Thursday, September 15, 2016


During the years I participated in quite a few exhibitions, most of them group shows. There are very few galleries left (at least not in Holland) that still host solo shows. They have their reasons, but for the individual artist it's a bit sad. You want to present the full scope of your work and not just two or three little paintings. Luckily for me there is a gallery in The Hague (De Twee Pauwen or The Two Peacocks) that still offers artists the opportunity to present their work in solo- or duo shows. This coming October it's my turn again.

Big Cloud, 70 x 120 cm, oils on panel
I've been working for the occasion for the last six months or so and I just loved it. It's such a pleasure to work towards a balanced presentation and not just jump from one painting to the next. But now that the opening date is drawing near I'm beginning to get a little shaky. As usual I must say. Happens every time. I'm getting second thoughts about practically every choice I made. Did I pick the right sizes, shouldn't they be larger/smaller, isn't the subject matter to divers/to one sided, didnt I paint to much/not enough sunsets. The list goes on and on.

The first thing I do when I start working on a project like this is create a folder in my computer and line up the paintings I already planned to do. For some of them I made oil sketches, others did not get past the Photoshop design phase. Always far more than I can possibly do in the given time span, so I make a new folder within the initial one, the 'first choice' folder and I start to move paintings in and out of it. This process can take quite a while, up to a few weeks. Actually, it goes on right until the end, when I start doubting every choice I made. But since it's not the first time this happens, I'm now able to look at it from some distance and I don't wake up anymore in the middle of the night with only one thought: "You've got it all wrong, you got to start all over again!". Now I only worry after sun up.

A friend of mine recently mailed me a line he read somewhere: "A satisfied artist is a contradictio in terminis". I tell myself to hold on to that thought...

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Cleaning brushes

About ten years ago I threw out terpentine and all terpentine based media. I hated the smell and I didn't need the health hazards. All I had to do was find a solution for the problem of cleaning my brushes. My wife came up with a brilliant and simple plan: why not clean them with oil, the kind you see in any household?

Like I said, brilliant plan, but there was a second problem. When you clean your brushes with household oil, they'll be, how do I say, kinda oily and not fit for painting use. She then thought of yet another plan (she's really smart), which was to remove the oil by washing the brushes with shampoo, if possible with conditioner.

The combination of oil and shampoo works miracles. My brushes are softer than ever and they don't wear out as fast as they used to. I have a number of water color brushes for example that I bought a few years ago and they're still in great shape. If I cleaned them with turpentine, they'd be in the trash for a long time.

Another advantage of this method is the re-use of the oil. I pour the used oil in an old bottle and let it rest for a few weeks. The pigment slowly sinks to the bottom, leaving a relatively clear oil, that I can use again. And again. I can go for months with just a bottle. Good for the environment too. It doesn't matter which oil or shampoo you use. I always buy mine from the bottom shelf in our local supermarket.

The only downside is I need a lot of brushes, because I can't clean them while I'm working. At least not like I used to with turpentine. I use a painting cloth and tissues to squeeze out the paint, but it usually doesn't take long before I have to take a fresh brush.

If you got to the end of this article, you really must be a painting aficionado. Thanks for bearing with me. Next time I'll talk about something really deep...

North Sea Beach, oil on panel, 85 x 150 cm

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Oils and acrylics

Here's a question I've been asked a lot of times: "I'm working in acrylics and I wonder: is it any use to buy your videos since you work in oils?" Well, for me it's always useful when someone buys my videos, but I'm not sure the glazing technique I use can be translated one on one to acrylics. It's been quite a while since I used them, and to be honest, I wasn't much good at it. They dried to quickly for my liking. Since then a lot of new stuff has come on the market, such as acrylic retarders. I never worked with them, so you won't get a lot of information out of me.

 Great, eh? A blog article, that doesn't give you any answers whatsoever. Or maybe just this: when you google 'glazing with acrylics' you get a gazillion hits, so I'm pretty sure it can be done.

In my previous blog article I told you about the importance of email addresses. I planned to write a second one about it, but found the subject a bit to boring for two consecutive entries. Some other time.

In the meantime, if you have tried glazing with acrylics, let me know!

No title yet, oil on panel, 85 x 150 cm

Friday, August 5, 2016

The artist as a marketeer #1

From the Renaissance on the ideas about what an artist was supposed to be began to shift slowly. The radical change took place in the nineteenth century. From a skilled and sometimes highly appreciated craftsman, often working for the king or the church, he became an opinionated genius, only interested in expressing himself. Van Gogh is iconic for this new kind of artist.

In the twentieth century the artist also had to be 'avant-garde'. He (almost always a he, but that's a different subject) had to break through the barriers of tradition and walk ahead of the crowd. A genuine artist had an extra sense for all kinds of trends in society, long before they surfaced. The-artist-as-a-mining-canary myth. And of course, money was no object, which led to another myth, the starving artist.

These concepts of what an artist should be resounded all through the twentieth century and even now they are still quite influential. Bad luck for me. I'm none of the above... I value craftmanship, I'm not interested in expressing my, let's say, 'inner landscape', I build on tradition, I don't have the ability nor the ambition to be a mining canary and yes, money is an object. A man's gotta eat.

Since the start of the economic crises in 2008 (time flies...) quite a number of the galleries I worked with went out of business. The ones that survived generally stopped hosting one-person shows and stopped selling large size paintings. Consequently I could no longer rely on the galleries and had to generate a larger part of my income from direct sales. The last few years this number has been steadily growing.
If you want to increase your direct sales the first advice I can give you is to gather email addresses. Build a database that contains everyone who ever wrote you an email about your work. Add everyone who might be slightly interested. This is of course an effort that will take a long long time, but it'll be worth it. You're going to need the addresses for your newsletter, your next step.

Maybe I'll tell you more about my efforts to market my own work in the next blog entry. You'd almost forget that all this business stuff has only one goal and that is to keep me painting. At the moment I'm reworking a painting I thought was finished about a month ago. This is what it looks like at the moment.

Cloud and Dune, oils on panel, 90 x 120 cm

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Colored backgrounds #2

In my blog entry of June 24th I told you about my experiment with a colored background. You may remember I was quite pleased with the result and that I planned to repeat this approach. Well, I did and sooner than I thought.

The idea for this painting dates from a few months ago when I made an oil sketch of the same subject. Though I was pleased with the result, I wanted it to be even softer, more misty. It seemed to me that a colored background would provide an excellent starting point to get what I wanted. I used a warmer grey this time, a mix of Old Holland violet-grey and Old Holland yellow deep (a little more reddish than Naples yellow).

In the next stages I tried to bring the shapes of the clouds to the front by lighting up the areas around them. That was quite interesting, because it's the reverse of what I usually do, which is painting the shapes themselves.

Misty Sunrise, oils on panel, 70 x 120 cm

The final image is the result of multiple layers of different greys. Rembrandt transparent white proved to be  essential once again. I'm quite pleased with the painting. Hope you like it too!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Working plein-air

A friend of mine invited me for a trip on his boat. He owns a house near a National Park in the north of the Netherlands. Endless canals, interchanged by lakes. Quite impressive.

The weather prediction said 'a few local showers', but since I'm an optimist I thought 'local' would be somewhere else. I packed my drawing pad and a few pencils, hoping to do some drawing from the boat. It turned out that 'local' was right where we were and I only made one quick drawing. 

Reflected Tree, pencil on paper, 14,2 x 21,6 cm

It doesn't look like much, it's clear that I'm out of practice, but I enjoyed the experience. It's so simple: you take your pad and a pencil, you sit down somewhere and you're in for a few hours of fun. The result comes in second. For me, working from nature is about observation. 

Don't forget your eraser. I needed it quite a few times and it was a great help in the reflection bit. I used an HB and a 3B pencil. HB for the outlines and the soft greys, 3B for the darker parts. The pad I worked on was a Tiger sketch book, 216 x 142 mm, 100 grs.

If you feel like sharing your plein-air stories, be my guest!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Colored backgrounds

When I was an arts student (sometime half way the previous century) I learned that it was only during the nineteen hundreds that the white background became common. Before that it was either the natural color of the canvas or a color the artist had applied. It seems the Venetians (Tintoretto and others) used a bright red ground for their work. This is of course all second hand knowledge and in the real world I have little experience with colored grounds. I used it a few times in the past , mainly for dune landscapes when I applied a Burnt Sienna ground. Gave the greens of the dunes on top of it a nice glow.

Anyway, for some reason I thought I'd try a grey background for a change. After applying it I got my cloth and 'drew' the clouds in the wet grey paint. At this point the painting looked like this:

And now it looks like this:

Sun in the Water, 33.5 x 59", oils on panel

I really liked the experience. The grey ground immediately unifies everything you do on top of it. The down side (like fellow-painter Dave Smith pointed out) is that your colors may not turn out as bright as with a white background. I wouldn't use it for a sunny beach scene. It's probably best suited for paintings with a soft atmosphere, like this one.  I will certainly use it more often!