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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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A struggling artist gives life to memories
By ANDREW SKERRITT
Published July 13, 2007
Local painter David Roland glances at the photograph he is using to create a client's portrait at his home in Brooksville. The 52-year-old Brooksville artist loves to represent the unique characteristics in a person's face in his portrait paintings.
[Times photo: Danny Ghitis]
[Times photo: Danny Ghitis]
Though his work normally starts at $2,000 a piece, artist David Roland has offered to create one free portrait for a family that lost a loved one in the current Iraq war.
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Want a portrait?
Interested in having a portrait of a loved one lost in combat? Call David Roland at (352) 484-0766.
Dr. Joseph H. Bellina, hospital founder and a pioneer in gynecological laser surgery, died of cancer two years ago, just weeks before Hurricane Katrina devastated his hometown of New Orleans.
But in David Roland's modest home studio in Brooksville, Dr. Bellina is still alive. His smiling face beams from the canvas.
How Roland, 52, a struggling portrait artist, came to paint Dr. Bellina says much about the intersection of talent and timing.
Earlier this year, the Michigan native was plying his trade on Duval Street in Key West, when Dr. Bellina's widow, Deborah, walked by.
She was so impressed with Roland's sketch of a couple that she bought two pieces of his work and later had him paint a portrait for a friend whose mother had lost everything during Katrina.
Roland painted the portrait by looking at family pictures; it captured the essence of a mother and her two sons.
"As soon as I saw it, I said, 'This is the person who is going to do my husband,' " said Deborah Bellina, who had commissioned a New Orleans artist to paint a portrait of her late husband but was disappointed with the results. She has had no such complaints about Roland's work.
Roland recently contacted the Times, wanting to do a free portrait of a Pasco or Hernando service member killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. The portrait would be a gift for a family forever scarred by war, he said, an artist's homage to one person's sacrifice.
"I want to give a portrait to someone who is deserving," he said. "I believe in exchanging abundance."
Art has always been his life. A native of Covert, Mich., Roland was 8 when his uncle, an artist, gave him a set of oil paints, brushes and a canvas. His first painting: a still life. Soon he was entering his work in 4-H art contests.
He studied art at the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit. His first job after art school was as an in-house artist at a Veterans Administration hospital in Columbus, Ohio, where he painted landscapes - happy scenes to cheer ailing servicemen and women.
He later painted at an Army hospital in Germany, where he met his wife, Simone. Back in the states, he lived in Detroit, San Francisco, Clearwater, Largo and recently in a motor home at Larry Whidden's Casa De Angela artist colony in Spring Hill. That motor home took him to art shows all over the state. Now slowed by a bad leg, he doesn't quite have the stamina to stand around at art shows for days on end. He does most of his work and outreach in solitude at home. There sits a portrait of Tampa Bay Buccaneer Derrick Brooks; the intensity on his face is palpable. Roland's portrayal of No. 55 could fetch a hefty sum at a charity auction.
"One day he will be very famous," Mrs. Bellina said. "We won't be able to afford him."
For now, one grieving military family still can.
Andrew Skerritt can be reached at (813) 909-4602 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 4602. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.