These men were definitely not a mother’s dream; full of tattoos and broken teeth. But they also brought back with them stories of strange lands and cities, which back then were not as easily accessed as they are today. On their return to their countries, these young men were regarded with a certain amount of respect, as well as disgust, by the locals who had stayed behind. It is this contradiction of respect and disgust that also attracted me to painting these portraits. The marks on their bodies, both in the form of tattoos or scars, show a life lived fully. Perhaps not a life lived well or safe, but lived nevertheless.