Uncle Di (Pedro Suplido) died on March 4, 2021 at about 10 pm in New York. He was 83.
I last talked to him on December 31, 2020 to wish him and his partner, Doc Peter, a Happy New Year. I called, let the phone ring for a minute, and hung up. I called again right after, knowing that it was often an effort for them to get up. Doc Peter was at this point lying on a hospital bed set up in the living room. Uncle Di had not been taking care of his own progressive heart failure / kidney failure / both. Doc Peter answered the phone. I asked about his health, hoping that things were okay, then asked to speak to my uncle. I made sure they were on quarantine. We spoke for two minutes and 38 seconds, according to my phone records. If it was 4:30 pm for me in Denmark, it would have been 10:30 am for them in New York.
In September, I sent Uncle Di photos of my paintings through Doc Peter’s Messenger app, but he never replied. I told him about my work again on that phone call. He said he had seen the paintings. I was waiting for feedback but got no critiques this time. I figured he had not actually seen the paintings so he could not give details, or maybe he was just tired.
Doc Peter died on February 18, 2021. He was a psychiatrist who wondered why I would want to pursue psychiatry as my specialty. He asked why I wasn’t reading Jung when everything else that came after him is bullshit. On the day he died, I received a message that he was having a hard time breathing. A nasal catheter helped to get some oxygen to his lungs. He was home; he would not have wanted to be in a hospital. I sent a message back at 3:49 am on February 19. “Hang in there Doc, hoping you will feel better soon.” When there was no response, I sent another message at 4:17 am. “Love you!” Neither one was received: the grey circle with a check mark on the lower corner of the message boxes stayed grey.
My Auntie Memette (Uncle Di’s sister) drove upstate in a blizzard to make sure Uncle Di was okay right after they learned of Doc’s passing. Her nurse’s eye caught sight of the pitting edema on my uncle’s legs. She brought him to a hospital. She stood behind my uncle and without him seeing her facial expressions and hand gestures, mimed for the staff-on-call her disagreement with my uncle professing he was healthier than he was. He stayed at a hospital for some days then was transferred to a rehabilitation facility. The plan was for him to stay at an apartment in the same building as my aunt in Manhattan after his discharge. He didn’t make it.
Pedro and Peter had been together for maybe 40 years. I guess they did not know how to be apart.
Uncle Di kept an extremely low profile. None of his hundreds of paintings are online. Below are the emails he sent me where we discussed three paintings. I did not follow all his recommendations but I did promise to keep painting, so that’s what I’m doing now.
January 22, 2015
Dear Uncle Di,
Just wanted to let you know that I started oil painting again. I still have some Winton paints you gave me from 2000. They’re still usable! I got some brushes from you too and I have a book called The Painter’s Craft that you gave to Joel in 1986.
Here’s the painting I just finished. It’s 60 x 80 cm.
January 24, 2015
Glad you are back to painting! This is a very good diversion from your serious work. Wish I am there so we can work together!
If there is a chapter in the book for portraits, observe the edges and highlights.
Your technical drawing and proportions are very good. You did very well with the hands. Try observing how the features of the face are painted on an egg-shaped skull from different angles. They should follow a circular line (not a straight one) around the egg. This way the features will be in perspective and not look pasted on a flat surface. Also observe the edges. They usually are darker and fade into the flesh tones and not look as sharp lines. Observe also the planes on the face and how they reflect light regardless of its source.
I like the background, although hints of it should be mixed with the flesh tones to unify the picture. Emphasize the face by making the background slightly lighter around it.
Try drawing with the brush over a dry underpainting or directly on primed canvas. This is to establish your composition.
Thanks, and wish I could paint with you again! (I see Tanja and you in the portrait!!)
God Bless, Love
Jan 26, 2015
Hi Uncle Di
Thanks a lot for the tips. Yes, this is based on a photo of Tanja. I have another one with Alex in mind. Will try my best to paint one big work each month and send you updates. It’s almost like our painting workshop again!
February 11, 2015
Thanks for enclosing the photo of Alex.
Yes, the new painting is better.
Try to make a rounded square of the right side of the face between the cheek and the jaw. Eliminate the line; the face will appear above the neck and shoulder because of the difference in values. The contrast is good.
Lighten the eyebrows especially the ends. Raise and close the extreme ends of the eyes a bit and shade the eye balls to show their shape. Notice that the eye line tends to follow the roundness of the skull. This means that the end of the eye closer to the nose is slightly lower than its tip. Notice the slant of the upper lids outwards. It is very slight but is there. So is the lower one, thus showing the almond shape. This looks more open in the portrait and does not go with the smile.
Improve the shading above the nose to show the slight angle to the brows. Also, the on the right cheek and above the right brow. Observe and improve the shade values on the left cheek too. Look at the photo and portrait with half-closed eyes to see the difference in contrasts. Notice the darker contrast of the teeth as you look from the front to the sides.
Enjoy, thanks again and love from us here,
February 11, 2015
Hi Uncle Di,
I followed most of your advice! You probably can’t see it but there’s orange and green on the face and I made some sharp lines on the edges.
Really loving this. It’s very meditative and it takes away a lot of work-related stress.
February 12, 2015
That was fast! and thanks.
I see Alex in the portrait except for the eyes with their dark outlines and the slightly distorted angles.
Composition is good; so are draftsmanship and proportion. The right hand though looks awkward. Remove the part of the pants that covers the arm, revise the fingers and use artistic license to do what is pleasing to look at and not strictly go by the photo. You will be surprised with happy accidents.
The eyes are darkly outlined and looks caricaturist. Refrain from using dark values for paint darkens as it dries. For the eyes, lighten the lower lids.
Next time draw two light straight pencil lines from the far tips of the eyes crossing above the nose. The upper lids should follow this line and curve down near the nose. The angle of the brows should start from this line above the nose and curve towards the ear. This will prevent distortions. Hope I made this clear enough!
Try to google hints about drawing faces, maybe this will be illustrated better.
Also do not over emphasize the teeth divisions, just make incomplete lines or omit them in some parts. This will make them look more natural, not like dentures.
At some point you might have to emphasize highlights.
Thanks again, get a sketchpad and keep drawing anything even just 15 minutes a day.
Have fun and love to all, from us all here.
February 12, 2015
Dear Uncle Di
Sounds complicated but I will figure it out before the year is over!
February 14, 2015
Dear Uncle Di,
I think I figured some of it out. This version looks much better. Thanks a lot!
March 09, 2015
Hi Uncle Di,
My new year’s resolution is one painting each month. Here’s the one for March. The January painting is now on the wall.
Hoping the weather gets better there. Spring will come soon.
March 12, 2015
Hi Uncle Di,
I tried to send you this email from another email address, but now resending using this one.
March 13, 2015
Thanks for the mails, I got them both. Amazingly, one can recognize the essence of both Kim and Tanja in the portrait.
Improve highlights overall, the faces and fabric. Darken the folds of the sleeves without making lines, just gradual darks like the folds down near your signature. The stitchings are fine. Create shadows around the eyes like the one on Kim’s right side of the nose; also, on the hollows of the cheeks and between the fingers.
I am glad you are pursuing this, keep on and do not let your pallet dry out.
Love from all of us here. It is a relief now that it is warming up.
Mar 17, 2015
Dear Uncle Di,
Thanks for the “workshop critique”. I will work on the highlights and the darkest shadows.
About work: I am finishing up my PhD papers and hopefully will get my fourth paper accepted for publication. After which I can submit my thesis and defend it. In the meantime, I have started work at Psychiatry. Please tell Doc that surprisingly, it has been a very good experience. Soon I will have to decide on a specialization, neurology vs. psychiatry.
Don’t worry, I will continue to paint. I need the outlet after hearing so many sad stories during the day.