Dia Luna… Dia Pena

I was in the middle of painting of Beyond Raging Waves when my friend MP asked me to do a family portrait of him and his daughter for her 18th birthday.  I was already exhausted and I wanted just to finish the painting Beyond Raging Waves and leave with my family to our country house for the summer break. I said that I would consider it in the following  7-10 days but I didn´t feel like I was going to do it. I was tired and I felt a bit emotionally drained and I couldn´t find the right feelings for the family portrait. As I was listening to Manu Chao one day, in my atelier, Dia Luna Dia Pena, started to play. All of a sudden I started to think about my friend and his relation to his daughter.  He has been living in Bosnia for some time now and his daughter lives in Germany. He is Italian but his job kept him tide to the Balkans.  He sees her occasionally, usually during the summer, but most of his contacts are through the Skype calls.  And I could, in a way, relate to that. You see, when I travel for a workshop, an exhibition, or when I stay at the atelier to work, and my kids are away, you have an initial feeling of freedom of doing the magnificent stuff, you feel that you are free to dedicate yourself to your work 100% but that feeling lasts for 48 hours top, and then you start longing for your kids, for the family. Sometimes when the absence is longer, on the last day of your stay, the one before you leave for your home, turns into Dia Luna… Dia Pena. The longing and the anticipation is so strong that you feel sick.

As any parent, when you get your first new born, you dream of being every moment there for them to look after them 24/7 but the reality is much different. Life takes twists and turns, your job occupies you or… life happens. But we do care no matter what. As I like to say, your child having temperature 38,5 °C erases all your troubles.

Thing is we cannot be always there for our kids; it is no good for us and them. They need to experience their own good and bad and form their knowledge out of it. We are there to assist them and guide them the best way we can but we cannot hover like drones over them. Drones are no good.

So I accepted the commission and started working on the proposal. My friend sent me a few photos, and I picked one where his daughter looked especially happy, a photo of a happy child with her father. And I started to build on that. This time I didn´t use any ukiyo-e print. What I had in my mind is this imaginary moment of them being in Japan for hanami. You might not know this but the biggest cosplayers in Japan are families. They hire professional photography studio and do this happy family photos in parks or other settings. They change from formal clothing to traditional, usually yukata, but sometimes a full kimono dressing. They spend the entire day being photographed. So I went with that feeling. The father with his daughter in Soshigaya park spending a day, but instead of photography they will receive the painting.

The composition is quite simple; the father has this guarding figure while enjoying viewing sakura with his daughter.  Since I knew that Eva´s (his daughter) favorite colors are burgundy and black I built a palette around those colors. I know that she has a big black cat and my favorite black cat is Gigi from Kiki´s Delivery Service, so I placed Gigi into the painting to emphasize a more imaginary setting of the painting. If it was Roppongi I would go with Luna from Sailor Moon. For her I had to reduce the contrast in colors and the outlining since more contrast and more drawing gave her wrinkles and a much older look, so I was reducing a lot. I started with a detailed character and then I over painted unnecessary lines and reduced colors so I would get a nice, clean, child face. But with my friend I went full Enki Bilal style, strong shading strokes with markers over painted parts. I gave him a little bit of a rough look, a little bit of early days Stallone. For his obi I used kikko (亀甲) – turtle shell pattern – a symbol of longevity, and although he wanted to have a plain black kimono, I had to add seigaiha (青海波) – ocean waves pattern – a symbol of peace, good luck, and good fortune. For his hair I went with my idea of anime crazy hair style.

I kept Dia Luna… Dia Pena as the name for the painting since I believe that this strong sadness and longing also remind us of happy memories of being together and lead us to imagine and work on creating  new happy memories together.

I must admit that I had hard time painting this painting, but at the same time I had good time coming back to my comic roots. I am really happy to have taken a part in this birthday gift.


Technique: acrylic on canvas

Size: 90 x 70 cm

Year: August 2020

Availability: Commissioned/In Private Collection

Bijin-ga (Paintings of the Beautiful Person)

When you have a friend like Nana Monda, it is hard not to enjoy bijin-ga. Her paintings have been constantly influencing my work. For me she is a truly living master of bijin-ga. Next in line is my friend Nataša Konjević, whose fantastic mixture of magic and portraits never fail to amaze me.

Bijin-ga is commonly translated as Portraits of beautiful women but it should be translated as Portraits of beautiful person, an individual, something that reflects inner beauty, gender is not specified at all. This leaves opening to gender fluidity in my future paintings from this series.

In my bijin-ga I will try to grasp iki – いき feeling, a beautiful sensual situation or a personal charm, where a viewer is a discreet witness to this moment.