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Astridvan's first STEM work: "i-Spider"
Wobbles and red eyes light up when pins are connected
Designed & Executed by Astrid Vander Auwera
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Astridvan Installation: de "snoepzakmaakmachine" / "automatic-candy-bag-filling-machine"
Designed & Executed by Astrid Vander Auwera

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The 2017-2018 Art Academy year is coming to an end, and on June 12, 2018 I will present some of my works for the year-end evaluation. Good that I kept a logfile of the evolution of most of my paintings; it helps me reflect on sources of inspiration, different stages of decisions, and lessons learned. Some friends encouraged me to share these stories, for some reason they find them interesting.

So here is the story of 4 paintings:

Painting 1: Watercarriers

This is actually a series of paintings. The inspiration was a 2007 newspaper picture of children carrying water to the refugee camp in Tsjaad (I have a file of “interesting” pictures that I keep somewhere in a drawer and/or electronic file).

Watercarriers group of 2

On the left the picture, on the right the very first sketch on A4 paper. This was one of the first big lessons learned this academy year: my coach Chris told me “and now, never look back at the original picture, and base your work on the sketch, on the memory of that picture”. In other words, it was not so important to create a realistic reproduction of the picture, it was more important to transmit the impression.

Watercarriers group of 5

During that time, we also got some basic training in making grey tones of colours, and I made a series of those (read from left to right). The sketch on the left is on A4 paper, the one next to it is on paper A2 format, and the others are on canvas about some A2 size.

Painting 2: Blue Boat

Inspiration this time from the on-line coastal sciences and societies Hakai Magazine: an article titled “The secret language of ships” got my attention. Many great pictures that could be used as basis for a painting, but I took this one:

7-tanker-reading-ships-1200x800

I started out with the lesson from painting #1 in mind: “and now, never look back at the original picture…”

Boat group of 5

First iteration on the left. I was quite happy with the sky, and had some fun by turning the canvas 90° and dripping paint to get some fluid effect. The very first version of the tugboats also appeared in this version, happy to see that with just a couple if lines it is possible to create the impression of a boat.

My coaches are too gentle, but the main feedback was that it all felt a bit too busy, and I should try to get rid of that sky and make it much more neutral. So I made it grey-white. Next, I added some white line on the body of the big tanker to improve the perspective effect. In the fourth picture you will see I tried to calm down also the sea surface. And at the far right (and below) the final result with purple sky, better tugboats and reflections in the water.

Boat final cropped

Big lessons learned:

  • A couple of lines are enough to create an impression
  • Calm down, avoid gimmicks, don’t distract but create calm by big surfaces
  • Create calm (repeat)

Painting 3: Cowbow Henk in his Garden

Inspiration was this picture of a person in a rather large garden

Garden inspiration picture

I started out as usual with some solid general structure foundations (first picture on the upper left below):

Garden group of 9

Then, I tried – within my basic skills – to do some impressionistic representation of reality (2nd picture). The feedback from my coaches was consistent: “EVERYTHING screams!”. So the first step I took was to “neutralise” the lawn. By pure accident – I did not see it at first, it was Frieda, a co-student – I got some sort of “Trompe l’Oeuil”: it was as if the lawn rolled out in infinity in the front of the painting.

In the second row, first picture, I painted over the back and sides with a calming light-greenish colour. A mix of brush and spatel. And added the black border line. Then I tried to remember principle #1: bring some rest in your work! Something important happened in third row, first picture from the left.

I started playing with digital. I imported my last result into Sketchbook Pro and tried different alternatives, using multiple layers and turning them off/on until I had a result that I somewhat liked. You see that result below in the picture on the left. The I tried to apply the digital design onto the canvas with real brushes and paint. The end result is on the right below.

Garden group of 2

I named the painting “Cowboy Henk in his Garden”. If you do not know Cowboy Henk, he is a strip character by Kamagurka and Herr Seele, two absurdists from Absurdistan, in good neo-Magritte surrealism. Check out for more background here. To be honest, I don’t think it’s Cowboy Henk in his garden, but his brother Dikke Billie Walker – the anti-hero of Henk – or another absurd family member…

Lessons learned:

  • don’t scream all over the place
  • create calm (repeat)

Painting 4: Trampoline

Good example of a painting that makes sense at the start, but alienates the audience when it is truly finished.

The source inspiration was a picture of my daughter laying on a trampoline, wrapped in white linen sheet, during a warm summer day two years ago.

Astrid Trampoline

You can easily follow from left to right, row after row, how this painting evolved.

 

Trampoline group of 12

Important steps IMO are:

  • Row 1, step 3: adding of a solid green trampoline border
  • Row 2, step 2: draping a real white sheet on top of the painting to see/study the shape and shadows of the blanket
  • Row 2, step 3: adding the folds in zinc white. After that step, I did not touch the painting for about 5 months. Then, suddenly, I painted over the white with some red’ish folds, and put some green-yellow accents above/below the mummie, which I painted over right away in the next session
  • Row 3, step 2 is a digital mix. Again, I imported the previous image in Sketchbook, and experimented with a lot of variations, including feathers on the head of the mummie (not shown below), but in the end I liked the result below:

Trampoline group of 2

On the left the digital composition, on the right the real painting on physical canvas. So, digitally, I adjusted the two green backgrounds, added a dark shadow around the mummie, got an extra red line, and finally, drew the white line around.

So, this was the end-result. Like most paintings above, all is acryl on canvas, and the format is 120x100cm, except when mentioned otherwise.

Trampoline final cropped

Lesson learned:

  • Feel free to experiment with digital
  • create calm (repeat)

With sincere thanks to my academy coaches Chris, Pieter, Koen, Inge, Marie-Ange, and Annick

Warm regards to all of you,

petervan-signature

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Trampoline final cropped

Petervan Artwork © 2018 - "Trampoline" - Acryl on canvas - 120x100cm

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Woorden maken me moe

De stilte ontwaakt me

Het bombast verveelt, vervelt

Kwetsbaarheid heelt

Traagheid verdiept

Het banale en marginale

Dragers van schoonheid in lelijkheid

Dan nog liever

De verse bloesem in de hoge kruin

De geur van gegrild vlees

De liefde van merrie en veulen

De drang naar zorgvuldigheid

De kracht van eenvoud

Zuiverheid, Alertheid en coherentie

Allen verleiden ze me

 

+++ rough translation +++

Words make me tired

Silence awakens

Bombast bores and peels

Healing vulnerability

Deepening Slowness

Banality and frugality

Carriers of beauty in utter ugliness

Then rather

The fresh blossom in the treetop

The smell of grilled meat

The love of mare and foal

The craving for careful

The power of simplicity

Purity, alertness and coherence

They all seduce me

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garden V5

Petervan Artwork © 2018: "Cowboy Henk in his Garden" 
Acryl on canvas - 120x100cm

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Vortex complete with black lines V2

Petervan Artwork © 2018 - Vortex of fragmentation time and identity 
Acryl on canvas on wooden panel - 100x120cm

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