What inspired you to become an artist?
As a little boy I read a lot of fairy tales and later also about myths and sagas. I have also always been interested in expressions and sayings and etymology. I remember that in elementary school we would cover a few sayings every week and I would write them down in a separate notebook.
As a teenager I discovered Tarot cards, they also inspired me a lot. Furthermore archetypes, power animals, dream interpretations, in high school in Latin class we also processed many stories from antiquity, and furthermore I immersed myself in religions: American, African, Indian, Tibetan, Thai, Cambodian, … You could say that the meaning, the message behind it inspired me. They are like a kind of meaning or advice for life in story form.
The earliest art form I can remember is the seventh art: comics. My father is an enthusiast and I devoured all the comics at home. My uncle also had a huge collection. Every Sunday we visited him and there were always new comics, and at special moments his present for me were comics. During the weekly shopping, I was reading in the comics department all the time. As soon as I got pocket money I also started buying comics myself and I started copying the figures and drawing the ones that appealed to me the most. I learned a lot from comics, not only graphically, but also the emotional expression and the story. It also gave me certain insights into people and society, I read comics beyond my age early on. Comics have always been a part of my life. There were also periods when I didn’t read comics, but I still have my collection of hundreds of comics and can’t part with them.
Even before I was 10 I started reading Science Fiction novels. I’ve always had a lot of imagination, but those visions of the future also stimulated me. The first 30 years of my life I saw a lot of movies and I also had an extensive music collection, where my preference was for narrative music albums.
At a younger age I did not realize that art could also become a profession. In school I was good at math and science. We also had one of the first computers off the village at home and I was already using it before computers were bought in my primary or secondary school. So that direction was more obvious to choose. The choice to really do something with art came later.
Why do you make art?
It’s a passion, like it is for any artist I suppose. I want to do something with the inner experiences I have. At the same time, I also want to inspire others. Art is something with which you can touch others and with which you can tell something.
The statement of art that resonates with me is from Joseph Campbell:
“Artists are magical helpers. By evoking symbols and motifs that connect us to our deeper selves, they can help us on the heroic journey of our own lives.”
His theory “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” deals with how stories and myths often have a certain structure, and how death and rebirth are part of this:
“The aim is for the artist to bring the objects of this world together in such a way that through them you experience that light, that radiance which is the light of our consciousness and that all things both conceal and reveal. The hero’s journey is one of the universal patterns through which that radiance comes through clearly.
What I think is that a good life is one hero’s journey after another. Time and again you are called to the realm of adventure, you are called to new horizons. Every time there is the same problem: dare I? And if you do dare, the dangers are there, and so is the help, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There is always a chance of a fiasco. But there is also the possibility of bliss.”
What is the subject of your art?
It’s usually about inner experiences that I’m trying to visualize. About elements that I encounter on the inner journey. It seems clear to me in today’s world that there are many challenges. And more and more people are dissatisfied with the current state of affairs. But as with so many things, a symptomatic treatment is used instead of looking at causes. We push the causes out of sight and expect that it will be solved. Which of course is not the case.
For me, the individual inner hero journey is an important step towards jointly finding solutions. But that journey is also frightening and that can complicate the start. Many people do not realize that addressing internal causes ultimately leads to a rebirth. And to confront those inner dragons you need courage. Hence my inspiring images that I put in prospect. It is often about the positive experiences of the journey, the call for a new adventure, the rebirth.
Yes that’s right, spirituality is also a manner you can use to go on a journey within yourself. From the age of 20 I have discovered oriental disciplines: yoga, meditation, chi kung, tai chi, and other forms such as shamanism, Feldenkrais, Thai massage. I took various training courses, mainly in Belgium and the Netherlands, but also in India and Thailand. They are all forms that fold you back on yourself, which strengthens your inner experience.
Spirituality is often still seen as sitting still on a mat, but it is about processing blockages and traumas on the one hand and introducing positive elements on the other, in order to come to yourself again.
Tell us about your artistic journey, where did you study art?
My first official art education was only at the age of 27 when I took a drawing class at the Academy of Visual Arts in Heusden-Zolder. The years before I had drawn more and more and I really wanted to learn something about it. I enjoyed drawing, setting the lines and building up shadows. But I was most captivated by the creation of light by setting shadows. A white canvas should normally provide the most light, but it only becomes interesting when light is removed, when contrast is created.
I really liked drawing that year and I wanted more. The following year I enlisted for a master’s degree in graphic arts in Hasselt. In the meantime, I worked as a computer science teacher in adult education. Going to class during the day and teaching in the evenings and on Saturdays was tough. And being a 28-year-old in a class of 18-year-olds was a little strange at first, but we got on well. I learned lino cutting and etching, and also to design on the computer. We had Photoshop lessons and animation with Flash and I learned Illustrator myself. At the end of the school year I came to the conclusion that the combination of going to school and my job was too hard. And I decided to stop and continue to create at my own pace.
I am grateful for the knowledge and skills I gained, but the main message I learned there was: you have to do it yourself. You can get explanations, advice, tips etc., but especially as an artist it is important to make something that comes from within to make the art come alive.
Then I took airbrush classes with David de Graef to learn the technique, photography courses, video editing, 3D design and 3D printing courses and continued to create digital art.
When I was 37 I went back to the academy to learn painting for 5 years with Marc Claes. The approach was more of an open studio. Students could pursue their own interests and Marc guided us. He had a huge knowledge of artists and styles. We experimented a lot and he was able to give us at least 5 names of artists with similar styles for every work we made.
What ideas are you currently exploring in your work?
When I contemplate on my art I find that I always look for the inspiring, which is reflected in light, I always try to bring that into my artworks. In recent years I have taken this quite literally. I started photographing light sources and made collages with them. Sometimes digital painting is added to the composition.
I also started working with 3D printing again. In 2019 I followed 2 semester courses and as a result I made my own rings with my logo incorporated. I plan to experiment more with 3D printing in the future.
At the moment I am looking at what painting on a larger canvas does for me. And I am also learning 3D animation software. I’m already quite used to the computer field, but this is quite extensive and you have to learn a lot before you can make something.
You are doing quite a lot?
The best description is a creative jack-of-all-trades I think. Besides the graphical I also danced a lot. Contemporary dance, tango and especially salsa. I was even a salsa teacher for several years and I danced in two salsa dance groups and did some performances. I also wanted to continue with contemporary dance and I once did an intake with an international dance group. Made a choreography myself, practiced a lot and I was selected. But it was not compatible with my work. I have worked part-time for a large part of my life, to have time for all the creative things. But I had my doubts about stopping completely. Quite a shame, because it would also mean a lot of traveling, and I love to do that.
Also an actor in some films by students at the Ritcs in Brussels. “Fertilize” by Senne De Handschieter is a well-known short film in which I appeared, but I also played a leading role twice. You can view “Allegory of a Murderer” by Ellen Babeliowsky, who now teaches at Luca and Ritcs: http://www.ellooh.com/ellen/allegorie-van-een-moordenaar-the-directors-cut/
Also singing lessons, making electronic music, theater, improvisation courses, capoeira, skating, circus training, …
Which media do you use in your work, and what appeals to you?
I make traditional paintings with acrylics and water-based oil paint. I like acrylic because you can work very quickly. But the color intensity and shine of the oil gives me more visual satisfaction. I like to work with primary and bright colors. For me they contain the most light. I usually paint figuratively but also abstractly.
The photos I take with a mobile phone or with a DSLR, it depends on which device I have with me when I see something interesting.
Digitally I mainly work with Affinity Photo, Blender and video editing software at the moment. I order the 3D prints online, those companies have really good equipment.
Tell us about some of the highlights of your artistic career, such as memorable shows/exhibits in which you have exhibited.
In the summer of 2019 I was in Malaga, Spain. There I met a graffiti artist who is well known in the city and his art pops up everywhere. From smaller works to entire facades of an apartment building. He had given me a VIP invitation to an art fair in Marbella. There I got to know the gallery Eka & Moor from Madrid and talked to one of the gallery owners, Vicente. He found my work interesting and later suggested that I participate with the gallery in an art fair in Amsterdam in August.
Later that year, in December, we also went to one of the biggest art fairs I’ve attended: Luxartfair in Luxembourg. It was amazing, more than 90 galleries in a huge hall with so many beautiful works of art. A young couple from France bought a work of mine during the VIP opening on the first day. That was really a huge boost.
What’s next for you?
Currently I am concentrating on online platforms since most live events have been cancelled. I have already designed my own virtual gallery, but I am not yet satisfied with the result. I am also completing my webshop. In the fall of 2021 I will go to Paris, to an art fair in the Carrousel du Louvre and then to an art fair in Brussels expo.