I am in the business of making beautiful things. But what makes something appear beautiful? It seems to me that it all starts with perceiving. Not just looking but seeing. Not just seeing, but really see it. With your eyes, your ears, your taste buds, your fingers and your toes. However, beauty is easily missed: so much of our time is spent in thought, in planning, in obsessing, in doing, that we need to be careful not to miss it. Beauty often comes in flashes: in the vivid red of a butterfly, or the stark contrast of the deep shadows of a mountain against the crisp morning sky, in the touch of a loved one, but those short moments can get easily lost in the rapids of daily life. The most important part of my journey into art so far, is about learning to see beauty. Even before I started drawing, the experience of the beautiful landscapes in New Zealand, with its vast space and ever-changing seas triggered my curiosity. What is beauty? What makes something appear beautiful and how can you convey the essence of it? I began sketching and I liked the exploration of form, of lines of textures but not before long I got frustrated because what I created had none of the beauty that I saw around me. So, I discovered I lacked the skills and my own critical thinking got in the way.
When I realized that I needed another approach, I took drawing lessons and learned that our seeing is usually clouded by an expectation and not guided by seeing at all. One of my fun discoveries was drawing upside down. Try it and find how it confuses your brain so that you actually see more clearly, and how more accurate a drawing will be just because of that. There is also an idea that you need talent to be an artist, otherwise it is just a waste of time. But many artists, and I will now be one of them, will tell you that it has to do more with dedication. So, I learned the basics of drawing and the result of my efforts improved a little. But still I had a hard time to find any of the beauty that inspired me in the first place. At that stage people began to get annoyed with me for never being satisfied and while defending myself and trying to explain why this was so, I definitely got their point.
While I was taking drawing lessons, I was also exploring mind and mindfulness from a Buddhist perspective and became more aware of the thoughts and repetitive thought patterns that occurred. My art work always started with a spark of beauty followed by curiosity and passion. From there many hours of exploration, finding my appreciation for my subject, losing it and finding it again, until I reached the limit of my eye and my skills. There was, however, always a sense of disappointment. It took me a while to see what was occurring and although this was not completely new to me, I started to recognise my own perfectionism. Contrary to my former career in health care, I was now working solo with all the time in the world to let my need for the best result ever get in the way.
Nothing stands more in the way of perceiving and creating beauty than a critical mind, so I knew what I would like to change. Getting to know what is at the root of it, … well let’s say this is ongoing. The other part of my journey started when taking up lessons in the French academic method, which is taught at the academy of fine art in Florence. And one of the teachers in this style happened to reside in Wellington. This method evolves from copying master drawings in pencil to drawing from casts in charcoal and chalk, to drawing and painting from life. Through this method I’m learning to see more clearly. I get to explore lines, shapes and tones fully before entering the world of colour. It is a very slow method: I started my last cast drawing in January and I have just finished it. Although the level of precision is sometimes excruciating, I am developing patience to get to my goals which is about the joy of exploring the subject, and learning what makes something beautiful. Even though the critical mind has sometimes different stories to tell, I more and more start to appreciate the details in the world around me and the work that I do.
My journey led me to ‘the land we love’ exhibition, along with 6 other Wellington artists in Oct 2020. It was a glorious experience and an opportunity to see the progress we made as artists and the joy of the public who came in to enjoy.
Shortly after the exhibition, my husband and I decided to return to the Netherlands to have more family time. What followed was a period of organising and limited time for art, but also another trip to the South Island and a few goodbye parties before flying over to Europe. So here I am, on the threshold of something new, starting to absorb my new surroundings which will take me further on my journey into art.