I am a part-time artist born in Manila, the Philippines, and based in Fredensborg, Denmark. I was introduced to oils in 2000 by my uncle, Pedro Suplido, whom I call Uncle Di, on a visit to New York. He arranged a pitcher and fruits on a table and we both painted these on our own canvases. He sent me home with brushes, a pallet knife, and tubes of Winton paints. Since then, oils have been my medium of choice.
Uncle Di has been painting with oils since I was child. I distinctly remember him working at an easel and I looked upward at him. (He is not tall, so I must have been very small.) He moved to New York in the 1970s where he worked as a pharmacist up to retirement. Growing up, he sent my brother and me art books and materials like oil pastels. We had three of his paintings prominently displayed at home: a tiger in grass, a man on shore with a boat, and a religious portrait of Jesus and the Sacred Heart.
My interest in figurative painting probably came from my mom liking Degas. A print of a ballet dancer tying her shoes was also on display in our living room, along with Uncle Di’s tiger and the boatman. Years later, I sought out Degas’ works in New York and Paris.
My interest in portraits was influenced by my brother Joel, who was wild about Patrick Nagel in the 1980s. I remember copying several Nagel images, spray painting acrylic on illustration board.
Attempts to paint seriously were met with many roadblocks, mainly self imposed because of medical school. In the 1990s I painted only when spurred by strong emotions like frustration, which fortunately did not happen often. I remember some experiments between 1995-1998 which I gave away to friends as gifts.
In 1998-1999 I was studying medicine in Singapore, but free time was immersed in the arts. I bought a camera and took pictures of people and architecture on my many long walks. The Singapore Art Museum was a revelation. I realized how all my conceptions were very western and I knew very little about Asian art.
After I returned from Uncle Di’s workshop in 2000, I tried to do some portraits based on photographs but they all turned out to be disasters. There was some success by 2002, with a big oil on canvas, All balls in the air. I did one work in the same style: A walk in the forest, on a visit to Silkeborg, Denmark in 2004. When I moved to Denmark in 2007, I stripped All balls in the air off its frame and rolled up the canvas. The dry paint cracked on transport and I was very discouraged. I think it can be repaired if I have it stretched, framed, and re-varnished. Still, I gave in to futility and stopped painting for years even though I brought all my materials with me: Uncle Di’s paints, my brushes and easels.
I tried watercolor and acrylic for a while, but did not find the drive to start painting with oil again until 2015 during a frustrating time, when my academic work was not going well. I abandoned the idealism of pastels and shifted to raw, saturated colors. I finished three large works within a few months, with help from Uncle Di. As things settled down on the academic, clinical, and home fronts, I stopped painting again.
The year 2020 was a landmark year. Many outdoor activities were cancelled and I had to figure out what I could do in quarantine. There was suddenly more time for my casual hobby. Needless to say, my driving force, frustration, was in abundance. I finished ten works in 2020, which is way more than I expected after five years of painting nothing.
Since moving to Europe, there have been more opportunities to see masterful works of art in Copenhagen, Silkeborg, Skagen, Århus, Humlebæk, Hillerød, Charlottenlund, and Nivå here in Denmark; plus Paris, Vienna, Athens, and Florence. There are many other places on my list, but in these pandemic times, I have to be patient.
What would you do if you could do anything?
I would like to consistently paint more portraits and not feel anxious about criticism.
Who are your influences?
Lucian Freud, Patrick Nagel, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Tamara De Lempicka, Alice Neel, Frida Kahlo, Gustav Klimt, and the Skagen Painters, especially P.S. Krøyer and Anna Ancher. From the Philippines, Juan Luna and Felix Resureccion Hidalgo; partly because of what they painted, but mainly how they were not afraid to paint in Europe during the colonial period.
Where and how did you learn to paint?
I did not go to art school. That was not an option growing up in the Philippines. Art was a hobby, not a university degree or a paying job. I learned to paint because of Uncle Di’s gentle encouragement throughout my childhood, and from the example of his consistent output. He joined art groups and later taught seniors at community centers.
I did a weekend workshop in 2013 with Etsuko Oide, only to learn that watercolor is too hard. I joined a one-night acrylic workshop at the Louisiana gallery at about the same time; enough to learn that landscape painting is interesting, but not something I am especially good at.
I read, watch videos, visit museums, and look at paintings. Even more important, I work. There is no substitute for experimenting. Fortunately, I have more time, resources, and space to paint. The friends and family who are the subjects of the portraits are helping me learn.