a story of the process

I walk through the landscape – a carefully selected natural landscape, often with mountains or hills, and as few paths as possible, as few traces of human influences as possible, except for the people themselves. It is not a forest, there is openness. There are other people walking around, but it is not covered in figures. I am prepared with my backpack for the mileage that awaits me – different every time. The place is endless. I absorb as much as possible, experience it. And when the right view and the right atmosphere come together, I intuitively stop. This is the location. There is a composition. It represents the feeling I got in the landscape during the walk. I take cotton canvas – as fabric – out of my bag and put it down, as a surface, with the view in the background. I make a simple sketch in line and possibly colour of the chosen spot, imprint the composition and impressions in my memory, also what happens that is not fixed; the birds flying past, how hard the wind blows, and the passing people. It takes stillness, an almost meditative way. For a moment my existence only takes place in that landscape that I have walked in and in which I am still present. The canvas is in front of me – several square meters of white fabric. I cut the imprinted, sketched and observed lines out of the canvas in just a few minutes. Forms arise, empty spaces, a new landscape, an intervention in the landscape. It is no longer a stiff material, but forms along with the background, the composition and the appearance of the landscape.

Temporary, short-lived. Seen or unseen.

I leave the landscape as it was, without intervention, which only exists in the photo. I’m taking some elements with me.

Back in the studio I give the cut canvas a new place and context – on something that serves as a frame for the canvas. Until now, these have always been slats. I buy these, or make them myself, I saw and plane the wood, glue it together. I put the frame on the floor, with the separate pieces of the canvas underneath. It won’t fit, but it will approximately, I already know that. I pull the sides of rags that fall over the frame to the side, and staple these stuck. I make sure that I stretch as much as possible perpendicular to the fabric of the canvas, but the cut-out shapes and empty spaces do not always allow this. How I stretch and attach affects the image. I have the sketch, and my memory of the composition at hand. The canvas must be suitable for painting on, as a painting ground is intended. If pieces are still too loose, I sew them together, using a needle and thread, using the thin threads that also come out of the cotton canvas. Closely or loosely, depending on the image. A new landscape has been created on the frame, only because of the canvas, and the name of the place with which the work will soon be indicated. The landscape is absent but included in material for pigments. I sort the stones, sand, and other material by colour. I take turns hitting every group of them into smaller pieces with my hammer, and then grind it into a fine powder in my mortar. They are now fine, almost soft granules, but you can still hear them crunch through the bowl when you move the mortar. The pigment goes into a butter tub, water on top, stir. Allow to settle for a few seconds, then drain in a new container. The heaviest pigment remains behind. I’m doing this again. I’ll leave the new container in place longer, until this afternoon, or tonight, or tomorrow morning. The finest pigment is now on the bottom and I slowly pour off the water. What remains is a paste. If I want to make watercolour paint, I do it right away. I add a mixture of Gum Arabicum and honey and put it in a small watercolour tab. If I want to make oil paint, I let the paste dry into a pigment biscuit. Later, or tomorrow, I’ll break it down to the fine powder which pigment is meant to be, and put it in a plastic jar. Ready to make paint out of it. I repeat this for every colour, every texture. The windowsill is full of trays and butter tubs. This way I see that I am at the beginning of a new work.

I change into my paint clothes, and prepare rabbit skin glue – measure, heat, dissolve, smear – to prepare the canvas. First, one layer, tomorrow or later a second. The surface should be slightly shiny when I look past it against the light. There is now a transparent ground, in which the canvas is still visible. If I want a coloured background, I also add pigment, chalk powder and linseed oil to the glue for a third layer. I let it dry. Change clothes and go home, see you later. I change into my paint clothes and decide which colours of pigment I will use today. It can be homemade pigments, but sometimes it also comes from a jar. I prefer not to use synthetic pigments for my landscape works. I collect the jars. I put a heap of pigment of the first colour on my glass plate. I make a well in the center and pour in a little linseed oil. Unbleached with a dark pigment, bleached with a light pigment. With a palette knife I mix the oil and pigment into a thick paste, adding one of the two when needed to get the right consistency. With a glass muller I rub the oil through the pigment in a repeating shape of an eight, so that the pigment becomes even more refined, and every particle is covered by a layer of oil. The oil paint is now ready. I sweep it together with a palette knife, pile it up on the palette, and repeat for each colour I expect to use. I grab a brush and start on my first paint layer.

As soon as the first coloured ground or layer of paint touches the canvas, it becomes a painting. Each subsequent layer shapes the image further.

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