Dr Tiger or No Man’s Land

48x48 inches, oil on linen.
48 x 48 inches, oil on linen. (For Sale)

This is the original text of my speech about the exhibition at the Conservation Foundation in 2015;

The Dutch are rich and created most of their own landscape. One of the seven wonders of the modern world are the polders and dikes of the Netherlands. They have for Centuries gained land from the sea instead of going to war. They don’t like confrontation and are tolerant as a culture. To this day they remain universally acclaimed for their marine engineering. Because of this half of the country is below sea-level as a nation they are sensitive to landscapes in any form. The Dutch painters from the Golden Age became famous by painting their environment. Their legacy is part of the greatest masters in European Art.

Rich cultural inheritance

That is where I come from. It is my rich cultural inheritance. When I go out in the woods to paint, the spirits of my ancestors follow me and show up in the wind ruffling through the palm leaves. They hold my hand and from the mysteries of the earth and sky, the paintings are being born.

The art of landscape painting is to contain the majesty of the ever changing earth upon a never changing piece of board, linen or canvas. I believe is is a noble occupation, a serious occupation and a difficult occupation. Making art is not a trivial pursuit.

Art is rich

Art creates cultural cohesion. Without art society cannot share its symbols. I dare to say that the non-verbal communication is stronger than the words we hear and speak every day. It is felt in architecture and in music. Landscape painting uses the order of architecture and the silence between the notes of music. This form of Art makes us mindful of the beauty around us waiting to be recognized. The visual arts have always functioned as an instrument of power.

Rich sunset over the Gulf Of Mexico

Be Rich

The theme of my exhibition is Be Rich. I don’t refer to rich as monetary wealth since a stack op paper gathering dust in a dark place is not inspiring to me. We all need financial security, but in the abstract, finances in itself are dead and boring. What is interesting to me is the richness nature brings, a late glow of the sun on a dead leaf: the moving of a cloud through a stark blue sky. I believe I am not alone in my love for shapes, forms, colors and textures of this earth we call home.

The origin of the title “be Rich”  is found in the road called Bee Ridge, when you drive up North on I-75 to Sarasota.  It refers to Bee Ridge road where at its eastern end is an old landfill, now covered with grass. Behind the landfill is a park called Rothenbach. That is where I found my inspiration for the paintings. One day when I went to a plain air painting class of Kevin Costello, I discovered it. In the car I was repeating the name Bee Ridge over and over again as to not forget where to take the exit. Once I saw where we ended up I changed the mantra fast in “Be Rich” since the most enriching authentic Florida landscape unfolded for my eyes. Five dear looked at me with their trusting eyes. Spanish moss was hanging from old Oaks entangled with vines like garlands at a party.

Manasota Beach Club

I came to this area through the Manasota Beach Club, an old Beach Resort in Englewood. They made me Artist in Residence and I accepted the offer because all I wanted to do is to escape the hectic life in Miami and be quietly surrounded by nature. The idea was to bring color into the cottages through paintings in exchnage for a stay. The soul of the landscape did not reach me, at first. I could not see any color in the grey-ness of dead palm fronds or the barks of the trees. It was totally disappointing and a huge challenge to come up with something colorful. I simply started copying the world as accurate as I could, using a stack of magazines about how to paint. Over time studying the vistas of this part of Florida, I opened myself up to the mysteries as they were unfolding before my eyes.

Learning to paint enriched my world. Be Rich/Bee Ridge is the result of years observing Floridian landscape. But there is no value in the work if it not shared with others. It would be like giving a kiss and nobody to receive it. It disappears in mid air. Who would want that? The result of years observing the Florida landscape with love therefore is  in this group of paintings and my love to all of you that share this feeling.

Rich landscape of Sabal Palms and Native Figs.In teh Back is The Palm House, my office.

PS.Inspiration during painting was “A Land Remembered” by Patrick Smith

The Vision

The portrait idea

Sometimes I wake up with a clear picture in my mind of an artwork I need to paint. I make notes, or I just start the process, even if I only have a little time to work on it. Sometimes I just cut out some reference material as a reminder that I need to work it out.  It is not as if these ideas lead to masterpieces because they are coming from the subconscious mind. When I paint them and they look exactly like my vision, they open my mind  to a different viewpoint. They lead to a move beyond my consciousness.

Involve many people

Last week I woke up with an image so strong that I had to act upon it. It was small in steps and involved many people, but the end product is huge on a scale. I will not tell you too much about this, although I am very excited and would love to gather people to support my idea. It has to grow a little bit more so it can survive criticism and questioning. It needs to settle firmly in my reality before anybody can see it. I have to bond with it first.

A section of this large-scale artwork is a simple portrait, just me, the painter, and a model. I was hesitant at first to ask models to sit for me as I thought nobody has time these days to sit. Even retirees are busy these days.  I was wrong. Once people stepped out of their “busy” schedules and posed for me, we discovered a true connection on a deeper level without the spoken word to interfere. So far my models have been pleased with the time spent together.

Meditative state

Did you know that when somebody sits quietly, the face has the tendency to droop slightly? Because the muscles are relaxed it looks like they are sad. One of my early attempts to make an interesting image of a model’s face was met with, “Don’t make me look so sad.” The model went back to the same position adding a big smile. That works for photography although even then it is hard to make a smile look real. It always to me seems frozen and eerie. If you say “cheese,” only the best portrait photographers can make it look like your smile is coming from your heart. I found an article on the subject.

One rule many portrait artists follow is to never paint their subjects smiling, especially if the smile is wide enough to reveal their teeth.  These artists generally feel that since a smile involves muscle contraction, it produces uncomfortable tension in the portrait.  A fully relaxed face, they feel, allows the viewer’s gaze to wander over and appreciate the subject’s features.  Some portraitists contend that only the unsmiling face can have lasting appeal across many years.  The wonderful contemporary Dutch portrait painter Rene Tweehuysen wrote, “A broad smile (showing of teeth) is not really to be recommended, and in the long term can lose its appeal.”  American Bart Lindstrom said: “Great art is about subtlety. That’s why, when I paint portraits, I prefer the quiet, timeless expressions of a relaxed face over one with a large smile.”  – Timothy Tyler.

My job is to make this happen – and it is not an easy job, requires full concentration from the model as well as the painter.

More from Tyler, ….  “If we have a more pleasant smile or contemplative look, that they will be drawn into the eyes, the mood, the moment of the painting” 

That is what I am aiming for. I like the challenge. I like to work from life because it creates an extra dimension that you don’t get when  working from a photo.

Please follow my process, because the result will be huge and I am taking small steps toward it. I found a worthy ideal and the trick to success is progressive realization of this worthy ideal. Feel free to contact me if you want to be a model. I need at least 112 different faces! I told you it was “huge.”


Road Trip

I am not sure what is so funny about waking up at five in the morning to start a road trip to Indiana, but a few people wanted to hear about my trip so here it goes.  We are talking about a 16-hour solo drive through the Smoky Mountains with a KIA loaded with 122 paintings. Some are stretched. Some are even framed. But most of them are rolled up. That is what you can do with linen and cotton fabric.  I love the flexibility.

As soon as I wake up I start  thinking about the hotel I plan to stay at tonight. I never make reservations because I don’t know how far I am going to get. As you know, traffic and weather are unpredictable forces. I decide to aim for a hotel in Bowling Green, in Kentucky, a four-hour drive from Indianapolis.

I have been driving this road now for almost twenty years. I take I 75 North to Atlanta where I go west on I24 to Chattanooga and drive through the mountains, a highlight in summer and winter alike. The road curls around majestic mountains and eye-catching scenery frames both sides of almost empty stretches of asphalt. The mountains stretch all the way from Canada along the East Coast  into Tennessee. They are called Smoky Mountains because when you look at them you see fog that looks like plumes of smoke.

The first big city after the Smoky Mountains is Nashville, with Louisville, KY, next. Then you keep heading  north until you see the Chase Tower in downtown Indianapolis. The land is flat and you can see cornfields reaching the horizon, their brown dried-up leaves cracking in the wind. It’s hard to believe that just two hours further North and you are in Chicago.

Why do I already think about bed before the trip starts? Maybe, because I want to sleep just a little longer; maybe it is because when I visualize the end of the day, I feel that nothing bad will happen to me on the road. Either way, the thought of pristine white cotton towels, a bathtub, crispy white feather down comforters and absolute quiet fills me with uplifting thoughts. It bridges the boredom of miles and miles of roads, flanked by hundreds of billboards.

With my goal in mind I head to the ATM first, because somebody needs to pay for the hotel and the gas. It’s not easy finding a bank on the road, and I know my way in Englewood. Happily, a client from Holland purchased a painting and on the morning of my departure allowing me to withdraw money from an ATM using my Dutch credit card. This money, a maximum of $500 per day, is paying for the trip. I found my way around how banks like to do business, thus avoiding the three-day wait for international transactions and at least $45 in fees. 

I deposited the $500 in a bank in Georgia, coincidentally located next to a gas station, and transferred it to my American Express Card. This way I can pay my hotel bill the next morning. Credit cards are the way to go in America, because it is proof of payment and American Express will dispute fees if I have a problem or unacceptable service.

Gas was only $1.92 per gallon. Just for my Dutch readers, this compares to 50 dollarcents per liter, which equals 40 euro cents. I think people in Holland pay close to $8 for a liter of fuel today. Think about the difference. The whole 16- hour drive to Indiana will cost me about $65 or 50 euros. More about that drive next time.

Home Again

20x24 inches, 50x60cm, oil on linen
20×24 inches, 50x60cm, oil on linen

The artists’s way

This is the life of an artist. You work for a show. You make sure that the paintings have a similar theme. You sell a couple of pieces during the show and when it’s over, you take it all home again. I haven’t known many artists who sold everything in a show.

What that means is we are left with a variety of artwork that doesn’t go together. Picasso changed styles and I am inclined to do the same, simply because I don’t want to get bored with my own work. Sometimes I change the technique but not the subject. Sometimes I change the subject. I do whatever I want. That is not a good marketing strategy, it is not a strategy at all, it is just fun.

Five years later

After five years of prolific painting, it came to me that I had enough work for an auction. So I thought, “Why not have the auction in Indianapolis where a lot of the works were painted.” My friends Chris Blice and Jon Edwards offered to lend me their studio, which looked like a little warehouse and sent out invitations to their clients. The idea was when there were enough people we would try to get them to bid as they would in an auction. Unfortunately, there were never enough people at once, but  sales went on continuously.

12x16 inches, 30x40 cm, oil on canvas.
12×16 inches, 30×40 cm, oil on canvas.

Get out of the comfort zone

I was excited about the trip. I always enjoy leaving my own boring routine to see what others are doing, or what I might be able to do under different circumstances. Just getting a glance of different worlds, different possibilities, is enough to get me moving to a different groove. Stretching myself, my horizons and my habits and checking boundaries is always refreshing and inspiring.

Once the exhibition was over and paintings were sold, the unknown had become known and I was done. A strange feeling that I was back walking an old familiar path made me uncomfortable. I suddenly wanted to go home, and every hour that desire became bigger and bigger. I did not want to pick up more business or resume old friendships again. The whole reason I left Indianapolis in the first place, was to build a new life, not to keep coming back and trying old ways of thinking that would not work for me.

Indianapolis is a beautiful city with old colonial buildings, majestic lawns and wide porches. Having lived close to Meridian Hills was great. The tall Maple trees were still green although you could see a bit of yellow starting to peak through in places. After a short rain the earth smelled like autumn. The White River was still there, patiently following its course through Broadripple, as my friend I walked along the Monon and did some fun girly things. There were many things to love about a life in the Midwest, but I was more excited when I got an invitation to give a presentation in Miami.

Still in my pajamas, I drove home as if the devil was trying to catch up with me. Rain splashed the windows clean, storms everywhere caused trouble and I was caught in more than one traffic jam caused by an overthrown tractor-trailer. The Smokey Mountains were “smoking” and there was thick fog. The leaving was not as easy as the going had been. The weather finally cleared up at the border of Georgia and Florida.

12x16 inches, 30x40 cm, oil on canvas.
12×16 inches, 30×40 cm, oil on canvas.

Writing about a trip

What was I thinking? Should I write about the trip? There are no quaint little villages, bakeries or other landmarks worth noting. There are the billboards that advertise everything from fireworks, whiskeys,  carpets, and strip clubs to the finger-pointing Jesus saying that abortion is a sin. Then all you see are big signs with happy grey-haired couples on the golf course. I think that says it all. I am home.