Q: Introduce yourself – who are you and what do you do?
A: My name is Erik Renssen, I am an artist living just outside of Amsterdam. I was born in The Netherlands in 1960.
Q: What is your background?
A: At the time, my parents thought it was better to do architecture instead of Art School, so I studied architecture and worked at an architects office for 11 years! In the evenings, however, I always painted and attended Art School at a later age. In the end I proved my parents wrong, art turned out to be a good career path for me and it made me a very happy man.
Q: How do you work?
A: I spend my days painting, drawing, sculpting and making traditional prints like lithographs and linocuts.
My studio is situated on the waterside in our garden. We (my wife Suzka who runs our gallery in Amsterdam and our kids) live in a small village called Broek in Waterland.
When making a painting I start with a base layer and make my sketches with charcoal straight on the canvas. I then go over it time after time until I am satisfied and have the right composition.
Then slowly the color palette starts coming to me and I begin applying the colors, layer over layer, scratching away and adding patterns as I move along. I sometimes look at my canvas through a mirror to check if it is ‘right’ or I’ll put the canvas upside down. It is helpful to see it from another perspective. My signature comes last, when I am happy with the result and consider the painting finished. This is an exciting moment, letting the painting go off into the world.
When stone printing I work in Amsterdam, at one of the last traditional stone print studios in the Netherlands. Drawing an image on a stone, printing on paper by hand, stone after stone, color after color to obtain the end result.
It may take me 2 months to finish an edition of artwork and things can be challenging till the very end. It is only with the last, dark, and most often black layer that the lithography gets its definition. All is possible till then. When a lithography turns out beautifully it feels like a victory.
Same goes for linocutting. Although I do the actual cutting with sharp knives in my studio, using the ‘lost method’, an invention of Picasso, cutting all layers from only one slate. I take the linoleum slate back and forth to and from the traditional print studio situated in the attic of a monumental house in Amsterdam where the traditional presses are.
Q: What art do you most identify with?
A: The works of Pablo Picasso and his contemporaries like Braque, Matisse and Modigliani. From earlier times I like to study Vincent van Gogh and Cézanne.
Q: What has been your favorite experience so far as an artist?
A: Every time I see people totally happy or touched when obtaining a piece of artwork I made. To spark that emotion is very rewarding.
Q: Who inspires you?
A: All things around me, everything around me. I use everyday objects and situations to make my still lifes and portraits. People I meet with distinct features will appear in my paintings.
Q: What is the best advice you have received?
A: Look well at your predecessors and try to understand their inspirations. Then follow your heart and walk your own walk. Your path is unique and it will lead you to the best places. Be stubborn and true to your own passion. Go for it, do not hesitate or hold back. Take risks.
Find someone who can promote your art for you so you can focus on your work.
Q: When you are not working, where can we find you?
A: In our garden, enjoying the birds, while reading a book about plants and biodiversity. In Amsterdam, with friends in the bar of Soho House Amsterdam. In Paris at the Picasso museum or bar La Palette 🙂 On holidays in Ibiza, hiking, relaxing and painting (oops, working after all).
Erik Renssen will be exhibiting at Artexpo New York 2020 [Booth #303]. To learn more about Erik and Renssen Art Gallery visit his website. renssenartgallery.com