Burmese Days – Painting George Orwell

August 26, 2013 § 13 Comments

Work in progress of a monkey skull and George Orwell's passport photo.

Work in progress of a monkey skull and George Orwell’s passport photo.

I’m currently working on a painting of a monkey skull, a small Buddha statue, and George Orwell’s passport photo from his time in Burma in the 1920’s. After reading Orwell’s Burmese Days (1934) I was moved to honor him in oil and include his portrait in my series of still life paintings: Objects and Oddities from the Thai-Burma Border.

In a lot of ways Burmese Days was a difficult book for me to get through, particularly because the subject matter is dense with racism. But Orwell’s gift for description made it all worth while, including beautifully written passages like, “The egrets that roosted in the palms were streaming homewards over the treetops like white flights of arrows.”

Thumbnail sketches

Thumbnail drawings in my sketchbook.

Preliminary thumbnail sketches of the painting.

Preliminary thumbnail sketches of the painting.

I’m rereading a book called Culture Shock! Thailand (1982) which is far more interesting after having lived there, as I now actually understand what the authors are talking about. The text is a bit dated and pretty tongue in cheek, but all in all it’s a very informative read.

According to the authors there was a famous ghost named Nang Nak Prah Khanong (aka Lady Nak) who used to haunt the Sukhumvit area in Bangkok. Thankfully she was tricked into entering Wat Mahabutr (a Buddhist Temple) on Soi On Nut and her evil powers were diminished. “Fortunately, no ghost exists without its anti-ghost.” Whew!


“Shhhhhhut your big American mouth. . .” – Culture Shock! Thailand (1982)

Lastly, we’ve been enjoying some cool, rainy days here in Portland, Oregon. My garden is flush with vegetables– especially tomatoes and basil which has led to a great pesto bounty. My sunflowers were recently mysteriously ravaged, and I finally discovered the culprits to be a family of Blue Jays. I’ve since harvested the sunflowers to dry out the seeds, but left a last large stalk and flower for the Blue Jays to finish eating. Who am I bum out a family of birds?

Bounty of fresh tomatoes and basil from my garden.

Tomato basil bounty fresh from my garden.

Thanks for reading and feel free to comment!  <<<>>>


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§ 13 Responses to Burmese Days – Painting George Orwell

  • jackbaumgartner says:

    Oh, Mikey, your ability to paint a skull rivals Holbein himself! I can’t wait to see this painting straight on.

    The goldfinches have been devouring my sunflowers, but that is what I planted them for. They keep the gold!

    • Mike Schultz Paintings says:

      Thanks, buddy. This painting came really quick, and I am excited to show it to you. I think I finished it yesterday evening, but I am sure there will be a few days of tonal adjustments. I think it is one of the better pieces in the series so far.

      Interesting about the gold finches! It’s funny, because I wasn’t sure why you (or anyone) planted sunflowers for any reason besides beauty. I assumed you Kansans did something with the seed. . . It makes me want to give more of the sunflowers back to the blue jays as they seemed pretty happy eating them. Also, I do have a tree full of finches out there too, so it’s possible they are eating it too.

      There was however some other critter, possibly a type of slug, that completely decimated the leaves and really killed them. So they were looking in pretty bad shape by the end.

  • oliverowl says:

    I agree with Jack. Can hardly wait to see your painting of Orwell. I was left breathless when I first saw your oil of the brass bell and lemon; the way you contrasted the smooth shine of the bell with the rough skin of the lemon! Hope to speak with you on the 31st.

    • Mike Schultz Paintings says:

      Thank you! We’ll definitely talk on the 31st. :) This painting is nearly done and I’ll be sure to share it as soon as it is ready. The painting of the bell and the lemon was a fun one– I’m learning so much with each piece, and it’s been a fruitful series so far.

  • Scritch says:

    I didn’t know george orwell had a hitler moustache. lovely painting

  • Incredible work, Mike. Very much looking forward to seeing the finished piece – thank you for sharing it with us.

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