Archive for the 'About My Art' Category


Oct 26, 2011 in About My Art

Many of my paintings are partly inspired by photos that I found on the web, mostly blogs. Because bloggers do not often cite the name of photographer, I’m unable to give credit. If you happen to know the name(s) of the photographer(s) that relate(s) to any of my paintings, please mail, including the title of the painting.

thanks in advance

June 6th

Jun 06, 2009 in About My Art, Personal

Today is June 6th, which, besides D-Day, is the birthday of my late sister, whose portrait is included in the previous post. This is just something I wanted to mention, because this post is not about art, it’s entirely personal, something I permit myself, because this is a blog.

This website started as a hobby. Between 1998 and 2004 I used the Internet to chat and as an excuse to learn webdesign and programming. Then, in 2004 I got into “domaining”, which is a game of registering domains before other people do. Worldwide enormous sums of money are wasted by ordinary people caught in this kind of “Klondike” phenomenon, which refers to economic activity in which more money is made on the people that pursue it, than by these people. (Klondike is a town that has become representative of “gold fever” and the fact that owners of restaurants that fed the gold diggers where the ones that got rich, not the gold diggers).

Nevertheless, domains still fascinate me, because it’s a word game, but I don’t own many. Because I registered in 2004, I felt obliged to develop a website around it. Now it’s leading a life of it’s own and (rightly or not) I’m no longer feeling the pressure of becoming a successful artist (however you define that). To the point that I’ve resumed an old hobby of mine: making music. Now, at last, I feel prefectly comfortable with being a perfect amateur at it. I dabble away with some equipment I bought and reading music theory. I make music like Karel Appel made paintings: passionately and mindlessly, although now I’m trying to get some sense into my musical endevours (and Appel became a famous artist, not to mention).

On the art front: at the moment my style is pure abstract art, so no portraits or social realisms, just big blobs of paint. I do this whenever I get the feeling my art loses energy and I start to be able to predict myself. What’s happening, then, is that the formal side of my painting has gotten worn out, which is why I get into pure abstract art, in order to develop new formalisms, which I then apply to a style that’s partially figurative.

Every time that happens I think I need to move away from School of Paris styled expressionism and get into color field painting, which it’s emphasis on purity. This does result in more clarity of color and concept……which I then exploit to make an expressionistic mess….like a post-Parisionist should.

I can’t discern the exact nature of this process yet, but it results in a gradual change of style.

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.

Rome and us

Feb 16, 2009 in About My Art, Abstract Art

A new painting has been added and can be seen here.

In this painting I was asking myself the question: “What would a contemporary Messiah look like?”. Of course, it needn’t be a woman (like in the painting), but it could be…

This is the second time I’m referring to Catholicism (also see my Pope painting). This is because of the way Catholicism is interwoven with World history and the influence Catholic iconography still has on human culture, not just on believers, but on the entire world. Also, deciphering Catholic iconography leads to important insights into the human psyche, something I will not get into in the literary sense, but I will leave the painting up to your interpretation.

It’s important to note, however, that Christianity in its present form, and certainly in its iconography, is to a significant degree a Roman construct. In my view Christianity is a post-Roman phenomenon, in that it succeeded the Roman empire, in part renouncing it, in part continuing its culture.

The “post-something” part is meant to say that the post-something era is both a break with, and a continuation of, the “something-era”. It’s an era of transition, in which the doctrines of the “something-era” have lost their dominance, but are used as a basis for a new school of thought.

I assume the Christian era to have come to an end during the “Fin de Siècle”, at the end of the 19th century, when the West’s intellectual elite lost its faith, a development which came to the masses during the 1960s. So today we find ourselves in the post-Christian era, in which Christianity is no longer dominant, but continues to be of cultural influence.
One striking feature in both the Fin de Siècle and the 1960s is the emergence of a culture that refers back to paganism, a set of pre-Christian belief systems. Both the Roman Empire and Christianity had always suppressed paganism, so there is a certain logic to the reemergence of paganism in the post-Christian era. Examples of this are the 1960’s hippie culture, but also, and perhaps most clearly, the house music scene of the 1990s, which can been seen as an Africanized version of paganism.

My painting is, as I see it, a contemporary, secular view on Christianity, with an emphasis on the latter’s Roman roots.

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.

Figurative art

Dec 03, 2008 in About My Art, New Paintings

As usual I’m working on 8 different abstract paintings, which will be finished this, or rather, next year, but at this moment I don’t have any new abstract paintings to publish on this site. Therefore I will add some figurative paintings to, a section of this site which is dedicated to figurative art. Today I added a painting seen here,

Harrier, landscape painting by Marten Jansen

which I made in 1997. The work I did prior to 1997 I don’t regard as having been of professional quality, so I destroyed those paintings or spontaneously lost them, which I’m good at. The painting I added today was the 3rd or 4th in the 1997 series and is the only real landscape painting I have done. By that time I was already moving in the abstract direction, but I think this landscape is more figurative than abstract. Van Gogh was my first example and I think the way I painted the sky in my landscape painting should be regarded as a nod to Van Gogh.
If I ever leave Europe I will miss one thing: the middle-European lanscape (“middle” in terms of latitude – between North and South. Not to be confused with “Central-Europe”, which refers to countries between Western and Eastern Europe). Not that this landscape is special, but it’s what I know.
To me no painting better defines the atmosphere of the “middle”-European landscape, than Mondrian’s blue tree. My painting (called “Harrier”) looks Russian, if anything, for it’s romantic colors.

What’s up?

Oct 06, 2008 in About My Art

So what am I up to these days?

A while ago I launched a new website:, for mobile phone and PDA users. This site cannot be seen on your computer, so don’t click any links on this site to, but type the URL into the browser of your mobile device. The mobile site is not a mirror of (except for the images, obviously), but has fresh content. Of course we’re starting out modestly with just two pages.

As for my painting, some people were worried I’m not painting, because I haven’t added to this site any paintings painted in 2008 for a while and because I haven’t updated the “How Not To Paint A Masterpiece” thread. As for the latter issue, I’ve kind of lost motivation to update the thread, but I am working on the painting and making good progress, but it’s not like the “Bittersweet” and “Latina” paintings, which I was able to complete without any major delays.  The How Not To Paint A Masterpiece painting is more complicated, which means that at some point I had to put it aside and let the composition develop in my head. Many of the social realism paintings took 5 years (!) to complete and my objective is never to finish a painting quickly or finish a painting at all. My objective is to keep busy and completion is no more than a byproduct of the way I work. That’s why at any one time I work at multiple paintings, so that I always have something to paint, without having to spoil paintings with “non-ideas”.

Right now I’m working on 8 different paintings and my rate of productivity is just dandy, but there’s no telling when any of these paintings be will completed.

In fact, 2008 is a very good year for me. I’m having more fun at painting than ever and since I’ve started on the social realism series, my art has won on depth considerably, my technique has improved and my style is more defined. But no, I’m not a Van Gogh, who cranked out a new painting every day. But if you want to say anything against an artist like him, it’s that he never tried to produce a “grand opus”, a painting which is so ambitious, complicated and, inevitably, large in dimensions, that it took him a lot longer than one day to complete. The same thing can be said about Picasso, who, at one stage of his career preferred to make 30,000 pieces of pottery instead of a few “pieces de resistances”.

So cut this artist some slack, because I’m not cutting myself any slack, I’m painting like mad. But no trinklets to put on your mantlepiece and no animals or obnoxious neighbours on formaldehyde.

Why all the female portraits?

May 24, 2008 in About My Art

I started to do female portraits in emulation of Pablo Picasso, whose father wanted him to become a portraitist, because that genre was more respected and better paid than what Papa Picasso did: paint pigeons. So you could say that the influence of José Ruiz Blasco (Picasso’s father) has gone well beyond of what you might expect from a sub-mediocre painter like him.

Of course my habit wouldn’t have stuck if it had been just for Picasso’s influence. There is of course, inevitably, the fascination with the opposite sex that plagues so many artists, take Rembrandt, Rubens, Modigliani, Matisse, Da Vinci, Corot – not exactly the smallest names in art. And for me it’s the best way to explore human psychology in an intimate way, something I’m not capable of in male portraits.

The greatest portraitist of all time, was IMHO, Leonardo Da Vinci and his most famous portraits were all of women, while he was an asexual. Which doesn’t mean he had no romantic or emotional interest in women, which he obviously had, so the morale is that sex doesn’t necessarily come into play when it comes to fascination with the opposite sex and making female portraits. But it does help…

Another aspect of my style of female portraitism is the way in which it enables me to express the spirit of the times, which I don’t even do on purpose, but simply creeps in when I portray people that live today.