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Making art is not an endpoint, it is an adventurous route

Everybody can make art

But not everyone realizes that quite some perseverance is needed. A work of art doesn’t suddenly appear. It is hard work, even if it looks like a simple work of art, there is often a lot to do beforehand.

To be creative you need a certain mindset. First of all, you have to be a bit cocky… preferably stubborn. This will activate your imagination and you can challenge the status quo and ask yourself: “Why?” And “How?”. That can lead to a: “This is better / nicer / more interesting / etc.”.

Everyone can do this. Sometimes you just have to wake up the inner teenager. ;)

If you use your imagination, you awaken something within yourself. It sometimes feels like my brain is running at full speed and making all kinds of connections that seem obvious to me but are completely new. Eureka! That feeling is the reason why creativity is so important to me. A good dose of caffeine is nothing compared to this.


Just Do It

This is the first and very important step. I myself have long struggled with this. Very often you think (or at least I thought so) that you only have to make something that is worth the effort. That is not true, you have to make it and wait and see if your idea is good or find out that it has to be done differently. You never know in advance.


Dare to take risks

Sometimes when I have one or two hours to make something, I want to spend that time well. I don’t want to make something stupid. I want to make something that I know will work out. This keeps me on the safe… eh, boring path.

But if you really want to make something that makes your heart beat faster then you still have to step away from the familiar path. If you start making different or innovative work, you will irrevocably start making things that are not making sense and/or which are totally unsuccessful. Which are terrible to watch. Do not let this discourage you.
That’s part of the process.


Keep everything

If you later look back at your work, you see overarching themes that you did not see before, you see that what you first thought beautiful is perhaps boring. You suddenly see a “failed” piece as a starting point for a new work. Save or document everything and put a date on it.


Trust the process

Not everything you make and will not be a masterpiece. But everything you make brings you closer. A work often brings you back to an idea for a new, different work that may not be perfect yet better or different from the previous one.

If you see every piece of work that you make as part of a process instead of an endpoint, you give yourself the space to discover, to be open to “happy accidents” and to find your way. In this way, you can also enjoy your search instead of just enjoying an end result.


You are not alone

In art history, many examples can be found of the search for success.
In the nineteenth century, the Salon in Paris was the Institute for “good” art. If you were not admitted there to show your work, you did not count as an artist. And so you actually failed.

A number of the rejected artists are now world-famous artists. The painters now known under the name Impressionists were rejected for the Salon. An alternative exhibition containing the work of those who had been rejected became a great success. Eventually, Cézanne, Manet and Monet, among others, would go down in history as the founders of Modern Art. So you see that failing can also be useful.


A practical example:

I sometimes have someone visit the studio or show my work via, for example, a photo on my phone and what I often hear is: “Gosh beautiful, but how do you think of something like that?”

It sometimes seems as if artists ‘suddenly’ think of something that is right at once. But it does not work that way. I can tell you how my creative process works on the basis of a customer’s story. It is not always exactly the same, because each client has different wishes and a creative process is often dynamic, but the main steps are often the same. The steps that I  have described above can also be found in my work process.

A while ago I delivered a customized painting to a customer. I had made a painting in her favorite colors. My client was very happy with the painting and it fit perfectly in the living room. You can see the painting above in the picture.

What do you think? Did I make this painting in one go? No, it is the end product and there is a process in which even sometimes failures happen.

I will start at the beginning.


The beginning

The name of my client is Inge, she just moved and wanted a new artwork on the wall. Matching her new modern living room and her favorite colors. She has a gemstone that she wants to use as a basis for the color scheme.

At her home, we discuss what she wants, where the painting will hang and which size of painting fits best. Together we choose a color scheme from the color samples that I have taken with me.


Sketch Phase

Then for me, the nicest and most exciting phase comes. Namely: to process everything that I have heard and seen in an idea. I make multiple sketches, color tests and a number of small experiments. Through WhatsApp, I have already sent some pictures to Inge and because of this, she can already indicate what she likes, and what she thinks is less successful. Based on her feedback I make a few more tests.


In de studio

Then we meet in the studio, Inge comes along to view the sketches. In real life, colors are always more pronounced than via a screen. In a photo, not all colors and details can be captured so in “real life” the colors look always more vibrant and beautiful.

We discuss the tests and I get a better picture what Inge likes in her home. The final painting is never exactly the same as the tests, but the most important point is that I know in which direction I do and in which direction I should not think.


The final painting

I am going to start on the big painting. My first idea fails during creation. It does not go as I want. Because I work with diluted and liquid paint for this work, I will have to start all over again. Right now, I don’t get frustrated (a bit bummed maybe) but I know that it is part of the process. It is a shame but better luck next time. I make a movement with my painting knife to get the wet paint off the canvas. I do not press hard enough and spread the paint over each other.


Beautiful gradual tonal changes are happening in the painting.

That is a cool effect.

The painting was “failed” anyway, so I decide to “play” a bit with the paint on the canvas. I even mix some extra paint in because it gives a nice effect.

Suddenly something happens in my head, it clicks. I see for me what this can be in the final painting. Yes, it is different from the tests I made, but it could just be a new and improved 2.0 version.


Taking risks

I go to work for a few hours to see where this can lead to, if it does not work I can always start over. After about three hours I am quite happy with the result. I take pictures and send them to Inge. I wonder if she likes it too.

The painting disappears under the drying table so that it can dry safely.

When the painting is dry, Inge looks in the studio and discusses the work. Especially in real life, she finds the painting very beautiful.

I am happy, Inge is happy.


New idea’s

Because of the drying time, two weeks pass before I can varnish the painting. I pick up the painting to prepare it for the varnish layer. Suddenly I notice a piece in the painting that does not appeal to me so much. I feel that something is missing. I look at it again after two weeks and think something else needs to be done.

I sleep about it for a night, I consult with an artist friend.

I consult with Inge. And finally I decide to add some lines in the piece where it seems “flat”. This was a bit tensive to do, but I succeed and I’m so happy because it really makes it better. Now the painting is finally ready for the shiny varnish.


The moment of truth: Painting delivery.

A week and a half later I deliver the painting. She is so happy that she immediately puts it on the wall. Her daughter asks: “That is beautiful, but how do you think of something like that?”

And then the circle was complete.

So, what I mainly want to say is: Do not give up. Give yourself the chance to make something fail. Sometimes it brings you new ideas, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it is also very good to know what does not work. It’s all part of the process.


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