Doctor helps artist tell story to kids
Dr. Nicholas Orfan co-authored "Destiny of an Artist," based on the experience of George Petridis. Petridis's wife, Melanie, typed the stories and sent the stories to Orfan, who edited it for publication. (Submitted photo / July 6, 2012)
In December 2009, two strangers met in the deserted Rio Center Mall in Gaithersburg, Md.
A snowstorm had left Dr. Nicholas Orfan of Hagers-town and George Petridis of Slippery Rock, Pa., stranded because of the weather. They were the only two in the building.
It was an evening that formed a friendship and led to the publishing of Petridis' memoir, "Destiny of an Artist."
During the storm, Orfan headed toward the mall's lobby. Petridis called out, "It's closed."
When Orfan turned around, he saw Petridis painting.
Orfan was fascinated by Petridis' paintings. He said he loved the way Petridis used colors because it was "unique and dramatic, with lots of contour." The two men began to talk about art and Orfan enjoyed hearing about Petridis' adventurous life.
"I was really impressed by his life as a little boy in Greece," Orfan said.
When Petridis was 12 years old, he snuck into a cliffside nightclub to sell flowers so he could make some money to buy food. A guard chased him and Petridis felt his only chance of escaping was leaping off a cliff into the ocean below.
Petridis fell 40 feet.
Luckily for him, Petridis missed the rocks in the deep water only by a few inches. He only suffered cuts and bruises on his back.
This adventure is one of many stories Petridis told Orfan.
Petridis was born in Greece, lived in Germany and Canada briefly, then made his way to the United States. When Orfan met him, he still did not speak English well, so he asked Orfan to help him write his life story.
"I knew Petridis was an interesting man with a lot of great stories," Orfan said.
The result is a book that Orfan co-authored with George's wife, Melanie Petridis. George narrated the stories to Melanie, Melanie typed the stories and Melanie sent the stories to Orfan who shaped the story.
Orfan, 52, had experience in writing and editing before he worked on Petridis' memoir. He was the editor for "Pathways," a human-interest magazine in medical school at Northwestern University in Chicago. Orfan wrote about 25 articles for scientific journals like the Journal of American Medical Association and the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Orfan said it was a collaborative effort among himself, Petridis and his wife, Melanie, to make the book a reality.
"I changed the language in a way readers could understand," Orfan said.
Orfan explained he edited, corrected grammar and changed the order of how information was presented because he wanted to emphasize the beauty and humor of Petridis' life.
"It was a privilege for me to be the guy who translated it into the language that was acceptable for Americans to understand," Orfan said.
He said it took time to get to know Petridis to understand his English and what he meant, but for Orfan, it was a labor of love.
Love appears many times throughout Petridis' life from family, friends and strangers who recognized his talent. These people helped him to market himself, to sell paintings, to open his own art gallery and, most importantly, to believe in himself and his artwork.
Petridis had a love for art, but never knew where this passion came from. When Petridis was visiting his brother in Toronto, they called their mother who lives in Greece to tell her they reunited.
Petridis told his mother of his newfound love for painting and how he was going to make a career out of it. He also told her he was going to teach his brother, Gaston, how to paint. Petridis was surprised when he found out from his mother that his father had also been a painter and professional artist. From that moment, Petridis realized it was in his blood to be an artist.
"The aim of the book is to inspire young people," Orfan said.
He said Petridis wants young people to know art is a wonderful thing to pursue.
Petridis told Orfan that because he was true to his art and continued to paint in difficult times, he developed a style to create art that helped fulfill his own mind.
In each of the seven chapters in the book, a painting by Petridis represents a time in his life. The colorful paintings illustrate his travels to Paris, Germany, Toronto, New York and Puerto Rico.
Orfan became more interested in art after meeting Petridis. He now collects art and has about 15 original paintings, three of those by Petridis.
"I learned to always look for something unique and wonderful about people that you meet because often you'll be surprised," he said.
Beyond learning about Petridis' life, Orfan wants readers to take away more from the book.
"The book is a great read for everyone, but especially for young people because, it consists of love, adventure, humor and tragedy," he said.
He said "Destiny of an Artist" teaches readers how to be resilient and how to make things work when times are difficult.
Petridis, now 72, continues to paint and goes to Rio Center Mall to sell his artwork. Although he has some health issues, he still has the talent and love for painting and wishes to produce a sequel.
About the book
CO-AUTHORS: Dr. Nicholas Orfan of Hagerstown and Melanie Petridis of Slippery Rock, Pa.
TITLE: "Destiny of an Artist"
PRICE: $26.99 paperback
AVAILABLE ONLINE AT: www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com
AVAILABLE IN STORE AT: Turn the Page Bookstore in Boonsboro