjusted the size of plywood to balance my composition. With memories of Africa still firmly in my head, “Ophir” was my first attempt. “Kehaar”, as my Chinese junk looked then, is in the foreground.

“Sunflowerman”, oil on plywood

Originally he had a sunflower for a head, inspired by a painting of Brian’s. As the painting took over, it dictated some major changes, and when it completely got away from me,  head fell by the way side. Name remained. Second inspiration was a monstrous balete tree, strangler fig, growing on a steep track above El Nido. It was cut down six months later.

“Madonna with a cockroach”, oil on plywood

Second attempt at a portrait of my love. I wanted to paint an image leaving out the most striking and obvious attributes, like her waist-long black hair, her figure, her eyes. Also, I tried to recreate the effect of naive Greek orthodox icons, with their tubular body parts and simplified shapes.

“Nasnas”, acrylic on plywood

The first version of “Nasnas” caught mold, and it was a total loss. Living in a fisherman’s shack on a tropical beach, paintings were exposed to constant humidity, and oil paints molded before they had time to dry. I switched to acrylics, as a try.

Nasnas are beings like longitudinally split humans, with one arm, one leg, and half a face. Lane gave us a detail description of them, and they appear in several tales from Arabian Nights. The beast in the middle is my version of a Chimaira, lion-goat-serpent from the Greek mythology.

“Gorgon”, oil on canvas

Inspired by an unexpected visit from Ace, this small painting popped out without thinking, as I laid the oil on the canvas.

All photos by Nat from smallestforest.net

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