The Finishing touches

A feeling of dissatisfaction
More or less one year ago I found myself feeling dissatisfied about the turn my artistic approach had taken. I had done nothing but focussing on improving my technique ever since I had left the art academy and the best way of doing that, was by painting exclusively from life. For a few years I did nothing but drawing and painting still-life’s and landscapes, trying to capture the beauty of what I saw around me: the sparkling scales of fish on the market in Groningen, the complementary colours of golden autumn leaves against the purple ground or the bright green of the chestnut burs against the reddish brown of the nuts, whimsical old trees in the winter… Then, all of the sudden, it wasn’t enough any more. I wished to depict not only what was around me, but also what was inside my mind.

Starting a new challenge
I have been drawing ever since I can remember. But as a child, the storytelling aspect of drawing was more important to me than the truthfulness of the image.
My imagination conjured up all kinds of clothed animals, making tea or knitting cozy sweaters, fantasy creatures and even some strange human characters that lived inside a toilet. Often I would write stories, not only in class, but also in my spare time. Some of the tales inside my mind I didn’t take the trouble to put down on paper, but they served well as bedtime stories I told to my brother and myself. When my perfectionist self took over in my teens, I started wanting to draw true to nature and the clothed animals from my childhood faded away.

Until a year ago, I wasn’t aware of the child I had brutally shut out from my artistry and I was happily painting fruit bowls and landscapes, minding to stay as close to reality as possible. My husband was the first to bring imagination back into my life, pressing me to write a children’s story for publication. I always liked the idea of doing that, but I felt I was busy enough trying to get better at painting and there were so many talented writers in the world already.
So I said: “Why don’t you do it yourself?” Still, he had triggered a feeling of dissatisfaction inside me, or maybe it was already there. I realised that what I did, focussing mainly on the aesthetic of things, was getting quite boring. What I really wanted to be able to do, was making my paintings reflect the beauty of imagination. Reflect the beauty of the fairy-tale-like atmosphere some children’s story have, without making it look…cheesy. I don’t know how to explain myself properly. I wished, more than anything, to make a series of very big paintings that looked both real and unreal at the same time. A series with a story.
So that’s how I came up with one of the biggest challenges I had ever taken on: writing a children’s book while making a series of six huge paintings to serve as illustrations. When I say huge, I really mean that. The one you can see me working at on the photo at the top is 180x180cm and I can tell you that working that big is nothing like making a, well, normal sized painting. It takes a completely different approach/way of thinking and, of course, loads of patience.

The first year gone
In 2019 I made the first three paintings of the series, all based on a different scene of the book I am still writing. Three may sound like a very poor number, but in my defence I can say I didn’t work exclusively on this project: my garden was so beautiful last summer, I couldn’t resist the temptation to immortalize its flowers in oils and I spent many hours doing so, sitting between the buzzing bees.
Now that I’m putting the finishing touches to the third and biggest painting of the series (the one at the top), I feel the need to share my artistic experiences of the past year as well as the knowledge I am gaining at the present, while I am still working to complete this challenging project. I have three more paintings to go and a few chapters to write, all of which I’m confident to complete within the year.
Hoping you’ll find my artistic struggles and contemplations useful reading (or at least entertaining), I invite you to follow this blog, as I will post a new story every week. See you soon!

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