Homework 1

I have always liked to work with pastels. I discovered this material in my one and only year in Waldorf school when I was about 16 years. I remember copying The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Vermeer, and being amazed at the result, especially the brightness of the colors.
Since painting classes at Rietveld were not such a success (understatement) I thought to give pastel a try. Hooray! I am actually quite pleased with my accomplishment. I am concentrated and in control, while at the same time letting it happen on the paper. I feel euphoric. Very nice.
I also copy a photo of Ila by Harper, while Ila's friend Sheila is over for a play date. But she doesn't play, she stands behind me and marvels at the colors that blend into the picture of her friend. Very cute.


GRA - 6th class sculpture

Finally we get to work with clay! The assignment is to contract two words and make a new word, but I get excited by the word 'koffiekop' which means coffee cup or coffee head. There is my excuse to make a clay face. Here at the Academy they say to make the assignment your own, don't need to follow it to the letter, so here I go, just using the assignment as a starting point...

Part two of the assignment is to translate this object 4 times bigger with a non-mouldable material.

But I am lazy. I don't know where to start and there are too many other things keeping me away from my art work (like Sinterklaas, birthdays and other festivities - it's December after all!). But in class, I realize I do have an idea that I would have liked to work on. A while ago I saw someone on the street with a bouquet of flowers that was wrapped in a very fancy way. The paper around the flowers was fortified with wires on the inside, that made it stand out wide like half a globe. That gave me the idea to make it rest on someone's shoulders, like a reversed head scarf, or with an ear attached , like a coffee cup. I am sure I will use this idea sometime...


MK24 - 11th & 12th class

The theme is: city, metropolis, repetition in the city, repetition in nature, and we work with mixed techniques.
We prepare the paper with gesso (light blue in my case). I found an intriguing picture in The International Herald Tribune; European-style houses in China that I want to recreate using stencils.
I like this technique. It allows me to work fast, mix colors easily. I use one stencil to make three different houses, so the perspective is not realistic, but I like the effect. I have noticed that working fast and carelessly improves my work. However towards the end of the evening I tend to overwork the paint again. It's so hard to stop. I can feel the work is not finished, but am not sure what it needs. There's a fear to leave it the way it is, because when will I have time to work on it again? I should allow myself more time. To make more versions of it, to try out different things. I have to learn how to fail, how to kill my darlings, how to move on without regret... Ah, life!


GRA - 5th class sculpture

Extra assignment: Go to the open days of the Rijksacademie and choose two works of art: one that appeals to you and one that does not. Explain.

I enjoy taking my 9 year old daughter along. She notices things I (and other adults) do not. It helps me appreciate what I see better than if I would have walked here by myself. Most of the art is so hideous I don't even want to stand still to examine why I am so repulsed by it. Is it because I think I could do better? Or because I just don't understand. It fatigues me to try to figure out and understand what the artist is trying to express. Most of the time I don't want to bother. Is this what I would want to do myself?
The best work I see today, is because of my daughter. We enter a small room with a window where you can sit down and watch another room full of dead leaves. There's a radio that produces noise, just noise. I am about to walk out when my daughter says, 'o look, it moves.' And then I see... It's very subtle, like breathing. The dead leaves are not dead, they breathe, they're alive. The whole floor moves up and down. Breathtaking!


MK24 - 9th & 10th class

Artists have been copying each other for ages. To learn from each other, to draw inspiration, to adapt a work to their own hand. The teacher shows us various examples of such plagiarism. She has made black and white copies of various artworks. I choose Madame Ines Montoissier by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1856). I love the reflection in the mirror, the hand on her face and most of all her look.
Like we do in every class, we start with some charcoal sketches. Different angles, different cut outs. It helps to determine what it is exactly that fascinates and that needs to be recreated.

This will be the sketch I will try to paint. I have taken the liberty to forget about reality and place the woman and her reflection together without the explanation of the mirror. They might be the same woman, they might not. This will just be a study of different angles of a face.

When I am browsing art books at home I find a portrait of a woman who has been painted in the same way: a portrait of the mother of the artist H. Rigaud (I forgot the write down the year).

In one evening I manage to create a basic painting. Many details need to be filled in, but I am happy with this first draft. And can't wait to get back to it.

One week later, we finish the painting. I am very happy with how the faces turn out, but not so happy with the background and the dresses. I guess I would have needed another evening to go over it.

A big revelation to me tonight is that due to a lack of time, I quickly brush some paint on the canvas to suggest a light blue head scarf. To my surprise this turns out to be the best part of the painting! It feels spontaneous and it looks textured. I have to remember that.


GRA - 3rd class sculpture

To make a monument, for someone or something.

What is a monument?
From Wikipedia: A monument is a type of structure either explicitly created to commemorate a person or important event or which has become important to a social group as a part of their remembrance of past events. Functional structures made notable by their age, size or historic significance can also be regarded as monuments. Monuments are also often designed to convey historical or political information. Monuments have been created for thousands of years, and they are often the most durable and famous symbols of ancient civilizations.

What is a monument to me?
Old buildings, but mostly I think of a memorial, like the ones you find in France to remember the dead from World War I.
But what also comes to mind, is the Love Temple Marie Antoinette had built as an ode to love.

I would like to combine these two images in order to create a monument for what is important to me:
sense of community

I would like to make an ode to the woman that I am today, to the woman of today, to all the women that have crossed my path. I would like to capture the versatility and power of women in one image.

What will my woman look like? Like Barbie...Or more like Venus of Willendorf?
The woman of today is nor Barbie, nor Venus of Willendorf. She strives to look like Barbie, but her features resemble Venus's. Both are icons however.

To execute my ideas, I borrow one of my daughter's Barbie dolls, give her a hair cut, and cover her whole body with paper mache, adding more realistic layers to chest, tummy, thighs and bum. I want her to balance work and motherhood in her hands, but I cannot not find a way to do that properly so I just let her stand on one leg with her arms open wide.
The idea is to hammer one foot to a pedestal but I can't find the right material so I use clay to hold her foot. However the clay does not support her whole body, so out of necessity I pack half of her leg in clay in order to keep her standing.
I cover her body with names of women I have met during my entire life. It is almost a meditative exercise as I jump from memory to almost forgotten memory.

The teacher is enthusiast about the documentation of my work. However, overall the monument doesn't seem to work for her. The only thing she finds interesting is the way the statue is caught in the clay. It's a revelation for me when she says that, because it happened by coincidence. I wasn't thinking, and I wasn't even trying very hard either. I can totally see and feel why that's the only part of the monument that 'works.' The big question remains though: can I reproduce this 'happy accident' when I want it to?


GRA - 2nd class sculpture

Assignment: Keep your own garbage for 5 days. Then, make a sculpture that gives expression to your selection of garbage. Let the sculpture be about you.

I already knew what I wanted to make, so from my enormous pile of plastic and paper, I only need a piece of carton and some wire. I am not thinking about my garbage, no philosophical thoughts at all. I am just going to make a corset out of waste material. Just for fun!

I explain to the teacher that this is an object and a shape that have fascinated me for ever. She suggests that to show this fascination, I should make more versions of the same. Which I do in a heart beat. Doesn't my coffee cup look like a corset too?


MK24 - 7th & 8th class

Self portrait in paint this time. So much fun!


GRA - 1st class sculpture

Same group, new teacher. So nervous again. What a roller coaster this journey is!
After the introduction, we divide up in groups of 4 and look for a room or space in the Academy. The assignment is to change the function of this space.
Our group chooses the hall on the second floor. There are some elements there that inspire us immediately. A long table, a sign with white letters and a little shelf to leave food and drinks before entering the computer room. They inspire us to make a church, a holy place, a place of silence. What a contrast with a hall that everybody uses to walk through! We turn the table in an altar, the shelf will be the place at the entrance where the holy water sits, and the sign is to indicate the opening times of the Academy Church.
I love the dynamic in our group. We all pull out things from random places to help create this image. We spend a lot of time on the Christ figure behind the altar. We use our bodies, a banana (!) and finally find a mirror, that reflects the light of the fluorescent lamps on the ceiling. When you approach the altar the reflection of the light shifts to the reflection of you. What a beautiful metaphor for finding light (and God) in one self!
The teacher walks in from time to time and gives us things to think about. Like:
  • think about every element in your space. Is it random? Or did you put it there consciously? Everything must have a reason. As creator of your space, you have power over this space. Sculpture is all about power.
  • The creator of the sculpture makes the rules. How does the viewer see and experience the sculpture?
We experience that last point when we show our work to the other students. The effect of the atmosphere we so carefully tried to communicate is gone when the space is full. So we direct every one out and only make the space accessible for three people at a time. The space then forces people to be quiet and the strange sound from the airconditioning of the building highlights this effect.

Reflection: I notice I am referring constantly to universal images (from the Western civilization) and that I feel a need to re-create this images. There is no need for me to change them, just to undress them and feel what is left.

More thoughts:
  • What is, but that I choose not to see, will still be visible to the other.
  • What is not, is not visible the either of us. Or is it?
  • Does that what is, has to be visible, in order to be noticed?
  • My experience of space is dependent on the presence of people and objects in that space.
  • The atmosphere in a space changes when I put a lock on the door, move or remove the window, add noise, apply an aroma and add objects.
  • As a creator I can influence the experience of the other.


MK24 - 6th class

Finally, we are going to do portraits. We start with charcoals of each other. We get 5 minutes per portrait and we're encouraged to use different techniques each time. Like drawing with your left hand, using the flat side of the charcoal and not lifting the charcoal from the paper, but leaving it in contact with the paper all the time while you sketch.
Here are my best ones:

And last but not least we draw ourselves in front of a mirror. It's quite a challenge. Especially when you are drawing yourself, you want the image to be just alike.I took the sketches home that night, and not having been able to fixate the charcoal I used a blank paper to protect the painting. And then I had 'a happy accident.'


GRA - 6th class painting

We always start the afternoon with discussing the work from the previous class. I am always nervous. I am excited too, and eager to show what I've been working on.
I painted two of my high heels. The space in between forms an interesting illusion. It's the first time in this class that I feel I made a good painting. And the teacher seems to agree.

In the class we get our last assignment from this teacher, Next week we'll move on to Sculpture. In an earlier class we had to pick a painting we liked and describe why. I choose 'Song of the lark' by Jules Breton, that I saw last Spring in the Art Institute in Chicago.

I love her pose, after a long day's work, listening for a bird that one can hardly see in the painting. The fainting light. The light in the background, and not on the main character in this painting. She's not quite done, it's almost time to go home, but she takes a moment to pause... Such serenity.

My last assignment is to paint light in the background. I have chosen to take a little doll and place her in front of the window. First I sketch her in charcoal. There's not enough time to finish the painting so I also take a picture to help finishing it at home where it is still on my easel waiting for completion.


MK24 - 4th class and 5th class

Today we make a still life. The teacher has arranged a collection of objects for us to choose from. The lesson starts as usual. To make a couple of sketches in charcoal from different perspectives. I am having a hard time finding a place in the circle of easels. We're a group of 15 and when one arrives late - like I usually do - there's not a whole lot of room left. But after a while I find my groove and manage to make some satisfying sketches.
This is what the work in progress looks like:

I enjoy doing this more than I thought in advance. The teacher gives helpful advice. She says: work on the overall painting, step back regularly and don't lose yourself in details. She thinks the dark background is a cool choice.
In the next lesson we finish the painting. I have overworked the white pot and I am quite dissappointed. I think I liked it better when it was not finished. The teacher remarks that this is a common problem of artists; when is it done? when should you stop?