CNMI leaf painter biggest winner in arts contest

Ernie David, the first leaf painter in the CNMI, stands beside his artworks inside his tent in the 35th Flame Tree Arts Festival last Sunday at Civic Center beach. (Jon Perez)

Ernie David, the first leaf painter in the CNMI, stands beside his artworks inside his tent in the 35th Flame Tree Arts Festival last Sunday at Civic Center beach. (Jon Perez)

Filipino leaf painter Irineo David became the biggest winner of the 6th Annual CNMI Art Competition held last Saturday in the 35th Flame Tree Arts Festival at Civic Center beach. He topped the open category and bested more than 20 other entries for the Best in Show award.

The Angeles City, Pampanga-born David won a total of $4,000 with his oil on canvas Banana Blossoms entry earning him $1,500 in the open category. He earned an additional $2,500 for Best in Show as his painting stood out from the rest.

David, a self-taught painter with no formal training, had been doing artworks mostly sketches since he was in elementary school where he used to draw on his notebooks. From there, he slowly moved from paper to cloth canvas before testing it on dried leaves.

What was once a hobby became a source of additional income for him as he sold his artworks in Angeles City near the Clark Field Air Base, the former U.S. military facility in Central Luzon.

He said that he first experimented on and painted using dried leaves as canvas in the late ’80s, and resumed doing it when he arrived on Saipan in 2006 to work at CMI Construction and General Contractors.

“I dip and soak the leaves in a water solution that has sodium chloride for one month and let it dry to get the right texture that I want,” David told Saipan Tribune in last Sunday’s closing ceremony of the 35th edition of the annual arts festival.

“I’ve been using the leaves of the Sakura tree in the Philippines and I was surprised to find out that they are also available here. From my experience, the Sakura tree’s leaves have been the best canvas. I also tried other leaves but they are nothing compared to the Sakura.”

The annual art competition, sponsored by Bridge Capital, LLC gave away a total of $12,500 in cash prizes with Nhorleen Bitco’s Save The Turtles earning $1,000 for her second place entry in the open category.

Kathy Hi’s Sun Will Rise earned her $1,000 in the 29-below division, while Elina Gharty Chhetri’s Let There Be Peace painting winning $500. In the woodcarving and others—sculptures or fabric work—Tatiana Ilmova’s The Lion mosaic got the $1,500 top prize, while Maria Manalo went home with $1,000 for her Let Them Live entry.

Hervin Jacinto’s Starry Banzai Cliff was awarded the Best Photo for $1,500 with The Lady and The Sea Monster of Richard Shaul settling for the $1,000 second prize. Gregorio Baclis’ painting Respect was judged as the Governor’s Choice for $1,000 with acting governor Victor B. Hocog choosing the entry.

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Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez has been covering local and international sports events for more than 15 years. His sports writing career started when he joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, when he was in college.

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