In the following interview, Lorena Kloosterboer discusses her experience growing up in the Netherlands and in Argentina. Her unique experience leads her to identify herself as a Dutch Latina. The artist also elaborates on her indefatigable creative ambition. She is a successful painter and writer of books as well as monthly articles with reputable publications like PoetsArtists. Please join us for a discussion with an artist who has experienced broad support and shares a unique point of view.
Welcome to artcopyblog.com. Would you like to introduce yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
LK: My name is Lorena Kloosterboer. I grew up in the Netherlands but spent time in Argentina every year visiting my maternal grandparents and family. Both parental cultures imprinted me with complementary behaviors, as well as contrasting social models.
Neither typically Dutch nor Argentine, I consider myself to be a Dutch Latina. I’m an amalgamation of both cultures; a combination of the down-to-earth, open-minded rationality of the Dutch and the emotional, expressive flamboyance of the Argentines. In social situations I’m an extrovert, but I cannot keep that up for long—I crave solitude, quiet, and time to myself to be truly happy.
I’m an artist and a writer.
As an artist I paint contemporary realism, in which I seek to capture the fascinating interactions between colors, light, shadows, textures, and reflections, and unite them in visual poetry. I love painting—for me it’s meditative, even though I’m quite organized and methodical in my approach. I plan and think ahead of each brush stroke so that each gesture purposely builds substance. My aim is to portray my subject matter in such a way that it looks photographic from afar, yet shows my hand from up close. It’s important to me that my work involves beauty. To date my art has participated in well over one hundred exhibitions in art galleries and museums in eleven countries.
As a writer I’ve authored a big fat reference book about acrylics, which has been published worldwide in American English (for the US and Canada) and a British English version (for the UK and Australia). A Dutch translation has also been published in both a soft and a hardcover edition (for the Netherlands and Belgium). I’m very proud of this book and the response continues to be very positive and sometimes quite overwhelming—in a good way.
I currently write a monthly art review for the independent art magazine PoetsArtists. As might be expected there’s a novel inside of me waiting to blossom, although time constraints constantly push it to the back of my to-do list. I love writing, especially in English—for me it’s the best way to express myself clearly. As with painting, my writing is best done behind closed doors, in solitude, where I have time to think about the meaning and the resonance of words and the way to articulate my thoughts as elegantly and beautifully as I can.
AC: Your achievement; writing books, monthly reviews, and painting in a spectacular style that requires concentrated attention to detail is impressive, indeed.
Why do you do what you do? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
LK: Although I was a creative child it never occurred to me I could become a professional artist, so in high school my ambition was to become a fashion designer. Through twists and turns of life, this career choice and associated studies met with a brick wall—a story too long and complex to tell here—so in my early twenties I attended classical art school in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Due to the sociopolitical climate at the time, I encountered quite a few unexpected stumbling blocks during my art schooling. Instead of letting them derail me, these obstacles fueled my determination to become the best in my class. Happily, I not only achieved top grades but also won two important awards, and incredibly, I sold my first pieces to American tourists visiting the ‘Paris of South America.’ Experiencing appreciation and satisfaction through art made me realize it would always play a central role in my life. My art has come to define me as a person.
I’m an explorer at heart, a bohemian, I like to move around. I’m curious. I like to investigate, think, understand. It’s very important to me to live a non-destructive life. Painting and writing essentially fill my soul’s needs; the contemplative solitude, the introspection, the creativity, the freedom of expression, the luxury of self-determination to keep my own hours and schedule my tasks according to my needs. The resulting external rewards—such as appreciation or sales—fill me with deep gratitude and joy.
AC: How do you work? What does “being creative” mean to you?
LK: My work starts with thinking about which textures, color combinations, and thoughts (symbolic content) I want to work on next. Sometimes it revolves around one object that catches my eye, or it starts with a thought or emotion I want to express. I gather objects—either from my own collection, or borrowed from others—and set up compositions, which I then photograph in different lighting and arrangements. When a composition stands out—when it sings to me—I feel a tug at my heart. It feels like falling in love, it’s exciting!
This happens when I see pleasing characteristics such as subtle shadows, interesting color schemes, beautifully shaped lines, a clear expression of form and textures. This infatuation gives me momentum and drives me. Ideally I can hold on to that fascination during the entire process. Once in a while, when I’m lucky, the enchantment continues beyond the finished stage of a piece. Being creative, to me, feels like being in love. Creativity is seeking out that joyful feeling, that high, and holding on to it.
When there are technically difficult features in a composition that make me feel uneasy, then I know it’s the right painting-to-be. Let me explain. I get bored quite easily so I need to challenge myself, especially on a technical level. I eschew repetition, I need novelty to keep me interested. Each painting needs to give me a certain angst.
I don’t want to paint something I know I can do easily, I crave a touch of adventure, that thing that scares me because I may well fail. This is a double-edged sword. Some paintings fail because I mess up or can’t reach the required artistry. When I’m not satisfied and can’t fix it, it has to go (i.e., resolutely roll over it with gesso, start anew). On the upside, I learn a lot from my mistakes and when I do get it right I feel I’ve conquered a challenge. Stepping out of my comfort zone keeps me coming back for more.
The painting process feels very meditative and intimate, especially when I work on smaller pieces. I use brushes on about 90% of a painting but have taken up using the airbrush for subtle transitions and smooth gradations that are hard to accomplish using fast-drying acrylics and brush. My paintings are built up in many thin layers of mostly transparent glazes, with which I manipulate values and color through optical mixing—a process I call the ‘push and pull.’
AC: I’m was wondering if you have a favorite city for seeing art?
LK: First place comes New York, then London.
AC: Do you feel that your art reflects your personality?
LK: Yes, absolutely—I think it always does, somehow.
My artwork reflects my need to make the world a better place—even though I realize that I may do this in a very small insignificant way, it is nonetheless my intention. I want to make others feel good by painting graceful subject matter with care that can grace someone’s habitat. I think my artwork also shows my need for being in control of at least one tiny part of life, as seen in the meticulous planning and lack of spontaneous brush strokes, as well as my need for rationality and harmony, as seen in the absence of unintelligible content.
Both my painting and writing are based on the traditions of realism, which to me is an essential component in order to express myself well and make my intentions clear to viewers and readers who need no explanation or translation to be able to understand my work.
AC: Do you feel that your practice has changed over time?
LK: In my early days I started out painting figurative pieces, a combination of the human body, flora, and fauna. Using mostly myself as a model, I created nudes surrounded by animals, flowers, and other natural phenomena. I wrote poetry to accompany my pieces. And I also painted and sculpted portraits on commission.
As a sculptor I made a name for myself when my first public statue was unveiled in my hometown—subsequently several additional public sculpture commissions followed. I’ve always felt enormous satisfaction and pride knowing these bronzes are there to stay well beyond my time here and it’s comforting to know I can visit those fruits of a much-younger self anytime I like.
Profound changes occurred after moving to the US in 2000 when suddenly my art came to a screeching halt. I suffered painters block—a condition I didn’t believe existed until it struck me. It was devastating, I suffered terribly at losing the essence of my being. After trying numerous different self-help methods, I managed to break the block by changing medium (from oils to acrylics) and, after the dismaying realization that nudity was a big no-no in Southwest American culture, I also changed my subject matter (from figurative to still life).
Fast forward to today—I love painting still lifes in acrylics, but lately have been yearning to dip into the figurative genre again. As a personal challenge I recently painted a self-portrait which gave me a lot of pleasure. If time allows, I may paint another self-portrait again next year.
AC: That must have been very frustrating. I know that I feel as if I’m going to blow a fuse when I have writer’s block.
What do you feel are some of the most inspiring things happening at present?
LK: Having crossed the threshold of living half a century, I realize I’m probably at my personal best on an intellectual and emotional level—I’m more thoughtful, more stable, and more aware than ever before. While I regret the loss of physical splendor, I’ve never felt better about my life. I am loved and supported. I take pride in my artistic, social, and intellectual skills. I say this in the sense of comparing my current self to yesteryear’s self—I see no point in comparing myself to others, we all walk different paths.
However, I’m a realist. So I see time is starting to run out and, while I’m not afraid of death, I realize time is a-flying. I feel a certain urgency to work hard at what I do best, share my experience and knowledge, and enjoy all the wonderful things in my life to the max. As a consequence, I’m much more focused—inspired if you will. I’m increasingly allowing less room for negative or disruptive influences in my life. I have no patience for obstinate ignorance, unjustified egotism, or competitive pettiness; by moving away from the negative I create more time and energy for the people and things that are edifying and genuine.
As for my art, I’m not looking for fame or prominence, but I do enjoy the respect and recognition I’m receiving, which in turn lead to interesting projects, commissions, exhibitions—and some amazing friendships! I love that my artwork goes to homes where it is appreciated and I love that my writing is well received. I’m very grateful for these riches—they inspire me and propel me forward.
AC: What is the artist’s role within their community?
LK: Artists must determine what they themselves and their artwork can offer as a contribution to society. Somehow, I believe the intention of the artist can oftentimes be perceived in the work. Great art inspires us; it makes us think, it elicits an emotional response, it transports us to another place and time, it makes us feel we are part of something so much bigger than just ourselves. It’s inclusive; great art has no need for language, it transcends borders, nationality, and social boundaries. So our first and foremost goal should be to create great art.
Moreover, I do think artists as individuals and as a group need to embody and live by the standards of what we are collectively known for: artists are supposed to be the freethinkers, the nonconformists, the visual philosophers, the pacifists living next door. We should uphold and defend the norms and values of openness, conviviality, and understanding within our social circles, starting amongst ourselves within our artist community.
Artists know firsthand how rejection feels, so we should be the first to reach out or offer support to others, especially other artists. Artists need the art community to feel understood and to gain insight and valuable feedback, so it should be clear that arrogant rivalry, petty jealousy, and exclusion are harmful to the ideal of supporting the arts.
AC: What art do you most identify with?
LK: Without doubt, Realism—in all its forms and expressions. Besides an emotional reaction to the subject portrayed, I need to see a level of exquisite craftsmanship and artistic thoughtfulness for it to move me.
AC: Which artist do you think is most undervalued?
LK: Allan Gorman. I think his current work is spectacular.
AC: What’s the last art object that you purchased?
LK: I bought a portrait of myself by the Dutch artist Caroline Westerhout. She painted me with loose strokes and unusual colors, and truly captured my essence. I also acquired a small whimsical self-portrait by British artist Tom Mulliner, in which he portrayed himself as Napoleon.
AC: What work do you most enjoy?
LK: I enjoy all stages of my work, but the most enjoyable moments are those in which I find myself being taken over by ‘flow’—that miraculous illuminating force that guides my hands, provides unlimited energy, and erases time and space… the results of which always far exceed expectation. Unfortunately, I have never quite been able to find the formula to summon ‘flow’ on command, but oh boy, when it happens I am at my happiest. It is beyond orgasmic.
AC: What themes and symbolism do you employ? What do you wish to communicate with your art?
LK: Although the viewer may not be aware of it, I express myself constructively by conveying positive philosophies through symbolic content. Serenity, purity, wisdom, awareness, and clarity are recurring themes. I’m convinced that beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder—in other words, the viewer sees what he/she needs to see and since this is subjective and personal, often the viewer’s opinion reflects more about themselves than about the art. However vague and nonobtrusive my intentions, I believe they will somehow reach the consciousness of those open to receiving them.
AC: What was the last show that you saw and how did you like it?
LK: The exhibition’50 Years of Photorealism’ in Musée d’Ixelles in Brussels. It was the second time I saw it; the first time I went to interview some of the artists in it, the second time I went to look at the work in detail accompanied by a friend. I love photorealism and this exhibition shows the evolution of the genre. It’s a treat to see these works up close, to study the techniques, and compare the older with the younger generation of photorealists. Most big name photorealism sells to collectors before it shows in public, so seeing this many pieces—many from private collections—together in one place is wonderful!
AC: Do you have any grievances with the art world and how it operates?
LK: My biggest pet peeve in the art world relates to the so-called purists, who, regardless of their genre, try to dictate their individual preferences on technique or style, as if it’s the only legitimate way of expression. It’s one thing to state your personal proclivities, quite another to express them as universal rules. This arrogance should have no place in the art world. It bothers me that this influences starting artists whose creative paths and development may be severely constrained and limited by listening to these patronizing figureheads.
Art is about doing your own thing, dancing to your own tune, being restricted only by the limits of your own capacity and the mediums you work with. Since I started painting at age 16 I’ve heard a gazillion perplexing rules, such as, ‘never use pure black or pure white,’ ‘don’t paint from a photograph,’ ‘don’t use a projector, ‘ ‘only paint from life,’ ‘only use broad brushes,’ ‘always stand at arm’s length of a canvas’ … etcetera, ad nauseum.
Being a stubborn contrarian, each time I spot a new art rule the first thing I do is break it! Although some artists will disagree with me, I believe that in the end the result is more important than the process. While the process is essential and highly enlightening on a personal level, the result one begets is public—how one gets there should be dictated by personal limitations only.
AC: What is your favorite viewer response to your art?
LK: All positive responses are highly appreciated! Regularly I receive emails from complete strangers describing how seeing my artwork has impacted them, which is truly heartwarming. It reinforces my belief that my art truly does have a positive effect. Of course it makes me really-really happy when someone buys my work. The exchange of money for my art, besides being useful to me, is also a way of the collector saying, ‘Your art is precious to me, I can’t live without it.’
AC: Could you tell me about your most memorable response to a work of art?
LK: Many come to mind, but I received the most unusual compliment around a decade ago. During my first solo exhibition in the early 1990s, a young man fell in love with a painting—a large symbolic self-portrait of me chained to a huge praying mantis—but couldn’t afford it at the time. It was one of the few pieces in that exhibition that didn’t sell. I moved several times, but kept the painting in storage, rather forgotten. He got in touch with me two decades later to inquire about it and bought it for its original price. Realizing that someone fell in love with my work and continued thinking about it for so many years, is to me, an amazing compliment!
AC: What do you dislike about your art?
LK: Hmmm… well, my work takes a lot of time. I wish I could execute it faster, be more productive—be a faster painter. I’ve tried cutting corners, loosening up, simplifying it, but somehow my work always ends up being intricate and tight. Not being able to let go of a painting until I’m completely satisfied with it means that it eats up time. I suppose it is what it is—my art governs me, not the other way around.
And another thing I dislike—maybe it’s not linked to the art itself, it’s more about me—is that I’m not very fluent in speaking about my own art to others. I can talk about almost any topic to virtually anybody. But when it comes to art speak I often just withdraw. I’m envious of artists who just babble on and on about their work, making sure the focus of the conversation is kept right where they want it. I’m better at writing about my work, but I can’t very well hand out little explicatory text cards to people at a cocktail party, can I?
AC: What do you think that future generations will recall about the art world today?
LK: I have no idea, but I fervently hope they will see this decade as a historic period in which renewed appreciation for contemporary realism and true craftsmanship regained its footing and reclaimed global respect in an art world gone completely bonkers over modernism and the crazy art market bubble.
AC: Do you collect anything?
LK: Oh yes! Lots of things… I collect ceramics, especially Delft Blue, Asian, and 1930s pieces. I collect glass, both decorative as well as utilitarian (e.g., champagne flutes). I collect pill boxes from around the world, little decorative animal figurines, miniature perfume bottles, silver objects, books, loads of books… I’m a human oil spill—every horizontal surface at home is soon covered with something.
AC: Where do you find ideas for your work?
LK: Everywhere! At home, in restaurants, during travels, antique stores, museums (especially of Decorative Arts), in books and films, online in image galleries… I keep several folders of images on my computer; for example, one contains inspirational ideas with annotations, another has a vast library of compositions I photographed but haven’t painted yet, and another contains interesting color schemes and textures. When I look through them, they often lead to new visual ideas that I can then develop and elaborate on.
AC: Do you have any creative habits or rituals?
LK: Yes. I take time to think about the physical step-by-step actions before I start painting each day. I picture them in my mind, like a movie, before I begin and often talk myself through them. Compulsive list-making is a good way to organize myself when juggling multiple projects at once, I love ticking off items on those lists. I also have a wall full of colorful notes in my studio with good advice to myself. One I look at every single day says, “Keep it simple.”
This is a concept that shakes me, in that it stops me from going overboard with overwhelming out-of-control details. When I break this rule it’s done consciously and with purpose. I tell myself this keeps my work balanced between two extremes (i.e., too simplistic versus too elaborate).
AC: Thank you, Lorena!