Artist Ray Domingo says he’s found in Gulfport everything he needs: a place near the sea with nice people and a wonderful house where he can live, work and exhibit his paintings.
Domingo, 74, and his wife Linda moved into the property at 2620 Beach Blvd. S. in March 2015 and have continued to renovate it ever since. In the back they’re building a studio where he will paint and sell his art. They hope to have it open to the public by the end of the year.
“Optimism is a wonderful thing,” Domingo said Monday, July 25 as he showed a reporter around. “When we bought the house we thought, ‘Gosh, we should be open by Christmas time.’ Here we are, a year and a half later, still optimistic.”
The studio is a 732 square foot wooden structure with ceilings up to 15 feet high. There are few windows because all the wall space is needed for Domingo’s canvasses, which are as large as eight feet by six feet and feature elaborate scenes of marine life.
In the meantime, those huge canvasses are stacked along the walls of the main house. That leads Domingo to apologize several times for “all the clutter,” which also includes numerous smaller canvasses with designs for his marine-themed apparel and merchandize.
His collections, for both men and women, are produced and marketed by Live Free and Coconut Tree Boutique.
Domingo is a native of the Philippines who moved to Cleveland with his family in 1960 at the age of 18. His innate artistic talents won him a full scholarship for a degree in commercial art at the Cooper School of Art in Cleveland and later, a New York City agent who over the years got him design and illustration jobs at some of the top companies in the nation. Among his clients were Coca-Cola, Rolling Stone magazine, the New York Stock Exchange, Camel cigarettes, Jell-O and Anheuser-Busch.
Imprinted by the ocean during his childhood in the Philippines, in 1978 Domingo moved to St. Petersburg so he could be near both the water and a large airport from where he could ship his art out to his clients.
He continued working there until the year 2000, when he said the growing use of computers in graphic design “kind of spelled the end to the golden era of illustration.”
“I was ready to paint for my own pleasure,” he said. “I chose marine life because that’s how I grew up – around the waters in the Philippines, swimming with my friends.”
And after decades of being limited to relatively small illustrations for his clients, he decided to go big.
“I really like the physicality of doing big paintings,” he said. “I can be up and down that ladder all day long. It keeps me alive.”
He describes his style as “idealized composition” where he arranges his marine subjects in appealing poses unlikely to exist in reality.
About two years ago, he and Linda were having lunch at O’Maddy’s when they decided that Gulfport, with its water-oriented culture and attraction to art lovers, might just be the place to live.
Domingo started looking for a house in an area with mixed-use zoning that would allow him to have a studio open to the public. When he found the house on Beach Boulevard, the sellers were just starting to renovate it, so he and Linda were able to design most of it.
“It was perfect,” Domingo said. “To me it was like handing me a blank canvass.”
Their theme, Domingo said, is “modernistic and minimalistic.” Their colors tend to blacks, whites and grays, with occasional splashes of color, like their bright red kitchen sink.
With his usual optimism, Domingo is hoping other artists will follow his lead and set up their own studios along the boulevard.
“Let’s make it artists’ row,” he said.