Archive for the 'New Paintings' Category

God is not a golfer

Jul 31, 2009 in New Paintings

Kelly, abstract cat art

I know I drive people to despair with my cat fetish, but I think the’re great. If this painting looks like kids art, it’s because it is, but frankly, I don’t see what’s more mature about people rambling about their human kids…..God is not a golfer, but a professional breeder.

Having fun with the palette knife

Jul 16, 2009 in Abstract Art, New Paintings

Abstract Thing, painting by Marten Jansen

This is just a thingy from 1999 to keep you busy while I’m working on new paintings.

Because the schools are out, this is a prime moment to address the art and/or design students among you and talk about art materials. As mentioned before my primary tool is the palette knife now (but not used in the painting on the left). I can’t tell you how to use the palette knife because that’s entirely personal. In other words: you put some paint on your knife and then onto the canvas. You can apply the paint thick or thin, there are no rules. What does matter is the size of the knife you use: larger knives will leave a very different impression than small knives.
I use the knife for two things: create areas of color, but I also use the knife to paint lines.

Small triangular palette knife

Small triangular palette knife (edge 2 cm, 0.8 in)

As you can see, I don’t clean my palette knives very often. Contrary to popular belief, I do shower.

Single-edge palette knife

Single-edge palette knife (edge 5 cm, 2 in)

Drawing lines with the palette knife

Drawing lines with the palette knife

For drawing lines the knife doesn’t look like the right tool, but you can create very expressive lines in the following way: just put a blob of paint on the upper half of your knife (like the small triangular one, above) and then, with the tip, start painting a line. You’ll run out of paint after an inch or so, but when you reload the knife’s tip with paint, don’t overpaint any faint spots and don’t fill in gaps in the line segment you made. Most of the time (unless you really think you have to make a correction) leave the line segment in its original state, or else you’ll ruin the expressive effect, and the line segment will become messier every time you work on it. It’ll take some practice but it’s a really expressive way of painting.

As you’ll see, using oil paint or acrylic paint, AS IS, to use on the palette knife, is unsatisfactory. What you need is paint with BODY. For this, mix oil paint with acrylic modelling paste and some liquin impasto. Officially, oils and acrylics don’t mix, but unofficially they do. I do recommend using oil paint, as opposed to mixing acrylic paint with acrylic modelling paste, because oil paint simply has more quality. For acrylic modelling paste look for a kind that is essentially transparent. Such paste will still look milky-white in the pot, but in thin layers (or mixed with something) will be almost transparent. Don’t use modelling paste to which a (white) pigment has been added, because you want to leave the color of your oils in tact. Because it’s acrylics, the modelling paste will still affect the color of the mix, making it look matted and dull. That’s where the liquin impasto (LI) comes in, because, miraculously, a little bit of LI will considerably improve the color or the mix, making it much deeper, almost restoring the oil paint’s original color. Be sure not to mix the LI with the oil first, because then the LI won’t properly attach to the acrylics (I think). Just mix the three components together or add the LI last (which is best). The LI makes the mix rather slow drying, with is good, because the acrylics/oils mix is very quick to dry, too quick to my taste. Experiment with proportions. Start mixing acrylics and oils in different proportions. Too little oil will reduce the strength of color, too much oil will produce a putty-like substance that is difficult to process and doesn’t look good. You won’t need to add much LI, just enough to restore the depth of color.

[By the way, this post has been updated. Before, I was rambling  about alkyd modelling paste — what I meant was liquin impasto].

Big triangular palette knife

Big triangular palette knife (edge: 5.5 cm, 2.2 in)

For completeness I have included a pic of a third type palette knife, which may look more familiar than the single-edge knife, but I prefer the single edge. A large triangular knife is unwieldy.

Abstract Portrait No. 8

Jun 16, 2009 in Abstract Art, Music, New Paintings

Abstract Portrait No. 8

Abstract Portrait No. 8

This painting was made in 1999 (I think). Its main purpose was to test a new acrylics color I had bought: quinacridone gold, which is the brown color you see in the image. I figured it would work similarly to the burnt sienna acrylics I used in my Egyptian paintings, but it didn’t, maybe because burnt sienna is more transparent. Burnt sienna acrylics mix very well with titanium white, which permits subtle modelling and lead to the manneristic style of my Egyptian paintings.

I have visited no less than six museums during the past months and learned many things, but right now I’m deeply immersed in amateur music production, so all my other activities suffer (still painting, though).

A week ago I bought a Fender Stratocaster, the first decent electric guitar I’ve ever owned. “Decent” is an understatement, because it’s an instrument of pure quality. Years ago I gave up making music out of frustration over my inability to fulfill my artistic dreams by means of the musical medium. I wanted to do everything at the same time: create popular music that was simple and compact and at the same time contain complex harmony and atonality. I consistenly rejected my music teacher’s assertion that popular music consists of the tonic, subdominant and dominant chords, but at the same time I was unable to find a music teacher that would give me a proper grounding in music theory.

Anyway, I’ve always loved playing the guitar. For a painter I’m a pretty normal guy, but as an adolescent I had a physical relationship with my acoustic guitar. I would actually pet it .
To me a guitar is a living person, like a child that needs care and understanding. I like to visit music shops and “meet” its guitars, by running my finger across their strings to check their sound. Some guitars are lovable, others are unfortunate, as in underprivileged, as there are no bad guitars, just bad makers.


Jun 01, 2009 in New Paintings, Personal



What’s a “Margreet”? It’s a name in Dutch, a language closely related to Klingon, if that’s rings a bell. A former Dutch NATO Secretary General once got into political trouble because he was caught saying that the Dutch language resembles the uttering of animal sounds. The Anglo-Saxon reaction to Dutch is often that it sounds like people spitting. At any rate, Margreet is the name of my late sister, who died of cancer in 1990, at the age of 29 years old.
I know I promised to write biographies of my mother and sister, but when push came to shove I decided that such writings would be a little too personal at this time. Instead I will add their portraits to this site, Margreet’s portrait is at
Actually Margreet never wanted to be called Margreet, because she didn’t like the sound of it, she wanted to be called “Janna”, her second name.
I realize that some of you will feel compelled to refer to this posting as touching, which I find endearing, but nevertheless the portrait of Margreet is meant to be a tribute to her. Now I’m at it, I’m trying to describe Margreet, but again I come to the conclusion that I don’t want to. I’m not like Edvard Munch, who never got over the death of his sister, I’m just your average introvert.. Bear with me, I’m Dutch.. For which I have to apologize, because this site is oriented towards English speaking folks. But if you want me to tell something about myself (as artists are expected to do), then things will inevitably get cheesy, because of the couleur locale I find myself in.

The Nineties

May 17, 2009 in Abstract Art, How Not To Paint, New Paintings

I can’t crank out a new painting every 15 days, so when I don’t have a new one available, I put an old painting online, beginning with the ones I’m confident about. So now I have to resort to my less fortunate creations, although, if I really think a painting looks like ****, I dispose of it.
The Nineties just makes the cut. The painting, that is. The decade was perceived by me (for what it’s worth) as fake, conceited and marked by unholy alliances and other silliness. People were referring to the divinification (I don’t know if that’s real English) of man.
Cool, huh?
The “painting” is a collage, painted on with acrylics. You can see a larger version of it if you click on it.
Never mind about the text in German, which was taken from a Bach piece, I think it was the St. Matthew’s Passion.

Circus, better worlds and color fields

Apr 22, 2009 in About My Art, New Paintings, Personal

Some folks say that my art reminds them of a circus, which doesn’t sound like a compliment and isn’t taken a such (neither as an insult). Let me explain how the circus comes in. At I describe how in the 19th century the circus in general (and the circus clown in particular) was generally seen as representing the artist and his position within society. Picasso in particular took that comparison to heart and during his blue and rose periods incorporated  many circus scenes into his art. From there on the circus seizes to be an explicit subject in his work, but the circus spirit and atmosphere continues to be present in his work.

The thing with artists is that they are impressionable bastards, they absorb their experiences. And so, without realizing it, I incorporated the circus atmosphere into my work just by Picasso’s influence. Maybe the influence has many other sources, but it seems to me that Picasso has been one of the most influential people of the 20th century. Picasso wasn’t even the most talented painter of his time, but while his contemporaries confined themselves to their niche, Picasso took a very broad approach to art, and culture in general. Similarly, it has been said that one of Mick Jagger’s main merits was/is that he understood what made his generation tick – not just the music.

So I have no special relationship with the circus and I’m not the reincarnation of Picasso, nor do I have any kind of metaphysical, New Age-styled bond with Picasso’s spirit, I’m just the product (among many other things) of his influence. Like Picasso’s generation kept referring back to Classical art, while radically breaking with it, I keep referring to the 19th century, both in my taste of art and music, with Modern Art serving as a bridge between then and now.

Now we know the similarities, it becomes more interesting to determine the difference between my art and Picasso’s. I don’t want to go through all of it, but while looking at Joan Miró’s work I realized that Miró, as a very old painter, was able to successfully incorporate the abstract expressionistic style of the 1950s into his work. I woud say that Picasso made similar attempts, but not successfully. Maybe he was too tied to his figurative upbringing and that abstract expressionism required the line of thought of pure abstract art, which Picasso could never connect to. Or maybe he just lost his flexibility at some point and remained tied to the 19th century, his later paintings still have that flavour.

Since 2006 I’ve been trying to connect to post-WWII abstract art, which I think can be best seen in

The White Rectangle, abstract art by Marten Jansen

The White Rectangle

The thing with 1950s abstract art is that it’s messy, so 1960s abstract artists went for purity, order and serenity (see for more on this), which they achieved, but at the expense of structural complexity to the point of triviality. So in the White Rectangle I went for purity while trying to retain complexity.

Now I feel again drawn to the 1960s side of the equation: the purity and serenity of color field painting, as it’s called. Actually color field painting is Piet Mondrian revisited. It has the same utopic, higher dimensional (almost symbolist) feel. The difference is that Mondrian’s works are all involved compositions, while color field paintings are all (yes – all – I’m so sorry) starting points rather than complete artworks. Nevertheless, the basic idea of color field painting is very valid and an inspiration.

So far I find it difficult to go down the path of color field panting, because my basic instinct is to want to express the way my soul sees the world: as a yucky place. Weird as that may be, I’m not an escapist. I don’t shun the influence of the world but see it as something that must be lived. In fact, if there’s something that gives me the creeps it’s utopism and it’s propensity for higher and better worlds. Dutch and French artists are both avid utopists for different reasons. The Dutch are plainly naive and think their higher worlds and visions can be made into reality, while the French are aware that the world is up to no good but regard it as a matter of savoir vivre to try to invoke higher dimensions and idealized worlds.

I think Vincent van Gogh was an odd combination of the two. Many people regard him as a naive fool for saying things like “This world is the best of all possible worlds” but it seems to me that he would say that to aggrevate people and there was always something very realistic in his work and his written observations of the world. On the other hand, true to the Dutch tradition of taking the hypes of the time overly seriously and then thinking they invented the concept, he tried to bring fine art to potato picking day laborers and tried to establish an artists colony which was attended by Paul Gauguin only, because he could use Theo’s allowance.

Everyone has his own brand of naivity, so do I, but as an artist I feel drawn to Edvard Munch who tried to confront and use his demons rather than to try to escape to a more heavenly place. When he had cured from his neurosis, he realized his art had lost its essence, so he went to a slaughter house in order to witness the killing of a bull and be shocked back to genius. Of course it didn’t work and while he remained one of the best expressionists of his time, his work had lost its content.

I neither have nor need a neurosis (at least, not one that bothers me) in order to be an artist, but I will ascend to heaven no sooner than I kick the bucket and before that I will want to create an art that spills the guts of Planet Earth for all to see, by which I mean that I want to feel I’m in touch with (my perception of) reality at all times. At the same time I’m an aesthetic, because there’s never just ugliness, there’s beauty too. At a loved-one’s funeral the sun may shine and the setting may be beautiful, adding to your grief to which the universe is indifferent. But tomorrow is another day, as there’s no dignity to survival, just genetics, and if I may, a little bit of humor.


Mar 18, 2009 in About My Art, Figurative Art, New Paintings

Industrial Landscape, painting by Marten Jansen

Hi everybody. It’s time to add a new painting, so take a load of this Industrial Landscape, which I painted in 1997.
Clearly visible is its Van Goghian nature, as he was my first favorite artist.
One of the things I like about Van Gogh was his tendency towards social realism, a topic which he developed during his Dutch period, but abandoned when he became an experimentally oriented painter in France. It still rings through in his landscape painting, though. While most impressionists confined themselves to idyllic and idealized scenes of nature, Van Gogh incorporated elements of the industrializing 19th century society, like in “Canal with Laundry Women, 1888” (I hope I’ve got the title right).

Canal with Laundry Women, 1888, Vincent Van Gogh

This painting is hardly Van Gogh’s most pleasing work, but it shows his unique pictorial force. With crude technical means he exactly captures the character and feeling of the scene.
Clearly, I was a simple little painter in 1997, but I’m still fond of the way my painting captures the atmosphere of the scene.
In 1997, for me, Van Gogh stood for “divisionism”, a technique which was pioneered by Georges Seurat and consisted of dots of pure colors. The impressionists developed this technique further and during his Parisian period Van Gogh would frantically experiment with divisionism, first in the form of dots, later dashes.
A little further down the line I realized that Van Gogh’s technique was about far more than just brush strokes of pure color. In fact, if you want to paint in the style of Van Gogh, you must make a study of Japanese art, because Van Gogh’s style is in essence his own quirky, ultra-expressionistic fusion of Japanese art and impressionism.

I’m coming out

Mar 03, 2009 in Abstract Art, Figurative Art, New Paintings, Personal

Portrait of Female Alien, painting by Marten Jansen
The Messiah, abstract painting by Marten Jansen

This site being my repository of bells, whistles and outlandish inventions, I have added a portrait of a female alien. I have also added an update to my Messiah painting.

End of 1990s I got involved in a UFO bulletin board, due to friendships with some of its participants. The arrogance of the “skeptics” got on my nerves to the point that I started to defend the “extraterrestrial hypothesis”. The other side (whatever that is), dubbed the “believers”, tend to be avid conspiracy theorists and some of them have impressive knowledge of the US government, for civilian outsiders, that is. Some of that, beside the friendships, is what I got out of it, but I still I take kindly to the alien as a cult icon.
At this moment an anti-Islamic Dutch politician is on his visit to the US Congress and in my country of residence being called a “multiculturalist” (usually abbreviated semi-funnily as “multicultie”) is not intended as a compliment, so maybe the time is right for me to defy……and come out of the closet…….
While the politically correct have stubbornly denied my right to think straight for decades, let me offer them this appeaser: I’m a xenophile.
Now get the ***k out of my way…I have work to do.

New painting

Feb 02, 2009 in Abstract Art, How Not To Paint, New Paintings

Female Portrait, contemporary art by Marten Jansen
Answer Me, abstract painting by Marten Jansen

Yesterday I added a painting made in 1997 (the one on the left) and also an update to the painting seen in the How Not To Paint A Masterpiece thread. I posted this painting on my homepage last year, but then made some changes – the current version is final.

When I made the painting on the left, in 1997, I still thought that on a finished painting every square millimeter should be covered with paint, while on the painting on the right you can see that much of the canvas is left bare. “Less is more”, in my latest style of painting, but I’ll never be a minimalist. Conceptual complexity is not a goal in itself, but necessary to achieve my artistic goals.

Ancient Egyptian art

Dec 18, 2008 in About My Art, New Paintings

Painting after Egyptian relief, by Marten Jansen

Don’t you love ancient Egyptian art? Actually, on avarage it’s quite primitive, as in low quality, but their are some true gems. I have made three small paintings after Egyptian reliefs. One is in this site’s abstract art section (it will be moved to the figurative art section), another I added today (as figurative) and can be seen in this post, a third will be added later.
Several things are fascinating about (ancient) Egyptian art. The Egyptian court had close ties with Greece (Cleopatra herself was Greek) and thus the Egyptian court became a mix of Greek cultural refinement and the organic African culture. Nineteenth century Western archeologists assumed that the pyramids were made with slave labour, I guess because Europe was used to doing business in similar ways. Now we know that the workers that made the pyramids were well looked after and weren’t slaves at all, but Egyptian civilians. It’s been speculated that working on the pyramids was part of Egyptian culture and that as such their construction was testament of the sense of unity within Egyptian society, with spiritualism being the driving force. Whether or not this is true, one of the attractions of Egyptian art is the sense of freedom it has. This again contributes to the belief that art can only thrive under conditions of freedom, but maybe this pertains to the visual arts more than to literature, for instance. Also, freedom is actually hard to define, because an individual may still find personal freedom under oppressive circumstances, and, societies that may be free from oppression by the state may still be unpermissive with regard to deviating artistic views.
Ancient Egyptian art is the product of a longstanding artistic-religious tradition, because the religious establishment would determine the artistic contraints to which the artist would have to abide. I wouldn’t call that artistic freedom, and yet it worked, the constraints didn’t seem to inhibit the artist’s creativity. So maybe the defining factor is whether or not an artist feels free, regardless of the circumstances.
The theme of the best known Egyptian art is usually the power of the pharaoh (and/or other royalty). Like in the relief my painting was made after, the subject is portrayed as determined and purposeful, a piece of propaganda designed to leave no doubt about who was in charge. One of the things that interests me from a technical point of view is the compactness of the message. These propaganda-oriented images are catching in an immediate sort of way. The link with our times is that we live in the age of pop culture, which is very similar in it’s immediacy. As a teenager I wanted to become a pop musician (as teens do) and what I got out of it was the realization of the need for compactness: an artwork that doesn’t need elaborate interpretation or schooling on the spectator’s part, but speaks to people at a basic level. Because of my interest in complexity, I failed as a pop musician :-), but as it turned out, in painting complexity can be combined with immediacy.
The relief that served as a model for my painting was monochrome and so I conjured up the colors, as well as the mosaic and the image of the sun in the background.
This painting was the second I did after I had “heard my click” (see autobio). Its a very simple painting, charmingly executed perhaps, and confirms that my decision to go abstract was correct.