Thursday, March 19, 2015


Got an email from Christian from Germany. He saw my Painting Clouds video and wrote some nice things about it. I can never get enough of that. Very encouraging.

In the correspondence that followed the topic was perfectionism and how it can hold you back. Christian wrote:" inner critic slows me down or prevents me from doing anything at all". Attached to his mail he sent me a cloud painting he made. Looked real good...

Ofcourse it's a good thing to set the bar just a bit higher every time you start a new painting, to set goals and all that kind of stuff. But however much you grow, you'll never be perfect. And that's a good thing. One of the joys of painting is the feeling you're getting better, that over time you've learned to master problems you couldn't handle before. If you could be perfect, you would loose that. Boring.

At the end of a work day I often ask myself: did my painting get better today? Most of the time the answer is yes. If I'd ask myself: did it get perfect today, the answer certainly would be no. You gotta ask the right questions.

Painting is an excellent way to get in a state of flow. For a few hours there's just you and the painting. In 1975 a guy with a funny name (Mihaly Csiksgentmihalyi) wrote a great book about it, called 'Flow'. One of the conditions to enter a state of flow, he writes, is that the task ahead of you may be difficult, but you feel you can do it. In other words: match your challenges to your skills. And do the hours, I'd like to add.

I just finished this sunset. Succeeded to paint the movement of the water, with the little ripples and everything, on top of a ground layer. Tried it before but it didn't really work. I didn't match my challenges to my skills, I guess... 

Sunset, oil on panel, 50 x 150 cm

Friday, March 6, 2015


Some of the painting techniques I use have a long history. Glazing for example (where you paint transparent layers on top of each other) dates back to the 15th century. In my Painting Clouds video I explain what it meant to me when I first learned about it. 

Another technique I sometimes use is the 'grisaille'. The French word 'gris' means grey and that kind of sums it up. The painter limits his palet to black, white and grey. A lot of 15th century triptych doors have a grisaille of a saint at the back. In the 16th century it was Leonardo da Vinci, I think, who was the first to use the grisaille as an underpainting. 

By doing so he was able to tackle the problems of volume and composition, without having to bother about color. In combination with glazing (to apply your colors) it's a really powerful tool. It gives you maximum control, because you build up your painting step by step. It takes a lot of planning and patience though. If you're the 'I-have-to-spontaneously-express-my-feelings' kind of painter this is probably not the right technique for you.  
In my painting After the Storm I was very keen on getting the structure of the sand right, so I painted it in detail with black and white acrylics. Then I slowly built up my colors with oils. Even though the black and white structure almost disappeared in some areas, you can still see it shimmering through the top layers. On your computer screen there's probably not a lot left. That's what happens when a painting of 90 x 120 cm has to fit on a laptop screen... 
Anyone tried this? Let me know!