I stopped doing local and regional projects recently. Instead, I now focus on writing articles and longer texts for clients in the world of art and culture. I accept commissions from private and institutional clients.
Writing for a general audience, I make existing knowledge accessible to the average reader. This typically requires some in-depth research, which is part of the fun.
One of the first products of my switch to cultural journalism is an article on the life-size anatomical model of a gorilla. The French firm of Dr Louis Auzoux created this elaborate model. Writing this article was a fascinating journey into the world of post-Enlightenment education in 19th century France.
The main innovation of doctor Auzoux was his idea to use separate parts for his model. The professor could take it apart and reassemble it during anatomy lectures. Auzoux created the anatomical model of a life-size man to replace dissections on dead bodies. This made anatomy lectures far less unpleasant and less dangerous for medical students.
I am now working on an article on the beaded tribal art of the Cameroon Grasslands region.
Sometimes you discover special places that you did not know existed, and it’s even nicer when they are, in a way, quite near. I must have thundered past this megalithic grave in the province of Drenthe, Netherlands, countless times, on my way to the western or southern parts of the country, to an appointment, family, a week working abroad, a Sunday stroll with the family in the woods… Only very recently we discovered this secluded area, which has been elevated to the status of National Park, called ‘Drentse Aa’.
The province of Drenthe, part of the northern Netherlands, is famous for its heaths, rich meadows, mellow woodland, ancient streams and dolmen (well, Dutch archaeologists don’t want to call them ‘dolmen’, but for the sake of clarity, I do), or megalithic graves. These graves (or ossuaries, again, the archaeologists still haven’t spoken the last word on these monuments) have been constructed from large rocks that reached the area during one of the most recent large ice ages, the Saalien (roughly 200 000 years ago). The rocks have been transported by the slow but unstoppable ice blob that pushed its way south until it ended in the central parts of the country. I always imagine this process as sugar syrup (or maple syrup, if you’re on the other side of the Atlantic) slowly pushing breadcrumbs until it stops. Of course, the ice melted, and the stones were left behind, littering the landscape.
A neolithic group of people, indicated with a name derived from their signature pottery, ‘funnel beaker culture’ (trechterbekercultuur), used these big leftover boulders some 5000 years ago (3350 – 3000 BCE) to construct funeral mounds. They also could have been used as ossuaries, archaeologists are still working with a number of hypotheses. These mounds were created around shallow oblong dug out chambers surrounded by a row of big stones, and capped by large flatter stones that were put on the surrounding standing stones. This, quite solid, construction was covered in earth. Therefore, they must have had the appearance of low mounds.
With time a significant number of these graves, or bone-repositories, popularly called ‘hunebedden’ (beds of Huns = giants), became exposed. Some survived the times unscathed, others were vandalised, or were cannibalised as building-material.
The modern visitor can enjoy a number of these megalithic graves, because they are now protected by law, and managed with the rest of the rich cultural and natural heritage of the area.
We stumbled upon this dolmen by chance and were immediately struck by the quiet, almost surreal atmosphere of the place.
Not far from this dolmen you may also want to visit a beautiful pinetum (i.e. a botanical garden dedicated to pine trees). The direction to the garden is indicated by signs.
Many megalithic graves are well known, exposed, and well visited, This one is at a more secluded location, and you still have the chance to enjoy it alone, or with a companion.
In the photos, I tried to capture the wintery light and the stillness of this special place.
Another juxtaposition of elements drawn from African art and abstract, or technomorph shapes.
I relinquished the precision of drawing and designing on the Mac, although I sometimes still use Illustrator CC to create graphic work when it requires dry precision. But, for my own free stuff I just have fallen in love again with the imperfections of hand-painted, or hand-drawn lines. The way ink never quite dries evenly. Having no technology between the process that is going on in your imagination and the medium is ultimate freedom.
And, taking a few steps back, I also notice that I slowly float away from representation with each drawing or painting I make. Recognisable elements are becoming signs, or chiffres.
Well, I suppose it is because it’s Friday and the word ‘black’ is ubiquitous that this design has no colour. India ink, and Rohrer & Klingner’s “Ceres Black”, with pen, and brush on 130 gsm Hahnemühle paper. Although this paper is made for acrylic, I noticed that it is excellent for ink drawings too.
I now use a mix of Escoda brushes, and the home brand of my art supply store Van Beek. I must say the the Van Beek Kolinex brushes, synthetic watercolour brushes, are just as good. They have fine strands that hold up to a bit of pressure. Suited for my fast and furious drawing and inking technique.
Sometimes others do what you would like to do. And they do it so well that, in stead of trying to compete with them, it’s better to give them the credits and point people to their work. There is this blogger, Craig, who has created the “Fishink” blog, which is packed with nice stories about artists; illustrators in particular. There is the odd piece of ceramics now and them, or a peek in a gallery, or art fair, but mostly it is about visual artists.
His articles are concise, and well written. They contain the information you need, without being bloated, or pedantic. His posts are packed with images. Often he refers to a publisher, like in his recent article about Edward Bawden, where he refers to the precious Mainstone Press.
For me Craig’s blog is a regular source of inspiration, and his extensive list of links to artists and online resources is a real treasure trove. It must take a lot of time and research to build such a great collection of stories, and references. So, if you love art, especially the art of illustration, don’t hesitate, but go over to Fishink and enjoy.
And yes, before I forget. Craig is an illustrator/designer too. I really like his funny colourful quirky style. If you’re interested, see for yourself.
Doorkruisen de avondmist
Traverse the evening fog
(Note: in translation the 5 – 7 – 5 syllable pattern of the haiku is lost)
IV – “Orpheus”
… Near the lipopotamus in the po, po, Potomacmac.
Or was it? Was it on the Po. Po. Po. Basin?
Ham and cheese. Cheese and Ham. A blow
With a huge hammer. Everyone gets a bit.
His slice, her glass. Where?
Not on this plain of crime and fog.
This paltry plain of crime and fog.
He came from Didone, from Dodona, and was dud.
He stottered from the ladder. Our Tom Mastaba.
We called him ‘Mastaba Tom’.
He polished his lyre until it shone.
Sad, sadder is the weather. Where is Livia?
It doesn’t matter, for we celebrate a sacriment.
A sacred condiment. A ship launch in an army tent.
Where are the Ostrogoths? Ravenna?
We celebrate it, every year, on September 14th, right under Theodora’s nose.
Has she come here? Was she here? Has Theodora seen her?
Did she see the wafer-thin sheets of alabaster?
Stone windows, translucent. She must have seen it!
From the depths of Persephone, but
She looked, in vain, for an exit …
Original Dutch version:
IV – “Orfeus”
… Bij de lipopotamus in de po, po, Potomacmac.
Of was het op de Po. Po. Po. Vlakte?
Ham en kaas. Kaas en ham. Een klap
Met de grote hamer. Ieder krijgt z’n brok.
Z’n plak, haar glas. Waar?
Niet op deze vlakte van mist en nevel.
De barre vlakte van misdaad en nevel.
Hij kwam van Didone, van Dodona, en was dud.
Hij stuiterde van de ladder. Onze Tom Mastaba.
We noemden hem ‘Mastaba Tom.’
Die zijn lier poetste tot hij glom.
Triest, triester is het weer. Waar is Livia?
Het geeft niet, want we vieren een sacriment.
Een heilig condiment. Een tewaterlating in een legertent.
Waar zijn de Ostrogoten? Ravenna?
We vieren het op 14 september, ieder jaar, voor de neus van Theodora.
Is zij hier naartoe gekomen? Was zij hier. Heeft Theodora haar gezien?
Zag zij de flinterdunne plaatjes van gepolijst albast?
Stenen ramen, lichtdoorlatend. Zij zag het! Vast!
Vanuit de diepten van Persephone, maar,
Tevergeefs zocht zij een uitgang …
In the summer of 2016 I travelled with my family through the Italy from east (Le Marche) to west (Umbria). On that particular trip I preferred the company of my small sketchbook, (Hahnemühle, not Moleskine), to my camera, which only sporadically left its bag. In Le Marche we rented a wonderful historic water-mill. The villages and ‘frazione’ – small communities consisting of only a few houses – were exquisitely authentic. Only a week after we spent a wonderful week there, the area was hit by a devastating earthquake.
In Umbria tourism and recent economic prosperity has left its mark, resulting in a style of building that appeals to a certain category of people with money to spend on real estate, but a taste that was mainly formed by Italian popular TV. Expensive, no doubt, but cheap and tacky. Luckily enough there are plenty of small towns and villages that are relatively unaffected by Berlusconi-induced tastelessness. Civita di Bagnoregio is one of these very pleasant places. The small town, perched on a high rock is well-known and loved by tourists, and a visit is certainly rewarding.
From the terrace of the house we rented in the volcanic valley not far from Civita, I could see the old town, high on its weathered volcanic rock. Inspired by that enchanting view I filled my sketchbook, not by copying what I saw, but by drawing from my imagination, inspired by what I had seen moments before; sometimes floating into near abstraction, sometimes staying closer to reality.
Together these images evolved into a number of juxtaposed sketches which form the point of departure for a series of oil paintings. These are only loosely based on the reality on the ground. With the components of these sketches, supplemented by mental images of colour and atmosphere, and influenced by my background as art-historian with a predeliction for medieval and early renaissance art. The murals of Ambrogio Lorenzetti in the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena are among my all-time favorite works of art. Size, perspective and technical perfection are still less important than atmosphere, meaning and symbolism. In my own work the same apparent disregard for linear perspective is a recurring feature.
But in colouring and style I always draw from another rich source, which is my love for the masters of the European comic strips, or ‘bande dessinée’, in particular André Franquin, his fellow artist Jidéhem, and Edgar Pierre Jacobs.
Somewhere in between, between the serious art of Ambrogio Lorenzetti and the tongue-in-cheek virtuosity of André Franquin is another one of my heroes, Jean-Michel Folon, another Belgian artist. His simple, but evocative lines, shapes and colours, never fail to move me.
Therefore my works can never be regarded as ‘serious’. Although deep down, they are, very serious. But that is for another post.
All images are copyright by me. If you would like to use them, or want to have better copies, please contact me by leaving a comment.
A canvas print is now for sale in the Etsy shop of Moonfrog Studio.
A while ago I posted some images from a portfolio of French architectural drawings that I bought at an auction. Today I post the first of a series of re-illustrations based on these drawings. I re-imagined them, well, actually I am still working on the series, to be able to create a flexible series of art prints that can be reproduced digitally on high quality art paper with archival inks. Working on every detail of these images, which are lithographs, makes me appreciate the tremenous skills of the reproduction artists that created them.
Stone lithography in the 19th and early 20th century was as important to all kinds of commercial imagery as DTP and digital design is now. I once wrote a small book on the collection of sigar-box labels that were printed in the south of the Netherlands during the first half of the 20th century. There was a plethora of designs to choose from. Only a few survived as commercial brands. Lithography was the preferred medium. The artisans were creating subtle images and wonderful colours by putting tiny little dots on the lithographic stones rom the Sollnhofer quarries – by hand. They were real virtuoso’s.
These French architectural images were part of a large portfolio of housing types. From small labourer’s cottages to stately city mansions for affluent people, from hunting lodge to architect’s practice, everything was pre-imagined. Driving throug semi-rural and semi-urban areas of France, one can still encounter many of these charming buildings.
The art-print is available in Moonfrog Studio’s Etsy shop. It will be printed on high-quality paper, sent in a tube, and is available in 3 sizes:
- 30 x 30 cm / 11,81 x 11,81 inch
- 50 x 50 cm / 19,68 x 19,68 inch
- 60 x 60 cm / 23,62 x 23,62 inch.