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The Man Behind The Painter

October 30, 2012

My husband lives behind a mask of mystery. Out of my gazillion friends, only a handful have ever met him and from that handful, very few have ever sat down and actually talked to him. I affectionately call him Snuffle-a-pagus. If you’re a child of Sesame Street, you’ll know what I mean.

Orley is a complicated man. On the surface he seems very solid, very level-headed. He doesn’t fit the mold of the stereotypical artist. In short he doesn’t have “the look.” No dreadlocks or weird expressive hair (well, kasi no hair na); no surly, brooding, unsmiling, silent and weird personality – only this quiet, and actually quite jovial Cebuano, who’s lived more half of his life in Metro Manila and never lost his “punto.” And he never will. Underneath his “normal” facade is the swirl that powers his art. It’s like a permanent whirpool at sea, always churning, always moving, and its this constant movement under the surface that gives him the illusion of calm and cool.

One thing I had to understand about being married to Orley is this: I will always be the other woman. Art is and will always be his first love. To him it is not a hobby, or something he happened to be interested in and decided to get into – Art is his life, his heart, his soul and his air. In our relationship, Art is a living, breathing entity, and I’ve learned to live with her. Sometimes I’m jealous, because she’s all my husband ever thinks about and is the first thing that comes to mind even in the most important of life events.

For example, when I went into labor, Orley had it in his head to make me sit for an excruciating ten minutes, butt-naked, so he could get nude reference pictures of me and my swollen belly, before he would even take me to the hospital.

We never go on a family vacation to a place where it is not “scenic and paintable.” Never.

When Basti was born, his expression of his joy was to paint. No spouting of flowery words or tears running down flustered cheeks for my husband – a blank canvas and tubes of oil paint will get his blood going more than anything in the world.

I joke about it, but it’s this same drive, this passion for Art that made me fall in love with him. His discipline is amazing. Contrary to what a lot of people believe, being married to an artist is far from romantic. There is no languidly lying around in drapery inspiring him, being a muse, bathed in perfect natural light while soft music plays in the background. It’s hard, hard work; physically draining, mentally challenging but life-fulfilling in so many ways.

We make a good team. We have a good YinYang thing going on. My extrovert complements his introvert, my animation makes up for his perpetual happy-sad-angry-fascinated scowl. He’s not very good with small talk, while for me, it’s an artform in itself. I’ve done his public speaking engagements and I talk to most of his clients and answer most his email.

My husband may not be articulate in words, but he talks to people in other ways. This is the way he communicates struggle:

Ahon by Orley Ypon. 36 x 24 inches, 2008. GSIS Museum.

This is the way he communicates peace:

Sunset by Orley Ypon. 16 x 24 inches, 2011. Private collection.

And this is one of the ways he interprets joy:

Joyride by Orley Ypon. 36 x 24 inches, 2011. Private Collection.

People look at his lack of academic art training and say “It’s a miracle! It’s truly a gift!” Yes, it is, but I believe he was given this gift because the Father knew he was not going to waste it. My husband took this talent and hones, works and bleeds for it, and he will never ever take it for granted. Orley is always studying, studying, studying. Even now, when he himself is a teacher, he will never stop being a student of Art.

For a painter’s family, life is not always the easy road. There is hardly any stability for me and Basti, and I’m talking about a lot of aspects – where we live, the money we earn, the emotions we have to deal with and so on. One thing is strong and stable though: my unwavering support for my husband. I believe in his art and I believe in him. It’s really absolutely disgusting how proud I am of Orley.

Yes, Art. As jealous as I am of you, I know you and I have our own space in my husband’s mind and heart. And I know you like me, too. How do I know?


Magmamais by Orley Ypon. 30 x 30 inches, 2010. Private collection.

That’s how.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. October 30, 2012 10:09 am

    ‘teh, ang ganda naman ng essay mo. Winner! Halos maiyak ako. πŸ™‚

    • Eliza permalink
      October 30, 2012 11:19 am

      O easy ka lang, teh. Haha! Salamat po.

  2. October 30, 2012 10:28 am

    Your an artist yourself Ms. Eli. You have to admit that reading your own post can give you goosebumps, because of the way you wrote, it felt like smooth brush strokes and a very articulate honesty.

    • Eliza permalink
      October 30, 2012 11:19 am

      Thank you Tiffany! Such kind words. πŸ™‚

  3. October 30, 2012 10:28 am

    Funny because I didn’t intend to read the whole post but I did!

  4. Ceemee permalink
    October 30, 2012 11:43 am

    Beautiful post! Your hubby’s work is marvelous!

    • Eliza permalink
      November 2, 2012 5:13 pm

      Thank you Cee. πŸ™‚

  5. October 30, 2012 12:30 pm

    Thank you for this post Eli. It came at the most opportune time as I am struggling with understanding and supporting my husband. Your post reminded me that no matter what, there is love. I may play second fiddle to my husband’s work and other things but it doesn’t negate the fact that he loves me and I love him. Thanks again!

    • Eliza permalink
      November 2, 2012 5:15 pm

      Hana, just think of his work as another manifestation of his love. What I learned about men from my husband, they just don’t express the same way we do!

  6. audrey w permalink
    October 31, 2012 8:16 am

    Wow, Eliza, this is so beautifully written. Your husband renders you wonderfully in paintings, and you the same for him in prose. I do not know him, and yet, I am intrigued by the magically mysterious image of the man you have created with your words. THAT is your art! You and he, in and inspite of your differences, seem to make a great team! More blessings to both of you…and to little Basti, of course πŸ™‚

    • Eliza permalink
      November 8, 2012 5:37 pm

      Thank you Audrey! πŸ˜€

  7. October 31, 2012 10:39 am

    it is a challenge and you are handling it marvelously!! kudos πŸ˜‰

    • Eliza permalink
      November 2, 2012 5:16 pm

      Apir tayo dito. Haha.

  8. November 1, 2012 4:15 pm

    love letter ito muther πŸ˜€ i really felt the love you have for your husband and his craft πŸ™‚

    • Eliza permalink
      November 2, 2012 5:16 pm

      Sinabi ko kay Orley yung comment mo, kinilig siya. Hahaha!

  9. November 1, 2012 11:40 pm

    I so know how you feel!

  10. Marj permalink
    November 2, 2012 2:44 pm

    Love your post Eliza, and your hubby’s paintings are amazing!

    • Eliza permalink
      November 2, 2012 5:20 pm

      Aw, thank you Marj. πŸ™‚

  11. December 30, 2012 4:05 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this beautifully written, thoughtful and inspiring post! I am so touched and inspired by your words, for how you feel about your painter is exactly how I feel about mine. We’re just starting out, but your story is so moving to me and clear proof that a painter who wants nothing to do with public speaking and a wife who does public speaking for living CAN and WILL make it this world.

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