D11, a megalithic structure near Anloo (NL)

‘Hunebed’ (megalithic gravesite) D11 near Anloo (NLD)

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.

D11, seen from the south

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, while visiting parts of the area for a small cultural heritage project. We 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), about which I will write soon.

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 of course.

In the photos, I tried to capture the wintery light and the stillness of this special place.

“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.

‘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.

 

“Orvieto”

A free impression based on a visit to Orvieto last summer. In September 2016 I made a series of very quick sketches using India ink and a very old pen used for technical ruler drawing. The pen has a screw that governs the flow of ink. They were normally used for technical drawings, frames etc. I inherited this one from my father, who used it as a typography student.

The ink flows out, and you can’t do much to control it. So you have to move very fast, and preferably without a pause, because when you stop you will get a blob of ink. No time to plan, no time to think, just go. A perfect way to create a series of spontaneous drawings with flaws and all.

'Orvieto'. Indian Ink on grey paper. Eelco Bruinsma 2017.
‘Orvieto’. India Ink on grey paper. Eelco Bruinsma 2017.

I used very rough blueish grey sketching paper that I bought years ago and can’t find anywhere anymore.

A series of 4 is now framed and forms a perfect match to the colours of the panelling in the main corridor of the wonderful B&B (or better, D&D = ‘dining & dreaming’: Voorheen de 5 Platanen) of nearby friends.

Eau de Krelis, a visual rant

Eau de Krelis
Eau de Krelis

Sometimes I have these bouts of bad humor. Aaah, can’t help it. Must be the weather.

Artificial dwelling mound #2 (terp)

Illustratie van terp bij hoog water - illustration of dwelling mound at high tide
Artificial dwelling mound #2 (terp). Watercolour on paper. © Eelco Bruinsma 2016-2017

This illustration, or rather impression, is created with black ink from Liquitex and watercolour on smooth all-purpose art paper (Paint-On by Clairefontaine, 250 gsm).

It was done fairly quickly and loosely to match the style of the educational website in which it appears. I always use Rembrandt watercolour paint by Royal Talens. Rembrandt watercolour has a wide range of vibrant, very high quality, and lightfast, colours. There are of course other very good brands, but I have decided to be chauvinistic, and loyally stick with this high-quality Dutch brand.

Artificial dwelling mound

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Artificial dwelling mound in the northern Netherlands. These mounds are called terpen in Friesland (Frisia) and wierden in Groningen. They were built to keep people and cattle dry during the frequent floodings of the coastal area in the northern Netherlands, and the northern region of Germany (Ostfriesland). There are many types of these dwelling mounds, but the canonical types are circular (radiair), and rectangular. The circular road, or Ossengang (Ox Road) was used as a route to bring the cattle from the field to the stables. In the first centuries CE the people lived in long houses with their lifestock.

illustratie_rechthoekigewierde
Artifical dwelling mound. Rectangular type. This image represents a later stage. During the Middle Ages the germanic places of worship were replaced by christian churches. Often a church was built on a location that was already a place of worship. These villages have survived relatively unaltered and can still be visited today.

Sea level

Drawing of a ship reflected as a church in the water by Eelco Bruinsma
“Sea level”, pencil on paper. Eelco Bruinsma 2016

Inspired by Italian villages and the sea that surrounded me in August, I spent as much time as I could with my little Hahnemühle travel sketch book and a technical pencil. Re-inventing my impressions.

Addition (19 september 2016)

Just for fun I uploaded this drawing into Adobe Color CC to see which color theme this web application would automatically distill from the limited palette. I called it – quite originally – “Graphite Pencil”. I like it, the software has chosen a balanced distribution of greys.

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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

Three Brethren

eemshaven_binnenhaven-2
Three giants quietly doing their thing – Eelco Bruinsma, Saturday July 9th, 2016