Sounds of Nature
pastel, ink, charcoal paper
About the piece
In the same way as artists in the wake of Romanticism, I have a great affinity with nature. The inspiration for my landscapes is close to home: the beautiful dunescapes that border the Dutch coastline and the many natural flowers in my neighbourhood, by the wayside, along canals, and in gardens and public parks. I make snapshots and use those to create a personal impression of this natural beauty, not a realistic image. For example, I like the photographic, interesting, abstract effects of the wind when it moves branches and stalks. Some of my works show human figures vaguely present in the background showing a mix of figures and plants. Transparent human figures that are at one with their natural surroundings. With horizontal and vertical lines of branches and stalks that suggest movement, and sometimes small symbols that enrich the composition. My drawings are a mix of Eastern and Western techniques that yield picturesque effects. Ink wash drawing is originally from China, from where it spread to Japan. I start with a charcoal background drawing on a piece of chucked paper, to which I add a base layer of washed ink. In this layer, while it is still wet, I make sometimes scratchings in some places, simply by using my nails. In some places, I carefully dry some of the ink by pressing tissues against the surface. All this must be done comparatively quickly, before the ink has dried, to achieve dashes and line patterns that suggest movement. To some works, I add a thin layer of white acryl paint. As a last phase, I apply pastel. This technique features great density of colour because it uses pure pigments. In summary, the means I choose are minimal: ink, water, chalk. Except for the base layers, for which I use brushes, I draw as directly as possible with my hands, especially when I apply the last pastel layers where I must use my fingers to achieve a delicate blend of colours. The combination of this technique and the prepared background results in strong-bodied, colourful pastels with a picturesque effect. Pastels keep their colours perfectly, I like that. As a rule I make very few preliminary studies because they would lessen the spontaneity of the moment. But I do actively use the many photos that I take myself of natural subjects and human models. All the details are stored in my mind before I get to work. Lines and amorphous shapes stimulate my imagination as they appear. Since my time at art school, my affinity is with paper – the specific characteristics of paper I cannot translate directly to other materials such as linen. Famous Japanese ink wash masters from the 15th century like Toyo Sesshu, and at the beginning of the 16th century Hasegawa Tõhaku, continue to impress me, especially Hasegawa’s chamber screens with suggestive, grotesque landscapes that dwarf the human figure. Another strong influence on my work is the French pastel master Quentin de La Tour who, in the 18th century, worked for the elite at the French court, as well as the 19th century Romantic painter Gustave Moreau.
About the artist
I started drawing at a very early age. When I was eight years old, I made my first attempt in serious model drawing. In my teens I followed private classes with a number of different artists. They gave lessons in all kinds of techniques like oil-painting, Surrealism, landscape-drawing and the washed ink technique. When I was seventeen, I visited Italy for the first time, admiring the work of Renaissance artists like Michelangelo, del Sarto and many other famous artists. Then a new world opens my artistic eye. It was of great influence for my career. At eighteen I went to the Academy of Art at Groningen, a good old classical academy where I learned for instance making my own oilpaints, acrylic and inks.
For several years I ran a gallery, and my studio in the backhouse, on the Prinsencanal in Amsterdam and one of my frequent visitors was a journalist of an art magazine. Each time we discussed my drawings he commented that they were very Romantic. Unconsciously, I took "Romantic" to mean "sentimental" – the gipsy girl with tearful eyes. The comments haven't left me, and I now realize that I have been drawing in the wake of Romanticism as an art movement. Beside having a great number of exhibitions I gave directions to other artists.