A lot of people ask me what art school I did.
Well, I didn’t. I’m self-taught.
At high school I was a kind of self-chosen loner because of the cranky circumstances at home. Saving some distance between me and my school mates seems to be a good idea to me back in those days, to prevent I had to invite them to my home. A child don’t want to be different or having weird parents. But social pressure is a big thing when you are young, so … the logical cause and effect was; I didn’t like school. I wanted to get out of it as soon as I was allowed.
Beside that, I didn’t get much direction from my parents. They had other things to deal with. An education after high school never crossed my mind. I hardly knew such things existed for people like me. University was meant for people of a whole other species. Another planet.
So, after high school I immediately started to work. Jobs like dish washer in a restaurant, cleaner in a hospital and worker at an assembly line in a cosmetics factory. I did make a kind of progression though, because I ended up as the assistant in an accountant office. For me that was a kind of real and serious job, for grown-ups. I was satisfied I had made it so far.
But when I was 26 I slowly started to fall asleep on my desk every afternoon. I didn’t hate my job, but it wasn’t very challenging too. It was time I got serious about what I wanted with my life.
I knew I was creative. People had said it. But I thought it was something belonging to my childhood. Everyone’s childhood, because most children like drawing, painting and playing with clay, isn’t it? I never considered my creativity taking to a serious level. For some reason playing with pencils and crayons on that age felt like cheating. Like refusing to take your responsibilities as an adult. Just like university students, I thought artists where another species too. Not my world.
Anyway … I still was falling asleep every afternoon, I knew I had to make a decision soon, before I never woke up again. This couldn’t go on for the rest of my life. So, encouraged by my boyfriend I quit my job and I started to paint. From the library I studied books about the techniques of oil painting and my inspirations came from the art galleries I started to visit.
This was my very first oil painting, 25 years ago. With a fantasy signature.
Technically it was okay. The paint is still on the panel and not cracked. Perspective-wise I was … well, still in training.
And please do not ask for the ‘meaning’, because I had and have absolutely no clue. Those days I just wanted to put unlikely things together in 1 unlikely scene.
Some people say: “Everything has been done already before”.
And I’ve always been afraid that the things I paint are created by someone else once before. That I am not aware of it and therefore I innocently could be accused of copy-catting. A demoralising thought!
Before the start of a new painting I thoroughly search the internet for images that could be interpreted as similar to my idea. If I find one, then the inspiration is instantly quenched.
Luckily it only happened once. I wanted to paint a Dutch mill on a moonscape, but a friend found an image of a comparable scene! I was disappointed and relieved at the same time.
There are artists who are inspired by the work of another artist. I think most of the artist are. At least at the beginning of their career. A lot has been written about the concept of inspiration, but personally I don’t want to see who is the source of inspiration in one’s artwork. If that is too transparent, I think the artist hasn’t fully developed his or her own handwriting. I won’t say then he is not a good artist, but for my own work I find it a requirement that nobody can see the early puppy admiration.
Actually, I’m not flattered anymore if someone says: “Ohh, your work reminds me of Dali!” Grmppff … what Dali?!?! My work is completely different! And it isn’t Willink-like too. Phew, get some new glasses!
I really want to stop checking the web before I hit a new canvas. Both beforehand and afterwards.
When I started my series of portraits in 2011 and just had finished 3 of them, I discovered a Serbian painter who created the same kind ‘deformed’ portraits and also had added a kind of fantasy stories to them.
I was upset for months! I so had enjoyed painting my own portraits and making up their imaginary lives … and now suddenly I could not go on with this project. The spark was completely dead.
It took months before I found back the fun. Months before I could see that the difference between the Serbian guy and me was big enough to go on. That there was room for both of us.
The image on the top left I found on the internet and is made by Justin Miller. On the right side my Agaricia Bullio.
The second left image was named ‘Gonzo Green forest’, but I couldn’t find any more information.
Justin, Gonzo, Slavko and I possibly have been the soil for the seeds of the same source of inspiration.
It doesn’t matter … everything has been done already before. It was a stupid fear anyway.
The prompt was: Sports are a huge part of today’s culture. Chances are your life has involved sports in some way. Create a page about a sport you love to watch, love to play or a sport your family members participate in, a fictional sport or about what you’d rather be doing while everyone else tunes in.
I’m a very non-sport type of person and I prefer to save my ability to run, jump, climb and swim for when I’m in danger. Although I walk the dog for 90 minutes a day, the thing that comes most close by a form of serious exercise is the purchase of a yoga mat. I have rolled it out once to admire the color.
And that … well … yeah … that’s it.
The prompt was: We all know – often from experience – that lying about things never really turns out well. Many of us learned this lesson hard way. Create a page about a lie that you once told. You can focus on the why, the how, the result, or any combination of those.
My lie is more a secret than a lie. The kind of ‘everything-is-okay-lie’.
When I was 10 years old my Mum got a severe stroke. She didn’t recover very well. Her memory, her speech and half of her body was affected and she was not able to take care for the household, or for me, the only child. Unfortunately my Dad’s primary interest was alcohol, so it’s not difficult to imagine the ‘somewhat messy situation’ I had to cope with.
When I started high school -luckily located in another town- I lied about my family. I was too afraid to get bullied because of a mental mum and an unreliable dad. The other kids could think I was a lunatic too. I had seen lesser reasons to become a target and my self-confidence wasn’t particularly developed. I didn’t make true friends and kept a safe distance between me and my class mates to prevent the risk I needed to invite them home.
My parents were not waiting after the school trips, they didn’t come to the schoolbook-market and I lied to the teacher why they couldn’t come to the parent’s evening.
I made it to the end, but in the meantime the secret had made a huge negative imprint. It took me years before I freely could talk about it.
The prompt was: What is your FIRST memory? It’s so interesting to think about the things that stick around from our childhood – and why those memories were important enough for us to remember. Think about your first memory (or another very early one) and create a page about it.
I grew up in a small apartment in the old centre of Amsterdam. The rooms in the building opposite of our home were rented by students. On late summer nights the students used to have a drink and a smoke on the sill of their open windows. At some point they all had thrown dozens of rolls of toilet paper from the top storey into the street.
The next morning I saw long strips of white paper waving in the wind in front of our window. They were tied on the street lights and on parked bicycles and stuck on the antennas of cars.
It was the 6th of July and I was delighted … because I thought this abundant decoration was done for my birthday!
The prompt was: What do you think of when you hear the word “monster?” A furry blue guy who wants cookies? Lord Voldemort? It might even be your own inner critic. Create a page surrounding one of the monsters in your life.
My monster is called Tinnitus.
Tinnitus is a disorder that causes a 24/7 beeping, hissing or ringing in the ears. It never stops and it’s not curable.
Mine is a humming sound and it’s present day and night. It slowly creeped into my life about a year ago and continuously disturbs my concentration.
Until now I can mask it with other sounds like radio, running water, a ventilator or wearing a loudly purring cat on top of my head 😉 But at night I’m worried if the volume will increase in the future.
My only available weapon is my mantra: Don’t feed the troll, because it grows on attention.
The prompt was:
If you came with a warning label, what would it be? Proceed with caution? Do not cross? Something more elaborate? Think of your warning label, and create a page to match.
I think I’m a forgiving and patient person, but what really XL turns me off is if people make promises but never return to them. Do they think I have no memory?
If I have made a promise it’s like holding a precious egg for someone else. I’m aware of it every day and I want to get rid of it asap.
Over time I have noticed that other people don’t make such a big deal of it as I do. Maybe I give it a too excessive importance, but … that’s my personal manual and reply to the prompt; Never fob me off with empty promises. It will irretrievably devalue our friendship.
The prompt was: Whether we are cat people, dog people, fish people, or “animals should not live in my house” people, all of us have had interactions with animals. Create a page about one of these animals or experiences – it can be anything from beloved household pets to the story of a rabbit that won’t leave your garden alone.
Most of our cats were second hands, adopted ones or strays. That’s why our reservated part of the cat heaven is already so crowded. I think it is quite clear we are cat people.
Although at my left side you see a dog. She was a refused one too (a human baby took her place). Now we are a part of her research project if cat people can be transformed into dog people. She needs a couple of years more to study on it.
The prompt was: Most of us have answered to more than 1 name in our lifetime – be it a nickname, a pet name from a spouse/partner, or a name defining an important role in your life, such as Mom or Grandma. Create a page about one of these alternate names.
Frank and I are a couple since 1989, but only in May 2015 we have married. We are Dutchies, living in New Zealand, but a few years ago we got hopelessly spellbound by Taiwan.
So … one day we decided to do our very low-key private wedding in Taiwan. To get the documents officially registered, we both needed Chinese names.
For Chinese people a name is hugely important and not only given because it sounds good. In most cases a name includes a particular meaning and a special wish for the person’s future. We consulted a translator to help us choosing a name that was not too awkward, not offending, not silly or too weird sounding.
My name means something like ‘cute trees’ and it’s pronounced as: Ling Won Won
I can write down another 1000 words about this subject and the reason for being named Cute Trees, but hey … the prompt was for art journalling and not for story telling.
I never have paid any attention to the phenomenon ‘art journaling’. I thought it was a kind of excessive decoration of a photo-album, made with a lot of ready bought craft supplies. A fun way of pastime, but not really something for me.
But … since a few weeks ‘I get it’!
I discovered the difference between scrap booking (like I described above) and art journalling. Art journaling is expressing feelings, thoughts, opinions and experiences, but not especially by using words. It can be done by drawings alone, but often it’s done by using a collage technique too, because that’s an easy tool to wake up inspiration and to get an interesting result in a short time.
Yes … a visual journal. How simple?
So, a couple of weeks ago I bumped on a ’30-days-art-journaling-challenge’ on the internet. Every day I get emailed a prompt and I have to create a page about it. I found out that pondering about the prompt is not less interesting as creating the actual page. And the most liberating thing is; Art-wise it doesn’t need to be sellable.
For a couple of days I asked myself: “Is it really necessary to show the world every crafty fart I make? Aren’t those clumsy and somewhat childish drawings devaluing my real artworks?”
Of course not! Tonight I decided that my art journals belongs on my website just like my written words. My art journal pages as well as my blogs are both no artworks but simply expressions, so what could be my real hesitation?
And seen from the opposite way: When I’m touched by an artwork of another artist, I’m instantly interested in the person behind. No matter in what way he expresses him- or herself.
As long as you and I are not able to meet in real, here is another kind of peek into my head, in my life and my history.
Okay, I’m not ready to completely leave out the written words. I feel the need to explain how I have interpreted the prompts, so for now they are appearing as a kind of illustration of my explanation about the prompt.
How did I miss this for so long? I wish I had started them 40 years ago!