Manila (AsiaNews/CBCP) - If religious art is "prayer made seen", then religious artists like the prolific Ryan Nicolas may be counted among the most pious.
"Whenever I paint, I raise myself in gratitude to God," he said, unconsciously re-echoing the sentiments of painter-monk Fra Angelico 500 years ago.
His modest home in La Loma, south-west of Quezon City, is packed with his creations, as much a museum of oil paintings as a shrine of these visible prayers.
Proud, Nicolas never shies away from showing his work: a "Betrayal of Jesus" here, a "Scourging at the Pillar" there, an "Ecce Homo" and a "Crowning of Thorns" over there.
The small house is a like a rosary of pictures, each describing various 'mysteries' made for posterity.
Nicolas avidly collects statues, including some reproductions of the Santo Niño (the holy child).
Following in the footsteps of Saint Luke the Evangelist, the patron saint of painters, he sees his art as a vocation that brings him closer to God, the "Master Artist".
With a brush, the 30-something artist father of two likes to capture on canvas the images borrowed from the Scriptures, with the Lord's Passion as a particularly poignant source of inspiration.
What is really surprising though is the fact that Nicolas does not have any formal training. He is self-taught.
After studying math, which he did to please his parents, he found his true calling in his self-expression. However, at the beginning, everyone in his family tried to dissuade him because his would have been a life of poverty and hardships.
It took his parents time to accept and ackwoledge his passion, which he nurtures along with a job at an ice cream cones factory where he earns enough money to feed his family and kids.
He looks up to the French Impressionists and to Fernando Amorsolo, perhaps the most important painter in the history of the Philippines.
"I just focus on the positive feedbacks, on the constructive criticisms . . . And there are many I assure you," he said.