“Frazione”

Painting of imaginary historic architecture on mountaintop, Italy. Titel Frazione.
“Frazione”, by Eelco Bruinsma. Oil on panel. 50 x 62 cm. © 2018

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.

Page of my Hahnemühle sketchbook.
Page of my Hahnemühle sketchbook. Abstraction and realism combined. Eelco Bruinsma © 2016-2018

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.

Page from my Hahnemühle sketchbook. Both sketches made it into paintings.
Page from my Hahnemühle sketchbook. Both sketches made it into paintings. The righthand church is now part of this particular painting. Eelco Bruinsma © 2016-2018

A canvas print is now for sale in the Etsy shop of Moonfrog Studio.

A perfect match to your stylish apartment.
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Veggie diner, a mid-century architectural caprice

Illustration in cartoon style of a modernist diner with vegetarian connotations.
“Atomic Age Veggie”. Eelco Bruinsma © 2018

Playing with some colour themes I created over the years, I drew this architectural folly with a mix of expressionist and atomic-age elements. And why not celebrate vegetarianism at the same time? At Moonfrog Studio we’re green.

If you like it, or if you want to have a stylish vegetarian statement on your wall, this one is for sale too in our recently opened Etsy shop. It comes in two sizes, 300 x 300 mm (11,81 x 11,81 inch), or 500 x 500 mm (19,68 x 19,68 inch). It comes on nice silk-finish paper in a tube with optional gift-wrapping and dedication, or message. All prints are numbered and hand-signed, because I will only print 50.

‘Automatic’ India ink drawing #2

I know that the term ‘automatic’ in conjunction with writing and drawing conjures up the Surrealists and psychoanalysis. I have always been interested in the process because I am a fan of the Surrealists and Dada. Many years ago a tried to write poetry in this fashion, but I lost most of the results. And, of course, I like all things ‘Automattic’, because WordPress blogs are what the web is all about.

Recently (see my previous post) I rediscovered the charm of automatic creation. Using a very basic graphic design tool: an ink pen that can only be used to draw lines along a ruler.  I exhibited the results in September 2016 during an art event. In fact, I created them on the evening before the opening, because most of my oil and acrylic paintings were not finished in time. People were charmed by the freshness and lack of finish of the drawings. Some of them I coloured with pencil (Faber-Castell Polychromos), and some I coloured with watercolour.

The inspiration for the drawings originates in Italy, and more specifically a journey from Le Marche to Lazio, and Umbria. The drawings are ‘inspired’ by the landscapes and villages, not literal copies, they are concatenations of shapes that popped up during these automatic drawing sessions. The pen, the unstoppable flow of ink, are the main protagonists of these drawings. These pens are created to draw straight lines of even thickness, they are totally unsuitable for fine drawing. But they are great to invent things as you go an to discover the things your mind throws at you.

My mental world is the world of pre-Socratic philosophy, myth, and eternal landscapes, which is also reflected in these drawings. Are they art?

Central corridor of ‘Voorheen de 5 Platanen’ with the 4 drawings.

 

The pen.
Automatic drawing #3
Automatic drawing #4, “Bagnoregio and Cività”.
Automatic drawing #5.

 

European Columbine extracted

Quite an enigmatic title. But it refers to the fact that I loaded a photo I posted some months ago into Adobe Color CC, and extracted a nice color theme from it. I let the software run by itself without steering it at all. The result is quite nice.

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And for the sake of completeness, the original photograph.

akelei

They left

Photo of abandoned public swimming pool
Aquasanta Terme, abandoned swimming pool. Eelco Bruinsma 2016

I was somehow struck by the location, the colours, the strong horizontals, and the abandoned functionalism of the place. Aquasanta Terme (Le Marche, Italy) is an old town with a thermal spa situated in a deep valley. Sulfuric sources stream through the station and end up in the river that meanders through the canyon. The swimming pool is at the higher end of the town, and is accompanied by a slightly dystopian parking area.

Although the thermal spa is still in use, it has abandoned area’s too. Squeezed against the rock, this old building.

Aquasanta Terme, abandoned spa building. Eelco Bruinsma, August 2016
Aquasanta Terme, abandoned spa building. Eelco Bruinsma, August 2016

‘Ancestral Message’

'Ancestral Message', watercolour on Mulberry paper. Eelco Bruinsma 2016
‘Ancestral Message’, watercolour on Mulberry paper. Ca. 80 x 63 cm. Eelco Bruinsma 2016

This watercolour was a real pain to create. The Mulberry paper is mainly used for printing techniques like etching, and doesn’t like India ink and watercolour. When applying watercolour the water is sucked right out of the brush, and the rough surface resists a nice even brushstroke. But I wanted to approach ancient, and predominantly non-Western techniques, like the tree-bark paintings that originates in some South-Sea areas.

Although the painting refers to South-Sea visual- and narrative motives, it also contains references to African (Chi Wara) antilope masks, DNA strings, architectural remnants of past cultures and ancient Northern European runes. It’s a memory chart of cultural history, a theme that I have started to explore again recently.

New Colour Themes

From time to time I take stock of the colour themes that we carefully create with the use of Adobe Color CC (previously called Kuler). I started using Kuler years ago, and now, after the integration of the applications into the Creative Cloud I still have all my themes right there, at my fingertips, from the first attempts onto the latest themes. Nice.

There is magic involved in mixing and matching the right hues, values, and saturations of the colours. Do they live together? Do they clash? Do they create a harmony, calm, energy? So many memories and associations are intrinsically connected with colour. Like the scents that sent Proust into the past, colour can transport us, change our mood, evoke something we thought we forgot.

Turning the colour wheel, and finding the right theme is invigorating, and intellectually stimulating. But, finding a fitting title is just sheer fun. From the mundane, to the ridiculous, from the serious, to the childish, I think I have exhausted the whole spectrum of possibilities. Now I sometimes create a theme, just for the fun of having to think up a title later.

I picked a couple of themes from the CC colour library I created over time and made some colour theme samples in Illustrator to accompany this post.

Colour theme created by Eelco Bruinsma in Adobe Color CC
Inspired by Michel Leiris, the writer, surrealist and former director of the Musée de l’Homme (©Eelco Bruinsma)

 

Colour theme created by Eelco Bruinsma in Adobe Color CC
Inspired by the movie by Jaques Tati (©Eelco Bruinsma)

 

Colour theme created by Eelco Bruinsma in Adobe Color CC
Inspired by the view on Brussels from the EU building Covent Garden (Place Rogier) (©Eelco Bruinsma)

 

Colour theme created by Eelco Bruinsma in Adobe Color CC
Inspired by the recent trend of Mid-Century Modern design (©Eelco Bruinsma)

 

Colour theme created by Eelco Bruinsma in Adobe Color CC
Inspired by the view on the Eemshaven industrial port in the North of the Netherlands in February (©Eelco Bruinsma)

 

Colour theme created by Eelco Bruinsma in Adobe Color CC
Inspired by nature on a summer morning (©Eelco Bruinsma)

 

Colour theme created by Eelco Bruinsma in Adobe Color CC
Inspired by an eclectic mix of elements in a doll’s house, from hand-made to off-the-shelf toys (©Eelco Bruinsma)

 

Colour theme created by Eelco Bruinsma in Adobe Color CC
Inspired by the people and market stalls in a small streets in Assisi (Italy) (©Eelco Bruinsma)

 

Colour theme created by Eelco Bruinsma in Adobe Color CC
Inspired by murals in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence (Italy) (©Eelco Bruinsma)

 

Colour theme created by Eelco Bruinsma in Adobe Color CC
Inspired by English lithographs of Egyptian temple interiors (©Eelco Bruinsma)

 

Colour theme created by Eelco Bruinsma in Adobe Color CC
Inspired by berries on a tree in our garden in Autumn (©Eelco Bruinsma)

 

Colour theme created by Eelco Bruinsma in Adobe Color CC
Inspired by my own illustration of surreal priests on old paper in sepia an purple tints (©Eelco Bruinsma)

 

Colour theme created by Eelco Bruinsma in Adobe Color CC
Inspired by glass bottles with ground pure pigments I used to mix oil paint (©Eelco Bruinsma)

 

Colour theme created by Eelco Bruinsma in Adobe Color CC
Inspired by a visit to monumental houses in Perugia (Italy) (©Eelco Bruinsma)

 

Colour theme created by Eelco Bruinsma in Adobe Color CC
I couldn’t find another title, and came up with this one (©Eelco Bruinsma)

 

Colour theme created by Eelco Bruinsma in Adobe Color CC
Again inspired on the Eemshaven (Groningen, NL), but this time at dawn on a hazy winter morning (©Eelco Bruinsma)

Appearance of a Teacup

Painting of a teacup on a striped surface with abstract objects in the background. Eelco Bruinsma. Acrylic on canvas.
‘Appearance of a Teacup’. Acrylic on canvas, 35 x 35 cm. Eelco Bruinsma 2016

This painting stood around unfinished for years. Although I changed both my style and technique some time ago, I decided to give it the finishing elements it needed, by painting in the unfinished bits, and touching up the shadows. Wavering between abstract and realistic, this is a pivotal piece.

Reachin’ out

watercolor by Eelco Bruinsma
“Reachin’ out”. Eelco Bruinsma 2016. Watercolor.

Akelei (European columbine, Aquilegia vulgaris, gewone akelei)

Aquilegia vulgaris (gewone akelei, European columbine)
Aquilegia vulgaris (gewone akelei, European columbine). Front garden.

We didn’t have much time to tend to the front garden these past years. It looks a bit unkempt now. A bit wild. It possibly is already starting to annoy the people with loads of free time to attack every weed and grass that ventures in their impeccably boring gardens. But, what a wealth. The commonest of plants and flowers are a feast for the eye. Although the roses are late this year. But they will come soon.