Monday, November 19, 2012

A David Levine in our midst

I think his wife Chit Roces already issued a warning in print to beware when her husband Vergel Santos is invited to socials. I saw why a few evenings ago. After he cased the joint, he sat himself comfortably at the farthest end of the room, then spent the rest of the evening sketching away in his palm-size notebook. 

My own husband Rolly was an unwilling victim when he and Vergel sat across a table at a media summit. Rolly thought Vergel was taking copious notes as a panel of speakers went on and on. He was so admiring of Vergel's diligence. Later, Vergel went up to him and showed a pen and ink portrait of Rolly. That portrait used to hang in a prominent corner in our bedroom until our grandchild moved in and the room's design was rearranged, and anything as disturbing as Vergel's portrait of Rolly was moved elsewhere.

At the end of Friday evening last week, I think I was Vergel's last subject for his quick portraits after he was done with the party-goers and waiters. While I watched him work swiftly, I was looking at his notebook from upside down so I had to ask, "Are you sketching me or my husband from memory?" Jeez! That was when I had one of those Joycean ephiphanies. It's true what the old married folk say--after awhile couples start looking like one another.

What Vergel captures is not the exact likeness of the person. Nor does he do a flattering interpretation of the subject. Like David Levine of The New York Review of Books (I think only Solidaridad Bookshop carries occasional issues of it), he gets the person's essence and distills it. Not unlike what Vergel's late buddy, Onib Olmedo, used to do.

Some people just have it all. Vergel can write, edit, lecture, sing (he was one of our "wedding singers" when Rolly and I marked our 25th jubilee as a couple). And draw with a pen. No erasures there which is what drawing from life is all about.

So I know exactly what to get Vergel the artist this Christmas. And he better not pout, he better not cry.

Photos by Babeth Lolarga
Post a Comment