Copyright 2016 Jeroen Dercksen
ABOUT MY WORK
When people first see my work, they all ask the same question: How can someone paint abstract paintings as well as realistic ones?
The fact that a painter can be successful in different styles of painting surprises them, especially when I tell them I can paint for hours on a small detail of a portrait and make a start for a very big expressive flower or abstract painting on the very same day. Until a couple of years ago there was a strong division between customers and patrons based on one of my three different styles. They were either interested in realistic portraits, the expressive flowers or the abstract paintings. In recent years more and more customers are showing their interest in the connection between them. To me it seems natural to work like this. My work habits have gradually grown in this way and I expect to continue with it. Looking back on 12 years of professional painting I can find some explanations.
FROM A YOUNG AGE
My father used to be a painter as well. From a young age I was exposed to insights from artists of the academic and avant-garde art. As a boy, my parents not only took me to Roman churches all around Europe but also to the Bienale of Kassel in Germany. The theoretical considerations about modern art are as important to me as the older or classic arts. I experienced the history of art as a description of discoveries, discoveries made in the domain of material, technique, image components, the content of the image, observations, the role of the artist or the social context. Scientists became familiar with creative processes.
TO BE GOOD
Once I thought that if I wanted to become a good artist I had to be good in as many subareas of the arts as possible. And “being good” in something, means to me a search for knowledge, for skills and views all related to art. I became more or less addicted to this search. There is so much information to find. There are books and films about painters and their working methods, about the materials they use and their way of thinking.
I chose to live in an area surrounded by culture. Within only 30 minutes I can be in eye contact with a Rembrandt, a Van Gogh or a De Kooning. And on my way to these masterpieces I pass shops where I can buy high quality painting materials. Knowledge and materials are close at hand.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
But the knowledge and the ability to have the best materials did not make me a good artist. Learning the technique of painting and drawing takes hours of practicing the concentration, observations and muscular movements.
I see this as similar to exercise in sports. Exercising or practicing to be the best is necessary. If a get a portrait assignment I start drawing an hour daily a week in advance. I give myself exercises to practice observations and muscular movements. For example: draw only the right contours or draw a good division of surface. For this purpose I use people in my close environment as exercise objects. This way of working asks for a lot of discipline and regularity. After a time of engaging in this effort I often notice that I become better and I get happy and satisfied and that motivates me to continue. This gained knowledge along with skills and insights are the instruments for good painting to me.
THIS IS WHY
When I paint in deep concentration I get in a special state of mind. The deepest reason that I paint is maybe that I want to get in that special state of mind. I discovered that the way I paint influences my feelings. I use the three different styles to experience different concentrations and feelings.
I paint the abstract paintings because I want to express my own language of shapes. Starting with nothing and creating something is a special sensation. I do not concentrate on my environment but explicitly on the paint which will painted on the canvas. With this way of working the world gets as small as the painting. I can get very angry or upset if it does not work out, but also intensely satisfied when I succeed. Maybe I have to paint abstract painting to get free of all the concepts I developed. I need to just start and have confidence in the result. Eventually the shapes and structures on the canvas and the power of expression will surprise me.
ABSTRACTS ON PAPER
ABSTRACTS ON CANVAS
When I paint the realistic portraits of people I do not want to express my emotions or personality, but the emotions and personality of someone else. My handwriting, the division of surface, the use of color, are all used in the benefit of the person who is being portrayed. I think about the way the painting should look before I start the definite painting. I even make a sketch in grayscales on full-size (I do this in grayscale so I can make changes easily). Making such a painting is a kind of puzzle and experimenting will lead to the pieces that can be changed. But in the process the pieces will constantly be checked to see if they fit in the final idea. It is a long-term process, but the better the preparation the fewer the frustrations during the final realization. The advantage of this method is that you consciously apply almost all you know. The feeling of control and command is nice to experience. Afterwards I have the feeling that I really put up quite an achievement.
PORTRETS ON PAPER
PORTRETS ON CANVAS
When I paint flower paintings I try to achieve something else. By drawing from nature I get in a state of mind which gives me a pleasant feeling. For example, the language of shapes and colors, the light, the magnificence, the frangibility or the depth of your subject may generate a feeling of surprise and intensity. Everything seems to give such a deep impression that you get in a glow. While in this state of trance I am able to give the painting more colors and new shapes than I could think of beforehand. In fact it is constantly a phase of sketching and an experiment with for example color combinations can be so interesting that it leads to the central theme of the painting. But I always keep in touch with the subject and its environment.
FLOWERS ON PAPER
FLOWERS ON CANVAS
When I work in one style I reach a point of saturation after a passage of time. The level of concentration to paint a good painting gets harder to achieve. At such moments I like to focus on a different manner of working. The results of these processes feed each other enormously. Then I focus on one of the other genres and feel free. I get new energy and experience that I take everything I learned in the previous period, consciously or unconsciously, in a subsequent work.