This portrait of my father hangs in the second company he started (technically the third I believe). It’s a portrait of how I remember him: an incredibly intelligent entrepreneur and self-taught engineer who enjoyed inventing and designing as much as business. I really believe that he enjoyed running a business for the joy of working. Money was just a reward for doing well, but not at all the main motivator. He didn’t care about brands or status or fancy dinners (favorite food: white bread with aged cheese) and only started spending some money on luxury items later in life, when he was certain he could afford it, but I’m still not sure if that was actually his personal choice or peer pressure.
But what he really loved was product development. He would sit in the evening in a comfortable chair and scribble designs on notepads, using a ball point pen and highlighters to indicate what was important. Next to him he’d have a small glass of Dutch gin or licorice liqueur and his ‘Caballero’ brand unfiltered cigarette, which ultimately killed him. He would hand these designs to the AutoCAD engineer who had worked with him since almost the beginning of his first company and therefore was able to translate them into manufacturing designs.
I did decide to keep the cigarette in the painting even if smoking killed him, because that is how we all knew him throughout his life, until he got diagnosed with lung cancer.
This was possibly the hardest painting I’ve done, because I had set high standards for myself and I had never studied and scrutinized his face the way you do for a painting.
The drawings in the background are part of his actual design drawings for the Order Release Module, a warehouse system that automatically ejects cases of all sizes and shapes and packaging types to automate the case picking that happens manually in most distribution centers and requires heavy lifting in long shifts, causing high employee turnover.
My dad used to make oil paintings when he was a young man, but stopped doing that and put his creativity in product development and his businesses; a racking company called Nedcon and later Dynamic Logistic Systems that still sells the Order Release Module he developed.