Archive for the 'Abstract Art' Category


Oct 06, 2009 in Abstract Art, Music

Drawing parallels and differences with/between painting and music helps to understand both. The reader will excuse me from drawing from, and referring to, my own experience, because that’s the only source of originality a webmaster has to offer.
Picasso fought a lifelong battle against lovelyness in his art. Partly that’s due to the time in which he was formed as an artist. During the course of the 19th century beauty in art as a goal in itself had become the target of art philosophers and a whole generation of artists had to disavow a style of painting with which they were brought up. That’s why, for instance, Munch’s famous painting The Scream looks so pale (it looks ok on photos in which the saturation of the colors has been enhanced), because he would delibaretely expose his paintings to direct sunlight, so that the colors would lose their permanence. He would refer to his paintings as his children and by treating them rough they would learn to fend for themselves, as he put it, by which he meant that they had to be judged on the basis of their intrinsic artistic quality, not on manneristic properties. Likewise he would take his paintings outside during the winter, exposing them to rain and snow, leading to open-air exhibitions in his garden which must have seemed surreal. At one time his dog ran through one of his paintings.
While signing lithographs Picasso would hold his pen in such an unatural way that the effort it took him to sign, gave his authograph more character, thus avoiding facility, even in his signature. Facility was exactly what Picasso and his peers were trying to avoid, but in Picasso’s case there was probably another factor.
At 15 years old Picasso was already an accomplished figurative painter, working at a professional level, so as a beginning artist he was motivated by the emotions of a child and children are usually not concerned with artistic depth. They just want to make art that is good and fun and perhaps beautiful. You evolve as you grow up, but also, to an extent, elaborate on what you did as a child. There are certain childhood habits you can’t kick and in Picasso’s case lovelyness in art was probably one such habit.
Van Gogh was an adult when he started to paint at 27 years old and had gone through his “moulting period”, as he called it, in which he became dissillusioned with the established values of the world of his father. Needless to say Van Gogh never had any problems with “lovelyness”.
Mozart was a genius composer, but it seems to me that throughout his life he kept doing what he was supposed to do as a Wunderkind: entertain people. During the past decades the center of gravity in the world of music has shifted from Mozart (whose name had always been synonymous with music) to composers like Bach, whose music has more artistic depth.
So I conclude that technically it pays to start learning art at a young age, but artistically you develop childish habits that you never quite get rid of.

I came to this conclusion be analyzing my own development, so those that are interested in famous artists only, will be excused from here on.

As a teenager I was a hopeless romantic and for me music was an exercise in sentimentality. Today I battle against sweet melodies in a way similar to Picasso fighting lovely pictures. In painting I have no such problem, in line with the above-mentioned line of thought, because I started to paint at 26. As a painter I will happily be an aesthetic, but in music I’m a candy machine, although there are ways to emphasize the expressive aspect.

>>> music blog

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.


May 25, 2009 in Abstract Art


Karel Appel

Karel Appel

So now I’ve visited the Cobra Museum, near Amsterdam, a visit that was inspired by a trip to the Municipal Museum of The Hague, a week earlier. There I saw some Cobra works, Cobra standing for COpenhagen, BRussels and Amsterdam, the cities of residence of the art group’s members. The group was founded in 1948, right after Hitler had made short work of one the greatest period’s of artistic and scientific bloom, in art represented by the School of Paris. In truth, this period of bloom was already in decline, but Nazism well and truly buried it.
I must confess I didn’t know a lot about Cobra, but seeing their works in real time surprised me positively. This comes at a time at which I’m (once again) trying to broaden my scope and get away from the pre-WW II tradition.



What you take away from the Cobra museum is proficient abstract painting, related to abstract expressionism in method certainly and to an extent in style. It’s main feat is it’s spirit, though, of which Karel Appel was the main representative. It’s a spirit of freedom, joy and childlike optimism.
The artist that actually made me want to see Cobra is Contant (short for Constant Nieuwenhuis, the guy’s real name). I’m not well enough versed in the post-WW II period to see if he dreamt it all up himself, be he certainly seems the most innovative of the bunch. And very different in tone, which makes you wonder about all the political rhetorics of Cobra. While some artists had this joy and optimism about them (like Appel and Pedersen), some started out as somewhat gloomy (Corneille, Lucebert) and Contant was downright apocalyptic. Appel and Pedersen’s approach to painting was also very different to that of Constant and Corneille. The former two were of the “gestural” kind, which means they didn’t really employ a methodology, but they “messed about”, as Appel once infamously mentioned, fuelling already existing prejudice against abstract painting.
Corneille and Constant were more “structural” in their approach, in fact, Corneille is quite an intelligent painter. I would say that Constant was the most forward thinking of the bunch. While Appel and Corneille were still tied to the School of Paris, Constant was decidedly post-WWII in his approach. While most School of Paris painters that are still famous today were political more in name rather than in actual militancy, many of Constant’s works from the 1950s had a flavour of political activism in the modern sense.



Why have post-WWII art groups like Cobra not found the recognition that the School of Paris has? One possible answer already occurred to me while at the The Hague museum, where I couldn’t help but compare Cobra art to that of their predecessors, such as Mondrian and the German expressionists, which are well represented at The Hague.
Actually the answer must be broken down in two, because of the above-mentioned devide that existed within Cobra. I wonder if Constant, like many of his contemporaries, bothered to “take his art to the people”, as so to speak. During the post- WW II period a strong sense of elitism developed in art (today more than ever, actually) and there was a strange contradiction about the way left wing intellectuals would be “for the people” and way above them at the same time. It seems unlikely that they didn’t realize that their “social criticism” was anything other than criticism of the “man in the street”. However, social criticism is one thing, turing away from society quite another and to many of Constant’s generation of artists it was fashionable to do both.
Now, in 2009, if I say to people I’m an artist, they are lukewarm, in such a way the relationship between the people and artists has been spoilt. If they see my art, they do recognize the honest attempt (if anything -:), showing that in spite of the post-WW II artistic carnage of the bureaucratic coup d’etat (meaning that art officials have taken control), nothing has been lost. In the wake of 1970s leftist intellectualism I grew up as an anti-elitist, but even then the above-mentioned considerations teach me a valuable lesson: That if artists don’t ally with the people, then ultimately art officials will fill the gap, totally destroying art, as has happened, from pickled sharks to museums looking like theme parks.

Kael Appel, abstract painting, Cobra art

Karel Appel

Piet Mondrian was always single-mindedly involved in the development of an inaccessable style, but as an artist I don’t think he lost the trust of the people. They didn’t understand him, but didn’t doubt his sincerity either. One of the main things I take away from Picasso was the way in which he tried to bring avant-garde art to the people. Don’t stay locked within the confines of your niche, but think of fine art in terms of it’s broader cultural context. That causes “high art” to flourish, elitism has caused it’s doom.

(Provided of course, that we’re referring to genuine fine art, not to art for entertainment’s sake only (or pulp art, if you will), the latter is the trend in museums of contemporary art)

Lucebert, abstract art, Cobra


The second reason why the School of Paris is more popular than Cobra still, may have to do with Cobra’s lack of emphasis on pictorial organization, most clearly visible in Appel’s work. While an extremely talented expressionist, his work lacks a clear conceptual plan, in contrast with the work of Picasso, Mondrian, etc. In art, instinct shouldn’t be tamed, but it should be guided, or else what results are paint-splashing spams. The essence of the work of great artists is the way in which they can layer idea upon idea in such a way that consecutive ideas strengthen each other and lead to surprises that can’t come forth out of fits of mindless passion. It’s this seemless connection between instinct and intelligence that characterizes artists like Rembrandt, Leonardo and Van Gogh.

Karel Appel

Karel Appel

Continuing on Cobra, Lucebert’s work, above, looked very attractive and well painted in the museum, but seeing it here I think it looks crappy and ill-defined. This morning I put an image of one of the Georgian paintings on this page, because it looked so nice in the museum. A few minutes I replaced it with a Lucebert for about the same gripe I have with the latter. These are in fact decorative paintings, which requires craftsmanship and can be convincing during a direct confrontation, but decorative doesn’t mean it’s good art.
So now I’m inclined to believe that the impression a painting makes on a webpage is actually a good measure of it’s merit, to some extent. On the other hand, every time I visit the Rijksmuseum, I’m disappointed with Vermeer. Oddly, his paintings look better in art books than in reality, taking into account, though, that I’ve never seen his larger works in the “real world” (the ones in the Rijksmuseum are all small-sized). Rembrandt is the opposite. Only in reality you feel the Rembrandt magic.

Cobra art

Cobra art

The Cobra museum is a beautiful place, built in the 90s, especially for Cobra. Although Appel, Corneille and Constant were/are/are certainly good painters, I would guess that in 100 or 50 years (or less, considering the less than generous public attendance during my visit) the museum still exists, but not as the Cobra.
If it weren’t for a group of senior citizens on a guided art trip, I would have felt lonely at the museum. At the Cobra cafe one of them sat down with her peers and said:
“May I be honest? I think it’s all crap”.
“Yes…”, someone replied…”But you have to take into account their vision”.
With which I agree, partially. I go to museums to get influenced. If there’s one thing I can get out of it, then it’s worth the trip and it has been worth it in the sense that I have a much better understanding of what Cobra is about. It may be interesting to compare Cobra to it’s American counterparts, abstract expressionism and and color field painting. Willem de Kooning has a lot in common with Cobra, not suprisingly, but their style is a marginal extension of pre-WWII European expressionism. What they did, eesentialy, was mess it up, literally. It became more free, but at the cost of structure.

more later…..

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.

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.

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.

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.

Pure abstract art – what is that?

May 24, 2008 in Abstract Art

Hello again.

So I did manage to get my painting online in time. As you’ll see on , the painting on the bottom-left is the new painting and it’s pure abstract art, by which I mean that there are no recognizable features, no faces, no people, just lines and color areas. I made these pure abstract art paintings in 2000, when my inspiration was beginning to fail (after having worked very hard for two years) and I didn’t feel like making a drawing anymore, I just started to paint. Pure abstract art is all very well, but I prefer a link with reality. In most of my paintings I make a drawing based on a natural object, like a person, the drawing being just some contours, which serve as a foundation for the painting. Then when I start to paint I generally pay no (conscious) attention to the figuative aspect (how the model looks in reality) anymore – from there on the way I work is entirely abstract. That’s why I refer to myself as an abstract artist, because all in all I spend far more time on the abstract aspect of my art, than on the figuration. Having said that, I also have to say that the drawing is crucial for the painting’s success. If the drawing isn’t good, the painting may still be good, but never great. My most popular painting is, which is an example of a painting that already worked out as a drawing, although it had nothing more than some contours. The drawing is the melody, as it were, and the painting the harmony, the counterpoint and the orchestration.

Right now I’m working on several female portraits and on some social realism paintings. One of each category is about finished, but I’m taking some more time to let them mature in my head and be sure that there are finished indeed.

I will post to this blog some photos of these new paintings in intermediate stages.


Abstract Art Blog

May 19, 2008 in Abstract Art

Welcome to my blog! While the rest of serves as:

  • an abstract art exhibit of my own art (starting at and that of other artists (starting at
  • a source of information on (mainly abstract) art in general, neatly ordered (at least, that’s the intention) and search engine friendly,

…this blog will contain my private ramblings – mostly on art – and will allow you, the visitor, to post your feedback, ask your questions, or add anything else that you think that should be on

Regular visitors may have noticed that I try to add a new painting every 15 days, which would be tomorrow, but I don’t think I can get it done this time, because of (partly) unforeseen personal, non-art related activities. I still have a bunch of older paintings on the shelf and several new ones are nearing completion, so I should be able to keep up the 2-monthly rhythm up for a while longer. And then….we will be well into 2008.

Ahhh………2008…Year of Change…and maybe….Year of Art?

Thanks for having read this first post – I hope you will leave some feedback.