By MATT BLOIS
Every wall in Charles Snoek’s Spring Hill home is covered with his paintings.
Most are of sea creatures on a plain, textured background. He and his late wife Lunella Snoek tried to find a house with tall ceilings so they would have enough space for their art.
A series of three-foot-tall shorebirds hangs high above the dining room table.
“We painted here, both of us at this table right here,” he said.
He painted the main subjects, which often look like the illustrations of sea monsters on 16th century maps. She painted the backgrounds using a technique called stippling, which gives the painting a rough texture.
“She was really good at it,” he said. “She never missed a beat.”
They would sit together at the dining room table, each working on a separate painting. She died in 2010, leaving him with the many works they created together.
Snoek is the Spring Hill Art Center’s artist in residence this month, and his work is on display in the sun room at Rippavilla. The center displays art from a local artist at the mansion each month. Snoek’s paintings will be there through February.
He’s 88 years old now, and his home looks like an art gallery. An orange squid swims above his TV, next to a snake charmer playing music for a cobra — a painting he made with his wife in the 1950s. His entryway has paintings of Chinese warriors on horseback, and a surreal painting of images from the book of Revelation.
But mostly, he paints fish.
Many of the fish he painted are from Aruba. He traveled there frequently with his wife, and they would swim out to the reefs to look at the fish. He said he liked painting things from the ocean because his father was a boat captain in the Gulf of Mexico.
He’s always lived close the water, sometimes lakes and sometimes oceans. He’s a lifetime fishermen, and in Michigan found a job testing lures for a fishing company. The company gave him a boat, new rods and reels.
He grew up in the coastal city of Port Arthur, Texas, but traveled all over the world for work. He had a day job selling pharmaceuticals, and he spent about a year in Tokyo working at a chemical plant where he befriended Japan’s ambassador to Canada.
He didn’t start painting until he went to college. He took two semesters of art classes at Lamar University in Texas, and found out he was pretty good. He still has a series of drawings he did from that time of soldiers in uniform.
“I don’t even like those,” he said.
He didn’t paint as much as he would have liked while he was working, but he started painting a lot more after he retired. He liked painting with others. In addition to collaborating with his wife, he frequently organized gatherings with other artists where they would all paint together.
He estimates that he’s finished at least 200 paintings, and many of them are scattered around Spring Hill. He has several paintings in the post office, and a print of one of his paintings is hanging in Pancho’s Mexican Restaurant.
He came to Spring Hill in 2004 to be closer to his family, and he helped establish some of the city’s art galleries. He has organized art shows at the old high school building, but he would like to see an art gallery in Spring Hill in a place that would attract more people.