A voluptuous woman resplendent in an exotic costume reclines languidly. While not making eye-contact with viewers, she wears a mysterious, somewhat amused expression.
She is the subject of a painting titled “Mata Hari,” after the legendary WWI spy, by the late Patrick Donovan Tobin (1950-2006), a painter and surfer born in Los Angeles, raised in Laguna Beach, but who felt most at home in Mexico.
The brightly colored painting where fuchsias, pinks and turquoise-blues abound is from a collection of 25 works including wood cuts and monotypes that Tobin produced during the last year before his death.
His wife, Karen Tobin, kept them from public view until she could emotionally steel herself to show them. Now, she will introduce those works on Saturday, Feb. 25, at Laguna Beach’s Gallery McCollum, which she opened 18 years ago. “These are paintings he did during the last year of his life, when he drastically changed his style and subject matter from what he saw around him, landscapes for the most part, to simply painting a single figure or object,” she said.
Patrick Tobin’s work is intriguing since it’s hard to pinpoint stylistically. Traces of French and California Impressionism, German Expressionism and the freewheeling palette of the Fauves executed in exuberant brushwork with a touch of naif art make it uniquely his own. His woodcuts show the linearity characteristic of the medium, minus the detailing of German or Japanese versions. “He had no formal training but he read hundreds of books. If he had not been such a brilliant, prolific painter, he could have well become a successful writer,” said Karen Tobin. He had self-published two books illustrated with his own woodcut prints.
Though he had traveled throughout Europe, Tobin spent much of his adult life in Petacalco, a seaside Mexican village or similar places nearby. It was paradise for a surfer. Though Tobin is well known in surfing circles, he discouraged anyone from publicizing his skills or the location of his surfing haunts.
“During his last year, he was excited about the direction the paintings were going and was painting for a show,” said Karen Tobin. “Now it is time,” she said.